Articles Archive

What Is a Project

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP

Are you wondering what is a project and what is not? Here is an example of a project:

The manager of the department you work in tells you the people are wasting time getting supplies from the supply room. He wants you to do a project to fix the problem.

Projects have a specific objective (goal). We want to achieve the goal so we have to do the project only once.  If you keep doing the same project over and over, obviously you’re not achieving the results the boss wanted.

What is a Project: Some Examples

The characteristics of all projects are the same. Their size doesn’t matter. All projects have a unique and specific objective. They have a beginning and end date. They often have a specific budget. The expectation is that we do them only once. Here are some examples of projects:

  • opening a new business
  • developing a computer program to process payroll
  • resurfacing a highway
  • opening a new healthcare clinic
  • What is a Projectbuilding an apartment complex.

What is a Project: The Steps

All of the efforts listed above are projects. All of them follow the same general steps:

  1. Project initiation – in this first step, a manager or executive comes up with the idea for the project. They give a project manager and other people an overview of the idea. The initiation process often includes obtaining approval from the organization to spend money on a project. When approval is given, we begin planning.
  2. Project planning – we need to communicate what the project is trying to produce. That’s called the scope and it’s defined by the manager or executive who initiated the project. Next the project manger develops the project plan. It includes a schedule, a budget and the people we need to work on delivering the scope. Larger projects have many stakeholders, the people who are affected by the project. So the plans for larger projects are more extensive. The project manager presents the project plan and schedule to the organization. When it’sapproved, we begin to execute the plan.
  3. Executing the project – most of the time and money on a project is spent during the executing phase. This is where we actually perform all the tasks specified in the project plan. The tasks are the deliverables that the team produces. The project executive or stakeholders review and accept the deliverables. They may also ask for changes. The project manager is monitoring everything that is happening.
  4. Monitoring and controlling – the project manager will monitor actual results and compare them to the plan. He or she will also identify differences (variances) between the two. When there are differences between the plan and the actual results, the project manager works to correct them.
  5. Closing – when the final deliverable has been produced and accepted, the project needs to be closed out. That involves holding a lessons learned meeting. It documents what we did and didn’t do well.  The intent is to have data that is useful on future projects and help avoid making the same mistakes. Archiving data from the project makes future projects easier and more successful.

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Feedback That Changes Behavior


Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP

Feedback is not just sharing your evaluation of a team member’s work. An important part of a leader’s job is setting clear expectations and norms of behavior. These help the team members work together effectively and efficiently. You, as the leader, must set and enforce these expectations and norms of behavior. You reinforce positive behavior and change negative behavior by giving feedback to team members.    Leading Teams Main Page

Feedback in the form of constructive criticism is one way to change a team member’s bad behavior. It is best to do this in private but occasionally it can be in public. It has the most impact early in the life of a team. During the “forming” and “norming” phases of team development, team members are most sensitive to your efforts to steer their behavior. A small disappointed frown from you when one team member criticizes another is often sufficient to stop that behavior. Later on, it is harder for you to change or stop undesirable behaviors. That’s because they have become ingrained.  It is important to avoid punishing people with your criticism. Punishment doesn’t change how people behave and it can produce negative results.

Let’s look at the right and wrong way to handle several feedback situations.

Feedback Situation #1: Team Member is Late For a Meeting

You had e-mailed the project team the agenda for a 30 minute planning meeting.  The group assembled several minutes early, except for one team member.  There was informal and light–hearted conversation since most of the team members knew each other.  Then you started the meeting at the appointed time.  After 15 minutes, the missing team member arrived and made a couple of humorous comments as he took his seat.

There are two parts to getting the change in behavior you want.  The most important part is to set the standard for timeliness. It may sound silly that you need to tell professionals to be on time for meetings.  However, being late for meetings might be OK on some teams. You must make your expectation and the standard clear because it may differ from the norms they have on other teams. Let’s look at the ineffective and effective ways to handle the first part. Team building

Ineffective Feedback: Setting Standards

“By being late you have wasted all of our time. That is unprofessional and inconsiderate. If you do that again, you and I are going to have trouble.”

