Managing risks in housing projects; a case study of Malawi housing corporation


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Submitted to the University of Bolton, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Project Management

Off Campus Division The University of Bolton



Risk Management is a concept that plays a vital role in Project Management. In housing projects, Risk Management plays a critical role in the project lifecycle as it measures the uncertainty involved that hinders the project from achieving its set objectives. To explore this, the research investigated the use of Risk Management in housing projects undertaken by Malawi Housing Corporation. It applied the risk management process together with the tools and techniques that are applicable in the various stages of the process.

Through this investigation, the research has shown that proactive risk management in housing projects deals with the uncertain events and this plays a crucial role especially in saving resources. Risk management thus plays a crucial role in ensuring that the housing projects are delivered on time, within the set budget and specified quality. Thus in housing projects, it can be stated that risk management is a determinant of project success.



MHC : Malawi Housing Corporation PLC : Project Life Cycle

PM : Project Management

PMBOK : Project Management Body of Knowledge PMI : Project Management Institute

RM : Risk Management



DIAGRAM 1 : Project Triangle

DIAGRAM 2 : Risk Management Process DIAGRAM 3 : Brainstorming illustration DIAGRAM 4 : Risk Register




I would like thank the God for giving me the strength and knowledge in writing this thesis. A special thank you should go to my supervisors Mr. Joe Gadzula from the University of Bolton and Mr. Peter Mwanza from Malawi Institute of Management for the guidance rendered to me throughout the scripting of this work.


Table of Contents








1.1 Introduction to study...1

1.2 Background and Rationale...2

1.3 Problem Statement...3

1.4 Research Aim and Objectives...4

1.5 Research Questions...5

1.6 Justification of Study...5

1.7 Thesis Structure...6

1.8 Chapter Summary...7



2.1 Risk in a Project...8

2.2 The Notion of Uncertainty in a Project...11

2.3 Why Projects are Risky...14

2.4 Risk Management Concept...17

2.5 Risk Management Plan...18

2.6 Risk Management Process...19

2.6.1 Establishing the Risk Management Context...20

2.6.2 Risk Identification...20

2.6.3 Risk Assessment...25

2.6.4 Risk Treatment...28


2.6.6 Communication and Consultation...30

2.7 Chapter Summary...31

CHAPTER 3...32


3.1 Research Purpose...32

3.2 Research Design...32

3.3 Research Strategy...33

3.4 Research Philosophy...34

3.5 Research Paradigms...34

3.6 Research Approaches...35

3.7 Sampling Designs and Procedures...36

3.8 Research Instruments...37

3.9 Data Collection...38

3.10 Data Analysis...39

3.11 Chapter Summary...39

CHAPTER 4...40


4.1 Findings...40

4.2 Results...41



5.1 Recommendations...45

5.2. Conclusion...46




This chapter firstly provides a brief introduction to Risk Management in a project context plus what motivated this research. Secondly it provides the background and introduction of the study together with a brief profile of Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC). Thirdly, chapter one explains the problem at hand together with the steps which will be undertaken in order to elucidate the research. These steps are shown through the research objectives and questions. Lastly, the chapter provides a justification of the study which offers knowledge to be obtained from the research.

1.1 Introduction to study

Risk Management (RM) is a notion that is used in projects. Many practitioners who undertake projects have become proactive in the practice of RM and have developed set standards for their particular projects but the general ideas and concepts of RM remain the same. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) which is the professional body dedicated to the Project Management (PM) field, RM is designated as one of the eight main areas of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) that plays an essential role when undertaking projects (Raz et Michael, 2001).

The BS6079-1cited in a ‘Guide to Project Management’, states that a project is a unique set of coordinated activities, with a definite starting and finishing point, undertaken by an individual or organization to meet specific objectives within a defined schedule, cost and performance parameters (Lester, 2006). Projects in general have a common characteristic which is the creation of ideas and activities into new endeavors thus they create an atmosphere of risk and uncertainty. This is because the events and tasks leading to the completion of this new endeavor can never be foretold with absolute accuracy (Lock, 2007).


Hence, in a project context, RM is the process of managing the uncertainty that always exists. RM illustrates how to minimize or even avoid the events that can hinder the project from achieving its set objectives (Young, 2013). In housing projects, RM plays an essential role in accomplishing the project as it is a tool that determines success. However, in Malawi not much research has been conducted to examine the role RM plays in housing projects. This is what has motivated the researcher to investigate the use of the Risk Management Process (RMP) in managing housing projects using Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) as a case study.

1.2 Background and Rationale

Rapid economic growth in Malawi has created a situation where most citizens in the nation are in acute need of decent and affordable housing. Being a developing country, Malawi is unable to meet the ever-growing demand of decent and affordable accommodation because of the challenges that are met by the building and construction industry. By its nature, the construction industry faces many challenges that are noticeable through the number of uncompleted housing projects and rapid deterioration of housing structures due to poor workmanship. In an attempt to solve this problem, the government of Malawi through its statutory corporation known as Malawi Housing Corporation constructs and rents out houses with an aim of providing accommodation especially to those who are from the low and middle class. Established in 1964 under the Malawi Housing Corporation Act, the institutions mandate is to develop, construct and maintain housing estates and plots on behalf of Malawi Government but with a vision of being an entity for providing decent and affordable housing to those living in the country (


be proactively undertaken when carrying out housing projects because it aids in minimising or eliminating the risks that pose a threat to the projects set objectives. Thus, the purpose of this research paper is to investigate the relationship between the application of the RMP in housing projects and the role RM plays in determining project success and in minimising the impact that unforeseen events have on the project.

