Friday, December 28, 2007
As John Lennon’s lyrics almost said;
‘And so that was Christmas’
This year Christmas seemed to come and go very quickly.
I am not sure if it is a feature of advancing years but I have struggled this week to remember which day of the week it is. I now realise it is Friday and I have not posted anything on Simplicity Blog since last Sunday.
Annie and I spent much of the Christmas time in the house relaxing and generally 'chilling out' as my children would say – I’m still not quite sure what that means exactly.
Today Annie persuaded me it would be a good idea for us to get some exercise. So we decided to go for a walk. We donned our waterproofs and went for a lovely walk of about 4 miles in continuous rain. We stopped half way for a well deserved glass of red wine in a local pub. Unsurprisingly we met only one other person out for a walk in the entire 4 miles. After the walk we decided a chicken and mushroom pie and chips from our chippie in the village was a good idea.
We’ve made a pledge that exercise is going to be a high priority for us both in 2008. I need to lose 28 pounds.
We hope to run our first half-marathon in 2008 and we still have an ambition to run our first marathon in 2009.
I hope everyone who visits Simplicity Blog had a terrific Christmas and I guess we now have a few more days of disorientation as we head to the New Year Celebrations.
What do you think about New Year resolutions and have you made any yet?
Sunday, December 23, 2007
We went to our local supermarket to do a Christmas shop for all those things we need for the two day period while the shops are closed.
I often wonder if it would be like this if a third world war was declared. I imagine folks would dash out to the supermarket and stock up for months in fear of England being invaded!
As is my want, I was ‘people watching’ for quite a bit of the time we were in there.
I decided to pen my thoughts about some of the 'types' I saw.
The 'sightseer' shopper
This person seems intent on strolling, in a leisurely fashion, with their trolley, merely enjoying the sights. They do not appear to be particularly interested in taking things from shelves. They kind of, ‘gaze’ for a minute or two and then wander off down the aisle, seemingly content in their own little world.
The 'social' shopper
This person decides to have a discussion with her friend about her recent disastrous hair appointment. The growing crowd of shoppers grow increasingly impatient trying to reach the parsnips that are situated behind these two social shoppers having their deep and meaningful discussion.
The 'angry' shopper
This is the one who has had a row with his/her spouse about whether or not the shopping has to be done as a joint exercise. If looks could kill this person would have been a mass murderer in the supermarket today. No more explanation needed methinks
The 'aimless wanderer' shopper
This person is different from the sightseer shopper. This person seems to have no plan whatsoever. He/she will be seen following the flow of trolley traffic in one aisle. The next time you see this person they are going against the traffic. They do not appear to have any idea of where things are so they constantly find themselves going against the flow.
The 'laid back philosopher' shopper
This person has it all under control. He/she watches others rushing and looking stressed, rises above the mayhem and exudes an air of calm and authority. There is no look of frustration or anger – just sheer tranquillity.
I’m sure there are many more ‘types’ – please let me know. And by the way ..... which one do you fit into?
Friday, December 21, 2007
Professor George Giarchi
2007 has been another fabulous year for me.
We moved to our new home in July and we love village life in Shakespeare’s County, Warwickshire.
Work has been great with many new directions taken in developing the business. A few more new iron’s in the fire for 2008.
‘Old’ and ‘new’ Blogging friends from all over the world have provided regular challenge, inspiration and nourishment to my enquiring mind.
More inspiration has come from some more icons in 'my world' - Professor George Giarchi, Tony Benn, Sir Alex Ferguson, Tom Peters and Nicky Gumbel.
September saw the birth of Reece, my second Grandson joining his brother Sebastian, unbelievably, now two and half years old!
Most important of all Annie has been my greatest inspiration. Annie's love support and commitment to me and our marriage underpins how all other things fall into place. Thank you darling.
A very Happy Christmas to all who visit Simplicity Blog.
Click here to read the BBC report of that auction.
I remember falling about laughing at this in 1976 - was it really 31 years ago?
A You Tube clip of the original BBC TV show is below - enjoy - I would be really interested to know from US readers whether this very British humour 'travels' across the pond.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I asked myself the same question .... and I had real difficultly answering it.
There are so many great books I’ve read this year. I finally came down in favour of;
‘Screw it Let’s Do It’ - Richard Branson
Please tell me your favourite book of 2007 – I am asking for one book not a list!
Come on - be ruthless and make the decision – I know it's hard but you can do it!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Payment of invoices is important for small business. It’s crucial for sole traders.
Waiting 8 weeks for payment of an invoice is just not good enough but the National Health Service (NHS) continues to make people like me wait that long before money actually appears in my bank account.
I know the excuses about large organisations and their ‘systems’ and ‘procedures’ - I’ve heard them all. The most annoying thing for me is that I know these long waits are not how it has to be.
When I worked as a manager in the NHS I took it very seriously to make sure small businesses payments were hurried along – whatever the 'system' and the ‘procedure’ may say. I would often make a phone call to the finance department to say something like - 'This person is self-employed and needs the money urgently so please make this payment as a one-off rather than let it get delayed in the system.'
