Bloomberg on Agile Part II (Risk Analysis)

Continuing on the theme of sharing agile project management techniques in the wild, here is another example of Bloomberg’s approach to risk management and planning. For Part I (on the benefits of working from a heap) click here.

As quoted from his book, Bloomberg by Bloomberg:

Don’t think, however, that planning and analysis have no place in achieving success. Quite the contrary. Use them, just don’t have them use you. Plan things out and work through real-life scenarios selecting from the opportunities currently available. Just don’t waste effort worrying about an infinite number of down-the-road possibilities, most of which will never materialize.

Think logically and dispassionately about what you’d like to do. Work out all the steps of the process – the entire what, when, where, why, and how. Then, sit down after you are absolutely positive you know it cold, and write it out. There’s an old saying, “If you can’t write it , you don’t know it.” Try it. The first paragraph invariably stops you short. “Now why did we want this particular thing?” you’ll find yourself asking. “Where did we think the resources would come from?” “And what makes us think others – the suppliers, the customers, and potential rivals – are going to cooperate?” On and on, you’ll find yourself asking the most basic questions you hadn’t focused on before taking pen to paper.

As you discover you don’t know it all, force yourself to address the things you forget, ignored, underestimated, or glossed over. Write them out for a doubting stranger who doesn’t come with the confidence in the project’s utility – and who, unlike your spouse, parent, sibling, or child, doesn’t have a vested interest in keeping you happy. Make sure your written description follows, from beginning to end, in a logical, complete, doable, path.

Then tear up the paper.

That’s right, rip it up. You’ve done the analysis. You’ve found enough holes in the plan to drive your hoped-for Bentley automobile through repeatedly. You’ve planned for myriad what-if scenarios. You’ve presented your ideas to others. You’ve even mapped out the first few steps.

But the real world throws curve balls and sliders every day, as well as the fastballs you practice against. You’ll inevitable face problems different from the ones you anticipated. Sometimes you’ll gave to “zig” when the blue print says “zag”. You don’t want to detailed, inflexible plan getting in the way when you have to respond instantly. By now, you either know what you can know – or you don’t and never will. As to the rest, take it as it comes.

I like Bloomberg’s approach to risk analysis and mitigation. Worry about the stuff you can handle, and don’t sweat the rest.

You are always going to be able to find reasons for not going forward with a project. And you can rest assured your plan won’t have events like loose lead programmer here, or have primary customer be poached by competitor here (both of which have happened to me). You just gotta deal with it and move on.

As the lord’s serenity prayer says:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.


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3 Responses to “Bloomberg on Agile Part II (Risk Analysis)”

  1. Prashant Says:

    Liked both your entries. I recommend you read Lou Gerstner’s “Elephant can Dance”. He has similar approach to analysis, risk management and people management.

  2. JR Says:

    I’ve heard good things about that book. Will definitely check it out.

  3. Fabio Gavilondo Says:

    Hi JR. Good to see you’re doing your own thing. Not so “crowded” I guess 🙂

    Enjoy reading this blog. Keep it up.

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