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The effect of intervening conditions on the management of project risk

By Elmar Kutsch


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to highlight the main findings of a successfully defended doctoral thesis that studied factors or interventions causing the discrepancy between how adequate project risks should be managed and how project risks are actually managed. Design/methodology/approach – The approach involved interviews and a survey using questionnaires gathered data from project managers about their experiences with project risk management during two phases of fieldwork. The first phase included in-depth interviews with information technology (IT) project managers in order to explore patterns involving risk mediators and their influence on project risk management. A web- based survey was used in the second phase for the purpose of testing these patterns on a wider range of project managers. Findings – Specific risk-related interventions strongly influence the effective use of project risk management: project managers tended to deny, avoid, ignore risks and to delay the management of risk. Risks were perceived as discomforting, not agreed upon. IT project managers were unaware of risks and considered them to be outside their scope of influence and preferred to let risks resolve themselves rather than proactively engaging with them. As a consequence, factors such as the lack of awareness of risks by IT project managers appeared to constrain the application of project risk management with the result that risk had an adverse influence on the outcome of IT projects. Practical implications – The underlying rational assumptions of project risk management and the usefulness of best practice project risk management standards as a whole need to be questioned because of the occurrence of interventions such as the lack of information. IT project managers should first prevent risk-related interventions from influencing the use of project risk management. However, if this is not possible, they should be prepared to adapt to risks influencing the project outcome. Originality/value – The paper contradicts the myth of a “self-evidently” correct project risk management approach. It defines interventions that constrain project manager’s ability to man

Topics: Project management, Risk management
Publisher: Emerald
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1108/17538370810906282
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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