All posts by john

Could risk managers teach the police something about algorithms?

Some police forces have started using algorithms to fight crime

As far as I know, there are only a few pilot schemes in certain police forces for using algorithms at present, but other forces have begun taking an interest. It is likely that the trend will grow. Surely, we should all welcome anything that helps police forces target resources more efficiently (or do I mean effectively? See my article on the 3 E’s) .

How can algorithms help fight crime?

They can analyse data and predict where and when specific types of crime are likely to happen and who are the most likely people to commit them.  The police hope they can target their preventive measures better and can identify suspects sooner.

So, can algorithms make the police work smarter?

Possibly. But this is not as clever as you might think. All these algorithms do is analyse data and make predictions based on the assumption that the past is a good guide to the future. Ask yourself: how true is that in your business? It will also depend on someone collecting, analysing and inputting the data correctly in the first place. Police officers are only human, as are police support staff.

An old-fashioned detective - would algorithms help him?
An old-fashioned detective – would algorithms help him?
What are the risks of using algorithms?
  1. Firstly, some civil rights campaigners are afraid this could lead to increased harassment of people with criminal records and make rehabilitation harder.
  2. Secondly, where policing has been ineffective in the past, there may be under-reporting of crimes. The use of such techniques will tend to maintain this imbalance.
  3. Thirdly, like all IT systems, these could discourage the use of common sense. Shouldn’t the police already know where and when crimes are committed and who by
  4. Fourthly, algorithms may be slow at recognising new trends.

As I thought about this, I remembered my article about the use of claims databases by insurers. 

Although I wrote that some time ago, I think it is highly relevant.

You might also find my book on the risks of being misled by statistics relevant in thinking about this.

How To Avoid Being Misled By Statistics: Don't be one of the 60% who are below average by [Murray, John]
What algorithms do you use in your business?

I am all for everyone managing his or her business as efficiently and effectively as possible. If any sort of IT saves time and directs people’s efforts better, it’s a good thing. But please don’t let it be your master, when it should be your servant. Encourage people to think!

Some people fight crime without algorithms or databases.

If you are interested in other approaches to crime-fighting, you might like to read what I wrote about that on my other website as a crime-fiction writer.

 

The risks of undervaluing experts and their advice.

I have seldom been short of advice.

I have had advice from lots of self-appointed unqualified experts on all kinds of subjects. It’s one thing I’ve never lacked, whilst I have often lacked money and practical help. When I first bought a horse, everyone I met who had ever ridden, and some who hadn’t, kept trying to advise me. Some had worked with or owned horses for decades, but even many of those had had experience of only a few individual animals and made unsupported generalisations from their successes and failures. Dog owners, gardeners, DIY enthusiasts and business people are often keen to advise too.

Whose advice have I valued?

Regarding horses, I have got most value from vets and riding instructors, as they spend years studying and have to pass exams. They usually know something about the latest research, as do experts in other fields. Their advice is evidence-based, using data from lots of studies, so as to avoid overreacting to a handful of untypical examples. Of course, some amateurs really do know their stuff, but you have to be cautious about assuming they know as much as they think they do.

A rhino in Chester Zoo preparing to help Sir David Attenborough tell people about the risks to the planet.
A rhino in Chester Zoo preparing to help Sir David Attenborough tell people about the risks to the planet.
Who is questioning the value of expert advice?

Certain journalists and politicians, who may be the ones who tell us to ignore the warnings over Brexit from economists and financial experts. They probably think Donald Trump knows more than the experts in the US whose advice he rejects. They probably think climate change is all hot air. In the UK, people have recently applied the term ‘nanny state’ to the numerous health experts who want us to eat more sensibly.

Who really wants us to ignore expert advice on food?

The food industry. A lot people make money from selling us unhealthy foods and from misleading labelling, or the lack of it. You can hardly avoid sugar, salt and fat. Carbohydrates are everywhere. I know. I battle with my own attraction to unhealthy foods, only to find the healthy options are not so readily available. We need help to eat sensibly, and the food industry isn’t going to give it willingly.

How are the experts who give the advice being denigrated?

Apart from calling them ‘nanny state’, the press has drawn attention to the salaries some experts get. Over £100,000.  How does that compare with the salaries of people in the food industry? Anyway, would you sooner take advice from an underpaid expert? I would hope people paid good salaries to genuine experts. Not that I receive that much for Risk Management advice. Perhaps I should revise my fees? I have expressed sympathy for experts previously, and things haven’t changed.

A final bit of advice.

Never trust anyone who says either:

  • It stands to reason
  • or It’s a well-known fact that…

 

 

My New Year Resolutions for 2019

I don’t always make New Year Resolutions but I am today.

I would rather not make any resolutions than make empty gestures or promises that I can’t keep. This year I’m  I’m telling everyone so you can hold me to account. I’m happy to do the same for you if you want.

Here’s the first of my resolutions: to read!

I am aware that as a writer I ought to read lots, and lots of different types of things, for various reasons. I’ve been getting so busy writing (not a bad thing in itself) that I never have time to read. This can’t go on. I have quoted others who say if you have no time to read, you have no time and no tools to write. I’m going to take my own advice.

The second and third of my resolutions involve doing something for the environment.

I admit that I’m not the greenest person you’re ever likely to meet, but I think we all need to do something for the planet.

We all need to take recycling more seriously, and there’s a few things I have been recycling intermittently: computer ink cartridges, batteries and lightbulbs. I do recycle them, but I’ve let it slip.

There’s been some alarming news during the year about the pollution car exhausts cause when the engine is running but the car is stationary. How often do I let it idle while I’m waiting for a passenger to get in, or out? When I’m studying a map? This year, I’m going to turn it off whenever I’m not actually moving.

I’m not saying I won’t do anything else for the environment in the coming year, but these two things are among my resolutions.

The fourth and final of my resolutions is: filing.

That’s a job I keep putting off. Right now I’m in the middle of a catch-up filing purge. Once I’ve finished that, I resolve to have a filing day in the last week of every month.

Those are my four New Year Resolutions

They are all practical and achievable as well as being worthwhile.

And now my final message for 2018:

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Is it time to work ON not IN your business and have a review?

Are you too busy to review anything right now?

You can’t review anything when Christmas is coming, with rush orders, last-minute jobs, staff holidays. Perhaps you have to do year end accounts. Anything else? Apart from that, you want to enjoy the Festive Season with family or friends, or to spend time alone. Anyway, you want to get away from work for a bit, and I hope you will.

Will you start 2019 with a review?

What have you planned for January? If it is ‘nothing’, will you just be reacting to whatever crops up? You might think you don’t need plans, because you just get on with business as usual. That’s not always a bad thing, but that’s working IN the business. When do you work ON the business?

Why review your business?

Working ON the business means taking time out to ask questions such as:

  • What went well last year?
  • How can it go even better next year?
  • Were there mistakes?
  • Will you learn from them?
  • What new products or services do you aim to introduce?
  • What could you do differently?
  • Are you interested in efficiency, economy or effectiveness? See my article on the difference.
  • How can you reduce costs or improve the product or service?
  • How can you increase sales?

When you’ve answered all those, it’s time to look at Risk Management.

A man with a magnifying glass. Trying to review his business?
A man with a magnifying glass. Trying to review his business?
How do you review Risk Management?
  • Do you have a Risk Management process in your business?
  • Are the risks the same now as last year? What about next year?
  • Will the control measures in place be appropriate in future? Are any unnecessary or do you need any new ones?
  • Reading my book, Load The Dice, could be a good start.
Load The Dice: A simple guide to managing risks in small businesses by [Murray, John Harvey]
Who will do the review?
  • The business owner or general manager needs to be the primary reviewer, but others may need to get involved.
  • At some stage you might need some input from an independent person, but they can’t be allowed to take over, unless they’re going to take over the business.
  • If you want to chat about it, you know where to find me.
When are you going to do your review?

Some people find the time between Christmas and New Year is best, when there’s often a bit of quiet, unless you’re diving into the January Sales, starting Boxing Day.

Otherwise, try to set time aside in January, before you find circumstances taking over. Put yourself in charge.

What will I review in my own life?

I will review my pricing strategy, and the way I spend my time on different projects. I also hope to review some of my books, such as Load The Dice, because I may be producing updated versions.

Stakeholders – the key to your business and to Brexit.

