Imagine a project manager that focuses primarily on identifying and managing project threats and very little on opportunities. This one-sided mindset can be costly. The best project managers know how to exploit and enhance opportunities.
What is a Project Opportunity?
- I had an opportunity to meet other project managers at a PMI Chapter meeting.
- A project manager discovered that several key remote stakeholders will be on site for a training session. She was able to schedule a one-hour meeting to discuss top project risks.
- A business analyst discovered a free online process improvement course (for the next three weeks). The course covered new agile requirements techniques that the project team was trying to adopt.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines opportunity as "a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something."
Here are some examples:
What Does It Mean to Exploit a Project Opportunity?
When we exploit an opportunity, we make the upside risk happen.
Suppose that you need 40 laptops for a project. The cost of the laptops is greater than you had budgeted. You discover that if you order 50 laptops, we will get a 10% discount. You discover that another manager needs 20 laptops for a separate project. The order is executed ensuring the 10% discount.
What Does It Mean to Enhance a Project Opportunity?
When we enhance an opportunity, we increase the probability and/or impact of an opportunity.
Consider a project sponsor who asked a project manager to deliver a project four weeks earlier than originally planned for a software development project. The project team had been working on the project for three months with five months remaining. The project was one week ahead of schedule.
The project manager discovered that one skilled developer and one senior tester would be available in one month as another project closed. Adding these additional resources to the two critical path tasks could greatly improve the probability of delivering the project by the required deadline.
Do you see the difference between exploiting and enhancing opportunities?
Make Opportunities Work for You
Many individuals think more about downside risks than upside risks. This is unfortunate since we may be missing golden opportunities. Individuals or organizations who wish to exploit and enhance their opportunities must be intentional. How do we do this?
- Be clear about your objectives and why the objectives are important.
- Get the appropriate stakeholders together and brainstorm opportunities.
- Capture and evaluate the opportunities. Which opportunities have the highest probability and impact scores?
- Identify risk/opportunity owners who will develop and execute response plans for the most significant opportunities.
- Develop and execute risk response plans.
- Monitor the opportunities.
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