Staring at a blank risk log can be quite daunting! What is going to affect my project and what should I be planning to do about it? Let me help you get started with these 5 common project risks and what to do about them.

Poor leadership

This is a really common problem on projects and one that you might not be aware of during project initiation. Too often project sponsors are really excited at the start of a project and give you every indication that they will work hard and support you and the rest of the team.

The reality can be different.

Once the glamorous bit of getting a project approved is done, the hard work begins and they might not be so interested in all of that. Especially when it involves turning up to regular Project Board meetings, taking decisions and being the active advocate for the project! They won’t act like this because suddenly they don’t want the project to succeed. It is more likely to happen because they didn’t realise it would be so much work and because they are happy to delegate everything to you. Unfortunately, that still gives you a leadership problem at the top.

The only way to prepare for and mitigate this risk is to establish a dedicated project management leadership team. Explain the commitment that is required and ensure they are adequately supported as well. Look out for the first signs that their commitment is waning and talk to them about it. An honest conversation might be able to stop the problem before it really takes hold.

Staff problems

Unfortunately, many project risks are caused by the people on the team. Staff leave (through choice or because you are asking them to leave), and that means that the project team lose expertise. Turnover – or even negative people on the team who have no plans to leave – can create issues with morale.

This is one risk that you should definitely plan for – someone on your team is going to feel disgruntled at some point as conflict happen, and it’s best to be prepared!

Make sure that you are managing the team consistently with fair benefits and terms for everyone. If you have essential people on the team consider talking to their line managers to try to secure their commitment at least until the end of the project, maybe through the payment of a bonus or similar.

You may also find yourself working in a location where the local labour market simply doesn’t have the skills you need to successfully complete the project so you may have to factor in training for local staff or the cost of bringing in experts from overseas to work with the local team.

No continuity

The risk that something will change is barely a risk – you know when you start a project that there will be changes. But lack of continuity can be an issue in some projects. Take for example, the situation where you are moving buildings. This relocation effort may have absolutely nothing to do with your project and could be a completely separate piece of work. But it will still have an impact on your team.

You may not be able to access certain resources during this time or you may struggle to create a sense of team cohesion in the new location. Think about situations that might affect the continuity of your team and try to plan in advance so that they don’t have a large impact on the project.

Lack of resources

A lack of resources can hit any project at any time. This could be anything from not being able to get parts for your project due to a natural disaster in the manufacturing company (as hit me once on a project) down to the meeting room being booked at the time you want it.

Think about the resources that you need on your project and what you would do if they suddenly became unavailable. This could involve sourcing alternative suppliers or cross-training your team so they can cover for each other. You might also need extra time to complete the project due to delays in getting the right kit, or you might be able to compromise on quality.

Change to business strategy

This is another risk that has a potential impact on any project. We can’t predict the future with any degree of certainty so there is always the chance that your project will suffer as a result in the business changing direction. This could be because the management team have decided not to launch a new product, to launch a new product, to open an overseas facility, to close an office, to float on the stock market or pretty much anything else!

Most project managers don’t get involved with setting business strategy so we can only react to changes when they happen.

The best mitigating action in these circumstances is to carry out a thorough review of what the change means for the project. It might have no impact but at the other extreme it might require closing down the project prematurely. Think about what you would need to know in order to make the right decision and then if this happens to you it will be straightforward to carry out that analysis.

These are just some of the risks that I think could hit any project. The best thing to do for your project is to carry out proper risks identification. Spend some time brainstorming the risks that might affect your project and document them in a tool like iMindQ which is perfect for recording the output of your discussion sessions. Then you’ll be able to refer back to your original notes and transfer the important points to your risk log.