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Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest Post: Lack of Coordination is a Risk Hazard

One of the most critical challenges faced by any project manager during a major solution delivery is to mitigate risk. Risk is of two kinds. One is called “known risk”. Known risk is a risk that can be caused by something that you can plan and even mitigate. For example, lack of electricity. You can purchase a generator as a backup. The other kind of risk is the “unknown risk”. Unknown risk is defined as risk that was not factored in and did not have a plan in place to minimize it.

Even with the most successful team of executives and leaders, risk can only be calculated with the knowledge within the team. Hence, many times, risks do pop up since they were not discussed or even fathomed during the discussions. A good example is of a viral flu that swept in and majority of the main key players are all sick. Interestingly, another very critical risk that surfaces is poor communication between key stakeholders.

Let me share with you a very recent experience of “unknown risk” that was caused by lack of coordination. Our organization was working in England as a consultant for a major telecom company. The project comprised of 26 specialists from all over the world. While doing the risk management plan, the entire team spent weeks understanding and comprehending the type of risks that could surface into the project. The entire team was able to garner an exhaustive list of risks that could be caused by a variety of different factors. In fact, the risk management plan was wonderful. It had all the risks reported and tagged as per best practices.

Ample time was given to the respective teams to list the risks and develop the action plan for the project. If the risk ever took place, there was an action plan that was to kick in. Interestingly, the main objective was to proactively mitigate the risk from occurring. The entire team came up with 50 risk environmental factors.  Out of the 50 risk environmental factors, 31 were high risk factors.

The risk management plan encompassed the risk cost, risk event, risk impact and even the risk plan. One aspect that was missed was that the team coordination among the international community of partners could also delay the project and could be counted as a major risk factor. Lack of team coordination is also risk to any project and was also to be proven true in this case as well. 



Root Cause of Risk


We were brought into the equation when the project was already late and above the cost threshold. When we held meetings with the various stakeholders, all of them believed that the main reason of the delay was external environmental factors. Some of the examples they gave were time difference between the countries and even the language barrier.

After going through extensive meetings with the teams, we realized that the main problem was the team itself. When we dug into the anomalies, we realized that though the team comprised of talented individuals, all the team members wanted to be the leaders of the group. No one was ready to be a follower. 


Solution

Team building and team coordination is critical. In fact, in many organizations, the teams going to be working on a project go through an extensive orientation program. During the project management orientation, risk affects and stakeholders communication are all discussed. For remote teams, a project management online course is aired through the internet. Objective of the team orientation meetings is to have a clearly amalgamated team in terms of vision, purpose, and deliverables.

Our recommendation to any project manager that goes through project delivery is to sustain and maintain quality communication. Quality communication is one of the fundamental flaws and root causes of risks coming into the project. Here are three project management risk aversion tips:

  1. Be consistent in the communication. Keep the message in emails, sms and other tools.
  2. Be prepared to have a fire drill of activities and project schemes before going into execution. Similar to a rehearsal.
  3. Have people that can build teams. Assign team leaders. People need to know who is the leader.

The project management steps outlined above will go a long way in building and diverting risks. Proven solution.


  
Zyma Arsalan
Director Media, ThinkFaculty Company
http://www.thinkfaculty.com



Zyma Arsalan is currently the Director Media for ThinkFaculty Company – a leader in project management training, customer service training and leadership and development. She has a versatile experience in working for the top leading companies in USA and now focuses on building the intellectual network in Asia. She can be reached at www.thinkfaculty.com