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Home » Project Management

Project Risks: When Bad Things Happen to Good Projects

Submitted by James Higginbotham on May 10, 2006 – 10:39 pmNo Comment

Some days, things just go wrong. Servers fail. Computers crash. People don’t show up. Timing is wrong. Often, it is not the things we expect to fail, but the things that we don’t take the time to think about.

Wikipedia defines risk management as “…the process of measuring, or assessing risk and then developing strategies to manage the risk.” As we continue to explore project-based work and how project management can help you deal with all those tasks, I want to bring up risks. Notice that we aren’t far along in this series. In fact, we’ve only talked about the definition of a project in the scope of a church or ministry, outlining the project, and how to create milestones. So, why talk about things that could cause a project to fail already? Because that’s when you need to begin assessing what could cause your project to stumble or fall, not after it happens. And often, those stumbling blocks start sooner, not later, in a project’s life.

Here is how to get started in assessing risks with a project:

  1. Walk through each goal of a project and identify what could be a problem: this may be people, places, or things. It may be weather-related, budget-related, people-related, or technology-related
  2. For each risk you identify, describe the potential risk and the likelyhood of seeing the problem (using high, medium, or low is a good system)
  3. Assess the impact of each risk – how painful would it be if this risk comes to pass? Would it stop the project cold, or simply add a little more time to the timeline?
  4. Next, describe one or more risk mitigations that you will use to reduce the risk. For people problems, this might be overstaffing, while technology problems may require having manual or backup plans
  5. Finally, remember that risk assessment never stops – review your list weekly, adding new risk discoveries and marking through items that are no longer relevant

So, is risk mitigation a sign of lack of faith? No way! Listen to what Jesus says:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’” – Luke 14:28-30 (NIV)

Count the costs of your project – not only what it will take to build, but also that the risk is manageable. Sometimes projects are just too risky to take on right now, and God will reveal this to be the case as we seek to perform the due diligence. It also offers us a chance to see just how big a project may be, and take that much needed step toward a deeper faith.

[tags]risk management, project management, Luke 14, church leadership[/tags]

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