How our Client’s Risk Planning Saved the Day

Projects need a neon sign to think about risk planning differentlyAs Project Managers, do we ever look outside of our cookie-cutter checklists and risk policies when performing risk planning?

In my own experience, I observed that Project Managers (myself included) tended to emphasize technology-related and process-related risks in risk planning. These risks were ones that we were accustomed to managing, having managed these or similar ones on dozens of other projects. We tend to focus on risks such as: delayed delivery of computer hardware, a disgruntled key technical resource, incomplete definition of user requirements, ambiguous contractual language – the usual fare.

But do we ever stop to consider risks outside of what we naturally manage day to day as we execute the project? Do we look at the uniqueness of risk for this project, at this time, with this team, and with this client, for clues to other situations that may impact the project?

One of my favorite examples of “thinking outside of the (IT project) box,” isn’t one that our project team could even take credit for. Our client’s executive team, in its own deliberation, became concerned about the effect that their new system would have on their workforce. The workforce was largely unionized. However, from an IT perspective, we as project professionals had not even considered the effect on the end-users when developing our risk plan.

Specifically, the union was apprehensive that the new system was to be designed to such a high degree of automation that it would justify a reduction in the workforce. This was not in any way the intent of the new system, and in our risk planning we added a new Human Resources risk category.

Fortunately, the client’s executive was accustomed to working with the union on such matters, and was able to guide us as we included this risk event in our risk planning. We worked with the executive on contingency plans to help mitigate the risk.

Over the course of the project, we had frequent meetings with the union representatives. We were able to put together a case study showing how the new system would assist the current workforce to be more efficient at handling their backlog and preventing unintended worker errors. The system would be designed to improve the end-users’ ability to perform on their jobs, not to eliminate their jobs. By mitigating that risk early in the project, we were able to proceed without any potential interference from a disgruntled workforce that could have slowed the project.

It is vitally important that as Project Managers we look into all avenues – not just our comfortable go-to checklists – to truly develop a comprehensive risk management plan.

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