Working In Uncertainty

Individual Technical Tutoring and Teletutoring by Matthew Leitch

This service is simply hour long, individual sessions tailored precisely to your needs. Use it to boost your own thinking and career, to develop people in your team, or as part of a project. Tutoring is easy to arrange, easy to make time for, and very time-efficient. It's economical too because you achieve the results you want in so little time and fees vary with your circumstances. Just about anyone can benefit from this tutoring and most can afford it.

Some reasons people have bought individual technical tutoring sessions include:

  • To improve on already promising methods (most clients have been ambitious experts already but look to me to help them create something really outstanding).

  • To plan a controls assurance programme.

  • To learn to write about uncertainty in a business case.

  • To simplify and improve some software.

  • To improve audit interviewing skills.

  • To understand how quantitative risk models might be used in risk assessments.

  • To learn about writing surveys for audit purposes.

  • To improve the clarity and logic of a presentation or article about an approach to risk management.

  • To learn how to structure a risk analysis to shape an internal audit review.

If you are interested in joining these satisfied clients and want to explore this in the easiest way then

email me at matthew@workinginuncertainty.co.uk and
ask for a call to discuss the possibilities.

Tell me your ambitions or issues and see what I can suggest. It's a good way to test my abilities and save yourself some reading.


Alternatively, if you would rather do some homework first, then you can find more information on this page. When you're done, email me and let's talk.

Further information on this page addresses a series of important questions in a logical order:

What type of arrangement should I look for?

There are three types:

  1. Personal development: Arrange a price and order sessions for yourself when you want them.

  2. Team development: Arrange a price and order sessions when you want them for your team members.

  3. Project contribution: Plan work to contribute to a project, agree a price, and get sessions with progress reporting, etc.

Is the price going to be ok?

Here is the price guide. Note that prices vary with circumstances and there are discounts. These prices are very reasonable, even before you factor in the time savings and greater impact of one-to-one contact.

Organization type Prices, GBP/hr
Financial services 100 - 400
Listed company (not financial services) 75 - 250
Private company/partnership (not financial services) 50 - 120
Public sector 45 - 120
Charity / third sector 40 - 80
Self-employed and non-executive directors 35 - 60
Employed but paying with own funds 35 - 60
Unemployed 30

If you buy tutoring on the same topics for more than one member of the same work team then the fee may drop somewhat depending on how much variation there is likely to be between people. Here is a guide to the discounts that may be available:

Team member Price as % of normal
1st person 100%
2nd person 90% - 70%
3rd person 80% - 60%
4th person and beyond 80% - 50%

There are no fees for preparation time and no expenses other than travel.

Payments must be in GBP and clients based overseas will need to pay for each session before I will provide the next one. You may find it more convenient to pay in advance for blocks of sessions.

Can Matthew cover the things I/we need?

Any topic covered in any of my websites or books is available for use in tutoring. In addition, some clients seem to appreciate my ability to help them clarify and structure their own thinking and documents, which is a skill I have but do not often write about. If you have a project then I can learn new material then pass it on.

Despite all this, there may be some things you would like covered that I cannot cover. For those things you will need some other approach, if you do anything about them at all. For all the many topics I can cover you should find I am the best, most time-efficient, most cost-effective option.

Here are some highlights from the topics available, with links to my various websites and references to my books.

