A further aspect of the Jeremy Corbyn risk that we all need to beware of!

I have already written about some risks associated with Mr. Corbyn.  Many have been pointed out, time and again, by the Conservatives and other commentators.  When they mention Trident, they usually talk about the risk to our national security.  I will not repeat the arguments usually stated by both sides on that debate.  I will, however, point out one aspect of it that is usually overlooked.

The decision to renew Trident will be made this year, or possibly next.  The Conservatives have a majority in Parliament and the outcome of any vote can easily be predicted.  By the time of the next General Election, it will be a closed issue.

The risk I am thinking of is that of the Labour Party tearing itself apart over an issue over which it will actually have no control.

So what about you? 

  • Are there issues you worry about in your business or in your life generally, over which you have no control?
  • Are you arguing with colleagues, or anyone else, over things that will be overtaken by events?
  • Are you devoting enough of your time to managing those risks you could actually manage?

How about stepping back and asking yourself: “How much will this matter in a week, a month, or in twelve months?”




How should big businesses manage their risks?

I have written recently about the lack of effective Risk Management in big business.  I referred to the Harvard Business Review of June 2012 and commented that the issues raised are still relevant today.

You might ask, “So what?  What can we do about it?”

Here are some suggestions drawn from that Review.

The first thing is to divide all risks into these three classifications:

  1. Operational
  2. Strategic

Let us be clear about what these categories are.

  1. Refers to risks arising when things go wrong in the daily operation of the business. These should be preventable.  There should be risk control measures in place and employees should follow the correct procedures.  One underrated way to minimise mishaps like these is to have a policy to encourage whistleblowers.  All too often the culture is heavily biased against blowing whistles.  We should recognise that the whistleblower is doing us all a favour.
  2. Refers to risks arising from decisions made at the top regarless of how well or otherwise they are implemented.
  3. Refers to circumstances beyond the control of anyone in the business, such as the weather, changes in legislation, the level of economic activity or the actions of the firm’s competitors.

A different approach is needed for each category of risk.  I will be writing in future about the ways to deal with the second and third categories of risk, but a good start is to recognise that there are the three groups and to ask whether you are addressing all of them or devoting all your efforts to managing one.

What’s the difference between Risk Management and scaremongering?

The EU Referendum campaign has only just started but already both sides are accusing each other of scaremongering.  I have some sympathy for all concerned, since I find some potential clients think all I am doing is scaremongering when I point out the risks in their business.

Of course I do not approve of deliberately exaggerating the probability or the potential severity of a particular risk in a manipulative way.  On the other hand, there are risks of all kinds all around us.  Is it wrong to draw some of them to the attention of people who might be affected?  Is it wrong to point out that the probability or the severity is greater than they might expect?

In the same way, it has to be said that there are risks involved in leaving the EU and other risks in staying in.  Even if you try to emphasize the positive, you are by implication saying there are negative possibilities if you do the opposite.

For example, we have heard the positive arguments for staying in including the free market within the EU with its level playing field (well, compared with trading elsewhere) and the advantages of addressing issues like climate change, terrorism, and crime on a EU-wide basis.  However well you expound these, you can hardly avoid saying that leaving the EU would create the risk of losing those benefits, even if some of them could be retained in some post-exit agreements.

Similarly, the Out campaign can hardly state that leaving would give us better control of our borders and of our legislation, without suggesting that staying in involves taking the risk that immigration will continue to rise unacceptably and that we might have laws imposed on us by the EU that our own lawmakers would  have rejected.

So the risks are there, and the positives are there too.

How do you manage risks in your business if you do not fall for scaremongering?

  • By ignoring them?
  • By underestimating them?
  • By trying to evaluate them objectively and adopting realistic, affordable control measures?

If you want to talk some or all of them over, please contact me.

But do NOT ask me which way to vote!

Bonne chance, mes amis!

It’s a gas! But who’s laughing?

British Gas have made record profits.  At a time when many people struggle to afford to heat their homes adequately.  Even though international gas prices are coming down.

Are they having a laugh?  At whose expense?  Yours?  It’s not funny!

So what?  What can you do about it?  

  • You could put pressure on your MP to get the Government to act.
  • You could look at ways of using fuel more efficiently.
  • Or you could switch suppliers.

I recommend the Utility Warehouse.  They can save you money on lots of things, not just gas.

