Identifying project risk, performing risk management planning, and analyzing and responding to risk are all crucial areas when kicking off a new project. Regardless of how complex or straight forward a project may seem, there are always risks. It’s important for a project manager to think of how best to identify and address risks, especially with new projects or prototypes. So where should a project manager start? Brainstorming.
Brainstorming may seem like a very disheveled and disorganized method to generating ideas. However, while parts to this may be true, it’s also highly effective. Brainstorming can either be done individually or in a large group. Obviously we’ve all heard the phrase, “two heads are better than one”; this is certainly true with brainstorming. While the whole idea behind brainstorming is to just think up as many ideas that will pertain to a project and its associated risks as possible, there are some rules project managers need to consider.
1) First and foremost, and probably even most importantly, there are no stupid ideas. Project managers and/or team leaders should never shoot down ideas. First, the whole idea behind brainstorming is to get creative and think up as many ideas as possible. Secondly, team members should never feel hindered to thinking of an idea or that their idea wasn’t well received or was “stupid”. The whole point behind brainstorming is to open up creativity, go in with an open mind, and just think of creative ways to respond to project risks.
2) Keep it simple. To maximize brainstorming opportunities, groups should be held with a minimum of five team members and no more than ten team members. Whenever and wherever possible, team brainstorming sessions should include essential team members that will be participating or working on the project in some form. In addition, brainstorming sessions can also include managers, supervisors, and even higher level executives. Different levels of experience, points of view, and vested areas of interest can all be crucial components to a successful brainstorming session.
3) Document ideas. So we’ve got a risk facilitator or colleague PM running the brainstorming session, we’ve got different team members of different areas of expertise and experience, and plenty of ideas…but how do we record them? They can either be recorded on a laptop or tablet with an overhead projector, a visual bulletin board or dry erase board, or even a flip chart. When team members offer ideas and can read them, then other ideas will “piggy back” off them, which is how brainstorming spearheads. Each team member should have at least one turn in sharing an idea.
All in all, brainstorming is just one effective method to identifying risk and coming up with different, creative ways to responding to them. There are other risk identification techniques such as the Delphi technique or interviewing. However, brainstorming is a great and casual way for team members to get together, bond on a particular project, or even participate in a great project.