How to Create a Risk Management Plan: Best Practices

Jackson Row
Jackson Row
May 17, 2024
How to Create a Risk Management Plan: Best Practices

Imagine this: a stalled construction project, months overdue, and facing huge cost overruns. Risks in construction can cause these headaches, leading to budget nightmares and safety hazards.  

If you're managing a complex build, a strategic risk management plan is your best defense to prevent these setbacks and keep your project on track.  

So, what exactly is a risk management plan, how do you create one, and why is it so vital to your project's success?

What is a Risk Management Plan?

A risk management plan is a written document outlining a framework by which you identify, assess, and mitigate potential risks within your capital project. They can be written for projects, programs, portfolios, or entire organizations.  

Risk management plans function like a system, helping you proactively address risk-related uncertainties. The plan ensures that risks related to cost overruns, scheduling delays, quality issues, regulatory compliance, and stakeholder expectations are managed.  

How to Create a Risk Management Plan: Best Practices: An example table of contents from a Risk Management Plan.
An example table of contents from a Risk Management Plan.

Who uses a Risk Management Plan?

Risk Management Plan enables client-side project managers to implement effective control measures, allocate resources efficiently, and maintain project momentum, ultimately ensuring that the project is delivered within scope, time, and budget constraints while meeting quality standards and stakeholder satisfaction.

For this example, we'll create a Risk Management Plan for a construction project.

Key Steps in Creating a Risk Management Plan  

1. Align with a Global Risk Standard

Review any relevant international risk management standard (e.g., ISO 31000) to understand its principles and guidelines. Familiarize yourself with terminology, framework structure, and recommended processes to see what can be adopted into your risk management plan. There may be gaps between your approach and the international standards, so try to close these gaps if you decide to get this risk management plan certified.  

2. Define Scope, Objectives, and Project Context

Clearly defining the construction project's scope, key phases, timeline, and budget is crucial for accurate risk identification and mitigation. Establishing primary project objectives, quality standards, and performance goals ensures the risk management plan aligns with the overall project vision. This alignment guarantees that risk strategies directly support project completion while adhering to budgetary and quality standards.

3. Risk Identification  

Early risk identification is vital in developing a proactive risk management plan, so include a step for ensuring your project performs risk identification. Stakeholders, including owners, managers, consultants, and contractors, should be listed to collaborate in brainstorming sessions to uncover potential project risks.

Direct your risk management plan's focus on industry-specific challenges like design changes, material availability and pricing fluctuations, labor shortages, weather delays, regulatory hurdles, and safety incidents. Consider categorizing these as a mandate in your risk management plan and ensure these are entered into a risk register with the appropriate category next to it. Preparing a risk register may be assisted by reviewing historical data from past projects to uncover recurring patterns and risks that could impact current initiatives, ensuring a comprehensive list of potential risks.

Read more: How to Create a Comprehensive Risk Register

4. Risk Analysis and Prioritization in Project Management  

Analyzing and prioritizing risks allows project teams to focus their mitigation efforts on the most critical issues. Your risk management plan should enforce a risk matrix so that a quantitative assessment is completed (most often, in the risk register) and assigns each risk a probability and severity rating (low, medium, high).  This assessment can be visualized through a risk matrix chart, offering a clear overview of risks requiring immediate attention.  

Also, you can perform a qualitative assessment describing each risk's nature, emphasizing its potential consequences, like schedule delays or cost escalation, so this should be part of Step 3 for Risk Analysis.

Also read: How to Build the Best Risk Matrix for Your Capital Projects

5. Developing Risk Response Strategies  

Your risk management plan should include a step for prioritizing risks and ensuring the construction project develops response strategies to minimize their potential impact:

  • Avoidance: Modify project plans entirely to eliminate the risk source.
  • Transfer: Shift risk responsibility through insurance or contracts.
  • Mitigation: Implement actions to reduce the risk's probability or severity.
  • Acceptance: Acknowledge the risk and establish contingency plans if it occurs.

These contingency plans ensure the project team can respond swiftly to high-priority risks.

6. Risk Monitoring and Communication  

Ensure your risk management plan documents a requirement for ongoing monitoring and communication, which are crucial in managing risks effectively. Assign risk owners to monitor each specific risk and set regular reporting schedules to keep stakeholders informed. Establish clear communication channels, such as regular meetings, detailed reports, or software dashboards, to ensure consistent alignment and rapid decision-making.

7. Document Steps in a Diagram

Once completed, if you have documented these steps, consider adopting a flow diagram like this ISO 31000 Risk Management Process Diagram that shows each step the construction project should perform when implementing your risk management plan. They will need to do what your plan says clearly, which may help visualize the process.

How to Create a Risk Management Plan: Best Practices: An example of a Risk Management Plan's process, starting with context and ending with monitoring/communication on either side of the Risk Assessment.
An example of a Risk Management Plan's process, starting with context and ending with monitoring/communication on either side of the risk assessment.

Risk Management Software Benefits  

Specialized risk management software streamlines the risk management plan by providing a centralized platform for tracking risks, visualizing real-time dashboards, and automating reporting. If your risk management plan follows a global standard, a risk register, risk matrix, and other areas will be required to follow your risk management plan. This can be done in a spreadsheet, but this is not the best tool for ensuring proper risk management, and things get unwieldy. Try to use a software since these tools allow project teams to monitor risks and take proactive actions based on current data.

Benefits of a Risk Management Plan

A risk management plan provides several benefits within the broader context of capital works project management:

  • Proactive Mitigation: Identifying risks early allows teams to establish effective response strategies to reduce the likelihood and severity of disruptions.
  • Informed Decision-Making: Prioritizing risks based on probability and impact enables more informed resource allocation and strategic decision-making.
  • Stakeholder Confidence: Transparent risk management demonstrates the ability to proactively foresee and manage potential challenges, building stakeholder trust.
  • Cost Efficiency: Identifying and managing risks early helps avoid unexpected costs and project delays.
  • Improved Collaboration: Effective risk communication aligns stakeholders on potential challenges and response strategies, fostering stronger collaboration and accountability.
  • Opportunity identification. Risk management allows a deep dive into risks, causes, impacts, and treatments. You might find opportunities to accelerate programs or save money through this process!


A risk management plan won't guarantee a perfectly smooth construction project, but it's your best tool for establishing the best practices that are followed. You've learned the key steps to consider in preparing a risk management plan: identifying risks, analyzing their impact, planning responses, and staying vigilant throughout your project. This plan will help your projects safeguard your timeline, budget, and the safety of your team – if it is followed!

Now's the time to put this knowledge to work. Start brainstorming potential challenges that could affect your project and enter them into a risk register. The sooner you begin building your risk management plan, the better prepared you will be to navigate any obstacles.

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