CIO2CEO: Big Hairy ‘Oh Crap!’

Okay, I admit that I stole the idea for this title from Jim Collins. Collins introduced the

world to BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) in his book Built to Last. It’s a simple yet truly powerful concept.

For those who have pursued BHAGs, you’ve probably stepped in a few BHOCs (big hairy ‘Oh craps!’) along the way. Sometimes you slip and fall immediately, but often you don’t know you’ve stepped in a BHOC until something begins to smell funny.

Good leaders know how to effectively guide their teams through problems, big or small, ensuring they don’t fail in achieving their mission.

But maybe you want to be better than a good leader. Maybe even move up to great? Then learn to spot BHOCs before you step in them. Here are some basics:

1. Gather your team (especially those in the trenches) and other stakeholders and brainstorm risks around time, dollars, scope, quality, people, technology, etc.; ask them what they see as the biggest “Oh craps!” facing the effort

2. Don’t judge any idea or you’ll suppress risks (they’ll still be there, you just won’t know about them!)

3. Have a mechanism to continually listen for and capture risks throughout the life of the effort

4. Assess all risks based on probability of happening, and impact if a risk should occur (You will have risks from low probability and low impact, to high probability and high impact)

5. Document how you’ll handle each risk:

a. Accept as is

b. Abolish

c. Avoid by modifying the project

d. Actively manage/mitigate

e. Assemble a contingency plan to execute if a risk occurs

I’ve always believed that the biggest risk facing any project is not identifying the risks that can sink a project. This is one BHOC that can easily be abolished.

All projects experience BHOCs. But with some early, honest and open risk management, you’ll have a lot less crap to deal with!

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John D. Hughes is founder of GrowthWave, an Interim CIO/CEO Advisory firm in Seattle, WA,and author of the recently released leadership fable, Haunting the CEO: A tale of true leadership in an era of IT failure. John can be reached at [email protected].