Tag Archives: risk

The one where four is quite enough

So I attended a conference about learning…yes, the one I wrote about yesterday. The company hosting the event develops simulations for learning (they’re called Ososim) and their Technical Wizard in Chief (this may not be his actual job title) stood up in the afternoon to talk about complexity with specific reference to software development.

I don’t mind admitting that when I heard what was coming I started to tune out and thought this may be an excellent opportunity to catch up with my work e-mail…until I started to actually pay attention.

He opened with an anecdote about aeroplanes which went something along the lines of, in the case of emergency what was the thing a Captain would want to hear from his 1st Officer – “Captain, we have a problem with engine 43”. The notion being that in an aircraft with 44 engines, a problem with one of them would be so insignificant as to not challenge the safety of the aircraft.

He then went on to debunk his own anecdote as he pointed out that in terms of risk and complexity an aircraft engine is pretty much as high as it gets and that going from the 2 or 4 that are standard to 44 would be adding exponential risk to the aircraft and the passengers thus defeating the point.

Can you guess on a scale of 1-10 how interested I am in the complexity of software development? The answer is an integer below 0. But…it did start the grey matter whirring about the notion that in protecting ourselves from risk often we add complexity that in fact increases the risk.

Stop for a moment and think about the last time you had any form of significant crisis involving HR in your organisation… What was the response?

I’ll bet you a pound that it involved a new process, a new policy, something that needed signing, a briefing, some form of sheep dip training… Am I close?

So you’ve introduced another control mechanism and responded to problem by reducing the empowerment your employees feel another notch and also created something that you can miss out on in the future thus creating more work (which may or may not  add value) for HR to obsess over.

I suppose my point here is if control is anything more than an illusion are we really trying to maintain it by introducing more complexity and more process which actually serve to hinder the organisation and it’s employees? Go into your organisation today (or tomorrow) and look at the policies and procedures you have and to each one ask, “is this the 43rd engine?” – you may find yourself building a different type of aircraft.


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The one with a target on my back

Last November I went to the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester, in fact I’m going again this year but last year I was there purely as a blogger and was at the time not gainfully employed. I wrote a post at the time about people’s reactions to me given the lack of weighty job title. If you remember it…ummmm….well done! For the rest of you, you can find it here

Since getting stuck into my new role I have called some of ‘The Usual Suspects’ who will hopefully be doing some work for me and likewise some people have taken the opportunity to give themselves 6-9 months off from keeping in touch but have rediscovered their interest in communicating with me – for the life of me I can’t think why…

Having said that this isn’t a whinge about people wanting to contact someone who can spend money with their businesses (well not completely) but I wanted to make two points that for some of you will have you nodding your head and for others maybe an insight into the people you are pitching.

1. It’s been said before and it’ll be said again – networking is mutual, it shouldn’t be all one way. Don’t make contact just to sell, develop a relationship with the individual and maybe, just maybe something will come of it. If most people are like me then they look after ‘The Usual Suspects’ not just in their own organisations but with referrals and recommendations to friends and colleagues.

2. Introducing a new supplier to an organisation is not as easy as having a meeting, signing a purchase order and agreeing the work. ‘Landing’ a new supplier requires influencing the organisation that they are the correct people for the job, are credible and are better than the alternative/the incumbent. That requires two things on behalf of the person who may be your client – taking a risk and spending some personal collateral. They are staking part of their organisational credibility on you and they are likely having to use some of their collateral in persuading the other stakeholders to go with you. They are far more likely to do this for a) people they know and b) people they feel have a vested interest in something longer term than their next deal.



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The one with 3 years salary

I don’t sleep very well. Actually, that’s not true – once I get to sleep I am world class at it, but I don’t find it easy getting to sleep. I think (and there’s your first problem) that there are numerous reasons for this the primary amongst them is I don’t switch off easily…

Sometime in the late 90s before broadband and Twitter and numerous other distractions I used to watch TV to pass the time. Late night TV then (as now) was not of the highest quality but before Sky + and a gazillion channels, I watched what was on – which was often ‘Late Night Poker’.

I had never seen “No Limits Hold ‘Em” before and had only played more traditional forms of Poker. I was fascinated with this new variant and being able to see what the players had in their hands, the shared river cards and the game strategy and betting behaviour this drove. If you have no idea what I am talking about watch “Casino Royale” that’s Texas Hold ‘Em.

The thing that amazed me was this notion of going “all in”. The idea that you could bet everything on a single hand and that the show of strength was either an indicator you had an amazing hand or the biggest bluff on the planet but it often worked – either way. Watching the players who were ‘short stacked’ (low on chips) who had limited opportunity for tactical betting but had to wait for a half way decent hand and then bet it all.

I read a blog this afternoon by Kate Griffiths-Lambeth who talked about the state of the global economy (borked) and the behaviour that it drove in business. She made some excellent points and discussed the difference between being risk astute and risk averse. The latter generating behaviour of arse covering, constantly shifting sands and a form of organisational inertia as everyone waits for the next u-turn.

It took me back to a conversation I had recently with 2 senior people (one a colleague of mine, the other a contact of his) regarding the safe playing that is happening in organisations and what it would take to move that on. Given this conversation happened later in the evening and a we had already sailed past the 5 beer mark the conversation was more ummmm wide ranging than may normally have happened but out of it came a random idea…

What if you took the leadership team of a business – say the top 30 people in the organisation and said to them that they had 3 years salary in escrow. The organisation didn’t own the money anymore but they didn’t have it yet either. Whatever happened they would either be fired at some point in the future or make it to the 3 year mark but what proportion of the money remained on the day they were dismissed it was theirs to keep (I told you it was random).

  • What behaviour would that generate in the leadership of the business?

I could speculate (but not go all in!!) but I don’t want to. I just want to let that thought sit there for a moment. I know it would generate some good behaviours and some bad and that would need managing but how different would the leadership be? Would they go “all in” or keep tactical betting and arse covering?

I’m going to leave it there but before I do I just want to ask a concluding question…

  • How could a business create that behaviour in its leadership without putting several million pounds in escrow?

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