Top
Looking for project management templates?
(This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you go on to buy a product through one of the links here, but it does not cost you extra. Thanks for your support! Read my full disclosure.)

Book review: Risk Happens

Mike Clayton

Mike Clayton

Mike Clayton defines risk as “uncertain events that can affect outcomes,” in his book, Risk Happens!: Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects. Risk management is the most important of your project controls. It enables you to manage the project more effectively and work towards a smooth outcome. So what exactly is project risk management? Clayton defines it as 3 things:

  1. Processes to make the project more predictable
  2. Tools to deal with the real world as it happens
  3. Behaviours and attitudes that allow us to cope when change does happen.

Risk breakdown structures

Clayton introduces the concept of the risk breakdown structure in his book. This basically uses the categories of time, cost, quality and scope from the enhanced triple constraint and breaks down the risk underneath these categories, much as you would do for a work breakdown structure. The book includes a good explanation of product breakdown structures and work breakdown structures saying:

To move from a scope statement to a plan in your project definition, you will need to articulate your project activities and deliverables item-by-item. The tools that will allow you to do this are the WBS for setting out your activities, and the PBS for setting out your project deliverables, or products. Whichever you use is a matter partly of circumstance and partly of preference.

The WBS or PBS form a good basis for building a risk breakdown structure, as it is a way to ensure that you have covered the risks that relate to all areas of the project.

Using risk logs to manage risk

A plan is nothing without action. Often, we unconsciously think that once we have planned for risk, the universe will get to hear about it and mysteriously prevent the risk from happening. It won’t. Your risk register is more than a record – it’s a management tool, so use it to manage.

Risk Happens

Mike’s book: Risk Happens!

Clayton makes a good point in the quote above: managing project risk is more than just a one-off brainstorming session and logging everything on a spreadsheet. You have to actively manage the risk, otherwise it won’t go away.

Of course, there are some risks that you don’t want to go away. Positive risk can positively impact your project, so you want your risk management plan to include actions that will make the risk a reality. This book includes ways that you can capitalise on positive risk by enhancing the impact. And in case you can’t identify a positive risk unless it slaps you across the face, it also includes a short section on how to know one when you see one.

There is also some background information on how individuals and groups respond to risk. This is particularly useful when you are trying to put together a risk management plan, as you’ll get different responses to your management actions from different stakeholders and understanding how they think will help you realise that you aren’t going mad when they all respond in different ways.

Clayton also covers common things that affect our ability to make good judgements, such as the anchoring bias. This can lead us to set up risk management activities that are less than effective, or influence our approaches to managing project risk.

Set up your risk management structures straight away

“Plans are worthless but planning is everything.” Eisenhower

This book is a solid introduction to risk management and would be good for beginners. There is a good glossary and an appendix of common project risks – great if you want a starting point for brainstorming risk on your own project.

The book is not method specific, so it doesn’t matter if you use PRINCE2, the PMI equivalent or any other national or international standard. There are useful tables and processes, which will save you having to work out a risk management process for yourself – handy if you are setting up a PMO and want to save some time. You could easily take what is in this book, tweak it a little to suit your project or company and implement a risk management approach straight away.

Download a risk management plan and other handy templates to get started at http://riskhappens.wordpress.com/downloads/

Buy on Amazon.co.uk

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

Comments

Visit

The Shop

Check out my ebooks, template packs and other resources to help you get started and keep going on your projects
Shop now