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   Thoughtscape: Thoughts and Tips from Mike Clayton


Issue 13

  What if?
Top Ten things to build into your
Project Contingency Plan
    News and views



Dear %1

National Stress Awareness Day in the UK is coming up soon (on 2 November).  So let's not get stressed
. Instead, let's prepare for the worst.

A contingency plan is a valuable part of your risk management. Whilst it won’t stop risks happening, nor even make them less likely, it will give you a clear set of steps to follow if one does manifest.

This will allow you to rapidly restore control and limit the potential for consequential threats. But what tactics can you put into a contingency plan? There are many, but here are ten of the best.

1. Create a schedule contingency, or “float”.
Build extra time into your programme to allow you to absorb the delays that a realised risk can generate.

2. Identify options for extended working hours.  If things go wrong, it will need to be all hands to the pump. So look at where you can generate a little extra work time if needed. Never use up this potential extra time by scheduling it into your baseline plan.

3. Look for non-dependent later activities that could be re-scheduled.  If you need to turn your attention to the issue that’s arisen, know in advance what planned activities you can put off until later, without affecting your critical path and hence your completion date.

4. Identify non-critical activities that could be dropped.  You may be able to do better than delay some activities… Are there any discretionary activities that can be cancelled entirely without compromising core functionality or essential quality standards?

5. Research off-the-shelf solutions that could be bought in.  If you lose time, then you may want to save it again by buying ready-to-use components. If you find yourself over-budget, you may be able to buy less expensive generic components that have lower but acceptable levels of functionality.

6. Create budget contingency.  Always squirrel away a small amount of budget as a contingency against troubles. Whenever you make a saving, keep it in reserve.

7. Identify non-critical deliverables that you could de-scope; reducing functionality or quality criteria.  This will be an uncomfortable compromise, but if you know from the outset where stakeholders’ priorities lay, and the relative influence of different stakeholders, you can compile a hierarchy of specifications according to their priority, and hence know which ones you could compromise, if you have to.

8. Build test and remediation time into your plans.  Things will go wrong, so it is far better to find them in planned test time and to fix them in scheduled remediation time. And if you have fewer failures than you anticipated, you will have the up-side risk of finding ways to use the extra time profitably.

9. Secure expert evaluators.  Some projects are susceptible to deep expertise or experience and bringing this in at well-chosen points in your project can be an investment worth making. Know who you could call upon quickly if things go wrong and you can cut your remediation time and cost significantly.

10. Put in place effective change control procedures.  Change upon change is chaos, so a project with no control over changes in scope, quality or specification detail is almost certain to encounter problems. And, in addition, without change control, your project governance is severely compromised.


"Risk Happens!
Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure
in Business Projects
was published over the summer and is essential reading for anyone managing a project.


Risk Happens! is now available in
iBook and Kindle formats, as well as paperback.




Risk Happens! and Brilliant Project Leader
are two of the 16 seminars I am currently offering.  Here is the full list:

  • Three hour MBA

  • Seven Ways to get More from Your People

  • Seven Ways to get More from Yourself

  • Brilliant Influence:
    Ten Secrets of Persuasion

  • Brilliant Project Leader

  • Brilliant Time Management

  • Faster, Better, Cheaper

  • How to Read People

  • It ain't the Stress that does the Damage

  • It won't work because...
    Handling Resistance to Change

  • More than just Survival:
    Thriving in Times of Change

  • Practical Decision Making

  • Practical Problem Solving

  • Practical Project Management

  • Risk Happens!
    Control Risk and Avoid Failure
    in Organisational Projects

  • The Seven Rules of Project Management

Learn more on my website.


Recent Blog Posts

Let Mummy Love ease your stress
Oxytocin is a hormone released during labour and lactation, and and is thought to be important in other maternal behaviours and in pair bonding; it is sometimes known as the “love hormone”. When it is triggered, we feel a deep sense of comfort and well-being. 

Leslie Seltzer exposed sixty one 7 to 13 year-old girls to stressful situations, like maths problems or public speaking.  Read More...


Disgust, Stress and the Common Cold
Disgust is one of the primary emotions and one that we most easily recognise.  Our sense of disgust has evolved for good reason – it protects us from the harmful bacteria that proliferate on decaying plant and animal matter, on our excretions and in bodily fluids.

