When it comes to identifying risks, there are a wide range of formal and informal techniques you can use. I have no doubt that I will return to some of them in future blogs. However, there is one way to get a jump start on the process.
Is there somebody you know …
… who always seems sceptical about your new ideas, innovations or initiatives? You know the person I mean; their favourite response when you propose making changes is to suck air between their teeth, shake their head slowly, and say something like:
“I don’t think I would do that if I were you”
Harness the power of scepticism
You may or may not find that level of scepticism (some will call it cynicism) draining. You may even share those traits yourself. But whatever your attitude, my advice is to harness it. Some people do seem to have an innate ability to see problems ahead. They are not so much “glass half empty” people: they are more “I’d better not take my eyes off the glass or someone will drink it” people.
If you know someone like that, they can be a huge asset when you are starting to plan a new project, an organisational change, or an innovative product.
So sit them down, explain your plans, your ambitions and your hopes, and then ask the question: “so, what do you think?” When you get that answer, ask the next, more important question:
“Tell me twenty ways it could all go wrong?”
They will. And instantly, you have your first set of risks identified and ready to analyse.
The “so what?”
Use every resource you have to identify risks, the sceptics are among your most valuable resource, harness their insights into failure modes
That said, of course, analysing the risks they have identified is your responsibility. What may seem, to your sceptic, an inevitable point of failure may, on careful analysis, be a remote (but real) possibility. Of course, estimating these likelihoods is far from easy – but that’s another story.