Thursday, July 3, 2014

Managing a project means managing risk

Everyone has projects, whether it’s a project that lasts 10 years or one week. Whether or not you complete your project within the scope, time, and budget planned for- determines if you accomplished effective risk management.

Last month I led a Risk Management Professional Certification prep course at Post University in conjunction with Off Peak Training. The course is specifically for those seeking PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) certification via the Project Management Institute and was designed to educate project management professionals seeking a higher understanding of risk management. Several of the themes that were covered in the course are ideas that are being taught at Post every day.

When students participate in the Project Management concentration within the MBA program at the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business there are several benefits. The program is part of an integrated MBA learning experience focused on many aspects of leadership, risk management, virtual teams, and application of project management tools and concepts.

Susan Parente with a exam prep book.
Susan Parente during the certification prep
course at Post University last month. 
Learning to lead
I often find that it is much easier in leadership to notice what isn’t working, than to distinguish what does work. Even when reading about leadership, we often learn what not to do.

Why not approach this topic from the question of what to do? This is how we teach our students to think in the Project Management program.

Students concentrate on what they can do as a project manager to be a more effective leader for a team and to lead more successfully. Rather than focusing on what doesn’t work, we consider what does work and engage in conversations about effective leadership, not just with our team, but with those who lead us. As leaders it is valuable for us to know what works well for our team members and equally valuable to share with our leaders – and our team - what works well for us.

Weighing the risks
Risk management is an organized, systematic decision-making process that efficiently: plans, assesses, handles, monitors, and documents risk to increase the likelihood of achieving project goals and decreases the likelihood that a risk would become a future problem. This is accomplished through activities which increase opportunity risks and decrease threat risks.

This idea is a culture shift. It requires project managers, project teams, project sponsors and all project stakeholders to transform their way of thinking.

Risk management provides the capability to quickly and effectively communicate risk information up and down the management chain. Implementing risk management allows us to identify existing, as well as potential problems related to our project, while reducing negative (threat) risks and increasing the benefit of positive (opportunity) risks.

Many people may say, ‘Don’t tell me about risk, you’re just being negative’; when in reality it’s a proactive way of thinking, as opposed to a reactive approach like issue management. Weighing risks and determining possible threats or benefits to meeting projective objectives (including time, cost, and scope) is a large part of the Project Management program and a great skill set to have when approaching any project, big or small. 


Susan Parente is a Principal Consultant at S3 Technologies, LLC and an Associate Faculty member at Post University. Parente has 13+ years’ experience leading software and business development projects in the private and public sectors, including a decade of experience implementing IT projects for the DoD.