Monday, July 31, 2006

They never told me about this at Business School


The pictures here may ruin or enhance my reputation. I’m not sure …

Enjoy …. We all have our secrets ….

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Virtual Substitutes

We have started looking forward to our holiday from 15th August for a week in Malta

Following our house move and in anticipation of our forthcoming wedding, Annie and I will be hoping to find some time to relax and maybe even catch up on all that reading we want to do!!

While I am away two or three of my friends from America will be posting their own slant on things on Simplicity Blog and it is an exciting experiment for me. More to follow in due course!

It will be fascinating to see what sort of response there is to an alternative author on Simplicity Blog and I hope there will be some interesting and hopefully inter-active discussions!

Annie and I were talking the other day and wondering how long we can resist the temptation to find a computer in Malta so that we can check our Inboxes!!!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Moving house stress - what stress?

They say moving house is one of the most stressful things we do in our lives.

We are moving house next Saturday– 5th August so I will probably find it a bit tricky to be too prolific in my postings for the next week or so.

If there is stress we find it can be eased if we find time every day to have a laugh, make sure we keep stocked up with tea and coffee and know when to stop.

We made a great start today clearing the garage, the sun lounge and half the lounge – not a bad start and better than we had anticipated.

Annie is going to post ‘photo progress’ of our move on Simplicity Gallery.

Only 7 days to go and we will keep you up-to-date on the Gallery in the next few days as we head to D-Day next Saturday!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Virtual World

I have just completed as a co-author my second book. This is an exciting project and unique as far as I know.

I have two good friends Roger (Rocky) Noe from Kentucky USA and Felix Gerena from the Basque Country in Spain. The three of us have never actually met but we have become good friends through our ‘virtual’ connection. We have spoken on Skype and communicated electronically over the last year on a collaborative project to write a book which is now finished and will be published in the next month.

This book is called "Three Amigos with One Message" and as soon as it is available I will publish details of how it can be purchased.

The fascination we have had in writing the book has been as much about the unique nature of the project as about the book itself.

We have established a deep friendship and trust between the three of us despite being separated by thousands of miles, two continents and an ocean. We come from different cultural backgrounds and all of this has been achieved through the joys of electronic communication.

Do you know any other folks who have never met but have written a book and got it published? – If so please let me know.

The three of us feel it is destiny that we will meet one day to talk about the process we have gone through.

I would love to hear your comments about the sort of process Rocky, Felix and I have been though in the last year and it applicability in the hum drum everyday life of business.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Note to healthcare managers - Involve patients more!

The National Health Service (NHS) has numerous management objectives.

We, the public who pay for the service and are its customers, are constantly told that the highest priority of the NHS is greater involvement of patients in the design and delivery of local health services.

In reality far more emphasis is placed by senior NHS managers on finance, waiting lists and complicated planning and contracting processes. Those of course are measurable things and we all know most managers are far more comfortable with measurable stuff than the hearts and minds stuff.

A lot of my work is about greater patient involvement and I get very irritated by how so many senior NHS managers just don’t seem to ‘get it' about patient involvement. One day I guess I will grow up but I hope not.

To me it seems NHS managers are being forced to focus on ‘hitting’ targets yet ‘missing’ the point. As an ex NHS manager of course I recognise the importance of all the ‘process’ things (what I call the ‘hard stuff’)

I personally feel the NHS should be judged more by how patients experience healthcare and not how managers measure it!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tiger Woods - A Legend!

Focus, Talent, Relentlessness. All these words and more describe Tiger Woods. I hope all Americans are proud of Tiger. I am a keen golfer and I found myself ‘crying with him’ at the end of the British Open yesterday. All the emotion of losing his beloved Dad came out after the final putt on the 72nd hole. We saw in real time on TV, the ‘other side’ of Tiger that we have never seen – the ‘man’ inside the machine. He is awesome – a credit to America

My only regret - he's not British!!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Good on you Mr Gates

Whatever you think of Bill Gates there is no doubt he is trying to make a difference in the world through his radical giving.

Sorry to all the cynics - I admire the man.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Coming to terms with a heatwave - 100 Degrees beckons!!

