Projects Are Inherently Risky Business
One of the most important responsibilities of a project manager, according to veteran senior project manager Tom Kendrick, is to identify and manage the variety of risks associated with the project. Kendrick is the author of Identifying and Managing Project Risk: Essential Tools for Failure-Proofing Your Project, which is now in its third edition. Detailed, well-organized and comprehensive, Identifying and Managing Project Risk takes you through the planning, assessment and responses required for any kind of project of any size.
For the past 20 years, Kendrick has been collecting anonymous data on project problems from hundreds of project leaders. From this database, Kendrick has identified the three types of project risks encountered by project managers, based on their root causes: scope, schedule and resources.
Scope risk occurs either in the form of changes to the scope or what the author calls defects — in other words, not being able to deliver what is expected. Schedule risk can either be 1) delays, 2) faulty estimates of the time required to accomplish the activities of the project or 3) slippage due to factors outside the project. Problems with people, external staff and/or money are the causes of resource risks.
In the first half of the book, Kendrick focuses on identifying these three types of project risks. For scope risks, for example, he suggests
- Clearly defining project deliverables, noting the challenges.
- Setting limits on the project based on the value of the deliverables.
- Breaking down the project into small pieces.
- Assigning ownership for all project work.
- Noting any risk that might arise from the expected project duration or complexity.
In the second half of the book, he focuses on risk assessment (including qualitative and quantitative analyses) and responses to risks at both the different activity levels and at the overall project level.
For example, he sets down the following rules for managing activity risks:
- Determine root causes.
- Avoid, mitigate or transfer risks whenever feasible.
- Develop contingency plans for the remaining risks.
- Document risk plans, and keep the data visible.
- Monitor all risks in your risk register.
- “Thirty grams of prevention is worth half a kilogram of cure (approximately).”
Documenting risk plans is accomplished through a detailed listing of all risks that includes information such as a description of the risk, the owner of the risk, activities impacted by the risk, quantitative and qualitative risk-analysis results, proposed risk response actions, risk triggers, residual risk exposure and contingency plans.
Lessons from the Panama Canal
An entertaining and illuminating feature of the book is the story of the building of the Panama Canal, which Kendrick uses as the thread tying all the steps together. Thus, each chapter ends with an evocative story or stories from the Panama Canal project that illustrate the lessons of the chapter.
The building of the Panama Canal is one of the great engineering achievements, although perhaps underrated today. Kendrick shows how the leaders of the project, notably John Stevens and General George Washington Goethals, were able to complete the Panama Canal by following the same processes as described in his methodology. After Roosevelt’s first project manager resigned, declaring that building the canal was a mistake, Stevens arrived and immediately set about pinning down the scope of the project. Stevens “determined exactly how the canal should be built, to the smallest detail,” Kendrick writes. “The United States would build an 80-kilometer lock-and-dam canal … with a budget of U.S. $375 million, to open in 1915. With the scope defined, the path forward became clear.”
At 400 pages, Identifying and Managing Project Risk is not a quick read. But as Kendrick shows, anyone in a hurry should not be managing projects to begin with. Undoubtedly, they will follow in the footsteps of de Lesseps and avoid the rigorous risk planning required to successfully bring any project to fruition.
Ann Herrmann-Nehdi is CEO of Herrmann International and co-author of The Whole Brain® Business Book, Second Edition (McGraw-Hill).
What’s the most effective leadership style?
OK, it’s a trick question.
There is no “one size fits all” style. Leadership is personal; it’s individual. The best leaders aren’t trying to be someone they’re not or to force-fit themselves into a prescribed mold. They understand their own style—who they are—and they’ve learned how to leverage it.
But regardless of personal leadership styles, our research has shown that there are some commonalities among the most effective leaders. Especially in a business world that’s as complex and fluid as today’s, we’ve found that being a successful leader requires Whole Brain® Thinking.
This means understanding how you prefer to think as well as what your mental “blind spots” are. It’s also about having the agility to stretch outside your thinking comfort zones when the situation requires it.
