Conservative or Risky?

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 715889

    Comments posted to this topic are about the item Conservative or Risky?

  • Ian Massi

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5931

    Well, our leader said that if our company doesn't get aggressive in this downturn the company will wither since our competitors will. As long as the risks he takes aren't poorly thought out (they aren't) then it's all good.

  • Scott Arendt

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 7671

    Who's to say what is risky?

    Andrew Carnegie used to spend lots of money during economic downturns to upgrade his factories. When the economy turned around, he benefited by having the most efficient plants and was able to outproduce his competitors.

  • mhaskins

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1145

    Where I work, the leadership is not risky. The growth is slow, the opportunities for employees are very few. On the other hand, my job is relatively safe. In the end, I'd better like my job because that's all I'm ever going to be doing here until I decide to leave. I will never get promoted or even get a large pay-raise or bonus.

    Slow and steady will not win the race, but it'll keep you in there for a good long time.:doze:

    Mia

    I have come to the conclusion that the top man has one principle responsibility: to provide an atmosphere in which creative mavericks can do useful work.
    -- David M. Ogilvy

  • Andy Lennon

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2354

    Personally I would rather have a more conservative leader that values aggressive advice, and acts on some of it, but stewards the business rather than runs along embracing each new opportunity. I prefer to see a business run as a long-term, perpetual entity that strives to make a profit and sustain itself, which is a more conservative view.

    That sounds pretty good to me.

    If you have an agressive, risk-taking person at the top and there's a screwup, there can be a serious loss of faith in the abilities of that leader and a corresponding drop in morale. On the other hand, if the driving force for risk and innovation is a level below the executive, he/she can remain relatively seperated from the mundane goings-on and maintain a dignified (to further the military analogy) officer-like standing.

  • Chris Harshman

    SSC-Forever

    Points: 41759

    In some instances, I think it would be nice just to have some kind of leadership at all. The company I currently work for seems to have more emotional "rah-rah go team" kind of leadership than business and decision making leadership. The software product I work on for example, has an elaborate committee of managers to make decisions in a rather long drawn out process (with very little input from our clients) for a project that only has 2 web developers and myself as the lone DBA/database developer. It's often painfull to get anyone to make decisions.

    In general though, I think I'd want a balanced leader that was willing to receive conservative and risky advice, and was able to find the right balance between the two.

  • Steven Cameron

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2903

    The type of organization could dictate how conservative or risky a leader can be. In banking, you can't appear to be taking risks. In tech, cutting edge risk taking is almost required to get attention.

  • Steve Jones - SSC Editor

    SSC Guru

    Points: 715889

    Any company can have conservative or risky leadership, it's just in how it's applied. I think lots of investment banks have been very risky with derivatives. Hospitals can choose to push forward experiments on people, etc.

    I'm curious what you prefer, from your point of view. I'm with Mia on the slow and steady thing.

    If your company lacks leadership, suggest "It's Your Ship", it's a great book. Even for you, might give you ideas on how to prod them as well.

  • Anye Mercy

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2134

    As with most things, the answer is in the middle. A company can't always be taking risks or one big one will sink it. Calculated risk is the name of the game I think.

    --
    Anye Mercy
    "Service Unavailable is not an Error" -- John, ENOM support
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." -- Inigo Montoya in "Princess Bride"
    "Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice." -- Will Durant

  • GSquared

    SSC Guru

    Points: 260824

    I prefer a more adventurous company, but there has to be a balance.

    One company I worked for took some risks on moving to a whole new industry. I was one of the first employees in a new department that ended up absorbing the whole rest of the company. Massive, incredible growth for three years, then it began to steady up and growth was slower for the next two years.

    Several risks were taken early on, and some skilled management was needed to quickly determine which ones were panning out vs which ones needed to be dropped.

    Then, finally, in the last two years of the company, a major risk was taken, and when it consistently generated a negative ROI, the owners of the company just kept throwing resources at it for pretty much insane reasons. The company ended up out of business.