As we struggle to come to terms with a heat wave in England I have noticed that the e mail traffic has slowed down dramatically in the last week or so.

I suspect there is a connection.

Monday, July 17, 2006

John Cleese letter to America

To the citizens of the United States of America, in light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II resumes monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.8% of you who have, until now, been unaware there's a world outside your borders) will appoint a Minister for America. Congress and the Senate are disbanded. A questionnaire circulated next year will determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid your transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. Look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Check "aluminium" in the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you pronounce it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour'. Likewise you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary." Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed." There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you should not have chat shows.

2. There is no such thing as "U.S. English." We'll let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u'.

3. You should learn to distinguish English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). Scottish dramas such as 'Taggart' will no longer be broadcast with subtitles.You must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon." If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1.

5. You should stop playing American "football." There's only one kind of football. What you call American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.1% of you aware there is a world outside your borders may have noticed no one else plays "American" football. You should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). You should stop playing baseball. It's not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders," which is baseball without fancy team stripe, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

6. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns, or anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because you are not sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you need a permit to carry a vegetable peeler.

7. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday. It will be called "Indecisive Day."

8. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left. At the same time, you will go metric without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

9. Learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't French, they're Belgian though 97.8% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you call beer is actually lager. Only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer." Substances once known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," except for the product of the American Budweiser company which will be called "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine." This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

11. The UK will harmonise petrol prices (or "Gasoline," as you will be permitted to keep calling it) for those of the former USA, adopting UK petrol prices (roughly $12/US gallon, get used to it).

12. Learn to resolve personal issues without guns, lawyers or therapists. That you need many lawyers and therapists shows you're not adult enough to be independent. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

13. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

14. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation.

* John Cleese [Basil Fawlty, Fawlty Towers, Torquay, Devon, England]

Friday, July 14, 2006

The 'Ostrich Approach' to Customer Care

Simplicity thought for the day

Why do companies still fail to ‘get it’ about customer care?

Let me make it very simple - If you do not deliver excellence in customer care your customer now has a totally free way of telling everyone in the world about just how crap you are. I have come to the conclusion that companies who continue to insult customers through arrogance have not yet heard of the Internet and Blogging.

Yes of course we have to be selective about what we actually believe when we read Blogs. But I don’t believe you have to be that smart to work out whether someone is speaking (writing) from the heart or not.

My point is that the arrogance shown by some companies is at the very least surprising in techie-based 2006 and at worst it is staggering that they simply have not yet ‘got it’ about Blogs. I can only assume they work on the basis ‘no one will get to hear about it really’

How naïve can you get?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rogue Project Leader

The July edition of 'Rogue Project Leader' is available here


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Simplicity Day - 12th July

I am told today 12th July is Simplicity Day

It celebrates the birthday of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) who advised us to simplify our lives.

Here is one of his quotes that I particularly enjoyed reading:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler' Henry David Thoreau

Keep it simple!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

This was me!!

So there I was in late 2004 wondering why I felt like I did after 35 years working in NHS management.

Now (through serendipity) I’ve stumbled on an article in the March 2006 edition of Harvard Business Review that explains it all.

Apparently, I was suffering from ... MIDDLESENCE!!!

No it is not some new illness... it is a new expression describing the 'fedupness' of so many people between 35 and 55 years of age working in the corporate world. Amen to this article I say

Are you in a dead end job? - If so welcome to middlescence.

And just like your younger siblings known as ‘adolescents’ you have a choice - rattle the cage, shake the tree and make a difference or just stay there in your own world keeping quiet and moaning but actually doing nothing positive about it.