The great thing about the brain is that you have access to all of it. So while I may prefer conceptual thinking over structured approaches, that doesn’t mean I can’t focus in on detailed action items. It does, however, take conscious awareness, motivation, and effort. And most of the time, we’re pretty unconscious about our thinking.
To get more conscious about thinking so you can become a more effective leader, start with these quick tips:
- Understand all the brainpower that’s available. Being whole-brained isn’t just about your own thinking; it’s also about recognizing who can supplement your strengths when the situation requires it (and then listening to them!). Know the people around you, and bring in the complementary thinking you need to see all contingencies and aspects of an issue.
- Make thinking a priority. Our culture is focused on “do, do, do,” to the point where thinking is often viewed as a luxury. But it’s your job to think, and you can’t run on autopilot when the landscape is constantly changing. Own, schedule, and protect your thinking time, as well as the thinking time for those you lead.
- Play to people’s strengths. When employees are disengaged and burned out because their jobs don’t match their thinking preferences, it can cost the company millions. Tools like the HBDI® Assessment can be used to understand not only the person’s preferences, but also the mental requirements of a particular job. This is valuable information for talent alignment and coaching/performance support discussions.
- Escape your thinking confines. It’s easy to get contaminated by your industry or organizational mindset. To be more strategic and innovative, you have to make a point to regularly escape this narrow view. Read about industries that have nothing to do with yours, attend different conferences, network widely. If you don’t look outside, you risk getting caught off-guard.
You can hire experts in finance and lean and technology. What you can’t hire is your own ability to think critically, creatively, and strategically, to think visually, intuitively, and globally—to be able to project your leadership out into the future. Get conscious about your thinking by exercising Whole Brain® leadership daily.
Learn more about Whole Brain Thinking at our upcoming webinar with Ann Herrmann-Nehdi: Unlock the Power of Whole Brain Thinking.
So often, we are limited by our own perspective, our own way of looking at business and life. It is no small challenge to break out of this narrow mindset in order to gain the perspective of our colleagues, employees and customers – but it can mean the difference between success and failure.
We have invited two authors to join us next week to help us break through the limitations of our thinking. On August 4th Ann Herrmann-Nehdi will introduce the concept of whole-brain thinking, and then on August 6th Bernard Mayer will provide a new perspective on conflict resolution.
Unlock the Power of Whole Brain Thinking – Ann Herrmann-Nehdi
Filled with real-world examples and essential charts, exercises, action steps, and strategies, this Soundview Live webinar shows you how to rethink your business, prepare for the future, realign your goals, and reinvigorate your team — by putting your whole brain to work.
Taking Conflict to a More Productive Place – Bernard Mayer
In this Soundview Live webinar Bernard Mayer outlines seven major dilemmas that conflict practitioners face every day. Participants will find expert guidance toward getting to the heart of the conflict and will be challenged to adopt a new way to think about the choices disputants face. They will also be offered practical tools and techniques for more successful intervention. Using stories, experiences, and reflective exercises to bring these concepts to life, Mayer provides actionable advice for overcoming roadblocks to effective conflict work.
As always, these webinar are free for subscribers. And if you’re not yet a subscriber, you can Subscribe to our Online Edition for what it would cost for just these two events, and receive our summaries and a year of weekly webinars.
Are your people giving in instead of giving their all? Have they quit, but stayed? Probably. According to a shocking Gallup poll, more than seven out of 10 American workers are disengaged, which hurts productivity, products and personal satisfaction. In fact, one in five are more committed to not doing their jobs than doing them.
In Make It Matter, Scott Mautz shows that the key to winning back the disengaged (and keeping the engaged, engaged) is by fostering meaning at work, that is, by giving work a greater sense of personal significance and, thus, making work matter. Distilling reams of research, case studies, stories and interviews with managers at great companies to work for, he unveils seven essential “Markers of Meaning” that can be triggered to create meaning in and at work.