1.3 Problem Statement

Observation has shown that most housing projects undertaken by MHC are not completed on schedule because of the risks that are encountered when undertaking the projects. In addition some of the housing projects by MHC suffer devastating damage in the early years after completion. For instance, Police houses which were recently built by MHC in the city of Lilongwe, Ntandire whose roofs were blown off (

This can be derived from lack of the risk management culture within the institution but also the environment in which the projects are undertaken. The environment of the project plays a role based on the fact that by their nature, projects are risky in their life cycle.


RM is thus an essential component of PM that helps counter such challenges in housing projects because these projects are high risks thus require adequate risk assessment and management. The construction industry where these projects are usually undertaken also operates in an environment where conditions adversely change and in return affect the progress of the project.

Kululanga et al state that in Malawi, there is relatively low practice in the implementation of formal project risk management methods, leading to poor project performance in the construction industry (Kululanga & Kuotcha, 2010). This is so because the application of RM amongst many stakeholders is generally seen as an unnecessary activity or a cost not worth taking even though there are aware of the notion of risk and its consequences plus impact. The resistance to formal RM is very common as many stakeholders state that they know that all projects are risky and the process of controlling risk is time consuming, as a result they would rather deal with the risk when it occurs (Biafore, 2011).

On the other hand, for those that apply RM, it is usually based on “gut feeling” past experiences or knowledge of an incident in a past project but the formal RM process is not undertaken at all. However, it must be noted that in a project because of the characteristic of uniqueness, uncertainty will always be present thus it is important for the project team to manage this uncertainty because it always involves a degree of risk.

Hence it could be stated that the essence of project management is risk management, resulting into RM being applied regardless of the type of project being undertaken (Turner, 2009). This research will therefore review literature which will show all the necessary steps in practicing RM using the RMP, as a result helping MHC and various stakeholders in the application of RM.

1.4 Research Aim and Objectives


1.4.1 Main Objective

To investigate the application of risk management process in housing projects in Malawi.

1.4.2 Specific Objectives

 To investigate how the Risk Management Process is conducted when undertaking housing projects

 To evaluate the tools / techniques used in the Risk Management Process of housing projects

 To recommend practical measures that Malawi Housing Corporation can use to respond to risks when undertaking housing projects

1.5 Research Questions

 What constitutes Project Risk Management in housing projects?

 Which risk management tools / techniques are used in housing projects and by Malawi Housing Corporation?

 What recommendations can be given to Malawi Housing Corporation on the ways in which the institution can respond to risks in housing projects 1.6 Justification of Study


To combat this perspective of not including RM in the process of delivering projects, this study aims at examining the importance of RM through the RMP. This is because through this process of identifying, evaluating, analysing and treating risks various stakeholders especially those who undertake housing projects will know the value of RM as it will aid them in being efficient and effective when carrying out projects, thus having more control over their projects.

Through the RMP, the paper will also provide knowledge on associated benefits of RM which will encourage decisive leadership in housing projects rather than management of crisis. This is because RM creates a ‘no surprises’ environment for a project and in return this encourages creativity and lateral thinking. In addition, RM also assists in predicting serious threats that may have devastating effects on a project before they actually occur (Young, 2013). As a result, effective RM brings greater rewards to project performance through enhancing efficiency and productivity (Goh et Abdul- Rahman, 2013).

Therefore, it can be stated that it is unacceptable to ignore risks in a project. This is because projects by their nature are unique and based on the fact that they are frequently integrated with new techniques and procedures, they are prone to risk. As a result the concept of risk has to be considered from the initial stages of the project to the completion stage (Lester, 2006). Thus this research paper will help MHC, plus those who undertake projects and those in the construction industry in making sure that they always incorporate RM when carrying out housing projects because in return RM will determine success. It will also aid them in creating a decisive environment which will enhance their decision making process.

1.7 Thesis Structure


chapter also illustrates the process of risk management together with its application in reference to projects as a whole but also with specific mention to housing projects. Whilst chapter three states how the research will be conducted in order to obtain the results. Chapter four shows the results that have been obtained from the research. Lastly, Chapter five provides the recommendations and states the conclusion.

1.8 Chapter Summary




This chapter defines risk, uncertainty and what constitutes a project as their relationship plays a vital role in understanding why projects are risky and the concept of RM. The chapter also gives an insight about the RMP together with some of the RM tools as well as the techniques that can be used in housing projects.

Whilst chapter one, provided a background and justification to the study which will aid a reader in grasping the connection between risk, uncertainty and projects thus providing a better understanding as to why projects with reference to housing projects are risky and the need for the risk to be managed.

2.1 Risk in a Project

Risk is an uncertain event that when it occurs prevents a project from realizing the expectations of the stakeholders as stated in project definition. It is an incident or situation that when it arises has an effect on the project objectives (APM, 1997). Risk is usually associated with taking an action which can be said to be a gamble as its outcome is not known. The outcome of such an action could either be favorable or unfavorable (Hopkin, 2012). Hilson, in his book titled “Managing Risks” agrees with the notion of risk as an uncertainty that affects objectives if it occurs but clarifies that uncertainty arises from the randomness of things that are unknown. Whilst risk when it occurs, arises from the randomness of things that we know (Hilson, 2009).


In projects, risk is bound to be associated with the three main project objectives of time; cost and quality which are shown in diagram one below:


Within a project, if you change any of these three parameters, there is an implication on another parameter. For instance, with the housing projects, you can build houses very quickly, but it could cost you more or you could still build houses quickly and cheaply, resulting into poor quality (Biafore, 2011). In terms of time, housing projects can be completed within the agreed period and the set project budget. However, if the house does not meet the quality specified by the engineers, it will be considered a failure because it does not meet the performance criteria.

Thus, balancing the three objectives of time, cost and quality is one of crucial tasks of a project manager because an imbalance from these three objectives, creates an atmosphere where risk is manifested (Lester, 2006). However, when understanding and defining risk in a project, it is essential to distinguish the









difference between risk and a constraint especially before undertaking the process of RM as these two are normally confused in a project.

