Is compliance a good thing or merely a necessity?

In many of the arguments about the Grenfell fire,

the question of compliance with Building Regulations comes up. It has a sense of deja vu for me. I have so often been in discussions where the question of compliance, with one thing or another, has come up. Now, of course, I am not going to advise anyone to fail to comply with legal requirements. However, I am concerned that people often think thy are doing enough if they comply.

Some regulations may be overprescriptive, but a many are not. Many set out the minimum standard. All too often, people choose to ignore guidelines or advice on best practice, if these have no statutory authority.

Behind the bar.

I can remember a time when a lot of fatalities in motor accidents were the result of a car running into the back of a lorry. That is because lorries are higher than cars and the rear bumper, or some part of the lorry, went through the car’s windscreen, killing the driver and any front-seat passenger.  A simple remedy was suggested. Attach a bar to the back of every lorry at car-bumper height. Thus the impact of a collision would be taken by the vehicle, not the driver. It was so obvious, but a lot of lorries did not acquire such bars until they were made compulsory. How many needless deaths occurred in the interim, due to the compliance mentality?

You can probably think of similar examples in your industry.

Are you doing enough?

The aim of Risk Management should not be mere compliance. It should be managing risks. Sometimes regulations can be overprescriptive and work against the better management of risks. We just have to live with them. Or get someone to revise them. But do try to understand why they are there.

What steps do you need to take to go beyond compliance towards best practice, or the most appropriate practice for you?

I wrote about this in my book Load the Dice.

Load the dice - go beyond compliance

Are we being overprotective in our schools and in our businesses?

What is the concern?

Some people in government are concerned that schools are overprotective of the children in their care. These people are concerned that children will not develop the ability to identify and manage risks. If someone always holds your hand when you cross a road, you will not learn to watch the traffic and make sensible judgement calls.

Are the concerns groundless?

In my experience, I have encountered this overprotective approach alongside instances of the opposite in the same school. Perhaps some risks were more apparent, or had got onto someone’s check-list, whilst the ‘it couldn’t happen here’ approach ruled for others.

Let’s apply horse sense! They are not overprotective.

I remember the way my mare treated her foal. When it was very young, she was highly protective, but she gradually relaxed her vigilance as the youngster learnt to take care of itself. On one occasion, the foal ran up to an adult horse, making a nuisance of itself. The mare watched but did not intervene. The other horse made threatening gestures, until the foal gave up and left it alone. A month earlier the mare would have placed herself between her offspring and anything that might have harmed it. She was always protective, as far as it was appropriate. Never overprotective.

Can we be as sensible as that mare?

How overprotective are you in your business?

This is obviously relevant if you are a teacher or a parent, but is that all? I think we all need to learn about the risks in our businesses and in our lives and learn to assess and control them. That does not mean running away from them, neither does it mean ignoring them.

Let me know if you want to talk about this. Click this.

Horseshoe- reminder not to be overprotective
Don’r rely on luck but don’t be overprotective



Are we all using too much hindsight in business and in politics?

Hindsight has been a lot in the news.

Many people have been accused of indulging in hindsight when they have been highly critical of Kensington and Chelsea Council in the wake of the Grenfell Flats fire. I have previously said that hatred and bitterness were inappropriate responses towards the prime minister, and I extend that comment to all those who have been getting the blame. We are all human. The word Murder was definitely wrong.

However, that does not mean that there is no place for criticism.

The defenders of the Council have claimed its critics have been using far too much hindsight. I agree that whenever anything goes wrong there are plenty of people ready to say “I told you so” and others who claim they would have dealt with the situation far better.

What do I think of Kensington and Chelsea Council?

I am very dissatisfied with their response to the criticism. Although we need to let the inquiry do its job and refrain from jumping to conclusions, there are some things we know already. We need not accept a lot of the excuses.

Why am I sure I am not just using hindsight? 

Risk Management involves identifying risks and selecting measures to control them. There are requirements for big businesses and all the public sector to have risk management policies and procedures. There is also such a thing as emergency planning or business continuity. Some include that within risk management: others see it as a separate discipline. Whatever!

We know that there had been several warnings about various factors which contributed to the disaster. Yet, even if anyone can justify failing to act on them, there is the question of what happened afterwards.

Why did it seem that headless chickens were in charge?

When I worked for St Helens Council, my boss was the coordinator of emergency planning for the whole of Merseyside. He was often going to meetings with representatives of all the boroughs in the county and from the police, fire service, the NHS and parts of the private sector. They drew up plans for dealing with various kinds of emergencies. Several senior officers in each council had specific responsibilities in the event of an emergency.

