Some project managers have a defensive mindset…they primarily focus on threats. It’s time to achieve more by thinking differently.
Opportunities abound. They are all around us.
Consider these day-to-day opportunities in our personal lives.
Your favorite clothing retailer is advertising a 30% discount on a new suit you been eyeing.
Starbucks is offering Pumpkin Spice Latte for a brief season. “Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove. Creamy milk and pumpkin pie spices. Your PSL is waiting for you.”
Your company is offering free flu shots for the next two weeks…I’ll take the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
What project opportunities are within your reach? What unique set of variables provide you with a chance for improving your schedule, budget, and quality? How can you convert uncertain opportunities into a realized benefits?
Many individuals have fuzzy notions about opportunities. We cannot leverage its power until we understand it. Let’s look closer with a magnifying glass.
The PMBOK defines risk as “an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives such as scope, schedule, cost, and quality.”
Furthermore, the PMBOK defines an opportunity as “a risk that would have a positive effect on one or more project objectives.” Therefore, negative risks are considered to be threats and positive risks are opportunities.
I am a member of some project management LinkedIn Groups that have had heated debates concerning whether an opportunity is a risk ad nauseam. Some people define risks as strictly a negative event or condition. I understand their perspective.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines risk as “the possibility that something bad or unpleasant (such as injury or a loss) will happen.”
Once a project manager says they do not consider opportunities as risks, and then many of these individuals excuse themselves from the hunt for opportunities.
Don’t fall into this trap. Define [risk] and determine how you will identify and manage both threats and opportunities. Include your definitions and processes in your risk management plan.
When identifying opportunities, look at changing dynamics outside of your project. Here are some examples:
Here’s another tip. Consider engaging people outside the project to identify opportunities. These individuals can bring a fresh perspective and jolt the status quo.
When you meet with your project team, here are some questions you may wish to use:
What are three opportunities you and your project team could seize that would significantly improve your chance for success?
What are three actions you and your team could take to exploit or enhance the opportunities in the next two weeks?
When leaders ask questions like these, team members have a chance to use their creative skills to solve problems, to advance their projects, and to gain as much ground as they can on the project battlefield.
Here are some tools for identifying opportunities. I am partial to brainstorming. However, I like to mix it up from time to time by using other identification tools.
Keep in mind – identifying opportunities is an iterative process. Why? New opportunities may surface at any point in the project life cycle. Determine how often you will invest time in identifying opportunities.
If you define opportunities as risks, then you will capture the opportunities in your risk register. If not, then consider creating an opportunity register. Either way, it is critical to have a repository. Otherwise, you will likely lose sight of the potential upside events and conditions.
Let’s assume you have a list of twenty opportunities. You and your team will not likely be able to seize all the opportunities. How do you know which ones are most significant?
You will need some method of prioritization. Here are the two primary methods:
If you have a small project, consider using a simple technique such as Dot Voting.
Now the question is how will we respond to the most significant opportunities. The strategies for opportunities include:
Of course, new opportunities will surface over the life of your project. Periodically review the opportunities. Has the probability and impact changed? Is it time to exploit opportunities? Are there new opportunities?
Every project has forces that work against you and forces that work for you. Project managers who only focus on threats miss a golden opportunity (pun intended). The wind is blowing in your direction. Raise your sails and let opportunities propel you to realized benefits and project success.
Question: What other tips do you have for helping project managers identify and manage opportunities?