Risk II: Why you struggle to understand risk?

Hopefully there are some people who have taken mild offence to the title of this post. Thinking, well I understand risk of course I do, I am a smart individual you takes control of my life, I understand risk.

Really, really, are you sure? So you’ve never done any of these things:

  • Got nervous when a plane you are in experiences turbulence.
  • Waited for water to warm up before washing your hands.
  • Rode a bicycle without a helmet, but you did wear gloves.

The point I am making is this, if you have done any of these three things you are struggling to manage risk. Most planes experience turbulence and the drive to the airport is statistically more dangerous than the plane journey. Warm water makes no difference to the germs left on your hands when you wash them – it’s the soap and the vigor with which you scrub (it takes water at 80 centigrade to start killing germs, this is way to hot for you – DO NOT TRY IT). And lastly riding a bicycle without a helmet but wearing gloves – hands might be saved from a nasty scrape but your head is a whole lot more fragile.

You struggle because it is personal. Risk to you, yourself, people or things you care about is hard to judge. It’s tough to be objective.

That is why I join others in pressing for a process for risk management. See Risk I for the start of that process. Objective classification of risk following some guide lines is essential.

So hopefully you are prepared to acknowledge your failings as a risk manager and in the next post on the subject I will explore ways to build up your risk management skills and explore your appetite for danger.

Work Management I: You, yourself and them

Very specifically this post is not about Time Management.

Unless were are messing about with rather high speeds Time should be considered as something that moves along just fine without us and it’s certainly not something to manage.

Work on the other hand. It uses up time and is very manageable.

The excellent Seven Habits of Highly Effective People explains with eloquence and a passion to which I can only aspire how Time/Work Management can be assessed. I offer my thing based alternative to aid this post and discussion.

work-management-diagrams

The principle behind this matrix is simple to explain. Make sure you spend time (it’s a resource you know?) working on things that are in the top two boxes.

Life happens, placing you in the top left quadrant.

This is fine so long as you don’t spend too much time there.

Spending time in the top right is good. Providing you clear the emergencies and crises and get back to working in this area the number of emergencies will reduce.

Now clearly the bottom right is a bad place, avoid it.

While the bottom left takes some discipline to avoid.

Consider these examples:

  • Email notification pops up
  • Phone rings
  • Some one comes to you wanting to discuss a thing

What your the reaction?

If you stop what you were working on you have just reduced your task efficiency. But if you were down in the bottom right perhaps this interruption has just stopped you wasting more time?

Think back, or imagine, 1996 and a small company. Email was dial-up, faxes were logged and still a key form of communication, and phones went through an office manager.

Compare this to 2016, a small company. Email is everywhere including personal email, faxes have gone and people regularly take calls while in meetings.


So here’s my recommendation – manage time by time travelling.


Channel the wonders of 1996, email that was checked when you were ready. Phone calls with a filter. Meeting protocols observed and respected.

You can leave the faxes but try these other steps and watch yourself begin to manage your work/time effectively.


Application of this simple structure can be useful when working with other people in an organization. As colleague, mentor or supervisor help review where people are spending their time.

Simply review this plot with people and ask them to keep a log of their working week and then take the time to review that record.

Think of the value you have just created in this simple top right quadrant activity. You’ve helped a person assess their time expenditure and given them the tools to make a positive change – or the granted them the confidence that they are working in a balanced and effective way.


So DeLorean free time travel that can change your working life, not bad for four hundred and seventy two words.

People I: The Basics

It has been stated many times that people make any organization. People define the organizations culture. People delivery on an organization’s goals. People deliver success or not. Finally people spend time working for an organization.

People commit.

Some don’t, but many do. This is where the challenge starts for both the individual and the organization.

I will discuss lack of commitment in later posts but for now let us stay with the committed.

In case you haven’t come across it before I’d suggest taking a few minutes to consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Very quickly you will see that people seek to fulfill some of these needs by joining organizations; companies, clubs, societies and associations. These commitments ALL come with one thing. Expectations.

These expectations will relate in some way to the “Needs” of the people.

The implication of this basic step should be significant for both the people making commitments and those running, managing or leading the organizations.

Firstly it’s a good thing. We all have a very simple method and basis to understand what people want from an organization and what the organization is providing to the people. Secondly by looking to the expectations of those people you will quickly, even if you’re not a people person, be able to understand potential reasons people are happy or not. Thirdly there is a way¬†both people and the organization can trade expectations for needs to improve the relationship.

Here’s an example:

Small company has two employees doing the same basic job function.

The employees are different ages, different backgrounds, different personal situations and home lives.

Chances are both employees share some expectations: a fair wage, fair treatment, nice working environment – the basics.

Now consider just one possible difference:

For one employee the job is the sole income to the household.

For the other it is the second income.

The first employee might well value security and be looking to expand income and expect progression. The second perhaps not. Clearly the company should treat this individuals differently.

Other differences are almost guaranteed and could come from needs as diverse as; self-esteem, friendship, morality, creativity.  These are more difficult to assess and

What should be evident is that diversity is everywhere, but it’s not hard to make an effort to understand it’s impact on our organizations. It is not easy to meet the board range of needs that will exist but it does not mean effort should not be made.

We all can appreciate and think of examples where the diversity of the people within an organization is a real strength. What we must do is embrace that diversity and try to better help the people and therefore achieve success – and a bit of happiness too.

Here is the challenge:

Five actions for anyone as within an organization

  1. Identify what you expect of the organization
  2. Find out who should know – for example your manager or group leader
  3. Honestly review of the organization is meeting you needs
  4. Request a review with the person you identified
  5. Accept organizations have limits, but remember so should you – if your needs are not being met, do something about it

Five actions for those running, managing and leading organizations

  1. Make the effort to understand what your people expect of your organization
  2. Honestly assess whether you are meeting those needs and if they are realistic
  3. Determine whether the organization is prepared to bridge any gaps
  4. Give feedback to people
  5. Don’t ever treat people like fools. People know when you make commitments, create expectations and fail to meet them and they don’t like it.