My father Royce Charon Hall was born on October 27, 1924 in Ideal, Georgia. The only problem was his living conditions were far from ideal. He grew up plowing barefoot behind a mule. Granddaddy and Grandmama Hall provided their children with food and clothes, but there wasn’t much more.
Daddy had a dream. He envisioned a day when he would have a good job, be married, and have a happy family. My father wasn’t quite sure how this would happen, but he had plenty of time to think about it as he plowed the fields. Daddy was highly motivated by the challenges of life.
Something interrupted his dream. It was called World War II. Daddy enlisted and hopped on a train out of Ideal to the far reaches of the world. After much training as a radio technician in the U.S., he was sent to the Philippines. Eventually, the war ended.
When Royce Hall returned home to the family farm, he was a different man. He had memories and bad dreams of a terrible war and a compelling desire to fulfill his future dreams.
Daddy pitched an idea to Granddaddy Hall to buy a tractor. His father’s response was, “Why do we need a tractor? We have two perfectly good mules. Besides, we don’t know anything ’bout a tractor.”
Eventually, Granddaddy Hall gave in to Daddy’s persistent requests. They borrowed the money and bought an Oliver tractor. Daddy not only plowed the family farm, but he made money plowing for other farmers.
In the first year with the tractor, he made enough money to pay off the tractor loan, purchase a car, and go to college. He took advantage of the G.I. bill to study agriculture at the University of Georgia. He became a county agent in Seminole County, Georgia where he met my mother, Dorothy King. They had four children – Rusty, Susan, Charles, and Harry. It wasn’t easy, but Daddy saw his dreams come true.
What is Opportunity?
I share this story to provide context to a brief discussion about opportunities. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines opportunity as “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.”
When my father returned from the war, he saw that few farmers had a tractor. He knew the hard life that farmers had plowing with mules. He saw the opportunity to invest in a tractor, to help others, and to create a path to his desired destination.
What Does It Mean to Exploit an Opportunity?
When we exploit an opportunity, we are ensuring that the opportunity WILL be realized. This strategy seeks to eliminate the uncertainty by ensuring the opportunity DEFINITELY happens.
Suppose that you need 40 laptops for a project. The cost of the laptops is greater than you had budgeted. You discover that if you order 50 laptops, we will get a 10% discount. You discover that another manager needs 20 laptops for a separate project. The order is executed ensuring the 10% discount.
What Does It Mean to Enhance an Opportunity?
When we enhance an opportunity, we increase the probability and/or impact of an opportunity.
Consider a project sponsor who asked a project manager to deliver a project four weeks earlier than originally planned for a software development project. The project team had been working on the project for three months with five months remaining. The project was one week ahead of schedule.
The project manager reviewed the requirements with the project team and worked with the team and sponsor to reduce some of the lower priority items. However, this was not sufficient to meet the new deadline.
The project manager discovered that one skilled developer and one senior tester would be available in one month as another project closed. Adding these additional resources to the two critical path tasks could greatly improve the probability of delivering the project by the required deadline.
Do you see the difference between exploiting and enhancing opportunities?
Making Opportunities Work For You
Many individuals think more about threats than opportunities. This is unfortunate since we may be missing the golden key to success. Individuals or organizations who wish to exploit and enhance their opportunities must be intentional. How do we do this?
- Be clear about your objectives and why the objectives are important.
- Get the appropriate stakeholders together and brainstorm opportunities.
- Capture and evaluate the opportunities. Which opportunities can be exploited? Which opportunities have the highest probability and impact scores?
- Identify risk/opportunity owners who will develop and execute response plans for the most significant opportunities.
- Develop and execute response plans.
- Realize your dreams.
Question: How can project managers motivate their team members to identify ways to exploit and enhance significant opportunities?