Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why do we get stressed?

I have been pretty stressed and wound up about work for the last two or three weeks.

This is because I have a pressing deadline for an important piece of work and I have not been motivated to crack and get the work done.

With my deadline approaching fast I have finally got my motivation and enthusiasm back and I am confident I will hit the deadline with a good piece of work.

I feel so much better today.

So …..

I would love to hear from Simplicity readers the answers to 3 questions:

1 Do you sometimes feel that way too?

2 If yes, why do you think we feel that way?

3 If yes, where do you get your inspiration from to ‘knuckle down’ and get back on track?

I will share with you after our discussion where my own ‘solutions’ come from.

I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Patients know best.

I was invited to the official launch of the National Centre for Involvement yesterday in London.

This new organisation based in Warwick University will be responsible for collecting examples of how patients and the public have been involved in achieving change to healthcare services.

The new centre aims to provide help to the whole NHS by cascading examples of good practice. It is felt that learning how to effectively involve patients will spread so that patients and the public become more influential in driving change.

The team at the new centre is full of optimism but also realism and I wish them well.

My view has always been that involving patients in change is a hearts and minds issue. Many healthcare managers seem more intent on balancing their budget than finding a way of involving their customers (patients) in everything they do.

I genuinely hope that the new centre will help to change the culture in the NHS to one where there is no ‘separation’ between the service and the patients.

The NHS is owned by patients so they are not ‘on the outside’ looking in – they are indeed the purpose of it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

'Cock up' or Conspiracy?

I have always been suspicious of suggestions of conspiracy. I have often been accused of seeing the world through rose tinted glasses.

My personal experience has always led me to believe that ‘cock up’ rather than ‘conspiracy’ is usually the correct answer.

But somehow I feel worried about the story of the Russian ex spy Alexander Litvinenko who died last Friday.

Do I need to remove my rose tinted glasses?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Martin Luther King on Humility

I have always believed humility is the greatest quality of great leaders.

I recently came across this piece. It was written by Martin Luther King Junior before he was brutally murdered in 1968.

I can remember his assassination very well and I can hardly believe is it nearly 40 years ago the world lost one of its greatest leaders. The following words of Dr King sum up perfectly everything I believe about humility.

"If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral.

And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.

If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Management lessons from our Christmas Fayre

Today I had the pleasure of running a stall at our church Christmas Fayre. My small contribution was to sell greeting cards. Annie was Santa's Buddy!

I am delighted to say the Fayre was a great success. The goodwill and ‘giving’ of free time by dozens of people always amazes me. What inspires me too is the simplicity of it all as a management project. There was no 50 page written strategy about how all this should fall into place. There was no complex action plan. There was no complicated flow chart diagram. It was achieved mainly through word of mouth – asking people to do things, trusting that they will do those things and then leaving it to them.

Oh dear, I thought to myself, (as I saw this 'smooth operation' achieve all its targets) .... if only management was that simple in our big organisations.

Then I thought … why CAN’T it be that easy?

Moving on…

One interesting observation is that my experience today reminded me again that for men, shopping is ‘a job’ and for women, shopping is ‘an experience.’

The men who bought cards came to the stall looked at two or three cards and then bought those they wanted. Some of the women who came up to the stall looked – I kid you not - for 15 minutes at hundreds of cards .. and walked away not having made a purchase.

It is joyful that men and women are different - very, very different.

We CAN all be like Albert McMakin.

I’m sure I am not alone in this way of thinking. In my work, I often wonder if I am making any significant contribution. Is it all worthwhile? In the great scale of things, am I so insignificant that I cannot possibly make a real difference? Nicky Gumbel (pictured) in his excellent book Questions of Life tells the story of Albert McMakin.

