Remember learning to drive? Oh, the joy…
- Steely resolve as you nervously clutched the wheel, the front of the car peeking hesitantly out of the driveway.
- Hypervigilance on full display as you scanned busy streets for other cars, pedestrians, small dogs or other animals.
- Rabbit starts, riding the brake, forgetting to signal and all the drama that goes with not fully understanding what you’re doing, but making your best effort anyway.
We’ve all been there, and we all remember the classroom sessions where we had to memorize traffic signs, the elements of a dashboard and other things that became muscle memory at some point, but which required careful attention while first learning them.
And we likely all had one point hammered into our heads, above all the others, designed to keep us safe: defensive driving.
For anyone without a license or who — god forbid — has forgotten the meaning, insurer Geico provides a summary: “It’s about thinking ahead and anticipating hazards so you can avoid accidents before they happen.”
Good advice, and even better when it’s applied to management:
- What do you do if employee A wins the lottery and walks out the door with all the institutional knowledge about how to do X, Y and Z?
- How do you anticipate project needs before they get a chance to smack you in the head?
- Do you know whether the work you delegate is being done correctly?
- What do you do when the website goes down? How do you let your customers know?
The way to manage these risks is through defensive management: assume the best, but prepare for the worst.
- Employee A has probably documented how to do X, Y and Z, but check anyway well before they get a chance to walk.
- Make sure you’re connected to your manager and the powers that be: get a seat at the table where decisions are made, or at least get the minutes.
- Set up the necessary QA, including spot checking, peer review, and so on.
- Put a plan in place for how to switch servers, post a “temporarily out of service” message, etc.
A lot of defensive management boils down to documentation, risk management and project management:
- Do you have:
- A plan?
- A timeline?
- A mitigation strategy?
If not, there’s still time. Happy driving.