Not all project managers deal with big things, like remedying environmental disasters or mitigating the risks of social unrest. What many PMs need are practical, down-to-earth ways to manage risk. Consider Ronald Look's briefing for PM World Journal, written as a guide for the small project PM.
A Smaller Context
Practical risk management means meeting industry standards while producing timely deliverables. It means watching budgets and safeguarding quality, all things within your team members' grasp. In the smaller context, executing risk management on a daily basis can be overkill, with issue-listing by staff degenerating into full out complaint-listing. As Look insightfully explains, risks are not issues.
The Risk Management Mindset
Look recommends the PM adopt risk management as more of a personal mindset:
…If you hear or think words like ‘”just in case” or “what will we do if” or “that would be bad,” you can bet there is a risk involved and it’s likely significant. Steer further discussion towards what can be done to prevent it from happening. You don’t even need to use the word mitigation, as it can turn people off.
One key strategy of the risk management mindset is to keep track of parallel project activities. Ensure that those activities are coordinated to mitigate the risks of a project misalignment. Another way to manage risk is to pay credence to employee follow up and accountability. This can be achieved by divvying out preventive tasks to different team members and then ensuring that the responsible parties follow through.
Prevention is the Cure
There is a connection between good risk management practice and smooth project execution – each produces and supports the other. Even when faced with unidentifiable categories of risk, it is worth defining that risk for the sake of the project rather than being paralyzed by the unknown. In the event that the inevitable disaster occurs, a good PM can reduce the impact by being prepared. Remember, like taking your daily vitamins, risk management is all about prevention.