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Blog: The man on the Clapham omnibus

By John Chapman, Programme Director | Friday 22nd July 2016.
John Chapman
The man on the Clapham omnibus is a hypothetical reasonable person, used by the courts in English law where it is necessary to decide whether a party has acted as a reasonable person would – for example, in a civil action for negligence.


The man on the Clapham omnibus is a reasonably educated and intelligent but nondescript person, against whom the defendant’s conduct can be measured.



Business process analysis identifies the changes that are required to deliver the project objectives. These changes include organisation roles and hierarchies to be revised. Previous senior roles may now not be so senior. Sign off criteria levels reduced or redistributed. Administrative work is automated with new technologies.

Retraining and job redesign is introduced. Mundane work is removed so more value add can be created. The Project Board can see that the business case will be delivered and push forward delivering the changes.

Yet what of the people who are affected? Will they see these as in their interest?

Organisations have a number of unwritten rules, a culture, codes of conduct and traditional ways of working. The project may fundamentally challenge these.

As members of a Project Team we need to consider whether, in the eyes of those being affected, whether we are acting in a reasonable way. Is it defensible and likely to be accepted, or are we guilty? Guilty of bringing about a change without consultation, without taking the time to listen, to understand, to educate and explain?

Let us remember, as we start on this project journey, The Man on the Clapham Omnibus. How will our actions and conduct be measured? Are we guilty as charged of breaking the unwritten rules and code of conduct?

The answer should be that we are each the Man on the Clapham Omnibus ‘educated and intelligent’ acting in a responsible way, using the project to improve lives and organisations. We have taken the time to consider and consult, to reflect, to empathise, and to go on the journey together.

PS: The route of the original “Clapham omnibus” is unknown but London Buses route 88 was briefly branded as “the Clapham Omnibus” in the 1990s and is sometimes associated with the term

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