Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Lesson in Risk Identification, from the Very Worried Walrus

Just got a shipment of old school children's books from my in-laws a few weeks ago (yes, we have kids, I don't just read kid's books for fun or blog material). One of the books is "The Very Worried Walrus", by Richard Hefter. This was one of my husband's favorites, but I had never read it before. So, when I read it to my daughters for the first time, it got me thinking about Risk Identification.

Let me tell the story....

Worried Walrus really wants to ride a bike, but is afraid he'll fall off. He has a conversation with "Positive Pig" about why he's worried...

"If I fall off, I'll get hurt. Then I'll have to go to the doctor. And I'll need medicine orbandages....or...stitches! Ohhhh!"

To which Positive Pig replies, "That's silly, bicycle riding is fun and there is no reason to worry."

The Worried Walrus goes on, "An awful lot can go wrong. You have to steer and pedal and balance. You have to look out in front of you and on both sides and make sure nowone is behind you...and not go too fast...and use your brakes."

Reading further, we understand why the Worried Walrus has his title, "...If I get hurt, they'll have to take me to the hospital in an ambulance. I can see it now, there's a traffic jam on Main Street. The ambulance get's stuck..."

And he ends up in the middle of nowhere walking through the rain in a dark night, wet and hungry and looking for anyone who can help him.

I won't give away the rest of the story, you should pick up the book and find out for yourself!

But, I think this is a great example of Risk Identification. This is the process of discovering, defining and documenting risks before they become a problem in a project. The way I see it, the more creative you can be about it, the better. The project team should sit down and brainstorm on all of the possible risks to the project and get them documented. The document should detail the risk, the severity, impact and contingency plan (here's a sample Risk Management Worksheet from the Gantthead site). At regular intervals throughout the project the team should revisit these risks, add new ones and archive anything that is no longer a risk. I recommend reading "Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects" to find out more about risk management.

The goal of this is not to be worried like the Worried Walrus. Actually the opposite, the more creative thinking you can do in the beginning of the project to identify and then manage the potential risks, the less stress you will have and more sleep you will get at night.

So, I tried to have this same discussion with my 2 and 4 year old after reading the book to them and well...maybe I'll try again in a few more years.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Will the real Project Managers please stand up?

Ok, so I already have that Eminem song in my head and it will be in there for the rest of the day I'm sure. If the least I can do is get that song in your head, than I've accomplished something. But, what this is really about is having an open discussion about all things project management, without the nuisance of spam or other unwanted discussion. I started doing 'Social Media Evangelism' for LiquidPlanner about a month ago and admit I feel like I am constantly struggling with the balance between being an active and valued (atleast I hope, you are all the judge of that) member of the Project Managers on Twitter community and using any available opportunities to express how powerful and amazing the LiquidPlanner project management system is. I am sure this is the same struggle that many people have who are promoting themselves or their products in social media (it's not always about Twitter, there's blogs, LinkedIn, ning sites, Facebook, etc).

Of course, looks like some have already failed. When I was checking out Webworker daily for posts about project management tools, I saw some great posts and then plenty of junk comments. I'm not saying that people shouldn't promote their products, but tell me who you are, and give me some reasons why I might want to use your product. Don't pretend to be a project manager making a recommendation, identify yourself and be open about promoting your product. One of the reasons why I made the post about my relationship with LiquidPlanner was to always have it handy to link back to when I was promoting LiquidPlanner and wanted to identify myself.

I think someone who strikes this balance really well is Charles Seybold from LiquidPlanner (and am I using this opportunity to promote them again? It probably looks like it, but I happened to like what he was doing before I had this whole arrangement with them anyway). His avatar is great, it's got the LiquidPlanner logo in the background and his face in the foreground. He does the same thing in his contributions on Twitter, a mix of product promotion and other interesting stuff. I think more organizat

I've seen many blog posts and articles about how to successfully represent your brand or organization on Twitter and other social media. It's a tricky balance and I don't claim to have found the perfect solution. But at the very least, when you want to talk about your product on project management blogs or via contributions to #PMOT, let us know who you are and why your stuff is so good.