How to Plan Your Risk Management From Start to Finish

Steven Covey introduced the concept of Quadrant II activities—working on things that are important but are not urgent. Planning is a powerful Quadrant II activity that can save you time and energy. Think about the future so you can make better decisions in the present. Let’s talk about how to plan your risk management from start to finish.

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First Things First

Some people think of risk management plans in the wrong way. Risk management plans are not a list of risks and what you plan to do (e.g. risk register). Rather the plan is your approach to risk management.

  • How do you plan to identify and evaluate risks?
  • How will you develop risk response plans?
  • How will you periodically review risks and your risk management processes?
  • What are your risk thresholds?
  • How will you escalate issues?

Here are four tips for creating your plan.

1. Review lessons learned

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Wise project managers learn from other projects, particularly similar projects. Take the time to review lessons learned from prior projects, whether the projects were yours or others. What can you discover about the strengths and weaknesses of the approach to risk management? If the lessons learned were not documented, interview the project managers.

2. Determine what to include in your risk management plan

Another Covey saying is: Begin with the end in mind. What will your risk management plan include? Here are some things that I typically include:

  • Project risk background
  • Methodology
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Timing of risk management activities
  • Risk categories
  • Risk attitude, appetite, and tolerance
  • Reporting format
  • Glossary

3. Determine who will help develop the plan

There are subject matter experts (SMEs) inside and outside your organization that can help you develop your plan. Project managers cannot know everything. For example, in one project, you may need expertise in the following areas:

  • Financial and accounting
  • Information technology
  • Design
  • Testing
  • Business analysis
  • Operations
  • Human resources
  • Auditing

4. Develop the risk management plan

So, we’ve reviewed lessons learned, determined what to include in our plan, and determined who to engage in the development of the plan. Next, we actually develop the plan. This process may include:

  • Interviews
  • Meetings
  • Data analysis

I often have one meeting early in my projects to develop the risk management plan. I invite project team members, key stakeholders, and others outside the organization who may be impacted by the project or who may impact the project.

Your Turn

Not sure about the value of developing a risk management plan? Give it a try and see for yourself. Develop a risk management plan for one of your new projects. It does not have to be lengthy. Many of my risk management plans are a couple of pages in length. Click here to see an example. Focus on adding value.

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