Saturday, December 30, 2006

What a joke!

Hazel Blears MP - Chairperson of the Labour Party

As regular readers of Simplicity Blog will know I am one of the greatest critics of health service managers but I cannot help but feel for my ex-colleagues when I read the latest soap opera. Click here for the story

The Government has been putting pressure on managers to make the NHS more efficient, reduce costs and increase efficiency. I believe there is still plenty of slack in the system with potential to redistribute millions of pounds to make the service more efficient and patient-centred.

The biggest problem for NHS managers has always been interference from Politicians who seem intent on ‘dabbling’ in the everyday running of the service instead of letting managers get on and manage things as they are paid handsome sums to do.

So it comes as no surprise, to me anyway, that Hazel Blears MP who is Chairperson of the Labour Party and presumably therefore fully signed up to her own Government’s agenda on health should stand outside her local hospital that is threatened with closure as a protestor along with other members of the public, I suspect managers in Hope Hospital, Manchester must feel like they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

In the NHS, managers are often sacked for not carrying out Government policy and yet when they do just that, we see the Chairperson of the Labour Party no less opposing what her own Government is recommending!

Madness! - They could not write a better soap opera script.

It also makes a total mockery of the concept of letting managers in the NHS get on with managing.

For once my sympathy is with NHS managers and my three word summary - What a joke!

Friday, December 29, 2006

This is purely in the interests of Christmas research!!

Intrigued?? .......
For more pictures and explanation click here

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Christmas to the workers!

At this time of goodwill to all, I was interested to see today’s report from the TUC that top executive salaries at FTSE 100 firms have risen seventeen times faster than their workers' pay.

More details can be seen by clicking here

The staff whose salaries have risen 17 times slower than their bosses will once again read the Annual Report of their company as it says each year; ‘We owe everything to our staff’

Mmmmmm … Bah Humbug!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Beatles - they changed the world

I have just been listening to (Christmas Gift) The Beatles CD ‘Love’

Listening to that CD brings back many memories of being around at the dawn of a revolutionary era in Britain early 1960’s and how The Beatles touched the world.

I was old enough to realise the impact and young enough to enjoy it.

I was 11 years old in 1963 when The Beatles burst on the scene and music and pop culture was changed forever.

So wonderful to think I was in my formative years when this happened.

Some of the Lennon/McCartney lyrics are crazy but memorable for some strange reason.

Here are just a few examples:

From Strawberry Fields

‘Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see’

From Help!

‘When I was younger, so much younger than today

I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone
I'm not so self assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors.’

From Eleanor Rigby

‘Father Mckenzie, writing the words to a sermon that no-one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working
Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?’

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas is coming ....

Each year in my working life for the last 36 years as Christmas approaches the pace of work generally slows down as everyone looks to do just enough to keep the ship afloat. Generally speaking this is not the time to start new projects and I have lost count of the times I have said over the years ‘we will sort that out in the New Year.’

I suspect most people are the same.

The run up to Christmas 2006 has been very busy for me and for the next day or so it will remain hectic. I am looking forward then to some relaxing time for a week or so.

I always think about staff in the National Health Service and the other essential services who have to work over the holiday period as normal.

My ‘Blogging’ over the next week or so will probably not be as frequent as normal and so I take this opportunity to wish all those who read Simplicity Blog a happy holiday time from both Annie and me.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Interview With God

This was sent to me by my friend Keith Ready in Australia - it is beautiful.

Click Here

When you reach the Web Page click on 'View Presentation'


Visit Keith Ready's Website A Gift of Inspiration by clicking here

Friday, December 15, 2006

Shackleton's Way

Ernest Shackleton

My friend Roger (Rocky) Noe from Kentucky recommended a book to me recently that I bought and I am really enjoying. For anyone interested in leadership I highly recommend this book

Shackleton’s Way is the story of Ernest Shackleton the Antarctic Explorer in the early 20th Century and his inspirational leadership style. Although Shackleton ‘failed’ to hit some objectives he is nevertheless regarded as one of the greatest leaders in history particularly in respect of his care for the people who were his ‘followers.’ It is one of those books I can’t put down.
Some highlights from the book already;

  • 'The foundation of Shackleton’s belief is OPTIMISM.'

  • ‘A leader is a dealer in hope’ – Napoleon

  • 'How did you survive? – one word answer: SHACKLETON

  • 'In matters of leadership the most reliable sources are the ones who are led.

  • 'One person can change the entire work environment'

  • 'Shackleton’s leadership tools were humour generosity, intelligence, strength and compassion.'

  • 'We search for leaders who are survivors and optimists.'

  • 'Shackleton had a disregard for class and custom.'

Sometimes when I read a book I know within two or three pages this is going to be a wonderful and educational experience. This book is one of those. You can see reviews by clicking here

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The truth about management?

'If you’re not achieving you aims. Don’t blame government policy, head office decisions, the state of the economy, the strength of the pound or the high rate of taxation. Instead have the courage to blame the person who’s really responsible – your predecessor'

‘The Little Book of Management Bollocks’ Alistair Beaton

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Know what it is that you do.

