Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Photos Back!!

Double Success!!

Posting photos seems to work now with Picasa but still not with Blogger.

And Manchester United won tonight 4-0 against Watford to stay top of the Premiership and six points clear of London 'billionaires' Chelsea!

Industrial Disputes - Then and Now

I don’t know the details of the recent industrial dispute at British Airways but in a virtual discussion with a virtual friend and regular Simplicity contributor David Wike we've shared thoughts about the implications of industrial disputes in 2007 compared with a few years ago.

Let’s be frank, in the ‘old days’ an industrial dispute was a fight
It was unions against managers
It was pistols at dawn
It was daggers drawn
It was war
It was the survival of the fittest
It was ‘too hell with customers’

I think things have changed dramatically.

Nowadays because customers have so much choice they don’t really care what is happening in such disputes because the customer will merely vote with his/her feet and go somewhere else for a service that can be provided without the hassle of disruption due to some parochial argument between management and workers.

It seems to me this culture change will require a totally new approach from senior managers and leaders to sort out disputes with the CUSTOMER IN MIND FIRST rather than their own respective and relatively less important agendas.

Maybe I am wrong and I would be fascinated to hear your views.

My understanding is that many regular BA customers defected to Virgin last week because they had no other option. BA Senior Managers must surely be wondering if those customers are lost forever. Whether or not they are I wonder what BA managers have learned through this dispute.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Blog Technology Update - Still no pictures

I have just sent my 9th e-mail to Blogger Support but still I can't post photos.

So far the only reply I have had was about five days ago - a standard reply that referred me to 'known issues' and various group discussions about Blog problems. I found no one with the same problem.

Not very good customer care in my opinion.

I am a determined sort of person and I do not like to give up on these things. I am re-sending my e mail every day at least once. I figure they will eventually get fed up with me and take the trouble to reply. If not I will keep on trying. I like Blogger as a provider so I don’t want this to become a battle.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

What does this say about Britain?

I am not a massive fan of TV programme Big Brother.

But like millions of other TV viewers in Britain I am fascinated by what has been going on in the last four weeks inside that house.

Cutting to the chase I think it is very interesting that the final three housemates were all non British.

The three young British women, Jade, Jo and Danielle who were evicted earlier in the programme do not represent British women. I was frankly ashamed and appalled at their bullying of the Indian woman Shilpa who won the competition. Click here for Report.

I apologise on behalf of Britain to anyone from any other country that watched these three women bring down the reputation of all decent British women.

I hope the three of them have learned through their experience.

As a start they could try looking in a dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘dignified’

Or better still they could study Shilpa’s behaviour.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I am having problems publishing pictures on Simplicity Blog.

I have e-mailed Blogger Support to find out what the problem is. So far no reply.

I love publishing pictures as I think it adds something to the Blog - hopefully we will be back to normal soon.

‘If morale does not improve the sackings will continue’

This is what the NHS has come to.

Managers are now encouraging staff to work a day for nothing to save jobs and reduce the overspend of the NHS Trust – click here for details.
Even though Trust officials say these ideas 'came from staff' we have to understand the context. People who have a guillotine hanging over their neck are likely to suggest such things. I have to ask why the Trust is so overspent. That is not the fault of front line staff.

Is it just my suspicious mind or is there some sort of blackmail to staff in this?

Why should cleaners, porters and nurses at the front line, who have nothing whatsoever to do with how the organisation got itself into debt, have to even consider bailing out management?

I also wonder if the same Trust managers would so willingly accept a suggestion from staff having double pay for one days work if the Trust was in the black.
I somehow doubt it .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Remembering Sir Winston

On this day 42 years ago Sir Winston Churchill died at 90 years of age. Click here for more.

I was 12 in January 1965 and like all my peers I was heavily into The Beatles and the music revolution that was sweeping Britain.

Despite all that excitement I can remember well watching the funeral on our tiny black and white TV. Even though I was very young and didn’t really understand the significance of this event I just knew from my parents reaction to his death and funeral just how much they felt we owed the great man and how the whole country mourned.

