This article is in no way meant to add to the sense of panic circulating about Covid-19. However, the pandemic has become a serious case study for risk management in projects. It has created an unprecedented challenge in both our professional and personal lives and so, together with the M-Powered team, I have analysed the risk events that can occur in projects due to the coronavirus outbreak so that you may be able to learn from them to form your own risk management strategy.

If you manage EU projects, you’ll probably find these risk events likely to happen, or already underway. Risk management is all about thinking about all possible scenarios (even if they’re not very likely to happen) and creating response strategies for those that are most likely to occur.

I encourage you to brainstorm with your team (online, if there are no options for you to meet face-to-face) about possible risks, prioritise them, create risk responses and ACT.

For those of you who feel you need some help with this important task, you can get in touch with us for a FREE online risk management consultation. Just write to me at marzena@m-powered.eu to schedule a virtual meeting!

Below are the main risks categories we’ve identified at M-Powered:

International project meetings

Events (conferences, dissemination events, cultural events)

Pilot activities and training

Operational project work

School closure

Corporates and SMEs

Risk for the charity sector

I’ll guide you step-by-step on how to prioritise, analyse and plan risk responses.

You can also read more about risk management in my previous blog article.

Identify

The good news is that an estimated 90 percent of threats can be identified and investigated during the risk management process. This means that you can plan response strategies to minimise their negative effects on your project.

Here are main risks categories we’ve identified at M-Powered:

International project meetings

  1. Cancelled.
  2. Meetings proceed but with fewer participants.
  3. Meetings proceed with all participants present but extra safety measures are required.
  4. Meetings proceed as normal but one of the participants gets ill.

 

Events (conferences, dissemination events)

  1. Cancelled.
  2. Events proceed as normal but extra safety measures are required.
  3. Cultural events are cancelled. Huge losses for the cultural sector and also for the community. People must stay home, which could be difficult for some people (e.g. people who are isolated or lonely, older people).

 

Pilot activities and training

  1. Cancelled.
  2. Activities and training proceed as normal but extra safety measures are required.
  3. Activities and training proceed as normal but one of the participants gets ill.

 

Operational project work

  1. Project team must work remotely. It will impact the project, but it will also impact the individuals involved, increasing stress levels, causing “cabin fever”, irritability and isolation. A lot of people find working from home difficult! Blurring lines between work and home life will be difficult for those not used to working from home. Also, if they are parents and schools are cancelled, they essentially cannot work because they will be taking care of their kids.
  2. Subcontractors don’t deliver products/services on time.
  3. Budgets are affected by changes (cancelled flights, shortage of resources).
  4. Projects are not delivered on time – due to postponed meetings and changes the project outputs that mean they will not be ready before the official end date of the project.

 

School closure

  1. Parents of small kids must stay at home, which negatively affects their work.
  2. If your project involves school education, the time gap in teaching and learning will be long and difficult to overcome.

 

Corporates and SMEs

  1. Business sector can lose not only clients but also opportunities. Even when the virus is under control, it will take time for people to feel safe again.

 

Risk especially relevant for the charity sector

  1. Cancellation of major fundraising events, for example, the Irish Cancer Society had to cancel their biggest fundraiser of the year, Daffodil Day. This will have a devastating impact on their finances, and they will need to come up with a digital strategy and campaign as soon as possible.  
  2. Charities that may rely on government funding might find that funding has been reallocated to Covid-19 response.
  3. Charities must be very careful in managing this crisis as they are supporting vulnerable people (older people, children, people with medical conditions). If they are seen to put them at risk in any way in their management of the crisis, they can expect major public backlash.

Prioritise

Above are just some of the risk events identified by the M-Powrered team that may happen or be happening right now. I strongly encourage you and your project team to do a similar brainstorming exercise about the risk events that can happen in your project.

When you finish brainstorming, each risk should be prioritised. How do you do this? You need to think first about how probable it is for the risk to occur, and then how impactful it will be for the project. At M-Powered, we have created Impact & Probability Cards to help project team members vote.

Some risks have a higher impact than others. Therefore, it is better to dedicate more time to the risks with the highest possible losses and gains. Check if you have any red flag risks that could derail your project. If so, they should be your number one priority.

For those of you who feel you need some help with this important task you can get in touch with us for a FREE online risk management consultation. Just write to me at marzena@m-powered.eu to schedule a virtual meeting!

Analyse

Select the top risks for the project —the ones that have “high” ranking in your impact and probability list. You may also select some “medium” risks, if you wish.

Analyse each of them. Think about the possible scenarios that could happen:

  • When could it happen?
  • How often could it occur?
  • How exactly could it impact the project?

Plan responses and clarify ownership

Make action plans for selected risks and decide who in the team will “own” these risks, i.e. who will be responsible for monitoring them.

Register

Maintaining a risk register enables you to view progress and ensure that you will not overlook any risks. It is also a perfect communication tool for informing your team members and stakeholders about what is happening.

Monitor

The risk register you created will help you to track risks and implement action plans to prevent them. You should do this daily.

 

My last advice is to think about the current situation not only in terms of threats, but also opportunities!

Stay in touch and check out this other blog article to learn more about risk management.