Monday, 17 October 2011

Should aliens receive foreign aid?

Pentacle has recently been working with the Chief Executives of some of the largest foreign aid charities in Ireland. They face real risks that change hourly and which they need to deal with as they arise.

The Old World way of  dealing with these risks is to gather them all up, assign an arbitrary description based on likelihood and severity (High, Medium and Low) and then put them in a risk register. If you are really lucky the auditors will come around annually and check that you have done it right ;-)

Does it really make sense to write a list of what might happen and then put it on a shelf where nobody reads it? Is this approach even relevant when lives are at risk?

In the New World, where change happens at the speed of light, you need a different approach. Luckily, we don't need to learn how to do it because we have all been part of a government sponsored programme to teach us about risk... using Science Fiction movies.

Don't believe me? Think back to watching those movies …

You know the story, the ugly, green, drooling, slimy monster arrives on Earth; the natural reaction would of course be to run away, but no, the hapless hero immediately wants to investigate further. At the first sign of aggression from the alien, our hero tries to blast it with his laser gun. If that doesn't work (and it usually doesn't), then they usually try and capture it whereupon they stick it in a "secure facility" and put some unhinged scientist with wild hair and pebble-thick glasses in charge. When that all goes pear-shaped (and it usually does), then there is usually a"Plan B" which seems to involve a thermo-nuclear device.


Well risk management is just the same. First you have to Identify the risk, then you should FIX IT NOW!TM No messing around putting it into a risk register. If that isn't possible, you should contain it (while monitoring the whole time). And just in case, you should have a Plan B.

How do you manage your risks? Still putting them in a risk register? Are you surprised when the alien turns around and bites you?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Staying Digital all the Way

An overheard 'phone call:

"OK, so let me get this right - you need me in Hong Kong on Wednesday for a three hour client meeting and then I need to be in New York on Friday to meet with the design team and then the following Monday I need to be in Shanghai to talk to the manufacturer to get the production process agreed? Wow. Is there any other way to get this done? That's a lot of travel for not a lot of face-to-face time. Are you sure? Right then. I'm on my way."

In the New World, where everything and everybody are interconnected, does it make sense to have this conversation?

How could this trip be 'chopped down' reduced or even made obsolete by using just two of Eddie Obeng's New Rules for the New World?
  • ALL CONSTRAINTS INTO 'MEATSPACE' -- can we look at what needs to be done and figure out the problems that really requires a physical presence versus the rest that can be done at a distance?
  • Go Virtual! -- Lets concentrate on the effect of what we do, not the form.
So lets replay the phone call with the New Rules in mind:

"OK, we have the video call set up by the Hong Kong client on Wednesday -- I'm assuming we'll be using the high-quality boardroom system? Fine. Listen, I think I will go to New York on Friday because I haven't met the design team yet, it will be our first time working together, I want to set-up a project team culture of working hard and having fun and the easiest way will be for us to spend a long day together with a lot of laughs and perhaps a couple of beers (which I can't do in cyberspace). Whilst I'm there, we'll also set up a collaborative workspace on QUBE  and reproduce their working environment on the three dimensional internet (3Di) so that afterwards although we will not meet again it will always feel as if we are in the same 'space'.  We will  establish regular team 'drumbeats'.  For the Shanghai manufacturer, how about we take the results of the client and design team meetings, do a shared screen session, say by glance, with Shanghai and place the conclusions in a shared folder, say by dropbox?  Then the plant can detail the production process and give us an idea of timelines and update the  folder so that we maintain a 'single version of the truth'.  And don't have to waste our lives emailing and chasing each other.  We can catch up with them in the next week or so via QUBE. I think we should set it up so that the Manufacturer owns the travel budget so that each time I have to go to see them their profits are reduced.  This should encourage better long distance collaboration and prevent any misunderstandings or serious issues arising. Does that sound like a plan? Great!" 

We need to establish good relations with people we don't know - that is basic stakeholder management. Some of us have the skills to do this virtually but for most of us we are still at the same stage that people were in using telephones half a century ago, and don't know how to connect emotionally without the face-to-face element. Make sure that you can work effectively at a distance.   Learn now. 

Plan to meet face-to-face when only when you want to boost the emotional temperature or an extremely interrelated and complex set of problems to explore. 

Staying digital - all the way! There is no better alternative.