Chance Or Risk?

Some see chance and risk as the same thing. However, there can be differences between them. Both chance and risk involve uncertainty and possibility. In the business world today, risk is often calculable, whereas chance is less so. There are concrete and in-depth ways to measure risk before deciding on a course of action. With chance, you measure based on assumptions, with a bit less calculation and certainty.

You can use these concepts of chance and risk to take a look at how you make decisions. When uncertainty exists or all the information you need is not available, do you think things out, consider all factors and calculate risk or do you make assumptions and generally calculate the chances of various outcomes?

The next time you have a decision to make, without certainty of the outcome, will you leave your decision to chance or calculate the risks involved and choose the best course available?

photo: meineresterampe,

Testing Your Assumptions

assumptionsgeraltpixabayIt is natural to make assumptions about your work and career. However, it serves you to test them, lest you make important decisions based on false or shaky ones. Assumptions about your work and career can relate to the motives of the people you work with, how you think people regard you, what measures your organization uses to assess your performance, the culture of your organization or how good a match your skills are with the mission of your organization.

Ways to test your assumptions include: carefully observing whether the assumptions you have are valid (for example, if the people being rewarded are meeting the performance measures the organization says they are using), carefully observing people’s actions against what you think you know about them or looking honestly at whether your organization is using your skills and talents and rewarding you for them.

Assumptions are risky. Best to ensure that they are tested and true before basing your actions and strategies on them.


photo: geralt,

Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty

Our societal structure is set up to protect us. Overall, this is a very good thing. However, in dealing with uncertainty, there is not much this societal structure can do. Uncertainty will always be part of your reality.

Uncertainty can show up in your managing in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

• There is a change of upper level personnel and you and your team have to justify your programs, without knowing if they will be accepted or rejected

• There are uncertainties inherent in work you are doing (for example, engineering designs that have not been tested in the field, but you are being pressured to get the product out in the market)

• The success of a program is dependent on its acceptance by clients or the public and you cannot predict, with 100% certainty, how it will be received

• You think one of your star performers is being recruited by a competitor or is actively looking for another position, but when you approach the subject, he or she is not forthcoming

So, as a person and as a manager, how do you get comfortable with uncertainty? A starting point is to accept that uncertainty is frequently present. By acknowledging the presence of uncertainty, you can deal with it. When you act as if it is not there and project certainty, uncertainty often shows up in dangerous ways. If uncertainty is present, bring it out in the open to both your team and your organization. Then, the truth is on the table and acknowledged. Develop your team’s skills for identifying assumptions (see previous blog post on developing assumptions ) . As you go forward, constantly revisit the uncertainties involved, to see if circumstances have changed, or if they may have lessened. Have your team be on the lookout for ways to decrease uncertainty in the project.

As you get comfortable with uncertainty, you may find that this enhances your performance by leaving open space, within which innovation can grow. By acknowledging uncertainty you will be acting from a stronger, not a weaker position. There is little gained in ignoring uncertainty and there is much to lose.

“Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.” – R.I Fitzhenry

photo: Vlado,

What Are Your Assumptions As A Manager?

As a manager, you bring your individual perspectives, values and judgments to your role. It is natural, but also has an impact that you may not recognize. You’ve heard the phrase rose colored glasses? It is about just that – you see things through the lens of your own experiences. What lens are you looking through as you carry out your responsibilities as a manager? One of my previous blog posts  looked at the impact of your point of view on your managing.

Taking this forward, your individual point of view can feed the creation of assumptions regarding your role as a manager. Assumptions are things that you accept as true or as certain to happen, without proof. These assumptions can grow over time, without your realizing they exist. They are a natural part of you. However, it is good to be aware that the influence your assumptions have on your managing can be significant.

Some examples of assumptions are: people are only out for themselves, you have to manipulate people in order to succeed, you cannot trust others on your team to come through, you have to keep things under control or if I do a good job, I will be rewarded.

Take a look at the individual perspectives, values and judgments you have formed over the years. Have they led to your making assumptions that directly affect the way you manage? What influence do your assumptions have on you today as you manage your team? It’s worth a look. The better you know yourself, the better your chances of success as a manager.


photo: dan,

Managing Within Uncertainty

Managers make decisions within uncertainty daily. Sometimes, critical decisions made within uncertainty involve high risk for a manager. When I worked as a manager at The US Environmental Protection Agency, one of our team’s most challenging projects was to develop guidance for scientists and regulators addressing decision making under uncertainty. In the project, we put a lot of our focus on the assumptions scientists and regulators made for each decision. Good assumptions can mitigate the risks inherent in decision making within uncertainty. Ideally, you have the time to make solid, well-researched assumptions, but that is not always possible. So, what do you do? Fly by the seat of your pants? No, you do the best you can in the time available to you. Some strategies for making critical decisions in uncertainty: bring your team together and use all your brainpower to identify first the unknowns involved and then the risks; devise the best course of action in the time available to you; document the assumptions and identified risks involved in your decision; get the concurrence of upper management both on your decision and on going forward within uncertainty. The unknown can become a bit more known with time, but will often remain, and decisions must be made. Get as comfortable as you can with uncertainty. Create a strategy that helps you deal within it.


Photo: FreeDigital