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How to Communicate Project Risks

8 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Managing Risk in Your Project

As a project manager you know that projects involve risks. Communicating those risks is a special skill. People often share information about project risks ineffectually or not at all. As a result, their projects suffer unnecessary problems and setbacks that proper communication may have avoided.

You may be reluctant to deal with risk because the concept is hard to grasp. If your project’s a one-time deal, what difference does it make that, in the past, a particular risk has occurred 40 times out of 100? You may also feel that focusing on risks suggests you’re looking for excuses for failure rather than ways to succeed.

Communicate about project risks early and often. In particular, share information with drivers and supporters at the following points in your project:

  • Starting the project: To support the process of deciding whether or not to undertake the project

  • Organizing and preparing: To guide the development of all aspects of your project plan

  • Carrying out the work:

    To allow team members to discuss potential risks and to encourage them to recognize and address problems as soon as those problems occur

    To update the likelihood that identified risks will occur, to reinforce how people can minimize the negative effects of project risks, and to guide the assessment of requests to change parts of the current approved project plan

You can improve your risk-related communications with your project’s drivers and supporters by

  • Explaining in detail the nature of a risk, how it may affect your project, and how you estimated the likelihood of its occurrence

  • Telling people the current chances that certain risks will occur, how you’re minimizing the chances of problems, and how they can reduce the chances of negative consequences

  • Encouraging people to think and talk about risks, always with an eye toward minimizing the negative effects of those risks

  • Documenting in writing all the information about the risks

You can discuss this information at regularly scheduled team meetings, in regularly scheduled progress reports and upper-management reviews, and in special meetings to address issues that arise.

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