You are trying to punish the late arrival and this threat is an overreaction.  It only makes you look silly. There is a better way to define what you expect from all the team members.

Effective Feedback: Setting Standards

“When people are late for meetings I can respond two ways.  I can interrupt the meeting to let them catch up. But this wastes everyone else’s time. Or I can let the late arrival figure things out as we move on.  Those are both bad choices. So please, let’s all be on time for meetings.”

The next part of the criticism is changing his behavior, not punishing him. So you should talk to him in private and give effective criticism. Two approaches to that next conversation with the late team member are below.


Ineffective Feedback: Giving Criticism

“I find that people who are late also do sloppy work and are very unprofessional.”

Stating stereotypes of people who are late as being sloppy and unprofessional is insulting. It may actually get in the way of changing the person’s behavior. You need to focus only on the behavior you want, not on personality traits.

Effective FeedbackGiving Criticism

We are all too busy to have our time wasted by someone who is late.  Please help me enforce the standard that everyone arrives on time.  Thank you.”

There is no personal criticism in this feedback. There is no implication that the person who arrived late is a bad person.  This is a clear comparison of the behavior you want, compared to what you got.  The request for their help is a nice touch to make the criticism more effective.

Feedback Situation #2: Functional Turf Wars

As you continued to work with the team, you noticed sharp remarks exchanged between the team members from Marketing and Operations. The barbs seemed to focus on a previous, failed project.  Each side was implying that the other was to blame for the project failure.  You quickly decide you have to do two things. First, you have to define the norm and the kind of behavior you want from the team.  Second, you need to effectively criticize the barbs being made by each side to make clear how their behavior deviates from what you want.

Ineffective Feedback: Defining Norms of Behavior

“I don’t want to hear any more of these inter-departmental turf wars.  It’s stupid and completely unprofessional.”

That statement is publicly criticizing certain people on a personal level. It produces resentment, not better behavior.

Effective Feedback: Defining Norms of Behavior

“Let’s focus on the future and the brilliant things we will deliver as a team; not on failed projects from the past.”

Next you need to speak privately to the people involved about how their comments differ from the behavior you want. Let’s look at the effective and ineffective ways to do that.

Ineffective Feedback: Past Grudges 

“You can dislike the people from (pick a department name) on your own time. On my project, you have to work with them. So get used to cooperating with each other.”

Effective FeedbackPast Grudges 

“Everyone will have a separate, measured accountability on this project. And we will know if someone is not pulling their weight or trying to shift work off to other departments.  So let’s not re-fight old wars. Let’s focus on making this project a success.”

Feedback Situation #3: Not Meeting Assignment Requirements

You cannot wait for team members to deliver bad assignments to define your expectations. You must do it upfront during the initial project planning phase. Leadership and Team Assignments

Ineffective Feedback: Meeting Expectations

“Top management is watching this project very closely and they will know very quickly if someone is not doing a good job on their assignments.  So don’t let bad work on this project ruin your career.”

This is the perfect way to have people start working on their excuses for avoiding blame. They’ll do this even before they start work on their tasks.  There is a better way to define your expectations.

Effective Feedback: Meeting Expectations

“The most important part of my job as project manager is to make sure you understand exactly what is expected of you. That’s why we are developing a work package that defines what each of you must do to succeed.  The work package describes the deliverable you are responsible for producing. That deliverable is defined with a metric and the standards you must meet. The work package also lists all the documentation that you must produce. If you produce what’s in the work package, your assignment will be a success.  If people in the organization want something that is missing from your work package, that is my fault. It’s not yours.”

As you execute the plan, there may be assignments that fall short of the expectation defined in the work package. Let’s look at the wrong and the right ways to handle that situation.

Ineffective Feedback: Falling Short of Expectations

“You have not given me what I asked for because you didn’t listen.  This is all wrong due to your poor work.”