I didn’t mention stakeholders in a previous post about negotiation

You might still benefit from reflecting on what I did say in that post. You might also like to have another look at something I wrote about consulting, which sometimes is similar to negotiation, and should involve stakeholders. I referred to the Brexit process as an example. I am doing so again: an example of how not to do it.

Mrs May has ignored key stakeholders.

The PM has treated the exercise as a negotiation only with the EU, although she was aware there were many views on Brexit within the UK. We have certainly heard a lot about divisions, but the media have concentrated on divisions within the Conservative Party. However, it is not just the Conservatives who will be leaving the EU. (Now there’s a thought!)

The PM should have especially considered the Scots, Welsh and Ulstermen – not just the DUP, as the province voted Remain, whilst the party is for Leave.

St Andrew's Cross. Scotland is one of the UK's key stakeholders.
St Andrew’s Cross. Scotland is one of the UK’s key stakeholders.
How could other stakeholders have been involved?

The PM should have convened a group consisting of members of all the other political parties, before triggering Article 50 and established as much consensus as possible. Even where they disagreed, the others would at least have felt she had listened to them. Mrs May could have consulted the group at various stages of the negotiations. The EU would then have been aware that they were negotiating with the UK, not just with the present minority government.

What difference would involving other stakeholders have made?
  1. It might have strengthened the PM’s hand in her dealings with the EU .
  2. Other stakeholders might have accepted the necessity for waiving some of their red lines.
  3. The PM might not have found herself so isolated in Parliament and beyond.

OK these are three ‘mights’ but seeing how things are now, wouldn’t it have been worth trying?

What about YOUR stakeholders?

Do you negotiate only with clients? What about others with a stake in your business?

  • Funding bodies
  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • The local community

Do they come into consideration only when there is a row, or do you let them in at stage 1?

Don’t find yourself in a Brexit without a paddle – ask your stakeholders!

 

 

 

Get two books for free before I update the content and the price

Why am I giving away these books?

You may have liked my recent offer for Armistice Day. Now here’s another.

I am thinking of revising the content and the price of two of my books. But first I would love your thoughts on what you think I need to update – if anything. How about the illustrations? Would you like more or better ones, even if I had to put up the price? So get the present version free and, let me have your thoughts. Who knows, I might leave them as they are and keep the present prices, depending on what you say.

What books do I mean?

Load the Dice, a simple guide to managing risk in small businesses

How to avoid being misled by statistics : don’t be one of the 60% who are below average.

Follow the links to the Kindle store.

When can you get these books for free?

The e-book versions of both will be free on Kindle from Monday 10th to Friday 14th December.

You can read them over Christmas and give me your comments in the New Year.

How can you contact me about these books?

You can use the Comments facility on this blog,  e-mail, or the Contact form on the website.

Load The Dice: A simple guide to managing risks in small businesses by [Murray, John Harvey]
How To Avoid Being Misled By Statistics: Don't be one of the 60% who are below average by [Murray, John]

The risks of rejecting the Brexit deal – off the cliff and right turn!

Now we have a deal -or a draft one.

When I have written about the risks of Brexit before, I always said everything would depend on what sort of deal we got. Now we have one. Sort of. It has its flaws, but it was always bound to contain a series of compromises. I have also always said the worst outcome would be a no-deal exit from the EU.

I now commend this deal!

If you have any influence on your MP or any other, please use it.  Please, please get behind this deal, however many reservations you may have about the details. Let’s face it, whatever we do about Northern Ireland will have to be less than ideal unless we all stay in the EU. Let’s take what’s on offer. There isn’t another one coming down the road. Even a bad one gets us the interim period in which to make necessary adjustments and might rescue such things as cooperation on policing and security.

Why should Labour support the deal?

I really hope the Labour Party doesn’t use this situation to precipitate a General Election. That could push us over the deadline and into a No-Deal exit and would look like they were putting party before country. If Labour won, do you really think they could get us a better Brexit? Anyway, a General Election would resolve nothing. Parties would fight on so many issues, you wouldn’t know what sort of Brexit voters were preferring.

Should the people vote on the deal?

