In risk management, it’s essential to recognize when something is a threat or opportunity. On March 25th, 2019 a text message woke me up in the early hours of the morning. It was from my airline Pegasus telling me that since there would be a transport strike at Fiumicino Rome Airport on Monday, it was recommended that I arrive at the airport at least three hours before the boarding time at 1:00 pm.
My first reaction as a successful project manager was to get angry with myself, how I could not know such a strike was happening since I planned every detail of my trip to Rome. However, isn’t that a reality we face as project managers there will always be unknowns in our projects even if we had a very good plan. Also, some of these unknowns will be unknown unknowns as well as the known unknowns. Hence we cannot know everything and we will always face uncertainty. That’s why risk management is one of the crucial knowledge areas in project management.
Risk management: Threat or opportunity?
Up to now, nothing was interesting or surprising from my project management perspective. I made a quick risk management plan and decided on my proactive actions not to miss the flight. After a quick breakfast, I chose to travel by taxi instead of public transportation although twice expensive. I was at the airport four hours before the flight.
Uncertainty is generally perceived as negative by human beings. We as humans try to escape from uncertainty and prefer to make things clear and seen. This tendency, on the other hand, prevents us from seeing and capturing the opportunities which can be found in this uncertain environment. Moreover, this tendency may create opportunities for our competitors as was the case in Fiumicino Rome Airport.
Most of the airlines had canceled their flights, and the flight table was full of red notices for those cancellations. This was the way they decided to manage uncertainty. There were few flights that were still in operation and green on the table. My flight was one of the greens. So it took only five minutes to pass both the security and passport control to reach my gate. This was one of my most comfortable flight.
Managing risks in our projects should not only focus on trying to avoid uncertainty. Instead, we should also focus on how to identify benefits and opportunities in the uncertainty. Benefits realization management can be one of the priorities of the organizations to capture these opportunities. Creating a mindset of considering how to identify and realize benefits also helps to improve our view of risk management from a more opportunistic perspective. What does uncertainty mean to you? Threat or Opportunity?
Mustafa Hafizoglu, PMP, BS, M.Sc., is the co-founder and previous President of the PMI Chapter in Turkey, Program Director at Space & Defence Technologies Co., a part-time instructor at Middle East Technical University. He has 20 years of experience in hardware and software development projects, in the aerospace and defense industry. Mustafa established the PMO at SDT Space and Defense Tech and co-authored the book: Project Management Analytical Approaches. He’s also a speaker at PMI Global Congress and various international seminars. Mustafa writes about program management and risk management.