This is too vague and does not tell the team member what they did wrong.  It also heaps a lot of personal accusations on them. This will not change their behavior for the better.

Effective Feedback: Falling Short of Expectations

“I guess the work package I wrote was not clear.  I would like you to complete the deliverable with this new, better defined work package.”

Taking some of the blame, whether deserved or not, will make the criticism more acceptable to the team member. And, with the focus on the future, it may improve their attention to detail going forward.

Effective Feedback Summary

It’s easy to handle situations that involve good news, like finishing early and under budget. But it’s challenging to manage situations when the project that is late and over budget due to team members’ poor performance. You need to focus on changing their behavior, not punishing them. You do this with effective feedback delivered in private. It’s easy to lose sight of how your own behavior and emotions can get in the way of building a high-performing project team.  To master skills for giving effective feedback, you need to practice handling these situations the right way.

You can learn and practice these skills in our private, online Project Management Basics course. You will work individually with an expert PM on a realistic project case study. You have as many e-mails, phone calls and live video conferences as you need.

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Project Failure: How To Rescue It

project failureWe all know how projects should be initiated so why is there so much project failure? Here is the project management process in theory. First there is a thorough planning process where the scope is laid out in crystal clear terms that everyone understands.  Then the project manager and team  “just” execute the scope. What can go wrong? Lots! So much for the theory. Enterprise Project Management Main Page

In reality, project failure rates are high. They top 70% in some organizations. Projects often do not get initiated the right way and project managers must try to rescue a failing project. Maybe someone else did the planning and you are assigned to take over the execution phase. Or someone else didn’t get the project done right and you have been asked to fix it. In any case, I hope that this post will get you on your way to successfully manage whatever someone throws at you. Project Failure

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #1

When you take over a  project failure in process, your first and most important task is to understand the project’s scope. If you don’t know where the ship should go, you won’t be able to steer it. Also, if you don’t understand the scope, chances are you are not alone.  The project team, stakeholders and even the project sponsor may not be able to tell you what the scope is. If you can’t uncover a solid scope statement, it is never to late to compile one.  Without a solid scope, you will have a hard time finishing what someone else started. I found it’s very useful to actually draw a picture that shows what is and what is not in the scope. Make sure that at least you and the sponsor are crystal clear about what the project has to deliver. Project Rescue

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #2

Next, you should try to locate the project charter and the stakeholder register. The project charter should tell you why you do what you do and what your boundaries are as a project manager. This is a very important document because you will have to maneuver the project around many obstacles. So you must know what the boundaries are. The stakeholder register is important because it lets you get in touch with the people who are most important to the project.

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #3

Third, introduce yourself to the major stakeholders and the project team. Make sure all of you have the same understanding of the project scope. Get the project team together for an update on the current status. This is also a good time to go over the project plan with the team. You might wonder why you should go over the project plan so late in the game. Once you know the scope, it will be easier to spot weaknesses in the plan. It’s best if you go over the plan with the team.

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Step #4

Last but not least, if you and the team identify a major weakness, you should address it. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but you should too the team, the stakeholders and the sponsor what want to do differently. Project Catastrophes

Project Failure: How To Rescue It – Summary

Here is the bottom line: don’t shy away from accepting the challenge of rescuing a project failure. I urge you to start with the scope. Your job as the project manager is to keep the big picture in mind. If you have to turn a project around, you will find that most often the project failed because of scope creep or other scope related issues. If you tackle the scope first, all other things will fall into place.


Project Management: How to Learn It

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP

Mentoring is the best way to learn project management. That’s where your company or organization lets you work with an experienced project manager on projects for a client or for one of your company managers. That’s how most of us at 4PM learned project management. We studied by working for an expert project manager on his/her projects.  Then the mentor let us manage small projects until we knew how to do it right. Unfortunately, the opportunity to learn from a mentor is very rare today. Most people who want to join the project management profession have to attend classes of 25 or more people taught by an academic.