But recently, a group of researchers at the University of British Columbia, led by Professor Mark Schaller, found that the emotion of disgust can serve a second important function in protecting us from disease.  Read More...

The Power of Voice
You only have to hear the clear, commanding tones of some of the finest actors – men and women – to believe in the power of the voice to influence.  Read More...

Creating the Onion Model
The Onion Model of Resistance is a model I developed initially to describe resistance to change. I subsequently generalised it to cover handling:

  • resistance to ideas in a presentation
  • sales objections
  • resistance in a learning environment

In the September 2011 issue of Training Journal, I describe how I developed the Onion Model that is at the centre of The Handling Resistance Pocketbook.  Here is that article. Read More...

A Bigger Bite
What is management without vision and inspiration?

The sad news about Steve Jobs’ untimely death has spurred more blogs than anyone has the time to read, so just a short blog and a simple observation.  Read More...


Brilliant Project Leader

Brilliant Project Leader received its Book Jacket endorsement today, and all is go for printing.

Thank you to Charles Vivian, Head of Programme and Project Leadership at Qedis,   the UK’s top Management Consultancy to work for.

Brilliant Project Leader
18 November

As anyone who has attended my project management training or seminars will know, my approach to project management is highly practical.  So, to accompany he book, I prepared a resource pack of 12 project management templates.

You can now download these freely at Brilliant Project Leader website and, at the same time, take a look at the contents of this book.  It will be my seventh.

Amazon has a healthy pre-publication discount, with their pre-order price guarantee.  This is an amplification of my Practical Project Management Seminar.  It is a great complement to...

Risk Happens!
Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects

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. Win a Free Copy on the Risk Happens! website, along with free downloads of risk management tools.

There is a second chance to win a free copy, at Josh Nankivel's excellent  PMStudent website.

National Stress Awareness Day

In two weeks' time, on 2 November, it is National Stress Awareness Day in the UK. 

I will be on tour then (Practical Project Management and
Risk Happens! Control Risk and Avoid Failure in Organisational Projects in Birmingham).

But it isn't too late to book one of my Stress-related seminars

Stress Management

My latest book, Brilliant Stress Management grew out of a seminar and keynote called:  
"It ain't the Stress that does the Damage"

This seminar is not available as an open event.  Promoters find that few people are willing to go to their boss for funding to go to a seminar about stress. 

It is only available as an in-house seminar - in 90 minutes to 3 hour formats.  The focus is on building the resilience to thrive in a stressful environment. 

Contact me for details of how to book  "It ain't the Stress that does the Damage" or its companion seminar: "More than just survival: Thriving in times of Change".

Brilliant Stress Management
Order Here

Brilliant Stress Management is in the WH Smiths travel Top 50

The Three-hour MBA

"Effective, promising, challenging and
downright useful"

The Three-hour MBA, in London and Manchester - and am off to Birmingham on Thursday.  It's been a great success with some cracking feedback, and I am now taking bookings for in-house seminars.  There are more open dates in November, too.

"A lot of information in a short space of time but
delivered superbly that
made it manageable."


November Seminar Dates
 The Three-hour MBA (afternoons) along with
Brilliant Time Management (mornings), in November:

  • 17 November:

  • London
    RIBA in Portland Place

  • 22 November: Manchester
    Renaissance Hotel

  • 23 November: Birmingham
    Copthorne Hotel

Practical Project Management (morning) and
Risk Happens! Control Risk and Avoid Failure in Organisational Projects (afternoon), November:

  • 1 November:
    Renaissance Hotel
  • 2 November:

    Copthorne Hotel

  • 3 November:

    Reading Lake Hotel

  • 10 November:

    RIBA in Portland Place

you can book onto any of these events by calling 01227 252100. There is a calendar on my website, where you can see all of the dates.


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: www.mikeclayton.co.uk.  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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Many thanks

    Please contact me ...
... mike@mikeclayton.co.uk
... Tel: 08456 441349
... www.mikeclayton.co.uk
... on Twitter @mikeclayton01

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© Mike Clayton, 2011