Overcoming a Fear of Innovation Risk: Data, Prototypes, and Diversification

Innovation exhibits a contradictory nature. Innovative organizations perform better and adapt faster to a constantly changing business environment. They create new fields to play in and new standards to reach for. But innovation is also considered to be very risky and fear of failure often makes us reluctant to innovate. Can we effectively manage these risks and fears in order to implement innovative ideas?

When we take a risk, we act in spite of uncertainty and expose ourselves to danger. Most of us have an innate fear of unexpected events. Is it just a psychological issue? Should we simply practice being courageous, foster risk-taking, and thus overcome this obstacle using brute force? Or are there sound strategies innovators lean on that naturally reduce the fear of poor outcomes?

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It Starts with Intent: Do you want a “throat to choke”—or do you want the project to succeed?

Whenever I hear the expression “one throat to choke,” it makes me cringe. The phrase, in most cases, refers to contracting with a single vendor to help with every aspect of a technology project. Another variation is, “a single wringable neck.” Either way, it sounds like an explicit threat to the vendor: If this project fails, the blame will be placed squarely on your shoulders.

In reality, if a project does fail, it is very difficult to go after a vendor. Most organizations don’t. Lawsuits are risky, costly, and time-consuming. The only practical concession you can expect from a vendor is free labor, hardware, or software. But it’s from the same vendor that botched things in the first place.

Let’s face it—setting up a one-throat engagement is not really a threat. It’s a bluff. And it stems from an attempt to outsource accountability.

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5 Risks CIOs Must Assume in the Digital Age

For too many people, the concepts of “acting as a responsible CIO” and “taking risks” are mutually exclusive. A Traditional CIO is accustomed to a world where if nothing breaks, their job is safe. If they don’t touch anything, they can’t break anything. In this paradigm, taking risks is unwise.

In my opinion, rampant risk avoidance is the reason CIOs now lose their jobs at the second highest rate among the C-suite. Inaction—or maintaining the status quo—carries a much greater threat to the CIO (and the organization) than does taking an active stance and assuming the associated risks. In the digital age, where IT is the business, being CIO is like playing quarterback: if you stay in the pocket long enough, you will get sacked. You have to make a move.

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Risk-taking

The Risk-Taker CIO Paradox

Leadership requires taking risks. But technology must work reliably. How do IT leaders square these two realities?

CIOs are driving organizational strategies now more than ever. The more a CIO’s success is tied to business outcomes, the more risk they assume. Traditionally, CIOs have been responsible for KPIs like uptime and system availability to support internal productivity and operational efficiency. But suddenly—now that all industries are becoming digital—there is much more at stake.

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PM Pointers: Managing a Team Member with a Personal Agenda

Part 4 in our 5-part Managing Needy Team Members series.

As project managers, we often run into team members that require a great deal of attention. In an opening post for this series, we discussed a general approach to dealing with resources that need TLC. This post offers techniques for getting the most output out of folks who see the project as a way to achieve a personal agenda. In one way or another, these team members have no interest in doing what is best for the team, but rather what is best for themselves.

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man losing it at his desk

PM Pointers: Managing a Team Member with Personal Issues

Part 3 in our 5-part Managing Needy Team Members series.

As project managers, we often run into team members that require a great deal of attention. In an opening post for this series, we discussed a general approach to dealing with resources that need TLC. This post offers techniques for getting the most output out of folks who have personal circumstances that are objectively more critical to them than work.

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PM Pointers: Managing a Team Member Who is Coasting

Part 2 in our 5-part Managing Needy Team Members series.

As project managers, we often run into team members who require a great deal of attention. In an opening post for this series, we discussed a general approach to dealing with resources that need TLC. This post offers techniques for getting the most output from folks who lost interest in work because they expect to exit soon.

Coasters Need TLC, Too

Some project team members know their days of working for the company are counted. Some are coasting towards retirement. Some know their jobs will likely go away when the project is complete. Typically, they just stop trying. Without emotional buy-in, these team members are often more harmful than they are helpful.

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PM Pointers: A “Needy” Team Member Is a Project Risk

A solely results-oriented project manager (PM) sees every project as a personal opportunity to achieve success. On the other hand, some PMs see a project as a series of process steps where their individual role is simply to check boxes.

Neither of these approaches is effective.

To be a great PM, one needs an array of leadership skills. The most critical leadership skill required from project managers is genuine care about the project team members. If you genuinely care about individual contributors you can achieve extraordinary results.

TLC is a natural part of caring about people. Although some team members need more TLC than others.

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