Nicky writes:

‘Albert McMakin was a 24 year old farmer who had recently come to faith in Christ. He was so full of enthusiasm that he filled a truck with people and took them to a meeting to hear about Jesus. There was a good looking farmer’s son whom he was especially keen to get to a meeting, but this young man was hard to persuade – he was busy falling in and out of love with different girls and did not seem to be attracted to Christianity. Eventually Albert McMakin managed to persuade him to come by asking him to drive the truck. When they arrived, Albert’s guest decided to go in and was ‘spellbound’ and began to have thoughts he had never known before. He went back again and again until one night he went forward and gave his life to Jesus Christ. The year was 1934. Since then Billy Graham has led thousands to faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot all be like Billy Graham but we can all be like Albert McMakin.’

Applying Nicky’s story to the business world, I would say; if we only mentor one person in our entire career we may be doing something that can change the world

So the answers is – WE ARE ALL IMPORTANT.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

See you Saturday!

On the road for a few days – should be Blogging again on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More than one way of achieving your dreams.

When I was a kid I was mad keen on football. Playing in my street with my mates, I dreamed of becoming a professional footballer and playing at such magnificent stadiums as Old Trafford home of my beloved Manchester United.

My dream, like those of many thousands of other young lads, didn't come true because I was never good enough to play professionally.

It is really odd how things turn out though.

In the last 9 months I have run management workshops at major football stadiums including Old Trafford, (Manchester United) Pride Park (Derby County) and at Villa Park (Aston Villa). These are three magnificent stadiums.

I guess dreams can be fulfilled in different ways.

The use of major football stadiums for corporate business events is now common practice.

I have to confess the view from the very plush corporate boxes overlooking the perfect pitch is breathtaking. Maybe only football fans feel that buzz.

When I look out at the pitch I conjure up images in my head of me in my Manchester United kit, in front of 75000 fans, scoring the winning goal in the last minute.

Dreams are wonderful ….. And of course boys will always be boys.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Classic Comedy!

My favourite ever TV sitcom is Fawlty Towers.

John Cleese played the part of Basil Fawlty, the eccentric owner and manager of Fawlty Towers a Hotel in Torquay, England.

Basil is the henpecked husband of Sybil - played by Prunella Scales.

I came across this legendary extract and it brought back memories of this classic comedy.

Only about 10 episodes were made and it was over 30 years ago. It still makes me laugh!

Sybil: You're going to wear that jacket, are you Basil?

Basil: Yes I am, thank you dear, yes.

Sybil: You just haven't a clue, have you?

Basil: You wouldn't understand, dear - it's called 'style'.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

You have to be joking!

I saw this on a Website today .... can anyone put this in English?

'Many organisations in the Corporate and the Public Sectors today are striving to achieve greater value from islands of information which typically reside in multiple, disparate sources. Our specialisation is in turning data into information through our scaleable data warehouse Data Academy and Corporate Radar reporting solutions. '

Errr .... what was that?? ... please pass my pills Nurse

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Justice Not Charity

This is the longest posting I have done to date but please bear with me.

'This is not a charity issue, it is a justice issue' - these words of Bono are often used to inspire campaigners to rid the world of extreme poverty.

I don’t often read newspapers but today I read an article in the Daily Mail. The headline was ‘So rich you want to slap them.’

The article sub heading says;

‘The City (London) is awash with obscene amounts of money but the men who work there are too busy to spend it. So meet the wives who throw £1 million birthday parties and go shopping by private jet.’

The next article I read was how thousands of older people in Britain with early dementia are unable to have a drug that costs £2.50 per day because the government cannot afford it.

Next there was an article about how Romanian orphans are still in orphanages (76,000 children) almost 20 years after the discovery of the scandal of inhumane living conditions for children in care under the Nicolae Ceausescu regime. It seems things are better but still far away from meeting the aspirations of those who had a vision to eliminate poverty in the new democracy in Romania.

Then I reflected about how I was told earlier this year that 20,000 people die every day – mostly children – entirely due to extreme poverty.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not a spoilsport or a party pooper. I am a great fan of individuals in business pushing themselves to get on and make a real difference.

But I have to voice my concern that something is surely wrong when we have such obscene wealth and extreme poverty on the same planet that is given to us free.

Maybe I am an idealist. Maybe fairness means there will always be extremes.

I would rather believe that we can all do something by keeping these issues in the spotlight and shaming us into doing something if indeed shaming is the only way.

