Risk & Reward requires a Strategy

Long before PlayStations and iPads, board games were the common form of multi-player entertainment. I’ve recently had the opportunity to play the board game Risk with my good friend Jeroen and his four young boys.

Risk is a map-based strategy board game in which each player receives a handful of soldiers, a set of dice, and a random selection of occupied countries. The game is challenging and unpredictable as each player must complete a secret mission (ie. “Conquer Asia” or “Destroy the Blue Army”) in order to win the game.

How young boys apply strategy

With four siblings, however, the game quickly descends into howls of outrage and kicks under the table. Furtive whispering leads to alliances, and later, betrayal. Unsurprisingly, the game is also littered with unrelated feuds:

“I’ll give you five rand if you attack China”

“No you killed all my men in North Africa and you still owe me five rand for cleaning the hamster cage”

“Yes but last time we were a team and I didn’t attack you and DAD, TROY JUST ATE ALL THE POPCORN!”

Individual strategies

During these games, I’ve enjoyed observing their individual strategies. The younger brothers tend to attack each other indiscriminately with a vague threats to “I’ll get you back”.

The oldest brother has learnt that patience and concentration of resources is vital to domination of a continent, but has often been caught unawares with the sudden arrival of Dad’s army on his borders. The youngest relies solely on luck, every roll of the dice is followed by a jubilation or strangled scream.

Strategy can be learned

Many IT managers rely on luck and gut-feel to overcome strategic challenges. The most common alternatives to formulating an Service Strategy (and you may recognise these ‘non-strategies’) are:

  • to manage by Demand (“we’ll give them whatever they ask for”)
  • to manage by Extrapolation (“the same as last year, and maybe a little more”)
  • to manage by Crisis (“we’ll do whatever it takes”)
  • to manage by Constraints (“we’ll do whatever we can with the resources we have”)

Without a clear Service Strategy, you could be wasting time and resources on piecemeal, disparate activities:

  • what you want to do,
  • what you think your customer wants you to do and,
  • nervously reacting to your customer’s demands.