The Opportunity that fell through…

My second blog post originally touched on best practices of performance management, but after lecture this Saturday and an event that occurred with my team project, I thought it would be more interesting to touch on risk management. Professor Cook briefly touched on an important topic merely highlighted in the text and that is not discussed enough, opportunities, Chap 7 page 227. I never thought that an opportunity could be classified as a risk, until I experienced one.

My team/I have been working our networks to secure funds and increase awareness for the GCFD. Throughout our campaign, my networks have been extremely supportive of our mission and the GCFD. One connection, through a former DePaul teammate, seemed like a golden opportunity that I was definitely ready to exploit. Our team was connected with a food company that makes food items for large restaurant chains, as well as food service companies like Sysco. The company already had a connection with GCFD through monthly donations, but wanted to jump on board to support our campaign by donating as many pounds of food that we could take (share). I initially thought, “This opportunity is unreal! We’re going to blow our 9,000 pound goal out of the water.” After weeks of corresponding with our contact and GCFD (enhance) to donate the food items and confirm a pick up date (accept), the golden opportunity fell through the cracks. How did this golden opportunity turn into a risk? Everything was coordinated and clearly communicated, right? No. This turned out to not be the case.

The team was originally set to receive the entire 9,000 pounds. However, GCFD did not have the capacity to store the items because they were refrigerated/frozen items, as opposed to non-perishable items, which our campaign is based on collecting. A vast difference that I didn’t realize until after communication with both parties ensued, which in retrospect was scope creep on our own campaign. Our 9,000 pounds of food quickly dwindled down to 900 pounds, which was not the end of the world, but my spirit was a little crushed. We had already secured about 80% of our goal, and had a little over a week to finish strong.

The evening before the food item pick up was scheduled; I received a surprise email that our contact had worked hard to secure 4,000 pounds of food to donate on behalf our team to GCFD. I emailed GCFD to confirm, and the driver would be on site in the morning. The driver showed up the next day, and our contact emailed me, “The driver refused to take the food, what happened?” My immediate reaction was to follow up on my end to find the disconnect and fix it, ASAP. How could I fix this? Where was my contingency plan? I had none.

Once GCFD followed up, I learned that the food item storage dates were outside of the accepted time frame. I didn’t realize the risks associated with food item date ranges, and how this could impact receiving donations.

I don’t know if there is a way to make up for this missed opportunity, but I have definitely learned a lesson on practicing due diligence and realizing that opportunities can not only pose positive but also unassuming negative risks. The positive is that we were able to make a connection, and maybe someone else will be able to use this information for their team project. The negative is, we not only loss on an opportunity to make a large donation, but our credibility may have be compromised.

Has anyone experienced an opportunity that resulted in a risk/loss at either their company or within their teams? If so, how did you resolve and/or develop a contingency plan to counter the loss?

7 thoughts on “The Opportunity that fell through…

  1. I work in sales and often face risk when I propose a new product assortment and a particular planogram for a customer. I do my best and rely on partnership and insights from the retailer to help me identify the most appropriate product mix for that retailer, store format, and demographics. It ‘s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out as long as the customer was engaged and had a voice in the planning stage. Otherwise, if the customer didn’t share some of the risk in the beginning, then my brands could be thrown out of the store and my competition would gladly jump in. To mitigate risk in this example, I try to use purchasing data, buying trends, customer insights, relationships, a complete marketing approach, and strong communication to minimize misunderstandings. Most of the time business owners are entrepreneurial and are willing to take a risk if they believe they can make some good ole’ fashioned money! It’s that simple. They are not risk-averse, as long as they trust you and know they’re making educated guesses on what their market will want.

