Saturday, December 31, 2005

Calling all Hillbillies!!

Another new Blog to report as we end 2005.

This time it is run by my friend Rocky Noe in Kentucky, USA.

Please visit Hillbilly PhD and give Rocky your support


Friday, December 30, 2005

Two New Links

I am pleased to promote two new links.

Car Hunt is a new small business here in the West Midlands. You can visit the Web site at this link

‘Great Leaders’ - is a new Blog started by my friend Brian Ward in Edmonton, Canada. – see link

Please visit both and tell your friends.

Both the people involved in setting up these sites are trying to make a real difference though their own hard work. I hope you can help them by spreading the word.

I have added both sites to my ‘Links’ on the right hand side of Simplicity Blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Time to Reflect

In my experience the time between Christmas and the New Year is usually quiet and can offer us time to reflect about the previous year.

The last 12 months has been an incredible time given events like the Tsunami, the London Bombings, the Earthquake in Pakistan, the floods in New Orleans. England won the Ashes against Australia. London won the right to host the Olympic Games in 2012. George Best died.

These are just a few big news stories of the year. World headlines I suppose you would say.

Equally important have been individual events for all of us that make no real impact on the world stage but nevertheless they have massive effects on the individual.

For instance many people will have lost a loved one during 2005. This is perhaps therefore a good time to remember those who have just spent their first Christmas without the person they loved. The New Year celebrations that are about to happen will not have quite the same excitement for such people.

Maybe in the midst of our celebrations we can say a short prayer for those people who will be missing someone they loved.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

And so this is christmas

Best wishes to all who
visit Simplicity Blog

A love filled Christmas
to you all. Relax and

Thank you all for your brilliant support to my Simplicity Blog during 2005.

I started the Blog nervously in January 2005 with little idea whether or not it would be popular but thanks to the fantastic support of regular contributors and new visitors I have been staggered by the links my Blog has created all over the world.

I have watched Simplicity Blog develop well from its early stumbling beginning and I look forward to keeping in contact with the many new virtual friends I have made in far away places as well as those folks closer to home in good old Britain.

2005 has been a fabulous learning year and I look forward to 2006 with optimism and plenty more communication through Simplicity Blog.

Here’s to a Blogging New Year Says I

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Manchester United's
Park Ji-Sung scores his
first goal for the club
with a sweet strike to
make it 2-0
Sir Alex Ferguson showing
his delight as his side make
the semi-finals

There's only one Man United!!

Last night (Tuesday) I had the great pleasure to watch my beloved Manchester United play for the first time in over 10 years. United played Birmingham City and won 3-1 in the quarter final of the Carling Cup competition.

A Report of the match can be seen at this link;

The last time I saw United live was at Wembley Stadium in the early 1990's and they lost that League Cup Final to Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.

Last night was wonderful. It was freezing but Annie and I had both wrapped up well with many layers of clothes and even a hot water bottle. The coffee from the flask at half time was very welcome and I resisted the temptation to buy a burger.

We sat among the Birmingham City fans and therefore I had to control my great desire to stand up and scream with joy as United scored three goals in the first 20 minutes of the second half.

There were 20,500 fans watching and it was fabulous to see United select many of their younger players - less well known maybe than some of the big stars but youngsters are always hungry for success.

The United travelling fans were tremendous and recited songs about George Best and Eric Cantona - two great heroes of Manchester United's past. The fans were good humoured and it made for a cracking atmosphere which seemed to be enjoyed by both sets of fans. All in all a great testimony to English football.

Some media people and supposed experts are writing off Sir Alex Ferguson the United Manager because the team have struggled earlier this season. I think Sir Alex is successfully building a new team and the youngsters who played last night were skilful, professional, hungry, competitive and they played some lovely one touch football.

I say never under-estimate Sir Alex.

