I hate being out of control. Maybe I am a control freak, but I want to know the risks I am taking, and measure the risks against the benefits. Most risks are measurable; activities that we have involved ourselves in that we inherently know involve some degree of risk.
For instance, I love to ride my motorcycle. Riding a bike has risks that you can control and risks that you cannot control – like the irresponsible actions of a distracted driver. Yet every time I get on my bike I know I am taking a risk, and I take the precautions that I think are prudent; I wear a jacket; I wear boots: and I even wear a full-face helmet because I don’t want my teeth grinding along the pavement. No matter how many precautions I take, I do not think I have eliminated all the risk. I exchange the risk for the enjoyment I get from riding. The same could be said for my hobbies of sport shooting and hunting.
The risk I fear most in business is that of a well-intentioned employee or manager who carries out a bad decision or policy without telling me. In the worst cases, the disaster is moved forward with enthusiasm and energy because they “believe” they are doing the right thing! The only defense I have found to this problem is being fully informed; keep my ear to the ground without disrupting the normal flow of work.
In my company I have a daily analysis of the email and chat traffic between our developers and their managers condensed to an exceptions report. This report looks for holes in the communication that signal miscommunication or a shift of course that might otherwise go unnoticed. In most cases, I have found they are a well intentioned (the most dangerous kind) misunderstanding of the instructions, or lack of clarity that has resulted in an unintended meaning and therefore an off-course action plan. Caught early, these course corrections are easy to make; left to fester, they grow into major problems that break relationships and reduce productivity.
Risks in developing software are largely related to person-to-person communication even with well documented plans and procedures. Paying special attention to identify and correct the “well intended” miscommunication early will pay huge dividends.