HUMAN NETWORK: Risk Management and Your Vacation

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It’s Vacation Time. You’ve saved up your time off, and planned a great vacation for yourself and your family. How, as a Project Manager, do you make sure your vacation has just has those fun “risks,” that everything runs smoothly while you’re away and you’re able to enjoy your vacation uninterrupted? This is where Risk Management skills come into play.

Risk Management, as the PMBOK® Guide defines it, is, “organizational policy for optimizing investments and (individual) risks to minimize the possibility of failure.” The key term here is “organizational policy” — the best way to avoid and mitigate risks is to have a clear and consistent plan for dealing with them.

Though Risk Management is only 1 of 10 areas in which Project Managers must be competent in order to hold the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential, it is an especially important one for Project Managers who plan to take time away from their team — whether it be for vacation or any other reason.

In this month’s Know How Network, we’re going to suggest some ways that Project Managers can make the most of their holidays away from the office using good Risk Management practices. By taking the time to go through the basic steps of Risk Management, you’ll prepare your team to keep the project afloat while you’re away — so you can enjoy an uninterrupted, crisis-free vacation.

Risk management is a continuous process that:
• Identifies risk.
• Analyzes risk and its impact; prioritizes risks that could do the greatest harm.
• Develops and implements strategies to mitigate risk.
• Tracks risks and risk-mitigation implementation plans.
• Communicates key information about risk so your organization keeps getting smarter and more adept at mitigating risk.

Let’s see how each of these elements applies to planning for your time away from the project and delegating responsibilities to your project team.

Risk: What are the top (most likely to occur) 3 risks for what could go wrong while you’re away?

Impact: What would be the potential “worst case scenario” impact on your organization for these 3 risks? Evaluate the potential impact for each of the 3 risks you identified.

Risk Mitigation Strategy: What can be done to prevent each of these risks? Who will be responsible for doing it while you’re away? What is your project team’s contingency plan in case one or more “worst case scenarios” comes to be? Make sure you have clear answers to these questions before you leave — and that your project team knows the answers to them, too.

Track: Who will be in charge of tracking risks and how risk mitigation strategies are being implemented while you’re away?

Communicate: Ideally, you should delegate the responsibilities for Risk Management among several reliable team members. Who will be responsible for communicating what your team learned from the Risk Management process when you come back?

Identifying risks for what could go wrong while you’re gone, evaluating the likelihood of a risk happening and the impact if it does, and coming up with contingency plans to mitigate risk will help ensure that projects run smoothly while you’re away. Taking these preparatory steps allows your team to continue doing the work well, without you, even if “worst case scenario” risks come to be. The ability to delegate is a sign of a good Project Manager; you test this when you plan a true, non-working vacation for yourself.

To learn more about effectively delegating to your project team, check out Cheetah Learning’s 20-hour, online Effective Virtual Teams course. In this course, students learn tools and techniques to develop a high-functioning virtual project team where team members of different generations and cultures find a sense of connection to the work and the team. Learn more about this course and Cheetah’s many Project Management online courses at www.cheetahlearning.com.

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About Author

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses. Cheetah Learning was named Professional Development Provider of the Year at the 2008 Project Management Institute (PMI®) Global Congress. Michelle is recognized by PMI as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the world. For more information, visit www.cheetahlearning.com.

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