Standard 11: Evidence based, action-oriented project management.
Make collaborative, timely, and informed decisions to ensure that project activities deliver intended impact to participants within the approved time, scope, and budget.
Identify and address project implementation issues and risks in a timely manner.
Effective management of project risks Project risk is the effect of uncertainty on project objectives. and issuesProject issues are unresolved decisions, situations, or problems that will significantly affect the project and that the project team cannot immediately resolve. is essential for a project to achieve its intended impact. Timely identification, documentation, and regular review of project risks and issues:
- Enables the project team to develop, implement, and track the impact of strategies to manage project risks and issues before they become serious obstacles to the project.
- Contributes to project learning.
- Helps the project manager keep the project and project team on target.
- Assists the project manager in communicating the project implementation realities to stakeholders, including any donors.
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)
- The PM/CoP leads the process of risk and issue identification, review, and tracking.
- Others involved: CRS and partner project staff (program and operations); country program senior management team (SMT); members of the project governance structureThe project governance structure may consist of a small group of senior leaders for a smaller, less complex project, or a larger project board for a complex, multi-partner project.
- CRS and partner program and operations staff participate in risk and issue identification, review and follow-up;
- The SMT reviews risks and issues identified, supports the project teamThis includes SMT direct engagement when needed to address sensitive or otherwise critical risks. to manage them, and promotes an enabling environment for timely and appropriate risk and issue management;
- Members of the project governance structure support the PM/CoP with management of risks and issues that exceed established tolerances.The PM/CoP leads the process of risk and issue identification, review, and tracking.
- Throughout project implementation
- Use regular (daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the project context) project team meetings to identify and analyze new risks and issues, and to review the status of critical issues and risks requiring active management.
- Use quarterly and annual planning and review meetings to comprehensively review project risks and issues.This includes both risks requiring monitoring only, and risks requiring a risk response strategy.
This key action builds on prior risk identification and response planning as part of the project design process, as well as risks Project risk is the effect of uncertainty on project objectives. and issuesProject issues are unresolved decisions, situations, or problems that will significantly affect the project and that the project team cannot immediately resolve. identification and analysis during the project validation process at start-up.
Follow these steps and the detailed instructions in the project risk register and issues log templates to ensure that risk and issue identification and management is a regular part of project management:
- The PM/CoP and the country program SMT reiterate that proactive risk and issue management is a project priority and staff should share information related to potential problems and concerns as they emerge and evolve throughout project implementation.
- Emphasize to staff that they should not wait for a meeting to share any potentially significant risk but rather should inform the PM/CoP immediately so that the project team can assess and determine an appropriate risk management approach before the risk becomes an issue.
- As the PM/CoP learns of potentially significant new issues or risks, he/she adds them to the issues log or risk register (or donor equivalent)Use the risk register to document potential occurrences that could impact the project. Use the issues log to document and track the status of decisions, situations, or problems that have occurred or are certain to occur; that will significantly affect the project; and that the project team cannot immediately resolve.
Note that some donors may use slightly different terms and have preferred or required templates for documenting and tracking risks and issues and project responses. In such cases, use the donor’s terminology and templates.
as appropriate, for further discussion and analysis with the team during project meetings.
Effective issue and risk management requires an enabling environment: The SMT and PM/CoP must model timely and transparent risk and issue identification and create an environment where CRS and partner staff can raise and discuss project issues and risks honestly, with a clear understanding that doing so is valued.
- During project program and operations staff regular meetings, the PM/CoP invites staff to share any updates on progress in the management of previously identified issues and key risks, and any new risks or issues staff have encountered or anticipate in their day-to-day work.
During risk and issue management discussions, the PM/CoP leads the team in:
- Assessing newly identified problems or potential problems, and determining the appropriate project response.See the instructions tab in the risk register template for guidance on analyzing and assessing project risk. These may emerge from audits, assessments, stakeholder meetings, field visits, and other monitoring. Pay special attention to any problems or potential problems emerging from project accountability and feedback mechanisms, as feedback often includes complaints which may point to risks or issues.
- Developing strategies to resolve problems so they do not become issues.
- Reviewing the management of active issues and priority risks (e.g. risks previously assessed as “high”). This should include identifying the informationIssue management and risk response information will vary depending on the risk or issue and the response/management plans, but may include such things as a sharing a revised activity schedule or updated resource forecast, reporting back on a discussion with a key stakeholder, etc. that the individual responsible for managing the issue or risk should bring to the next team meeting to facilitate team review and refinement of issue management and risk response plans.
- Identifying whether any issues or risks and related actions require PM/CoP discussion with senior management and the project governance structure (for example, if the team’s assessment of the risk has changed) - see step 5. For issues, this is called “issue escalation.”
