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Risk Education and Training


The risk management plan will be used as a foundation for much of the risk education and training for the project team. It also serves as the guide, detailing the nature of the education and training and the desired outcomes. Risk training (like all project management training) should be outcome based. The idea is for every training experience to create new behaviors and to support the tools that enable those behaviors. There should be measures or metrics to evaluate how well the new behaviors have been trained.

The risk education methods are delineated in the risk management plan so that all stakeholders understand how knowledge will be transferred. Such methods may include classroom and virtual, on-the-job training or theoretical, and real-time or scheduled.

As discussed in Chapter 2, “Risk Environment and Culture,” most knowledge transfer will involve explicit knowledge (knowledge that can be expressed in a step-by-step fashion to be applied consistently). Tacit knowledge transfer (knowledge transfer driven by a personal understanding) is much harder to generate consistently and through traditional training methods.

Different stakeholders will require different levels of risk education, based on their level of understanding and their degree of involvement in the project. The risk management plan should clarify which stakeholders will receive which training. For the most part, it’s a function of their level of project involvement. Consider the training requirements of the different echelons or stakeholder groups within a project:

  • Senior management: Risk training for senior management involves sharing information regarding escalation protocols. It also involves affirming that the identified organizational tolerances, thresholds, and triggers represent management’s interests. Although management might be interested in some of the task-level risks, that’s not where their time will be invested. Instead, the focus is on risks that might require some level of management intervention or that might draw excessive management attention. (Concepts like “excessive” management attention are also addressed here, ensuring a common understanding of such adjectives).

  • Team members/Task performers: For team members and task performers, risk education and training focuses on information sharing and common understanding of terms. Terms from the risk lexicon (such as high, medium, and low risk) are clarified for these individuals so that they can carry on the risk conversation in team meetings and with their peers. The education also apprises these people as to the relative levels and priorities of risk, as well as how to share risk information when it comes to their attention. They learn that risk statements are not just one- or two-word risk areas (e.g., weather, resources), but instead are stated as full sentences indicating the nature of the risk and the impact it might cause should it come to pass. Whereas senior management risk training might be a one-time experience, team member risk training is ongoing. The frequency and duration of that training will be expressed in the RMP, as well.

  • Vendors: First and foremost, vendors need to know that they have a role in a project’s risk management. Because they understand their deliverables better than anyone else, they have a clearer understanding of any risks associated with those deliverables. The training is not an opportunity for them to abrogate responsibility for their risks, but it is an opportunity for them to see the relative scale of the risks their deliverables create within the context of the project.

    Another value of the training is for vendors to better understand how risks affect other stakeholders with whom they’ll be working.

  • Customer stakeholders: Customers actually have the best project risk information at their disposal. Because most of them own the project outcomes, they understand the challenges and the opportunities associated with working in their environment. The educational setting opens the door to define and refine which parties own which aspects of the relationship. It also ensures a common language across the various parties.

  • Other/peripheral stakeholders: As with the customer, much of the education for other stakeholders will center around the language of risk on the project. It will also hinge on the risk priorities, tolerances, and thresholds. Some peripheral stakeholders (local civic activists, for example) might need to know that they are responsible for identifying their own tolerances and for expressing those tolerances to the project owners. The art of such information sharing can be one of the many goals of a risk education experience.

For all the potential training participants, the goals are largely the same. They need to be taught to understand the process of risk information sharing. They need to be educated on the forms and formats for sharing that data. They need to learn the risk language. And they need to know their role and the value of that role in the process as a whole.

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