Category Archives: Uncategorized

Seven Deadly Sins – Risk Management

Risk management should be the star of project and programme management, as it ought to stop things going wrong, however it is often seen as the poor relation. Let’s face it, thinking about all the things that could go wrong is hardly exhilarating and very few people talk about their great night in trawling through a risk register.

The reality is that programmes and projects repeatedly go wrong and many of the causes of failure are very predictable. At its best, risk management should be a leading discipline in any project and should empower and support effective decision making. At its worst, it is a low-level support function that is simply generating registers to satisfy people that might be looking over the project’s shoulder. It is rare to see the former but quite common to see the latter.

As part of our Seven Deadly Sins series and as a critical component of successful projects and programmes, we have highlighted below the key reasons why risk management often doesn’t work.

  1. Risk watching: we see this time and again. Hours of time and great pride can be taken filling in clever spreadsheets but often, with little or no connection to the actual activities required to manage and reduce risk. Risk management means doing stuff not taking pride in a spreadsheet.
  2. Thinking that mitigation is a word not an action: risk descriptions should be clear and informative. It’s amazingly common to see mitigation actions like “treat” or “share” with no associated actions
  3. Lack of horizon scanning: often it’s events from outside the project sphere that cause problems. The risk horizon should be a broad view, but too often it is focused on micro or technical challenges within the project scope.
  4. Creating artificial complexity: risk quantification can be used to do some amazingly powerful and valuable modelling (time and cost); but it’s not uncommon to see wildly complex models producing results that could have been derived from something far simpler. Avoid the temptation to produce a ‘clever’ model just to make the answer appear more accurate.
  5. Focus on consequences not the threats: far too many risk registers are lists of bad things that could happen and do not consider the events that will trigger these. As a result risk registers tend to be too long and unfocused, they can be significantly reduced by focusing on the threats.
  6. Ignoring opportunities: apart from cheering people up by looking on the bright side and being hopeful, projects and programmes can make their own luck by taking actions to encourage positive events.
  7. Gaming the system: it’s amazing how easy it is to game risk modelling. It’s almost standard practice now to ignore any opportunities in the risk register when doing cost modelling as this will “erode my contingency”. Surely if these opportunities are real, and modelled properly, then that’s OK?

Have a look at your own project or programme and see if you think any of the above ‘sins’ might be true for you. If you think they are, get in touch as we’re keen to see risk being done really well.

If you need any further support, our services may be able to help. Why not have a look at our brochure to see the services we offer, or visit our website at



Leave a comment

Filed under Risk Management, Uncategorized

The nightmare project manager

We thought we would start the new year off with a bit of humour around the nightmare project manager.

We often talk to project teams about the art of project management and the need to step into their safety zone and see the business as their customer not their victim, so here are a few of the characteristics that make up the nightmare project manager:

  1. Talks in jargon whenever asked basic questions, defensive when challenged
  2. Focuses so much on process, they can’t think for themselves, love filling in forms
  3. Is a hero at heart and loves last minute firefighting to get the project over the line, it will be alright on the night
  4. Focuses on project management not the business outcomes
  5. Dives into  technical detail about the solution rather than trying to understand the business challenges
  6. Sees stakeholder management as everyone’s problem but theirs
  7. Seen it all before, 25 years experience sadly it’s the same every year
  8. Believes that the “can do” approach will overcome their incompetence
  9. Planning is a pointless exercise because everything will change anyway, so what is the point
  10. Talks a good game, vanishes when the going gets tough

Leave a comment

Filed under APM, Project Management, Uncategorized

Fresh look – risk relationships

In our “Rethinking” series  we try to challenge traditional thinking and assumptions about particular topics.

Risk management should be the star of the P3M show, but it rarely is. In organisations that are forward thinking enough to have risk professionals the relationship between project managers and risk managers is not always optimal.

In this paper, Ed Brown, Aspire Assess director and a risk advocate provides some fresh insight into how the relationship could work better.