Thank you Annie for coming to the match with me – that made it even more special.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Soft is Hard

I have become involved in a fascinating Blog discussion with my friend Sriram in Hong Kong about the merits of ’soft’ and 'hard' approaches to leadership and management. Sriram's excellent Blog is at this link

It made me think about this subject quite a lot. It is an interesting topic that is very close to my heart. I have always believed ‘Soft’ can definitely be ‘Hard.’ I worked in the NHS for 35 years and at various times in my career;

  • I was told I was too soft as a manager - I should be harder
  • I was told my heart ruled my head too often
  • I was told I did not have the ruthlessness needed to reach the top
  • I was told I was too close to the staff I manage
  • I was told I was too close to patients and their carers
  • I was told I was too easy going
  • I was told that I was idealistic
  • I was told I was too trusting of people.

I would probably agree with all those things said about me.

However with time to now reflect about that list I would rather be remembered for those 8 qualities then a list of the opposite 8 qualities;

  • Too hard
  • Head always rules heart
  • Ruthless
  • Distant and removed from staff
  • Distant and removed from customers
  • Inflexible
  • Pessimistic
  • Miss trusting of people
I have never accepted one has to be ruthless and hard to be successful. Just because one is concerned about other people; fairness; integrity; and the other ‘softer’ stuff does not mean one cannot at the same time, be decisive and consistent. There is a balance to be found.

I also think the qualities in the first list do not mean that you cannot be ‘tough when the going gets tough’. I am happy to receive counter arguments on this. I will carry on being driven by the items on list one – it has stood me in good stead for my life so far.

We all have strengths and preferred styles – mine happens to be more on the softer side. There is always a risk that people will take advantage of good nature but I remain optimistic and trusting.

The greatest leader I have ever met is also the most humble and ‘soft’ person I have ever met. His concern is always for people.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Dr Alan Merson

How old!!!?????

Dr Alan Merson is 83 years old and he is still working as a GP (Family Doctor) after 57 years at the same practice.

In these days when we are led to believe the retirement age may be raised to 67 this story creates a refreshing view of the older person. Older people are often portrayed as helpless and in need of support. Dr Merson is doing his bit to dispel the myth that as we get older it is time to slow down; curl up; and prepare for our final farewell!

Good on you Dr Merson - I hope you will go on for a few more years yet.

Using him as a role model I have another 30 years of work to look forward to and that should be enough time to finish the six books I have started reading in the last month or two!

Leadership - An Art or a Science?

I have always been interested in the different views of leadership.

Some people believe leadership is a science and some believe it is an art. My view has always been that it is a balance of the two though I believe it is more of an art than a science.

Over the weekend whilst reading the excellent ‘Searching Issues’ by Nicky Gumbel I came across a nice and simple rule of thumb to help us differentiate between the objective (the science) and the subjective (the art). Although the book is not about leadership I think this rule can be applied to the leadership debate.

He says the scientific (objective) is about; The How? and the When?

He says the art (subjective) is about; The Why? and the Who?

I like it and if you think about it this says it all really in four words.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thinking about Carers at Christmas

One of my passions is to increase awareness of and support to informal carers.

Carers are family members (or friends) who provide care to someone suffering from an illness or disability. They are unpaid. Carers do this from a sense of duty and obligation but more importantly from a sense of love for the person they look after.

Although awareness of the needs of carers has increased in the last 30 years there is still a great deal of ignorance about how much care is provided by carers and how little support they receive.
The word ‘carer’ did not even appear in English dictionaries before 1970.

It is estimated that unpaid Carers in the UK save the Government about £57 billion per year. I have often said that if carers withdrew their labour today the Government would be bankrupt immediately. At this emotional time of the year I hope we can all stop and think for a moment about carers.

It would be great if readers of Simplicity Blog would point friends and colleagues to the Carers UK Web Site and spend a little time reading some of the information.

These words were written by a carer in a newsletter I received recently - pretty powerful I think;

Carers Wish List

I wish:

I could watch a television programme all the way through
I could go to bed when I want to and sleep through the night
I could get up when I want to
I could do something on the spur of the moment
I didn’t have to watch the clock for tablets and toileting
I didn’t have to worry all the time about the person I care for
I wish things could be as they were.

Thanks to Chris Young, caring for her husband.

Your next station is .. or words to that effect!!

I know I should really get out more when minor things get me irritated.