Many consider Sir Winston the greatest leaders in British History. I wonder what might have happened had we not had his leadership during World War Two - What do you think?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday reflection

I change my opinion on things quite a lot.

Some managers may see this as a sign of weakness and lack of clear thinking. I prefer to believe I learn new things every day and therefore adjust my views as I pass through life learning all the time.

Just some Monday ramblings ....

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Where does FAIRNESS end and JUSTICE begin?

Recently I’ve got myself involved in lively discussions about enormous pay-offs for Chief Executives and massive earnings for celebrities in sport and entertainment. I have called for more ‘radical giving’ as described by Nicky Gumbel.

Today at Church as we marked World Leprosy Day we heard that £350 is enough to buy building materials in Africa to build one brick house. Yes £350.

Consider this against the pay-off to a Chief Executive last week of £63 million.

I repeat I am not against people getting what they deserve but come on, no one individual NEEDS a lump sum of £63 million.

Some outstanding words during today’s service that I ask you to read and consider.

Firstly ……A verse from a Hymn by F Pratt Green

‘He reminds us every sunrise that the world is ours on lease,
For the sake of life tomorrow may our love for it increase,
May all races live together, share its riches, be at peace,
May the living God be praised!’

Secondly …….A prayer for World Leprosy Day

We pray for leprosy patients around the world. Please reach out your hand to heal them. Help people with leprosy to receive treatment early so that they don’t develop injuries and disabilities. Surround those who have been rejected by their families and communities with your Love. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for The Leprosy Mission. Help them find effective solutions to the poverty and stigma associated with leprosy. Let their voices be heard as they call for change and speak out against the injustices which keep people poor. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for ourselves. Help us to look at our own lifestyles, and to make the world a better place by learning to share what we have. Help us to worship you in the way you have chosen, by setting the oppressed free. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer

We pray for world leaders and for those in positions of responsibility and authority. Help them recognise and actively seek opportunities to tackle poverty and bring about justice, so that all may live life to the full. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Friday, January 19, 2007


In my career as an NHS manager the times I enjoyed most and the times we achieved most was when I worked as manager in a close partnership with a senior doctor. As managers, whether we like it or not, we have to accept doctors have far more credibility with patients and politicians than managers ever will. I see that as a great opportunity for managers.

In my career I used to get on with the detail of day to day management and I left the leadership and 'spotlight role' as the realm of the doctor. Tactically as a manager I unashamedly ‘used’ the doctor to get over a point in any difficult argument with his peer doctors who may be resisting change. Doctors can sell a new concept to their peers far better than a manager and I was always comfortable keeping my head down leaving all that 'stuff' to the doctor.

It was also brilliant to have the support of the doctor in arguments with my own bosses which happened quite a lot. Managers in the NHS still have great respect for doctors and the more senior the doctor the more respect it seems. I used what I call the ‘credibility card’ often.

There have always been arguments about the role of doctors in management in the NHS and my view is clear. The doctors who make a positive decision to ‘do management’ make far better leaders than traditional NHS managers.

It is therefore very interesting to me that Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, just down the road from us in Solihull, recently won an award as the best hospital in the UK. Click here for details.

Why is this interesting? - Because the Chief Executive and his Deputy are both Senior Doctors.

Of course all academic researchers will tell me this does not prove anything but it is interesting don’t you think?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Greatest!

Ali's verbal sparring sessions with BBC interviewer Michael Parkinson are still fondly remembered

Ali meetsThe Beatles before his world title showdown with Liston

My greatest sporting hero is Muhammad Ali and today we celebrate Ali’s 65th birthday.

It seems only a ‘blink of the eye ago’ when my Dad would wake me up in the early hours of the morning in the early 1960’s to listen with Dad on a crackly radio reception to BBC Radio commentary of early fights live from America of Cassius Clay - as he was then – against the likes of Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson.