  2. Although, I like the idea of ‘gating month’, in my previous firm, the risk assessment was done as a project rather than a ‘gating month’. The company management did think about risks when they created plans for the following year. These plans were discussed in detail. The project manager for the risk management was in charge of reviewing all the plans and looking for items that would either eliminate or lessen the risk. Of course, there are no guarantees that the risk will appear without being addressed on the risk cards. Therefore, the company also had an escalation plan. If a risk or a crisis appeared out of nowhere, then any employee can contact management including disrupt meetings. For example, if the company website was disrupted, the employee or supervisor had a right to contact the manager or VP without hesitating. There were many follow-up meetings to make sure that the proper protocols were followed or if the protocols were followed, what we can do better to make the process more efficient. This process was obviously embraced by the top management and therefore, it could be viewed as a positive exercise rather than a drill.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this blog post; a very recent example of an issue at hand and how it could potentially be identified prior.

    After reading the blog post, my first thought was about the risk identification, assessment, and tracking process. This blog post touched on scope creep, which is an obvious and important issue. But to me, I felt that the risk assessment and tracking process was the key to the issues that took place. One of the topics we touched on in class was the creation of a risk plan through identification, assessment/examination, and quantifying/classifying risks. Then, those risks would have contingency plans and mitigation efforts.

    BUT, risk is something that evolves with a project. the huge opportunity of 9,000lbs is a great example; once that opportunity came up, it could have been reviewed and a risk plan associated with opportunity could have been created. Do you think my implementing a risk plan within a project for an opportunity such as this would have created a different result? Or, if not a different result, perhaps it would have prepared the ream for the 4,000lbs opportunity that showed itself thereafter?

  4. Thank you for an interesting post. In our minds risk always has a negative connotation. We don’t think that risk could be positive and bring opportunities which could have a favorable impact on the project. And certainly we don’t want to miss those opportunities when they arise! So along with negative risks, positive risks require inclusion and assessment during risk management process as well as response strategy which would indicate whether we want to accept, exploit or enhance the outcome when the opportunity comes.

  5. Great comments everyone. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it.
    This is the first time that I’ve ever heard of a ‘gating’ month. Sounds like a great way to test the waters when dealing with risk.
    @Sam- This evaluation of this situation is dead on. To answer your first question, I don’t think implementing a risk plan would have changed the results. Scoring the 9,000 pounds was an added bonus for all of our efforts. It was also a topic that came up as a result of giving team updates. Everyone was excited for the opportunity but knew that whether or not we received the donation that we would be able to meet our goals related to the food drive. I was just a personally let down. I was also relieved that this wasn’t one of our goals. Yes, it would’ve been a great learning experience to develop a contingency plan to make up for the loss, but in the time frame that we have this quarter it would have added unnecessary stress to the team dynamic. How do you mitigate/make up for the loss of a whale? Look for another one if it comes up and if you have the time.
    Yes, I think if it was a planned event or goal that was discussed further, the team could have done performed a throughout risk analysis. However, because it was something so unexpected I think if receiving 4,000 pounds from a donor was included in our original plan, the risk mitigation would have likely prompted the team to toss the idea.
    @Polina- Well said. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for your comment. Since this experience, I definitely look at opportunities and risks in the same manner. It’s pretty cool to see when theory mirrors the practical environment.