Skill Value of the skill Further reading

Improving management and leadership behaviour under uncertainty

(For everyone with an interest in risk or uncertainty at work, including NEDs)
Dealing with risk and uncertainty in everyday situations at work, including board meetings The Risk and Uncertainty Management Assessment (RUMA) research tool has shown that most people have a good understanding of how to deal with risk and uncertainty in everyday situations at work, but most people make a few slips and some people are too dangerous to be left unsupervised! This tutoring is based on the scenarios developed for research and for which I have some information about what people typically think are good actions to take in the scenarios. For more information, or to just try some of the scenarios yourself, visit this page.
Critically evaluating business cases Many business cases, large and small, are little more than a concoction of guesses presented as facts. Anyone who has to evaluate business cases should be very critical of them and know how to spot the common tricks and mistakes, and suggest improvements. I have presented this topic many times to internal auditors whose reaction has been "Wow, you really should do this course for our project board!" This is based on unpublished material and research done for a public course that is no longer running.
Presenting business cases effectively Most business cases, unavoidably, involve many guesstimates. How can you present these fairly and effectively without looking a fool or unfairly jeopardising a good idea in the face of competitors more willing to lie to get their ideas accepted? There are ways, and if you get this right you can demonstrate your trustworthiness, competence, and professionalism regardless of whether a proposal is accepted or not. "How to be convincing when you are uncertain"
Statistical analysis of rates (e.g. error rates, success rates) There are simpler, more intuitive methods than the statistical hypothesis tests you may have learned at school or university, and these also give more useful and informative results. "Bayesian recipes (1): Simple, efficient statistics for rates" and "A pocket guide to risk mathematics" (my second book).

Improving audit quality and efficiency

(Mainly for auditors, internal control testers, and managers with those roles part time)
Asking questions about controls Although this is a vital skill for internal and external auditors, it is also something that other managers occasionally need to be able to do. Generic advice on fact finding will get you some of the way, but to do the job well it helps to know the specific question types that work in risk-control interviews, and how to use them. You also need to have a good feel for how much detail and skepticism to pursue. This is an ideal topic for teletutoring. "How to interview someone about risk and controls"
Structured audit risk breakdowns Many internal auditors can benefit from learning to write simple analyses of risk for individual reviews that have some structure, instead of just being a brainstormed list. Having structure helps to regain a sense of rigour and shows others that the auditor can think clearly and deliver coverage that is clear and understandable. Only confidential examples at the moment.
Diagrams for controls work Well designed diagrams can be understood easily and can be reviewed and checked for their completeness and logic. Most auditors can make dramatic improvements to the clarity of their diagrams by learning some simple rules and improving their choice of words. Without this skill, sadly, many diagrams are so confusing they are hardly worth drawing at all. I don't teach any particular style of diagram or flowchart. The skill I teach is the ability to use labels, colour, and other devices to create diagrams that can be read and understood easily. "Diagrams for controls work"
Documenting internal controls clearly and precisely Some auditors do not document controls clearly or precisely enough to allow the design of the controls to be evaluated. This means that their audit work does not convey assurance to others and so is inefficient. It is also common for auditors to struggle to separate controls from the underlying process, making it impossible to assess the coverage of risk provided by the controls. I don't teach a particular format for documenting controls but I do teach precise wording and inclusion of sufficient detail to allow a control to be evaluated. This is a simple idea, but often not done very well. "Examples of controls documentation improvement"
Documenting audit tests clearly and precisely Like controls, audit tests are another opportunity to lose audit assurance through vague, incomplete documentation. Auditors can benefit from honing their ability to document tests concisely but with enough precision and detail to show what was done and what results were found. Vague notes about having an interview and asking some questions do not constitute audit test documentation - it's not even audit testing in most cases. "Examples of test documentation improvement"
Writing audit reports The aim is to write reports that are informative, credible, and get action when appropriate. The aim should not be to make an impact. There's more that can be done than just clearing away the empty cliches (though that's a good start). There are many tactics that can help get action without making unnecessary waves. "Some audit report tactics"

Practical design skills for accountants

(Mainly for accountants, controllers, and internal control managers)
Information graphic design for business reporting Bored or baffled by tables of numbers? Many people could learn more from their numbers with the right graphs. This is quite a popular topic these days thanks to Edward Tufte and others inspired by his work. "Design ideas for Beyond Budgeting management information reports"
Designing accounting controls Many people in finance roles need to be able to design good controls. From readable reconciliations and bullet-proof spreadsheets to VBA automation and database linking, most controls can be improved greatly with a bit of thought and skill. Much of my gigantic website www.internalcontrolsdesign.co.uk is dedicated to this topic.

