What are the differences between Risks and Issues?

What are the differences between Risks and Issues?


In traditional world of Project Management, many of us have used a RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Decisions) log, or some variation of it.  Even in Agile corporate environments we often encounter Risks and Issues logs at a project or program level.

I had a colleague ask me the other day what was the difference a Risk and and Issue. It’s an interesting question which has a surprisingly succinct answer.

Risk

A risk is an occurrence which could negatively impact the project.

Issue

An issue an occurrence that is negatively impacting the project.

 

So the key difference is time.  Risks are things that could possible happen in the future, whereas Issues are things that have already happened.  Another way of thinking about the two is that Issues are Risks which have actually occurred.

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