One such thing is having an announcer on a train who speaks in a muffled voice and very quickly so that - despite having perfect hearing - I cannot understand a word.

Two questions:

Am I the only one who notices these things?
Is there a language that I did not learn at school but everyone else knows?

We have surely reached a point when it is not beyond the wit of man (or woman) to simply have someone from the train staff team to listen to the announcer and tell that person - in the kindest way possible - that they cannot be understood! This is not rocket science.

It just seems absolutely pointless having a passenger announcement service on a train that the passengers can’t hear or understand. Maybe I am missing something.

Simple really – so why can it not be sorted out?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Keep Fit Granny

Sorry not to have posted anything for a few days on my Simplicity Blog.

Christmas beckons and like everyone else our life has been busy.

Annie and I have been on some retail therpay trips and the plastic is taking a pounding.

I will be 'up and running again' in a day or so but in the meantime enjoy this little light relief....

It's important to keep fit as you get older; my granny started walking 5 kilometres a day when she was 60. Today she's 97 and we don't know where the hell she is!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Corporate Social Responsibility – I hope we are serious!

I have just started reading about something called Corporate Social Responsibility. It seems I am a bit behind many people on this.

My limited understanding is that the ‘penny has finally dropped’ that running a business is NOT JUST ABOUT PROFITS. The best definition of Corporate Social Responsibility I have found was in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph;

‘The acknowledgement by companies that they should be accountable not only for their financial performance, but also for the impact of their activities on society and/or the environment. Striking a balance is all important.’

I think it is a wonderful aspiration that we should all aim for. I look forward to see what money is ploughed back into society by all the big companies. I have detected in the last few years a much more responsible position being taken by Tesco for instance with their continuing support to cause such as Cancer and there are many examples such as the Body Shop and Virgin of massive companies who plough millions of pounds back into good causes in the UK as well as overseas.

There is something very good about this initiative and the inter-dependence between society and business underpins it. It is perhaps appropriate that I post something about this at the time of the year too.

I love the idea and my biggest concern is that managers, academics and management consultants will turn this wonderful idea into an unnecessarily complicated process – lets keep it simple and then we all win.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Survey Failure

Many jokes and chain e-mails in my Inbox end up in the trash can.

This was received from Karen - one of Annie's friends and was worth keeping and sharing methinks. I hope you find it as interesting and amusing as we did. Thank you Karen.

Last month, the U.N. conducted a worldwide survey.

The only question asked was:"Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to World Food shortages?"

The survey was a huge failure:

  • In Eastern Europe they didn't know what 'honest' meant.
  • In Western Europe they didn't know what 'shortage' meant.
  • In Africa they didn't know what 'food' meant.
  • In Eastern China they didn't know what 'opinion' meant.
  • In the Middle East they didn't know what 'solution' meant.
  • In South America they didn't know what 'please' meant.
  • And of course, In the USA, they didn't know what 'rest of the world' meant.

Monday, December 05, 2005

John Lennon on love

Annie and I listened on BBC Radio Four, to an interview recorded in 1970 featuring John Lennon.

It was a terrific programme with some remarkable insights into the genius that was Lennon. Below is an extract about his description of the love between himself and Yoko Ono. There can surely be no more powerful way of expressing love for someone else;

“She (Yoko) can turn me on to a million things. I can be alone without Yoko – I just have no wish to be. There is no reason on earth why I should be alone. There is nothing more important than our relationship. Nothing. We dig being together all the time and both of us could survive apart but what for? I’m not going to sacrifice love, real love, for any whore, or any friend, or any business, because in the end you are alone at night and neither of us want to be. You can’t fill the bed with groupies – it doesn’t work. I don’t want to be a swinger. I’ve been through it all and nothing works better than having someone you love hold you.” - John Lennon

Extract from Jann Wenner's seminal 1970 New York interview with Lennon

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Final Farewell to George

I hope regular visitors to my Simplicity Blog can tolerate just one final reference from me to my soccer hero George Best.

Today was a very sad day for me as the funeral took place – it was an amazing service – televised live by the BBC.