What follows is an extract from my latest book 'I Wanna Tell You a Story' click here to order the book.

“Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” - Ann Landers

In a previous place I had a friend and neighbour who is a builder. We often had interesting discussions about our respective jobs. This is the sort of dialogue of one of our typical discussions;

Maurice: What is it that you do as a manager in the health service?

Me: I help doctors and nurses do their job easier by doing the complicated management stuff.

Maurice: Mmmmm …but what do you do?

Me: I attend lots of meetings to hear what needs to be done and then I try and make changes to achieve those things.

Maurice: Mmmmm ..Ok …but what to do you actually do?

Me: (becoming more uncomfortable) … Well I manage budgets and write reports and do lots of presentations. I also manage lots of staff.

Maurice: You still haven’t told me what you actually do

Me: (now distinctly uncomfortable and seeking divine intervention) … Well I am responsible for the management of my entire department and for the smooth running of my part of the healthcare system … (Thinking rather smugly – that should finally satisfy him)

Maurice: Look Trevor when I go to work I can show you what I have done. I might have built a wall. I might have repaired a roof. I can give you the evidence – I can show you. You just talk in ‘woolly’ words that mean nothing to the everyday person. Try in future to tell me what you do.

This little exchange illustrates that we managers and leaders need to be able to illustrate what it is that we actually do. It simply is not good enough use woolly expressions that do not tell anyone anything.

Leadership Lesson

Don’t rely on the dog - Know what it is that you do and more importantly, know how you can prove it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Best quote heard this year

Overheard recently:

"The only mistake I ever made was the one I didn't learn from"

I like that

Monday, December 11, 2006

Exercise Exercise!

You too could end up like this!

Sad to say our exercise regime has slipped in the last six months. What with moving house and our wedding this is something that has slipped on to the back burner!

In the early part of 2006 Annie and I ran 5km three or four times a week combining that with a visit to our health club for a swim and some weight training.

I have just read a BBC report (click here for details) about the importance of exercise and its place in helping avoid heart disease. The report stresses the importance of regular exercise. The report also says half the population does no exercise at all!

Everyone knows this makes sense but we both seem to have lost our previous focus. It seems hard work now.

Reading this report it is clear we are not alone but we have promised ourselves we will try harder!

One of the inevitable consequences is weight gain and in my case I am now heavier than at any time in my life. I am too much of a gentleman to comment about Annie's weight and she is as beautiful as ever!

I am sure one of the reasons for the weight gain is contentment but there really is no defence about the lack of regular exercise – the focus must return!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

5 Things You Don't Know About Me (aka Keeping the Tag Alive)

I have been ‘tagged’ by my American Blogger friend Starbucker as part of a ‘virtual chain’ where 5 Bloggers have to reveal five new things about themselves.

So here goes:

1 I enjoy ironing!

2 Speedway was my obsession for a few years when I was a teenager and I travelled all over Britain watching my team King’s Lynn Stars!

3 I once drove non-stop apart from a one hour break for 17 hours from Spain to France.

4 Last year on holiday in the Channel Islands Annie and I were passengers on a local bus. I fell flat on my back carrying my heavy rucksack resulting in great embarrassment for me and great hilarity for the 20 or so passengers who watched as I struggled to get up. I looked rather like an upside down beetle struggling to right itself. A holiday highlight for everyone and it brightened up a rainy day.

5 I am not particularly observant and Valentine’s Day 2005 Annie put about 6 heart shaped balloons in the ‘office’ (our lounge) and despite working in the lounge I didn’t notice them until Annie asked if I had noticed anything unusual

I am not sure how many people have already been tagged but here are five regular Bogs that I visit for them to keep this thing going.

Tom Asacker
Phil Gerbyshak
Steve Sherlock
Troy Worman
Dmity Linkov

Friday, December 08, 2006


I recently became a Director on the Board of a small local charitable organisation called SNAP. You can see more about the organisation by clicking here

The aims are to enable parents and carers, the voluntary sector and statutory bodies to work together on behalf of children with special needs. Last night I attended the Annual General Meeting of SNAP and saw a DVD about the leisure activities of some of the young people.

I watched the young people with special needs enjoying themselves in Drayton Manor Theme Park alongside other young people. It made me think about my early career in the NHS when many of these young people would have found themselves completely isolated from the rest of society in long term care in hospitals. Amazing to think this was the policy until as recently as the 1980’s

In 1983 I was appointed as the hospital manager responsible for the closure of a large hospital for people with learning disabilities. It is horrifying to think it is only 20 years ago we had hospitals where patients’ liberty was taken away from them and their dignity was definitely not respected. I remember for instance one hospital ward that had no doors on toilets.

The most rewarding period of my entire career was without a doubt working in learning disability services from 1980 to 1986.

I hope in 2006 these people are at long last enjoying the rights the rest of us take for granted. I hope people are aware that learning disability is not an ‘illness’ and therefore we must not label them as ‘patients’ – it really is as simple as that. These people have the same rights as me.