Project Management Mentoring

At, however, we have created an online project management learning process that is based on the classic mentoring process.

  • Your instructor is an expert project manager with 10+ years of industry experience.
  • You work one-to-one with your instructor via video conferences
  • You work on realistic video project case studies
  • You practice dealing with the executives in live role playing sessions with your instructor
  • You practice answering executive’s questions in live role-playing sessions with your instructor
  • If you make a mistake, you try it again
  • You discuss every assignment with your instructor. You learn how to develop a project plan, create a project schedule using software and give status reports.

Project Management: Step #1

Our project management training prepares you for all of the challenges a project manager faces. They start when the boss calls you into his office and says something like, “We’ve got a big problem with the supply room. Our people are wasting dozens of hours every day because they can’t find the supplies they need to do their jobs. I want you to manage a project to fix the supply room problem.”

That’s when you may do a Google search on “project management “to find out what the heck to do. Well, here’s the answer. The first thing you do is pin the boss down about exactly what he means by “fix the supply room problem.” To do project management the right way, you need to have a definition of the project’s scope, the goal that defines the project’s success. The boss’ statement of “fix the supply room problem” is too vague. It will be a moving target and the goal will change each week. That’s because everybody can interpret it differently. So you must ask the boss questions about how he will measure if the project is a success. When he says something like, “People will be able to find the supplies they need in less than 2 minutes,” you have a clear scope. Project managers know how to ask the right questions to pin down the project scope.

Project Management: Step #2

The second thing you do is subdivide that scope into the major deliverables that will take you from where things are now to the end result the boss wants. You will usually have 4 to 7 major deliverables and each one must be measurable. In our example, a major deliverable could be “fewer than two stock-outs a week in the supply room.” That’s a measurable deliverable. It clearly defines success before you and your team start work.

Project Management: Step #3

Next you write your project charter. That can be a one page document that lists the following:

  • your understanding of the project’s goal
  • the resources you need to do the work on the major deliverables
  • the risks you see in the project.

When the boss signs off on the charter, you can start work creating the project plan.

Project Management: Step #4

Developing your project plan and schedule is the fourth step.  To do project managementthat, you work with your team members to estimate how much work each of the deliverables and tasks will require.  Then you lay out the sequence in which you will do them. Next you create the work breakdown structure (WBS). It is a hierarchy of the deliverables in your project. It’s easiest to use project software to develop your schedule and WBS. One of the best programs is Microsoft Project®, but it’s expensive. There are less expensive options like Gantter. That is a free project management scheduling software that you use with your browser. (I don’t think it’s going to be free forever.)

Project Management: Step #5

Then you get the sponsor to approve the project schedule. Then you and the team can start work on the tasks in your project plan.

Project Management: Step #6

Tracking actual progress on those tasks and comparing them to your approved schedule is the sixth step. You will give the sponsor status reports on how things are going and what problems you’re encountering. The sponsor usuallty tells you how often he/she wants these reports. You should also recommend solutions to the problems. However, your team members should give you weekly reports on the status of their tasks.

Project Management: Step #7

When the project is complete, the seventh step is to archive all the information about the project. That data will make doing the next project a lot easier.

That’s what project management is in a nutshell. You can learn all these skills in our project management basics courses. You practice using them as you work one-to-one with your mentoring instructor.


Launch Meeting For A Project

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP

The launch meeting has several purposes. They include the following:

  • Expectations for performance and behavior
  • Links between tasks and the overall objective (scope) of the project
  • How the project success will benefit the team members
  • Generating enthusiasm and commitment to the project.