The picture montage on the BBC Website at this link – click here – show the great man at his awesome best

Wonderful memories of two great men Muhammad Ali and of course my late beloved Dad.

10 Great 'Ali' Quotes:

‘Frazier is so ugly that he should donate his face to the US Bureau of Wild Life.’

‘It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.’

‘I'm the most recognized and loved man that ever lived cuz there weren't no satellites when Jesus and Moses were around, so people far away in the villages didn't know about them.’

‘Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong.’

‘I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.’

‘If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize.’

‘To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich.’

‘The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.’

‘We have one life; it soon will be past; what we do for God is all that will last.’

And finally …what else but …

‘When you are as great as I am it is hard to be humble.’

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Skype TV Next?

I am not a technology expert.

In fact I am pretty useless understanding technical aspects of the modern technology. I just love using the stuff.

We use SKYPE regularly and have free internet phone calls with friends in America, Spain, Canada and of course back home here in Britain. These are a mixture of business and personal calls. We can have up to four people on line all over the world for conference calls and it is all free through SKYPE. Yes I said FREE!

Please don’t ask me to explain how it works - I don't know - just take my word for it. If you need to be convinced just download the software free at this site(click here) and try it yourself.

Anyway... moving on ...

It seems now that SKYPE are getting into Television and although this report (click here) on the BBC News website says that it probably won’t catch on I am not so sure.

I think we should watch that space ... my money is on SKYPE making a success of it.

Who knows I may be able to watch telly on my PC while I am working!! .. Yes I know I should get out more.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fair or Unfair? - That is the question

Lord Brown - £63 million quid richer.

There have been a number of interesting discussions on Tom Peters Blog about many massive pay offs there have been recently in the business word for Chief Executives of failing or failed companies. Many pay offs come after disastrous company performance and this causes mixed feelings from observers about the merits of paying someone for … lets face it ‘screwing up.’

I was therefore interest to read this Daily Mail story last week (click here) about Lord Brown, Chief Executive of BP who was paid off last week with the paltry amount of £63million. I guess that will just about enable Lord Brown not to worry too much about where his next meal is to come form.
I understand Lord Brown has spent his whole career at BP and I am pretty sure from what I have read that he did a great job earlier in his career. The fact remains that under his leadership the ‘wheels have come off’ and BP share price and profits have tumbled.

Two questions to Simplicity readers:

1 Is it fair CEO's get pay-offs when company results are poor?

2 Do you think this amount (£63 million) is reasonable or not?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

'Google' trust their staff.

Professor Gary Hamel

I'm unashamedly carrying on the theme of a previous Simplicity post about how - as managers - we must learn to TRUST our front line staff.

I was reminded of a talk I heard from Professor Gary Hamel in November 2005.

Professor Hamel is a superb speaker and he told us - among other things – about some of the policies of Google as a ‘new kid on the block’ company in the world of modern business.

Apparently Google allows all staff 20% of their week to do whatever they want to do. That is one day a week for those folks who work a five day week.

Google take the view it is likely staff will do something interesting and that in turn will bring benefit to the company.

And who in their right mind would argue that Google have got it wrong in the last five years?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Good Luck 'Becks'

It seems David Beckham has signed a 5 year deal from August 2007 to play football for LA Galaxy in America after a glittering career in England and Spain as well as being captain of England’s national team.

He is reportedly being paid 1 million dollars per week for five years.

Click here for details

I say good luck to David. I am not sure anyone is worth that sort of money but David Beckham is more than a footballer – he is a Brand. He has become a smart business man with good advisers.

As I have said many times on my Blog I am a Manchester United fanatic and 'Becks' was one of the ‘boys’ to come through Manchester United’s youth policy under Sir Alex Ferguson in the early 1990’s along with the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and many others.

David Beckham has always been a dedicated professional in his chosen profession and stories of his intensive football practice are legendary. He has worked hard to achieve what he has done in football.