Constraints in a project context are restrictions that are forced into the project, knowingly or unknowingly. These are restrictions that one cannot control but has to accept and live with them as they have no control over them. Constraints are associated with the project throughout its cycle. In a project, constraints can only be worked around in order to accomplish the project deliverables. They may also help bring the project to ground zero and the real world rather than be forced into a ‘mission impossible’ environment. Some typical constraints in a project include:

 Available budget and/or cash flow requirement;

 A business critical date when the project must be completed;

 Minimum resources required and their availability;

 Skills required and not available;

 External resources needed and their funding;

Hence, constraints need to be identified as part of the project scope because once clarified, they may require you to amend the scope significantly and that could be unacceptable to some stakeholders. Scope changes during planning or execution may also introduce new constraints (Young, 2013).


2.2 The Notion of Uncertainty in a Project

Uncertainty as mentioned above in the definition of risk is also inherent in life and it is the state of being uncertain, which basically means that one is not sure about what could happen. In a project setup, it could be stated that there is uncertainty especially in future events. Turner writing in “The Handbook of Project Based Management” agrees with this and further states that it is the uniqueness in projects that creates uncertainty (Turner, 2009). Uncertainty is deduced from the fact that the natural environment in which we live in has always been uncertain with acts such as hail storms, floods, hurricanes and many other incidents that can be said to be an ‘act of God’. These usually have an impact on projects. This can also be derived from the fact that the social environment in which we live in changes dramatically in many respects and this change brings with it uncertainty (Hilson, 2009).

Uncertainty is thus a characteristic inherent when undertaking housing projects because the future in such endeavors cannot be predicted with certainty especially with the reason that the environmental conditions in which a project operates in are ever changing. For instance, there may be uncertainty about the individual tasks being undertaken in the project for the first time, in terms of how long they will take to be completed. There may also be uncertainty on the cost of materials for the project. All of these scenarios provide a challenge of how they will work as they create the environment of uncertainty (Maylor, 2010).

Donald Rumsfeld, the former US Defense Secretary in a news briefing on 12th February, 2002 provided an incite or picture of risk and uncertainty in his famous quote titled ‘Knowns and Unknown’ as he stated that:

“There are ‘known knowns’. These are things that are certain. In other words, the things we know we know.


But there are also ‘unknown unknowns’. These are the things we completely have no clue about as they are the things we completely do not know ( “.

From this famous quote, the idea of understanding the concept of risk could be categorised into three. The first being the ‘known known’s’, which consists of the things we know. Basically these could be described as the things we plan for. The second being the ‘known unknowns’ comprising of the things we know are uncertain. For instance, we may not be sure about the duration of a particular task in a housing project. As a result, this will create uncertainty. Whilst the third being the ‘unknown unknowns’ which are things that come out of the blues meaning that these are things that could not have been known in advance and these also create an environment of uncertainty (Maylor, 2010).

These three scenarios create a picture of how risk is manifested as it emanates from known or unknown possibilities and this can be pictured in relation to housing project hence creating an environment of uncertainty. Thus from the illustration of Donald Rumsfeld, there can be little doubt that we live in a world characterised by uncertainty as it is very difficult to tell of the occurrences of future events.


worth expending to clarify the situation. In a project context all these aspects of uncertainty can be present throughout the PLC, but they are particularly evident in the pre-execution stages, when they contribute to uncertainty in five areas stated in the next paragraph.

The first area is the variability which is associated with the estimates. The second area is also associated with the estimates; it is the Uncertainty about the basis of estimates. The third area is the uncertainty regarding design and logistics. The fourth area is uncertainty but in relation to the objectives and the priorities. The fifth and last is uncertainty concerning fundamental relationships between the project parties.

All these areas of uncertainty highlighted are important, but generally they become more fundamentally important to project performance as we go down the list. Potential for unpredictability is the dominant issue at the top of the list, but ambiguity becomes the dominant underlying issue toward the bottom of the list. Uncertainty about variability associated with estimates involves the other four areas: each of them involving dependencies on later areas in this list (Chapman & Ward, 2003).

However, it must be noted that not every uncertainty is a risk even though risk is always uncertain but also that uncertainty is a common concept in most of the definitions of risk (Berg, 2010). As a result, it is crucial to always know which uncertainties in housing projects matter and then respond to them appropriately whilst those that do not matter should be reviewed from time to time, in case their circumstances change and they begin to matter (Hilson, 2009).


2.3 Why Projects are Risky

Three distinct reasons why projects are risky are common characteristics, the external environment and deliberate design. These three reasons are briefly explained on the below:

1. Common Characteristics

Uncertainty in projects is inevitably introduced because of the shared range of features. Some of these features or characteristics are listed below and they are also common in the definitions of a project as a task that we have not done before and will not be done again in the future (Kerzner, 2003). Below are the features:

a. Uniqueness

A project usually involves at least some elements that have never been done before, as a result, there is uncertainty associated with these elements as they create an uncertain environment. b. People

Projects are undertaken by people. These include customers, project team members, clients, contractors and sometimes the management of an institution. The actions of these individuals and groups are to some extent unpredictable. As a result of this unpredictability, they introduce uncertainty into the projects. c. Complexity


d. Stakeholders

Stakeholders are those people with an interest in the project thus they impose requirements, expectations and objectives on the project. Their requirements can sometimes create confusion as they can be varying, overlapping and sometimes conflicting. This is because they usually have vested interests or selfish interests and in the end, theses can lead to risks in project especially in the phases of project execution and acceptance.

e. Assumptions and Constraints

Assumptions usually come about because of the guesses, particularly in project scoping. Project scoping involves making a wild range of guesses about the future. This usually involves the assumptions as they are the things we think will or will not happen. Whilst constraints, are the things we are told to do or not to do. Assumptions and constraints are a source of risk in a project because they may turn out to be wrong thus creating uncertainty.

f. Change

A project is a change agent because it creates a new scenario. It involves moving from what is known at present to the future which is unknown. This movement from the known present to the future is associated with uncertainty because the events of the future are unknown.