But too often the launch meeting does none of these things. Here are some of the common causes:

  • The sponsor makes vague threats about the consequences of failure
  • The stakeholders are not supportive of the scope and discuss changes to it
  • Department managers discuss pulling their people off the project for higher priorities. Launch Meeting Main Page

To achieve the benefits and avoid the problems, the project sponsor and project manager need to carefully plan and control the project launch meeting. Very often there are issues or concerns that are affecting the team members’ and stakeholders’ attitudes about the project. The project sponsor and project manager should understand these concerns and have a plan for addressing them. The project launch meeting is not the time to “downplay” or try and minimize the concerns. Instead, the project sponsor and project manager should use the launch meeting to directly address people’s concerns about the impact of the project on their departments and their daily work.
Unfortunately, launch meetings often leave team members wondering how they can avoid being blamed if the project fails. They may be concerned about finger-pointing when things don’t go right.

Watch this video as a project sponsor and project manager conduct the worst launch meeting in the history of project management. I’ll point out some of the mistakes the project manager and sponsor make. Then you can listen to the project team members privately describe their reaction to the meeting. Finally, I will analyze what went wrong and suggest how to do it better.


Project Plan – Answering Tough Questions

Every project manager must get Project Plan Approval before they begin work. That includes getting the “go-ahead” for the plan, schedule and budget for a new project. Even if you have been working closely with the sponsor and stakeholders, there is still the need to persuasively present the information you have spent so much time developing. Too many project managers approach these meetings as “data dumps” where all they have to do is recite the scope, budget and schedule highlights and the executives will automatically give their approval.

A better approach is to anticipate the questions the decision-makers will ask you about your data. There are two questions that have been asked in every project approval meeting since the dawn of time.

project plan approvalFirst, the executives want to know how the project can finish earlier. Second, they want to know how the projects’ cost can be reduced. If the project manager doesn’t have answers to these questions, in the form of alternative ways of doing the project, the executives will make arbitrary changes to the budget and schedule. Then they’ll tell the project manager to find ways to make it happen.

You need to be prepared to handle these questions with “trade-off options” so your project has a chance of success. The trade-offs will give  the executives data about how the project can finish earlier and deliver the scope for less cost. Specifically, you need to have modeled options for finishing 10% and 20% earlier and delivering the scope for 10% and 20% less than the budget you submitted for their approval. You need to have these alternatives ready to present in the project approval meeting. If you don’t provide the data, the executives will arbitrarily decide that you can finish the project 20% earlier without additional people or budget.

The result of being unable to respond to the inevitable questions about finishing earlier and spending less money is that you leave the project approval meeting with a project that is doomed to fail.

Here is a video about how to answer difficult questions from executives.

How to Answer Executives' Questions

You can learn all of those skills in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your industry specialty.

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Team Building: Fixing the Team From Hell

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP

Project team building is a critical success factor. Every project manager wants a project team that is composed of highly motivated, aggressive problem solvers. They should be totally committed to their deliverables, budget and due date and completely support all the other members of the team. Are there teams like this? Yes, but very very few. All too often we wind up with a  team composed  of people like this project team from hell. The suffered from the performance of other leaders and now you have to fix it or bad team performance could kill you project. Leading Teams Main Page

Project sponsors and stakeholders like to talk about the project team during the initiation of new “critically important” projects. It’s easy to identify what you want from your team. But deciding how to build one is a different matter. What team building strategy should you follow? There are certainly team-building classes and facilitators who can help create a more effective culture. But it’s all too easy for those behavioral changes to vanish as soon as the training session is over.

Team building a Dysfunctional Team - Video

So it’s pretty much up to the project manager to build that kind of project team. It’s not done by talking about how everybody’s going to be highly motivated, aggressive problem-solvers, etc.  No, it’s done in three critical instances of a project manager’s work with the project team. This is the heart of team building. These instances are moments of truth that establish the culture of the team, communicate the expectations of the project manager and teach the project team how to work with the project manager. Leadership and Team Assignments

These team building moments of truth occur at particularly important times in the relationship between each team member and the project manager. The first occurs when the project manager assigns a task to a team member. Bad techniques in this assignment process can undermine any trust that existed between the team member and the project manager.  They also alert the team member to start protecting themselves from being blamed for project failure. We’ll discuss the right techniques to use later. Effective Feedback

