John Varano


Masters in Major Programme Management




Management Consulting



By John Varano

Learning Major Programme Risk and Being Immersed in the “Oxford Lifestyle”

After a weekend of celebrations and fun at the Merton College Winter Ball, the cohort was back and ready for our next module on Major Programme Risk. Whilst most cohort members were eagerly keen to commence, there were others including myself striving to put their best foot forward despite feeling jet lagged. The morning started with the customary formalities with Dr Atif Ansar, the Programme Director, welcoming everyone and addressing us with his usual and insightful anecdotes.

As the module began, I was sitting in my chair contemplating how much preparation was required for the second module, particularly comprehending the breadth of assigned academic literature to read and the key theories needed to understand major programme risk. Initially, feeling overwhelmed and in that split moment thinking to myself, “why am I here,” Professor and Chair Bent Flyvbjerg reminded the cohort that we must “understand the rules of the game then change the rules of it.” It reinforced my reasoning as to why I have come to Oxford which is to be on the path of continuous improvement and opening myself to endless possibilities. Thus, pushing the boundaries, challenging the status quo on how things are done and driving new forms of innovation to achieve the best possible outcomes in my work and in life generally.

Throughout the duration of the module, the cohort was taught that “you cannot understand risk without understanding data.” We studied various major programme case studies that have been implemented globally, learnt the limitations of classical risk management theory and practices, the relevant issues and applicable remedies to approach risk in terms of its challenges, causes and cures, and the iron law and heuristics of major programme management. In addition, the class was divided into several groups during late afternoons of the module where we were tasked to devise a risk management strategy for a current major programme. Many of the final presentations from the groups were strong in content and delivery. Ultimately, each group were in direct competition and my group was fortunate to win the prize of carrying out the best presentation.

Students focused at the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Students focused at the Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Outside of the academics, much of my time was spent being immersed in the “Oxford lifestyle.” I found being involved in your college, clubs, societies and social events is an intrinsic part of Oxford University. Before classes commenced, I enjoyed walking through the early morning mist that rises from the Oxford canals and smelling coffee roasting as I ventured past one cafe to the next. After classes, I regularly caught up with friends at the Oxford Union over a pint and/or gin and tonic; college hopped where I would visit other colleges that my friends are members of and experiencing them; and attending formal dinners as I did with my cohort at Trinity College for Christmas.

Evening at Trinity College, Oxford

Evening at Trinity College, Oxford


Christmas Dinner at Trinity College, Oxford

Christmas Dinner at Trinity College, Oxford

Being in Oxford, it is a blessing of two kinds. First, it is a world of academia with the most accomplished scholars and a place surrounded by highly talented and intelligent individuals. Second, it is a medieval city that provides centuries old pleasures, customs and traditions which I certainly endeavour to make the best of. The fusion of the two makes the Oxford experience and it is unlike anything else I have encountered to date. Every time I am in Oxford I am humbled by it. Every time I temporarily leave it, it continues to remain with me no matter where I am.

Autumn bloom at Somerville College, Oxford

Autumn bloom at Somerville College, Oxford


Back to top of article

Share this post:

follow us in feedly