Risk in programme management

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Discussion on the issue of risk as a sub-body of knowledge in programme management was formally recognised from a discussion within CITA in 1993. Followed with the introduction of MSP (Managing Successful Projects) in 1999. At programme level, risk has a different aim and approach from project management. At this level it uses different tools and techniques. When an organisation does not differentiate between the two levels it indicates a lack of maturity in their practice.

As Dr Hillson and practice colleagues continue to promote - risk has an upside and downside that presents opportunities and threats. Programme management is to maximise the impact of opportunities whilst minimising the impacts of threats on the benefits delivered.

Sources of risk for programmes



From component level
  1. “Large” risks at projects level are escalated to the programme
  2. Related risks from several projects are aggregated to the programme level
  3. Overall projects risk
  4. Risks from sponsor to be managed at programme level
From above
  1. Delegated from strategy – scoping and programme changes because of changes in strategy, contracts and regulations
  2. Clear communication and access to the C Suite
  3. Sponsor delegates risk without abdicating responsibility
From same level
  1. Threats and opportunities: Resource breakdown structure – interfaces, resource conflicts
  2. Pure risks: Execution and management of programme

Overall programme risk – consider the individual uncertainty

Implicit risk – consider selection of the components, contents and context; as necessary increase/decrease components to reach an acceptable risk exposure and risk efficiency.

Remaining challenges – several issues to be addressed:
  1. Understanding thresholds whether above or below
  2. Implementing risk efficiency – neither too much or too little
  3. Avoiding the project mindset when dealing with programmes
  4. Interface within wider programme management under a sponsor.

This material originated from the Programme Management SIG webinar held on 2 July 2018

Vivianne Walters

Posted by Vivianne Walters on 7th Aug 2018

About the Author

Vivianne is an experienced qualified project/programme practitioner and board appointee early in her career. She has worked for over 30 years in the construction industry with an outstanding critical thinking ability. Vivianne has managed strategic complex multi-stakeholder infrastructure schemes across the power generation, water, health and education, and including highway implementation.

She graduated with an honours degree in Civil Engineering form the University of Nairobi and has worked for several years across a wide spectrum of civil engineering project on both large and small multi-disciplinary teams. The experience has encompassed both public and private projects from office, commercial to large residential developments, water, highways and energy infrastructure in rural and urban environments. Throughout her international career Vivianne has studied and passed qualifications in support of various roles undertaken, including a postgraduate in Construction Management from Leeds University and MBA from Manchester Business School. The MBS unique method incorporated paid national and international consulting projects.

In her current role as the Programma Management SIG - Virtual Events Lead, she is dedicated to promoting good practice and performance globally.

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