Not all risks are associated with technology, processes, or missing resources. Sometimes an individual assigned to your project can be the riskiest aspect of your entire project. Technology and processes are predictable by their very nature. And finding resources may be difficult, but the lead-time and process are well understood. But humans are, in the end, humans–making them highly unpredictable, and often the single greatest source of risk to the delivery of your project. Today, managers go out of their way to not identify individuals as a source of risk. They instead prefer to deal with technology and processes to reduce this risk, or, worse yet, throw money at the problem by adding resources to the project. But what should a project manager do when the project’s most significant risk has a name?
The answer to this question varies, as most things do, with the nature of the risk. The obvious examples are negative. Poor performance or subversive behavior may exist in any organization. Others may be less pernicious, as critical resources may get promoted or have children during intensive and high effort periods of the project. It’s been our experience that the best method for managing these risks is to become involved with the project team members. Get to know them. Informal communication plays a huge role in identifying, analyzing, and managing these risks. These risks are generally undocumented risks—the ones that never find their way onto a risk register. Project managers need to play the role of friend and mentor to their project team in order to have success in identifying and managing these risks. By being involved in your teams’ lives, you’ll be better prepared.