It always worked for me and any manager in the NHS can do that.
These payment delays prove to me the NHS is still not sensitive to individuals.
All systems have to be flexible in my opinion. All it takes is for one manager to take personal responsibly for making sure payments happen. It really is that simple – it is a mindset thing – all it takes is for a manager to rattle the cage a little bit on behalf of the ‘small person’ by not accepting the ‘system’ or the ‘procedure’ as the way it has to be.
I’m really not surprised it doesn’t happen and it tells me everything about the NHS.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I look in awe at the energy levels of five of my heroes Sir Alex Ferguson 65, Tony Benn 82, Tom Peters 65, Professor George Giarchi 77 and my father-in-law Eric 80. I think it is a mindset thing.
I see no reason whatsoever to retire compulsorily from work at 65 years of age. God willing and good health allowing I want to be working at 70 years of age at least three days a week. I hope at 70 to have the same mental and physical energy levels that I have now. Ok so the physical fitness may not be quite as good but then I think why not? Jimmy Saville was running marathons well into his 70’s.
I get irritated when the pervasive attitude is that people somehow reach a 'sell by' date in business. Younger people have an important role in rattling cages and making changes to old fashioned ideas and business practices desperately in need of change. I argue that chronological age is not a restricting factor. In fact, experience combined with youthful exuberance is a very effective combination.
I am keen to play in the first ever five a side football team for people over 100 years of age
Anyone else want to sign up for my team in advance??
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Maybe this quote will help.
‘This situation is rather like a football match. Thousands of people desperately in need of exercise watching 22 people desperately in need of a rest’
Keep smiling – in all aspects of our lives and our work there are players and there are spectators
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I bumped into a good friend, author and business colleague Malcolm McClean who is the founder of the dynamic organisation Bear Hunt
During the event on Wednesday Malcolm came up with a wonderful expression that I will now steal and use in my work in healthcare (always crediting Malcolm as originator of course!)
The expression is: ‘Not invented here’
What Malcolm is driving at is the reluctance of managers and clinicians inside the NHS to welcome ideas from outside the NHS. He described how the NHS is producing various reports and documents about wanting to be a world class service.
Malcolm has been leading a fabulous initiative aimed at improving the mental health of young men by developing projects in partnership with professional football clubs in various parts of England – mainly the North West.
The project targets young men who are at risk of suicide due to mental illness. It has been a hugely successful venture with stories of young men whose lives have been turned around thanks to this project. It is an evidence based success.
Delighted with the way the project has gone, Malcolm wrote to all of the 302 Chief Executives of Primary Care Trusts in England asking them to consider the project in their own geographical area.
He had 7 replies. That means 295 Chief Executive could not be bothered even to respond to Malcolm.
And yet .... the NHS says it wants to be a world class service.
Malcolm has reached the conclusion that ‘Not invented here’ is an NHS syndrome.
I think he may well be right.
Apart from anything else – how come 295 Chief Executives do not have the decency to even acknowledge or reply to Malcolm's letter?
Despite working 35 years inside the NHS until 3 years ago I am still hurt and embarrassed by such bad manners and another sad example of how the NHS simply does not walk its own talk.
Monday, December 10, 2007
You drive from home in the rain to the City/Town Centre. Find a car park (usually pretty expensive rates). You walk to the shops in the rain and spend the next 5 hours wandering aimlessly and robotically around the shops browsing and selecting presents. Getting colder, getting more and more irritated by the bustle and barging of hundreds of other impatient shoppers. They appear to have no awareness that you are standing beside them. Getting wetter as you dodge in and out of the shops. Constant temperature changes so that you are either freezing cold outside in the rain or boiling hot inside the shops. Eventually you get back to the car fully loaded with bags and parcels. You load the boot and eventually get home – it’s still raining and you get wetter unloading the car. Eventually you sit down to enjoy that long awaited cuppa.
Do it all from the warmth and comfort of your own home on the Internet. (In my case Annie is the in-house expert)
Is it just me or is this a no-brainer?
Friday, December 07, 2007
The great news is that it seemed to go down well which I was delighted about because dentists in the National Health Service are often portrayed as 'stuck in the mud' old school folks who do not want to change. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This group of dentists seemed to take on board the concept of listening to patient feedback and making changes as a result
So I felt good that it was a worthwhile visit to the smoke …
On the way back from the meeting I got chatting on the train in London to a young American lad (probably late 20’s) who had moved to London from Chicago four months ago. He worked in the financial quarter of London in the Canary Wharf area - which by the way is a spectacular sight at night from the train on the journey back into Central London. The young American was telling me how much he loved London and the English lifestyle. It made me feel very proud of my great country.
One thing he said was how he finds it odd that Brits are generally so miserable first thing in the morning at his office. He is obviously getting to know the average Brit pretty well methinks!
He told me he believes London will become the financial capital of the world in the near future. Already he tells me London is the financial capital of Europe and is challenging New York and Hong Kong for the number one spot in the world.
