Friday, December 28, 2007

Annie and I go for a post-Christmas walk

Hope you like our hats!

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

Shopping types

Annie and I today took part in our annual bravery challenge and survived.

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

2007 - A great year

Nicky Gumbel

Tony Benn

Professor George Giarchi

Sebastian and Reece

My beloved Annie

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.

Fork Handles!

I read today that the original script for the classic TV sketch featuring the Two Ronnies was sold at auction for £48,500.

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

Best Book of 2007?

What's the best book you've read in 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

How to deal with telesales calls

If you, like me, get fed up with telesales calls why not try this?

Monday, December 17, 2007

An old chestnut!

I have posted about this before but things don’t improve.

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

Age - No Barrier

I’ve been giving thought to age discrimination.

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

Keep Busy

I’m sure there are times when you feel like you and a few others are the only people doing the work for your club, your church, your department or even your organisation, whilst others are content to keep their heads down and seemingly do very little.

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

'Not Invented Here'

I was working in the North West of England on Wednesday as a facilitator at a large consultation event for the North West National Health Service.

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

The joys of Christmas shopping

Here are your Christmas Shopping choices:

Choice 1

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.

Choice 2

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

A trip to London

The spectacular Canary Wharf, London

I spoke to a group of 25 dentists in London on Thursday evening about the value of patient feedback leading to improvements in services.

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.

As regular readers of Simplicity Blog will know I am a great fan of TB. I realise I am now in a great minority - but hey come on – that has often been true of my opinions so why change the habit of a lifetime of being in a minority?!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

NO! - It need not be 'just the way it is.'

As a customer one of the most annoying statements I hear is;

‘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

Marketing - out of touch?

Like everyone I get loads of junk mail through my letter box in the mail. There is always more of this stuff in newspapers or magazines that I buy.

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

In the 'Simplicity' Top Ten!

I am thrilled that my Simplicity Blog has entered the top 10 if you feed in the word ‘Simplicity’ to a Google search worldwide.

There are almost 49 million hits for the word 'Simplicity' so to get into the top 10 gives me a good feeling.

here to see the proof.

Maybe Simplicity is catching on!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Job Interviews - Useful or Not?

I’ve got myself involved in discussions about the recruitment of the next England football team manager.

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?