Risk Management as a Project Manager: 7 Strategies for Success

Posted on July 10, 2024 | Updated on July 11, 2024

Project managers often juggle multiple tasks, tight deadlines and diverse teams. Amidst all this, risk management is a top concern and one of the most challenging aspects of project management. While risk management aims to prevent issues in the first place, the key to success lies in setting your project up for success. Luckily, several strategies are available to keep your projects on track. Using them can turn potential obstacles into opportunities for success.

The Importance of Risk Management in Project Management

When project risks occur — consequences can follow — ranging from minor delays to significant setbacks. These risks can lead to increased costs, missed deadlines and even project failure. For instance, if a project falls out of scope, you increase the risk of going over budget due to expenses. 

Risks can escalate quickly and create a domino effect. When there is an overall impact on the timeline and budget, you must deal with team and stakeholder frustrations and potential reputational damage to the organization.

That’s why effective risk management is crucial. It works to identify problems before they arise and prepares you to respond accordingly. 

What Are the Most Common Risks in Project Management?

In project management, risks are inevitable and can arise from various sources. Knowing what types of risks may occur can help project managers prepare for potential challenges. There are multiple risks in project management, but the most common ones include:

  • Scope creep
  • Budget overruns
  • Scheduling delays
  • Resource shortages
  • Technical challenges
  • Stakeholder changes
  • Communication breakdowns
  • Risk of dependency
  • Unmet quality standards 

Strategies for Success in Project Management Risks

Successful project managers implement the following strategies to boost progress and outcomes. As such, companies can achieve higher profits and continuously improve their tactics to attain even better ROIs.

1. Find Possible Issues

Before a project begins, it is important to identify any risk factors. When you understand the problems that could occur, you can devise a plan to prevent them. In project management, you would look at all parts of your project to see where things could go wrong. You can do this by brainstorming with your team, talking to experts and learning from past projects.

One handy tool for this is a risk checklist. Listing all of the risks will keep you organized and help you know how to handle them. 

2. Prioritize Risks

Risk prioritization is similar to making a to-do list, where you focus on the most important tasks first. Not all risks are created equally — some can seriously impact your project more than others. Therefore, prioritizing the ones with the biggest effect can keep things in order.

A table showing risk factors.

Source: https://asana.com/resources/risk-matrix-template

A risk assessment matrix helps with this. This is a visual tool you can use to rate each risk based on its likelihood and potential impact. For example, a risk that is highly likely to happen and could cause major delays should have a top priority mark next to it. 

3. Develop Risk Mitigation Plans

The key to risk prevention is having a game plan so you can be ready when things go awry. Thus, you will need to create a detailed action plan to address potential risks. With a plan for each risk, you can keep your project moving smoothly regardless of what comes your way.

Start by thinking about the best way to respond to each risk. Consider what you would do to ensure you completely sidestep a risk or reduce its likelihood. You will also need to consider whether there may be a need to outsource the task to another team. Plus, if the risk does occur, you will need controls on how to manage it.

For each high-probability risk, outline specific actions you can take. For example, if there is a risk of a supplier delay, your mitigation strategy might include finding backup suppliers. Having these in place will keep you prepared to tackle any risks head-on.

4. Assign a Risk Owner

This strategy is crucial because designating someone to watch over a risk in a certain part of the project ensures things go right. A risk owner is responsible for monitoring a specific risk, implementing a mitigation plan, and taking action. Essentially, this person should be the go-to expert for that risk, ensuring it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

When assigning a risk owner, choose someone with the expertise and authority to manage issues effectively. Ensure they understand the importance of their role and always keeping an eye on potential problems. 

5. Regularly Monitor and Review

Keeping on top of your project ensures everything is running smoothly. Plus, you can catch any issues early if any occur. This continuous monitoring is the foundation of risk management. Continuously checking in to see how things are going keeps your project on schedule.

One way to keep track is by using project management software. These types of tools are excellent at providing updates and tracking risks. They also keep all information in one place, making it easy to see what is happening at a glance. 

Colleagues gathered around a table for a discussion in an office setting.

6. Keep Stakeholders and Team Informed

Communication is the most essential part of a project manager’s job. Keeping everyone in the loop ensures the team and stakeholders are up to date. It also prevents misunderstandings and makes it easier to tackle challenges as they arise. However, 30% of employees cite a lack of communication as their biggest frustration, especially in hybrid or remote environments.

If communication could use some improvement, one way to guarantee clarity is by outlining a communication plan. This should include:

  • Who needs to know about specific risks.
  • How often you will update them.
  • What channels you will use to inform.

Ensure your updates are also clear. The messaging should have a main focus to avoid confusion and constant back-and-forths.

7. Build Risk Awareness

The entire team should understand the importance of risk management in project management. When your team is aware of what could occur, they should know how to address them to prevent small issues from snowballing into bigger problems. This makes you and the team more proactive and better prepares you for what the future may hold.

Therefore, team training should be within your purview. Discuss the risks regularly during team meetings, so they have a basic understanding. Doing so makes it a regular part of your project management process and keeps team members confident enough to report them without fear of blame. 

Leading the Way With Risk Management in Project Management

Every project comes with risks — you just have to understand what they are to be able to prevent them. With a plan, a watchful eye, and communication in place, you can overcome any issues that arise. 

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About The Author

Coraline (Cora) Steiner is the Senior Editor of Designerly Magazine, as well as a freelance developer. Coraline particularly enjoys discussing the tech side of design, including IoT and web hosting topics. In her free time, Coraline enjoys creating digital art and is an amateur photographer.

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