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.


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Redefining Success

The way you define success radiates into many aspects of your professional and personal lives. What is your definition of success, as you manage your team? If your definition does not quickly come to mind, take a moment to create one now.
What is the primary focus in your definition of success? (For example, it can be bottom line results, a high performing team, your own career satisfaction or many other things.) Is your primary focus getting you to the success you desire? How is it influencing your performance and results? Take a look at this, because what you focus on is what you get.


A Manager’s Monday Morning

Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day
The Mamas and the Papas, Monday, Monday song lyrics

What is it about Mondays? Sometimes you’ve rested over the weekend, sometimes not. It can be hard to gear up either way – whether you are tired from working on the weekend or if you were just getting into the weekend time off.
Mondays are a transition time. Recognizing this, you can treat Monday for what it is and consciously make the transition in a positive way.  What do you observe about the energy and mood of your team today? Does this give you any insights about their transitions?
Why focus on Monday morning? Because recognizing and managing your and your team’s transitions improves performance. The Monday morning transition gives you a good viewpoint from which to gain insights for managing transitions successfully.


Keeping Your Head While Managing

Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”  is an inspirational one for me. Can you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you? Keeping your head is not a requisite of success in many organizations. Some managers lose their heads every day-bully bosses, anger management class candidates, idiots. However, not keeping your head gradually undermines your effectiveness as a manager.

Our world is becoming increasingly collaborative and the business world is catching up. A team is not just a leader telling others what to do. A team is a partnership of individuals working toward a common purpose. A good manager knows the fuel their team needs. No one needs a maniac leading him or her.

Image: Witthaya Phonsawat /