On Tuesday, I presented on “The Other Side of Risk” to my friends at PMI Olympia – our local chapter of the Project Management Institute. Lots of familiar faces – well, not lots, but enough – showed up to hear what I had to say. I told them that a perfect outcome for me would be if they left with some new ideas and I learned something. So, I think it went perfectly.
I rambled on a bit trying to cover too much ground. As I worked on my presentation over the couple of weeks preceding the big night, I kept refining it so it had a clearer theme. Since it was about “The Other Side of Risk” an obvious theme would be to find opportunities during risk management. I probably could have filled a comfortable 50 minute presentation with just that topic. That was part of the presentation, but I seem to always go for more. I got into different ways to present the idea of perfect outcomes and a perfect journey to get there. I added ways to understand perfection in a useful way, define perfect outcomes, turn risks into opportunities for perfect outcomes, and define perfect journeys to perfect outcomes so that the scope of the project includes all the stuff you need to do to get to perfect outcomes, not just deliver a product.
It made sense to me and I wanted to say all of it. The essential ingredient in finding what can go right on your project – finding opportunities – is to have a clear idea where you want to go and what would be a perfect outcome. So, I ponder how to stimulate ideas about and capture perfect outcomes. And, it’s not just enough to get to the perfect place, the journey should be as perfect as possible because we build capacity, strength, relationships, and experience from the journey that may have more value to the organization than the scope delivered by the project. But, you can’t have a perfect journey to a perfect outcome if you don’t define what that will take and include it in the scope of your project. Is that more than “The Other Side of Risk.” Probably is. Scope creep and a rambling presentation. Yup. But, still perfect. The audience was engaged, patient (thank goodness), and I learned a lot.
I really like thinking and talking about the “perfection” part of “The Other Side of Risk.” But, I think I learned during the presentation that it’s something that is hard to fit into “The Other Side of Risk” bucket. Gary, one of my patient colleagues at the presentation, caught me afterward and provided a thoughtful suggestion wrapped in praise. Canadians are good at that. He said that the title “The Other Side of Risk” didn’t really label what I was trying to say. Good point. I’m going to work on that.
The best part of the presentation for me was also the most uncomfortable. I threw in a case study. I asked each table to pick a project from a tablemate and talk about it’s objectives and challenges, and then consider perfect outcomes for the project. I didn’t make it too structured – I just wanted to see where it would go. I learned that it isn’t easy to talk about perfect outcomes. I observed most of the tables started to talk about problems they were encountering. Being good project managers, the tablemates went into problem solving mode – you could try this or that. Helpful, but I had to try to tactfully intervene and say “what if you restated the problem as a perfect outcome, what would it be?” At one table, the discussion was about a system being developed that had to be maintained and operated by the people who would be using it after the project. The owner was concerned that the development process wasn’t going to deliver that. I think the discussion went better when they started shifting the perfect outcome from the system to having confident and skilled users who were ready to maintain a useful system. Another table pointed out to me that it’s important to consider that there may be many perspectives on a project. A perfect outcome for one group may not be a perfect outcome for another. So, maybe in that case, the perfect outcome is to get all the parties to converge on a set of outcomes that works for all of them and can get done. It was instructive to see others try to use things that I was comfortable with but they weren’t. It’s easier to write than share and teach in person in an effective way.
Thanks to all of you who came to my presentation Tuesday. Tell me what stuck and what needs work. I will work on breaking “The Other Side of Risk” presentation into more clearly labeled and easily digestable bites. Maybe it could be a class.
Thanks for reading.
Copyright 2013 Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk”