Risky Business


This week in class we had to turn in our risk assignment for our fundraiser project.  As a financial analyst I work closely with risk on a daily basis.  Something we touched on in class when we created the risk was just the basics. What sort of risk, probability, value of the risk and contingency plan.  In reality, there is so much that goes into risk.  That it why I chose to research risk and see what else there is to know about risk.  I found a great article that talked about the fluidity of risk. The project management realm deals with an ever changing environment, which means risk is changing on an almost daily basis as well.  In my business, the programs I work on are very complex, which makes risk management and analysis complex as well and needs to be continuously re-visited and re-analyzed.

When creating our risk at my company, we don’t know how many out of box failures we may have on a program.  We don’t know how many parts might fail.  That is why over time, it is pivotal to continue to re-visit our risk.  Something I use in my job is called a “gating month”.  It is a month when we think our risk will be retired or OBE (overcome by events).   That being said, looking at risk on a daily basis is so important to monitoring project health.  As a project progresses and evolves, potentially so does the risk.

A personal example from my job as a financial analyst on government programs has to do with gating months.  For example, on my current program, we build and deliver hardware to the customer.  Because of that, a risk we carry has to do with our second sourced suppliers.  If a supplier who makes a part for our hardware build goes out of business or stops making the part, we need to be prepared for the costs that will go into replacing that part.  That includes finding another supplier, validating them and then potentially modifying the part to our specs.  This isn’t just a risk we carry throughout the entire program.  Over time, as we deliver hardware, this risk becomes smaller and smaller.  Why carry risk for 500 deliveries when we only have 50 left?  That is why, as a financial analyst, I work with the PMO to analyze our delivery schedule in relation to our risk items.  I help plan when this risk item should be reduced and when it will be OBE. When that happens the PMO needs to make an important decision.  Do we want to retire the risk to our bottom line or do we want to re-visit the program health and plan risk items for other problems that, over time, have now presented itself?

I have learned through personal experience, class and this article that risk is something that needs to be looked at continuously.  It needs to be managed daily and analyzed daily for any changes to the project and its environment.  It needs to be reduced or increased.  It needs just as much attention as the project execution itself.  In the article I read I found a great chart that shows the fluidity and cyclical nature of risk management and risk analysis:


Now a few questions on risk management and risk analysis:

1. Do you use risk at your job?  What sort of risk management and analysis do you perform?

2. Have you experienced a unique risk circumstance? What happened and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Do you have anymore insight and input into risk management and analysis?

4. Any other questions and comments are welcome!



Soft Power for Success

I found a very interesting article written by Mike Griffin, PMP.  He talks about the importance of using soft power, a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University.  Nye defines soft power as the “ability to get people to work with you by attracting them to be part of what you stand for; rather than to coerce, force or pay them”  (Griffin).  To force or coerce someone would be an example of using hard power; a project manager using his/her title to get individuals to do what they want.  Either way, at the end both project managers will see results.  The point that Griffin makes is that soft power gives better project results than hard power.  A project manager can exhibit soft power through his/her personality, ethics and values and proven ability to deliver projects successfully.  Griffin states that if you use soft power, people will be more inclined to work with you and even go the extra mile if they believe in the project manager’s ability, ethics/morals or personality.  To his point, he believes you will get better results as a project manager if you exhibit soft power influence over hard power.

As I was reading the article, I found myself nodding my head in agreement.  I am sure many of us can think of examples of when we were faced with hard or soft power project managers.  I know that I have worked with both types.  I remember feeling more involved and motivated when I have a project manager who I liked asked me to do something versus a project manager who sort of wielded their title like a weapon.  I felt forced to provide reports for them versus with the soft power managers where I WANTED to provide the reports… and do a good job with them too!

I saw, albeit not direct, some parallels between Griffin’s article and the accounting firm case study we did in class.  Here we have two different type of project managers trying to get one employee to do work on each of their individual projects.  In the end, it is pretty obvious that Crosby “won” as Olds chose to work on his consulting project full time.  I started to wonder from a power stand point why that was.  In the case, I think Crosby uses soft power to get Olds on board with his consulting project.  It’s almost as if he knew from the beginning when he said he would take the mornings with Olds while Palmer got the afternoon.  He immediately formed more of a relationship with Olds because there was no “pulling” if you will.  Olds was always there first thing in the morning because that was where he was supposed to be.  Because of that Crosby was able to form more of a personal relationship with Olds.  In contrast, Palmer was forced to then “pull” Olds over to him in the afternoon.  He was seen as more of the agitator of the two.  I feel that Palmer was definitely demonstrating more of a hard power technique.  It is almost like since he was a new manager he felt he needed to impress more, wield his power a little more.  Palmer gets paranoid about how Crosby and Olds golf together on the weekend and how Crosby does events for his team.  An example of this would be inviting everyone to the baseball game one afternoon.  Palmer puts his foot down and finally says no, which is an obvious demonstration of hard power.  It should be no surprise that Olds chooses to go work with Crosby full time.  The man showed more interest in him as a person so that Olds was able to rally behind his ideas and consulting project .  Palmer being new to management has not yet acquired the soft skills that Crosby had in order to best get work done from people on his team.

I feel that this accounting firm case study is a great example of hard power versus soft power.  Even though it seems to fit Griffin’s point directly, that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the rule.  So given that, here are my questions:

1. Do you agree or disagree with Griffin’s findings that soft power is superior to hard power?

2. What examples have you seen in your workplace where soft and/or hard power has been used effectively or ineffectively?

3. Is there ever a situation where hard power would be more effective?  Make more sense?

4. Any comments, suggestions or ideas?  Feel free to add…


A link to the article by Griffin: