Business Strategy

Why Do Organisations Fail – Do We Know The Signs And Can We Read Them?

  • Digital Event
  • June 2, 2021 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm UTC-1

Why do companies fail? What is it that makes a successful business go from hero to zero in such a relatively short space of time? Of course, businesses disappear – as their business models become no longer relevant. It’s part of the natural process of renewal and innovation. Yet what still surprises us is the speed at which some outwardly successful businesses suddenly collapse. A quarter of a century’s corporate governance reform seems to have made little difference. The shock of corporate catastrophes like Wirecard in Germany and Carillion in the UK still make headlines.

The aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic is seeing the most difficult trading conditions many companies have ever experienced. Yet even here, some companies have fared better than others in the same sector. Many of the economic pressures that were present before the pandemic are still with us and most forecasters believe it will take another four years to recover from the economic damage. Businesses are still grappling with the implications of changes in customer, employee and investor attitudes brought about by the pandemic. Consequently, more companies will come under pressure and more will be at risk of failure.

There are some factors about which we can do nothing. Yet there are others over which we have greater control, which we still don’t manage as well as we might. The reasons are many and varied, ranging from dishonesty, incompetence and managerial hubris to lack of basic strategic and operational expertise or straightforward financial control. Whilst we might think ‘it could never happen to us’, all too often it does!

Chaired by Margaret Heffernan, author of Wilful Blindness, this PARC half-day conference
aims to:

  • Provide a warning as to what happens when important management disciplines are not followed.
  • Help people to recognise early warning signs and anticipate threats to the business before they become critical.
  • Create a learning opportunity to give us the benefit of profiting from the mistakes of others.

Our panel of speakers will provide insights from their various fields of expertise helping us to:

  • Spot the signs of impending trouble
  • Optimise the processes and project management skills
  • Understand the legal framework in which businesses operate
  • And, overall, improve our corporate decision-making.



Wilful Blindness – Ignoring the Obvious at Our Peril

Margaret Heffernan

Margaret will examine the intricate, pervasive, cognitive and emotional mechanisms about which we choose to remain unseeing. Sometimes that choice is conscious, but mostly not – and in situations where we could and should know, but where we don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.


The Signs Were There – Clues That a Company is Heading for a Fall

Tim Steer

Tim’s brilliant book lists appalling examples of the gloss and propaganda put out from some companies large and small. Tim has a clear message for companies, managers and investors large and small.


Project Management Successes and Failures

Stephen Carver

Organisations have to adapt and change, yet the vast majority of change initiatives fail. Even worse many prove toxic or even fatal to their organisations – think Interserve or even Track and Trace. Stephen’s session will look at how to avoid the traps of poorly managed change programmes and identify early warning signs of catastrophic failure.


Decision-making Amid Deep Uncertainty

Prof. David Tuckett

David’s background in psychoanalysis and economics provides new ways of thinking about economics and finance. He introduces psychoanalytical understanding to behaviour in the financial markets and the economy more generally. His work towards understanding improved decision-making processes is internationally acclaimed.


The Legal Pitfalls That Can Derail Us

Diane Gilhooley

Diane will pinpoint the legal pitfalls that can derail us should we not have a comprehensive, relevant, and precautionary legal framework for all employees. Getting it wrong opens the door to malpractice, litigation and potential substantial material and reputational damage. This area for business leaders is not getting easier.



Margaret Heffernan

Margaret’s task is to extract the key lessons from the day, and present us with her recommendations for healthy organisational survival. What should we do and not do in terms of practices, precautions and processes.




Stephen Carver

Lecturer in Project & Programme at Cranfield University

Stephen Carver is rated as one of the top three lecturers at one of Europe’s leading MBA Business Schools. He has a reputation of taking complex management concepts such as Project, Programme, Change and Crisis Management and being able to distil them down into highly informative and fast-paced lectures – often using “storytelling” techniques.

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Diane Gilhooley

Global Head, Eversheds Sutherland HR and Pensions Practice

Diane is the Global Head of the Eversheds Sutherland HR and Pensions Practice. She is also a member of the Senior Management Team and International Steering Group. She joined in 1999 and has been a partner since 2003. Diane is eminent in the field of employment law, handling high-profile cases and providing strategic employment advice at national and international levels.

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Margaret Heffernan

Author, Broadcaster & Speaker

Margaret Heffernan produced prize-winning radio and television programmes for the BBC for ten years. She then ran media and software companies in the UK and the US. She is the author of five books, including Wilful Blindness (a finalist for The Financial Times Best Book award), A Bigger Prize (winner of the Threshold Prize) and Beyond Measure. Her TED talks have been seen by over eight million people. She mentors senior and chief executives, and writes for The Financial Times.

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Tim Steer

Observer, Commentator & Author

Tim was an international rock band sound and lighting engineer before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with EY, and then becoming an investment analyst with HSBC James Capel and Merrill Lynch. He was a founding partner of New Star and later joined Artemis. Tim is an observer and commentator, and author of the book The Signs Were There.

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Prof. David Tuckett

Fellow of the British Institute of Psychoanalysis

David is a Fellow of the British Institute of Psychoanalysis, a Training Analyst and Professor and Director of the Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty at University College London. He is also Senior Research Fellow at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. He has held a number of other senior appointments and is a prolific author and contributor to a range of publications.

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