A risk worth taking? (more leadership jottings)

Leaders have to be managers too.  That may be counter cultural in a day and age when everyone wants to be a leader and managers are trained to lead. Leadership is presented as a step up from  management – a level above, even  a way out from the humdrum of day to day operations.

But if you really want to lead effectively, seek your vision implemented and make change happen then you can’t do that by simply communicating your grand plan and enthusing people to follow. At some point you’ve got to get your hands dirty, you’ve got to start managing. This might include managing plans, people, meetings, money, facilities, systems and processes. It will also include managing risks.

That’s something we don’t  always do well. Sometimes some of us just ignore risks  we plough on ahead without considering them at all. Church leaders can sometimes be the worst at this, seeing a risk can be treated as a lack of faith. It isn’t. The other side of the coin is that sometimes some of us can be overwhelmed by all the possible ways that an idea could go wrong that  we don’t try at all.

Risk management is about knowing what the risks are and planning for them so that they are minimised. So how do you I go about it?

First of all I make a list of things that could go wrong. These include outside influences that might  conspire to stop me and the unintended consequences of my actions and decisions  that might cause new problems.

Then I assess the risks. This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how often this step gets missed. Sometimes the list just gets made and stored somewhere. You can almost even imagine someone ticking off the disasters as they happen. I’ve also seen people jump to the next stage and listed an action against every possible risk.  The list is long and detailed and no one reads it.

So an assessment  includes two things:

the probability of it happening and the potential impact. For example, what’s  the likelihood of it raining during our Sunday service? Answer, high. What impact will it have on the service? Not much. I don’t worry about it on my plan. However if we are planning an outdoor barbecue, the outcome will be high so I plan how to mitigate it. On the other hand,  a freak asteroid hitting the earth will wipe out much of humanity and probably put a stop to the Christmas Carol  concert – impact high! However the probability is low.

Probability can be a very  complex mathematical exercise but really all you need is a scale of High  (3) Medium (2) Low (1).

For impact you should identity the types of impact that could do better damaging. In business this is usually Time,  Cost, People. You then can score these against the High, Medium and Low scale too.

Then take your probability and score it against the highest impact. This will give you scores out of 9. When I worked in industry we used to take those risks that scored more than 6 and those were the ones that we planned mitigation for. That might include putting aside extra money or building extra time into the plan.

Anything that scored 9 was a potential show stopper. Those were the ones that we problem solved. We couldn’t go ahead until a solution  was in place. We didn’t just cross our fingers and  hope for the best.

Sometimes,  with the best will in the world you will plan for every foreseeable eventuality and something  completely let Ely unforeseen will happen. That’s a reminder that we are human! And that’s  good for leaders too.