There still are many critics of the closure of large hospitals for people with a learning disability but I have always been a passionate supporter of it providing there are adequate support services for the people who leave the hospital.

SNAP is an amazing organisation that started from an idea and discussions around the kitchen table ten years ago of women who wanted to do something positive and practical to support parents and the young people with special needs.

It was wonderful to hear how far SNAP has come and to hear about the high esteem in which both the staff and the organisation are held by parents.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Keep Asking Patients

I’m spending two days (Wednesday and Thursday) at the conference of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in Birmingham.

NICE is the body that publishes the best evidence-based practice in the National Health Service. They are well known for making the most authoritative statements about whether new drugs should be introduced in the NHS based on strict trials.

Imagine my delight therefore when I heard a discussion on stage in front of 500 or more people involving 4 highly regarded healthcare Gurus who all agreed that there is a desperate need for more patient involvement in the work of the NHS. Hooray - I have been saying that for 30 years!

It is music to my ears that these words are coming out of the mouths of such high profile people. My concern is whether this message is understood and implemented by Chief Executives, Directors of Finance and Senior Managers in the NHS.

In my experience (35 years as a manager in the NHS) when the chips are down and hard decisions have to be made the patients opinion comes nowhere in the list and it is the financial position and the bottom line that always is the priority.

So many times in my career I heard expressions like “We agree in principle about greater involvement of patients but our priority is to balance the books.” That sort of statement says it all.

My feeling is, and always has been, that if we genuinely engage with patients in an honest and open relationship then patients will help us make those difficult decisions. I believe patients are harsher critics than managers about wasted expenditure and inefficiency in the NHS. And patients have many creative ideas to solve these problems.

Nevertheless I remain optimistic as long as I hear these encouraging words from NICE.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Trust your Staff.

Take a look at the Business Week news video that was highlighted at Tom Peters Blog by clicking here - it takes a few seconds to load.

I have written for years about how managers need to trust their staff much more and in one of my crazier moments I suggested we should do away with counter signature by the manager of all travel claims in the NHS. Not surprisingly perhaps my suggestion was seen as 'crazy' and never implemented.

This story from a company called Best Buy in America is wonderful and gives me hope that things may be changing.

I hope we see more and more of this sort of thing in the UK.

Enjoy and I would love to hear your comments on this.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Aggie and Lil

Annie and I performed a short comedy sketch yesterday (Sunday) at our Church.

The theme of the service was to celebrate the upcoming birth of Jesus and as part of that we played the parts of two Birmingham women of the 1950's. They were having a discussion around the kitchen table over a cup of tea.

Aggie (played by Annie) explained to Lil (played by Me) how she had been whisked back in time from 1953 to Bethlehem by Dr Who, to witness the birth of Jesus. Then Dr Who apparently took Aggie through time again to the future (2006) where Aggie was amazed to discover such things as telephones without wires, that even young children had all to themselves. She was gobsmacked!

As a highly respected and sober professional manager I would just like to say that this type of 'dressing up' on my part is done purely in the interests of entertainment and research :-)

Annie wrote a wonderful script and it seemed to go down well with the congregation.

If you really have to you can see more pics by clicking here

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Wedding Photos

If you are interested in taking a look at wedding pics click here

Actually these photos were taken in a studio as Annie and I got dressed up again in our wedding gear a few days after our wedding to try and get some better pics than we managed to get on the day itself - 14th October.

When you click on the link you can also view other photos of our wedding day.

Enjoy .....

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another Sir Alex master-stroke?

Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is the grand old man of English football and I just wonder if he has pulled of another master stroke today.

The highly talented Henrik Larsson signed for Manchester United for three months from January to March. Larsson has played at the top level for many years and has always scored goals. He is now 35 years old and not looking for a long term deal. This may prove to be the final piece in the United team building as the fixtures pile up towards the end of the season.

United are currently top of the Premiership and next Wednesday they should reach the knock out stages of the European Champions League.

I hope I will re-visit this posting in May 2007 and be able to say the signing of Henrik Larsson was indeed an inspired decision.

Scrap complicated management structures

There is an interesting discussion going on at Tom Peters Blog about modern management structures.

I worked my whole career until 2 years ago in a heavily ‘managed’ system - the National Health Service. There have always been numerous ‘layers’ of management in the NHS and two years on from leaving that environment I am convinced most of those layers are unnecessary.

My Simplicity principles give away my style - this is how I see it;

Simplicity Tip Number 1 - Staff at the front line know ALL the answers ALL the time.

Simplicity Tip Number 2 - If managers have a job at all in 2006 it is to make it easy for front line staff to do their job with freedom.

Simplicity Tip Number 3 - Give all the money – YES ALL THE MONEY to front line staff

The logical conclusion from my principles means giving more responsibility to front line staff and managers having to justify their existence.

In my experience, the staff at the front line are almost always frustrated by management processes that are designed, it seems to me, to prevent front line staff showing any responsibility, imagination or creativity.

I am not calling for anarchy – although sometimes it feels that way. Surely we have moved away from a ‘heavily managed’ world in any sort of business setting in 2006.

Give people at the front line the power – PLEASE!!!