Saturday, April 30, 2016

Two doors and the risk manager


A narrative*

Imagine two doors to the same room: One labeled risk manager; the other labeled decision maker.
Though the risk manager's door, entry is for the inductive thinker: facts looking for a generality or integrating narrative
Through the decision maker's door, entry is for the deductive thinker: visionary with a need to connect specifics to the vision

And, consider this:
  • Pessimists with facts enter through the risk manager's door
  • Optimists with business-as-we-want-it enter through the decision maker's door
Then what happens?
Each needs to find the other. In the best of situations, they meet in the middle of the room where this is buffer space and flexibility.

How does the inductive and deductive interact?
Risk management does not set policy for the project office; it only sets the left and right hand boundaries for the vision, or for the project policies.
The space in between is where the decision maker gets to do their envisioning, moving about, perhaps even bouncing off the walls, constrained only by the risk boundaries.


Sound familiar? I hope so. You'll find a similar explanation known as the "project balance sheet" in Chapter 6 of "Maximizing Project Value: A project manager's guide". (Oh -- the book cover is shown below!)

In that balance sheet metaphor, the right side is for the fact-based inductive manager; the left side is for the visionary. And, since those two never agree fully, there is a gap.

And the gap is where the risk is. Risk is the balancing element between the vision and the facts. And who is the risk manager: the project team -- not the visionary. (That's why we pay the PMO the big bucks: to manage the risk!)

*This narrative adapted from "Playing to the Edge", pg 428


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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Action and effort



"[There is] a critical balance that any organization has to manage -- the balance between freedom of action for the parts and unity of effort for the whole.
Too little autonomy for the parts leads to inaction, inflexibility, hesitation, and lost opportunities.
Too little unity of effort means that individual [organizational] achievement is not synchronized, exploited, or leveraged"
General Michael Hayden
"Playing to the Edge"

Although he didn't say it as such, Hayden was very close to the Principle of Subsidiarity when he spoke of autonomy for the parts, and he was speaking like a system engineer when he spoke of unity of effort of the whole, especially the recognition that sequencing, phasing, and complimentary interaction -- without setting off chaotic responses -- is essential for getting the most out of the parts arranged as a system.



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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Right or wrong; inclusion or exclusion


Sometimes it's about being right or wrong; but often it's about the fear of being excluded.
Thus, right or wrong gives way to the need and desire for inclusion -- having inside influence -- thus to avoid the hell of exclusion.

Paraphrased from the comments of 
David Brooks in an TV interview with Charlie Rose, March 2016

Of course, the unsaid thing is that the principles behind being "right" might be compromised on the altar of "inclusion".

Sometimes, the isolation of being "right" is overwhelming. It takes a special type to handle the outsider's role.

Sometimes, there's really no other choice.



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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The evolution of cost management


  • In the beginning, cost often matters most*: the greatest amount at stake and the most politically sensitive parameter understandable by all, specialists and lay persons alike
  • In the middle, cost often takes a comparable priority to function; function has been promised and people have begun to count on it; there's less cost remaining at stake
  • In the end, cost is set aside as the schedule and function dominate. Success in a functional sense takes on a political priority ... functional failure is easiest to measure and has the longest effect on reputation
* Especially if the project is publically funded with taxpayer dollars.


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Monday, April 18, 2016

"Yes is where the risk is"



General Michael Hayden, now retired, writes in his book* about his years as Director, NSA and Director, CIA that in government -- and likely all of elsewhere:
"Yes is where the risk is"

The meaning is straightforward: the safe thing is to just say No. In fact, it seems that in government particularly that the "staffers" main job is to protect their "principals" by saying No. "No" becomes the default; too easily automatic.

In effect: anyone can say No and gum up the works; few can say Yes, and fewer can Yes and make it stick.

But regarding the risk of "Yes", Hayden's point is well taken: to reach out, to lean forward, to make a difference, to add value .... at some point you are going to have to say "Yes", or insist that your principal say "Yes". At that point, risk arises!

Of course, the theme of Hayden's book is: Use all the space given to you. Play to the edge; just don't cross the chalk line. And, if you do play to maximize your space, then heads up! You'll be challenged by those that want to make your space smaller.


Did I mention: Your performance is on the line! (Don't screw this up)


* "Playing to the Edge", pg 121


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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Political skills



Political skills: "The ability to manage the emotions of others"
David Brooks, political commentator
If your project is political or your organization or customer is political, think of Brooks' assertion: it's about manipulating your emotions.

Thus, if you want to participate as a political contributor, that is a skill you'll need.

But, if you want to be immune to the politics, then you'd better acquire bullet proofing for you emotions.



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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Procrastination (See: manage slack)


Are you a procrastinator?
Do you manage schedule?
Do you think of yourself as a risk manager? Do you understand the concept of schedule buffers and the critical chain methodology?

Then, you'll understand that handling your tendency to put things off, and managing slack and schedule buffers are not that much different.

In fact, what I see most of the time is managers wasting slack by doing a "latest start". At the other end, they've got no buffer or slack to work with. That is all wrong. In spite of the risk of incomplete information, getting over the inertia of getting started and getting going on addressing the issues that will inevitably arise is paramount.

So, if you need some help on this, this humorous video is for you!
 


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