Saturday, May 18, 2013

Are Your Risks and Issues Clearly Stated?

By Robert Bell

Every project has risks and issues attached to it but they aren’t always clearly and concisely stated, are they? I have seen some pretty poor ways of managing them in my time, with vague are poorly thought out descriptions among the most common errors.
Here’s a little test you can do to see whether you are stating the risks and issues on your projects clearly enough. If someone with little or no knowledge of the piece of work came along would they understand what they are all about and why they are important? If your current approach fails this test then here are some tips to get you started on making them better and clearer in the future.

Keep It Clear
What is it that has, will or could happen exactly? When you know the details of the subject matter inside out it is easy to forget that not everyone else has the same level of knowledge that you have. If you haven’t written the details in a clear enough way then you might be the only person who really understands what it is all about. When you are adding items to the register you should think about how you could most clearly note the details so that every single person who reads it knows what the risk or issue is all about right away. The best way to do this is to take it step by step and simply write down exactly what it is that has you worried in the first place. This should be something clear and specific rather than a vague statement which could cover a number of things. If there are different but closely related issues then they should all be noted separately.

What Would the Effect Be?
This is a part of the risk and issues register which some project managers have trouble with. After all, it can be difficult to quantify what exactly the impact would be of something which either hasn’t happened yet or has just happened. However, this is a crucial part of the process. After all, how can you or anyone else come up with a strategy to negate the risk or issue if you don’t know how important it is? Clearly you and your stakeholders will want to put a lot more effort into clearing up those points which have a huge negative impact rather the ones which would have a more modest effect. This makes your research into the effect a far more important point than you might think that it is.

What Is the Cause?
If you can identify the reason that the situation in question could cause a problem then so much the better. This will make it much easier to find solutions and it is important that you know early on what area you should be looking in for these. Of course, you don’t want to leap in and jump to any wrong conclusions, as this could have a disastrous effect on your attempts to get the right solution. In some cases it might be easy to see the cause but in other situations this could one of the most difficult and time consuming parts of the whole process.

The Updates
Once you have put the previous details on your risks and issue log then you don’t just forget about them, do you? The more complex ones will probably need some extra analytical work done on them while in all of the cases you will to put on notes about the current status, what you have been working on as regards them and what other people’s comments are. This document is sure to be a work in progress throughout the duration of your project and you will also be adding on new risks and issues as you go on as well. The last thing you want to do is leave it sitting there out of date while you try and capture all of the current updates on emails and in other documents instead. In some of the bigger projects I have worked on a certain person has been assigned the task of controlling the risks and issues register and I don’t see this as being a bad move at all. Ultimately it is the project leader who needs to take control of this part of the project but there is no harm in getting a team member to deal with the day to day maintenance of a big or unwieldy register.

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