The only thing that bugs me slightly is that while David is taking a wage of over 50 million dollars per year people are dying at the rate of 20,000 per day – mainly children – due to poverty.

Sometime I wonder about things but David Beckham does a lot of good work for charities and is at least putting back some of his personal wealth to help those less fortunate than him.

As always I will be fascinated to see comments.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Eureka! - Managers should be judged by OUTCOMES!

Today as a break from work in mid-afternoon, Annie and I decided to go to the gym for a 5k run and a swim. I needed to get away from the PC having spent too many hours in front of the screen.

As I was swimming I thought to myself I would not be able to do this in my previous life as a healthcare manager. I would have to be at the desk. That is what was expected by my bosses and the system I worked in.

As I swam I had one of those ‘Eureka’ moments realising that the best way to be judged about our effectiveness as a manager should be based on OUTCOME rather than any of the following;

  • The number of hours we work per day.

  • The time of the day we work.

  • The number of days we work per week.

I now realise now how crazy those measurement of our effectiveness are.

After 27 months of self employment the penny has suddenly dropped for me. My clients (customers) are only interested in OUTCOMES for their investment in me. They quite rightly have no interest in how many hours I work or when I work those hours. All they are concerned about is that I deliver what I have said I will do for the price we have agreed. It seems they trust me to do the number of hours it takes to do the job on time.

Many managers might suggest what I am saying is only possible because I am independent, freelance and self employed and I work mostly single-handed. I can hear many of my former colleagues muttering, ‘That sort of flexibility is just not possible in a big organisation – we cannot simply allow people to have that freedom of choice about when they work. That is anarchy.’

My answer to that type of statement is simple – Why can we not allow people to be trusted in big organisations because it is simply about trust?

We have to ask the leaders in our organisations WHY they will not allow managers and staff freedom of choice about the hours they work and why we cannot develop payment systems based solely on OUTCOMES.

A few years ago I would probably have thought it was pie in the sky that we can allow people to determine their own hours and allow them to be judged solely on outcomes. Now I would recommend it fully for ANY job with ‘Manager’ in the title.

The only thing that hours per week prove is that the person is at the desk for those hours – it has nothing whatsoever to do with effectiveness of the person.

I am probably in a minority among managers in the UK but who knows – maybe I will be surprised.

Monday, January 08, 2007

You don’t need to shout

Another extract from 'I Wanna Tell You a Story'

‘None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves’ - C.H. Spurgeon, 1834 - 1892

One evening many years ago I was manager on call for my hospital and at around 7 pm the phone rang. It was the switchboard to tell me the fire alarm was going off. I drove to the hospital thinking that as usual this would be another false alarm.

I arrived and was met by a less common situation in that there was a genuine problem. One of the evening cleaners had unfortunately forgotten she had left a pot of water boiling on a hot plate and the water had boiled dry causing the pan to become extremely hot and eventually smoke had begun to emerge thus activating the smoke detectors and setting off the fire alarm. The local fire brigade complete with two engines blue lights flashing and sirens screaming had arrived on the scene to quickly confirm there was no serious damage and all was returning to calm. The poor cleaner was very upset that her oversight had caused such a commotion and I could not help feeling sorry for her. As calm was restored the catering manager who had been called out from home too arrived on the scene. She was a stern woman who, upon surveying the scene and hearing what had happened, proceeded to launch into what I can only describe as a tirade of abuse aimed at the cleaner. The manager accused her of gross inefficiency and stupidity for allowing this incident to happen. Let’s be honest this was not what the cleaner wanted to hear. She was already clearly upset and feeling guilty and then to have this telling off sent her over the edge and she burst into tears. Now we had a situation that was distressing for the few people gathered in the immediate area and caused much embarrassment. The
memory of that incident is still vivid in my head and it taught me many things about managing people.

When people have made a mistake the last thing they need to be reminded of in an aggressive way is that they have made that mistake and thereby made to feel like some immature cretin with no intelligence.

