This is the third in a series of articles looking at the effects of Covid-19 on project management in the development and humanitarian sectors. For the second article in the series, visit:

Schedule and Time Management Post-Covid-19

Identification and management of risk is intrinsic and non-negotiable in project management, and certainly one area that will be irrevocably changed by the current health crisis. I believe we will change not the way in which risk is identified and assessed, but rather our relationship with risk.

We have all experienced situations where risk management has not been treated with the necessary attention or resources. Our attitude to external risk in particular can sometimes be blasé. The good news for risk management is that, going forward from this crisis, we may never be so nonchalant about risk again.

I hope the human race will learn to be more forward thinking, especially in relation to the global challenges we face, such as climate change. This forward thinking will include risk identification and response in project management, especially in sectors as susceptible to change as international development.

Surely one of the lessons of the past few months is the importance of timely and accurate information to the risk identification process. The failure to act soon enough or strong enough to Covid-19 by some World leaders can be at least partly blamed on their having misleading or incomplete information until it was too late. Risk identification works on the same “Garbage In Garbage Out” premise: if project teams don’t have the right information available at the right time for risk identification, they are likely to end with flawed results.       

Whatever information you have available, the next step is to assess and respond to the identified risks. We have seen different responses to coronavirus from national and regional governments, and it’s still too early to too definitively judge those measures. But on some occasions, governments armed with the same information have taken differing strategies to risk response. Political motivations are sometimes a factor, but don’t always explain such divergence. So are we, as Project Managers, really sure we’re choosing the RIGHT responses to our risks?

Finally, risk monitoring and control. Two great tools for engaging with existing and new risks emerging during the project’s implementation are the Risk Register and the Project Risk Review. The coronavirus crisis is the perfect example of the changing nature of risk. Having experienced the effects of coronavirus, how we take on the challenge of evolving our approach to risk management is up to us.

For more information on Risk Management see the Project DPro Guide: High level risk analysis is discussed on page 70 (Identification and Definition), and assessment, response, and Monitoring & Control are covered by pages 81-86 (Set Up).

Oliver Carrick

Oliver Carrick

Oliver is a part-time consultant who contributes to PM4NGOs as the PMD Pro+ Program Manager. He is a British academic, Project Manager, author and consultant living in Ecuador. He currently resides in the Galapagos islands where he is a Professor and department head, and also manages a program of community outreach projects. Oliver holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management, an MSc in Project Management, and a PhD in International development. He is also PMD Pro Level 2 and Program DPro certified. Oliver is a PMP and a PRINCE2 Practitioner.

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