Maybe I am just in a particularly reflective mood but look at some of the extracts from the article about ‘obscene wealth’ and ask yourself whether we can justify this sort of thing whilst there is such suffering in many parts of the world including on our own doorstep in Britain;

  • ‘Back at home his mother picked up the telephone to call her project manager to enquire waspishly on the progress of the family’s plans for a basement swimming pool, paid for with her banker husband’s latest £1 million bonus.’

  • ‘A record 4200 City high-fliers will collect bonuses worth more than £1 million each in the next few weeks – 40 per cent more than last year.’

  • ‘Forget the £1 million home - £2 million is the norm for these people. For £5 million you will get a property with a bit of class, £10 million for real luxury. For a London home with a large garden that pretends it is in the country investment bankers and hedge fund managers think nothing of spending £20 million plus.’

  • ‘Major players in the City are taking home as much as £75 million per year.’

  • ‘These extremely glamorous women will employ an average of ten people to help them keep an immaculate home, look wonderful, take care of their stressed husband’s needs and bring up the children.’

  • ‘Michael Spencer’s wife Lorraine organised a party for his 50th birthday at their St Tropez mansion hiring Robbie Williams at a reported £1 million to sing to 300 guests’’

There are many more extracts but I think you probably get my point by now.

No one is available?

We recently heard this wonderful story from Nicky Gumbel.

A home owner rang 999 emergency services to report a burglary at his property – this is how the conversation went:

Caller: A person is breaking into my garden shed right now, can you send someone immediately please?

Police: Sorry we have no one to send immediately but we will try to get someone there as soon as we can.

The caller hung up. One minute later he rang back:

Caller: I rang a minute ago about someone breaking into my garden shed. You don’t need to send anyone now – I’ve shot him.

Within minutes polices cars, sirens and blue lights, special arms units, police helicopter all arrive at the scene.

The conversation in the house goes as follows:

Police Officer – I thought you said you had shot him.

Home owner: I thought you said no one was available.

I just love that!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Simplicity on Blog Talk Radio

Early this morning I had the opportunity to do a live Blog Talk Radio interview about Simplicity with host Wayne Hurlbert who is based in Canada. I was phoning from England to North America from my landline and hence the recorded quality is not perfect from my end ... such is life .. I hope you enjoy it nevertheless and I look forward to comments.

You can hear the interview by clicking

Thank you Wayne for giving me the opportunity to talk about simplicity which is never a problem for me of course.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Helpful Comment or Complaint?

Annie and I went out for a meal tonight (to be more accurate, a quick pub snack) at our local drinking hole.

We had a lovely young girl serving us … lovely …but:

  • She messed up the food order twice – first for the main course and second when she forgot to order our dessert from the kitchen.

  • She forgot to pour the drinks I had ordered and paid for. She wandered off to the kitchen leaving me at the bar for 5 minutes or so wondering what was happening. When she came back delivering meals I asked her about our drinks which she had completely forgotten.

Having had three children I am like all parents - a great ‘forgiver’ - that's one of the roles of parents isn't it?

We have to be patient and tolerant as youngsters learn. I didn't really want to complain to her bosses because I worry that some uncaring person may come across in a 'heavy' way.

Having said that, I still felt uncomfortable about leaving such pretty awful service ‘unreported.’

I decided to have a quiet word with another member of staff who was a bit older and a bit more experienced. I simply said that I think the first girl needed a gentle reminder about the importance of remembering to do things for customers.

I remember when I was just starting out at work at 16 years of age I made plenty of mistakes (probably still making them).

I hope this girl will be given time, support and understanding. I hope the message gets back to her in the spirit it was intended and that it helps her in the long run.

Should I have handled it another way or simply ignored it and said nothing?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This is my 500th posting on Simplicity Blog since I started Blogging in January 2005.

What a fabulous journey it has been so far. I have learned so much from my many friends who have taken the time and trouble to comment on my Blog.

I took the view when I started that we are having a 'conversation' here. Yes of course the Blog enables me to rant sometimes and get things off my chest, but this is more than just a soapbox.

