By Conrado Morlan
In a previous post, “The Impact of Unforeseen Risks,” I described how two major events have impacted projects I’ve lead in the past: the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010 and Fidel Castro’s death in 2016.
Many project professionals don’t include unforeseeable circumstances in their risk log, unless their projects are being executed in an area where natural and unavoidable catastrophes are known to occur. Due to the dynamics of geopolitical events, they may not be included during the initial risk identification process. As the project progresses, however, the risk log should be updated to identify the impact of these risks on project progress and the enterprise as a whole.
Risk management strategies help project management practitioners forecast and evaluate risk, while also identifying ways to avoid or minimize their impact on desired project outcomes.
Conducting SWOT on COVID-19
Late last year, news of a novel illness affecting a city in China failed to capture the attention of most people and businesses around the world; many thought the impact would be similar to SARS or swine flu—a blip on the breaking news radar and no real threat to the global economy. They were wrong.
Many organizations failed to consider the COVID-19 outbreak an enterprise risk and continued their business-as-usual operations. Around mid-February, I met with colleagues and friends who work in the telecommunications industry, and they expressed their concerns about how their projects would be impacted if the factories in China that produce the electronics needed for their work shut down. They wondered if that would break an important link in their supply chain and if it would jeopardize the final delivery of their projects.
Those in the telecommunications industry were not alone. Supply chains in multiple industries have strong ties to China. By the time they were primed to react, the risk was already an issue and without the procedures to avoid or minimize the impact, industries and countries were facing a pandemic with no plan in place.
Sharing enterprise risks identified during the planning and strategic phases of a project isn’t always a common practice within organizations. But not being aware of such risks has a direct impact on project success, and important assumptions may not be considered for the projects and programs that lie ahead.
People in charge of developing the multi-year strategy at an enterprise can use SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis to identify potential risks. This analysis uses a matrix, in which the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are listed and prioritized.
The SWOT matrix can be evaluated and updated as the enterprise strategy is reviewed or on an ad hoc basis. Moreover, threats identified during the SWOT analysis may have an associated opportunity. For example, in the event that the plant producing vital electronics in China shuts down, it will impact the supply chain. An opportunity to avoid that threat would be identifying another country where the vital electronics could be produced in order to reduce supply chain disruptions.
As we’ve learned, the importance of communicating the risk identified by the enterprise risk management process needs to be shared with business units to achieve strategic alignment and empower teams to achieve strategic objectives.
As a project professional, how do you interact with the strategic team within your organization to learn about enterprise risk?
by Cyndee Miller
The rogue monkey gets the banana. Researchers first made the discovery in the late 1970s, but the lesson remains for project leaders looking to keep pace with disruption.
Let’s peel this one back: In Jamil Qureshi’s opening keynote at PMI EMEA Congress in Dublin, Ireland, he told the tale of one monkey that chose not to believe the evidence put forth by its monkey colleagues that came before. It questioned the bias of its environment, adjusted its mindset—and was rewarded for its defiance. Seeing any parallels?
“I cannot tell you the value of a rogue monkey in your organization,” said Mr. Qureshi, a psychologist and performance coach. “Every single thing worth having on this earth has come from rogue monkey thinking.”
The greatest inhibitor to human performance, Mr. Qureshi said, is a steadfast adherence to our belief systems. (We all have them. Trust me, you’re no magical exception.) “We prove ourselves right even when we’re wrong, and that’s the problem.”
We must be willing to change the way we think. It’s the foundation of our decision-making process. “We think, we feel and then we act,” he said.
Hold off on the grand gestures, though.
“Proving ourselves as leaders is not about doing something dramatic. It’s about doing something a little bit more, more consistently,” said Mr. Qureshi. True leaders look inward, find what they already do well—and do more of it.
None of this will go very far without proper motivation, however. We’re drawn toward our most dominant thoughts, he says. And if those thoughts sound like “don’t fail” …? Um, we’re in trouble—our subconscious will only hear “fail.”
“People who are truly disruptive are motivated by what they seek to achieve, not by what they seek to avoid,” he said.
That’s how you move teams “from transactional to transformational.” The really bold ideas come from making the connection between two previously unconnected things. Look at PayPal, Spotify or Skype. “It took someone outside the sectors to give us what we wanted,” said Mr. Qureshi. Too often, companies and project teams are bad at being different—but the future demands it. “The only way to stay future relevant and future literate is to think about what the customer is valuing all the time, not what we wish to sell.”
So, are you ready to go rogue?