How To Differentiate Between Risks And Issues In Project Management?

What is the reason behind your project failure? Is a poor understanding between risks and issues in project management affecting your project?

Do you actually understand the difference between risks and issues? If you are spending more time and more resources on your project and still not getting proper results, then be alert. There could be some risks or issues involved in your project that is taking your up your time and not producing enough output.

So first let’s understand the concept of risk and issue in a better way.

What Are The Risks And Issues In Project Management?

An uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives.

– The PMBOK Guide


A current condition or situation that may have an impact on the project objectives.

– The PMBOK Guide

Read some other definitions of risk and issues on PMI.

So, risks are something that might happen and issues are something that has already happened.

In a way, issues are comparatively easier to handle as they are events that have already taken place. So you are aware of its consequences on the project and can plan how to overcome them and plan out what course to take further.

But that is not the case with risk. Risk is something that has not happened yet. So, it is difficult to analyze the risks involved in a project and make a risk management plan.

Understand The Concept Of Risks And Issues With The Help Of Examples

  • Currency fluctuation happened and the defined cost of the project increases this is an example of an issue.
  • There are chances for currency fluctuation and the cost of the project might be increased this is a risk.
  • The shipment of machine parts is delayed because of some problems that is an issue.
  • The shipment of machine parts may be delayed as there are chances of a strike in the future this is the example of a risk.


How Are Risks And Issues Handled In The Corporate World?

When a project is having some issues, the project manager uses all his skills and knowledge to resolve the issues. The project manager will be appreciated for his work by the senior management for the effort done by the manager to resolve the issue, even if the manager or the team was responsible for that issue in the first place or could have easily avoided it by some pre-emptive measures.

On the other hand, there is a project manager who informs his senior management about the risks which could potentially become an issue. More often than not it’s likely that the senior management would ignore this concern. They’d categorically ask the project manager to tackle the issues at hand.

How Do Project Managers Handle Project Risks And Issues?

Let’s take two projects A and B both of the projects have a medium complexity and the same size.

Project A

The project A was assigned to a project manager X. He is a proactive project manager. X plans the project carefully. He carefully understands the requirements, makes a list for all the tasks.

He makes proper risk and issues management plans so that the project will not get affected much because of any of these interruptions. And also estimated the cost and the duration of tasks and resources.

As he already developed such a detailed and well thought out plan in advance the project ended up without any interruptions or delays. The project is completed successfully.

The senior managers think that the project is easy to handle and that’s why he didn’t face any difficulty and completed it with ease.

Project B

The project B was assigned to a project manager Y. Y is a project manager with a lot of energy and passion. He believes more in doing then in planning.

Y started the project without proper planning and without any risk and issue management plan. He just made a rough idea of a plan and initiates the project with a not so well defined outline.

But he monitors everyday activities regarding the proceedings of the project.  During the project though he faces a lot of issues due to lack of proper planning. He manages the issues as they come.

At the end of the project, when it is successfully completed it can be observed that it is behind schedule and has gone over budget.

While working on the project, Y makes sure that he has created enough noise regarding the issues faced during the project that even the senior management is aware of them.

They all think that the project had been difficult and was not easy to handle but Y did a great job and with his efforts and hard work handles all the issues involved in the project.

They all praise the manager Y for his dedication and for how he handled the project and completed it.

So now, whom do you think will be rewarded at the end of the appraisal?


In the cooperate world, execution is more important than planning. Planning is important for execution, management of risks and issues involved in the project, but they are not giving due importance.

No one wants to spend more amount of money on the things which are might or might not happen. They think it’s useless but ultimately you have to pay for it in the future when it happens in most cases it costs more.

Senior managers reward such project managers who overcome the issues involved in the project. No matter how these issues are born, or whether they could have been avoided in the first place as long as the project managers are able to overcome them.

But according to me do proper planning and risk and issue management plans. They are essential for completing a successful project.


By Praveen Malik

Praveen Malik is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with 23 years of rich experience. He has the unique experience of managing large scale, complex, cross-functional projects across various geographies. He has unique distinction of working in a different type of business environments viz. software product development, software services, product-oriented software services, and software as a service. He maintains his own blog at

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