Risk and uncertainty

This category contains 70 posts

Requirements are entangled with design

The other day I was having a conversation with someone about requirements and software design. We had a description for a small system, and I was saying “this is the design; this is how we should implement it.” He had a different point of view, and was saying “These are requirements; we are free to … Continue reading

Are things outside your control? Think again

Some time ago I was involved in a practical example of shifting a team’s approach from a fatalistic “what’s going to happen is going to happen” to something more practical. Many people do believe we cannot influence many situations or plan for the unexpected, but I think that’s mistaken. One way to manage difficult situations … Continue reading

Measure without numbers

I was in a meeting a while back discussing the introduction of new key performance indicators (KPIs) for a team. The group was understandably cautious about what we might be letting ourselves in for, and were keen to explore the options. One participant said, “We should be open to the idea that we might not … Continue reading

Moving from subjective to objective discussions

I often work with product teams who have conversations—sometimes very difficult ones with stakeholders—that are full of unstated assumptions, subjectivity, and a lot of unsubstantiated “I think…” comments. For a startup with few people the conversations aren’t often difficult, but poor subjective judgements can sink the company. For larger organisations with a product team and … Continue reading

Good relationships help manage uncertainty

I was very interested to listen to a recent episode of The Bottom Line on Radio 4, on Dealing with Uncertainty. These kinds of discussions are necessarily high level, but are conducted with practitioners, so always offer a bit of colour with the insight. One memorable thing for me was something said by Sandra Bell … Continue reading

Prioritising hypothesis tests

A little while ago I was working with a team that had a lot of user research to do. Naturally, we only had limited time, so we needed to decide how to prioritise our work. This is how we did it. First of all we wrote out all the ideas we wanted to examine. Some … Continue reading

Eliminating uncertainty can be excessive

We sometimes think we want to eliminate uncertainty. Clarity is helpful in our projects and in our businesses. When I listen to discussions about Brexit (today’s status: approaching the leave date without knowing what will happen then) we hear about businesses wanting certainty. All this is fine, but in fact that’s not always strictly true. … Continue reading

Avoid hostage situations when refactoring

Last week I talked about refactoring and the need—throughout that process—to still be able to deploy frequently. What I did not explain was why it was important to still be able to deploy frequently, and that was a bit of an omission, because we shouldn’t take these kinds of mantras lightly. The reason is to … Continue reading

The Stoic’s guide to risk management

One of the things that first got me thinking more constructively about risk management was the problem of how to best deal with risk and uncertainty. In 2014 I wrote about how to think about risk differently, which led to finding better ways to deal with it. Since then I’ve written about creating opportunities, seeking … Continue reading

An example of risk not being a point

I’ve written before about not regarding uncertainty and risk as things with a single probability and a single measure of impact. I called these “point risks”, as such a fictitious event sits at a single point on a chart. Now I’m happy to learn that a paper entitled “Cost of Data Breach Study”, by Ponemon … Continue reading