How Uncertainty & Risk Show Up In our Lives


As a OD practitioner, who is fascinated with the whole subject of uncertainty & risk (U&R), I have focused not only on how to conceptualize it so that it is useful in my consulting areas, but also how to establish a process for clients in getting a better sense of the U&R implications in their decisions choices.

One way that I have found useful is to consider how U&R shows up in our lives. My metaphor is to consider that our decision choices create doors that U&R can enter through. Different choices can establish different U&R doors from each other. I have established the following “U&R doors” to help in these deliberations:

Internal U&R Doors (the doors we establish within our organizations by the choices we make):

1. Unintended consequences, we end up creating consequences that we did not anticipate within. Example, we implement a change in how we operate and create problems that we did not envisage.

2. Reach limits on our capabilities and/or capacities. A choice we make creates an operating threshold that puts us close/over the our internal capabilities/capacities. Example, we require our systems to work for extended periods resulting in unscheduled stoppages/breakdowns.

External U&R Doors (the doors that are outside of our organization that can come into play because of our decisions):

1. Serendipity, which includes “Black Swans”. “It just happened. Don’t take it personally. It really isn’t about you!” These U&R doors always existed, it’s just that our decisions made us more exposed to their impacts if they occur.

2. Other Party/Stakeholder moves that are independent to your choices/moves. Example, A plant is shut down affecting the supply of a critical good that your supplier uses to meet your purchase requirements.

3. Other Party/Stakeholder moves that are a response to your decisions. Example, a competitor’s response.

Are these U&R doors totally independent from each other? No. My view is that we develop as comprehensive a list as useful so we can implement “mitigating” strategies in the implementation of our decisions.

The connection to talent management? Organizations when they establish their core business processes, create critical or pivotal roles within these processes. These roles by definition have a levering affect on the business process’s outcomes. The dark side of a pivotal role is that if it is affected by turnover, churnover, retirements, poaching, etc. will have a debilitating impact on the business process. Being critical/pivotal means that you are additionally exposed to U&R events.

What can be surprising, is that leaders in organizations can be oblivious to some of their core business processes critical roles. When I am engaged, to help with their talent management needs this is a standard area I do an check on.

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About 123stilllearning456

As a management consultant I am passionately interested in talent management and risk/uncertainty issues. In the area of talent management I propose that we seek strategies that look beyond the staffing/employee centric frames of reference. I have been frustrated at the "closing down on possibilities" by these more conventional staffing/employee centric approaches. I have been impressed where people have found systematic solutions to their talent management issues by going beyond the conventional approaches. In the area of risk and uncertainty, I am interested in making this topic relevant to more normal decision making situations. My conceptual foundation is to use the micro-economist's fixed/variable cost theme. I also think it is important to look at these issues for people through their emotional and psychological lens. As a premise I think risk and uncertainty only exist where there is a person who cares about possible events and its consequences. Hence, risk and uncertainty are social based concepts (no sentience, no risk and uncertainty). A major influence on my thinking in this area is Nassim Taleb of "Black Swan" fame. This BLOG provides me with an opportunity to express my thoughts on topics that interest me. As this is an online diary, content is more important to me than polish. I apologize if this distracts from readers' enjoyment and learning. Still I find this a useful way to live up to my namesake, learn more from others and hopefully provoke creative thoughts and ideas in others.
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