I am proud to say that every individual comment in those 500 postings has been responded to by me - usually within a day.

Thank you all for your continuing support and long may we fight to make life and work simpler.

Here's to the next 500!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I survived

My workshop went well – I survived with my life in tact.

On a serious point, many managers in the National Health Service are under all sorts of pressures at the moment with radical changes happening and no guarantees for their future job security. That however sounds a bit like the rest of the business world to me.

I believe the NHS is still ‘over managed’ but that does not stop me feeling sorry for individual managers who are trying to do a good job against an uncertain backcloth.

Managers in the NHS have to change because the world is changing around them and one request to individual managers in my talk is that they become ‘an enemy of inertia.’

In other words; firstly to accept change; then to welcome change; and then actively seek and create change.

Needless to say many managers disagree with me about this and that is fine. I take the view that the world is changing all around the NHS and the status quo is not even an option nowadays so why not try to do something rather than wait for something to be done to you.

I love a challenge

I am in Cardiff today (Tuesday) talking at the Institute of Health Management Annual Conference about Simplicity.

Wow!! .... do we need that in the National Health Service or what??!

I am running a workshop for about 32 senior NHS managers, and I intend yet again to challenge them to convince me we have to carry on with this ridiculous fantasy language and complexity that, in my opinion, is created by managers for managers.

I am looking forward to it and will report back on how it went tomorrow ... that is if I escape with all my faculties intact!

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Personal Remembrance

In the words of the Remembrance Prayer:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning.
We will remember them".

A temporary blip with Blogger IT means I am unable to post photos today but you can see BBC pictures of Remembrance Day by clicking here

Maybe it is simply because I am getting older but to me the Remembrance Service yesterday seemed more emotional than usual. We went to our local church service and in the two minute silence at 11 o'clock, I had feelings including sadness, pride and sympathy for all the families of those millions of brave men, women and children who have died for me, my country and my freedom in wars.

The merits of war disappeared from my thoughts for those two minutes. I thought only of parents who saw their sons go to war and not return; the young children who must have wondered where and why their Dad was going away and then the questions to Mum about why he did not come back; the brave women left at home without their husbands trying to keep the family together only to die in bombing raids; the young men in the forces who died alone in a foreign land.

I looked around and as some older people gently raised a tissue to mop a tear, my own eyes became moist and a gulp or two was needed.

Some people want us to stop this Remembrance Day – not me. I hope we NEVER change this tradition.

It is a reminder to those if us lucky enough never to have fought in a war where many brave people have made (and of course continue to make) the ultimate sacrifice for their country ..... and therefore for ME.

I did some quick research with Wikipedia to get a feel of the numbers involved – it is staggering!

In the two world wars the number of UK citizens, military and civilian, who died is 1.2 million.

The total deaths among civilians and the military in the two world wars on both sides amount to over 78 million people. That seems unbelievable and lets us remember that every one of those people was ‘somebody’s someone.’

Saturday, November 11, 2006

And all it cost is £7.50

Even though I no longer work in the National Health Service I still get frustrated when I hear stories about what actually happens in the service.

What follows is a true story – it is not some made up urban myth. I was told the story by Simon, my Surgeon friend a couple of weeks ago.

It seems the Radiology staff in his hospital could not use a camera because the tripod had a small plastic flange missing where the camera should be housed. Simon asked how long it had been on order with the Hospital Supplies Department and was told the Radiology Department had been waiting nine months for the part.

This meant that the department had, for nine months, only one camera available for a particular procedure when they should have two – in other words the department was operating at 50% capacity.

Simon returned to his office, went online to the Kodak Website and found the required part on the Website. It was available in stock at £7.50. He ordered it online and paid for it with his own personal credit card. The part was delivered within two days and this meant the camera was up and running again.

The hundreds – possibly thousands of pounds that were being ‘spent’ in paperwork and procedures to order a tiny piece of equipment and the lack of capacity for nine months was all solved in 10 minutes at a cost of £7.50.

Amazing but true - and some people insist 'big is beautiful.'

