Project Practitioners > You Play To Win The Game

You Play To Win The Game

By Kent McDonald

I just got back home from the Nebraska vs Iowa State Football game. Seventh ranked Nebraska won the game 31-30 in Overtime as Iowa State's 2 point conversion attempt was intercepted. So why should readers of a blog about project management care about a college football game in the Midwest United States? Because that 2 point conversion is actually a good example of a calculated risk. I see several discussions about managing risks, and mitigating risks on pm blogs, but I don't see enough discussion about taking calculated risks.

I'll agree that there are some risks you should mitigate, but sometimes project managers forget that taking a risk can lead to a positive outcome. Along with that line of thinking, I agree with the line of thinking that says if there is no risk in a project, it is probably not worth doing. The secret is to take calculated risks – which means know which risks are worth taking, and which risks will just get you into trouble. Take steps to improve the chances of a good outcome from the risks worth taking, and take other steps to prevent the bad outcomes from happening at all. Seems like pretty straightforward motherhood and apple pie stuff, but it's surprising how often project teams don't think about both sides of the risk coin, or forget to consider the risk coin altogether.

ISU coach Paul Rhodes had a decision to make after the Cyclones scored a touchdown in their position in first Overtime and the score 31-30. He could take the safe route and kick the extra point to live on to play another overtime, or he could take a risk and attempt a two point conversion, which if successful, would end the game right there completing a rather substantial upset. It was a gutsy call, and had it been successful, Rhodes would have been a genius. But it was not successful, and no doubt many Iowa State fans will question the decision, but I believe it represented one of those calculated risks that was worth taking. It showed that Iowa State was playing to win, not playing not to lose. It didn't have the desired effect in this game, but it could pay dividends as evidenced in the teams attitude and approach to their remaining games. That remains to be seen, but for now I can be comfortable knowing that my alma mater's football team is being coached by someone who wants to win and is willing to take calculated risks to do it. It's nice to see that kind of attitude at a school that is not commonly known as a football powerhouse.

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