Anyone watching the coverage will - I guarantee - have had at least one moment in the service when a tear appeared. I cried at two points – one when George’s son Callum read a poem and then when George’s sister gave a touching and very moving tribute to George, her brother.

We tend to forget that although George was a sporting superstar known all over the world, he was also a member of a broken hearted family.

The great news is George is now at peace with God and soccer stadiums in Heaven will be full from now on.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Nicky Gumbel
Author of the book
'Searching Issues'


I got involved recently in a discussion with a friend about imitation of Management Gurus. Tom Peters is the best Management Guru as far as I am concerned and there are some poor imitations who are just that – imitations.

Tom Peters has worked for over 25 years to establish his reputation as the worlds leading Management Guru - he is no 'overnight flash in the pan.' It has been hard work with a lot of metaphorical blood, sweat and tears!

I prefer to listen to or read the original person but sad to say there are those who make a living and something of a reputation by copying the original. I guess that is sadly true in all walks of life.

Of course we all know there are very few genuinely original thinkers. Indeed most progress has come about in our development by building on the ideas of others and I have no problem with that. We all do it.

What really annoys me is when someone’s original work is not only copied but the person copying it does so blatantly without even crediting the originator of that work.

I am reading a wonderful book at the moment called Searching Issues by Nicky Gumbel and Nicky uses a wonderful analogy to illustrate the difference between the New Age Movement and Christianity.

I suggest we can use this example in the world of business, management or indeed any walk of life when discussing counterfeits. My opinion is we should try to be ourselves whilst of course learning from the people we admire most and even take 'bits of them' for yourself - but always remain your own person and make your own unique mark on the world.

Anyway .. Enough of my ramblings ..This is what Nicky says in the book …I hope you like it;

The way to spot a counterfeit is to know the real thing really well. Caryl Matrisciana uses a helpful analogy

‘Mum’s been working at the bank for over a year’ my friend Chris told me ‘and she’s been getting the most amazing education.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘She’s been learning all about money.’

‘I guess she’d have to know about money if she’s going to work in a bank’ I laughed.

Chris smiled. ‘I mean she’s really learning about money. They are teaching her to know the colour of each bill, the size of it, even the way its water marked. They are showing her the details of the inks and papers.’

‘How do they teach her?’

‘Well they just keep having her handle it. They point out all the various things they want her to remember. But they figure the more she works with money, feels it, counts it, and stacks it, the more familiar it’ll be to her.’

‘That makes sense I suppose. But what’s the point?’

‘Here’s the point. Yesterday they blindfolded her. They slipped a couple of counterfeit bills in her stack of money. She picked them out by touch.’

‘So she’s studying counterfeit money too then?’

'No … that’s just it. The people at the bank know that a person doesn’t need to study the counterfeits.’

‘I see. But it seems as if they’re going to a lot of trouble. Doesn’t it?’

‘Not really. The bank knows that the counterfeits are getting better and better, more and more sophisticated. And it’s been proved a thousand times over that if a bank teller knows the real money extremely well, he can’t be fooled by the counterfeit.’

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Professor Charles Handy.
Sorry but I could not find
a picture of Mrs Elizabeth

The New Alchemists

I’ve have just finished reading ‘The New Alchemists’ by Charles and Elizabeth Handy

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Professor Handy speak in Birmingham. I was impressed by his knowledge and experience as well as his relaxed style and delivery. His use of metaphor is wonderful. I was not surprised therefore to find this book very readable.

It describes the attributes of 29 Alchemists – innovative people that Mr and Mrs Handy interviewed.

The book reminds us that it is not always easy to understand and accommodate people who ‘rock the corporate boat.’

This book emhasised something I have always believed - that in order to survive and develop our businesses and organisations we must find ways of not only accepting and celebrating people who are ‘different’ - but as Professor Handy himself says we must ‘grow more alchemists.’

All the people interviewed have been successful in areas where they were in control and I have no doubt all of them would be desperately unhappy to work in an environment where their innovative ways are not welcome. They would leave very quickly methinks.

The book is written in engaging language and the photographs that were taken by Elizabeth Handy are wonderful. Mr and Mrs Handy obviously make an excellent team.