Was there no similar thing in London? Was not a major fire one of the contingencies they would have considered?

What do I conclude?

Murder? No.Hindsight? No? Negligence? Yes.

What about us?

I hope none of us will wait for hindsight to be applied before we address the risks in and around our businesses, especially if they might affect other people.  And if you are in local or central government…need I say more?


Does your business have resilience?

Remember the other fire? It highlights business resilience.

Although the public and the media have been concentrating, understandably, on the Grenfell Tower Tragedy, there has been another fire in London  – in the Camden Lock Market. Thankfully, nobody was killed in this one, but many businesses have had to close: some temporarily, but others possibly permanently.

This is a reminder that Risk Management is not only about preventing bad things from happening. It is also about being prepared in case they do. This aspect of RM is sometimes called Resilience, or Business Continuity. Something Kensington and Chelsea Council seem unaware of.

How much resilience does your business have?

Are you prepared for a major fire, flood, terrorism, cyber attack or other serious incident, whether beyond your control or not in the first place?

Dice - a reminder of the risks we nee resilience to cope with
Could one throw of the dice close your business?

Part of the solution could lie in Business Continuity Insurance. However, as in all risks, insurance we should not view insurance as an answer in itself, but as part of a risk control strategy.

I have written about this previously,  in an e-zine article Is Business Interruption Insurance the Answer to the Threats Which Could Put You Out of Business? 

Do you want to review your strategy to increase your resilience?

Or look for a  strategy? Click here to  ask me. A little chat won’t cost anything. Even a full review won’t cost you your business!

Are you wasting money on managing risk?

You don’t want to waste money, do you? Perhaps you think Risk Management is one way you are not wasting any, especially if you are not using the services of a Risk Management consultant. Of course, you could be right, but, before you pat yourself on the back, just ask yourself how much you are spending on managing risks now. It might be more than you think. It will not be Nil.

Show me the money!

Here’s an article that may help you see how much risk management is costing you now. You could be in for a surprise, or several.

Yes, you could be spending more than you need on managing the risks in your business. A lot of people are.


Am I cheap or just economical?

You can actually more money than you spend on my fee and I will help you get the best value for money from everything you are spending on managing risks, by targeting that expenditure more effectively.

Is there a guarantee?

  • I will guarantee to carry out whatever programme we agree.
  • I will guarantee commitment and confidentiality.
  • I will guarantee that there will be no hidden charges.
  • I will guarantee that I will work within the timeframe we agree.

However, I cannot guarantee savings, until I have studied your business. If I could, I would call my business, JHM Certainty Management.

So I have to ask you to take a risk. Get in touch. I guarantee that the initial consultation will cost you NOTHING. That really is a certainty!

Will growth wreck your business?

Is growth part of your business plan for this year or next?

If so, you probably think it is likely to save your business, not wreck it. You probably don’t want to hear from negative people. Neither do I, but, sadly, a lot of businesses get into trouble when they experience growth, especially if it’s rapid.

Am I saying it is better to be static?

No!  I want to see your business grow, but I want it to continue growing successfully, not to be destroyed by one of the many landmines awaiting you. By that, I mean the risks that will appear, or change, as the business changes.

I have written about the seven landmines of growth. If you want your business to grow, and thrive, I hope you will read the article and find something in it that will keep you from stepping on a landmine.


Risk Dice

Are you ready?

Ask yourself how well prepared your business is for growth. Why not have a word with me? Most people find a meeting with me is better than stepping on a landmine. And it’s free.

Can you be asking the wrong question?

One question I am often asked is, “What risks do you manage?”

If that is the question on your mind, you are right to ask it. I will always try to answer any question from a client or potential client, or anyone else. It is obviously not a silly question. So how can it be wrong?

Risk Dice

First, you may wish to ask yourself what types of risk are important in your business. I have written about the twelve categories of risks threatening most businesses here

Can I deal with all of them? You may well ask!

Nobody an be an expert in everything. The way I could help you, if you would let me, would be to help you set up a process, so you could identify, analyse and control the risks in and around your business. I could also start you off on the right track, by carrying out a survey of your activities and asking questions about the ways in which the risks we observed are being managed.

So, what else can I do for you?

I might go into some of your risks in depth. I might direct you to someone who is an expert in a particular area. Or I might leave you to find the answers once we have identified the questions.

This brings us to another question and another article I have written to help you answer it.

It is a cliche, but true, that if you want to get to the right answer, you have to ask the right question. Ask it! Then ask me.

Can we overreact to terrorism?

