Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Gambling leadership

Every [leader] is a gambler
Admiral John McCain 
 (the senator's father)
Admiral Halsey's air commander, WW II in the Pacific

And, so what do we make of that idea?*
  • To exert leadership, do we layer a propensity to gamble on top of the usual uncertainty that goes along with projects? Is it additive, or compounding?
  • As a gambler, should we expect certain rules to apply ... as in poker?
  • Should we put aside reserves since "the house always wins ... in the long run"**
  • What if we are naturally risk averse ... can we be an effective leader nonetheless?
  • Are managers just leaders who are not gamblers? (Ouch! if you're a manager)
To the first point, it's situational, but certainly risks compound, though you won't see that in a traditional risk impact-likelihood matrix which considers each risk independently. Compounding makes risk management in the real situation much more an "adult" manager's task
To the second point: No! The rules that govern probability examples in textbooks and games in the casino don't really apply to project management. Why? Because in projects, coins aren't fair (see: politics), they have more than two sides, and projects are not stationary over long periods (see: stuff happens!)
To the third point: "It's reserves, stupid!". Of course you need reserves. If you need an explanation, you're really not managing a project, you're hoping
To the fourth point: That's actually hard. Yes, some can adopt a "professional" risk profile different from their natural profile, but it's exhausting and hard to maintain over time
And, to the last point: Not exactly. See the fourth point.

*Admiral Halsey, as a WWII Pacific fleet commander, was perhaps the greatest naval gambler America had -- he even gambled with typhoons; and, he lost his share of bets
**The Las Vegas strip is financed by losers

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