What do you do when things go wrong?

We have heard a lot about the Battle of Waterloo lately, and not surprisingly.

However, much less has been said about the Battle of Quatre Bras which took place two days earlier.  It was arguably a draw, but from the British point of view we succeeded in delaying Napoleon’s advance and giving ourselves and our allies a chance to defeat him later, as we did.  It was a bit of a shambles at times and Wellington was afraid it was going to turn into a total rout of the British and our allies.  We seem to have taken up positions which we found ourselves unable to defend.  At one stage there were Dutchmen and Belgians running in all directions, their officers losing all control.  Then Wellington saw a big gap where a brigade of Germans had been.  It looked like the panic was spreading.  It looked bad.  Then he saw them. The Germans.  They were retreating all right.  But they were under command and ready to fight.  Their commanding officer had decided to pull back to a clump of trees that would give them some cover, so he ordered a tactical withdrawal.  It worked.  The rest is history.

So what has any of this got to do with anything?

When things go wrong, as they are bound to sometimes, how do you react?  Panic?  Give up?

Or do you rethink and take sensible steps to retrieve the situation? Like the German officer?

Having a plan helps.  A Plan B.   In case Plan A does not work.

That is what Risk Management can do for you.  Ask “What could go wrong?”  Then think what you could do about it.

The time to ask it, and think it, is NOT after things have gone wrong.  Nobody makes the best decisions under stress.

Be ahead of the game.  Load the dice in your favour.  Manage the risks.

Good Luck!

What has Magna Carta to do with Risk Management?

Magna Carta will be commemorated in various ways this year, its eighth centenary.  Most of the emphasis will be about its political and legal implications.  And so it should be.  However, for those of us in business it has another significance.

It was the beginning of “governance”.

In effect, it said that everyone, even the King, was accountable.  There were to be rules.   Written down for all to see.  There would be a means of enforcing them.

Over the centuries, those rules have multiplied and the enforcement mechanisms have become more sophisticated.  Bur everyone has to be held to account.

One manifestation of this is “Corporate Governance” in business.  We have to be able to provide evidence that our organisations are properly managed in various respects.

Management has to be held to account.

One aspect of that is Risk Management.  Businesses need to show how they ensure that the risks they face, and often create, are managed satisfactorily.

There needs to be a process, not just a one-off exercise.  Individuals have to be accountable for their roles in managing the risks in their areas of authority.

There are different rules applying to different sizes and types of organisation.

If you are not sure how all this applies to you or if you know but are not complying, or do not know how to demonstrate that you are, perhaps you should have a word with me and see how I can help.

Tel. 01925 445215

Or send me an e-mail at john@jhmriskmanagementservices.co.uk


Another example of being misled by statistics.

Among all the comment on the way results of the May Election differred from the predictions of the polsters, one comment stood out to me as being the most interesting.

Was it because the sample was inadvertently biassed?

Think how the data is gathered.  Do you ever get asked to complete a questionnaire, on-line, by ‘phone or in person?  Do you respond?  What makes you respond or decline?

What kind of people are more likely to spend time dealing with an opinion poll?

I suggest businessmen, professional and senior managers are all too busy to bother.

On the other hand, students, unemployed people, and people in boring jobs, looking for an excuse to take a break, are all more likely to reply.  Which groups are more likely to be Labour supporters, which ones Tories?

Could this be why the polls got it wrong?

I wish I had included this in my book on statistics.

How To Avoid Being Misled By Statistics Don’t Be One Of The 60% Who Are Below Average

Go to:  https://www.createspace.com/4767398

Or http://www.amazon.com/How-Avoid-Being-Misled-Statistics/dp/1499190484/

Perhaps I will include it if I write a sequel!

Charity begins…at work?

Most people in business believe in helping charities and the Third Sector.  Usually this means giving money.  That IS what they most need is it not?

Some businesses give by arranging a day, or several, when employees get time off to go and volunteer at a charity.

There is another way which is all too often overlooked.  That is by providing our professional and entrepreneurial skills to Third Sector organisations for free.  They often lack the expertise that businessmen and professionals have.

And it is becoming increasingly important for all organisations to be run professionally.  Good governance.  Efficient and effective use of resources.  Accountability.  Marketing.

The Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, David Briggs wants to encourage businesses, public bodies and the Third Sector to work together so as to benefit everyone.  He has established Cheshire Connect in order to get the three sectors connected.  Find out more at www.cheshireconnect.org

You may also find some helpful thoughts on this subject in this article I wrote some time ago http://ezinearticles.com/?Five-Top-Tips-For-Voluntary-Sector-Managers-To-Prevent-Not-For-Profit-Becoming-A-Big-Loss&id=8222069

So what about guys?  Lets see what we all have to offer, and then…. offer it!

Are you using analogue or digital data?

For a long time, we have all been used to the need for ever more information about everything.  It is certainly true in Risk Management, as we try to assess risks and evaluate the effectiveness of control measures.

We all know that to make sense of data we need to reduce it to a digital form so as to be able to measure and analyse it.  Looking at individual cases is often described, generally disparagingly, as an old-fashioned, anecdotal approach.  And if there is one thing you must never be it is old-fashioned. Data must be quantitative rather than qualitative.

I found it pleasantly refreshing, therefore, to hear, at a Risk Management seminar, that some experts are now challenging the prevailing thinking in this respect.

What is wrong with digitising your data?