Here is a copy of the abstract of the article. You can see it

Managing Middlescence

Robert Morison, Tamara Erickson, Ken Dychtwald

March 2006 Issue

Abstract: They make up more than half your workforce. They work longer hours than anyone else in your company. From their ranks come most of your top managers. They're your mid-career employees, the solid citizens between the ages of 35 and 55 whom you bank on for their loyalty and commitment. And they're not happy. In fact, they're burned out, bored, and bottlenecked, new research reveals. Only 33% of the 7,700 workers the authors surveyed feel energized by their work; 36% say they're in dead-end jobs. One in three is not satisfied with his or her job. One in five is looking for another. Welcome to middlescence. Like adolescence, it can be a time of frustration, confusion, and alienation. But it can also be a time of self-discovery, new direction, and fresh beginnings. Today, millions of mid-career men and women are wrestling with middlescence--looking for ways to balance work, family, and leisure while hoping to find new meaning in their jobs. The question is: Will they find it in your organization or elsewhere? Companies are ill-prepared to manage middlescence because it is so pervasive, largely invisible, and culturally uncharted. That neglect is bad for business: Many companies risk losing some of their best people or--even worse--ending up with an army of disaffected people who stay. The best way to engage middlescents is to tap into their hunger for renewal and help them launch into more meaningful roles. Perhaps managers can't grant a promotion to everyone who merits one in today's flat organizations, but you may be able to offer new training, fresh assignments, mentoring opportunities, even sabbaticals or entirely new career paths within your own company. Millions of mid-career men and women would like nothing better than to convert their restlessness into fresh energy. They just need the occasion--and perhaps a little assistance--to unleash and channel all that potential.

Monday, July 10, 2006

It's not about blame - it is about responsibility.

The National Health Service has just announced a deficit of £512 million for the last financial year.

Doctors are blaming Managers; Managers are blaming Government; Government is blaming Managers. The Audit Commission is blaming Managers.

Everyone is blaming someone else. Sounds a bit like life.

Speaking as a former NHS manager for 35 years I say it is not as simple as blaming one group of people.

I remember nine years ago and very early in the term of the Tony Blair Government there were loud calls from within the NHS from doctors, nurses and managers for more money to be ploughed into the service. A huge ‘listening exercise’ was carried out by NHS managers and politicians about what the problems were and the solutions needed.

The outcome was an acknowledgement by the Government that much more money needed to be ploughed into the NHS. This was done. I remember Mr Blair saying – and I paraphrase;

‘We have listened to what the professionals inside the NHS have had to say and we have acknowledged more money is needed. We are now giving that money to you in the NHS and we expect managers to make the best use of this money to carry out the improvement you have told us are needed.’

Without making a political point there is no doubt whatsoever more money has been invested into the NHS by this Government than any previous Government in history since the NHS was established in 1948.

The debate about who is to blame of this overspend is pointless. It is not about blame; it is about responsibility in my opinion.

I feel the government did all they should. They listened to professionals in the NHS and they provided the answer that the professionals wanted to hear.

The responsibility is within the NHS – the Government cannot just keep simply throwing millions of pounds every year into a hole while NHS managers sharpen their spades to dig that hole deeper.

I smile when I remember that every single one of the 35 years I worked in the NHS I remember Finance Managers telling me;

‘This is going to be the most difficult ever year.’

Managers like me always knew that finance folks kept reserves so it was a game of ‘bluff’ and managers as a result spent to the limit knowing the finance folks would always ‘bail them out.’

There is nothing complicated about that and it is human nature that if you know you have a ‘back stop’ you can afford to be ‘adventurous.’

There is a something of ‘the boy cried wolf’ and maybe now the chickens have come home to roost.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Short and Sweet

Heard over the weekend:

Instead of saying;

'God I've got a big problem'

Why not say;

'Problem - I've got a big God'

I like that

Saturday, July 08, 2006

'Simulation' - what does that mean?

I had to laugh listening to discussion on the radio this morning about the antics of some players ‘diving’ and feigning injury in the World Cup. I am laughing because it seems we have come up with a new expression – presumably for political correctness reasons.

It seems we now use the language ‘simulation’

In plain English that means CHEATING

I think we should simply call a cheat a cheat.

Friday, July 07, 2006

UK remembers 7 July victims

Across the UK, people have been taking time to remember the events of 7 July 2005, when suicide bombers killed 52 people on London's transport network.

All matters of leadership and management disappear into insignifcance when we remember today the tragedy of a year ago when 52 innocent people going about their everyday lives were murdered in London tube stations and a London Bus.For more poignant pictures click here

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A powerful story

Yesterday I went to the Annual General Meeting of Solihull Carers Centre.

The Centre does wonderful work supporting carers who are looking after family members who are ill or who have some long term disability.

