Mary Carol could not believe her ears. She thought to herself, “That is an odd statement from someone who doesn’t believe in spending any time identifying risks.” Somehow she knew not to say anything in response and so she turned and walked back to her office.
The truth is she was a little annoyed with her boss but she was also annoyed with herself. There was a little voice inside her head saying “you should have known better.” The risk which prompted her boss to make the “you should’ve seen that coming” statement was NOT something that she or her team could have anticipated. But what she should have seen was that even if her boss didn’t place any value on risk management she should have identified and planned for risks anyway. After all if any of the risks occurred it wasn’t her boss who was going to have to figure out how to respond to them. Any actions taken in response to a risk would have to be planned and executed by Mary Carol and her team.
Sometimes people don’t like to engage in identifying and planning for risks. This can be part of the organizational culture. If this is true where you work you recognize it because if you’ve ever suggested that something could happen to derail your project you are immediately met with disbelief or even maybe disdain from your colleagues. They will look at you and say things like “How can you be so negative?” Or “The project is just getting started why are you thinking about the bad things that could happen?” They don’t understand that you might be very excited about the project and that you are brainstorming what could happen because you want everything to go very well. These will be the first people to look at you when something goes wrong and tell you that you should have seen that coming and then they will demand to know how YOU are going to handle it.
If you mentioned an opportunity that could be enhanced they would probably be okay with that. If you said something like “If we share resources with this other project team then we might be able to reduce our labor costs”, everyone would think you were brilliant. Because you are brilliant. You are also doing a good job at risk management. You are remembering that a risk is both a threat and an opportunity and you are remembering that the best time to plan for a threat or an opportunity is in advance. It’s a lot less expensive to discuss something when it’s early and you haven’t gone too far down the road yet.
If you find yourself working with individuals who don’t appreciate the value of thinking about threats and opportunities in advance – that’s fine. Do it anyway. Maybe you just leave them out of the discussion. If you have to do it by yourself then do it by yourself. Don’t stop thinking about what could happen. Your next thought after thinking about what could happen should be about what you (and your team) will do about it. Then you will be prepared.
Mary Carol never wants to hear her boss say “You should’ve seen that coming” again. Now she walks around thinking and planning and preparing responses. She encourages her team to do the same. She leads them through risk identification and risk analysis activities. She and her team know their most likely and most impactful risks and they know what they’re doing to try to make them less likely and less impactful and they know what they’re going to do if they occur anyway. She just doesn’t share all of the details with her boss.
Next time Mary Carol will be able to say, “I did see that coming and here is the plan.”