    The first years were a great example of risk with judgement, and worked beautifully. Went from about $1-million per year to over $12-million per year in three years. But they got sloppy, stopped paying attention to important details, etc., and the company died from it.

    Risk properly managed is a good thing. Was very fun for those years, and pay just kept getting better and better. Risk with obsession, not so good.

    - Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
    Property of The Thread

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  • Stephanie J Brown

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3866

    Depends on what you consider conservative and risky. I once worked for a company, back in my college days, that did advertising sales and tracking - you know those little "tear-out" ads where you write in your name and address to get more information. It was doing well, until the owner retired from the Navy and came in to take over running the business. He fired all the sales staff, convinced he could do a better job than they, and save some money. He also let the maintenance contract on the air conditioning lapse - in June.

    Is that conservative thinking? The focus was on saving money, which I guess is fiscal conservatism at least. And he made very sure everyone KNEW who the new BOSS was.

    The company went backrupt within 2 months, because half of the advertisers dropped him like a rock. So in trying to maintain our contract with a larger customer, we (the computer room staff) ended up working 3 straight days to dump all this customers data down to about a billion tapes (we're talking an old IBM 360 and the big reel tapes). The reason it took 3 days was the switching unit that would pop a breaker when the room temperature hit 80 degrees. In August. :crazy:

    I would rather he had taken a few more "risks", like believing in the people who had been keeping the company going all those years before he retired. And the only thing that got those tapes created was a risky choice I suggested and my supervisor agreed to. We bought a 79 cent block of ice, put it in a tub in front of the switching unit, and put a desk fan where it would blow across it and thru the (now opened) switching unit. We had to buy a second block of ice, but for $1.58 we go the job done. And then we crashed for a few hours, after which I took my final in FORTRAN (which I had no memory of the next day, but I got an "A").

    I believe the owner thought he was being conservative. I KNOW my supervisor and I discussed the risks of blowing high-moisture air into an overheating switching unit, and determined the risk was less than the known problem we were having. Which was more successful?

    So based on experience, I'd like leaders that make appropriately conservative or risky decisions based on the long-term plans and goals for the company. That's why I look for a company to work for that has values that align with my personal values - they're more likely to be in line with my views on risk versus conserve. Then I don't get totally frustrated when they make what I would consider "bizarre" decisions.


    Here there be dragons...,

    Steph Brown

  • Steve S.-542474

    SSC-Addicted

    Points: 425

    Philosophically speaking, I would like to work for a risk taker. In fact, I always end up working for risk-averse leaders. I'm guessing that my shrink would have something to say about that. :unsure:

  • Ron Kunce

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2128

    Everyone prefers the risk taker, but its the conservative approach that keeps the company afloat. When it comes to making decisions, having a team that know how to do a comprehensive "risk analysis" on any new project is tantamount to a successful design and virtual elimination of "risk taking".

    Ron K.

    "Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand." -- Martin Fowler

  • dduensing

    SSC-Addicted

    Points: 410

    I think leadership has a core responsibiliity to maintain a message and a direction, that allow everyone else to line up behind. Risk taking is a component of a vibrant company, but not just the "new and shiny" stuff. Changes in direction need to be strategically sound. The core business should always be the driver, not just chasing rainbows. So Risky leadership in my opinion is not really a good option, Value input from the staff, consider the gaps, and pain points, and work to find workable, sustainable solutions.

  • David.Poole

    SSC Guru

    Points: 75191

    I work for a calculated risk taker who is VERY good at calcuating.

    I think it depends on what the boss was before he was a boss.

    I've found accountants uniformly awful to work for. Risk averse to the point of stagnation. They kill every project with a "cost" argument.

    I've found Salesmen tend to be pushy and you get the "Oh Lord, what has he promised now?" feeling. On the whole you do tend to get an interesting time with these guys. When they get it right they get it right in spades. When they get it wrong then it is crash and burn time.

    I've found engineers are relatively good at extrapolating using known parameters.

    I've not worked for a boss who started off in IT.

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