Manage the biggest risks first

Because construction is the most visible part of the process, people tend to assume it is the area of highest risk.

In fact, the biggest risks to a project usually lie outside the construction process itself. Risks are also bigger at the outset, but risk management at the business case stage is usually poor. Perhaps because there is as yet nothing concrete to focus on, or because all the potential events that could impact on success seem too distant to be identified, major risks are put to one side. Among them is the possibility that the organisational opportunities affirmed for the building could be dangerously unrealistic. There may be numerous other pitfalls beyond the horizon, invisible until you look for them – such as public relations risks that put the reputation of the organisation at stake.

To look at these matters properly it is necessary to gather all the stakeholders together, including external stakeholders who may see things that are outside the knowledge of those inside the organisation or the project team. Discussion within a wide group like this is the best way to head off nasty surprises and also find ways of turning risks into opportunities.

At first sight, the risks may seem daunting. But once you begin breaking them down to different levels of contingency they gradually become more manageable. The sooner this starts the better.