Therefore, it must be noted that the six characteristics cited above are risky elements and they are inherent in projects (Hilson, 2009).

2. Deliberate Designs


investment of capital within a set time frame that creates productive assets. The productive assets are created through a unique set of activities that have a start and finish date (Regional Partnership for Resource Development Publication, 2009). Consequently, this involves taking risks because there is uncertainty because of the exposure and this could hinder the achievement of the objectives. Therefore, it is essential for the project team to understand the connection between deliberate designs and risk in order to deliver the intended value for the project.

3. External Environment

Projects are carried out in an external environment to the project itself. This creates challenges and constraints for the project. Some of the environmental factors which bring in risks into projects include:

 Market volatility;

 Competitor actions;

 Emergent requirements;

 Client organizational changes;

 Internal organizational changes;

 PESTLIED (political, economic, social, technological, legal, international, environmental, demographic) factors.

These factors stated above are subject to change at an increasing rate in this modern world. In view of this fact, it must be noted that projects are meant to be delivered in this ever-changing environment even though they have a fixed scope. The changes in the environment, naturally pose a risk to the project as it is not possible to isolate projects from their environment. As a consequence this is one of the common sources of risk in a project (Hilson, 2009).


understand that the concept of risk as it is really a key aspect in projects. This is because every project has risks associated with it and how risk is managed determines its success (Maylor, 2010). It must also be noted that with risk, the likelihood of its occurrence and impact varies from one project to another and that it changes its nature during the PLC which is the period between the beginning and end of the project (Goh et Abdul- Rahman, 2013). However, the principal identifying characteristic of all projects though is the uniqueness and this creates an unknown environment fraught with risk and uncertainty (Lock, 2007).

2.4 Risk Management Concept

In a project, the RMP involves recognising and scrutinizing the risks in a project so that those that can cause a significant impact must be continuously managed or they must be completely eradicated (Maylor, 2010). In order to accomplish this, the procedures to reduce or eliminate risks should be designed by the project team so as to ensure that the project deliverables are achieved (Wulf & Sokol, 2005).

However, from the definitions of RM in chapter one, it can be stated that the management of risk in projects is consequently critical if projects are to achieve their full potential (Regional Partnership for Resource Development Publication, 2009). This is so because RM helps in identifying, scrutinising and assessing the risks to see the effect each risk could have (Biafore, 2011).


2.5 Risk Management Plan

This is a blue print that sets out the type, content and frequency of reports. The document states the roles of the risk owners and it defines the impact and probability criteria in both qualitative and/or quantitative terms covering cost, time quality and performance. The Risk Management Plan is produced at the start of the project and for the risk assessment; it sets out the strategic requirements. In rare situations the plan can be produced during the estimating or contract tender stage.

The contents of the Risk Management Plan are: a) General introduction

In this introduction, the risk management process is explained. b) Project description

Provides details of the problem the project will address plus the overall objectives for the project as a whole as well as the activities that will be undertaken. It also includes the location and length of the project.

c) Types of risks

This state’s some of the risks that could occur in the project such as technical, financial and environmental.

d) Risk processes

This involves the listing of the risks involved together with the methods of qualitative or quantitative.

e) Tools and techniques.

Risk tools and techniques used the risk process. f) Risk reports


g) Attachments

These are other important project requirements such as exceptional problems that may be encountered during the project which are added to the plan as attachments.

The plan must also cover the projects specific requirements and all the anticipated risks whilst following the standard pattern in order to increase its familiarity to the project team (Lester, 2006). This is because the scope of the risk process to be employed for the project is the key output is a clear definition from the steps in the risk management plan (Hilson, 2009).

2.6 Risk Management Process

The aim of the Risk Management Process (RMP) is to foresee events that could go wrong in the PLC and make a decision on what action should be undertaken to avoid, correct or eliminate the problem (Young, 2013).

The RMP is shown in diagram two below:

Diagram 2

Establishing the





Risk Identification

Risk Analysis

Risk Evaluation

Risk Treatment



From diagram two on the previous page, it can be stated that RM is a continuous process conducted throughout the duration of the project were unforeseen risks which lead to unexpected circumstances that erupt in projects need to be recorded and promptly responded too (Young, 2013). From the diagram, it can also be seen that RMP helps in assessing and providing guidance to the project in order to determine success. It must be noted though that the diagram is generic but never the less; the application is still the same when it is undertaken in projects, with a particular attention to housing projects.

However, in order to have an effective implementation of the RMP, it must be put into practice through incorporating it into all the activities carried out in the project plus applying RM in meetings. Continuous hands on training must also be provided for the project team in order for them to fully understand the concept of RM. In other words, RM must be a way of life for the project team ( Below are brief explanations of each stage of the RMP:

2.6.1 Establishing the Risk Management Context

Establishing the risk management context is a process undertaken in order to obtain a picture of the environment in which the project operates in. This course of action is carried out because it is essential for the project team to understand the environment of their project as this is the setting where the risks occur. It must be noted though that the environment includes both internal and external (Berg, 2010).

2.6.2 Risk Identification


using the information gained from the process of establishing the context. Key questions that may assist in risk identification are:

 When, where, why and how the risks are likely to occur?

 What are the risks associated with achieving each of our priorities?

 What are the risks of not achieving these priorities?

