Revisiting Risks: Threats and Opportunities in Complex Projects

Stacy Goff, PMP®, IPMA Level D®

IPMA Vice President of Marketing and Events

asapm President; ProjectExperts President

Colorado, USA


Most PM practitioners believe we already know all about Risk Management—and many do. We follow the process steps, record the documentation, and then move on to managing the next knowledge area. But there is a huge performance gap between those who follow the steps, and those who use adept management of project and program risk as their competitive advantage. Risk Management is a classic case of “the more we know, the more we realize there is to learn.”

Simple projects, those that represent 60-80% of initiatives, rightfully have less concern about risk; but complex projects and programs are a different story. These need far more insight in managing risk than many project managers demonstrate. In fact, some say that all of the knowledge, skills and competences of project management are really nothing more than a specialized version of risk management—managing the uncertainty of change. So, what can we do, to maximize the effectiveness of our risk management and project management efforts?

There is a range of answers to this question, and not all are apparent; these include:

  • Moving beyond knowledge, to mastery, and using that mastery as a competitive advantage
  • Managing the Contextual Competences of the IPMA2 Competence Baseline; they hold the secret to getting the permanent organization’s assets to work for us, rather than vice-versa.
  • Balancing process knowledge with appropriate interpersonal skills, and grasping those skills’ importance in getting action on Risk Responses from those who are responsible for them.
  • Instilling a deeper understanding of the responsibilities of those who initiate engagements, help manage risk, and assure business success once the project team moves on to another project.
  • Collecting and actually re-using Project Intelligence, the prescient key to efficient and effective Risk Management—both for Threats and Opportunities, in complex projects.

While many PM practitioners spend the majority of their time planning and tracking lagging project indicators, the highest-performing PMs, teams and organizations are managing and monitoring the leading indicators. And, these leaders and teams receive supportive action from their organizations when risks go awry. These high-performers can produce twice the results, twice as fast, at half the cost, and at higher levels of quality. They do so by truly managing project and program risk. Which of these two groups are you in?


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 6th Annual UT Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, Texas, USA in August 2012.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and UT Dallas.

About the Author

Stacy Goff


Stacy Goff, the PM Per4mance Coach, is Vice President of Marketing & Events for IPMA, the International Project Management Association, and President of asapm, the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management (IPMA-USA). In these roles, Goff presents keynotes and speaks at conferences around the World on topics related to the advancement of project and program management competence, and improved PM performance. During 2011 he presented to dozens of audiences on five continents.

When he is not serving not-for-profit organizations, Goff is owner and President of ProjectExperts, a Program and Project Management consulting, tools and learning company. A Project Management practitioner since 1970 and consultant since 1982, he helps improve enterprise, department, project team or individual pm competence, effectiveness and performance.

An insightful consultant and dynamic speaker, Mr. Goff offers workshops of interest to Executives, Managers, Program and Project Managers, and individual contributors. His Project Management tools and methods are used by government agencies, Enterprises, consultancies and individuals on six continents. By the year 2000, he had exposed over 45,000 people to the World of Project Management. And, he does not just teach project management, he lives it. Email: [email protected]