I go where the risk is

“As you know, I go where the risk is. And today I’m sitting here.” I was addressing Rich and Mike – the two guys leading one of my work streams – as I joined their team for the day.

I was concerned about the seeming lack of progress in Rich and Mike’s work stream. I’d been attending their stand up for a while and things were obviously stuck. Cards were in “Dev in Progress”, had been there for a while, and the message each day was the same – “I’ll be finished with this today”. Clearly that wasn’t true and I wanted to know why this team was stuck.

Management on the ground is about going where the acton is. My preference is to have my whole team in a big open plan office. That lets me use observing, eavesdropping and overhearing to know what is going on and intervene when I need to.

But my current programme has seven work streams spread across two cities. Even in London, where the bulk of the people are, the teams are spread across three floors of a building. That makes things a bit harder. Certainly it cramps my style in terms of observing, eavesdropping and overhearing.

Of course I attend the stand ups of all my work streams as often as I can. It gives me a general idea what is going on and highlights some of the risks and issues.
Great Risk Just Ahead
But when something specific comes up I need to get more involved. So I go where the risk is. I sit with the team. Soak up what is happening. Work with the team to address the issues – or at least understand them. Get involved. When they seem on track again I leave them to it.

As it happens I only spent one day with Rich and Mike’s team. That was enough to satisfy me that things were actually okay, not great, but okay. I understood the issue they were facing and had reasonable confidence that they’d be able to work through it without further intervention from me. So I left them to it. Of course, by then, there was a new issue to worry about and I went where the risk is.