I highly recommended this book.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Simplicity thought for the day

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. - Confucius

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Football fans pay tribute to George Best

At Old Trafford, Manchester, the football home of George Best, all sorts of tributes have been left on the pavement.

Friday, November 25, 2005


George Best died at 12.55 pm today Friday 25 November 2005

A sad day for millions of football fans throughout the world and most of all for his family.

The joy he brought to millions will never be forgotten.

We should celebrate his life ...and now ... his peace with God.

A sad day

It is 9.35 am Friday here in England

Today is very sad for me as my greatest football hero George Best is about to die - the doctors have said it is only hours now.

George is fighting but there is no hope according to his doctors.

It is wonderful that God will welcome 'home' another of his sons in George Best ...
but on earth all true football fans will have a tear in their eye and sadness in their heart today.

George's early and tragic demise has been brought about by many years of drinking so perhaps the greatest irony is that George Best is slipping away on the first day of extended drinking hours in England.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Never Assume

I have often made the mistake of assuming. Life has taught me my assumptions are often flawed. I hope I am getting better as I get older.

This was brought into my mind at Church last Sunday when the Minister was asking us not to be judgmental about people who are less fortunate than us – for example homeless people and those sleeping rough. In fact the Minister used a wonderful expression;

‘Whether a man sleeps on a pavement or in a palace they are both sons of God and equal in his eyes.’

Assumptions and judgments were best brought home to me many years ago when a friend told me this true story.

A man in his early thirties was on a train journey with two young children of about 5 and 6 years of age who were running around. They were out of control; they were loud; and generally making a nuisance of themselves, much to the annoyance of the other passengers. There was a tense atmosphere but no one said anything until one man got so angry that he felt he just had to say something to the man who seemd to be oblivious to what was going on and 'miles away' mentally. He told the man he was not a responsible parent; he told him that he should control the children; they were very annoying and making the journey a misery for everyone. It was very inconsiderate not to control them.

The man looked at the person and apologised with tears in his eyes saying "Yes you are quite right I am so sorry – it is just that we are traveling back home from the funeral of my wife – their mother, and I guess they are finding it all very difficult at the moment.”

Ouch!!! - Like all of us - the person who complained wished a hole would appear so that he could just fall in!

Never assume – it will make an ASS out of U and ME

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Simplicity - a definition

The following quote was given to me yesterday by my good friend Roger (Rocky) Noe from Kentucky, USA. You can read more about Rocky here

"Simplicity is the sign of true greatness and meekness is the sign of true strength."

I am not sure where he found that or if it was his original but thank you anyway Rocky much appreciated

This prompted me to search for other definitions of Simplicity - here are my top 3:

  • Clarity of expression
  • Absence of affectation or pretense
  • Austerity in embellishment

Any other offers?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Please say a prayer for George

George Best is my greatest football hero. George has not lived a pure life and I hope God will answer the millions of prayers for George and give him yet another chance as he fights his greatest battle.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Simplicity question of the week

We had an interesting
What do you
think I am doing here on
Saturday night?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Is change easier to accept when you let the past die?

Of course it is wonderful to remember things in our past that bring back a warm inner glow.

For those things we would rather forget, I am attracted to this quotation that came through my inbox this week.

‘All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one other life before we can enter into another’ - Anatole France (1881)

So often in both my life and my management career the people who seem able to adapt best to change are those who do not feel a need to hold on to the past and ‘how things used to be around here.’

These people seem prepared to allow the ‘old situation to die and allow the ‘new situation ‘to be reborn. I am not talking about whether a change is a good change or not but the concept of how to deal with and accept inevitable change.

On balance, my feeling is that it is best to allow the old situation to die.

What do you think?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Felix Gerena

The Life Cycle of the Creative Soul

My friend Felix Gerena is an Innovation Consultant in the Basque Country.

Felix has been successful in getting his Manifesto - Life Cycle of the Creative Soul published. You can read the Manifesto at

Felix also has a Blog called Brand Soul and this is always worth a visit

Felix is a very intelligent man with great knowledge of management, leadership, and branding among other things.

