Project Practitioners > Networking for Risk Mitigation

Networking for Risk Mitigation

By Jeff Richardson

There are an infinite number of ways to improve project performance, theoretically speaking.  Unfortunately most are too risky, costly, complex or creative to be accepted by executives who are focused on this quarter's results.  There is one tool in your tool kit that can get you the resources, funding and executive support to pull it off - an influential network!  What?!?  You don't have one of those in the kit?  Unfortunately you can't buy one, so start investing small amounts of time to develop a strategy.  By adding value to key professional relationships across the company and with experts outside, you can have a positive effect on your future projects and career stability while lowering your stress level (to name a few benefits).

I know, changing your networking habits doesn’t sound as sexy as learning advanced MS Project tools or getting your PMP, but the long term ramifications are endless.  The problem with most project managers is that they don’t think about networking as a risk management tool.  What is the long term goal that you’d like your networking efforts to yield?  Or put another way, what Return On Investment (ROI) would you be satisfied with?  You wouldn’t invest your hard earned money without an analyzing the expected return, so don’t invest a more valuable commodity, YOUR TIME, without doing your homework beforehand. 

The challenge that the majority of project managers have is they either…
  A.    Don’t make the time
  B.    Have no networking goals in mind
  Or, more hazardous
  C.    They have a short term investment mentality

Continuing our financial analogy, what type of investment strategy would you take if your goal was to “get rich quick”?  By definition it would have to include a BIG risk in the form of upfront investment, uncertainty or severe legal consequences.   The same is true in regards to networking (sorry to all you impulse addicts out there).  Connecting with key people in your company or on the outside only when you NEED something is equivalent to taking a short term investment strategy.  You’ll always pay a bigger “price”.  Just because you’ve been getting by with this strategy doesn’t make it effective or efficient.    How do you feel when a relative stranger appears with an open hand? Then does it again and again?   We rarely walk away from those interactions with a positive feeling about them AND it can even end up tainting your perspective of their project, department or, in when it comes from an external consultant, their firm.

As a project manager, I can’t promote “luck” as an effective strategy for getting anything accomplished.  So let me help you launch a fiscally sound investment strategy that will help you reap incrementally higher returns in regards to your project’s cycle time, risk reduction, career advancement and even lower your stress.  But don’t dismay if you want some early returns as well, but realize that it will require a focused strategy and an upfront investment on your part to get those returns.  The ROI question becomes…  How much is an expedited action, innovative solution or quality new hire REALLY worth to you?



Comments
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Jeff,

I could not agree more with your perspective. I am a recovering PM, having decided that it is not my calling. But I fully buy into the idea of networking as a risk mitigation strategy (there are other benefits off course). But networks need to be nurtured and are not for the A.D.D types who want to use it only when needed (I do hate that just-in-time concept so many harp on). But how does a PM create and maintain productive/support network? It just isn't considered "productive work". Great post! Keep up the good work!


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