 Who might be involved; suppliers, contractors or stakeholders? (Berg, 2010)

In identifying risks in projects, various techniques such as interviews, questionnaires, brainstorming and bench marking can be used. However for the purpose of subject at hand of housing projects, this paper will dwell on brainstorming as it is a technique that could be easily used and adopted by MHC. Brainstorming

According to Turner, brainstorming is one way of identifying risks through the organic process which is also known as a creative process. This process is known as creative, free-flowing and thinking approach of identifying risks because it is conducted in an atmosphere that supports creativity and innovation through encouraging the sharing of ideas and participation (Turner, 2009). It is a technique that is considered very effective as it involves a session of sharing and identifying the risks that could occur in a project. This session is conducted by the project team together with all the stakeholders (Harrison & Lock, 2004). When identifying risks using the brainstorming method, the key question that is seeking an answer is: ‘What could go wrong at any time during the project?’ This enables the process to be very efficient and effective (Young, 2013).


the group must record all the risk that are voiced out by the members present. Team members must say out all the potential risks that come to their mind and contributions made by members must not be disregarded or rejected as the idea is to encourage free-flowing thinking.

It is important not to disregard any members’ idea at this phase because regarding an idea as irrelevant from one person can hinder the contributions to be in the session. As they could be offended thus remain silent for the rest of the process thus defeating the whole process of creativity and sharing of ideas. The emphasis of this method (brainstorming) is quantity and not the quality of ideas as the project team has to exhaust all possible threats to the project (Wallace, 2014).

The second phase is the evaluation phase which involves the team sorting out the recorded risks; meaning prioritising those that seem to have a high probability and impact as they must be thoroughly scrutinized for further analysis. The emphasis of this step is to rank the risks so as to know which ones must first be dealt with (Turner, 2009).

Once the risks have been ranked, they must be recorded in the risk register or log and allocated to an owner who will be responsible for ensuring that the risk is being effectively managed (Hilson, 2009). However, in this phase, it is important to make sure that the risk/risk triggers are not linked to any individuals so that they must be discussed and criticised freely. This is because, if they ideas are linked to an individual and they are criticised, the individual might feel victimised hence take offence or take things personal (Wallace, 2014).


consuming and that it requires the facilitator who is usually the Project Manager to have firm control over the session being conducted plus that the members of the project team need to be calm and exercise patience during the whole process. Thus these could be stated as some of the disadvantages (Lester, 2006).

A diagrammatic illustration of a brainstorming session showing some of the risks found in housing projects is shown below as diagram three:


Brainstorming is therefore a technique that answers the question of ‘What could go wrong in the process of undertaking housing projects?’ As such, the key stakeholders must always be engaged in this process as it has proved to be














beneficial in countering risks as the responsibility to mitigate the risk is shared by all the members of the project team.

Risks identified in this process must also always be recorded. Young, concurs with this statement and further states that the identified risks from this session must not only be recorded on a project risk register but that the register must be visible to the whole project team and each risk must always be allocated to an owner (Young, 2003). In the displayed risk register the identified risks must also be listed according to their priorities, occurrence, actions to be taken and results of the actions taken plus the allocated owner who is responsible for the risk (Turner, 2009). Risk Register

A tool used to keep track and monitor risks in the in a project, is known as a risk register. The risk register shows the impact of the risk, its likelihood and consequence plus its significance. The risks recorded in the register are sorted out according to their priorities. Significant risks are placed at the top of the register whilst the insignificant ones at the bottom. Apart from sorting the risks in terms of their priority, the register should also have risk owners who are appointed and shall be identified with a risk. Risks in the register must be constantly monitored plus the register must be reassessed to see if any amendments need to be made so that the risks written in the register are up to date as the register is a living document (Turner, 2009). Diagram four below, shows an illustration of a risk register:

Project: ……….. Key: H, High: M, medium: L, low

Prepared by: ……….. Reference: ………

Date: ……….. Type

of risk

Description of risk Probability Impact Risk reduction strategy

Contingency plans

Risk owner H M L Pref Cost Time


Therefore, risk identification is a process of examining the areas in a project and it is a critical process that must be undertaken in order for the project team to identify and document all the risks associated with the project (Kerzner, 2003). Risk identification is also an essential part in establishing the context as it helps in determining what needs to be managed in the environment that the project is occurring as it defines the context in which RM will take place (WCO Compendium, 2001).

Thus the procedure of identifying risks is directly linked to the key objectives of establishing the context in the RMP. Plus it must be noted that the thinking and reasoning behind brainstorming is the saying that ‘two heads are better than one’. This is derived from the fact that when two or more people work together, they are able to share ideas as opposed to a person working alone (Wallace 2014). The risk register must continuously be updated as new risks emerge and the risks must never be removed from the log even if they are mitigated (Maylor, 2010).

2.6.3 Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is the process of analysing carried out after the risks have been identified in the identification stage. According to Kerzner, risk assessment is the process that involves analysis of the collected data (Kerzner, 2003). The analysis of data involves two methods known as qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative methods are most applicable to non numerical data which is usually placed on a descriptive scale with the ranges of high to low level. This involves evaluating key characteristics of individual risks so that they can be prioritised for further action (Hilson, 2009).


Whilst the quantitative method is based on numeric estimations and this is used to determine the probability and impact of the identified risks. The probability of a risk becoming a reality has to be assessed using experience and/or statistical data such as historical weather charts or close-out reports from previous projects. From this, each risk can then be given a probability rating of high, medium or low. A simple two by two matrix also known as the Risk Management and Impact Matrix as shown in diagram four below can be drawn up to help in analysing whether a risk should be taken any further or not (Lester, 2006). MATRIX

The Risk Matrix is a tool that categorises risks based on the impact they will have and their probability of occurrence in a project. This matrix uses the probability to describe the doubt dimension and the impact is to express the effects on the objectives (Hilson, 2009). This is shown in the diagram below:


Low High


As shown in the diagram above, the traffic light convention is used by the matrix to classify risks. This makes it very easy to understand because of the color meanings as red is usually used for high risks, yellow for medium risk, whilst green





is for low risk (Wallace, 2009). The interpretation of diagram five on the previous page in relation to risks in a project is shown in Table 1 below:


1 Top right Red High impact and high probability - Risks classified in this

quadrant are dangerous. They are likely to happen and they have serious consequences in a project.

