LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

April 2024
Volume 20, Issue 4

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Note from the Author

Note to Self: Make Sure to Pin Down Project Risks!

Man covered with sticky notesIf there’s one thing we all should remind ourselves of at the start of a project, it’s the need to thoroughly — even exhaustively — identify the risks we might encounter along the way.

Oh, there may be certain endeavors that allow us to “go with the flow” by providing some degree of flexibility in the budget and schedule to allow for inevitable surprises.

But alas, the vast majority of projects aren’t as nearly as accommodating. The ones I’m usually involved with presume that the initial requirements gathering and estimating procedures will produce a relatively spot-on proposal. And the stakeholders will then set their expectations accordingly!

Not only is there often very little wiggle room for surprises, but if and when those surprises occur, the budgeting and scheduling process has long since slammed the gate, pulled up the drawbridge, and filled the moat with alligators!

Can we avoid the worst possible outcomes? Yes, by proactively preventing the 10 major project risks I’ve identified in today’s feature article. I hope you enjoy it, and be sure to share your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

Why Do We Care About Managing Risks?

Risk magnetRisks
are any events that are likely to adversely affect your project’s ability to achieve its defined objectives. Why does that matter? When risks arise that you didn’t anticipate or can’t readily resolve, they can bring a project to its knees.

Risk management is a method of identifying, quantifying, and controlling risks throughout the life of a project. But why is risk management so important, and yet so challenging?

Risks exist because of uncertainty — because of incomplete information.

  • Sometimes we know the exact area in which the uncertainty resides, and that’s called a “known risk.”
  • Sometimes we know only of the general potential for a risk, but not exactly what could trigger it, called a “known unknown” risk.
  • And at other times, we can’t predict at all if something might happen, such as a labor strike or a natural disaster, and that’s what’s called an “unknown unknown” risk.

So what can we do about risks? We can plan responses to adverse events of any kind, known or unknown, and that way we might be able to evade them completely. We can take five kinds of action: Avoid, accept, monitor, alleviate, or transfer.

Read on to explore 10 types of preventable project risks...

Feature Article

10 Major Project Risks Your Team Can Avoid
by Adele Sommers

Does your organization see every possibility as a “must-win” project, even when it’s a poor fit for your in-house talents? If so, this is one of several viewpoints that can blind your company to potential problems ahead.

In Part 1 of this series, we explored how to recognize six common project traps. In this article, we’ll review 10 major mistakes to avoid (or risks that you should flag) when choosing, estimating, and staffing your projects.

First, it’s important to recognize that your organizational culture sets the tone for how you approach projects. For example,

  • Does your company always expect people to do more for less?
  • Does management routinely insist on or agree to unworkable schedules?
  • Are team members encouraged to underestimate their realistic efforts?

If so, these are signs that your organization may have a “must-win-at-all-costs” view of projects. You may want to consider how idealistic, impractical expectations could set the stage for project failure.

If your team often faces challenges with project budgets, schedule, quality, or features, try asking these 10 questions the next time you’re considering a project.

1. Is the project non-compelling or a bad fit for the team?

Man on a tightropeA bad fit for your team or organization means that the project doesn’t fall within the general professional or technical arenas in which your team has expertise or achievements.

Note that if you normally engage subject matter experts who would supply the skill sets you need, this is not as great of a concern. But by taking on projects that are squarely outside of your ballpark, you could be walking a perilous tightrope.

2. Will the project scope entail operating in unfamiliar territory?

Rolling the diceEven if it’s a reasonable fit, if a project involves requirements that your team hasn’t worked with before, you could be overly optimistic in assuming everyone can come up to speed quickly enough to be successful on the project.

Instead of simply rolling the dice and hoping for the best, you may need to seek outside expertise, though this can introduce its own risks (see #6–7 below).

3. Are the features or functions of what youll be delivering complex?

BinderA project that requires many complicated features or functions to interact correctly vastly increases the potential for problems.

To reduce the degree of risk, you could seek an agreement to phase in and test those complex features over time. Another approach would be to negotiate a reduction in the number or types of features to be completed.

4. Are the requirements pitted against an aggressive schedule?

Alert symbol with glassesTime limits of some sort exist on almost every project, and drive nearly every other project expectation. So, will there be enough time to implement the requested features at the desired quality level?

If not, you may want to negotiate a longer schedule, agree to reduce the requirements, or phase in some features later. You could bring in more people, although that will involve more coordination and could complicate the handoffs.

5. Are too few personnel and resources available for the project?

Bullseye with a checkmark in the centerProject managers routinely miss sleep at night over what would happen if their key project members were to leave. Or if the funding or resources were chopped or significantly delayed. In those cases, achieving project targets could be impossible!

It’s one thing to have snafus occur later in the effort, but it’s another to start off unrealistically. That’s why it’s vital to avoid underestimating your needs at the beginning of the effort.

6. Will coordination with many different collaborators be needed?

Many unknown collaboratorsInvolving many project personnel means complex handoffs. If your project will include client or third party collaborators, how will all of those contributors interact?

For example, should all of those individuals remain in direct communication with one another, so that everyone talks to everyone else? Or should each group assign a single point of contact to act as a spokesperson? Also consider the division of work, and each group’s responsibilities to the others.

7. Are the primary collaborators unfamiliar to the project team?

Alert symbol with glassesIf it does become necessary to recruit new contributors, will you be able to verify whether they can all do the job? Do you have a protocol in place for vetting people effectively?

If the unfamiliar parties have stretched the truth about their capabilities, giving you the impression that they can perform more proficiently than they’re capable of, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. So, if there’s a way to have them prove themselves in advance, that’s ideal — or else come up with a contingency plan!

8. Are project team members discouraged from raising concerns?

Detour roadsignBefore and after a project starts, your team members may identify all sorts of challenges. Do you want contributors to raise red flags when they see potential problems? Or do you prefer that everyone keep quiet, maintain a stiff upper lip, and work 24/7 to resolve them, if needed?

The team culture will determine whether the members verbalize and systematically address the many pitfalls that can appear along the way. Otherwise, they may resort to ignoring those problems and pointing fingers at others.

9. Are there insufficient review and test cycles in the schedule?

Circular arrowsAllocating enough time for reviews and test cycles frequently presents a dilemma. Those activities are often treated as an afterthought, with not nearly enough budget, schedule, or resources provided to prove out the deliverables successfully.

Regardless of your initial planning, if project delays begin to accumulate, what will people want to cut? Can you afford to reduce reviews and testing and still deliver a quality result?

10. Are there no standard protocols for managing scope changes?

Clipboard with checklistWhen the inevitable add-on requests materialize, consider how they’ll affect the project.

Do you have a formal change request form for adjusting the official budget and schedule when anyone proposes changes? If so, all key stakeholders should participate in recalculating the project’s scope, cost, and timetable. If not, you’ll always be at risk for cost and schedule overruns.

In conclusion, if you answered “yes” to one or more of the above questions, it means that each represents an area of risk that you’ll need to mitigate to ensure project success. Either create a workable plan for managing those risks, or consider whether pursuing the project is truly in the best interests of your organization!

Copyright 2024 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

The “Project Success Kit”

"Quick-Start Guide to Project Risk Management" by Adele SommersAre you looking for a compendium of ways to boost your team’s “risk management IQ”? Now you can gain “20:20 foresight” and stop unnecessary project failures due to expensive and avoidable risks.

My Project Success Kit contains a comprehensive collection of instantly downloadable “how-to” techniques that will walk you through a simple process of identifying, evaluating, and mitigating the most problematic project pitfalls using special tools, checklists, interactive worksheets, and best practices.

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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