Thoughtscape: Thoughts and Tips from Mike Clayton


Issue 9

  Remove Risk:
Five ways to rid your project of risk
    News and views


Dear %1

As Risk Happens! is on the bookshop shelves, so let's survey one of the most important risk management strategies: removing project risk entirely. 

Risk Happens! identifies the six fundamental strategies for dealing with project risk, but too often, what is described as my Strategy Number 1, "Risk removal" is really risk reduction.  So how can you completely remove risk?

Removing a risk altogether is not always possible, but here are five approaches that you can consider on aspects of your project.


1.  Over-design

A "gold-plated" specification that is over-specified with respect to the core functionality.  Examples include redundant components, over-size strength components, or higher specification materials.  This is a solution beloved of civil engineers who build structures on which many lives depend.  The up-front cost can be high, but often whole-life costs are reduced due to longer maintenance cycles and longer life expectancies.  Not therefore a solution used in many consumer electronics products!

2.  Buy certainty

When you select components that are well tested, you can lock certainty of functionality, quality or cost into a component of your plan.  These are sometimes known as "COTS" solutions, standing for "Commercial Off-The-Shelf".  Rather than develop bespoke components that do "exactly what we want"; trade some functionality for certainty that what you have will work.

3.  Alternative solution

There may be other solutions to an element of your plan that offer complete certainty of schedule, budget or functionality.  For example, rather than risk stakeholder resistance to an unusual idea, invest in a more acceptable solution even if you feel it does not offer equal benefit.

4.  Address root cause

Root cause analysis, using techniques like the Fishbone and Five Whys, can help you identify a strategy that will address the cause and remove the threat entirely.  This can be an exhausting and costly process, but identifying all of the failure modes up-front and addressing each one will remove a big chunk of risk.

5.  Remove the risky element
from your plan

If you cannot control the risk and the threat level is unacceptable, the only thing to do is remove that element from your plan and accept the compromise this causes.  This is the basis of many public health campaigns: to avoid the risk, avoid the risky behaviour.  Most readers will apply this in many aspects of their lives.

Learn about the five other strategies for managing project risk in Mike Clayton’s new book, "Risk Happens! Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects".
Out now. 
See for details.


Conduct a Pre-Mortem

One of the most interesting areas of management performance to me is decision-making.  And one of the most interesting writers on the subject is Gary Klein.  His principle research interest is in how to use intuition effectively, which led to some of his work being described in Malcolm Gladwell's huge-selling book, "Blink".

One of the tools that Klein has developed is what he calls the "pre-mortem" exercise.  This is a technique that should be familiar to all project managers.


"Pre-mortem" is another valuable risk management technique, described in Risk Happens! and also in my blog on change, projects and risk, Shift Happens!


Lessons from The Apprentice

I have been astonished by the number of people who followed my blogs on The Apprentice - peaking at over 800 readers in a day.  Congratulations to Tom Pellereau on a good win and to all of the other candidates who came close, especially Helen, Susan, Jim and Melody.

All of the articles will remain on my website.  You might particularly like my summary of all of the lessons I identified from this year's series.  Take a look at my blog from time to time, or subscribe to my rss feed.


Risk Happens!

Risk Happens! Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects

Risk Happens! was published on 15 July and is already selling well.  If you are one of the many people who have enjoyed one of my project Management seminars or training courses, here is you chance to get more of my ideas, focused on the crucial area of risk management.

Risk Happens! is accessible to new project managers, yet has tools and resources that will give experienced hands new ideas too.  It includes 60 invaluable tables and checklists, and 57 figures and diagrams. There is a full list on the Risk Happens! website, along with free downloads of risk management tools.

Risk Happens! Launch Offer
If you or one of your contacts book me to speak at an event, on project management or project risk - either a keynote or a seminar - before the end of August, I will provide 20 free copies of Risk Happens! for you and your attendees.

Either call me on 08456 441349, or use the contact form on my website.


Stronger Impact
I am looking forward to a planning day with colleague Angela Marshall of Appearance Management to work on our one-off event in October:

How to Make a Stronger Impact
when Selling and Presenting

This event will take place from 9am to 1pm on 4 October, at Fetcham Park House in Surrey.  You will hear me speak on business influence and how to present a persuasive argument, and Angela will explain how having the right professional image and business etiquette will give a great boost to your profile.

You will also get complimentary copies of my book, Brilliant Influence, and Angela's book, Being Truly You in the men's or women's edition.

More information on the Stronger Impact website, or on LinkedIn.


Brilliant Stress Management
The publication date for Brilliant Stress Management has been brought forward and it is now due out on 2 August.  It will be my sixth book.

Brilliant Stress Management
2 August

Brilliant Project Leader will follow it, with publication in December.

Brilliant Project Leader
6 December


New Seminar Dates
We have added three extra dates for my new seminar, The Three-hour MBA (afternoons) along with
Brilliant Time Management (mornings), in September.  These are on:

  • 14 September: London
    RIBA in Portland Place

  • 22 September: Manchester
    Renaissance Hotel

  • 29 September: Birmingham
    Copthorne Hotel

I will also be in London on 28 September, with with Practical Project Management (morning) and Risk Happens! Control Risk and Avoid Failure in Organisational Projects (afternoon) There is still one more chance to book and hear these seminars this summer

I have introduced a full calendar, where you can see all of the dates, on my blog and you can book by calling 01227 252100.


My focus this year ...
... is on writing, responding to press enquiries, and new speaking engagements.  If you know a conference organiser who is looking for an engaging speaker with great testimonials, please do send them to my website:  If you need a speaker now, just contact me using the links below, or the contact form on my website.  You can download my speaker pack here.

Best regards


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    Please contact me ...
... Tel: 08456 441349
... on Twitter @mikeclayton01

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© Mike Clayton, 2011