When in doubt, break out the old school risk matrix!

We have an intern with us for the winter break and her project is to organize some kind of event or meetup at our office.  She is responsible for the schedule, budget, and the scope — including the event/meetup topic.

This is her second internship with us, so she is familiar with project management concepts, roles and responsibilities.  I’ve armed her with some traditional templates to use throughout her project.  Today, I received an email from our intern.  She’s starting to doubt the topic for her event and also second guessing whether the people who need to be involved will commit to their part of the work.    I’m certain she’s also getting a lot of feedback from other members of our PMO — all trying to be helpful, but also inadvertently causing her some anxiety and panic. She was pretty much ready to scrap the existing project and start over with an outside speaker — which could be tough given the deadline for the event.

What would you do?  Here’s what I suggested:

  • Get more supporters.  I pinged some of our leads to make sure she had additional help so she didn’t feel like she had to pull this off all on her own.
  • Take the emotion out of it.  Breathe.  Don’t panic.  (This is probably the most important piece of advice…)
  • Go back to your Project Management toolkit.  In this case, our intern was dealing with a lot of fear due to all of the various risks involved such as:
    • How to I get people to want to attend this event?
    • What if no one is interested in the topic?
    • I have to rely on 3-4 people to contribute to the event, by preparing materials and also participating.  What if they can’t commit?  What happens if someone backs out?

I suggested she take another look at Risk Management including the Risk Matrix.  The act of documenting all of the possible risks to the project, assessing the probability of the risk occurring and the impact if the risk does occur.  Then once she has a handle on what her risks really are — start thinking about how she is going to handle them.  Perhaps contacting an outside speaker to come in is a great mitigation plan — but that comes with its own set of risks as well that need to be assessed and mitigated (i.e. what if the speaker is not available on your event date?  what if they require a fee?…)

While I don’t often break out “ye olde traditional project management” templates often, they are useful tools for diffusing emotional situations and dealing with project problems in a rational way.  They are also excellent learning tools for teaching people basic techniques of the various aspects of project management.

The next time you hit a snag in one of your projects perhaps one of our more old school templates can put you back on the right path.

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