Tony Blair could not have been all that bad after all.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
‘Sorry nothing I can do - that’s just the way it is’
What it portrays to me is that employees inside organisations have become tired, and lost their passion to challenge a culture that obviously need challenging!
So often I have heard that expression, or a variation of it, when customer expectations have fallen below the standard the customer expected.
If employees in any organisation say that sort of thing, don’t you think it is sad?
In short it means they have ‘given up’ … and I don’t think we should ever give up trying to change cultures that are wrong.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I throw it all away. I estimate I actually look at 1 in 1000 of these fliers – and that is probably on over estimate on my part!
So my question is:
How come the highly trained and well qualified marketing folks who design these things think it is a good use of the money of a business for it to end up in the waste bin of (I would estimate) 8 out of ten households?
As far as I’m concerned 1 word of mouth recommendation will beat 1000 brightly coloured slick professional fliers dropping through my letterbox.
The best way I ever heard of to deal with junk mail was this method by a work colleague.
He saved all his junk mail for three months. Then he packed it into a large parcel and write on the package – ‘postage to be paid on receipt.’ He sent it to Readers Digest with a handwritten note inside saying: ‘Now you know what it feels like!’
I love that …
Junk mail doesn’t irritate me … I just feel it is a complete waste of time and money and out of touch with what we customers actually want.
We are far more discerning than marketing professionals think.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
There are almost 49 million hits for the word 'Simplicity' so to get into the top 10 gives me a good feeling.
Click here to see the proof.
Maybe Simplicity is catching on!
Sunday, December 02, 2007
One of the outstanding candidates is Martin O’Neill and I read that the reason he did not get the job 15 months ago was because he had a ‘bad’ interview. It got me thinking about how much importance we should or should not place on an interview.
I’ve always taken the view we should recruit for attitude and train for skills which is the opposite of the perceived wisdom in business for the last 200 years. We traditionally look at the CV to check everything looks ok on paper. Then we draw up a shortlist of candidates; we have an interview in front of a panel; then we come to a decision.
Where the CV and qualifications are much the same between candidates the clincher is the interview. I have to ask myself is that really the best way?
I would like to see more emphasis placed on the personality of the candidate and what passion they will bring to the organisation.
Martin O’Neill obviously did not impress at his interview but most football fans know his record is superb and his passion is obvious.
I would ask questions about the qualifications of the interview panel who decided to appoint Steve McLaren ahead of Martin O’Neill. McLaren was a failure and resigned after 15 months. So much for selection based on interview.
We will never know what might have happened had Martin O’Neill been appointed but one thing is certain – if a ‘bad’ interview was the reason he didn’t get the job 15 months ago then please don’t use that same criteria again.
What are your opinions about how to select the best person for a job?
Friday, November 30, 2007
When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 I was really excited.
And he did.
Until the Iraq conflict make no mistake Tony Blair was flying high in the opinion polls and don’t forget he won three General Election which is something never achieved by any other Labour leader.
I think it desperately sad to watch senior members of the Labour Party (particularly the PM Gordon Brown, who I like) running away, like scared animals, from crisis after crisis. It feels to me like we hear nothing but excuses for things that have gone wrong rather than exciting plans for new ways ahead for our country.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
As far as I'm concerned the best leaders concentrate mainly on two things - their customers and their staff.
I am sure great leaders are also interested in process and numbers and all the other ‘hard stuff’ – they just get others to do that stuff for them.
I am firmly in the camp that if you look after your staff and your customers, the bottom line and all the other ‘hard stuff’ will take care of itself.
Some people probably think I don’t rate 'process people' which is the way off the mark.
I have the ultimate respect for people who are turned on by the process side of any business. Good processes and governance are essential parts of any business and some of my best friends are accountants. I am just not good at that stuff. I have to have people alongside me who are good at that.
In my experience the folks obsessed with process and numbers usually have less time or concern for the 'people bit' and do not make the most effective leaders.
So … what is my conclusion?
I will continue to actively promote simplicity and a focus on people above process for business leaders.
Let the folks who are good at ‘process’ work effectively in the background but don't let them get in the way of leaders. These people can 'muddy the waters' by creating myths that everything in business is complex – it just isn’t!
Looking after your people (staff and customers) is not complex … it is just caring about them and that is simple.
I would value comments.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
To run a business is actually very easy. Here is my simple theory:
'If you tell the truth and deliver your promises you won't go far wrong. If you don't do those things your business will fail.'
The reason running a business gets bad press is because some people who run businesses are just hopeless at making sure they do what they say they will do.
Yesterday (Tuesday) I waited all day to receive an important parcel delivery for which a premium was paid to get a guarantee of delivery within 24 hours by one of my clients.
Guess what? – The parcel didn't arrive – no explanation - nothing.
That is not complicated - it is simple.
It is just a total lack of integrity and checking on the part of the business responsible for that promise.
I won’t accept any other explanation – it is that simple for crying out loud!
What is so complicated about checking whether you actually met your promise?
Such laziness and lack of professionalism annoys me intensely and there is just no excuse in my book.