Inspiration and skills for risk and control managers

(Mainly for progressive, ambitious risk managers and internal control managers)
Understanding BS 31100:2011 Risk management - Code of practice and guidance for the implementation of BS ISO 31000 With input from the risk management committee (RM/1) at BSI, I wrote most of the words in the new edition and was presented with another Distinguished Service Certificate in recognition of that contribution. The standard is not perfect but it's the best guide to ISO 31000 I know of and has a lot of good bits in it. For example, it has the best advice on 'risk appetite' of any authoritative source. Much more practical than usual. "What's good about BS31100?" (though this refers to the 2008 edition, not the much improved 2011 edition)
Design and use of risk-control matrices Risk-control matrices are one of the most popular techniques I have ever written about. Rather than listing 'risks' and 'controls' side-by-side, a matrix is used so that many-to-many relationships can easily be seen without duplicating text. To apply risk-control matrices in your own work you will need to design your own adaptation of the basic idea, and may benefit from some help in deciding what counts as a 'risk' and what counts as a 'control' in your approach. That's where individual technical tutoring can help. "Matrix Mapping: the easiest and best way to map internal controls"
Design and use of risk meters Risk meters are a very simple, graphical way to summarise uncertain outcomes ('risks' if you prefer). Despite being mathematically rigorous they can be understood without explanation. To apply risk meters in your own work you will need to design your own adaptations of the basic idea. Another case for individual technical tutoring. "Risk Meters: A better way to make and show rough, subjective risk ratings"
Turning risk registers into coherent models A risk register is a bad way to 'manage risk' but risk registers often contain some useful information and may be the unavoidable starting point for improvements. There are ways to impose structure and coherence on the material in a risk register, step by step, and gradually move towards something that is more useful. 'Risks' can be put into regular, structured forms. They can be divided into sets and linked. They can be grouped in such a way that aggregation is controlled. They can be mapped in new ways to actions. This is based on my unpublished work to find practical ways to transform risk registers along the lines discussed at a high level in "Progressive risk control integrated with strategy and performance management"
Linking risk registers to where the real risk management is done Meetings to discuss the contents of a risk register are not the right place for most risk management. Risk should be managed as part of core management activities, as most people know already. To make this idea clear it helps with most risk registers to write the 'controls' text in such a way that it refers to the core management activities where the 'risk' is really dealt with. You can learn to do this properly, and along the way get better at thinking where a 'risk' should be dealt with in core management - something that people sometimes find difficult at first. This is based on as-yet unpublished work.
Reviewing risk analysis text for quality and logic Most text in risk analyses, especially where risk registers are involved, is riddled with vague phrases and other defects to the extent that the text is almost meaningless. First drafts are rarely good enough drafts. Through individual technical tutoring or teletutoring a person can learn to find a much higher proportion of the defects, and learn to use this skill in various ways. If you like finding fault, this is even quite good fun. "Measuring and managing risk register quality"
Reviewing policies on risk taking and exposure My analysis of policies designed to govern risk taking and exposure (sometimes called 'risk appetite statements') showed that nearly all have serious flaws. Usually these are due to missing information, but there are also logical mistakes that mean they cannot be applied literally in all realistic situations without leading to bad decisions. A useful skill for anyone involved with these policies – either writing them, reviewing them, or approving them – is to be able to spot the flaws and explain what should be done to fix them. "Reviewing policies on risk taking"
Writing policies on risk taking and exposure It's one thing to point out problems with a risk policy, but another to solve them. Building on the ability to see flaws it is possible to write policies that target particular types of decision and guide people to make them better. This is based on as-yet unpublished work.
Calculating and using probabilistic forecasting skill scores The most important thing to know about probability is that it works. Good probabilities can make you richer faster. The quality of your probabilities can be estimated from experiences using a number of different scores. My second book, "A Pocket Guide to Risk Mathematics"
Writing about 'risk' without over-using the word 'risk' It seems that most policies and other documents written to provide guidance or rules on 'risk management' are clearer and more logical if the word 'risk' is used only rarely (e.g. in the title). If you find this difficult, individual technical tutoring can help you get out of a 'risk' focused way of thinking and reconnect with knowledge you already have. "How to write about 'risk management'" and "How to be positive about risk"

Can Matthew cope with the number of people, schedule, and locations?

