How to Prevent Project Failure With a Risk Register

What do professional skydivers and successful project managers have in common?

They both identify, assess, and plan for risks.

Skydivers look at the conditions, equipment, and capabilities before, during, and after they jump out of planes. Project managers look at the conditions, equipment, and capabilities before, during, and after projects.

Why do they do that?

To stay on top of potential issues that could derail intended outcomes” – Project Manager, Guide to Using a Risk Register

How do they do that?

Well, I don’t know how skydivers do it, but to identify, assess, and plan for risks, a good project manager is never far away from a risk register.

But, when I discovered that 81% of organizations feel their risk registers are ineffective at identifying and planning for potential risks, and 30% of projects fail as a direct result, I felt the need to write this Process Street post about how to create one.

So, listen up as we go through the following:

If you’re in a hurry, grab this free Risk Register Process Checklist now, and catch up with the what, why, and how later.

Got your parachute? Ready, set… Geeeeronimoooooo…

A common type of risk register that’s often used by project managers to understand the likelihood and impact of risks within a project

In simple terms, a risk register is a list of issues that may or may not materialize during a project. It’s a tool that project managers use to identify risks, map out strategies for handling risks (should they occur), and keep tight control over their projects.

If used properly, it’s a safety net. It’s a proactive way for a project manager to understand the risks associated with their project and know how they can minimize the impact of these risks, to prevent their project from failing.

It keeps risks on a tight leash so they don’t run-ruin over your project” – Project Manager, A Guide to Using a Risk Register

We’ll cover this in more detail later, but for a project manager to prioritize, understand and plan for risks, an effective risk register should be reviewed regularly and provide the following information about each risk:

Type of risk Level of risk (often defined by colours) Probability of risk (often defined in numbers) Risk accountability Risk mitigation measures

You now know what a risk register is and what one contains. We also kinda covered why risk registers are used, but I think we need to delve a little deeper.

There is risk inherent in everything, and that goes doubly for managing a project with lots of moving parts” – Project Manager, Guide to using a Risk Register

We know a risk register lists all the potential issues that may, or may not, occur during a project. We also know that a risk register details the plans for handling each issue, if it happens.

But why is all this necessary?

Documenting potential risks means you can keep track of them over the course of the project. Including strategies for handling each risk means, if that issue should arise, you know how to quickly stop it before it stops the project.

If you’ve read some of my other Process Street articles (such as “How to Use a Project

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