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Difference Between Risk and Issue

riskRisk vs Issue

Many people agree with the view point that it is generally more acceptable to classify items by their actuality (issue) and potentiality (risk). However, there is a host of perceived differences between issue and risk, and among the most notable is that issues are assigned to persons. This would infer that it is not possible to assign people to particular risks. Although this would be fine with the PMI format, it’s not a basic requirement. As a project manager, assigning risks to people is part of your job, as you cannot have expert knowledge in all technical areas.

A risk is an uncertain event that, if materialized, could alter a chosen course for a project. A risk is an event that has no effect at the present time, in other words, it has not happened yet. However, there is a worthwhile possibility for a risk to turn into an issue when it has been realized. Having said that, it’s worth noting that not all risks may turn into issues when realized, because some risks are actually absorbed into a project or programme with negligible effects, if any.

While managing risk, it’s possible to either prevent a risk from realizing altogether, or manage or neutralize its effects on realization. Achieving the latter may mean that no issue will result, i.e. the net effect of a realized issue is wholly acceptable.

A risk is considered to be any potential variation to the plan, and could be a hazard or an opportunity. Risk is volatility which may at times lead to failure, unnecessary costs or ineffective structure in any business or company. If there are members in the team that are not very familiar with the project, then issues are likely to occur. Issues may also be a result from complaints by customers, misinformation and problem analysis.

In any given project, it is important to communicate the intended result and importance of the timing plan for the project to the team. This is your baseline as the lead of the project, and your judgment of how execution of the project should occur under the most probable (normal) conditions. It is during the development of the plan that knowingly, or unknowingly, a risk assessment is carried out, and this is ‘normal’.

Summary:
A risk is a potentiality of an event that may affect the course of a project plan, while an issue is a risk that has been realized, although not always.
A risk has no effect in its current state, while an issue may be problematic.
A risk may be absorbed into a project with no effect at all, while an issue usually has effects, mainly negative.


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2 Comments

  1. “Having said that, it’s worth noting that not all risks may turn into issues when realized, because some risks are actually absorbed into a project or programme with negligible effects, if any.” What would be an example of a realized risk that has negligible effects? I was with the statement until i reread it, and saw the words “when realized”. This situation would seem to invalidate the expected impact of a risk (i.e. that expected impact turned out not to be true)?

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