Friday, December 7, 2012

Creativity, risk management and agility

IBM study reveals that creativity is the most important leadership quality followed by integrity and global thinking – 1500 corporate leaders, from 60 nations and 33 industries were pulled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.
Creative leaders are more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise, and revenue models

“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart”
— Mencius (Meng-Tse), 4th century BCE

In times of Speed-to-Market & Agility we cannot rely on yesterday’s ideas, products and ways of working. Today’s leaders in order to improve performance need to stimulate creative thinking and unleash the creative potential in themselves and in their teams.

Creative thinking is also required when dealing with uncertainty. During risk identification sessions I always encourage teams to think of and record as many risks as they can. I also prefer having people working individually for coming up with ideas, so ask them to write down ideas on post-its and then put them all on a flipchart paper, group logically and remove duplicates. Working individually instead of discussing ideas as a group we avoid “group thinking” – also shy or less experienced team members can contribute.

To ensure coverage a kind of risk break down structure (RBS) should be used – can be a WBS or “a clock” as used in collaborative games by Agile teams recommended by Mike Griffiths. Collaborative games are powerful tools to engage a larger group of stakeholders and this might lead to a better list of possible risks and then yield more creative ways of avoiding or reducing those risks. By engaging the team, not only do we get better input data and ideas, we also encourage problem solving, foster action, build social capital and foster collective ownership of ideas.

Find Friends and Foes (Opportunity and Threat Identification)
Both positive and negative risks matter and need to be managed proactively. Opportunities are the “good” risks, events that have a positive impact if they occur. We want to avoid threats and exploit opportunities.

Using a clock view pre-drawn on a flip chart ask team members to think of project risks associated with each of the topics represented by an hour line on the clock -12 in total. Spend about five minutes on each. Do not access or solve the risks. This is risk identification - we will have plenty of time to assess them later.

Always within the same session run a similar exercise to identify opportunities: “Karma Day”. We generate opportunities for events and outcomes that would assist the project, creating ideas for things that would help the project go well. Using the same clock metaphor, we come up with lists of all the good things that could occur to assist the project.

Cynical team members may still continue to gripe, suggesting opportunities “inverted issues” such as ““no resistance from the PMO”, but these can be really useful. Later on we will try to reduce or avoid the negative risks (threats) and ensure or maximize the positive risks (opportunities).

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