  6. Thanks for sharing, it’s unfortunate to hear =/ . Your post oddly synced rather well with a thought i had while driving into class today centered around risk management. I was listening to the radio this morning and it was a conversation between two women (I didn’t catch their names), the host, and the product promoter. They were discussing a crime and safety mobile phone application that was built to make any person aware of crime in the neighborhood, or within a mile of the users current location. For example, this mobile app would track, log, and notify users of reported crimes, say a break in or domestic disturbance etc. Topically, this application says, “hey, it can be dangerous out there, be careful”. I wonder of the subtext this implies for risk management, outside of project management and more among the public consciousness context. If I receive 5 notifications a week about crimes near my home, I personally would feel much less safe, I’m certain most people would. But what is ignored here, is any form of historical baseline trend or further questioning. What does 5 a week mean? Is this a massive increase, or the safest week that has ever happened in my neighborhood? As we become more aware of risks, it falls to us as individuals to not just accept the onslaught of framed statistics and measured data that seems so often to be given without context. It would seem to me that this mobile phone application would spread simply because people want to feel safe. Follow me for a leap through a metaphor here; kids have always played on playgrounds, now they’re built with soft rubber floors and all sorts of safety features, rather than wood chips or concrete or whatever arsenic filled stuff our parents played on. (Personally, I saw a classmate of mine in 5th grade fall and break her arm, and one of my best friends, broke both his arms, on a swing. (and on his birthday!!)) Kids are seemingly more protected than ever, we throw in safety net after safety net… To exit our metaphor, and ask what is the cost of this safety bubble generation. What I fear is a highly risk adverse generation. We are so afraid of risk and negative outcomes that we whittle away the ability to dream beyond the safety net and the chance at something greater from our bubble. What if Rockefeller hadn’t risked it, or JP Morgan, what of Emilia Earhart (maybe a bad example, but she had the dream!!)) Managing risk is always important, but the more we apotheosize risk the more we will shy away from going for it. I don’t want to seem my generation fail to dream beyond what we have because we’ve been raised to fear risk. I think the supersaturation of ‘risk awareness’ needs to be framed away from a ‘fear risk’ mindset, and move towards a ‘understand your possible outcomes’ thought progression. If we can frame the reality of risk as just that, we can teach risk as a tool, rather than negative to fear.

  7. Sean- This was an awesome comment! Thank you so much for engaging with me. Sorry for the delay, I’ve been thinking about your post for a bit. I agree, kids are being trained to reside in a protective bubble. Just as our childhood was risky, as was our parents, their parents, and at some point before then I can imagine that childhood was extremely rough or non-existent at at certain age. Children starting working hard laborious job functions at a young age, and risked their lives and compromised their health, in certain instances, to take care of their families. I can’t even imagine that children 100 even 50 years ago thought about the type of risks they faced. Why have we become so risk adverse? Who has shifted our mindset from risk-takers to constantly trying to avoid risk? Have the repercussions of past actions framed our future and the future of our children’s children into a highly cautious state? Likely so, however, we still have risk takers in our time. The risk takers of our lifetime that I think of are venture capitalist, base jumpers, art history majors, athletes, and hedge fund managers. They all seem to be these very extraordinary people/groups of people that base their every day lives on risk. I’m curious as to whether you think Rockefeller and JP Morgan were risk takers or simply opportunists?
    I completely agree on your comment about teaching risk as a tool as opposed to a negativism. Your comments make me think of my childhood. I was a risk taker. I’ve probably almost died at least 4 times. My mom was always telling me to be careful and pay attention. Like most parents, she didn’t teach all of the reasons why to be careful and pay attention because each instance that she was addressing was completely different. I had to experience and learn the meaning of her messages. I couldn’t pay attention and be careful because nothing bad ever initially ever happened. Plus there were so many things that I wanted to do, see, and experience. There was this explosive energy inside of me. As I’ve gotten older, some of that energy has subsided, and I think about the risks/consequences of my death defying actions. Haha. I’m not going to lie and say that I think about all of the risks, but I try to consider them. For instance, at the curious age of 8 I learned why you should never stick your tongue to a cold pole during the winter months. Your tongue seriously gets stuck. Lol.
    I also share my experiences, failures with my peers and people that are younger then me. I tell them to be careful and mindful that for every action there is a reaction, which is the same as telling someone to be mindful of risk or risk adverse. What’s fascinating is that I probably would not have noticed this 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or maybe even last year. Maybe risk aversion is a learned behavior, and the more it’s discussed and drilled into our minds the more it will be ingrained in our culture at an earlier age. Maybe risk aversion will increase to such a degree that as generations evolve risk will become an anomaly. Then what do we have left? How do we continue to involve and grow, and learn from the mistakes of yesterday’s past?Just some brain food. 🙂

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