2 Top left Yellow Low impact and High Probability - Risks classified in this

quadrant, are likely to happen but they do not have much impact to the project.

3 Bottom left Green Low impact and low probability - Risks classified in this

quadrant are not likely to happen and they do not have much impact in the project if they occur.

4 Bottom right Yellow High impact and low probability - Risks classified here have

high impact just like those in the red zone but their probability or occurrence is low.


From table one on page twenty seven, it can be said that a realistic assessment of risks in a project helps set expectations for project performance. This is so because identification of risks in a project has a number of benefits such as providing clarity on the objectives and helping the project team proceed with confidence, knowing that the risks are being mitigated (Biafore, 2011).

2.6.4 Risk Treatment

The treatment of risk involves the application of treatment choices to the identified with the risks so that they can be managed. The intention of the treatment options is to provide options for treating risk that are cost effective and this usually involves decisions or actions taken in response to the identified risk (Berg, 2010). There are four generic treatment options that can be applied to the risks and these are briefly explained below:

i. Risk Avoidance

Risk avoidance is one of the easiest ways of the risk options as its application involves not carrying out any of the activities that might have an impact or consequence on the project. However, this is not a realistic option for any project because with nothing ventured comes nothing gained. ( In simple terms, this option involves not carrying out the activity that will trigger the risk as it will have consequences on the project (Berg, 2010).

ii. Risk Reduction


iii. Risk Transfer

Risk transfer is the process of transferring any losses incurred in a project to a third party. Risks can be transferred internally or externally. A method of doing this is through outsourcing activities to a third party. For instance, through contracts, insurance or partnerships risks are transferred to a third party. In a project setup, risk transfer is a realistic approach to RM as it accepts that sometimes unexpected incidents do occur and this ensures that the project is able to cope with such events when they occur (Berg, 2010).

Risk transfer basically means transferring a risk to a third party for mitigation but it is important to remember that transferring the risk does not necessarily mean transferring responsibility (WCO Compendium, 2001). However, it must be noted that not all risks associated with a project can be transferred. This is because in certain circumstances, it may not be economical to transfer the risk as such an action may also give rise to another risk (Wallace, 2014).

iv. Risk Retention

Risk retention is an option that involves accepting the risk. If the risk in a project is mitigated, if it is not avoided or transferred, it is retained. Retention is an efficient way of dealing with the risk, especially small risks that do not pose any significant threat to the project. Risk retention usually happens in cases where the gains from the risk component are far higher than the negative impacts of the risk. For this reason, it must be known that risk retention requires resources in order for the treatment to be applied (Berg, 2010).

2.6.5 Monitor and Review of the Risk Management Process


the desired effects of the implementation of risk responses are achieved throughout the PLC. In this stage the RM documentation is reviewed and updated from time to time and the outputs of risk monitoring and control provide lessons for future decisions (Goh & Abdul-Rahman, 2013)

Risk monitoring is much of what a project manager does once a project moves beyond the planning stage. This is because as the project activities are being accomplished, the project manager keeps track of the risks to see if there are any occurrences. The risks tracked by the project manager are monitored using a risk register which has been described on page twenty four (

It should be noted though that monitoring risks as the project proceeds, may reduce the number of risks. If this happens, the resources allocated to cover the risk of the completed activities may be allocated to other sections of the budget. However, when new risks emerge, they must be taken into account and recorded in the risk register so that they are also monitored (Lester, 2006).

Therefore, the RMP needs to be monitored and reviewed continuously as risks can occur at any time. For the risk treatments, if they are successful they may reduce the level of risk to the point where resources are better applied elsewhere. Thus, monitoring and review should include all aspects of the RMP, including the performance of the risk management system, the changes that might affect it and the original risks

2.6.6 Communication and Consultation


positions of the risks, how they would affect the project and which ones are the significant ones (Hilson, 2009).

Communication and consultation thus should be appropriately done so that it contains information of each stage of the RMP and it should also involve both internal and external stakeholders. It is therefore necessary that this stage should be planned as an ongoing activity addressing not just the process but also any issues that may arise. Good governance requires decision making that is accountable and transparent and to ensure accountability of the process, it is important that the documentation should indicate the decisions that were made and the actions taken or that are to be taken. Thus all RM activities undertaken at all different stages of the process must be well recorded and stored in a way that enables them to be viewed and retrieved easily (WCO Compendium,2001).

2.7 Chapter Summary




The chapter states how the research was conducted in pursuit to the achievement of the set objectives. It further explains the various steps that were undertaken in the research design, theoretical framework, philosophy, data collection techniques and analysis.

3.1 Research Purpose

Research is undertaken for many purposes but with an aim of developing knowledge in a particular field. Reading “Research Methods For Business Students” by Saunders, he states there are three purposes for research namely exploratory, explanatory and descriptive (Saunders, 2009).

The Exploratory study is a valuable way of research of finding out ‘what is happening; seeking new insights plus asking questions in order to assess phenomena in a new light’. A Descriptive study is carried out in order ‘to portray an accurate profile of persons, events or situations’ (Robson 2002). Whilst an Explanatory study is a study carried out to establish the relationships between variables. In this study, the emphasis is on studying a situation or a problem in order to give an explanation of the relationships among variables (Saunders, 2009).


