Dr David Hillson, The Risk Doctor

Dr David Hillson image

In this episode, I have a chat with Dr David Hillson, The Risk Doctor.

David is an international thought-leader in risk management, with a global reputation as an excellent speaker and award-winning author. Countless individuals, teams and organisations have benefited from his blend of innovative insights with practical application, presented in an accessible style that combines clarity with humour. 

He also shares his insights regularly through books, papers and articles, as well as the regular series of Risk Doctor Briefings. David’s speaking and writing is guided by the Risk Doctor motto: “Understand profoundly so you can explain simply.

To listen to the podcast click below (or one of the links at the bottom of this post)

For more information about David take a look at the following links:

Website: www.risk-doctor.com

Email: contact@risk-doctor.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/RiskDoctorVideo

Thanks to David for a brilliant interview, until next time remember project management is funny. 



Unknown Speaker  0:00  
Today I'd like to welcome to the Sunday lunch project podcast. Dr. David Hilson, the risk doctor is an international thought leader and risk management with a global reputation as an excellent speaker and an award winning author. countless individuals, teams and organisations have benefited from his blend of innovative insights with practical application presented in an accessible style that combines clarity with humour. He also shares his insights regularly through books, papers and articles as well as a regular series of risk Dr. briefings. David speaking and writing is guided by the risk Dr. motto of understand profoundly, so you can explain simply. And David has been active and tireless advocate of risk management over 33 decades, as many contributions have moved the risk discipline forward in both thinking and practice, ranging from the inclusion of opportunities in the risk process to groundbreaking work on risk, attitudes and risk appetite. He's developed the risk of breakdown structure to provide a framework for risk processes risk meta language to ensure accurate risk descriptions, defined response strategies for focusing actions Maturity Model frameworks for benchmarking and risk management capability and criteria for defining a professional approach to risk management, the risk management management professionalism Manifesto, he's been recognised for a range of awards, and I take a big breath here including PMI David ickes, LeMond PM literature award PMI Eric Genet, project management excellence Ward CMI charted fellow award RM risk Personality of the Year award Project Management Institute fellow award Honorary Fellow of the Association for project management, RSA fellow National PM Association of Taiwan honorary advisory and risk fellow of the Institute of risk management PMI distinguished contribution award PMI European Congress Palme d'Or Award for Best paper and PMI risk seek significant contribution award and brief Welcome to the show, David.

Unknown Speaker  2:09  
Well, thank you very much. I'm glad to be here. And I told them that I hadn't realised I'd done so much. It's all been real fun.

Unknown Speaker  2:14  
Yeah, and I'm guessing you knew something about risk?

Unknown Speaker  2:17  
Well, that's all I know. I'm afraid I'm a very boring person, really. But you know, risk management is really exciting and real fun. So it's not such a bad thing to be an expert in. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  2:26  
yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. So

Unknown Speaker  2:31  
I'd like to find out a bit about behind the background of what makes David Hilson the rest of the tech. So, going right back to the beginning, when I mentioned there was some risk management strategies applied at the birth of David Hilson. Where was that and what happened? There

Unknown Speaker  2:46  
is the sixth floor of University College Hospital in Tottenham Court Road in London. Yes. And I was born as an early age wanted to be close to my mother while she was in hospital, all those usual corny jokes. 1955. When I was born, I was nameless, because my parents decided that I was going to be Martin when I was born. I took one look at me. And my mother said, He's not a Martin. And then I they had to sort of rethink everything. So David came a couple of days later, and I'm quite glad about that.

Unknown Speaker  3:20  
Yeah, yeah, we get used to your name. So where does he live? Now? You still in London area? Or?

Unknown Speaker  3:25  
No, I was born in North London. So I'm a spurs fan. I'm sorry about that to all the other. You have to make your choices early on I coming home from school at about the age of eight. I met a group of boys on the corner of a street who blocked my path and said, so spurs are arsenal. And I knew one of the answers was wrong. Which one? So I just pick the first one. I said spurs, and I got beaten up and chased up the road. So I felt after that early start, I ought to be committed to spurs. And so I've been a lifelong follower, not hugely committed, but my mother did teach Danny Blanchflower at one stage, you won't know.

Unknown Speaker  4:11  
I know the name Danny plants ago.

Unknown Speaker  4:14  
So anyway, North London until I went to university at the age of 17. And then, about 35 years ago, settled in Petersfield and Hampshire, which is a lovely sort of rural spot, an hour from London, an hour from each of Heathrow and Gatwick, which suits me well, as you'll perhaps discover later on, and out in the countryside within 10 minutes of our house. So it's a it's a lovely place to be born in

Unknown Speaker  4:39  
Berlin. And family. You see us?

Unknown Speaker  4:43  
Yes, I married 40 years ago last year. So

Unknown Speaker  4:47  

Unknown Speaker  4:48  
Yeah, thank you. And I don't know how that happened. Just one day at a time, I guess, still more in love than we were when we started. We have two lovely daughters who are 38 and 36. Both married and one granddaughter. So all good. Excellent. Excellent. I seem to have a life full of women, actually. I mean, a wife and two daughters and my father died young. So when my first son in law came along, I was absolutely delighted as somebody who understood the offside rule and could see underneath the bottom of a car without collapsing, you know,

Unknown Speaker  5:21  
it wasn't an awesome family.

Unknown Speaker  5:22  
No, he was a rugby player, Cardiff rugby player, so he was kind of uncommitted when it came to soccer.

Unknown Speaker  5:30  
No, he wasn't, he was approvable, then.

Unknown Speaker  5:31  
Yeah, that'll do. as well.

Unknown Speaker  5:36  
You'll have to tell us about that handshake. Just the handshake test. Yes, well, people you can tell a lot by people about people from the way they shake hands. And so I had told my daughters that any potential person lad that they brought home would have to pass a handshake test, but I didn't tell them the rules. And so they told their lads, when they were about to bring some some poor SAP home, I'm afraid your dad's gonna, my dad's gonna shake hands. But you've got to pass the test, and we can't tell you how to pass it. So the guys kind of came in, in fear and trembling. And some of them, you know, went into hard and some of them gave up all together. And so it's, it's a bit. I can't give away the secret now.

