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Exceptional Project Management – Risks and Issues
By Chris Young

I am often asked to explain the differences between risks and issues and how best to address them. This article introduces the concepts of risk and issue management and explains the similarities and differences.

Risk or Issue?

A risk is the possibility of something happening that will adversely impact the progress or objectives of the project. An issue is a problem that is currently happening. An issue may arise as a result of a previously identified risk being realised or it may occur as a new unanticipated problem.

Managing Risks and Issues

The management of both risks and issues follows a similar process in which the potential or actual problem is identified and the impact on the project is determined. It is important in both cases that clear ownership is determined and that goals are set with specific objectives and dates.

Risks vs Issues

The fundamental difference between a risk and an issue is that a risk is a future possibility that something might go wrong and therefore the project team can attempt to prepare for the issue arising and also endeavour to avoid it entirely. Usually there is time to consider alternative approaches and to implement one or more strategies. Conversely, an issue is something that is actually impacting the project already and needs to be resolved. This means that issue management is reactive and often requires urgent tactical action whilst risk management is more strategic and longer term.

In addition, managing risks also involves estimating the likelihood of the problem occuring as well as the possible impact if it does, whereas there is usually little doubt that an issue has occurred.

Improving Certainty of Delivery

Both risk and issue management are important aspects of improving the success and certainty of project delivery. By proactively identifying and preparing for potential issues throughout the life of your project you will be well prepared for challenges as they arise.

Christopher Young is a senior consultant and executive coach with a broad knowledge and experience in financial services, project and change management, personal empowerment and information technology. His areas of focus include developing highly successful leaders, creating high-performance teams and implementing best practices in process improvement, project management and software development process.

White Water Consulting ( ) is one of Australia’s leading project management consulting firms, specialising in exceptional delivery of projects for the Financial Services market.

Achievement Coaching and Consulting ( ) assists professionals to reach their individual goals of enhanced business performance and personal satisfaction.

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