The second moment of truth occurs when you  work with the team to estimate duration of the task are established. If the project manager handles this one poorly, the team member has alarms going off about how they’re being set up for failure. Team motivation

Finally, how the project manager handles bad news about an assignment is critically important to maintaining a productive attitude on the part of the team member when we  encounter the inevitable problems. Team Types


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Team Assignments – Video

Watch this video about “how to” and “how not to” make team assignments. We show you what the initial meeting with a team member should deliver. Next we’ll discuss an example of how not to make a team member assignment. Finally, we’ll talk about the right way to make team assignments.

Your First Meeting with a New Team Member

The goal of this example project is to improve the quality of the applicants that Human Resources refers to line managers for job interviews. The project manager asks one of the team members to stop by his cubicle to discuss the project.  He is a bit uncertain about how to start the project. He asks the team member to interview all 65 of the company’s first level supervisors about the quality of the job applicants Human Resources is sending them for job interviews. Leading Teams Main Page

Team Assignment: Round 1

The team member returns to the project manager’s cubicle a week later and says, “I finished the last of the 64 interviews this morning. One of the supervisors is in the hospital so I couldn’t interview her.”

The PM says, “Good work. Tell me about the results of the interviews.”

The team member replies, “The hiring supervisors are very unhappy with the quality of the applicants referred by the Human Resources department.  70% of them rate the applicants as poor or unsatisfactory in terms of meeting the job specifications. Only 10% rate the applicants as excellent. We certainly have a problem to solve here.”

The project manager responds, “That’s not what I wanted. I want to know specifically what is wrong with the applicants the HR department sends them to interview. Please go get me the information I want.”

The team member nods at the project manager, turns and walks out, thinking to himself, “If you wanted data about what was wrong with the applicants, you should’ve told me that.”

Team Assignment: Round 2

With a marked lack of enthusiasm, the team member proceeds to again interview the 65 hiring supervisors (the last one was home from the hospital). The supervisors are unhappy with the team member because they feel they’ve contributed enough time to the project. Several remark to him, “You really should decide what you need before you waste people’s time.” The team member says nothing but nods agreement.

Seven days later the team member returns to the project manager’s cubicle. The project manager sternly asks, “Did you get the assignment right this time?”

The team member drops a 1 inch thick report on the project manager’s desk and says, “You asked me to find out what was wrong with the applicants and I have done that. Here are all the flaws of the 76 applicants that the HR department has sent to hiring supervisors in the past year. There are 1,576 things wrong with those applicants.”

The PM rises to his feet, snapping, “This is useless! We can’t correct all the problems on this enormous list. I need to know the top 10 things that are wrong with the applicants. I can’t believe you didn’t understand that when we last talked. You should be able to figure these things out for yourself. But if you can’t, you are responsible for asking questions until you’re clear about your assignment.”

Team Member Assignment

Team Assignment: Round 3

Without saying a word, the team member walks out and begins another round of interviews with the same supervisors. The team member’s lack of enthusiasm is now even worse than that of the supervisors. Also, the team member’s attention to detail is far below his usual work standard. As a result, the data gathered is incomplete and full of errors.

Team Assignment: Who Is At Fault?

Without question, the project manager did a miserable job defining this team member’s assignment. The team member followed the PM’s instructions correctly. In each of the cycles through this stupidity, the team member did what the project manager told him to do. And that is the heart of the problem. The project manager was telling the team member what to do but he didn’t tell the team member the result he wanted the assignment to deliver. If the PM had said, “Identify 10 categories of flaws with the job applicants that Human Resources sends to our supervisors,” the team member would have understood what the PM wanted them to produce. He would have delivered the desired result the first time. But the project manager did not specify the deliverable he wanted. What he told the team member to do was insufficient.