3.2 Research Design

Research design is described as the art of planning the research. This is done by outlining techniques in which the researcher will answer the research questions. Saunders, concurs with this and further states that the research design should contain clear objectives which are derived from the research questions. These should specify the sources from which the intended data is to be collected from and it should also consider the constraints that the researcher will face in collecting the data. Some of the constraints that will inevitably be faced are for instance access to data, time, location, money as well as discussing ethical issues (Saunders, 2009).

A research design can also be defined as an integrated report that provides an explanation of the decisions that will be involved in the planning of the research project (Blaikie, 2009). Whilst Robson, cited in Saunders simply defines it as the conversion of the research questions into a research project (Saunders, 2009). Choosing an appropriate research design is thus very critical act for a research. Thus this research was designed to establish the risk management process applied by Malawi Housing Corporation in their housing projects.

3.3 Research Strategy

There are seven research strategies namely ethnography, experiment, case study, survey, action research, grounded theory and archival research (Saunders, 2009). From these seven, the case study will be used for this research.


3.4 Research Philosophy

Research philosophy consists of three major research philosophies namely; Ontology, Epistemology and Axiology. Ontology is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of reality or being (Saunders, 2009). Linked to ontology because of its consideration of what constitutes reality, epistemology considers views about the most appropriate ways of enquiring into the nature of the world. This is according to Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson in their book written in 2008, titled “Management Research”, cited in “Research Philosophies – Importance and Relevance”. Epistemology is thus the researcher’s view in regards to what constitutes acceptable knowledge (Flowers, 2009). Whilst with Axiology, it is a branch of philosophy that studies the judgments about value (Saunders, 2009).

3.5 Research Paradigms

These philosophies are interpreted together with paradigms. Research paradigms are referred to as the theoretical framework that is distinct from a theory but it has influences in the way knowledge is studied and interpreted. It is the choice of paradigm that sets down the intent, motivation and expectations for the research (Mackenzie et Knipe, 2006). There are four paradigms namely; interpretivism, positivism, realism and pragmatism.

Interpretivism advocates that it is necessary for the researcher to understand differences between humans in our role as social actors. This emphasises the difference between conducting research among people rather than objects such as trucks and computers. In the same way we interpret our everyday social roles in accordance with the meaning we give to these roles. In addition, we interpret the social roles of others in accordance with our own set of meanings (Saunders, 2009).


observable social realities. It is based upon values of reason, truth, validity and focuses purely on facts, gathered through direct observation and experience. Whilst Realism is concerned with the kinds of things that are there, plus how these things behave. It accepts that reality may exist in spite of science or observation and that there is validity in recognizing realities that simply claimed to exist or act whether proven or not (Flowers, 2009).

Pragmatism is a position that mainly argues that the most important determinant of the research philosophy adopted is the research question. It argues that it is possible to work within both positivist and interpretivist positions. Pragmatism applies a practical approach that integrates different perspectives to help collect and interpret data (Saunders, 2009).

3.6 Research Approaches

There are two types of approaches inductive and deductive. Deductive reasoning works from the more general to the more specific. It is sometimes informally called "top-down" approach as conclusions follow logically from premises which are also known as the available facts.

Inductive reasoning, works the other way, moving from specific observations to broader generalizations and theories. Informally, it is sometimes called the "bottom up" approach and involves a degree of uncertainty. Conclusions are also based on premises.

This research therefore is based on an ontological philosophy with an interpretivism perspective and inductive approach. This is so because ontology is based on the nature of reality whilst interpretivism involves the participation of people with information being perceived through socially constructed and subjective interpretations.


investigating the relationship between project risk management and the role it plays in determining project success.

3.7 Sampling Designs and Procedures

In a research, selecting the most appropriate sampling technique enables the researcher to answer the research questions. There are two types of sampling techniques known as probability and non-probability sampling. Probability sampling is a sample type most commonly associated with survey-based research strategies where inferences need to be made from the sample about a population to answer your research question(s) or to meet the research objectives. This sample type uses a sampling frame. Whilst Non-probability sampling provides a range of alternative techniques to select samples based on subjective judgment (Saunders, 2009).

This research will be carried out using the non-probability sampling. Non-probability sampling consists of five sampling types namely, Quota, Purposive, Snowball, Self-selection and Convenience. For this research, the sampling type will be Purposive or judgmental. This will enabled the researcher to use judgment in selecting the case that best answers the research question and to meet the research objectives. This form of sample is often used when working with very small samples such as a case study research and is used to select cases that are particularly informative (Saunders, 2009).


3.8 Research Instruments

Interviews were administered by the researcher and this was a viable way of collecting the data as it involved face to face interactions with the respondent. An interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people (Kahn and Cannell, 1957). The use of interviews helps gather valid and reliable data that is relevant to your research question(s) and objectives (Saunders, 2009).

Interviews are one way of obtaining data from the qualitative data. Qualitative interviews are usually classified according to three broad types: informal, conversational; topic-focused and semi structured, open-ended. For informal, conversational interviews, the interviewer enjoys complete freedom and flexibility to explore a broad subject with the respondents, who are encouraged to share their views, experiences, values and information.

Topic-focused interviews will be conducted. These are conducted using an interview guide which lists the main topics and subtopics to be covered. Whilst the semi structured, open-ended interviews are the most structured form of qualitative interviewing. They use an open-ended questionnaire which lists the specific questions to be asked (Kumar et Casley, 1995).

When undertaking the interviews, responses were recorded straight away to avoid misinterpreting and missing out important information from the data collected. Interviews were also chosen as opposed to a questionnaire because it is very difficult to get those in management positions to fill out a questionnaire. However, it must be noted though that interviews are not costly as a research instrument but they can be time consuming.


3.9 Data Collection

Two types of methods known as qualitative and quantitative are used as data collection techniques. According to Saunders, qualitative data refers to all non-numeric data or data that has not been quantified. Whilst the quantitative method refers to data which is numerical and the meanings for the data are derived from numbers and the collection of results is done in a standardized manner but numerical (Saunders, 2009).