Because this business failed to deliver their promise I am considerably out of pocket, I am considerably inconvenienced and another client of mine will receive a less than perfect service as a result – and none of this is the fault of me or my client.
This is simply and only to do with someone not having the decency, the good manners, the professionalism and the conscientiousness to check on their promises.
Don’t make promises if you don’t have methods of checking you deliver them.
I feel a little bit better having got that off my chest.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Philips is one of the world's biggest electronics companies and Europe's largest. It is a global leader in Healthcare, Lifestyle and Technology based products and services.
I hope this represents the thin end of a massive wedge that is needed to make the whole business world sit up and take notice.
Thanks and well done Philips for taking the initiative and leading the way in the business world and proclaiming the very same wonderful simplicity I’ve been talking about for 30 years!
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
What a week so far … but come on … it keeps me awake and as a friend once said 'sleep is over rated.'
Monday – Two hour return train journey to London for 3 hour conference.
Tuesday – Drove 300 mile return journey to Ipswich (rain for whole of both journeys) for 4 hour workshop. Home midnight.
Wednesday - Up at 6 am to catch 7 am train to London for all day workshop home at 7 pm.
Thursday - Up at 6am to drive 200 mile return journey to Cambridge (rain for whole of both journeys) for all day workshop - home at 7 pm.
Friday - Drove 180 mile return journey to see Mum!
Tomorrow (Saturday) - Train journey to London for 4 hour workshop.
Sunday - A rest.
Monday - Delivering 3 hour workshop to 120 health professionals in Nottingham.
Wednesday – Delivering 3 hour customer care workshop in Kent – another 400 mile return drive.
Then it slows down a bit …
This may look like a hectic schedule and I guess it is.
BUT .... compared to going in to the same office everyday in the National Health Service like an automaton for my 9-5 Monday – Friday boring existence, this is just BRILLIANT.
Unless things go pear shaped I never want to have a job of that type again. The thought of ever moving away from my self-employment and freelance independence fills me with dread.
One of the reasons I work hard is to try and make sure I never have to go back to the ‘alleged’ security of a contract of employment. 'Security' can be another word for imprisonment.
Three years into self-employment this feels like hard work but it is so much more rewarding and it is freedom.
I feel like an 'adult' – unlike the 'child' in the restricted, controlling environment of NHS management where I spent 35 years unaware of what freedom at work really means.
Roll on next week! And the Next 50 years! Life is great!
And most of all thank you to my darling Annie for putting up with me this week and keeping me sane (I think).
I promise I'll slow down when I'm 95 honey!
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Monday - London
Tuesday – Ipswich
Wednesday - London
Thursday – Cambridge
Many train journeys and many driven miles …. Looking forward to a rest sometime.
Tomorrow is another day away near Peterborough (visiting Mum!!) and then working in London on Saturday.
Hope to be back to normal next week!!
Something has to give sometimes.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Paul Potts was a mobile phone salesman with no self confidence ... and then once upon a time (last year), someone believed in him …
Sunday, November 18, 2007
It just seems somehow appropriate to post this at a time in our history when it seems to me there is a lot of self interest.
Please don't misunderstand - I’m not on a mission to convert anyone, so take it or leave it – that’s fine by me - but I hope you find the time to read it.
This was found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:
· People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered ... forgive them anyway.
· If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives... be kind anyway.
· If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies... succeed anyway.
· If you are honest and sincere people may cheat you... be honest and sincere anyway.
· What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight... build anyway.
· If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous... be happy anyway.
· The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow... do good anyway.
· Give the world the best you have, and it will never be enough... give the world the best you've got anyway.
· You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God...
It was never between you and them anyway.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Annie and I called in at Taunton Services on the M5 motorway this morning for a breakfast on our way back home from Devon.
We were at the hot food bar for the traditional English breakfast in a small queue of us two and one very nice man.
The young lady behind the counter asked the man in the queue if he would like fried or scrambled egg … fair question we thought. The man replied 'scrambled egg please' and we were amazed as she said to him … ‘the scrambled egg is not very nice at all!’ … we smiled at each other and the man smiled at us … I said to him ‘At least she's honest!' … but we just couldn't work out why the heck would you have scrambled egg on display as an option only to be told it’s not very nice?
We were then asked by about three or four unoccupied young male staff whether there was anything they could do for us.
I was sorely tempted to say ‘Well as there are so many of you, apparently doing nothing, why don’t one of you go and make a decent scrambled egg?’ … but I resisted.
We paid our bill and sat down to enjoy our scrambled eggless breakfast.
The man who had been in the queue brought over a £5 note to me and said he had noticed they had over-charged me at the till!
What a lovely experience ….
And yet more evidence about the crazy world of business and customer care!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
My best bosses
- inspired confidence
- were humble
- had integrity
- knew what they were talking about
- let me get on with things
- were always there when I needed help
- usually said ‘yes, try it’
My worst bosses
- never seemed to be around when I needed them
- always asked me to justify what I wanted to do
- always wanted to know what I was doing
- often said ‘no, we can’t do that'
- gave the impression of being distrustful
- didn’t smile much
- talked about themselves a lot
What features can you add to either list?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
If we get the 'people thing' right everything else falls into place. If we are not thinking people first in EVERYTHING we do then I think we can pack up and go home.