Don’t take my word for it.  Get a quote.  Contact me.  01925 445215 or john@jhmriskmanagementservices.co.uk

Or do it yourself online.

Go to www.utilitywarehouse.org.uk/johnhmurray

What have you got to lose?


Do you ever feel really stupid?

I changed my car recently.  When I collected the new one I was given two keys: the main one, which was integrated with the remote-control fob and a spare which was just a key.  They were on two keyrings which were linked.  When I got home I could see only one.  It seemed that the rings must have separated.  I checked my pockets, the floor of the car, more pockets… I ‘phoned the garage and was assured I had not dropped one there.  I ‘phoned the filling station where I had stopped on the way home.  (Have you ever noticed that however much you pay for a car you don’t get much petro included in the price?).   NI remembered having had a struggle with the lock on the petrol ap.  No luck.  I worried all night.  The next day I went to get a duplicate cut.  That would reduce the seriousness if I were to lose the other key, but I was still worrying as to who might have got the missing one.  As I held up the key to ask the man to copy it, I noticed that there were two keys on the two rings, which were joined.  Somehow I had misled myself with an optical illusion.  It had something to do with the fact that one key disappeared into the remote-control fob.  Or something.  Did I feel stupid?  What do you think?

So what’s this got to do with Risk Management?

Forget the risk of losing a key!  My point is that sometimes you cannot see a thing that is right in front of you.  The harder you look, the less you can see.

That is why we all need someone else to look at a problem with us.  Someone who is not too closely involved.  That independent view can be very valuable, when a problem seems to have defeated you.

Think about it.

Then give me a ring.

Not a keyring!

01925 445215


My New Website

Some people have asked why I am having my website overhauled.   What sort of thing is being changed?  Have I reason to be unhappy with it at present?

I am having the content copied onto a new template.  The new one will be more mobile-‘phone-friendly and more searchable by search engines.  The reason I am doing this is that the World has moved on so much since the site was developed that it will soon be old-fashioned.  That is how life is these days.  Most people use their ‘phones and tablets so much that a site has to be designed with that in mind.  And search engines keep changing the rules all the time.  I know it is impossible to keep fully up to date with that, but an update every three years is probably not too often.

I am also making some changes to the content to reflect the changes in emphasis in my business since I wrote the original content.  I have not stood still.

I am also going to establish a second site, using the same template as the first, to talk about my writing activities, as I am in danger of getting my existing site too cluttered if I add a lot of information about myself as a writer in addition to everything about Risk Management.

What about you?  

  • Is your website still fit for purpose?
  • Does its format meet modern requirements?
  • Does its content truly reflect your current business?
  • What else has changed in your business over the years?
  • Have the risks changed?
  • Have you updated your control measures?
  • Do you need a Risk Review?

If the answer to that last question is “Yes” or “Don’t Know” have a word with me!

01925 445215 or 07726 490639

How to beat “Crash for cash” scams.

I know I have included this advice in the Tip of the Month some time ago, but recent events have reminded me that the risk has not gone away.

The usual trick is to overtake and brake suddenly, causing you to run into the back of their car.  Alternatively, they might reverse into you.  They rely on the insurers and the courts assuming you must have run into the other car because you were going too fast or driving too close.  They then exaggerate their damage and claim for non-existent injuries to themselves, often adding a few passengers who were not there.

They can be aggressive, especially if you want to call the police, or anyone else.  Try to stay calm and do not be intimidated.

Above all, if you are in a road accident, especially if you have any reason to be suspicious, take photos.  That will provide some evidence.

  • Take close-ups of the damage.
  • Take shots of the two cars.  Make sure you get the make and number plate.
  • Take photos of the other driver, in case someone else brings the claim.  The real registered owner, perhaps, or a partner in crime.
  • Take photos of the interior of their car getting any passengers, or showing that there were not any.

If they object to your taking photos, do call the police.

These are organised criminal gangs, and the police want to know about them.


Can Too Many Words Spoil Communication?

“No adjectives!” cried John, the author, “No effing adjectives?  Who says?”

“It’s company policy.” replied Harvey, the executive from his publishers as he handed back the annotated manuscript.

“Well, what stupid, blinkered, unimaginative, idiotic, moronic old fool came up with that one?”

