Risky Business – dealing with Risk in a Risky World

Balance Personal RiskI’m always so inspired when friends take on the challenge of running a marathon doing an Ironman, taking on a Bikram Yoga 30 day challenge, or walking the 100km Oxfam trail, not just because of the incredible physical efforts required, but also the amount their personal lives need to change to accommodate the challenge. More time to train means less time doing other things like spending time with family, out at restaurants or watching movies. Giving up that time is a huge sacrifice. Choosing to do anything that takes considerable effort always means giving up something if you want to be successful.

Your Project – Your Marathon

A project is not a sprint. It is rarely a short amount of time with minimal impact on your life. I liken it more to a marathon – but not one of those road marathons with lots of drink stations. More of a trail run through the mountains with twists and turns and treacherous rocks and puddles. And mountain lions. Okay, I’m getting carried away, but you get the idea. But it got me thinking about risk, and how we can be limited in our thinking when planning for things that could go wrong. When taking on a new project, we spend considerable time brainstorming what could go wrong in the process of doing the project – i.e. from a project delivery perspective. And even from a bit of a “what could go wrong when we finish” perspective – i.e. operational risk. But how much time do we spend thinking about what could go wrong for us personally? What will we need to give up in order to ensure the project is successful?

As you will know, I have recently finished Chapter Two – Know your Why – and sent it out to my subscribers for review. In true Agile fashion, I had already started planning my next Chapter – Know your Risks, and while on holidays in Fiji I started to write the chapter. What jumped out to me immediately was how everyone looks at risk differently. Even the most risk averse people can miss seemingly obvious risks, and even the biggest risk takers can weigh up risk before they act. And when we think about risk, we all think about it from our own unique perspectives, based upon our experiences, knowledge etc.

I talk about the different types of risk, which I know is a little obvious to many of my learned subscribers. And the reason why I do is to highlight the type of risk that we don’t often face into, and in fact I only learned about properly in recent years, and that is personal risk. I first learned about it as a concept from my mentor, Rob Thomsett, and although it sounds a lot like common sense, it’s not commonly thought about…

Personal Risk

Without spoiling all the contents of the chapter, personal risk is the risk that you, the Project Manager, Change Manager, or simply the person involved in making something happen, faces personally as a result of the new endeavour. So, once you have brainstormed the project vision, understood the execution risks and any delivered risks, it’s worth taking some time and thinking about how this project might impact you personally. This will include your daily routines, your partner, your family, your pets, your hobbies – you get the idea. You see, for you to take on this new project that seems like an exciting new challenge, things in your life will need to change.

  • You may change work locations – Agile projects require the team to be co-located and that might require working somewhere else where there is office/desk/wall space.
  • You may need to work longer hours (at least initially).
  • You may need to work with different people you are not used to working with.

As a result of any of the above, you may need to reduce the time you spend with friends or family during the day or after work. Any one of the above may not result in an adverse impacts to you personally, however a combination might. It’s just food for thought. And like any good risk that is identified, how might you mitigate against it? Or avoid it all together?

What are some of the riskiest projects you have worked on from a personal perspective?



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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.