What do I mean, overreact? Of course, it is difficult to imagine anyone not wanting to do everything possible to reduce the risk of another terrorist incident. Could anyone be said to overreact? Does anyone not care?

We keep hearing about the need to get tough on terrorism. Does anybody think we need to get soft on it? Mostly, such statements are not accompanied by specific proposals.

There is certainly a risk, as many people have said, that we could overreact:

  • by introducing ill-thought-out measures,
  • by throwing money at the problem,
  • by taking steps that alienate moderate Moslems and lose their cooperation and goodwill,
  • or by blaming the police or MI5 rather than trying to learn the right lessons.

However, I think there is another risk we need to consider.

The risk of giving the problem too much attention!

I have written before about the need to use statistics carefully, in blogs and in my book How to Avoid Being Misled by Statistics, go to

Think about these questions:

  • How many people have been killed or wounded by terrorist acts in this country this year? In the last ten years?
  • How many have been killed by serial killers? Gangland killings? Random acts of violence?
  • How many people are killed each year in traffic accidents,? In avoidable accidents at work?

We do not hear of demands for increased resources to protect us from killers of all kinds. We do not hear of draconian solutions being proposed to curtail our freedoms or to ensure that the Road Traffic Acts or Health and Safety Acts are enforced rigorously.

Is there not a risk that we can concentrate too much on one particular risk to the detriment of efforts to deal with many other kinds?

I am not complacent, merely asking for a sense of proportion.

What about you?

How are you prone to overreact?

  • What risk in your business do you concentrate on managing?
  • What others might you be ignoring?
  • When did you last have a Risk Management review, whether conducted by yourself or someone independent?

Is it time to  look at it again? (It’s not for the first time, surely?)

Have a chat with me, if you’re not sure. It won’t cost you anything just to talk about it.

Risk Dice


How easily could your business be grounded?

Everyone is being critical of BA as they have grounded all their planes over the Bank Holiday Weekend. Although nobody seems to know exactly what went wrong, and investigations are ongoing, here are a few questions which might be relevant to your business too, whatever its size or nature.

What is crucial to your business? It seems a power outage caused a vital computer system to fail, affecting all BA’s operations. How could your business be grounded? Is there one thing that your business depends on? A system, a machine, a building, or even a person?

  • Can you identify it and evaluate its robustness?
  • What could make it fail? How likely is it? What can you do to prevent that?
  • Do you have back up? Is anything or anyone indispensable? A standby generator would surely have been a good investment.

JHM Data Protection

Do you have a Plan B? What should you, and each of your employees, do in the event of a major failure of a crucial system, machine or whatever? Is it total shutdown or can you carry on at a reduced level of output?

How will clients or the public react? BA seem to have done nothing to communicate with travellers: to inform, to reassure, or to offer any sort of help. The damage to their reputation could turn out to be the most expensive part of this catastrophe.

What will it cost? Whenever you assess risks, you will obviously consider the cost of any risk control measures you are to consider. Do you also consider the cost of failing to implement such controls?

Before you condemn BA, ask yourself whether you would do any better. If you are worried, have a word with me. What have you got to lose? Don’t become grounded.

Risk Dice

How is creativity related to your business?

I have written that writing fiction can be a help in business by developing your creativity. I said that creativity is a quality that is needed in business. Any kind of business.

What do I mean? 

We all have a creative side to our brains and an analytical side. Some seem stronger on one side than the other. The balance tends to determine the sort of job you do, or do best, and the sort of hobbies you take up. But nobody is 100% one or the other. Well, almost nobody.

JHM Data Protection

You tend to use the analytical side when doing technical things. But even in a technical business, you need creativity for it to be a success.

  • New ideas.
  • Beating the competition.
  • Problem solving.

These are all the things you haven’t got time for in a busy day, just keeping up with the demands of the business. That’s half the trouble, and I will be writing about that soon.

The other half of the trouble is that almost nobody teaches creativity. In fact, all too often, education and training seem designed to suppress it. Learning to do things a certain way, unquestioningly following procedures, is the surest way to learn to switch off your creative side.

I am not saying that we should not learn the technical side of things, or that there is no place for procedures and order in business or in life. I help design procedures to control risks. However, the danger is that we rely on the procedures too much, without thinking. Any new risk is likely to be ignored if it is not picked up by any of your existing procedures. So I want you to learn how to identify and manage risks, old or new, and to write new procedures as and when necessary. I want you to recognise when a procedure is not appropriate for the situation and make an exception.

Creativity is especially important when dealing with a changing situation.  

I will be writing again about ways of developing your creative side. It is certainly an issue I intend to include in risk management consultations. But I will not forget to use the analytical side of my brain too.