“You’ve just used six adjectives, most of which were unnecessary.  They were synonyms, or nearly.  There was no need for the expletive in your previous remark, either.  You see how wasteful you are with words?”

“So is this an efficiency drive?”

“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.  To answer your question, the policy came down from the top.  The senior partner, Mr. Roget, has recently stated the policy unequivocally and categorically.  By the way he’s not old.  He’s only in his forties, although they say his mental age has always been greater than his chronological age.”

“You’ve just used two adjectives.  You said ‘mental’ and ‘chronological’ .   What about adverbs?”

“They’re banned too.  Most of them are unnecessary.”

“You use them.  You just said ‘unequivocally’ and ‘categorically’ which are near-synonyms.  And ‘unnecessary’ is an adverb too.  You’re as bad as I am!  Anyway, repetition is often used for emphasis.  We all do it in speech.  Why not in print?  I’ll bet a lot of famous writers would never get published if your Mr. Roget had his way.  What about titles?  Do you allow adjectives and adverbs in them?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think we encourage them.” Said Harvey as he looked nervously at the list of new titles he was holding.

“I suppose you would have published the Curiosity Shop!

“If you’re going to be like that, I suppose it ought to be just the Shop.”

“Like the Girl with the Earring, or is that the Girl with the Ring?”

“Now you’re being silly and pedantic.”

“That’s good, coming from you!  What about the Sleep by Raymond Chandler, and Hardy’s Far from the Crowd?  Would you have told Louisa May Alcott to call her books Women and Men, not to be confused with the Man by H.G. Wells?  Or Dashiel Hammett to call his book the Falcon?  Don’t you see that adjectives make a difference, sometimes an important one?”

“They’re all great writers who know when to use a word and when to leave it out.  You seem to think the more words the better!”

“Isn’t that a subjective opinion?  Some readers probably like it plain and simple, whilst others prefer a bit more colour.  If people like you and your Mr. Roget had their way in the art world, paintings would be reduced to diagrams.”

Harvey looked at the cover of a book on his desk.  There was a picture of matchstick men on a minimalist background.  He said, “I can think of some modern artists who do just that, quite successfully!”

“Yes, but not everyone wants that kind of thing.  Surely we want to give the readers some variety and a choice?”

“Go through your manuscript and take out all the adjectives and adverbs that don’t add anything to the narrative or even to the descriptions.  Then I’ll see if I can persuade the firm to give it another look.”

Why do big businesses not manage risk better?

I have recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review of June 2012.  That statement probably tells you a lot about me, such as that I am way behind with my reading!

The principal author was Robert Kaplan.

There were several points in it that I think we might all find worth considering and I will probably write about some them on this blog in future.  The first question I want us to consider is why do big businesses so often fail to manage risks successfully.  The Report gave several examples of this including the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Banking Crisis of 2008.

The main reason identified was that the culture too often rewards cost cutters and risk takers rather than those who rightly identify risks.  In some of the examples studied, it was found that Risk Management was equated with the compliance function rather than something the company should want to do regardless of regulation in order to achieve its goals.  Risk Managers were not given direct access to top management.  Indeed many were silenced when they said things contrary to the collective “wisdom” of their colleagues.  Identifying risks was often seen as being negative, whereas it should be seen as the first step to understanding and controlling the risks.  It should make businesses better able to take on the risks once they have been through a proper Risk Management process.

What about you?

  • How do you think of Risk?
  • How do you treat people who point risks out?
  • How easy is it for risk managers to get through to top management?

Perhaps we should have a chat about the way your business is structured and to look at the ways Risk Management could benefit you.

Give me a ring.  What have you got to lose?


The Europe Risk

I have written before about the Corbyn risk.  There is a political risk facing this country now which strangely enough has nothing to do with him!

It concerns the EU Referendum.

There are many reasons for staying in the EU and many reasons for leaving.  I will not go into them all here now.  What worries me is that the whole debate seems to be turning on the recent negotiations which the Prime Minister has been having with the EU and the proposed changes.  In particular the question of benefits claimable by EU citizens coming to live and work in the UK.

The risk is that the vote will be swayed by one relatively minor issue and the big picture will be forgotten.  Until it is too late.

Whether you are pro-EU  anti-EU or undecided, please try to consider all the issues and ask yourself how important each one is in the long run.  This vote will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to decide Britain’s future.  Let’s get it right!