Friday, November 10, 2006

Is this your experience too?

Whenever I have been a member of committees, groups, clubs, teams, etc. it seems to me the work is usually done by a few people. Another popular saying on the same subject is ‘If you want a job done, give it to a busy person.’

This seems common practice whenever I speak to friends and colleagues about the subject. The Pareto Principle is often referred to as the ‘80/20 rule.’ That is 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the people.

Recently I came across a lovely analogy about this as follows;

‘It’s likened to a football match, in which thousands of people desperately in need of exercise are watching 22 people desperately in need of a rest.’

Simple and yet powerful don’t you think?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lonestar's latest!

Sometimes I come across song lyrics that portray very accurately the challenges faced in leadership and management.

This week we bought the newly released CD called 'Mountains' by Texas based band Lonestar and came across these wonderful lyrics:

‘Walking’s easy when the road is flat … the good Lord gave us mountains so we can learn how to climb.’

Sounds familiar - I love that.

Do you have any song lyrics that offer inspirational and yet simple advice?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Wanna Tell You a Story

I am delighted to say my fourth book is published.

‘I Wanna Tell You a Story’ can be ordered by clicking here.

This book contains the ‘story’ of 16 incidents that happened during my career where there has been an important leadership lesson for me. I enjoyed writing this book because it reminds me again of the power of story telling as a driver for change.

I hope readers of my Blog will spread the word about this book.

I want to thank my colleagues Felix Gerena and Rocky Noe with whom I share the Sweet Friendships Publishing Brand.

Felix in particular does all the ‘graft’ in getting the book published and both Rocky and I appreciate that skill enormously.

Thank you Amigos – I value our Special Friendship greatly

Monday, November 06, 2006

You have to listen to this - Click here

If you want an example of the men/women divide that still exists in business in 2006 click here - 'BRMB Breakfast Best Of' is the heading you need.

You will hear the story of Helen, a member of staff and how she is treated by her male boss called Alistair. This taped phone call was featured live on local radio BRMB in Birmingham on Friday last week. It is hard to believe this is a conversation in 2006 and sounds more like the 1940’s.

To bypass the first nine minutes of the clip, click 'download' and move the slider on the player to the 9-minute mark.

Any manager acting this way in 2006 should hang their head in shame.

One of many questions I have is; - Would he have spoken the same way to a man dealing with the same issues Helen was raising?

This phone call illustrates what I have always said - that staff are much more in touch with reality than some managers. It also provides more evidence that some managers just do not and will never 'get it.'

Congratulations Sir Alex

Today is the 20th anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson joining Manchester United as Manager in 1986.

Sir Alex is the most successful football manager in my lifetime and most would agree the most successful ever

I had the immense pleasure of exchanging correspondence with Sir Alex who was kind enough to endorse my book Simplicity is the Key. I was impressed that this icon of world football found time to respond not once but twice to me about the book. He provided me with insightful and personal comments about leadership based on his experience and I continue to use his words.

And then, when I left the NHS 2 years ago, I received a photograph from Sir Alex that I have proudly displayed on our office wall. His hand written message on the photograph reads;

‘To Trevor, wishing you a happy future and good health to enjoy it.’ Yours Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex is not only a fantastic manager, he is a man who had the humility to make me feel very special. He did not have to take time in his busy schedule to do the things he has for me - I value his wisdom.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Professor Handy's favourite Gurus

I am listening to a series of talks on BBC Radio from one of my heroes Professor Charles Handy the leading British Management Guru and author of several famous management books – including 'The Age of Unreason' and 'The Empty Raincoat.'

You can download short programmes from BBC Radio Website about his favourite management gurus.
Professor Handy is narrator and each Guru has a programme dedicated to them.

This is the link;

These are the Gurus featured:

  • Peter Drucker
  • Tom Peters
  • Warren Bennis
  • Sumantra Ghoshal
  • Kenichi Ohmae
  • Gary Hamel
  • Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  • Bill Gates
  • Ricardo Semler
  • Michael Porter
  • Fons Trompenaar and Charles Hampden Turner

Happy Listening!