Hints and Tips for Project Risk Managers


A brief guide


Practical Project Risk Management


By Martin Hopkinson

United Kingdom


This is a personal checklist of suggestions that are mostly missing from professional guidance.

Understand the project requirements and contractual documentation

Whenever joining a team as the new project risk manager, people often assume that I want to start by reading the Risk Management Plan and Risk Register. They are wrong. My priority is to understand the project’s scope, its phases and objectives and the interests, roles and obligations and of stakeholders. Without knowing these things, there is no way of judging whether or not the risk data and risk management plan are fit for purpose.

Keep a focus on the effectiveness and implementation of risk responses

There is strong evidence that the most common weakness in project risk management is the failure to implement risk responses e.g. risk mitigation actions.  On this basis, I have always recommended that more than half the time during risk reviews should be spent on the effectiveness and implementation of risk responses. Risk review meetings that merely reclassify risks or change risk estimates are largely a waste of time. Everyone knows it, even if they accept what is going on because it gives them an easier ride!

Persuade the most senior manager involved to own at least one risk

Support from the top is critical to any risk manager. If the most senior manager e.g. the sponsor or programme director owns and regularly reviews at least one risk, they will expect others to use the process. A short routine review meeting will also allow you to debrief them on issues such as new significant risks, upcoming risk-related decision and any obstacles to the implementation of risk responses. Ideally, the most senior manager on the project should also chair the routine e.g. monthly risk review, thus ensuring actions are implemented as planned.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Martin Hopkinson, author of the books “The Project Risk Maturity Model” and “Net Present Value and Risk Modelling for Projects” and contributing author for Association for Project Management (APM) guides such as Directing Change and Sponsoring Change. These articles are based on a set of short risk management guides previously available on his company website, now retired. For an Introduction and context for this series, click here. Learn more about Martin Hopkinson in his author profile below.

How to cite this work: Hopkinson, M. (2024). Hints and Tips for Project Risk Managers: A brief guide, Practical Project Risk Management series, PM World Journal, Vol. XIII, Issue I, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/pmwj137-Jan2024-Hopkinson-Hints-and-Tips-for-Project-Risk-Managers.pdf

About the Author

Martin Hopkinson

United Kingdom


Martin Hopkinson, recently retired as the Director of Risk Management Capability Limited in the UK, and has 30 years’ experience as a project manager and project risk management consultant. His experience has been gained across a wide variety of industries and engineering disciplines and includes multibillion-pound projects and programmes. He was the lead author on Tools and Techniques for the Association for Project Management’s (APM) guide to risk management (The PRAM Guide) and led the group that produced the APM guide Prioritising Project Risks.

Martin’s first book, The Project Risk Maturity Model, concerns the risk management process. His contributions to Association for Project Management (APM) guides such as Directing Change and Sponsoring Change reflect his belief in the importance of project governance and business case development.

In his second book Net Present Value and Risk Modelling for Projects he brought these subjects together by showing how NPV and risk modelling techniques can be used to optimise projects and support project approval decisions. (To learn more about the book, click here.)

To view other works by Martin Hopkinson, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/martin-hopkinson/