Unknown Speaker  6:17  
Okay, fair enough. Maybe maybe offline. There came with my daughters in the future. Exactly. So you said you grew up? You grew up in London?

Unknown Speaker  6:30  
Not just London, in North London in North London.

Unknown Speaker  6:33  
It doesn't matter, does it? Oh, yeah. That's me. Maybe in a country or across the river. You know,

Unknown Speaker  6:37  
you and I, we have multiple identities. You know, I'm British, but I'm English. I'm English. But I'm a southerner. I'm a southerner. But I'm a Londoner, I'm in London about I'm in North London. I'm in North London about I'm a spurs supporter. And each of those kind of nested identities, you know, means something significant in a particular context.

Unknown Speaker  6:56  
Yeah, we all have our tribes, don't we? Absolutely. Yeah. Sometimes they cross and sometimes they? They don't. So you grew up in North London? So when you were growing up there, and obviously, maybe we'll cover it a little bit in, in what, what the, the job of a risk doctor is? And and, and obviously, we talked about this, I'm not sure whether you're traditionally I've talked to people on these is generally about where how they got into project management and things like that. And obviously, you're in the project management arena. But what did you want to be when you were running away or getting beaten up by those

Unknown Speaker  7:35  
wonderful Arsenal supporters?

Unknown Speaker  7:37  
Well, and astronauts Of course, I mean, all boys wanted to we just had the moon landing. Verner von Braun was my hero, that interesting German chap, who escaped the Nazis and went to America. And I was determined to be to be an astronaut. That was my goal.

Unknown Speaker  7:55  
So did that. So it wasn't in to be involved with project management tool with one

Unknown Speaker  8:02  
who knew what project management was in those days? No, and it never has really been to be involved in project management. For me, the world of projects is incidental. It's it's a reasonable domain to play in. But it's not my only interest by any means. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  8:20  
So as you grew up there in in North London, and we've gone to university Centre in new news about 17. So what was it? Was that to take you to forward start astronauts, would you move to different direction, I'm

Unknown Speaker  8:32  
afraid that but never came came off. So I had another option. I was a musician, actually, from the age of 10, I started to play the tuba, which was bigger than me. And that was quite an interesting experience, too. And I want a scholarship for five years to Trinity College of Music in London, which is one of the main five royal colleges studying big brass. So it was trombone neighbours. And when I came to 16, sort of age to choose a levels, I was interested in science. And I was interested in music. And my career's teacher said, How many successful tuba players are there in the country? And I said, Well, I guess about three, and how many successful scientists other in the country? And I said, I don't know. But it's more than three. And he said, Well, if you follow music as a career, you'll be busking in the subways, if you follow science as a career, you'll you'll never be out of work. So that's what you should do. And you can't do science as a hobby. You can do music as a hobby. So why don't you just be a scientist, and leave your music as a hobby. So I did that. And occasionally I've regretted it. You know, I sometimes wonder if I might, I know would never been the best tuba player in the world or the best trombonist. But, you know, it might have been fun to just take it a bit further. But when I went to university, it was to follow a degree in biochemistry. Right.

Unknown Speaker  9:56  
So do you still play the tumour or the trauma?

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
Well, I don't. I have them in the loft. And now I while I was at music college, I taught myself to play the piano. Because we had to do composition and harmony and counterpoint and all those sorts of things, which you can't really do on a tuba. So I taught myself to play the piano. And after a while, I realised that that was a lot more versatile than than big brass instruments. So at the age of about 25, I transitioned into keyboards as the beginning of the days of synthesises. And so now I play keyboard in in various groupings of different sorts. I still play a lot every week.

Unknown Speaker  10:37  
No, cool. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  10:40  
So biochemistry. Tell me about that. Well, tell me about your degree in that.

Unknown Speaker  10:46  
Well, you'll discover it. As we go on that I've, I seem to have done things in decades. So I had 10 years as a biochemist. Yeah. You want to know what the others were? I could I can get Yeah, why not? Yeah. Why my life so far in decades ahead. About 10 years in biochemistry, then 10 years for a big defence contractor, working as a risk management consultants, another 10 years with two small risk management consultancies, then another 10 years, launching the risk doctor partnership. And then the last five years or so I've been trying to retire. And that will probably take me 10 years as well. So if you start at about the age of sort of 2020, to 30, biochemistry 30, to 40, with this with this company, 40, to 50, with the two smaller companies 50 to 60, with the risk to partnership, and I'm now 64, halfway through my, my next decade of trying to retire. Wow. But by chemistry was fascinating. I specialised in protein chemistry, I did some interesting research that turned out to be the basis of genetic engineering. And I was focusing on how proteins Fold and unfold and how you control the shape of a protein in order to make it work. I developed a way of unfolding proteins that were wrongly shaped and putting them back together in the right order. And then went on to do the same sort of thing with proteins that control the expression of chromosomes of genes. And so for about five years, I was an expert in the sorts of things that that are now basic genetic engineering. So you didn't expect

Unknown Speaker  12:35  
that did you know I didn't absolutely threw me completely.

Unknown Speaker  12:37  
That's where the doctor came from. I forgot I was getting it back.

Unknown Speaker  12:41  
Yeah, I was I was gonna ask it was that that the doctor and it's kind of one of those things, if you sit there thinking, I have a colleague who's a

Unknown Speaker  12:51  
technical architect, and he's,

Unknown Speaker  12:55  
degree was in biochemistry, and just hearing you talk about the mind chemistry there reminded me of him because I didn't want to one day we touched on it. And he started talking to me about

Unknown Speaker  13:07  
was it about

Unknown Speaker  13:09  
when you got solved going between cells Come on what it's called. And he was describing that process to me, and it was like he was, it sounded like a different person talking about something else

Unknown Speaker  13:19  
really interesting. One of the things I've always I've been very passionate and committed to the thing in front of me. So, you know, I, I gave everything into biochemistry into my research and my publications, and, you know, was completely committed to that as if it was going to be my life, and then it didn't turn out to be. But I did really enjoy it while I was doing it. And I made it, you know, made a small difference. So that was good.

Unknown Speaker  13:44  
So how did that? How did you did that? Is that jumped from the bio chemist Dr. were connected to me, Dolly the sheep jumped from there to working with risks within a defence organisation. How was that? What was that transition?

Unknown Speaker  14:01  
Well, you see, my career's officer at school was wrong.

Unknown Speaker  14:05  
And he said,

Unknown Speaker  14:06  
Well, they wanted to want to play the tuba.

Unknown Speaker  14:08  
Yeah. He said, If you fall asleep, she would never be out of work. And

Unknown Speaker  14:13  
so I did four years as a postdoctoral research fellow at what was then Portsmouth Polytechnic in the biophysics department. And there was a rule in those days, this is the early 80s, that you could only have a position renew twice in the same institution, because they wanted to spread the expertise around between different academic institutions. So after two renewals, you had to move to a different place, right. And by that time, I was married, we had a couple of children. we settle their life in Petersfield, just 15 miles north of Portsmouth, and didn't want to move so I could not continue I you know, I couldn't work in Portsmouth anymore. I tried Southampton, and Guilford and other places, and nothing worked out. And so I was out of work for five months. And then this job came up with a defence company that used to exist called Ferrante, which isn't there anymore. Because they didn't manage their risk very well. And that's another storey.

Unknown Speaker  15:12  
So tell us more. Well,

Unknown Speaker  15:17  
I moved to Franti in, let me see 93. And is that right? Yes, it was about 93. And around that time, just a little before that the Ministry of Defence issued a requirements and instruction toward defence contractors, that they would use formal risk management on all future contracts. And the mo D had heard about this from the oil and gas sector and decided that it It sounded interesting and useful. So they mandated it from the chief Chief Scientific advisor. And so we had to do it. And nobody knew what it was, including the MOD, actually. So my company looked around for some unemployed or Presley wasn't doing so much came across me and said, Look, kill some, find out what risk management is and do it. So that was great. And I got started following some of the folks in the oil and gas sector, some of the academics got to know some people in the field and developed an approach to risk management that we started using on one troubled project, which was spent half spent twice the money was one and a half times late and had no plan to completion. And so we we applied this new risk management thing. And and it worked, and we got the project through to complete underneath renegotiated terms, everybody was very pleased, I got the job of spreading risk management through the company to all our projects. And then after a few years, and we got a small team around me. After a few years, I was asked to advise the board on strategic risk. And that's when the company made its biggest mistake, really, which was taking over an American company, who had a lot of secret contracts with, with the Pentagon. So secret that they couldn't reveal any of the details to our due diligence team. And so we trusted them went ahead bought them for a million dollars. And it all turned out to be a big fraud. And there was nothing. I spotted this I asked the question, the chief execs said, Don't worry, you're worrying about nothing, you know, I've done this before. So I resigned. And six months later, the company was in such trouble that it went under Scott sold to Marconi bits of it was sold to British Aerospace. And for it doesn't exist anymore. The guys in the States, the directors of the company who we bought, went to prison for 20 years each. You know, and it was a big a big storey of unmanaged risk. But as often happens, actually, the risk guys do see these things coming and pipe up. And and often not listen to that's what happened with RBS, and Thanks, boss. And some of those other bearings and so on the risk people knew. And we said, and we won't listen to So

Unknown Speaker  18:18  
yeah, I suppose it's that there's a risk here. Are you going to treat it right? And if someone some people just look at and go, don't worry, we'll we'll deal with that. It's a sad, sad thing, isn't it? It's that. And that my sort of view of the the likelihood ones and the scale things? Is people sitting there going? Well, it's not likely. But the scale of what that thing can be doesn't matter how likely is you've got to do something about it sometimes when you exactly because it can if it's as you say, with something like that, that can take down a whole business. So well, why would you take that risk? Without putting some controls in place? That's right.

Unknown Speaker  18:58  
Yeah. So they did put you know, there was some due diligence where we had, yeah, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and we sued them for our money back, and they gave us our money back. But it didn't give us that business back.

Unknown Speaker  19:10  
So no, that's the thing. You can't You can't

Unknown Speaker  19:14  
getting feedback for paying someone is nothing compared to the reputational damage and the business damage that these things can make. Is it? Exactly. So when you said that, when you were asked to look at the risks of at Franti originally was that you? They, you were already there. And they were looking for someone to do that. So what what, what were you doing next? So again, it's kind of just trying to draw join those dots, because you were doing your biochemistry, your role wasn't obviously a highly educated person. So going in different roles. It's understandable. And just curious to know, what were you actually doing prior to doing that risk work

Unknown Speaker  19:50  
up in in the staff Education team, which was the internal training house, all right. And we had about six, six lectures. And I, they offered me this job or interviewed me for this job. And I said, Look at them. And the first thing about computer systems or defence, or the Navy or any of this stuff, they said, Yeah, but you know how to communicate. And you know how to take complex ideas and make them understandable. They said, it's easier to find a community a good communicator, and teach them about computers than to find a good engineer and teach them how to communicate. So I went in, literally knowing nothing about the subject. After about two weeks of induction, I did my first three day training course for computer programmers. And it was a question of saying something in the morning asking all the questions, getting all the questions asked. I said, Oh, we'll cover that after lunch, over lunch going back, saying, What's this? What's this? What's this? Doing your mind sort of swatting up getting some answers from the rest of the team and going back and just blacking it? You know? Yes, of course, I knew all about that anyway. And it was a great way for me to learn, actually, but I was a I was a head of the I ended up being head of this stuff, education group. And then from there, they took me on into this risk role.

Unknown Speaker  21:07  
Now it's kind of going to still do for doing what you're done later on with with x of a lot of your speaking engagements and education stuff as well as boys.

Unknown Speaker  21:16  
Yeah. We always like to talk. I've

Unknown Speaker  21:23  
noticed it or not noticed, I've just seen that you talk. You've spoken a lot of places.

Unknown Speaker  21:27  
Yeah. But the risk thing was really just being in the right place at the right time. Or, you know, it was purely by chance that, you know, this opportunity came along and they alighted on me as a suitable candidate. And I I took to it and never looked back. Really cool. That was about 1980. I forgot my timing, I must have gone to Ferrante at about 84 because this was 86.

Unknown Speaker  21:52  
Right? So if you so going into that and doing that risk source stuff is what a question I normally ask with the Pam's is what their first project they remembered that they delivered. And quite often people are kind of going well, I didn't realise this project, or I didn't realise I was managing it kind of thing. But obviously, with your kind of role. It was. When did you realise that you were all the first time you thought, hang on this is involved with the project management industry? Obviously, you're doing the risk stuff, was it in those first days of Franti and that first project you were talking about?

Unknown Speaker  22:26  
Yes, that one, which was hugely troubled. And obviously, I had to work very closely with the project manager and the project management office, we had each major project had its own project office. And so the risk roll sat within that. So I was more or less embedded into the project for, I guess, about 18 months, and saw project management, you know, up close and personal. Yeah, you know, it was very, sort of old technology in those days. And we had a 2000 activity, arrow activity on Arrow network, that we printed out on huge rolls of a North paper, and wallpaper, the project office with it in about six points print. So you need the magnifying glass to see, you know, and and then we had to try and identify risks on this 2000 activity network and work out when things would finish. And you know, the impact on the critical path and all that stuff. And earned value was part of it as well. So, you know, I began to see some of the the interactions, the close interaction between risk management and projects. And when we actually managed to renegotiate a plan to completion and then stick to it, then I saw that the risk thing really worked, it really made a contribution.

Unknown Speaker  23:42  
So do you.

Unknown Speaker  23:44  
Do you see risk management as part as as a discipline within the project management arena? Or do you see it as a complementary? Because obviously, most of the, the the PM box, the APM. Box, although the there's a, we have a risk management section. But then I suppose we have a procurement management section. And now procurement is a subset as well. But can I answer my own question?

Unknown Speaker  24:13  
Well, I mean, I think yes or no, clearly, risk management has a role within projects. But I think it has a role within everything that's important. So if you think about corporate strategy, or about running programmes, or about innovation, research and development, if you think about sort of personal issues, like managing your career, or bringing up a family, or investing for your pension, if you think about bigger issues, like climate change, or demographics, or pandemics, or technological breakthrough, all of these things are affected by uncertainty. And so I see risk management as a life skill, which actually can be applied in pretty much any context where we have things that are uncertain and impact, which is most things or most things that matter. And so in in the world of projects, the key is to recognise that risk is always an only defined in terms of objectives. And so one of my early sort of breakthroughs or insights was to come to a three word, definition of risk, which has actually guided my thinking and practice for the last 30 odd years. And that's to say that risk is uncertainty that matters. So every risk is uncertain, but not all uncertainties are risks. So out of the billions of uncertainties in the world, which ones do we take account of? Do we need to prepare for and think about and respond to and report it report on? And we want to report on the uncertainties that matter, we don't want to bother about the uncertainties that don't matter. Unfortunately, out of billions of uncertainties in the world, most of them don't matter. So then how do you know what matters and in the world of projects, what matters is achieving our objectives. So risk is then defined as any uncertainty that if it occurs, would affect achievement or product objectives. And once you've got that, then you can apply the same principle to anything. So what is a reputation risk or reputation risk is any uncertainty that if it occurs, what affects our reputation, or safety risk is any uncertainty that if it occurs, would affect our safety performance? at a personal risk is any uncertainty that if it occurs, would affect my personal objectives? So we can then get this kind of layered view of risk just from those three words? And then out of uncertainty that matters? You get the question, well, how big is a risk? And you've got two dimensions? How much? How uncertain is it? And how much does it matter? And then we might talk about probability as a measure of uncertainty and impact as a measure of how much it matters. So you know, all sorts of things came out of that, those three simple words, and it was one of my early insights, which has really shaped my thinking and writing from then on.

Unknown Speaker  27:00  
Yeah, that's really interesting. Because one of the the,

Unknown Speaker  27:06  
the things that I, that you said there about risk across things is that we we all manage risks all the time, don't mean,

Unknown Speaker  27:15  
of course, we wouldn't be here if we didn't.

Unknown Speaker  27:16  
Exactly. And that's the point, isn't it? I

Unknown Speaker  27:18  
think the road and you know, all those things here, health, health, vaccinations, insurance, all that stuff.

Unknown Speaker  27:23  
Yeah. And you make assessments, but not necessarily with something about right. How uncertain is this? Does it matter? Yeah, it's it. We do it subconsciously. So I was listening to a conversation today about mathematics, and how the fact that everyone does complex mathematics will time. But you just don't think about the fact that doing complex mathematics until someone says, right, we're going to do a complex mathematics problem that the analogy they had was a basketball player is doing some incredibly complicated mathematical calculations by

Unknown Speaker  27:56  
throwing a ball into the net.

Unknown Speaker  27:59  
But they don't realise they're doing it necessarily. And if you ask them to work out what they were doing on a piece of paper, or whiteboard, they wouldn't feel to do it. And this is, I suppose it's the same with risk risk management that we do every day, every day, as you're, you're walking around, or crossing the road, you're well it is making those judgments on you.

Unknown Speaker  28:18  
But what was interesting, when we started to introduce risk management into Franti, we had some really skilled project managers. And a lot of them said, Look, I don't need a formal process or techniques or anything to identify risk, I do it all the time, it's just my my day job is to think about what might happen, and to stop the bad things happening, or make them less bad, or protect ourselves and to achieve my goals. And so, you know, and they were right, they did do that, and they were successful. And then the question is, how do we make everybody the same has the best project managers, you know, we can't all have the same sort of level of experience or expertise or, or the same things happen to us. And the role of process is to capture the best practice of people who have done it before, intuitively, and make that available to everybody else. So what we're saying is, you know, I, I say, there are six questions that shape the risk management process, which any sensible person will ask. So what am I trying to achieve? What could affect me? Which of the big ones? What should I do about it? When I did it? Did it work? And then what's changed? And, and we, that's just a natural set of questions. But if you think about it in a formal way, it becomes the risk process. So what am I trying to do? That's what I tried to achieve is objective setting, what might affect me identifying risks, which are the big ones prioritisation? What should I do about it response planning? When I've implemented that? Did it work risk reviews? And then what's changed risk updates. I mean, it's just, it's natural normal. But what we do is we take the, the wisdom that's embedded in the in the old and bold, people who have been doing it for years intuitively. And we bring that out and can in a process that anybody can follow. And then we all become as good as the best, not because we've had the years of experience, but because we're following our processes based on their wisdom. Do you

Unknown Speaker  30:14  
makes me think about that? Is that? Do you find that in organisations that you've been involved with were that application of a risk process where people will naturally be doing that risk management process you just described there as part of their project delivery? And then you place a process? Or a set of documentation or set of forms? or whatever? What computer system, whatever random people then go, right? Because I've filled that in. I've done my risk management. Do you see that happening?

Unknown Speaker  30:47  
Yes, yes, there is a tendency to believe that once you've, you've fed the system, you've done your job, yeah. And to recognise is that risk isn't managed by computers, or systems or processes, risk is managed by people. It's like, you know, if you buy a copy of Microsoft Word, it doesn't make you an author, you could write a world, you know, award winning novel with Microsoft Word. But just because you've got it doesn't make you an author. And just because you've got some risk tool or some risk process, it doesn't mean you're managing risk. So what we're doing is using the process and the toolkit to facilitate the thinking process of answering those six questions, and facilitation, you know, the Latin words, faster Lee or Italian word factually means easy. And so facilitation means making something easier than it would be without. So facilitator makes the process makes the meeting easy. Yeah, a risk toolkit or risk process facilitates the identification of management of risk, it makes it easier, but we still have to do it. And so just because you've got something in a risk register, doesn't mean it's managed, you've got to do something about it.

Unknown Speaker  31:58  
And I suppose my head you get is that getting us inexperienced at the project managers is inexperienced with the organisation, the focus of organisations that you find that happens, which it was a combination.

Unknown Speaker  32:10  
I think we're all too busy. And we do things that are urgent instead of things that are important. And so you know, we've got to find a way of delegating or prioritising so that the things that urgent get done as well, but we don't miss out on the important things. And that, again, is where process can help. If you can't get through the next gateway without having done a proper risk assessment, and presenting a reasoned explanation of how you're going to manage the risks in the next phase, then you don't get through the gateway. And the storey becomes important. Yeah. And of course, you should be doing that anyway. So I think processes are useful, sort of backstop. It's like my marriage contract. I don't know if I've ever read my marriage contract, but it's there. If I need it, you have to hope that you won't need it. After 40 years, we haven't refer to the vows that we made and said, well, you said because you know, we didn't need to some people do, of course, and then you know, that's when they're in trouble. So the same i think is true, you know, of the process, it's there to remind us that we need to do things that we should want to do. Intuitively anyway.

Unknown Speaker  33:20  
That makes sense. Because I think it's it's an area that sometimes you can sit there and you you've got that blank page in front of you go right, I've got my project, what are my risks?

Unknown Speaker  33:30  
Well, grown really you should be having your your team involved. Yeah, yeah. There's, that's where the process and the tools and techniques help to get you started. So you do you do a SWOT analysis that says, Okay, we're good at this. We're bad at that. So what, what are the opportunities that come out of our strengths? What are the weaknesses? What are the threats that come out of our weaknesses? And the technique begins to open things up for you? Are you do a root cause analysis, or you use a risk breakdown structure? And all these things are prompt? All frameworks to help you think beyond the blank page?

Unknown Speaker  34:05  
Yeah, that makes sense. Make sense?

Unknown Speaker  34:09  
So moving from where you were, you've gone through, you know that and obviously, you went into that careers. Within for anti you moved on. And from what you said, you is that when you set up your set of risk consultancies and you're working with other risk consultancies?

Unknown Speaker  34:28  
Yeah, I started, I was poached by the risk consulting consultancy that was advising me, at Franti. So they said, you know, you're good at this, why don't you come and join us on the other side of the fence. And so I joined them for five years, became director of risk consulting. And then another company that I saw had a wider scope of interest in just defence projects in the defence industry. And they were working pharmaceuticals and construction and it and so on. And so I know moved to them to broaden my experience outside of defence, I had five years with each. And that was really, really useful. just applying the basic principles that I'd learned in Ferrante in completely different settings. And then when I got to 2003, then I formed the risk doctor Partnership, which has been going on since

Unknown Speaker  35:22  
the exits. That's when I first heard of you, I think when I was working with Pam, I think you were presenting in different places then and potentially advertising with the PMI UK chapter as well. Yes, I I,

Unknown Speaker  35:34  
one of the things I've done is spoken a lot of conferences, just to get my ideas out and get them tested and get some feedback. And I've spoken to every PMI conference in the US and in Europe since 1999. So 99 was Philadelphia. And then I just went US, Europe, US Europe until just about three years ago. So I speak at all those those events.

Unknown Speaker  35:58  
Yeah, yeah, told that. I was definitely where I remember you. And so you've got the risk. Doctor, you're you're out there. And what the rest of the partnership? Is that your own risk doctor consulting organisation? Or is it more focused on yet. So it's the

Unknown Speaker  36:13  
same sort of thing. I am the risk doctor, there is only one risk doctor, and that's me. But I have 24 people around the world who are equal sort of peers of mine in risk management, and that sort of level of expertise and experience, all of whom I don't employ anybody, they're all associates. But they all have a successful track record of helping people manage risk in quite complex and difficult settings. So I've got seven in Australia, a couple in China, five in South Africa, and people in the States and Canada and then throughout Europe. So yeah, one in India. Yeah. So you know, it's a small select group, and you can't join, you know, has to be people that I know, I get some people saying, Well, how do I become a partner? And I said, the answer is, I'm sorry, you. Yeah. But there's when I say there's only one risk doctor, of course, that's not actually true. There are two others in the world. And I don't suppose I should probably mention them on the on air. That might be a weakening diluting my brand. Yes, there is a there's a risk doctor in in Chicago, called Charlie Cottle, who was an options trader. And all he does is options trading. And he's very, very good at it. But he's not what I do. And we know about each other. And we like each other. And we, you know, we talked to each other, but we don't compete. And then there's another risk doctor in Australia. His name's Cyril junk off. And he's a contracts and procurement specialist. And all he does is contract risk in product contracts. So again, you know, we know about each other, we've talked about how we interact and agree that we don't actually compete. So there are these other two but they're both very specialised. And so my risk got to partnership risk. Dr. Offering is much broader. And International, of course.

Unknown Speaker  38:03  
Yeah. There's always someone who likes the name.

Unknown Speaker  38:06  
Because it wasn't it.

Unknown Speaker  38:08  
Yeah, exactly. It's, it

Unknown Speaker  38:10  
came about I know, you're going to ask me this. And if you aren't, yeah. Where did it come from? I have a friend called Janice Preston in in California. Who used to call me Dr. Doom. Yeah, exactly. I wasn't very flattered. Actually. This was before the risk doctor came along. And so you know, I went with it, you know, it was a bit of fun. But then when I decided I wanted to start my own company, and I started the company six months, or actually nine months before I started, so I had a shadow company, a shadow websites, a shadow shadow blogs, and so on. So that when we went live, there was a history there were rare. Yeah. And I was on holiday with my family in Sardinia. And we in Villa serious, quite close to categorise. We were sitting around the pool, and I was talking to my my wife and my two daughters about starting a new company, it was going to be risky, I didn't know where the money was coming from, did they think it was a good idea, and so on. And we got to talking about names for the company. I didn't want David Hilson associates or anything like that, which is a bit limiting. And so I said, Well, you know, Janice calls me Dr. Doom, but I don't like that. So I thought maybe Dr. risk, and my older daughter just immediately said, well, not Dr. Risk risk doctor. And it just went click. Yeah, all the lights went on, you know, the sun shone and the birds went are there. I knew exactly. Then it was the right it was the right name. So the rest Dr. name was born by the side of a swimming pool in Sardinia?

Unknown Speaker  39:47  
That sounds like the perfect place for it to start.

Unknown Speaker  39:49  
Yeah, it was great.

Unknown Speaker  39:50  
Hopefully a wine or, or a bottle in hand as well.

Unknown Speaker  39:53  
Something like that. Yes.

Unknown Speaker  39:56  
So you started up the risk doctor, you obviously you've it, just reading those awards, it's been a sort of a vastly, you're very successful and a lot of demand on your time doing that. So if I, if I can look back over that career,

Unknown Speaker  40:15  
and look at what you've done. What

Unknown Speaker  40:21  
What would you say is your biggest screw? The biggest screw up?

Unknown Speaker  40:27  
somewhat more importantly, what did you learn from it? Yes,

Unknown Speaker  40:30  
I've worked in 55 different countries on every continent except the Antarctic way to gold.

Unknown Speaker  40:38  
And it is a bit risky. There's

Unknown Speaker  40:40  
a very Yeah. But I love culture, different cultures and different languages, and food and music and all those things. And my first big client in the Middle East was the Lebanese company, I won't give you a lot of detail, because I don't want to say who they were. But they they're very big in a whole range of different countries throughout the Middle East. And we got to do myself and some colleagues really designed their entire risk management process from scratch, starting with the board, and going through to the project teams. So we trained about 1000 people we spent, worked with them for about five years. And we got to a point where myself and a colleague, were working on a big project of theirs. And we gave them an indicative quote, for some work. And it was just because we didn't know how the work was going to turn out. And so when it came to it, the work was a lot more than we thought it was going to be. So we went back and just said, I'm very sorry, but the price is going to be 20% higher. And they objected. They said no, when you promised and we shaking hands, and we've been out for dinner, and you know, we know you and your friends and you can't change the price. And I made the bad the wrong choice to say I'm sorry, you know, we've done the work, we're gonna have to charge you this, I put the invoice in and never worked with them again. And it was just a question of completely misunderstanding the culture, you know, that in in the Middle East. Business is based on relationship. And relationship is based on trust. And if you say something, and you you don't keep your promise, then you're not trustworthy, and you can't be worked with. And, you know, I mean, I was right, because we did do a lot more work. And we could have and should have charged for it. But in the bigger context, you know, it was a stupid thing to do, because we lost a very lucrative client. And so that was probably my biggest screw up not understanding or respecting the cultural drivers. And and I learned a huge amount from that. You know, it's not all about the money. It is all about the relationship. And different cultures have different ways of building relationship.

Unknown Speaker  42:56  
Yeah, it's it's it is that it's all like I said before, it's about a relationship just in general, getting things done. If you've gone back to your contract, and fundamentally same sort of thing, you've had to go back to your contract, something's gone wrong, isn't it?

Unknown Speaker  43:12  
I paid, you know, but then they just never spoke to us again. And I knew I kick myself, you know, within a day of doing it. And I could just see, the whole attitude changed instantly. And there was no second chances. I couldn't I did apologise. And I did go to a couple of meetings with senior managers since then. But after that, but you know, there was just no, no openness anymore, and I just just ruined it.

Unknown Speaker  43:37  
Such a shame.

Unknown Speaker  43:40  
slip away from that, and I don't hear dwelling on that, especially with the name of Dr. Doom as well. So dwell down too far into that one. But thinking about all of your risk management, obviously, you would have been training people you will have been educating co CEOs, all these different people, and now pin them with their businesses. What is is your proudest moment whether that be the protest and risk you've identified a new solve the risk that and avoided risk? Sorry, that that it was it was so important, or whether it was more about the people side of it, whatever, what would you say is your proudest thing that made you've filled full of pride?

Unknown Speaker  44:25  
Can I can I give you two? Yeah, one is a small one. And the other big one I was going to a meeting up in London must be 10 or 11 years ago, Russia arrived at Euston tube station, and there's loads of people on the platform and I was on the tube. The doors opened and I stepped out on the platform and people kind of step back a little bit when you come out. From the back of the crowd, a voice said, Good god, it's David Hilson.

Unknown Speaker  44:51  
And I've no idea who it was. I didn't see.

Unknown Speaker  44:56  
There was nothing I have no idea.

Unknown Speaker  45:00  
On a crowded

Unknown Speaker  45:00  
London Underground platform. Somebody recognised me and I'm quite sure I'm only five foot six. You know, so it wasn't like towering above everybody else. And I wasn't the first off the train. I was quite proud of that. I dined out on that for quite a long time. Yeah, I don't blame it. Maybe if if in the unlikely event of my small listenership that is that person who

Unknown Speaker  45:20  
did show that David?

Unknown Speaker  45:22  
Yes. Then get in touch. I'll take you out to dinner.

Unknown Speaker  45:27  
Your level whoever the whole host of people claiming to be right, yeah.

Unknown Speaker  45:32  
Then more significantly. To understand the significance of the beginning of the storey, you have to know that I have an American brother in law, who was a bit of a trickster. So I was in boots in Petersfield, and my mobile phone rang, and this American boy said, Can I speak to the risk doctor? And I said, Who's calling? He said, this is the deputy director of NASA. And I thought my brother and I went, yeah, right. And, and this boy said, this is the deputy director of NASA, who am I speaking to? And I said, you want the rest doctor just a minute ago and get him came back with a slightly different voice? Hello, how can I help you? And it sure enough, it was the deputy director of NASA. And he said, we've got this problem with the the mission to Mars. And when you are next in Washington, would you come and visit us? Well as it happened, and my sister and brother in law live just south of Washington, DC. So I was going to see them the next weekend. And I said, Well, I'll be in Washington next weekend, you know, can we fix something up? So I went over and we're down to the Langley NASA base, which is in Virginia. And they got this issue with trying to build a base station on the moon as a kind of interim jump off point for going to Mars. This is a project that was ultimately cancelled by brock obama. But at this stage, it was very live. And so we had this, the full day workshop to try and solve this problem of how to build a base station on the moon. And obviously, I'm a world expert in base stations on the moon, as you can tell,

Unknown Speaker  47:11  
you seen space 1999. And that's it.

Unknown Speaker  47:14  
Yes, Joe, 90 all of those things, definitely.

Unknown Speaker  47:17  
So anyway, I basically, I applied my basic techniques and sort of approach to asking dumb questions and clever questions in alternating. And we had, we started at eight o'clock, we had a break at 11. And I said to the guy who called me in, how's this going? He said, You've earned your money already said, This is totally brilliant, we're really close to a solution. And by one o'clock, we'd solve the problem. We've worked out how they were going to build a base station on the moon, using techniques that I developed with Glaxo Smith Klein in the vaccine research and development department to develop new new vaccines. And I just taken this technique that I developed with them, applied it here in this aerospace in this NASA setting, and it worked. And by by three o'clock, four o'clock, you know, I was done, I done a day's work. I got $5,000, or something, NASA was happy. And I went away and and they carried on and did the job. And I was really proud of that. A that, you know, they invited me in the first place be that I was able to be useful within three hours of arriving and see that it actually solved the problem. That's fantastic.

Unknown Speaker  48:35  
And obviously hooked back to your

Unknown Speaker  48:39  
maybe not being an astronaut, but very close to touch on Well,

Unknown Speaker  48:42  
yeah, that's the nearest I got, sadly. But

Unknown Speaker  48:45  
that's real. That's a lot closer than a lot of us admit,

Unknown Speaker  48:47  
I've done Space Mountain in Disney World a couple of times. Okay.

Unknown Speaker  48:49  
Fair enough. Similar, isn't it? Yes.

Unknown Speaker  48:54  
Brilliant. So, obviously, as I said, Before, I know you from the speaking from your writing and blogging, and when you launch the risk Doctor, what made you decide that you were going to do because obviously, I work in as a consulting organisation, you could be, you know, you'd have obviously got within the industry's had quite a bit of knowledge on how to market yourself anyway. But what made you do go into right away that started before that, what made you blog, podcasts speaking, etc? What, what was the driver behind those?

Unknown Speaker  49:29  
And I've always felt that, you know, I mean, I have ideas. I'm curious. And I think about things that other people perhaps hadn't thought about and and ask the second and the third question, you know, don't just be satisfied with the first answer. And so I tend to kind of have ideas that turn out to be useful, I've got a few ideas that aren't very useful. But that's how you get useful ones is by thinking of lots of other things along the way and sifting out the good ones. And I realised that I had more ideas than I could practically use myself. And so I developed a kind of pipeline approach to my good ideas. The first was to talk about them in conference presentations, to get people interested and aware that this idea was out there and was interesting and useful. And then when they came to ask me, I was the only person who knew how to do it. So that was quite a good sort of little boost to the business. And then after two or three years of exploiting that, that little bit of a lead on a new idea, and other people were beginning to hear about it and start to use it. And then I would train on it. And so I would then say, Well, look, I know how to do it, you're interested you'd like to do it, let me show you. And then the third sort of leg of that was really to create a sort of legacy elements, which would be either in writing, or in videos, where I create something more permanent, rather than just training the people who came on the courses, say, well look, if you want to know, here is a book or a couple of articles or you know, something somewhere that you can go and refer to a video perhaps, which just gives you the detail that you need. So and by the time and with those three steps of being leading edge of training others to come up behind, and then making it available to everybody. I tried to keep a pipeline so that by the time I was writing the book on the first thing, I was leading edge on the next thing. And then by the time I was telling somebody else about how to do that thing, I was then ahead on the next next thing. So I was trying to kind of keep that thought leadership, thinking and practice. And writing was really and videos a part of that whole sort of capturing the good ideas and making them available for other people. So apart from the books, everything I've done has been free as 120 risk doctor briefings available in seven different languages, just free on the website site has 171 videos on the wrist, Dr. Video, YouTube channel, all free. You know, everything is there just to take away and use because I've got more ideas than I can use myself. So I'm happy to give it away. So

Unknown Speaker  52:19  
last few questions now cuz I record right, we're not going on towards the hour.

Unknown Speaker  52:25  
What was the last risk book project book book in any book really that sort of like to do with, with your career that you read?

Unknown Speaker  52:38  
Well, of course, I'm I'm writing books. So I've just finished the manuscript for my next book. Which,

Unknown Speaker  52:45  
you know, I like to see your own. Well, I did read it.

Unknown Speaker  52:49  
Very good. Yeah. When you write something, and then three months later, it comes back through the type setting process and you sit down, you think this is good. Who wrote this? Yeah. From what you've written? That's right.

Unknown Speaker  53:00  
Absolutely, no, there's plenty of time to plug at the end.

Unknown Speaker  53:04  
No, no, I don't need to do that. Why the bus is coming threes. That's a great little book, which I come back to from time to time, which is a kind of an Idiot's Guide to statistics. And why the bus is coming threes. There's an explanation of queueing theory. Why is Friday is the best time to buy a lottery ticket. You know, when when it's raining, where where should you hold your umbrella to stay dressed? And how fast would you walk, and just some really interesting chapters on basic statistics, and I find it a lovely joyous little book, which I which I love to read, and then perhaps a little more seriously, the floor of averages, who's that by Savage, I think his name is the floor of averages, again, is a kind of a mess. What I love is the idea of making complex concepts simple. And so some of those books, I find, just just do that for me. And then I read a book called the mists of Avalon during March, which is a fantasy book about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table scene from the perspective of the women in the storey. So more gain, and Guinevere and Elaine and some of those others just really, really interesting. And trying to get a view of the clash of cultures in ancient Britain, between the Romans, the Christians, to the druids, and the Celts. And so I read that really just as a bit of light entertainment, but for to get me thinking about different cultural perspectives.

Unknown Speaker  54:51  
That notion, they sound very interesting all those ancient Britain stuff, I'm doing a few things on myself. But it was the last podcast you listen to. I was yours. So great.

Unknown Speaker  55:06  
I listened to what your conversation with my friend Carl Pritchard, which I think came after

Unknown Speaker  55:12  
the call, you actually said to me,

Unknown Speaker  55:15  
You should get David on I heard him say that. Yes, I was very impressed. I I gave him $50 for that. So. So Carl's very humble, and very enthusiastic. And I love his work. And so just call himself the risk guy. I mean, he's American, of course. But you know, the comp the contrast between the risk guy and the risk doctor, you know, it's, we do the same kind of thing, but in different settings. And I just love the way he presents himself and, and the way he writes and so on. So I listened to your podcast, and it's 45 minutes. Just a joy to listen to car. expressing himself.

Unknown Speaker  55:52  
Yeah, yeah, he was he he's expressive. Isn't this the right way to describe it? Yeah. Fantastic. What was the last blog you read?

Unknown Speaker  56:01  
Oh, ah, I, you know, I don't read blogs. Am I find that apart from my own, of course. But they are very,

Unknown Speaker  56:11  
what's the word temporary? There, they're passing? You know, that there's very little in a blog where I think, Oh, I want to just print that out and read it again, or save it on my computer and refer to it later. A lot of the blogs I read I go, yeah. Okay. So I'm not a great blog consumer, I'm afraid.

Unknown Speaker  56:30  
So, final question I'm going to ask you is

Unknown Speaker  56:37  
I'm trying to decide on what timeline to pick on here. But if you were able to talk to that younger self, David Hilson, actually, probably when you were at frente, and you were doing the education stuff, and someone coming to you and gone, right, let's do this risk stuff. What advice would you have? Give into yourself, then if you could talk to you now? You know,

Unknown Speaker  57:05  
what, what would you say?

Unknown Speaker  57:08  
I don't think I'd say anything, because I think

Unknown Speaker  57:12  
authenticity and integrity is important. And not to try and bias your reaction I said earlier on somewhere about wanting to be fully enthusiastic and committed to the thing that's in front of me. And I've always tried to do that. And so when I go to bed at night, I'm totally exhausted. Because I've given everything during the day. And when I die, I don't have anything left to give, you know, I want to just stagger over the finishing line, I think that's it, I'm done. And so when I respond to those sorts of opportunities, I'm responding wholeheartedly with who I am, in the circumstances. And I think to say, all, this is a great opportunity, make sure you follow it, or I wouldn't talk to that person. And I think, you know, you have to act, you have to be true to yourself, and act in a natural way that comes naturally. And I don't think I'd want to kind of clear that by or sort of spoil that bias that by advice from the future. I'm happy just to go with it. And the same is true, you know, from now for the decisions that I'm making going forward. I'm happy to just make the best decision I can at the time, and see what happens.

Unknown Speaker  58:23  

Unknown Speaker  58:25  
Well, that's the end of all my questions, David. It's been a pleasure talking to you. It's been

Unknown Speaker  58:32  
inspiring and

Unknown Speaker  58:35  
surprising as well, some of the roots there, certainly on the biochemistry and all those sort of things. And I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Unknown Speaker  58:43  
Very much, Nigel. Thanks very much. And I hope our listeners enjoy it too.

Unknown Speaker  58:48  
Yeah, I do hope so I'm sure they will. We if people want to get in touch with you want to check out some of the stuff what's the best way to get in touch or check out what's going on.

Unknown Speaker  58:58  
The risk to website is the first place to come is risk hyphen doctor.com. Nice and easy. And they're linked. There's a links page, which has got lots of other things on it. Every page has a link to my YouTube channel. And that's the other place where a lot of the good stuff is so that is the channel aim is risk Dr. video, or one word? So the wrist doctor video youtube channel, or if you just Google David Hilson, I mean, you'll find me

Unknown Speaker  59:26  
a tube station.

Unknown Speaker  59:27  
Yeah, or Euston tube station. So I'm going to be at Waterloo on Thursday, eight o'clock this week.

Unknown Speaker  59:35  
I'll be listening out on that platform just to see if I get that extra bit of affirmation. The whole platform might show tell

Unknown Speaker  59:41  
you that was

Unknown Speaker  59:45  
brilliant. Thank you very much again, and I'll let you get on with your evening. Have a fantastic evening. Thanks very much.

Unknown Speaker  59:52  
I've enjoyed it too. Thanks, Nigel. Cheers Tuesday.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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