The carers who attended the meeting sang the praises of the staff of the Centre for giving them relief from their intense caring responsibilities – sometimes 24 hours per day 7 days per week. People usually provide this care from a sense of love, duty and obligation and very rarely do they get breaks.

The front row of the meeting had about ten seats with ‘reserved’ written on them for carers who had questions to ask of the Committee.

One carer summed up the emotional burden of caring and how it can take over your life until you become accustomed to losing your own identity. I was immensely moved by her words when she said;

‘I’ve never had ‘reserved’ in my life – you make me feel special. Since I discovered the Carers Centre I have the zest to carry on caring’

That just about sums up the world of a carer.

Powerful stuff!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Breaking News!

It's alleged that one of the Portuguese football players failed a drugs and alcohol test after the match. If this is confirmed as positive, under World Football Federation rules, paragraph 6 sub section 2e, Portugal will forfeit the quarter final match and England will play France in the Semi Final tonight (Wednesday)

Carlsberg do not do Blog postings .... but if they did they would probably be the best postings in the world.

We English need to retain our sense of humour :-)

Lip Service

I am not normally a cynical type.

BUT .....

I am a subscriber to a weekly healthcare journal that is regarded as the most influential journal in healthcare management in the UK.

The edition from a couple of weeks ago contained a colorful advert about forthcoming high profile healthcare conferences for the period June through to October.

There are 16 conferences advertised and NONE are on the subject of greater patient involvement in healthcare. All 16 are about what I would call 'process' issues such as clinical coding, finance, targets and numbers.

And yet we, the public who own the NHS, are constantly told that greater patient involvement is the highest priority of the NHS.

As an NHS manager for over 30 years in a 'previous life' I understand of course why there are conferences about the ‘process’ stuff and they are very important. But if the Department of Health is really serious about getting more patient involvement in healthcare management and leadership it is surely not too much to expect to see at least one major conference dedicated to patient involvement in a 5 month period.

To me this is a classic case of lip service.

I would love to see all healthcare conferences led by patients and managers compulsorily required to attend.

Surely listening to patient’s stories will have more influence on any healthcare manager than 6 hours listening to boring explanations of the joys of financial coding.

Call me old fashioned if you like but maybe I am missing something.

Share your Objectives

Over at Blog Synergy my friend Phil Gerbyshak has outlined the importance of sharing objectives with others.

Phil has shared his objectivces and his progress against them in a very open and inspiring way. The title of his posting is "Unleash the Power of We to Achieve Your Goals"

When I was younger – probably arrogant and certainly naive, I used to do what everyone else did – keep my objectives to myself. That was just how it was for all of us involved in management.

As I got older and hopefully a bit wiser it made more sense to tell as many people as possible what my objectives were because then they offered help!! And of course I felt more confident in my ability to achieve my objectives.

Take a look at Phil’s posting and also make sure you check out his new book here

The book is called 10 Ways to Make it Great – I have already ordered my copy!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Health Tech

I stumbled upon a new 'virtual' colleague in the world of healthcare thanks again to Blogging.

Kevin Peyton (pictured right) is based in Ireland and has an interest in software development in healthcare. We have just had our first Skype call. Isn't technology just wonderful?

Kevin and I have things in common, not least a desire to improve the patient experience which after all is what healthcare is about.

You can see more of what Kevin does here

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Implementing change takes courage and means taking risks!

When leaders want to introduce change there will be those people who do not want their ‘tranquility’ to be disturbed. They are feeling very comfortable and just want to be left alone.

Effective leaders introducing change will be pushing the limits, taking risks and of course it can be a dangerous place. They need courage and determination.

Are you ready to enjoy the risk of introducing change?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

England lose on penalties ..... yet again

England are inconsolable after exiting a major championship at the quarter-final stage for the third consecutive time

England's world cup dream is over for 2006.

We lost again on a penalty shoot out to Portugal in the quarter final.

We played for almost an hour with only ten men after Wayne Rooney got sent off and we have to come to terms yet again with another miserable exit.

Will we ever win a penalty shoot out? This is at least the fourth time I can remember we have lost a penalty shoot out in a major tournament! One day it surely has to be our turn.

I was proud of our boys who played their hearts out.

We now start building for 2010!