In spite of all the planning and thinking done, all projects face unforeseen pitfalls. Experienced Project Managers know this and will try to look ahead and predict such pitfalls beforehand and find means to avoid them. For example:
In the Inland Revenue
A few years ago, the Inland Revenue was planning to move parts of its London office to Nottingham. One section was affected in that part of it was to stay in London and the rest to move to Nottingham.
They met and looked at the possible risks and issues and it became clear that after the move there would be communication difficulties between the two.
What they did then was – pilot the change.
Three months before the move, they put up a screen splitting the section into the two parts, with NOTTINGHAM written on one side and LONDON written on the other, and asked the two parts to communicate only as if the Nottingham part had already moved. Over the next few weeks they identified and resolved all their communication difficulties and developed ways and procedures to cope.
What they were doing was following a well-known and simple five-step approach to managing risk and implementation issues:
Step 1 - Use the Project Management Framework to organise the project well
In practice, the whole of project management is about managing risk - it is all about trying to improve the chances of success. All the approaches and tools aim to clarify and reduce the risk of something going wrong.
Step 2 - Create a Risk Register to identify possible pitfalls
This is best done with the project team and other relevant people.
In most cases this can be done by simply brainstorming to identify all the events that could cause problems for the project and could throw it off-course.
Having listed the events, rate each out of 5 as to how likely it is to happen, and the level of impact on the project.
Step 3 - Identify the Priority items
Identify those that are high priority - items, which are both likely to happen and which would have a major impact. Best done by mapping them on a Hi-Lo diagram.
Step 4- Take Action to avoid the Risks
Taking each of the high priority items in turn, identify ways to reduce the risk:
- To reduce the likelihood of them occurring, or
- To reduce their impact if they do occur.
Step 5 - Bullet-Proof the Project
Make the project less "Vulnerable" - to other unexpected events. Three common strategies are:
- Build-in Contingency (slack) - either in time, money, or resources. You don't know when you will need it but you know that you will. (a "back pocket")
- Establish good Project Intelligence - through personal contacts and networking by the Project Manager, team members, and Project Sponsor - to inform you of changes and events outside of the project
- Quality Manage the Project Design - through consultation, pilots, communication, training, project support, etc.