Advice for Junior PMs – #4 – Do not be afraid to communicate risks that have become issues

You saw it coming. You captured it in the risk register, reviewed the mitigation plan with your team and had them alter some of the response strategy. It’s even part of your status report. And then the risk event occurred, but you didn’t know how to have the conversation with your project sponsor.

I understand. I’ve had some awkward conversations myself. It can be intimidating to walk into your sponsor’s office for a status update and having to try to (not so subtly) clearly say that you will need more money, time, or resources to properly respond to the risk event and keep the project on track.

So how should you handle it? What should you have done?

Before the project begins, provide your sponsor some context of the situation. Not all status meetings will be positive progress updates, but not all status meetings will require intervention. You are there to be honest and to steward the process, not sugar coat things. Besides, when it comes time for the risk event to occur, you have identified it and have a response plan.

If you are stuck, and feel like you need to save your skin during the project – don’t panic. If your sponsor has even one more grey hair then you, this is not the first time they have had to have this type of conversation. Be honest, be confident, and have your facts in order. You have identified the risk, and you have a response plan.

For both circumstances – ensure that at subsequent status meetings, you are reviewing risks that are relevant for your current project phase.

Have you ever had a really awkward conversation about risks with your sponsor? How did you handle it?


About Jason H Zalmanowitz
I am a nerdy Management Consultant / Project Manager with a MBA, have spent the majority of my career working for consulting firms in Calgary, and I race in triathlons because of (and thanks to) my wife. As a Project Manager, I have managed field implementations, strategy development projects, software development projects, and hardware implementation projects. As a consultant, I have helped companies articulate how and why they are going to implement and interact with sustaining technology to support their business.

2 Responses to Advice for Junior PMs – #4 – Do not be afraid to communicate risks that have become issues

  1. Pingback: Advice for Junior PMs – Introductory Post | Unnatural Leadership

  2. Pingback: Advice for Junior PMs – # 9 – Choosing the right project | Unnatural Leadership

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