By definition, to digitise information means to express it in mumerical form.  But the things we are interested in are not just numbers.  All accidents, complaints, customers, or whatever, are different.  Of course, we can break them into categories, by cause, type, location and so on, and thus be able to analyse the data as well as count it.  The trouble is that we tend to lose sight of the uniqueness of each item and treat all customers of a certain age and class, for instance, as the same.  Or we assume all accidents of a certain cause as being caused by exactly the same circumstances.  This way a lot of useful information gets overlooked.  People are dehumanised.

What can we do about it?

One answer is to look in depth at, at least a sample of, your data: accident reports, letters of complaint, or whatever.   Of course many of us do that.  Or say we do.  Let us be honest.  How much time do we spend on that compared with that spent looking at statistical reports?

We also need to challenge the IT people about ways of capturing qualitative information as well as quantitative.  Are not computers getting more intelligent all the time?

I now think this is another chapter I should have included in my book: “How to avoid being misled by statistics”.

Go to:  https://www.createspace.com/4767398

Or http://www.amazon.com/How-Avoid-Being-Misled-Statistics/dp/1499190484/

I must include it in my next one.

 Any suggestions on this would be welcome.

Is it always good to work collaboratively?

I was recently at a talk at the Manchester Business Growth Hub on the subject of collaborative working.

I have written before about the advantages of this and also about the risks.

I have advised people to ensure they are clear in their minds and on paper about who is responsible for what and who is to insure which risks.

I have perhaps understated the importance of the human factor, which was the main element of the talk in question.

  • It is important to select the right mix of personalities when putting together a team to work on a joint project.
  • It is especially important to give everybody involved a reason to want it to succeed.
  • It is, above all, essential to have a team leader who can inspire and unite, rather than one who will create divisions and discord.

The above factors need to be borne in mind alongside the various technical skills and knowledge needed.

If you get these things right, there is less, but not zero, chance that you will need to rely on your written agreements to resolve disputes.

As with other risks, I do not wish to discourage anyone from engaging in collaborative ventures, but I do want you to go in with your eyes open and to take the right steps to manage those risks!

Where have all the engineers gone!

I am not an engineer, although my father was.  I am however aware that this country’s strength was once based on the effective application of science to practical problems, which resulted in the Industrial Revolution and continued to keep us ahead of other nations for a long time.

So I was horrified to discover that there is a great shortage of new engineers growing up.

There are several reasons for this, but one I have heard of recently especially worries me. They say schools rarely include metalwork, or even woodwork, in the curriculum, and why not?  Because of fears about Health and Safety!

By that logic they ought to prevent pupils playing football in case one of them gets hurt.

Let them take some SOUND professional advice.  Good Risk Management, or good management of any kind, means finding a way to do what you consider desirable.  A safe way preferably.  But a way.

I do hope we get back to being Number One in Engineering.

 We could be.

We should be.

Do you DIY?

As many of you will probably know, my abilities and achievements are many and varied.

I will not set out a list of them here, but if I were to do so, one thing that would be conspicuously absent would be DIY.

My grandfather was a joiner, and passed on to me a few handy tips.  He did not however pass on to me any of his ability.

How do I manage?  I usually avoid doing the sort of work that would require such abilities.  Fortunately, my wife more than compensates for my lack in that department.

It recently, however, became necessary for me to acquire some flat-pack furniture so I could improve both the look and the usefulness of my office space.

  • Now I have often been warned of the perils of trying to assemble such items.
  • I have heard alarming tales of woe.
  •  I have been warned to expect to find at least some unused fittings when everything seemed finished, so as to be left worrying what was not put together correctly.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when everything went smoothly and took less time than I had expected. I have even achieved my objectives.  Nothing went wrong.

To what do I, a self-confessed incompetent in this area, attribute my success?

Could it be that it was because I actually read all the instructions and followed them to the letter?

I have noticed before that people often do better than you might expect when they do things they are not good at.  Because they take more care and follow instructions or advice.  Complacency is not an issue.

So when managing risks, or just managing your business, try to remember to take more care with the things you think you are good at.  They are the ones that might trip you up!



Do they know what “discrimination” means?

I am most concerned at the verdict of the Court in Northern Ireland in the Asher Bakery case.

In case you are not familiar with it, I will set out the main points.

  1. Someone asked the bakers to bake a wedding cake with a message and images on it in support of gay marriage.
  2. Gay marriage has not been legalised in Northern Ireland.
  3. They refused on the grounds that it conflicted with their Christian beliefs.
  4. A complaint was made to the Equalities Commission for NI who upheld the complaint and brought a prosecution.  The Court held this was in fact discriminatory and illegal.

My concern is that the authorities seem to have misunderstood the meaning of “discrimination”.

It would of course be discrimination if a baker, or anyone else, refused to serve someone merely because that person was gay (or Asian, Catholic or whatever).  But I cannot see how it is discriminating to refuse to promote a cause you disagree with.

If someone asked a baker, printer, or advertising agency, to accept a commission promoting a particular cause, such as Irish unification, Scottish independence, foxhunting, or exit from the EU, surely it would not be discrimination to refuse that work!

I do not like the direction we are going if this case remains a precedent.  Will it be discrimination to express any disagreement with whatever is generally in favour in Society?

I would be most happy to provide Risk Management or claims handling services to anyone, regardless of their affiliations or characteristics, but I would regard it as my right to refuse if the project itself was one I did not like, say fracking or certain types of privatisation.  Am I to be forced to work against my conscience?