Perhaps a second referendum would be the best way forwards, but we would need more than two options. Perhaps it should ask (1) Do you want what’s on offer? If not, (2) would you prefer to leave the EU with no arrangements or remain in it? A simple choice of three would lead to endless arguments over interpreting the result, unless the majority voted for the deal. If it was split into three roughly equal numbers, the Brexiters would claim those voting for the deal wanted to leave the EU so should be added to the number of hard-brexiters, whilst remainers would argue the country had rejected a no-deal and therefore should remain in the EU.

Save the deal!

Whatever happens, please let’s not play into the hands of the hard-brexiters with their far right agenda.

Masks. What's the hidden agenda of the opponents of the deal?
Masks. What’s the hidden agenda of the opponents of the deal?

 

 

To commemorate the Armistice, I’m giving away ‘Be Victorious!’

Let’s all remember the Armistice which ended World War I

Representatives of all the countries involved in the First World War signed the Armistice to end it on 11 November 1918 at 11 am.  There will soon be lots of events on its centenary to help us remember.

What am I doing in response to the centenary of the Armistice?

I recently announced that I have revised my book Be Victorious, Lessons  from World War I for Business and Everyday Life . 

I have now decided to make the e-book version free on Kindle for the 5 days from the 6th to the 10th November. After that it will revert to its current price of £2.99 .

The paper version will cost £3.99.

I hope you will learn something you can apply in your life, either in business or anything else.

Here’s where you can get either version.

 

The risks of a no-deal Brexit: the hidden agenda

What hidden agenda?

I have written before about the risks of Brexit, especially a hard Brexit. I have not mentioned so far the risks arising from a hidden agenda. To be fair, some hard-Brexiters have been pretty open all along about their plans for a post-Brexit Britain, although others have not. However, the arguments around Brexit itself have largely drowned out almost everything else.  Even the more honest hard-Brexiters (!) have kept their longer-term plans in the background, to say the least.

Who has a hidden agenda and why?

Many people don’t seem to have noticed that the hard-Brexiters are almost all on the right wing of the Conservative Party. Then there are the UKIP-ers who are mostly further right still. I know there are left-wing politicians who are in favour of Brexit, even a hard Brexit, but they are the exceptions. It is likely that many people who want Britain to leave the EU would be unhappy if they realised where we would be going after that, if the right-wingers had their way.  Brexit could be an opportunity for the right wing to take over the Conservative Party and then the country.

What’s on the hidden agenda?

The right wingers believe in reducing regulations of all kinds.

  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Planning
  • Data protection
  • Employees rights
  • Human rights
  • Health and Safety

Many of these came about because British governments took the initiative before Europe took action.  Naturally, there are others where the EU imposed the will of the rest of Europe on Britain. That’s what it is to be part of a group. However, once we are out of the EU, it will be easier for British governments to start axing regulations.

What else is on this agenda?

Right-wingers everywhere believe in cutting taxes, especially on incomes and profits, and cutting public expenditure. Yes! There are people who think we need more austerity. Seriously.

Shouldn’t businessmen like that?  We could undercut foreign competition. Yes and no! Some do want to see cuts in taxes, in regulations and in public spending, but others are concerned about infrastructure and the need for a well-educated workforce. They also think business prospers in line with general prosperity. Sales require customers with money to spend.

Who has a hidden agenda close to you?

Who do you negotiate with, or have dealings with? Your clients? Suppliers? The unions? Are you letting them direct your attention to one issue, while planning to ambush you with something else? Try to find out what they really want and why.

Remember, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

 

Masks. Who has a hidden agenda near you?
Masks. Who has a hidden agenda near you?

 

 

What centenary am I preparing for?

2018 is the centenary of the end of World War I

As we are approaching the centenary of the end of the First World War, I am relaunching my book Be Victorious: Lessons for Business and Everyday Life from World War I. I have made some changes to the cover and the interior.

How does this book respond to the centenary?

If you haven’t read it yet, now is a good time to do so. Find out where we went wrong then and ask if you are going wrong now in the same way in the conflicts affecting you and your business.

We’ve heard a lot about the War, the suffering, its impact on the lives of lots of people at home as well as at the Front. But what have we learnt from it rather than about it?

Available as an e-book or paperback from:

Kindle Direct Publishing at the Amazon bookstore.

Be Victorious!: Lessons from World War I for Business and Everyday Life by [Murray, John Harvey]
The cover of the centenary edition of the e-book Be Victorious!