The Year of Being Agile -- Agile Risk Management, Objective Analysis, the Easy Part

In the previous post, we talked about adopting the correct mindset for risk management. This is critical, because people are either all "la-la-la I can't hear you" or "OMG it's the end of all things!" about risk. Neither of these attitudes are at all helpful. What is helpful?

Objective analysis and informed intuition.

First, analysis: If you are going to deal with the risks in your life you need to be able to look at them. Let's start easy... with the risks you already know about.

Once upon a time, when we were so young that looking back, I'm surprised we ever survived our own naivete, the fellow who's now my husband and I moved in together for the first time. And someone older and wiser (read, late 20s) suggested we get renters insurance. These days no one's going to rent to you without proof of insurance. But back then this wasn't the case and we were pleasantly surprised to realize that for about $11 a month all of our stuff would be protected and it would even cover a temporary place to stay if something happened to our shitty trailer (maybe a wind storm, that would be appropriately redneck and poverty stricken).

So you have a known risk (wind storm, fire, or invasion of black widows -- not kidding) and you have a mitigation (insurance).

That's not the kind of black widow I meant...
That's the trick though. These kinds of well-known, obvious risks usually have easy and well-known mitigation tools (with their own advertising campaigns). Still, it's worth running through the obvious ones, based on the common areas of concern in your life such as: health, income, family, housing, environment.

Once you have that list, you can immediately strike off the ones that are already well-mitigated (you have house insurance, an alarm system, house charms, and a fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink -- move on). Then you should also strike off the ones that you can do little to nothing about (meteor strike and President Pence maybe).

By the way, you may as well stop worrying about those items. When I first wrote about risk on the blog (over two years ago now) someone commented that a really nice side effect of this process was discovering that things were maybe not as scary as they'd thought. Since worry is one of those unhelpful emotions (like jealousy and offense) it's nice to be able to put some of it aside.

Darling, did you put the cat out?

You think there'd be nothing left on your list, since these are known risks and all. But humans aren't good at considering that bad things actually happen. For example, do you have at least three days of food and water for every member of your family? Do you have two weeks worth? We don't. We have the food and the fuel to cook it, but we've never been great at storing water. Our last effort failed when the smaller bottles we bought in bulk were discovered by our kid (stop drinking our emergency water -- if a meteor hits, then you'll be sorry!). We've been talking about a combination of larger bottles and a rain catchment system -- but we haven't done it yet. Which means I sometimes have a hard time with risk too.

The other reason that a known risk remains unmitigated is usually that you can't see a path to mitigation. Complex risks involving money are usually like this. If you're at risk of being homeless if you lose your job and your job impacts your health because it's shitty and you can't get a better job because of poor health from your shitty job... That's the kind of risk that people can't see a way out of and that will just fester away, causing worry and stress. These are actually perfect for an agile risk management process, though I don't want to make light of how terrible and challenging this kind of situation is. More on this as we get into the agile risk process.

So at the end of this process, you have a list of shitty stuff that keeps you up nights. Maybe you'd like a stiff drink or hot bath?

Because that was the easy part... next up, identifying risks you don't even know about.


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