I feel lucky to exchange regular ideas and writings with Felix.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

'Boys with Toys' and all that .....

You have to understand I am a man of a certain age where all this technology is still something of a novelty. The expression ‘Boys with Toys’ comes to mind :-)

It seems every day I am amazed by the potential of modern communication methods through technology - even if the language of the geeks leaves me cold and confused.

I have just registered with an organisation
that provides me with feedback about visits to Simplicity Blog. I find all this really exciting – and yes I know I should get a life!

For instance among the last 100 visitors to Simplicity are people from the following 17 countries:

United Kingdom, France, Spain, India, America, Belgium, Pakistan, Australia, Japan, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary and Argentina.

I can get all sorts of information from my provider including visits per hour, per day, per week, per month, per year and predictions for the same periods based on current usage. I even get a world map graphic with dots showing the location of the last 100 visitors!

I understand that Simplicity Blog has an average of 55 visitors per day and the average length of visit is 1.25 minutes

I guess the information is only really of interest to me as the owner of Simplicity Blog but my point is how fantastic that I can have easy and free access to this information.

We have to ask ourselves about privacy and ‘big brother’ I guess, but to me it is just wonderful - I see all this as an opportunity rather than a threat..

Information such as this is useful for me to know and can help me change the Blog content if I see a change in the trends of visits.

Oh well … just thought I would share that …. The numbers people may be interested. I am not a numbers person actually but it does fascinate me.

Do you think I should get out more?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Latest Simplicity Mantra

I have often said there is no such thing as an overnight success. I believe success comes from years of hard work.

So I have been thinking ....and my latest Simplicity mantra is;
  • Have faith in your own ability;
  • Have humility;
  • Have hope;
  • Never boast;
  • Allow time;
  • Never give up;
  • Always do your homework.

Do these things and you can honestly say you did your best.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sweet Dreams are made of this?

We had a great time at my daughters wedding and for a while we had the pleasure of looking after Sebastian my grandson. Annie took this snap :-)

Friday, November 11, 2005

We must always remember them

As we passed Westminster
Cathedral hundreds of forces
men gathering for a service.
Some things make us proud
to be British and very humble.

Four Old British Monuments

Big Ben
Houses of Parliament
The London Eye

Happy Days

We have been really busy for the last couple of weeks and I have been a bit slow at posting new Simplicity thoughts.

Yesterday Annie and I were in London running another Trust Me I’m a Patient workshop at a major health care conference at the Queen Elizabeth Second Conference Centre in Westminster (see pictures above) and that also meant a lot of preparation.

As a result Simplicity Blog has not had the regular care and attention in the last ten days that I normally like to give it!!

Next week I hope to be back to something resembling normality - whatever 'normality' means anymore.

To add to the pace of things my daughter Nadine is getting married tomorrow to Laurie, her partner in love and life so Annie and I are traveling to Devon this afternoon for another significant event.

I hope to publish some wedding photos on Simplicity Blog next week.

After the birth to Nadine of my first grandson Sebastian in April her wedding is yet another reminder that Nadine is only ‘my little girl’ in my head!!!!!

Have a great weekend and always keep it simple.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

World Class Thinking to the Power of Four

On Thursday and Friday last week I was fortunate to be one of 900 delegates at a very high profile business conference in the International Convention Centre, Birmingham.

The two day event was called "World Class Thinking to the Power of Four" and the four speakers due to attend were Charles Handy, Gary Hamel, Michael Porter and Tom Peters.

Sadly Tom Peters had a health scare and was not allowed to attend by his doctor. Tom was told that he should not take the flight from America to England.
Happily he is now well.

The conference was excellent and Tom's replacement Jonas Riddersdrale from Sweden was an excellent substitute.

Events such as this always give me food for thought - an opportunity to listen to the' great and the good' and learn about how close, or far off my own thinking is! It was well worth going and I came away with lots of thoughts and ideas that I hope will influence my thinking .

My quick feedback summary of the event follows – not everyone who was there will agree me what the hell – that sounds like life!

Prfessor Gary Hamel – excellent and entertaining talk. Very slick, well argued and delivered at a good pace with plenty of specific examples about change and the pace of things.

