I know I need gas in my car. The fuel light has been on for a while and the gauge is pointing to E. I have a discount card at a local station, so I’ll head there.
But the grocery store is on the way and I’d really like steak for dinner. Should I push my luck? Yeah…no problem…I think.
That task done, it’s time to fill up my car—it will be fine; it’s only 1 minute away.
….And it’s closed with “Out of Order” signs on all the pumps!
Okay, now what?
Nerves a bit higher, I pull away to drive to the next closest station, for which I do not have a discount card.
I make it, but man, gasoline is expensive!
On the positive side, I took the risk of running out of gas and it didn’t materialize. I also picked up my grocery items and made my dinner plans a bit easier. But I paid a higher price for the gasoline and my brain was distracted and worried about ending up stranded on the side of the road.
How many risks do we take at work each week?
Yes, the big ones will be in our Risk Register (or they should be). And I’m certainly not advocating for putting every risk in your head down on paper. But it’s important to recognize that we take many small risks throughout the week that never make it into a spreadsheet.
When we are aware of the trade-offs, we’ll make better decisions.
For example, does Joshua need his data analysis by the original date even though its review is pushed out by two weeks? Do you schedule a meeting to start Go Live planning even though the team’s plate is full during the busy testing period? Is it better to focus this afternoon on stakeholder communication or upcoming budget discussions?
These small choices don’t make an obvious impact on the project. But they can set off a chain of events that play a bigger role—just like a snowball rolling downhill. So when you pay attention to the potential impact, you make a more informed decision to benefit the long run.
Bringing it back to my empty gas tank, if I had thought through my situation, I wouldn’t have wanted to take the risk of running out of fuel or not being able to go my preferred gas station.
I would have gone to fill up without stopping at the store, thus reducing the risk of running out of gas. And if there was an issue, I wouldn’t have been pressed to find the absolute next closest gasoline, regardless of price.