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Teams part 5

Taking risks

How good is your team? Will it make a difference either to the team members or the organisation or to other parties (for example customers)?

To move from a team that does just enough to one that performs exceptionally well may need a move from routine behaviour to one of more risk (The Complete Risk Management package) taking. This does not mean throwing caution to the wind and attempting to overspend on your budget come what may. It’s about finding out what the true potential of the team really is.

Taking additional risks will always benefit from extra knowledge.
If you can delve into aspects of the project more deeply the extra knowledge may be useful.
A team provides a service by achieving a goal.
How can you improve upon that with extra service to reach a gold standard.

Risk here is about leaving the comfort zones of normal working and not taking on a specific risk (The Complete Risk Management package) that could be rated as reckless. If you or your team fears mistakes you won’t take risks. This is why you need to have a no blame culture in place.

This does not mean that you take large risks all at once. It could be that improvements are gradual by taking smaller risks and allowing them to accumulate over a period of time. The aim is to try to add value to what the team does that distinguishes it from the norm.

When looking for fresh initiatives it’s a good idea if at first they are simple and can be carried out directly by the person who suggested it improving personal motivation. On the other hand, when the idea requires external help the team may lose control over its progress. This can be a little de-motivating.

All teams will work within a project scope and certain specifications.
The amount of leeway for introducing added value will depend on the industrial area in which you work.
Taking risks is not the solve preserve of teams running projects but may equally apply to strategic meetings.

This approach of risk taking may be more awkward where teams are traditionally made up of people who tend to act as individuals.
If people have individual targets (for example sales personnel) they may find it hard to ‘share’ ideas.
In these circumstances you might pair people together to see if there is any synergy that can be gained or perhaps instigate team rewards.

You can try to assess the nature of your team when it comes to risk.
You may even rate certain aspects from 1 to 10 based upon some examples with 10 being high risk.
If you then ask yourself a few simple questions you can calculate a total ‘risk’ score which you can use to review your position in the future. There is no need for this exercise to assess all decision making by thorough risk analysis as described elsewhere (The Complete Risk Management package).

Your simple questions might be:

  • How many decisions have you made in the last month that you would consider risky? Give yourself a point for each one.
  • Do you encourage risk taking ideas? (Never = 1, We allow items to be raised = 5, We have a specific agenda item = 10, and devise values in between).
  • Do you carry out risk reviews? (Never = 1, As and when necessary = 5, We have a specific agenda item = 10, and devise values in between).
  • How do you make decisions where risk is involved? (We just go for it = 1, We just assess the impact at the meeting = 5, We consider all aspects according to a procedure = 10 , and devise values in between).

You do need to be careful with this sort of assessment. You are trying to encourage risk taking (as opposed to being risk averse).
At the same time you need to have good procedures for progressing them. You ought make sure that you are not at ‘We just go for it = 1’.
In the final question. You must be able to justify an approach. Think about the overall score you might like and the acceptable position for each one.
You can generate your own questions based upon your own experiences.

It is usually the case that teams will take more risks than individuals as there will be a feeling of sharing the risk.
This can improve motivation for risk taking.


If the leader is not enthused about the team goal then it’s unlikely that anyone else will be.
In this sense the leader is treating the rest of the team as his or her customers.
You have to sell the whole package to the team from the benefits of the product, the overall vision to the strategy for getting there and the reasoning behind every milestone.

Speak about the values you believe in for running an excellent team.
Actually tell people that you operate a no blame culture as you’re only interested in solving problems not extending them.

In the face of many hurdles that you will encounter always remain positive.
Above all be yourself and lead by example.


The team can review their efforts constructively at various stages of the project.
You could do it after each milestone. Or you could review how the team meeting went at the end.
You could review specific areas like risk taking.

Team performance can be reviewed (see The Complete Project Management package) but some of the above methods may provide a better opportunity for this.
What ever it is you review it must be constructive with a view to improving tasks and behaviours in the future and not repeating mistakes.

Well managed reviews can only increase motivation.