Too often, project managers don’t think about exactly what they want the product of the team member assignment to be. It’s much easier to just give the team members a to do list and hope they get the assignment right. If they don’t, the project manager blames them rather than himself. When the PM doesn’t give their team members a clear and measurable deliverable for their assignment, they make the team members much less effective than they could be. When people have to guess about what a “good job” is, their work effort will be less focused than it should, and could, be. Additionally, if members of your project management team are uncertain about your expectations, they will naturally protect themselves by padding their estimates of the work’s cost and duration. They expect your unclear expectations to change and they want to avoid blame.

Team Assignment: The Right Way

Consistently successful project managers always make project team member assignments with clear performance expectations for every deliverable. If you want to be successful, you need to set a measurable performance expectation for every assignment you give your team members. As work progresses and the team produces their deliverables, you can compare what was actually produced to the original, measurable assignment. This allows you to spot and resolve problems early so your projects finish on time and within budget. And it lets your team members feel proud about doing a good job on their assignments. That builds team morale.

Learn how to make clear team member assignments in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.

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Project Risk Management – How To Build Management Support

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP

Convincing managers and executives to support, fund and participate in Project Risk Management is often difficult. These decision-makers usually think risk management involves lots of long meetings and tons of paperwork. They view it as wasting large amounts of time and money. Project managers need to change the decision-makers’ thinking. You need to persuade these leaders that a minimal investment in project risk management is worthwhile. To do this, you start by gathering some data from a few failed projects. This data will let you identify the causes of your organization’s project failures. Then you can discuss the causes and explain them as risks that were not identified early, assessed properly and responded to quickly.  Risk Management Main Page

If you make a reasonable case to the decision-makers, you can justify a short meeting devoted to risk management for the new project.  You can schedule a lunch and invite the most knowledgeable project stakeholders to attend. You ask them to contribute their experiences on similar projects.  The key to a successful first risk management meeting is to keep things short and efficient. The goal is for the group to identify one major risk the new project faces. Next do a quick assessment of the likelihood and impact, and plan one or two risk responses. The responses are ways to lessen the risk’s impact on the project. All this can be done during a lunch.  Small Project Risk Management

Advanced Healthcare Project Management

You need to have the right people involved in identifying the risks and discussing ways of responding to them. Your aim is not to perform a complete risk management process. You’re simply demonstrating to these decision-makers that a little bit of time invested in risk management can pay big dividends. Remember that risks can be positive as well as negative. So don’t fail to raise the issue of positive risks; things that can shorten the duration and reduce the cost. Risk Responses

Watch the video where Dick Billows, PMP discusses project risk management techniques. It covers risk analysis and ways of developing risk responses, then justifying them to the users.

Advanced Risk Management


Risk Mitigation Done Early, Not When It’s Too Late

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP

Bad things can and do happen on projects. Even the best fire-fighting can make the situation worse. The only solution is risk mitigation. And you need to do it early in the project. That’s when it is easier and cheaper to do.  Risk mitigation is worthwhile even if you can only spend 10 minutes on it. If you can anticipate one significant risk and take steps to prevent it, that 10 minutes was time well spent. On even a small IT project, risk management is often worth the time and expense of a lunch if you get a few knowledgeable users and their manager to attend. You start risk mitigation by tapping into people’s experience from similar or related projects.  Everyone knows that bad risks can make the project take longer or cost more. And good risks can make the project finish sooner and cost less. So you record their ideas about the project’s good and bad risks. Risk Management Main Page

Watch the video where Dick Billows, PMP discusses project management techniques focusing on risk mitigation for IT projects. The discussion covers qualitative and quantitative risk analysis as well as ways to develop risk responses and justify them to the users. Risk Responses


Advanced Risk Management

The best way to learn project risk management is through mentoring.  That’s where your employer lets you work with an experienced project manager. Most of us at 4PM learned that way. We studied the risk management techniques an expert PM used on his/her projects.  Then the mentor let us manage small projects until we knew how to do it right. That is a much more effective way to learn than sitting in a class of 25 or more people trying to learn from an academic. Small Project Risk Management