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What Contributes to Risk in Project Management

When it comes to challenges, one of the biggest that we face is preparing for emerging risks. These are those risks that were previously unknown, or any familiar risk that manifests in a new way. All too often, our response to existing risks is not sufficient to deal with the risk. Whilst preparing for something that you have never seen before or did not expect is something you will learn about on a project manager course, in reality, it is still rather difficult. In a recent report, the international risk governance council (IRGC) identified 12 different factors that pertain to previously unforeseen risks. They suggest that if we address these factors, it might help us to better prepare for any emerging risks and also to reduce the effect of these risks if and when they arise.

Let’s take a look at these factors:

Scientific unknown

Those risks which are unexpected can result from a lack of understanding or knowledge about how the human system or natural world work.

Reduced margins

More speed and increased efficiency are a huge “want” in project management, and this reduces the margins of error, leaving a project more vulnerable to mistakes.

Vicious cycles

When you reinforce any negative loops, this can reduce stability whilst increasing the effects of change or risk.

Varying vulnerability

Different organisations and people can see different effects from the same type of risks it depends on context. This can lead to results that are unpredictable.

Conflicting interests

Different views on the importance or nature of a risk as a result of individuals’ interests and values can result in risk emerging.

Social dynamics

Any societal change can produce new risks or have an effect on those that exist in ways that can be unpredictable.

Advances in technology

Emerging risks can be caused by changes in technology, particularly if supporting research is not sufficient or if there is an inappropriate regulatory framework.

Time-based issues

It is hard to predict a risk if there are longer delays between the cause and effects or if the duration of the risk is greater than the attention span of policy-makers or analysts.

Lack of communication

One thing you will learn during training for project managers is that late, incomplete or misleading communication can create or enhance the risks to a project.

Unbalanced information

When stakeholders have important information that they do not share, that can result in poor decision-making or inappropriate actions, and then new risks may arise.

Unhelpful motivators

Those incentives that can result in counterproductive behaviours can lead to people taking more risk in project management than normal, and this can have unanticipated consequences.

Malicious behaviour

Finally, when actions are taken that can cause harm to others, this can have the result of producing a risk in project management that is unexpected, and that can have effects that are wide-reaching. It is really important to understand these more general causes in order to ensure that you can put preventative risk responses in place. These will help to provide your project with more protection against any emerging risks.

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