I am not saying process is not important – of course it is. I would say the mix in the most successful business is one gallon of passion and one pint of process. Most organisations I know have those proportions the wrong way round and then they wonder why there is no innovation and enthusiasm.
I sign up fully to the Tom Peters view that 'soft' is 'hard.'
Any process management is simple – it’s a stroll in the park compared to the really difficult stuff which is always to do with people. How do we coach them to bring out the best in them? How can we help them? How can we get them to buy into our dream?
1 I've often been told I am too ‘soft and fluffy’ as a manager.
2 I've been told I am not ‘hard enough’ to be a Chief Executive.
I plead guilty to both charges with great pride. My view has always been if you only have to be ‘hard’ to be a CEO then you are not skilled enough in the really important stuff of coaching people.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I have written 734 postings - an average of 5.02 posts per week. Not bad – almost one posting per day and I’m pretty pleased with that output.
I’ve also looked at comments and discovered I've had a total of 2253 comments – the most for a single post is 19 comments (4 times)
I like messing around with numbers ….
My Blog will never create business and frankly that has never been my intention. I just love the banter and discussion the Blog creates.
I have made friends with many people from all over the world and without Simplicity Blog I doubt that would have happened.
Hope you continue to respond so brilliantly with your comments on Simplicity Blog. I have taken notice of readers comments over the last 34 months and tried to adapt the content in the light of readers comments.
I’m looking forward to hitting 1000 postings sometime around Christmas 2008
As a matter of interest this is what I wrote on my first posting on 22 January 2005:
Blogging - Is this the new way to make a difference?
I love communicating and Blogging is the latest way of doing it. Isn't it wonderful how we can now share thoughts instantly with like minded people from all over the world about how organisations are led and how things need to change?
Monday, November 12, 2007
I saw an old man brush away a tear during the two minute silence. He stood proudly alongside a broken hearted young mother and her three young children – her soldier husband was killed last month in Afghanistan.
The service made me appreciate again the debt I owe for my freedom – we all need to be reminded.
Yesterday was not a time to argue the rights and wrongs of war. Yesterday was simply about remembering millions of young men and women who lost their lives in wars fighting for the freedoms I now enjoy.
We must NEVER be allowed to forget.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
As a manager I had people responsible to me in the health care business and I always found giving bad news the most difficult part of my job. I had to sack 2 people in my 35 year career and on both occasions I found it really difficult to deal with emotionally. I felt awful in fact and I still feel bad about it all these years later.
In both cases I feel the decision was right and despite appeals by both people, my decision was upheld on both occasions when heard on appeal by a higher authority than me in the organisation. Despite being proved right I would rather not have had to do it and it gave me no satisfaction whatsoever. I would say that anyone who actually enjoys doing that sort of thing is in urgent need of therapy.
What are your experiences of doing this sort of thing and how did you feel emotionally?
Friday, November 09, 2007
I remember one day I conspired with a colleague and friend of mine to produce a spoof evaluation form that we sent out to a few people who had attended an in-house training event.
We had a real laugh about it and everyone in the office seemed to think it was good fun.
I got involved recently in a discussion on Tom Peters Blog about whether there is a place for humour at work.
I believe there is far too little humour at work. I also think humour does not mean being any less professional. In fact I believe people are far more productive if they are happy – What do you think?
Here is what we said in our spoof letter:
As part of the continuing professional development we have introduced a new feedback system following away days/seminars and teaching sessions to ensure that learning has taken place.
As a result a few people are randomly selected at the end of each session to answer a few simple questions to assure the organisers that learning has occurred.
I hope you don’t mind filling in this short questionnaire and your honesty will be appreciated.
Bill Bloggs (name changed to protect the innocent)
1 Did you find your way to the venue ok?
2 Was the coffee good? (tea if you drink tea)
3 Was the room comfortable or would you have preferred somewhere with Sky Sports TV?
4 Did you think the standard of dress of delegates was good enough to maintain the professional image of the organisation?
5 Did you fall asleep in any of the presentations? – We need you to name names
6 Do you think it would have helped if jokes had been part of the meeting?
7 Were you able to make the dolls house out of balsa wood without copying your friend?
8 How would you sum up the experience?
9 Could you have benefited from a lady of the night?
10 Was it worth missing out on bacon rolls back at the office?
11 Whilst you were looking through the window (we know you did), did you think the groundsman could have made a better job of the hedges with a Black and Decker 3200?
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The first thing I discovered is that is a myth. Sure I became stressed about being unable to instantly respond in the way I had become accustomed to but the reality is that we find ways of coping and in fact every e mail is not so urgent that it must be replied to immediately.
The best way I could cope in dealing with my e mails and updating my website and Blog was to visit three local libraries. There was the main library in the town centre and two more local smaller libraries.
The rules for use are that customers are allowed one hour on a computer and, if the computer is not booked, it is possible to gain an extension for a further 30 minutes.
