When we manage risk, we usually focus on those risks most closely associated with the tasks at hand — content risks. But there are other risks, to which we pay less attention. Many of these are outside our awareness. Here's Part II of an exploration of these non-content risks, emphasizing those that relate to organizational politics.
In Part I of this exploration of risks not directly related to task content, we focused on those risks that are associated with perceptions. Here are three additional risk classes that relate more closely to organizational politics.
- Errors internal, organizational, and contextual
- Internal errors are those that happen within the task, including, for example, premature disclosure of information, misstatements, and faulty estimates. External errors are those that happen within the hosting organization, such as server crashes, or terminations of key personnel. Contextual errors involve elements outside the hosting organization, such as vehicle collisions, fires, floods, or war.
- Relying on organizational processes for protection from all errors is risky. Understand the limits of the protections the organization provides. To the extent possible, provide your own coverage for remaining gaps.
- Resource protection
- Although we usually associate securing resources with task initiation, maintaining access to resources is always important. And we're often surprised when we lose access to resources, even though most tasks experience resource interruptions at some point in their lives.
- Diligence and a strong personal network are vital in maintaining situational awareness with respect to resource predation. Create plans not only for adapting when resources are withdrawn, but also for defending the resources and commitments you already have.
- Bureaucratic inertia
- Organizations tend to continue doing whatever they've been doing, which in many cases, isn't much. One-of-a-kind or first-of-a-kind tasks are therefore likely to encounter difficulties, because of the inherent contrast between them and other work.
- These difficulties are more Diligence and a strong personal
network are vital in maintaining
situational awareness with respect
to resource predationpronounced when the initiative originates somewhere other than the top of the organization. Advocates of such efforts can be effective when they have warm personal relationships with those who serve in gating functions that can impede progress.
- Political sabotage
- Political sabotage includes any effort to disrupt, delay, or terminate the task in order to free its resources for other efforts, or to besmirch the careers of the task's advocates. Tactics of political saboteurs can include spreading disinformation, reassigning key personnel, and manipulating resource streams.
- When political sabotage occurs, it's rarely a surprise. Plan for it. Include in statements of the task vision refutations of arguments saboteurs are likely to make someday. These arguments are far more effective when offered in advance of the sabotage attempts than they are when offered as defense after the fact.
Most important, recognize that the political efforts required to maintain the health and vitality of tasks or projects do take time and resources. Include in budgets and schedules enough time and coverage for those who must execute the political maneuvers that keep the task on track. Political success isn't free. First in this series Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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More articles on Project Management:
- Personnel-Sensitive Risks: II
- Personnel-sensitive risks are risks that are difficult to discuss openly. Open discussion could infringe
on someone's privacy, or lead to hurt feelings, or to toxic politics or toxic conflict. If we can't
discuss them openly, how can we deal with them?
- Guidelines for Sharing "Resources"
- Often, team members belong to several different teams. The leaders of teams whose members have divided
responsibilities must sometimes contend with each other for the efforts and energies of the people they
share. Here are some suggestions for sharing people effectively.
- More Limitations of the Eisenhower Matrix
- The Eisenhower Matrix is useful for distinguishing which tasks deserve attention and in what order.
It helps us by removing perceptual distortion about what matters most. But it can't help as much with
some kinds of perceptual distortion.
- Scope Creep and Confirmation Bias
- As we've seen, some cognitive biases can contribute to the incidence of scope creep in projects and
other efforts. Confirmation bias, which causes us to prefer evidence that bolsters our preconceptions,
is one of these.
- Unresponsive Suppliers: II
- When a project depends on external suppliers for some tasks and materials, supplier performance can
affect our ability to meet deadlines. How can communication help us get what we need from unresponsive
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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