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Risk Management Personified: Why You Should Appoint a Risk Officer

One of the key differences between a successful project and a failed one is the way the project manager handles risk management. Larger organizations with complex projects tend to have more and bigger risks. Addressing risks is part of the project manager′s job, but in these situations we may need a little help.

That′s where the risk officer comes in.

A Project Manager′s Deputy

A risk officer is basically the team watchdog. His role, in addition to his other duties, is to foresee and detect potential problems. He won′t (and shouldn′t) handle the risk by himself. Instead, he′ll bring it to the team′s attention so that the group (or the project manager) can come up with a suitable risk management plan.

The risk officer′s role isn′t just a one-time assessment at the start of the project. It′s impossible to foresee all risks at the beginning–besides which, surprise risks also pop up in mid-project, often as a result of the team′s actions. So the risk officer has to be constantly alert.

Finding the Right Person

As you can imagine, few are cut out to be a risk officer. “Yes” men and people who suffer from tunnel vision are poor candidates. As are poorly motivated and negative individuals who see everything as a problem.

The right candidate is skeptical but not pessimistic, and has good situational awareness. He should be articulate enough to effectively report the risks. Also, he should have a good reputation within the team. The team needs to trust the risk officer implicitly, because the risk officer′s reports are going to seriously affect the project′s direction.

What′s the Benefit?

Assigning a risk officer isn′t just passing off work to someone else. You′re getting an additional set of eyes that can help you better perform risk management by helping detect and assess potential problems. Catching more problems early on means a smoother project down the road. That′s less stress for you, and a great opportunity for your risk officer′s professional growth and development.

So if you′re managing a complex, long-term project, consider assigning a risk officer. This move might save the project from surprise costs and setbacks that may have otherwise gone undetected.


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