I visited all three libraries almost every day for the 35 days I was without my internet connection at home.
It was a fascinating experience. My priority was to make the most of the limited time I had available to me and it is only since the experience that I have been able to reflect on the differences in each of the three libraries.
The main library has the most machines, is a very large building and is run very efficiently. It is big and somewhat impersonal but overall a satisfactory service. The other two libraries are much smaller and after a few days I got to know the staff – there are less of them – and generally I felt more at home in the two smaller libraries.
An interesting thing happened in one of the small local libraries.
It was a Friday afternoon. There were 6 machines available and I was working on one of the six. There was one other person on another machine and four were free. The library was due to close at 4 pm and the time was approaching 3 pm.
Although I had been on the computer for my allowance of 90 minutes, I thought I would just ask if I could have an extension as it was fairly obvious that no-one was going to come into the library at that time on a Friday afternoon - and certainly not five people rushing in.
I was somewhat surprised with the reaction of the rather ‘frosty’ staff member who said that I had used my 90 minutes and she would not be able to extend my time beyond that. I accepted her decision but made a comment that it seemed rather a shame that I could not stay when there were now five computers free and it was less than an hour before the library would close.
Despite this she told me I could not have an extension and so I left – rather peeved but at least it was the weekend.
Contrast that situation with the staff at the other smaller, local library. They got to know me well and even if I had used my 90 minutes and the library was not busy I was regularly allowed to stay on the machine for another hour at least and sometimes longer!
The difference is simple.
* The ‘jobsworth’ library assistant stuck rigidly to the rules and I suppose she is technically ‘correct.’
* The staff at the other local library used their discretion and made a decision based on common sense and customer care.
I know which I prefer and would suggest that if more people at the front line used their discretion rather than stick strictly to every rule then customer care could be celebrated more often.
I would not want to see rigid rules stretched in life and death situations, for instance in healthcare or airline travel, but come on... we are talking a library!
It is ironic that all three libraries are run as part of the same organisation and yet each one has its own distinct culture, values and beliefs and styles. If any senior manager in the organisation believes there is a common and consistent customer care culture they need to visit the libraries themselves to discover the truth. The three libraries could have been in different continents they were so different. The joy of this example is that it proves we are all individuals and we can celebrate difference.
Rules are made to be stretched and sometimes broken.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The Eagles have never had a number one in the UK album charts until this week despite having the third best selling album of all time after Thriller (Michael Jackson) and Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) .
Not bad for a band that has been around for well over 30 years.
This means I must try and persuade Annie it will be a good idea to see The Eagles again on their next UK Tour ….… How about it darling – can we afford it?
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
There is an article today in The Independent - click here to read it.
I am very biased – I think Sir Alex is the best manager in the history of British football - just count his trophies. The Independent article however gives a more balanced and impartial view than mine of the record of Sir Alex.
I love these extracts;
‘How it is that he acquires years but not age? Why is it that his partiality still burns like some tinder-box canyon in southern California? Can it be true that he still takes offence quicker than a hell-fire preacher in a bawdy house?
Will he ever mellow? Will he ever take off the clothes of a curmudgeon when things do not go quite as well as he likes? No, he will not ….
Ferguson will be 66 on the last day of December. Time to act like a guy who owns a bus pass? Not with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo and the likely lad from Brazil, Anderson, still in the foothills of their careers.
He ignites the game to which he has devoted his life and because he cares so much, and whatever we think of his style, so do we. It means that today the toast is not so much to a unique football manager as the sheer force of life.’
Friday, November 02, 2007
My view has always been that if you are in touch with customers – in fact if you make customers feel really special - you won’t go far wrong.
There are thousands of management consultants who will charge a lot of money trying to convince you there is a technical, rational, systems answer to all this. I disagree. I have always said (and written) that there is a place for process in businesses but the proportions in my opinion should be a pint of process and a gallon of passion. In my experience many businesses have a gallon of process and a pint of passion – and they then wonder why their business is a not a hotbed of creativity and in touch with front line staff and customers. I say value and trust your front line staff and look after your customers and you will succeed.
These are the stages I recognise in many businesses:
Stage 1 Passion
The owner of the company starts small with a vision to establish the business. There is real passion at this stage because the owner has to work to eat. It will be a struggle to make any money. This is about making your reputation.
Stage 2 Established
The owner sees the business is meeting a need and begins to break even and maybe make some money. More work is generated and the business is becoming established. The owner is still very hands on - driving the business.
Stage 3 Growth
The reputation of the business grows and more work is generated. The owner decides it is time to get some help and staff are recruited to assist. The owner is still heavily involved. The business is becoming profitable.
Stage 4 Expansion
Now things are buzzing and the owner decides that it can expand. Staff recruitment takes off, business is growing and everything looks great. The owner is now slightly more removed from the front line and customers and has people doing ‘all that stuff.
Stage 5 Comfort
The business is now comfortable in terms of profits and growth. The owner now has a monitoring role because the senior management team takes care of the day to day business including customer care.