For this research, the qualitative method will be used because it is an investigation that seeks to answer questions. The data obtained using this method will help in understanding the research problem as it effectively obtains specific information through opinions and social contexts. The strength of qualitative research can be said to be the ability that it provides complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research issue. This is because it provides information from a human perspective about an issue and this is often in contradictory behaviors of beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals (

The data will be collected through visitations to MHC. In these visits, interviews will be conducted with those responsible for the day to day running of housing projects as they have firsthand information on what actually transpires on the ground. Senior members of staff of MHC that oversee housing projects in their line of duty will also be interviewed as they are part of the decision making process when it comes to the projects. These interviews will be conducted by the researcher and the feedback or responses will also be collected by the researcher.


3.10 Data Analysis

Data collected was classified and analysed through the Likert Scale that enabled the researcher to effectively communicate the findings.

3.11 Chapter Summary




This chapter explains the finding that the researcher uncovered in the process of analyzing the various existing research findings and indeed the prevailing risk management process employed by MHC in their housing projects.

4.1 Findings

Form the visits made to MHC, it was discovered that RM at the institution is mostly practiced at an individual level. As an institution, MHC does not have any formal laid down procedures for managing risk. This was established through the interviews that were conducted. Those that were interviewed were aware of the notion of risk but confirmed that RM is mostly practiced at an individual level. This could be attributed to the fact that the institution does not have a Risk Management Policy. At an individual level when practiced, RM is mostly based on gut feeling and past project experiences.

For the risks, they are dealt with when they occur but it was also found out that many of risks that occur in the housing projects by MHC are latent. Meaning that, they are usually hidden deep in the schedule and plans of the project and have a habit of appearing without warning. This always has a devastating effect on the project.


For the institution, it was also noted that the personality and style of management plays a role in how risk is managed that is why it is mostly carried out at an individual level. From the interviews, some managers were more proactive in ensuring that risks are managed in the project. Other managers were reactive and were very confident that with the experience that they have, they have the ability of handling any unexpected events that could occur in the project. Whilst others were risk averse and they did not want to think about risk at all.

For the projects, looking at the three project objectives mentioned above; for the costs, it was noted that the impact is usually on the overall costs of the work being done; for the schedule it is regularly on the time the project will take. Whilst the impact on the scope regularly involves the project deliverables and the quality of work being undertaken. It must be noted though that if there is no impact on these three elements cost, schedule and scope then it is essential to ask the relevant stakeholders plus the project team if risks really exist in the project.

The findings from the visits clearly portrayed the picture that RM is a continuous process and not a task undertaken only once. It is a process that must be undertaken throughout the PLC from initiation to completion. This is because risks that occur during the course of the project interrupt the set objectives and dealing with such occurrences usually involves a lot of energy and it requires a lot of time and resources.

4.2 Results

The researcher interviewed five project managers responsible for the following MHC Housing Projects:

 Ngumbe Houses

 Kanjedza Police Houses


 Guliver (Area 49 – Lilongwe) Project

 MUST Staff Houses

4.2.1. Application of RM in Housing Projects by MHC



RM Application(%), Guliver Area 49,




RM Application(%)

RM Application(%)

MHC Projects R

M A p p l i c a t i o n ( %


The results were evident that the application of RM is highly dependent on the Project Manager responsible for MHC Project. The enforcement of the RM as a policy is not prevalent across the company.

4.2.2. Management Support

The following were the rating of the support received by the project managers from MHC Management in relation to the RM.






Management Support(%)

Management Support(%)

MHC Projects M

a n a g e m e n t S u p p o r t ( %



4.2.3. Risks Prevalent in MHC Housing Projects

Disaster; 55; 55%

Theft; 10; 10% Kwacha Fluctuation; 15; 15%

High Infation; 20; 20%

Risk Exposure(%)

Disaster Theft

Kwacha Fluctuation High Infation


MHC is therefore, poised to respond to the above mentioned risks in pursuit to enhancing the successful delivery of projects to the expectation of the stakeholders.



This chapter comprises of the various recommendations that the researcher has in relation to RM to the projects by MHC. The recommendations will aid MHC in having a risk based approach when it comes to implementing housing projects thereby determining success.

5.1 Recommendations

5.1.1 Organization-wide RM Orientation

MHC should ensure that every employee from senior management to the most junior employee understands or has knowledge of RM. This should be done through providing training and refresher courses on RM so that the management of risk should be embedded in the culture of the organization.

Once employees know about RM, the institution should come up with a Risk Management Policy. The Risk Management Policy should form part of the institutions governance structure. This is because the proper management of risk is a function of the leadership as they ensure that it is practiced throughout the institution.


5.1.2 Institution of RM Plan for every Project

Management must ensure that every project undertaken by the institution must have a risk management plan at the start of the project. Project Managers must be tasked with the responsibility of making sure that the plan is produced and abided to. This is because it is a blueprint that sets out the tactical methods that will be used when it comes to assessing the risk and all the other RM procedures that need to be undertaken.

5.1.3. RM should be part of the entire Project Life Cycle

Project Managers, should ensure that RM is practiced throughout the PLC of housing projects and that it is incorporated at the start of the project. At the start of every project, they must ensure that all the necessary information about the project is provided. Providing information at the start of the project helps counter risk because lack of information in a project creates uncertainty which breeds risk. From the information provided during the PLC, risks can be identified and once this happens, they must be registered in a risk register. Thus Project Managers must ensure that every project must have a risk register. These registers, should be displayed so that they are visible to everyone and all the risks must be recorded in the risk register as it is used for monitoring the risk. The risk register is a living document, meaning that it must be continuously updated as it is the document that is used to monitor and track the risk activities.

5.2. Conclusion



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