Of course there is clearly a time and a place for a ticking off when merited. As adults, and particularly as managers, with responsibility for managing people, we should surely understand and indeed have empathy with people who make genuine mistakes that do not amount to gross negligence.

I believe that when people have made a mistake they will invariably ‘punish’ themselves enough without the need for some arrogant and uncaring manager to rub salt in the wounds by balling them out in public.

Leadership Lesson

You don’t need to shout – people know when they have made a mistake.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The "Three 'Cs" of Team Selection

One of the most important skills of a leader is the selection of the right people in the team they lead.

In my career as a manager in health care the times I felt most comfortable with my team was when I was allowed the freedom to select the people in my team rather than 'inheriting' people already there. In the NHS it is often not possible to have that 'blank piece of paper' because managers move into jobs where the team is already in place and well established.

I am reading a great book at the moment called Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

Bill has been the leader of a team for thirty years and over these years he has come up with - through practical experience of recruiting team members and developing teams - his own his own model called The "Three 'Cs" of Team Selection.

I love Bill's model and recommend it for many reasons not least its simplicity.

Bill says he looks for the following in the order shown when recruiting team members:

Character - integrity, honesty, sincerity, professionalism and values

Competence - can this person actually do the job?

Chemistry - will this person fit in with leader and with team members?

Obviously I have summarised for the sake of brevity but I endorse this method as a rule of thumb for any leader recruiting a team member.

For anyone interested in leadership I also highly recommend Courageous Leadership as a 'must read' for 2007!

So much for planning in the NHS

For an organisation that employs so many managers and accountants supposedly responsible for planning, how come the NHS can get it so wrong - click here to see the BBC report called 'Shortage of NHS staff Predicted'

And don't forget at the moment we are seeing NHS staff being made redundant .... another soap opera script beckons.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

How the mighty are fallen! - goodbye to the Ashes.

Less than 18 months ago we were over the moon as the England cricket team beat the Aussies to win 'The Ashes' for the first time in living memory. This famous victory led to street parties and we probably got a bit too heady with the wonderful feeling of beating our oldest rivals Australia.

We should have known what was going to happen and as I type this on Thursday evening at 11.15 p.m. England are about to lose the current test series in Australia 5-0. A complete whitewash that has been embarrassing for England fans.

The England team has been pathetic quite frankly. They look ill-prepared and the selections have been a disaster with some crazy decisions by the management.

It proves to me yet again something I have always believed in the world of management and leadership. That is the time to concentrate and do your homework even more is when things are going well for you; otherwise you can become arrogant and then complacency and over confidence sets in and someone comes along and metaphorically punches you on the nose!

Well done Australia – you fully deserved your victory – as a team you were ‘together’ and looked like you really wanted this victory and England did not.

The best team (by a mile) won.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sir Alex tops golden oldies poll

As we enter 2007 my team Manchester United sits proudly at the top of the English Premiership 6 points ahead of mega-rich Chelsea who have won the Premiership for the last two seasons.

The United manager Sir Alex Ferguson reached 65 years of age on New Year’s Eve and he is still going strong with no sign of wishing to retire. Good luck to him – he is doing as much as anyone, by example, to rid us of age discrimination.

There are many factors that go into making Sir Alex the most successful British football manager. Not least his incredible work ethic and dedication.

I love the story told by Peter Schmeichel ex-goalkeeper at Manchester United. Apparently Schmeichel was the most dedicated player when it came to the daily drudge of training. Schmeichel says he was always the first player to arrive in his car at the training ground – often around 6.30 am. He says that Sir Alex’s car was already there every day and as Schmeichel says ‘The bonnet of Sir Alex car was already cold.’

I do not believe in overnight success as I have often written. One of the greatest qualities of great leaders is hard work and maintaining that work ethic when you have apparently reached the top of your profession.

Good health and good luck to Sir Alex and Manchester United for 2007.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Have a Simplicity 2007!

Happy New Year!