Project Management for Librarians: Risk Assessment

Project Management for Librarians: Risk Assessment

[Download the risk assessment document template]


Risk assessment is clearly an art I haven’t entirely mastered yet, but even at my novice stage it’s helpful, primarily because it gets you thinking about what you’ll do in the case of an imminent failure. It puts the possibility of failure on the table, and forces you to talk it over with your supervisor, your stakeholders, and your team. Even when you don’t anticipate the particular risk you end up facing, you’ve probably brainstormed enough mitigating and contingent actions that it won’t take you long to construct a new one on the fly. It also introduces the tools and language to kill your project when it’s limping toward failure, since you have built in all the parachute points at an early stage.

I had to shelve the project the model risk assessment in the video was written for in the face of a risk I did not anticipate. It’s still not a failure; it’s just shelved until the risk event is past. The team were grateful when I raised the issue and suggested shelving it, because it saved everyone the pain of a public flop. No hard feelings! These things happen! We will regroup at a later date!

Download this tool and use it; make a better video than I did!

0 thoughts on “Project Management for Librarians: Risk Assessment

  1. Risk assessment works both ways — especially in risk averse orgs. If you can say ‘uh – compared to the usual fair, we basically have nothing to lose here’ you can find yourself steering out of ‘but what if something EXPLODES>!?!?!!?’ conversations.

    1. Yes, but I think you have to entertain those conversations. What if something does explode, what are you going to do? What are the actual risks involved? If you actually paint the whole process, you can determine exactly what your colleagues are prepared to tolerate. We do this all the time, actually, in MPOW, because people do have some fears and it’s best to address them. There is nothing to be gained by flying under the radar in terms of risk. If you can look the risk in the eye, look at what impact it would really have, and construct mitigating and contingent actions based on those projections, in my experience everyone feels a lot calmer. We have done things that have certain elements of risk to them because we felt they we tolerable. It’s helped to develop a language around tolerable risk. We do it anyway; hiding the process, in my experience, just results in embarrassment and shame. There’s nothing useful built on shame, in my opinion.

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