Risk and uncertainty

This category contains 45 posts

What does it mean to “manage” risk?

What do we mean when we say we need to “manage” risk, or “manage” a risk? I’m not talking about financial risk, which is a world of mathematical models and algorithms. I mean project risk or enterprise risk, which typically manifests itself in risk workshops, risk registers, mitigation actions, and regular discussion of “risks” either … Continue reading

More answers are available than we might think

We’re often faced with decisions that seem outside our area of expertise. Last week I met some founders on the Emerge.Education programme and one of them gave an example of this: her company was considering changing from content management system A to content management system B. It seemed like a big step, and while her … Continue reading

When certainty is absent

Among all the noise about Brexit, one line I keep hearing is that “businesses need certainty”. We can read this message from the British Chambers of Commerce, from the Confederation of British Industry, and it’s a message the Chancellor has repeated, too. Undoubtedly certainty is helpful. But those who run businesses deal with uncertainty all … Continue reading

Avoiding the unexpected

Earlier this year I was involved in a talk led by Gayatri Kamath in which she discussed a serious incident at the Apollo Theatre in London in 2013. A large number of people were injured after part of the building collapsed due to water build-up in the plaster. On speaking to one of those with … Continue reading

An example of seeing through the rules

The other day I heard a memorable, if short, tale about Emmanuel Macron. It recounts that as a student he auditioned for the school play, but didn’t get the part he wanted. His response was start his own drama group. I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s not the point. It’s a neat example … Continue reading

The multiple dimensions of “the best deal for Britain”

When assessing a goal or an uncertain situation it’s often useful to see if it has multiple dimensions. A very good example is from Theresa May’s disastrous election campaign when she asked the electorate to help her get “the best deal for Britain” in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. I’ve previously made a lot of the … Continue reading

Measuring the impact of our activity

When we measure our progress there are—by some perspective—three kinds of things we might be measuring. The most immediate things to measure is our activity: Are we doing what we said we would do, and at the rate at which we said we’d do it? This is about measuring ourselves against our plan and is … Continue reading

Project management is about managing the unexpected

There’s a snappier title for this blog post, but it’s not mine. It comes from Tim Lister, who says: “Risk management is project management for grown-ups”. This is in his book, co-authored with Tom DeMarco, and also the title of his 2014 QCon London presentation. And maybe that’s all there is to say… but the … Continue reading

Risk isn’t really linear

It’s easy to talk about things which are “higher risk” and “lower risk”… and most of the time it’s appropriate. Last week Tom Loosemore used the idea well, and I’m sure we’ve all used that concept at one time or another. But we should be aware that risk (or “uncertainty”, if we’re to include positive … Continue reading

Why did the risk manager cross the road? (Or: let’s stop seeking risk)

The death this weekend of climber Ueli Steck generated not just tributes from fellow climbers, but also discussion in the media of risk taking, and whether taking risk was part of the enjoyment of climbing. It reminded me of two things: (i) a discussion on Radio 4 with a researcher who has looked specifically at … Continue reading