Stage 6 Complacency
Because things are now ‘comfortable’ complacency sets in. Standards provided to customers that were hugely important in the earlier stages seem to have slipped because the business is now big and less responsive to the changing needs of customers.
Stage 7 Vulnerability
Whilst standards have slipped existing competitors and new businesses have emerged as serious rivals. You have become vulnerable. You start to notice profits are reducing and repeat business is not happening. Your staff are not as happy as they were. The owner is now far removed from the everyday business – and may even be oblivious to what is happening.
Stage 8 Arrogance
The business ignores the obvious and growing competition and refuses to learn from what is happening – a classic case of burying your head in the sand. The need for change is now smacking you between the eyes but refusal to accept the inevitable seems to be the overriding culture.
Stage 9 Death - RIP
This is what happens when we refuse to listen to what our customers are telling us. Customers are our heartbeat and if we do not listen and respond to what our pulse is telling us then the outcome is sadly inevitable. The owner – now completely out of touch – is heard to say ‘What went wrong?’
I would suggest that being closely in touch with our customers is important throughout all the first 8 stages and arguably more important from stage 5 onwards. Sadly many businesses seem to lose touch with customers once they have become comfortable.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
What do you get if you merge British Leyland with Mothercare?
Answer - A car with a built in rattle.
Nowadays cars work. Vacuum cleaners work. Washing machines work. Televisions work …. And so the list goes on. Anything I buy seems to work.
I would say reliability has improved beyond recognition in the last 10 years. Occasionally of course the product we buy doesn't work but I suggest that is now the exception rather than the rule.
Where am I going with this?
Well - My question is … if everything works... what is it that makes me part with my money to a particular supplier versus another?
For instance if the specification is the same for the Washing Machine and the price is the same in two shops what makes me choose one shop over another?
My feeling is it has to do with the attitude of the staff who deal with me as the customer.
The business that makes me feel special and important is the one I am likely to use and recommend. The one that does not treat me with that care will not get my future business. And of course, more importantly, I am going to tell my friends and family about the good and the bad. So when you lose one direct customer you may also be losing more because people talk.
Why do some staff in direct contact with customers give the impression that we customers are some sort of inconvenience spoiling the tranquillity of their working day?
This really is simple stuff … Isn’t it? … Or am I missing something here?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
A comment from my friend David Wike about the Jukebox on a recent Simplicity posting prompted me to think about what is my favourite single track of all time and why. That is easy for me - Amazed by Lonestar because that is a song that means a lot to Annie and me.
There are numerous other songs that I would list as favourites …. But they will never be as special as Amazed.
Here are three of my all time favourites – it’s difficult to narrow my list of hundreds!
- The Last Resort – The Eagles
- Imagine – John Lennon
- Vincent – Don McLean
I would love to hear from Simplicity readers two things:
1 Your favourite track and why
2 Three additional favourites
Sunday, October 28, 2007
‘Slightly off topic, I thought about Simplicity Blog the other day after being recommended The Last Lecture from Randy Pausch, it's a pretty incredible video! Apologies if it's been posted before' http://www.etc.cmu.edu/global_news/?q=node/42
This man Randy Pausch is quite incredible. It is very long video and I hope you get the time to look at it – it is well worth setting aside the time
And thank you again Ruth for the link.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
It brought back memories of my many hours spent as a barman earlier in my life!
This was a very nice Red Wine called Malbec 2006 from Argentina!
The NHS can do some of the work but the big solution is NOTHING TO DO WITH DOCTORS AND NURSES.
The big solution is within us all individually. I have to ask the thorny question - who are the role models for our precious young people?
I am so optimistic when I see the passion of young people for healthy activity - despite the example many adults set rather than because of it.
Why do we jump to blame others before we look in the mirror?
I am appalled for instance that some of the top people in the NHS are significantly overweight. Sorry, but that is just not the right image and smacks of hypocrisy in the extreme.
Frankly I am fed up with the blame for obesity being given to burgers from MacDonald’s – sorry but that is just a cop out from our own accountability as parents and adults.
Phew I feel so much better now ….
Friday, October 26, 2007
George is a man of principle and he really speaks his mind. Anyone - friend or enemy - who watched him take on and beat the US Senate in his evidence about the Iraq war will admit that he is a man with great experience and knowledge about the Middle East troubles. He has studied this for more than 30 years I gather.
He appeared on BBC Question Time on Thursday night. The other four panel members were overshadowed completely, not only by George’s gift of superb speaking, but also by his intimate knowledge of the Middle East.
Whether people like George Galloway or not is not the issue actually as far as I am concerned.
He is enormously popular as a working MP in his constituency in London and he is very popular on his Radio phone in programme on Talksport.
I would be very worried about picking an argument with him on the history of the Middle East and on Question Time I would say he was streets ahead of his fellow politicians on the panel as far as knowledge of the Middle East goes.
George is one of those frustrating people as far as I am concerned.
In some ways I can’t stand him and yet in other ways I admire him tremendously.
It is not as simple as right and wrong methinks.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I love that.