Keep the focus on the most important project risks and issues: While it’s important to identify and discuss all potential risks and perceived issues in real time to properly assess and address them as needed, be careful to avoid getting bogged down in extended discussions of minor risks and issues. In especially dynamic contexts or during periods of project implementation where more frequent meetings may be needed, or for risk, issue, and coordination-focused segments of a broader meeting, consider using the technique of the “stand-up meeting.” The stand-up meeting takes its name from the fact that participants physically stand for the duration of the meeting, which is limited to a short period (e.g. 15 minutes). A stand-up meeting is intended to keep the focus on internal team coordination and communication and early identification of risks and issues. Stand-up meetings take place at the same time and place at an agreed frequency (e.g. daily). For issues and risks identified during stand-up meetings which require further discussion, organize a focused follow-up discussion with the relevant team members.
- During quarterly and annual project review and planning meetings, the PM/CoP leads the project team in a formal review of the full list of active project risks and issues captured in the project risk register and issues log.
- Focus on unresolved issues and on reviewing the risk assessment for all risks, particularly considering the current project operating context.
- See Standard 11, key action 4 for detailed guidance on organizing quarterly and annual project meetings.
Issue identification can also identify opportunities: Keep in mind that in some cases, properly-managed issues can positively affect the project. For example, if the project team anticipates completing a portion of the project significantly under-budget or ahead of schedule, this may be an opportunity to reinvest project financial or human resources to enhance project impact.
- The PM/CoP updates the risk register and issues log (or donor equivalent) as needed following project meetings, shares with the project team, his/her supervisor, the SMT, and the project governance structure.
- As noted under step 2, keep the issues log and risk register focused on substantive risks and issues.
Escalate critical risks and issues as they emerge or evolve: The PM/CoP must immediately inform his/her supervisor, senior management and members of the project governance structure about any risks with a high probability of occurring, and high potential project impact. For projects where IDEA leads award management, keep IDEA staff informed as well (see Standard 15, key action 2 for guidance on communicating with donors about issues and risks). All project staff must follow CRS policy with respect to immediately reporting all safety and security, protection, and fraud-related risks and issues.
- For any risks and issues that the project team cannot address on its own, or that the PM/CoP is not able to address based on his or her decision-making authority (project tolerances)Project tolerances set clear parameters within which a PM/CoP can act autonomously—and make it clear when the PM/CoP needs to seek approval. Project tolerances describe the approved ranges of variation that a PM/CoP is authorized to oversee without seeking the endorsement of members of the project governance structure. Tolerances may relate to such things as budget and project timeframe, project scope and quality. For example, a project tolerance might describe the percent by which a project, or line items in a project, can over- or under-spend without the approval of members of the project governance structure; or the acceptable number of days of delay in the implementation schedule before approval from the project governance structure is required. , the PM/CoP works with senior management and the project governance structure (Standard 6, key action 5) as needed to identify and implement appropriate risk and issue management strategies.
- All staff assigned responsibility for managing an issue or leading risk response:
- Incorporate the agreed upon actions documented in the project risk register and issues log in their workplans.See Standard 7, key action 3 on DIP development for more information on work plans. A work plan is a document that describes the detailed tasks required to complete the sub‑activities of a project. Project staff work plans consist of tasks informed by the project DIP and individual job responsibilities.
- Report on risk and issue status during subsequent project team review meetings as well as quarterly CRS and partner project review meetings. As needed, the PM/CoP leads the project team in incorporating any new activities or other adjustments related to risk or issues management during updates to the project DIP (see Standard 11, key action 4).
When CRS is a sub-recipient
- Partner staff participate in formal discussion of risks and issues during quarterly and annual review meetings.
- In addition to these formal meetings, the PM/CoP and partners communicate regularly and frankly regarding project risks and issues. This is particularly important for risks and issues that could directly affect partners. Make discussion of risks and issues an explicit part of CRS monitoring and support visits to partners.
- It is essential for the CRS and partner project team to create an environment in which partner staff feel comfortable raising risks and issues as soon as they identify them. Support partners to incorporate regular identification, assessment, and review of project risks and issues in their own project meetings and systems, and to bring this analysis into their meetings and discussions with CRS.
- For partners who do not have organizational risk management frameworks and tools, share the risk register and issues log templates, or any donor-required frameworks and templates, and support partners as needed in using these frameworks and tools.
- Follow the same process for risk and issue identification and management for the project components for which CRS is responsible.
- As a sub-recipient, CRS may have less ability to manage wider project risks and issues, but should work with the prime to address risks and issues that influence the CRS activities.
- Ideally the prime will also establish a system of regular risk and issue review with its partners; CRS should advocate for such a system during pre-teaming/teaming agreement discussions and project start-up.
- Follow the same process in emergency projects. Keep in mind that in emergencies, risk exposure is often higher, increasing the importance of timely identification and management of risks and issues.
- Meetings will likely take place more frequently in emergencies, may be organized for the wider emergency response rather than individual emergency projects, and may be led by the SMT or country representative (especially if organized for the wider emergency response). Focus on asking what staff have observed and heard during field visits, implementation challenges, etc.
- Pay particular attention to issues related to protection of beneficiaries, given their greater vulnerability in emergency situations (see CRS policy on Safeguarding).
Tools and templates
Policies and procedures
- Throughout project implementation
- Primary responsible: Project manager or chief of party (PM/CoP)