How to Right-Size Your Risk Management Plan

One reason a project manager may have a bad reputation is bloated project plans. Too much sauce! While I’m a fan of planning, let’s use some common sense and right-size our risk management plans.

picture of a stadium and a house


Plans should vary in size, dependent on the size and scope of your projects. A risk management plan for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be much larger than a plan for a Southern Living Idea House.

Why is that some project managers have over or undersized risk management plans? First, individuals may be looking for shortcuts. They simply copy someone else’s plan and check a box. Second, others want to impress others with their knowledge by writing plans longer than The Grapes of Wrath.

Want to really make a good impression? Work with your team to develop a risk management plan that is fitting to your project, aids in decision making, and adds value. Document the plan but keep it practical and to-the-point.

So, how can we right-size our plans? Here are four steps to make it easier.

Project Risk Management Plan Tips

1. Select the appropriate inputs, tools, and techniques. Like baking a cake, you need the right ingredients and tools for baking and creating the end product. Look at the potential inputs below.

I always use my project charter as an input. Things such as the goals, deliverables, constraints, and assumptions are helpful in developing my risk management plan.

Think about other plans within the overall project management plan that might be helpful. For example, does your schedule management plan include a work breakdown structure (WBS). Knowing which tools you use can help you develop a better risk management plan.

What about project documents such as a stakeholder register, enterprise environmental factors such as organizational risk thresholds, and organizational process assets such as a risk plan template?

2. Determine what to include. Risk management plans typically include:

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

For small projects, you can briefly describe these items. Add detail for larger projects as needed.

You can read my article—The Risk Management Plan—for additional information.

3. Select the right stakeholders. People support plans that they’ve developed. Ask key stakeholders to help you. One way to do this is to discuss problems that have occurred in past projects and ask the stakeholders for ways to identify and control those risks in your current projects.

4. Review and update as needed. All plans should evolve as needed. Once you get into your projects, you will discover things that you did not realize. For example, you may not know about individuals, groups, and organizations that may impact a project. If you identify hundreds of people who may impact your project, you might decide to use a different risk identification technique such as the Delphi method. If so, update your risk management plan accordingly.

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