Some of my favourite paradoxes that brilliant leaders seem to manage easily:
*Listen but don’t listen
*Delegate like crazy – work yourself out of a job
*The best way to gain power is to let go of power
*Recruit people who are smarter than you
Any paradoxes you like?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I am a long time admirer (about 28 years) of the work of Tom Peters and I had the pleasure of meeting the Tom in person a couple of years ago on one of his all day seminars in London.
I advocate Tom’s ideas in business.
I don’t agree with everything Tom says but most of his teaching is based on cutting out complex (crap) processes, simplicity, common sense and trust in front line staff. I therefore find myself in support of most of what he says and writes.
If you ever get the chance to see Tom speak it is an opportunity not to miss.
Take a look around Tom Peters UK site. I know they are keen to have feedback about it – you can give your feedback to them by e mail email@example.com
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I enjoy reading about politicians and leaders of the day from a few decades ago.
I often let my mind wander to try and imagine whether those same people would have the same impact in the modern world.
I think many of today’s political leaders rely far too much on technology and exposure in the media to create an image.
What will people be saying about modern day leaders in 60 years time? What will history record about Tony Blair and George Bush compared with Winston Churchill and John Kennedy?
Although I am not well read about American political history I think I am right in saying that Richard Nixon was perhaps the first politician to suffer as a result of his image and how he came across on TV.
Well before the Watergate scandal, Nixon was beaten hands down in a live TV debate by the young, good looking and charismatic John Kennedy. It is argued that single TV debate went a long way toward Kennedy actually winning the Presidential Election in 1960.
The traditional view I hold is probably out of date and way behind time.
I would much rather vote for a person with humility, integrity and competence rather than someone with charisma and TV appeal. I frankly don’t care what they may look like on TV or what school they went to.
But then again I am probably just getting older ……
Monday, October 22, 2007
These quotes need no explanation – I love their simplicity.
As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
Do not look for approval except for the consciousness of doing your best.
I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle.
There is little success where there is little laughter.
There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.
You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.
Every act you have ever performed since the day you were born was performed because you wanted something.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
England lost in the World Cup final after a valiant effort and Lewis Hamilton blew his chance of winning the world F1 title in the first few laps.
Such is life - not a brilliant weekend for England sad to say.
At least Manchester United won 4-1 so there were many smiles anyway in my house!
Friday, October 19, 2007
Most of the English nation will be behind our boys tomorrow in World Cup Rugby Final against South Africa.
We have got to the final against all the odds and the predictions of all the media 'experts' but we are there. It has been a triumph for dogged determination rather than flowing attractive rugby and no one can take away the fact that England are in the Final.
No country has ever won two successive World Cup Finals and after our win in 2003 we stand on the edge of history tomorrow.
We could also see Lewis Hamilton become World Champion Formula One driver on Sunday in his first season.
What a marvellous weekend that would be for ENGLAND.
On the other hand ….. No … As an avowed optimist I refuse to think of any other scenario!!
So … Come on England! And Come on Lewis! – You can do it - We are right there with you!!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
'There is a passion in Benn's writing and speaking that far transcends the miserable aspirations of most contemporary politicians' Paul Foot, Guardian
I finally got to meet Tony Benn last night!
What a fabulous man – he spoke without notes for 40 minutes then answered questions for another 45 minutes.
The person who introduced Tony last night said, quoting from one of the reviews of his new book. 'Tony Benn is a player'
I think that is a great description of the man. Many politicans today are 'spectators' and change to suit the latest opinion poll. Paul Foot's description above is also right on the button.
Absolutely brilliant – no hesitation in his speech, no uncertainty of thought, mentally ‘sharp as a tack’ and looking great physically. Not bad for 82 years of age and 51 years as a Labour MP.
Tony retired in 2001 as an MP - as he puts it - ‘to spend more time on politics’
He is now 82 and busier than ever. He is a cult figure to young people who want to see change and he is now regarded as the most loved politician in Britain – he speaks every year at the world famous Glastonbury rock festival to thousands of young people!
He takes part in every anti-war demonstration in the UK and his diary of speaking engagements is full. He regularly appears on our national media outlets both radio and TV. Tony puts many 40 year old men to shame with his energy and passion.
Last night Annie and I went to see him speak at the Birmingham Book Festival - he was guest speaker for the week of the festival. The occasion marked the publication of his latest book – ‘More Time for Politics’ – It is really Tony’s diaries from 2001 to 2007 and I bought a copy. I've read the first few pages and it is riveting stuff, brutally honest and as you would expect from Tony, no punches pulled. I highly recommend it.
This got me thinking …
I have another 27 years before I am 82 – so I now know I have only just started!!
Tony is the best role model I have come across – his skills, talent and experience are only exceeded by his honesty, humility and integrity. If I can be remembered for my honesty, integrity and humility, that will be good enough for me.
At the end of his talk Tony said;
‘Someone asked me the other day what would I like on my tombstone … I thought ... That’s a cheerful question … I thought about it and said … All I want is ‘He encouraged us’
That is awesome and says it all about the man!