Develop Your Team’s WISH List

“We don’t track our risks.  If something happens, we figure it out.”

The comment caught me by surprise.  This person is running a $500k program and don’t track risks?  There are no mitigation plans?  Nothing?

Nope.  As this person explained, the executive overseeing the project previously had a project manager who did nothing but talk about risks.  The exec got burned out listening to them, so no one talks about risks any more (apparently he gets grumpy when you do).  Instead, they wait for an issue to pop up and then take care of it real-time.

Anyone who’s been in the PM field for a while knows the importance of tracking and managing risks.  The smart ones know how to track and communicate key risks without overburdening sponsors and execs with too much information.  Sure, if someone did nothing but talk to me about risks, I’d get tired of hearing them too.

But what if you called it something else, something that would really get people’s attention?  Insert what I lovingly call, the WISH List.  WISH stands for What If Shit Happened.  But don’t think of it as an opportunity to insert another colorful metaphor.  It does have purpose to me:

  • What – are the major risks that could occur
  • If
  • Shit- those risks turned into issues
  • Happens – what are you going to do about them; your mitigation plan

I started using the WISH list with a team that didn’t understand the importance of risk identification and mitigation strategies.  They called it “something you PM types do” and didn’t give it another thought.  So I asked, what if shit happens, what will we do?!  Thus was born the WISH list.  It’s amazing how people resonate with the term “shit happens!”  

Next time you’re talking about risks and notice the listener is getting a glazed-over look, possibly change your vernacular to something they understand more and grabs their attention.  Maybe the WISH list is just what you need also!

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