The normal way to deliver individual technical tutoring is remotely, using Skype or something similar. No other method is anywhere near as efficient and nothing is lost by not being in the same room. Having said that, many people like to meet me before the first session, but not for any identifiable, practical reason.

Therefore, no location is out of reach, provided the learner can get a decent communication channel.

I can do about five sessions a day, maximum, limited by the concentration needed. That's enough to offer a session once a week to 25 people, or once a fortnight to 50 people. In practice, the learners' diaries tend to be too crowded for regular weekly sessions and you can usually establish that some people need new knowledge before others, while some need more tutoring than others. For example, if you had 100 people whose skills in a particular area were to be improved, you might identify 10 people who get 6 sessions each (because they are supervising others), another 25 people who get 4 sessions, and the remaining 65 get two sessions each. In three months all the sessions could be over, subject to learners' diaries and assuming I don't have another project running at the time. Through that period you would be able to monitor behaviour changes, get feedback from me, and agree adaptations along the way.

Contrast this with trying to schedule a small number of group sessions. Once you find a date then of course lots of people get the help quickly, but finding dates for group sessions can introduce long delays. You will often get more done in the first month or two with individual sessions because they are easier to schedule.

Is tutoring by Matthew effective and enjoyable?

You won't really know until you try, but here are some ways to make an initial assessment:

  • Read anything on my websites or in my books to get a sense of the mind behind the service. That's what you are buying.

  • Call me to discuss the possibilities of tutoring. The conversation will give you a good idea of my style and how I work to make sure I'm doing things that are on target for you.

  • Consider the inherent advantages of tailored, one-to-one learning over group classes and even self-study. I have created a customisable calculator that takes into account the various differences (see below). On any reasonable set of input estimates the advantage for tutoring is massive so I would have to be a poor tutor to waste that advantage away.

There is some research comparing individual tutoring with classroom teaching and it shows a great advantage for tutoring. It is this advantage that means there are economic benefits that can be shared. However, different circumstances can mean different economics. In particular, individual technical tutoring is ideal for developing skills, but not so good as an opportunity for a team to discuss a new way of working or resolve a dispute.

If you want to look at this very carefully and you have time to think, try the calculator tool below. It gives you a way to calculate the implications of your own guesstimates about tutoring, courses, and do-it-yourself learning (e.g. reading articles, a book, or watching a DVD). The initial values are just my suggestions, so change them to values you think fit your circumstances.

The tool does not try to calculate the actual value of learning, which is very difficult to do in a general case, but instead compares alternative ways to acquire knowledge. As so often, it is easier to think in terms of relative value rather than absolute value.

