Project ManagementRisk Management

3 Steps to Communicate Project Risks

A cockroach just skittered across the living room. Is it a lone wolf or the first sign of infestation? And how do you tell the family about this potential mega crisis? Problems of equal magnitude infest project risk management. In a post at the Project Risk Coach, Harry Hall gives three simple steps for communicating project risks effectively to stakeholders:

  1. Understand stakeholder needs and preferences.
  2. Analyze your risks.
  3. Communicate the risks.

Treating Vermin

First of all, you should know who people are and what motivates them before you starting dumping information on them. Ideally, you should interview project stakeholders at the beginning of projects, to learn their needs, concerns, and how they prefer to receive communications. This will serve as a foundation for all discussions afterward.

Next, you should make sure you understand a risk yourself before bringing it to the stakeholders. Work with a risk owner to define a risk according to what it is, its cause, and its potential impact. Bolster this with qualitative risk analysis.

After that is when you should ultimately bring the risk to stakeholders. Here is how Hall says to do it:

When reporting to a busy executive sponsor, keep the communication simple and straightforward. Highlight the top risks and what the risk owners are doing to manage the risks.

With other stakeholders, we need to share more detail. Imagine being a part of a program team comprised of seven projects. The program manager facilitates a program risk review with the project managers and asks each project manager to share the risks that may impact other projects within the program. These discussions require more in-depth conversations.

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