You never want your project sponsor to look at you and say, “YOU should have seen that coming.” Perhaps it is more reasonable to say, you never want your sponsor to look at you and say, “YOU should have seen that coming,” AND know that they are right.
If you and your team have done a good job with risk identification and in prioritizing your risks and preparing responses for those risks, then you know whether or not it was reasonable to see something coming. Some risks truly are the ‘unknown, unknowns’, while others are the ‘known, unknowns’. When you are able to assemble the right people with a depth of experience, you will be able to capture the risks that your project is likely to face. It is OK if some of you are new, as long as you have access to someone who has been involved in similar efforts. When you are new, some risks will be beyond your level of experience. To you, they might feel like ‘unknown, unknowns’. With experience your list of the ‘known, unknowns’ grows and you develop a sense of understanding exactly what it is that could happen on your way to project completion.
Risk comes when we do not know what we are doing. And each project we manage has an element of the unknown. This could result in threats to our success or it could result in opportunities.
The best time for you to imagine your worst-case scenario is long before it ever happens. You are not engaging in negative thinking, YOU are being strategic. The best time for you to imagine the best-case scenario is long before it ever happens. You are not just engaging in wishful thinking, you are being strategic.
Accept the fact that your project plans will change. And risks that become a reality are a type of change that you will experience. For the most likely and most impactful risks you will have responses. In this way, as our opening quote indicates, things will turn out best for you because with your risk responses prepared, you are able to make the best of the way things turn out. See how that works?
Get all the tips you need for successful project risk management in the new pmStudent Project Risk Management Course. Check it out here:
Yes, you can prepare for the unknown.