Control Costs. Meet Schedules. Manage Risks. Maintain Sanity.
Those four phrases represent the subtitle of my book Legal Project Management... and are also the four critical actions of a project manager.
Most understand they need to do the first two, even if they're not always sure how. (Subliminal whisper here: "Buy the book and find out....") Few think about the third, and the fourth seems a distant dream for too many project managers.
In many ways, Managing Risks is a project manager's first and most important job. (Maintaining sanity - for yourself and the project team - is critical, too, but that's for another article.)
There is a huge difference between dealing with risk and managing it. The former is needed when the risk occurs. You can deal with it using your risk-management plan, or you can deal with it ad hoc. Of course, if you lack a plan, your only choice is the ad hoc method, which sometimes works out fine... and sometimes doesn't.
I've seen too many so-called professional project managers use only the ad hoc methods. They fail to manage the risks up front.
Sometimes they try to treat risks as a schedule issue. "We'll add a few extra days here just in case," they'll say. Or "I'm keeping some buffer or slack in case we run late." (Buffer is budgeted time that isn't allocated to a particular task.)
That may work for some estimation-type variation. If you think task X will take three days and it takes four, donating a day of buffer may work out for you... as long as nothing else was depending on task X being finished on the third day, or the worker being free to do something else on day four.
Risk management means getting out in front of the risks - at least those that you and others on the team can foresee.
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