Projects are high-risk activities, and it is in the early stages that uncertainty is greatest.

Some of this uncertainty can be removed during design and planning, but in practice a great deal may remain. Risks can be ranked according to their probability and likely impact, and a risk log can be kept detailing this information. Throughout the progress of the project you will need to review your risk log, to check whether any risks have become either more or less probable, or whether any new risks have appeared.

Formal risk review should be a team activity, and could be included as a regular agenda item at every team meeting. Discussing this issue with the project team helps ensure that rankings are realistic, and that ways are found of dealing with potential crises. If everyone is aware of the triggers for each risk, difficulties are more likely to be spotted early on before too much damage is done.

When monitoring project risks and adjusting activities you need to pay particular attention to:

  • tasks inside key stages;
  • points at which several people are involved in one task;
  • tasks following a merge in the logic diagram;
  • key stages or tasks which will take a long time to complete;
  • the relationship between each key stage and the next;
  • any point at which the people involved are doing a task for the first time;
  • tasks involving new or unfamiliar technology;
  • key stages where there is very little or no slack or float in the schedule.

When a risk becomes reality, its implications must be assessed, including:

  • the effect on costs and resources;
  • possible consequences if the problem is not addressed;
  • which aspects of the project are affected;
  • how serious the problem is thought to be.

Depending on the reporting arrangements you have in place, you may need to notify your sponsors of any problems immediately. It is more likely, however, that you would want to identify possible solutions first, so that you can make recommendations for action at the same time.