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SHARP Status: Risks

We all have risks and issues to deal with.  Show me a project manager with no problems with people or any area of the triple constraint and I'll show you an irrelevant buffoon.  How you handle the speed bumps in your project raceway is your problem; how you communicate them is of broader concern.

I'm becoming a quick Scott Berkun fan.  His February 13 Post:  The boss who won't listen, demonstrates why the Risks section of the status report is so critical.  The dilemma Scott raises in this post about risking the wrath of another manager by raising an issue is indicitive of our anti-carpe-factum organizations.  They are so concerned about being nice, or avoiding any political faux-pas, or making sure that one does not get one's backside singed, that they avoid documenting issues.

There once was a vendor project manager who reported to me on a complex software project.  There were a considerable number of issues that were hammered out during some very heated meetings over the course of one week, yet the issues and risks section of his status was blank.  When asked about this oversight, he responded that all of those things were "being handled at the executive manager level."  Irrelevant!  Those issues affected our project, and they needed to be documented.

Which brings us back to the point of this section.  This is your opportunity as a Project Manager to bring visibility and elevation to those risks and issues that are outside of your hands or above your head.  This isn't a forum to whine, nitpick, or tattle.  This is not your "Ruh-Roh... R'I'm Rorry, Reorge" moment to cry over spilt milk.  This is your chance to demonstrate some credible backbone and show that you are handling everything, but here are the impending things that could derail the project this week.  Then succinctly describe the risk or issue and your current plan of action (i.e., don't just tell them there's a problem; share your solution or next steps with them).

Also as a point of credibility, try to keep this section to NO MORE THAN 3-5 bullets.  As with other sections, document the ownership of the risk or issue.  Then use this section of the status in your next sponsor or steering committee meeting to launch into your talking points about the risk or issue.  Ideally, this section should like to a log where you are tracking risks and issues.  For the beginner, just gathering the bravery to put it in writing without the fear of "shoot the messenger" will be a good starting point.

So... is your status feeling SHARP yet?

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