He offers dozens of tools and specific plans to get your people to better commit and enjoy work as part of their lives, not an eight-hour departure from them. He also demonstrates how meaning starts with managers because if you’re not committed, no one else will be either. Most important, he draws a solid line from elevated meaning to higher profits, revenue growth and retention.
IN THIS SUMMARY, YOU WILL LEARN
• Direction: Reframe work to add meaning and motivation, and help people discover a sense of significance and purpose in what they do.
• Discovery: Craft the richest kind of opportunities to learn, grow and influence, while helping people feel valued and valuable.
• Devotion: Cultivate an authentic, caring culture, master meaning-making leadership behaviors and drive out corrosive behaviors that can quietly and unknowingly drain meaning at work.
Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.
BEST-SELLER DEFIES ITS AGE
Thirty-five years after the publication of the original book, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson have published an updated edition of their phenomenal bestseller, The One Minute Manager. Much has changed in the past three-and-a-half decades, notably the near-unanimous agreement that top-down command-and-control management is counterproductive and that work is no longer just a paycheck for employees but must, instead, be a source of fulfillment and purpose. Yet, despite the overstated promise of a “new” third secret, readers will finish this updated edition, called The New One Minute Manager, with a renewed appreciation of the foresight and modernity of the original book. For despite radical changes of attitudes and priorities in the workplace, the core ideas of The One Minute Manager still hold true.
As in the original edition, the new edition tells the story of a young man who seeks out a great manager of whom he has heard. This great manager introduces him to his core managing philosophy that “people who feel good about themselves produce good results.”
The young man then goes on to talk with three lower-level managers on the great manager’s team who explain the three secrets of one-minute management. The first manager describes the first secret, which is the setting of one-minute goals — three to five succinctly formulated goals (readable in one minute) tied to the key areas of responsibility. The second manager describes one-minute praises, the second secret of one-minute management. The concept of one-minute praises is encapsulated in the highlighted phrase, unchanged from the first edition, “Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.” One-minute praises must be immediate and specific, followed by an encouragement to do more of the same.
The new edition diverges slightly from the original edition with the third secret of one-minute management. In the original edition, the third secret was a one-minute reprimand. The manager would tell employees who made a mistake exactly what mistake they made and how disappointed he was with them for making the mistake. At the same time, the one-minute manager would explain that he had a problem with the specific mistake, not with them, and that he still valued them.
In the new edition, the one-minute reprimand has become the one-minute redirect. The third secret still concerns responding to a mistake and follows a similar path: The manager confirms with the employee the facts of the mistake, expresses how he or she feels about the mistake and then pauses to give time for the employee to think about the mistake. In the original edition, the purpose of the pause was to create “a few seconds of uncomfortable silence to let them feel how you feel.” In the new edition, the pause’s purpose is “to allow people time to feel concerned about what they’ve done.” Both the reprimand and redirect end with the same expression of concern about the specific mistake and not the person, and the manager reaffirming his or her trust in that person.
The true value in this new edition is found in the stylistic changes that help the book shake its age. The characters are no longer Mr. Trenell and Ms. Brown, but Paul and Teresa. The secretary, Ms. Metcalfe is now the assistant Courtney, and she does not bring in a list of names to her boss at his intercom’d request; he prints out the list himself from his computer.
While these changes may seem cosmetic, they are important in conveying the relevance of Blanchard’s and Johnson’s classic propositions to today’s workplace. For example, the one-minute manager’s aggressiveness toward the visitor in the original would be shocking today; the new one-minute manager is firm but not impolite. In the original conversation, the one-minute manager tells the visitor, “You have asked me not once but twice to make a simple decision for you. Frankly, young man, I find that annoying. Do not ask me to repeat myself. Either pick a name and get started, or take your search for effective management elsewhere.” This entire quote is deleted from the conversation in the new edition, and for good reason.
The original ideas in The One Minute Manager stand up to time, a tribute to their value. The New One Minute Manager offers these ideas without the distraction of dated terms and social conventions, thus ensuring that they will resonate with a new generation of fans.
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