Risk and uncertainty

This category contains 51 posts

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

Feedback happens, whether we respond or not

The other day I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed, which on this occasion focused on “Platform capitalism”. This is the world of Uber, AirBnB, and TaskRabbit, in which the company in question acts as a broker between those able to offer a service and those seeking it. Being Thinking Allowed it focused … Continue reading

Specific risk guidance is troublesome

I’ve been (re)reading a bit about “risk appetite” again recently. Some of the reading includes messages saying it’s a confusing term, it’s a bad idea, or that it’s a good idea that’s really important to manage properly [pdf]. One of the things that occurred to me during this is that it’s actually very difficult to … Continue reading

Prefer a backlog to a scope

I was speaking to a colleague recently about how her teams were getting on, and she said, “I’m pleased that we’re talking more about prioritising a backlog, much less about what’s in scope. That’s really good.” And it is good news. It shows that the teams are thinking much less about a single large edifice … Continue reading

So you think elections, referendums and coin tosses are binary…?

I’ve argued before that we can act more constructively when we shift ourselves away from looking at things in binary terms. This is useful for managing uncertainty, describing risk, or just ensuring we don’t set ourselves up to fail. You can see some examples of things which look like black and white questions, but on … Continue reading