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.