What can project risk management learn from rock climbing

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

High performing organisations – does this sound like you?

raft raceWe were undertaking a review of what we had seen and learned over the last year, and one of the main developments was the emergence of organisations achieving P3M3® level 3 and 4 ratings.

There have been some interesting discoveries about the characteristics of these organisations, beyond what we had anticipated. Some of the characteristics took us by surprise as they were more around moods and behaviours that were less tangible, we could almost “feel” the positive energy.

We have analysed dozens of organisations through our work with P3M3. We thought it would be useful to share some of the characteristics of those that stand out from the crowd, in no particular order.

  1. Self critical and restless: Organisations that are on the improvement projectory are continually dissatisfied and impatient, they are looking at where further improvements can be made and willing to take risks to achieve better performance.
  2. Learning organisations: They do not pay lip service to learning lessons and most importantly, they do not wait for a failure before looking for the new opportunities, they will analyse successes as well to differentiate performance from luck
  3. Measuring performance: They don’t just gather data in reports for the sake of it, they analyse it and use it to being good enough is rarely enough, they analyse their data and turn it into an asset.
  4. Educating their people: They don’t just send them on courses, they seek to develop their knowledge to underpin performance improvements from increasing confidence as part of a professional development strategy.
  5. Respecting assurance: They see this as an opportunity to avoid unnecessary failure and an opportunity to learn. Many organisations pay lip service to this and are grateful for a non-critical report, the high performers are much more demanding.
  6. Curating knowledge: They see knowledge as the foundation of power to improve and to do this they will implement tools and systems that enable them to not just store information but to interrogate and proactively broadcast it to an organisation that is listening.
  7. Clear lines of authority: Enable them to make the right decisions at the right time, sometimes they may be bound by their industry and regulation but they will have optimised themselves to function as best they can.
  8. Knowing their own limitations: They will know their limits of capability and competence, this will enable them to make balanced risk based judgements so that they do not get out of their depth unexpectedly.
  9. Committed leadership: They will have leaders who are committed believers, they will provide support and encouragement to teams to follow the proven working practices, but they will flex and adapt when needed. Lower performing leaders abandon proven practices and panic when trouble threatens or stick to them rigidly.
  10. Standing on the shoulders of giants: They don’t make the same mistakes as others, they investigate the solutions to problems and use proven solutions rather than inventing their own routes to failure through guesswork.
P3M3® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aspire Assess, Uncategorized

Press Release: Aspire Europe acquire Rovsing Business Academy, Denmark

Bristol, 1st December.  0900

Aspire Europe Ltd are very pleased to announce the acquisition of a majority shareholding in Rovsing Business Academy, a Danish based  training company offering Axelos and APM Group training courses.  Anders  Murmann has been appointed at as the CEO.

Rod Sowden, Managing Director, Aspire Europe Ltd said “This is a really exciting development for Aspire Europe, acquiring such a well known brand in Denmark provides us with the opportunity to expand our operations and establish solid foundation inside the  EU.  We are very pleased to have  Anders onboard and running our Danish operations. He is a great addition to the Aspire Europe management team and we are looking forward to working with him in the years to  come”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Want to get close up and familiar with P3M3®?

As many of you will know, P3M3® is the world’s number one framework for assessing organisational maturity and performance in portfolio, programme and project management.

If this is a new concept to you, click here for a quick introduction.

This free briefing (pdf) outlines the key concepts of P3M3. Right click this link and ‘save as’ to download the interactive overview, please view it in either Acrobat or Adobe Reader.

We have also put together a video to take you through the history and concepts behind P3M3, we hope you will take a look

P3M3® is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Christmas is nearly here!

Well its almost Christmas and the Aspire team are close to shutting down for Christmas and a well earned break.

We’d just like to wish everyone out there a very Merry Christmas and hope you all have a wonderful time.

We look forward to meeting up with you again in the New Year

Best Wishes

From Everyone at Aspire Europe

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized