practical methods and insights in a world of uncertainty
About the author: Matthew Leitch is an independent consultant and researcher in the area of internal control and risk management. His background includes psychology, mathematics, software development, audit, and accountancy. For 7 years until 2002 he worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers as a specialist in internal controls and risk management. He is a qualified accountant and holds a BSc in psychology from University College London.
Matthew Leitch is also the author of three other websites. Internal Controls Design covers similar ground to Managed Luck but is for a more specialised audience and includes more, longer articles on internal controls design in its widest sense. Learning Ideas is about learning, and includes a very popular guide to memory improvement. Dynamic Management is a site dedicated to improving management control in UK organisations. It includes a paper called "A new approach to management control: Dynamic Management", which examines the implications of moving targets. Dynamic Management is intended for professionals in the internal control and risk management field.
Matthew Leitch: the story so far
If you had asked me seven years ago where my career was going I would have been stumped. As a boy I'd learned design skills at my father's drawing board, then been great at maths at school, but studied psychology passionately (especially learning, memory, and cognition) at University College London and since. I was a software developer for two years, a marketing author for a year, and then a trainee Chartered Accountant who qualified and went to work for one of the big firms, Coopers & Lybrand, as a computer auditor.
7 years as an internal control and risk management specialist with PricewaterhouseCoopers
Then something happened that set me on a new course where all my previous interests and knowledge came into play. The computer audit group was combined with a small consulting team called "In Control" and renamed "Risk Management Services". That started me thinking. I was seconded to a small team of internal controls specialists to establish internal control requirements for the systems underpinning the 1998 competitive market for electricity supply in the UK. I enjoyed it and contributed far beyond my seniority at the time.
Designing internal control systems
Afterwards I joined a team of people to rethink controls design and proposed a new approach that overturned many previous assumptions. This method was influential in the UK firm and led to one partner selling a multi-million pound assignment. Separately, I continued to develop this method and add to it through a series of projects with clients including Volkswagen Financial Services, BT, PPP healthcare, Carrier1, Global Crossing, Excel Communications, and Your Communications.
Through these and other projects I had the priviledge of working with many other leading organisations including Mars, Microsoft, Railtrack (during the flotation), West LB, and the Electricity Pool. I became known in the firm for my expertise and, using my methods of analysis and design, helped colleagues with problems as diverse as implementing controls around SAP at the BBC, controlling stocks of low-grade radioactive material, reducing revenue leakage in car parks, managing new product development in mobile telephony, and processing claims for agricultural grants.
Taking risk management personally
Gradually my approach expanded to deal with an increasing scope and range of risks, though my best areas are processes, systems, management control, and projects. I researched risk management methods intensively and applied them to my daily work. (Yes, a consultant taking his own advice.)
To manage work and costs on my projects I used my own style of uncertainty management, including rolling reforecasts. Asked for a business plan I would use Monte Carlo simulation with programmed decisions. Even my daily "to do" list used Monte Carlo simulation to judge the risk that I would run out of time. My project proposals became increasingly phased and evolutionary, with alternative outcomes considered in advance.
Risk and uncertainty management have given me a new outlook on life and a new set of tools for coping at work.
Writing and speaking
As a minor guru in PricewaterhouseCoopers I delivered several training courses. I spoke at various internal events, lectured at University College London, and was asked to devise and present pre-conference workshops. I facilitated large and small meetings using risk management methods ranging from a staff appraisal meeting based on Bayesian evidence accumulation to a creative workshop to devise a framework of controls for telecoms revenue systems.
I am a proud member of the Epsom Speakers Club (a Toastmasters club), where my speaking skills have improved greatly thanks to the wisdom and encouragement of everyone there.
The internet has provided a perfect outlet for my work and I now run a number of websites fuelled by my work.
Consulting and research
Since starting out as an independent consultant I have worked with a number of interesting organisations on varied projects, and conducted several online surveys and experiments. Released from the constraints of working in a large consulting firm I have been able to do things more simply, and think differently.
Other websites by Matthew Leitch