Project management professionals often find it difficult to gain good visibility for the risk management work they do. Unfortunately, executive-level stakeholders don’t always understand the importance of the project office’s risk management function. This makes it tough to garner support when it’s needed and also increases the difficulty of championing the team’s ability to effectively manage project risk.
There are some strategies PMPs can use to help boost their PMO’s risk management profile and the image project risk management has among stakeholders. We’ve put together a few tips designed to make the leadership team aware of the need for strong risk management competencies, and to highlight your team’s prowess in this advanced discipline.
Provide project risk management training. Following the thinking that “informal” could possibly equal “less important” in the mind of someone not attuned to the disciplines involved in project management, creating structure—and potentially requirements—around risk management training will help change the attitude about the competencies involved. It’s also an excellent way to ensure everyone in the PMO is using the same methodologies and best practices, and has received project management training from an experienced instructor. As the team increases its mastery of risk management, the value of their skills will also increase outside the project office.
Formalize the risk management function within the project office. This shift in thinking actually produces several benefits. First, it means that risk management is no longer just an accepted part of everyone’s job—it should now be viewed as a competency of its own and hold a place of importance within the project management responsibility list. It’s a strategy that often raises team members’ awareness of the importance of risk management, which in turn enables them to more clearly articulate the critical role it plays when talking with those on the leadership team.
In addition, formalizing risk management activities allows PMOs to more deliberately employ proven risk management methodologies. Actions such as analyzing and monitoring risks becomes an expected part of the planning function, and it’s more likely that the resources necessary to manage project risk will be properly allocated.
Include data about risk management findings and strategies when presenting project information to stakeholders. Much of the problem with a lack of visibility can be traced back to the simple fact that, if you don’t tell people what’s going on, they probably won’t find out about it on their own. Making risk management updates a normal part of your communication strategy can go a long way in keeping the executive team aware of the function and your PMO’s skillful handling of it.
Explain the benefits of risk management as it relates to the project. Again, the leadership team may not have a good understanding of the upside to strong project risk management. Provide them with details—industry-level benchmarking or even statistics from your team’s past projects—on how properly identifying and analyzing risk allows the PMO to have consistent, repeatable success. Share with stakeholders the basics of your risk management approach and why you believe it’s the best strategy for the projects managed by the team.
Remind stakeholders that risk management competencies aren’t reserved for large, complex, or high-visibility projects. This wouldn’t be a completely unrealistic thing for those outside the project team to assume, so it’s important to help them understand that risk management is something that’s ongoing no matter the type or size of project. Show the executive staff that identifying risks and planning for (or avoiding) any potential impacts that may result from them is an instrumental function regardless of a project’s budget, duration, or the number of users it affects.