Estimates for ...   Group course   Individual tutoring   DIY learning
To start with, what is the fee per hour of effective learning time?
Course/tutoring/reading duration (hours from start to finish)      
Time spent on lunch (minutes)      
Time spent on tea/coffee breaks (minutes)      
Time spent on everyone introducing themselves (minutes)      
Actual teaching/learning time (minutes)      
Fraction of actual teaching/reading time spent on material relevant to you      
Fraction of remaining time spent at the right level and pace for you      
Fraction of remaining time not wasted because of undiagnosed misconceptions and gaps in your learning      
Effective learning time (minutes)      
Proportion of total time that is effective learning time      
Monetary fee for group course per person / for one tutoring session / for books and other materials looked at in the session (Currency)      
Cost per hour of effective learning time (Currency / hour)      
But we should also account for the cost of the learner's time. Either use pay cost, or use the opportunity cost, which is what the learner could be earning if doing his/her usual job instead. Tutoring is more time efficient.
Monetary cost of learner's time (Currency / hour)      
Revised cost per hour of effective learning time (Currency / hour)      
Learning through individual technical tutoring also tends to be closer to the learner's actual job and so requires less extra time to turn ideas into effective changes. Also, regular tutoring sessions help keep the learner focused on making worthwhile changes. These factors should also be considered.
Extra time spent later working out practical changes to implement, trying them, making corrections, etc (hours)      
Probability of actually implementing changes at all (getting through distractions and difficulties)      
Value of changes if successfully made - versus 1,000 'utility points' for the course      
Expected value of learning and follow up, ignoring learning money costs (utils)      
Total monetary cost of course/session and follow up (Currency)      
Total cost per util of value (currency / util)      
Finally, for a bit of fun, what would be the hourly tutoring fee that would give the same cost per util of value as a group course or do-it-yourself?
Fee for a 1 hour tutoring session that equates the total cost per util of value from the group course (currency)          
Fee for a 1 hour tutoring session that equates the total cost per util of value from DIY (currency)          

It's hard to think of reasonable parameters for these calculations that do not give individual technical tutoring a big advantage. With this economic advantage, the techniques I teach and my ability to teach would have to be abysmal for this not to be a better approach than typical courses, and it looks pretty good against doing it yourself for free. If you are kind enough to think that my approach is in fact a unique breath of fresh air and my techniques rock, then the decision should be easy.

Answers to other questions you may have

Do you do group sessions?

For hard core skill building, no. If more than one person seems to need the same skill I still prefer to work one-to-one. Inevitably people will be different enough to benefit from individualized help.

If what you want is more of a workshop to discuss and resolve team working issues then a group session is appropriate and I could create something for you, but by definition it does not count as individual technical tutoring.

Do I have to agree that your techniques are the best way?

No. All that matters is that you make an effort to learn the techniques and understand them enough to make a rational choice of what to use. If you think of something better then that's great.

Is this consulting in disguise?

No. If we work on tasks that are your current work projects I will give suggestions on techniques and feedback on performance but this will not constitute business advice. That would require a much greater level of enquiry, fact finding, and discussion with others in your organization.

What about confidentiality?

Working on tasks that are your current work projects is a great way to focus the learning on what is useful to you. However, it means that I may be shown materials that are confidential. You can take steps to remove sensitive information and/or you can have me sign a confidentiality agreement, which I am happy to do.

What technology is needed for teletutoring?

Teletutoring can be done with nothing more sophisticated than a telephone and emails, but I have found that Skype audio combined with its file transfer ability and instant messaging works very well and allows more people to use headsets instead of holding a telephone. I can do video calls if you prefer but seeing each other seems to add very little value and often degrades the sound quality. If your organization has a similar facility that you would prefer to use then I am happy to use that - as long as it works!

Do you tutor in any language other than English?

No, sorry. I speak English only. To my surprise, I've found that some people with limited English actually prefer to meet on Skype, with its online instant messaging. I touch type faster than they can read, but they can catch up while I wait. They also end up with a written record of our conversation that they can check through again later, and copy text from.

How flexible are you about timing?

I am very flexible about when sessions can be arranged. This is particularly important if you are buying for yourself and need to have sessions outside office hours, or if you are in another time zone from the UK.

What about cancellations?

If you have to cancel a session at less than 48 hours notice, for any reason other than illness or a family crisis, 50% of the full fee for that session is due. If you cancel with 48 hours notice or more then there is no fee due for the cancelled session. If I have to cancel then no fee is due.

Now time to make that call

Having done your homework

email me at matthew@workinginuncertainty.co.uk and
ask for a call to discuss the possibilities.



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Company: The Ridgeway Expertise Company Ltd, registered in England, no. 04931400.

Registered office: 29 Ridgeway, KT19 8LD, United Kingdom.

Words © 2013 Matthew Leitch