Risk & Issue Management is a process that runs through the entire project from inception to completion and is most important in the implementation phase. The process requires two documents, the Risk Management Plan (RMP) and the Risk & Issue Log (R&I Log).
The RMP is a core contractual document that is drawn up and signed off at the start of the project. It is binding on the in-house and prime contractor’s project management teams. It is a prescriptive reference document that states how risks and issues will be managed throughout the project. It may set out a specific framework unique to the project or it may simply invoke an industry-standard methodology such as Prince2. Usually, the RMP will include an escalation procedure for unresolved or disputed items. Always, the RMP will require the creation or adoption of the R&I Log that will grow with the project.
Before discussing the R&I Log, we should clarify the concept of risks and issues and the difference between them. As an illustration, suppose there is some pipework crossing the ceiling of the equipment room.
RISK – The pipes might leak water onto the equipment below.
ISSUE – Water is dripping onto the equipment.
Spot the difference? In project terms, a risk is a possible future event that would impact the project if it happened. An issue has happened and is impacting the project. (And note, the issue is the water, literally, not the pipes!)
The R&I Log – Choose or make the simplest template that fits the purpose. Some are so sophisticated you end up wasting time feeding the template’s needs instead of the project’s. Risk management follows this essential sequence – Identify, Analyse (probability & impact), Mitigate, Monitor. Issue management is even simpler – Identify, Analyse (impact), Remedy, Monitor. The Mitigation stage of risk management is the most interesting as it has three distinct aspects – reducing the probability of occurrence, reducing the impact should it occur, and devising a contingency plan should the need arise. The rest is routine ‘housekeeping’.
The danger of ‘Issue Dominance’ – When the R&I Log grows long and time is short, there is often pressure to deal first, sometimes only, with the issues. After all, they are real and immediate and someone is shouting, while the risks might never happen. Resist this pressure. It is a manifestation of the classic confusion of urgency and importance. By definition, an issue is urgent because it is happening now. But it may be much less important than the risk that is just about to explode and overwhelm you, the one you haven’t prepared for.
If not convinced, consider the current covid pandemic. A new pandemic was always a risk. Some countries had analysed the risk and had contingency plans in place. Others had been focused on immediate issues and so were taken by surprise. The results were plain to see. Firefighting is a laudable activity but fire prevention is better.