Professor Michael Porter – obviously excellent technically but I have to say not my favourite topic – I am not a strategy man – I am more of a 'get on with it pragmatist.' He is very knowledgeable and many will have found his session inspiring – I nearly fell asleep I’m afraid.

Charles Handy – excellent presentation – a pragmatist – told some lovely stories and kept things simple. Very relaxed and experienced speaker. I loved the fact he didn’t use any PowerPoint slides – he even used the ‘old’ system of writing on his overheads – not exactly exciting or passionate but very solid and a highly credible Guru in my view.

Jonas Riddersdrale –Entertaining and different – he used some of Tom Peters material – there were some one liners I recognised from TP presentations. He also had some original stuff from Sweden and other parts of Europe. He was well received by the audience and as a stand in I though he was very good.

Amen to that

I have written many times in the last few months that I do not believe there is such a person as an 'overnight sucess.' In my opinion success comes through persistence, focus, hard work,sweat and tears,always doing your homeowrk and it may take many years.

I was therefore delighted to receive in my Inbox the daily quote from Cynthia Kersey of 'Unstoppable' .

Thank you Cynthia - I like it!

"Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire" - Reggie Leach

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Detective Marketing

Detective Marketing - read it in half a day

I read a short and interesting book on the train yesterday. The book is called Detective Marketing: Creative Common Sense in Business by Stefan Engeseth

You can read more about the book and obtain the book at this Amazon link

Stefan and I have some things in common, not least the need for simplicity and common sense in all that we do at work. We share a passion for cutting out unnecessary and pretentious jargon that is merely designed to make it complicated for the average person to understand what you do!

I recommend Stefan’s book and its greatest strength in my opinion is that you can read it in half a day. It offers creative but really practical ideas about how to market what you do.

Stefan's Blog is at this link

Monday, October 31, 2005

"Your Health, Your Care, Your Say"

Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt MP who led the "Your Health Your Care Your Say" event on Saturday in Birmingham - the first ever Citizens Summit in Britain
I was a one of a team of 100 facilitators on Saturday as 1000 people attended the first ever Citizens Summit in Britain. – see BBC Report at this link;

The event was held at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham and brought together 1000 members of the public to help the Government decide the priorities for healthcare outside hospitals for the next few years.

There is to be a White Paper called Health Outside Hospitals published later this year and the opinions of members of the public have been gathered through a series of regional events that culminated on Saturday in this massive event.

It was a great to be involved in a history making occasion. Never before has any government department brought together 1000 people to inform ministers about what the public want.

I was impressed with the technology and indeed the organisation of getting 1000 people into one large room from 9am until 5pm – with only a 20 minute break - and the productivity and outcomes were awesome.

Each facilitator had a table of 10 people and we were asked to input live online through laptop computers the comments and views of our 10 members of the public to a 'theme team' who then summarised the thoughts and displayed them on two massive screens in the hall. Instant feedback - wonderful!

Patricia Hewitt - Secretary of State for Health was there all day and got herself around the room to talk to a lot of people.

The cynics will ask was it all worth it and will the government really take any notice.

Mrs Hewitt assured everyone and the massive audience of Web Cast and TV watchers that the views will be taken seriously and the White Paper will reflect the views of the public. I feel that she means what she says.

Although it was a long day - and really hard work for me and the other 99 facilitators - I came away with a good feeling about this event. It seemed a genuine and serious effort to truly listen to the public about the future of the National Health Service.

And given the financial investment the Government has made in this consultation there will quite rightly be uproar from the population if the views expressed are not taken seriously.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Bureaucrats write memoranda both because they appear to be busy when they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately become proof they were busy” - Charles Peters

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A fine little chap

For me one of the deepest joys is to know my 'blood line' is to carry on. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that.

Yesterday Annie and I had the opportunity to go and visit Sebastian my 6 month old Grandson. We are only able to see him occasionally and this was one of those very special days.

I am sure it is the same for all Grandparents but there is definitely a warm tingly feeling when you reflect that there is someone who will - God willing - carry on the blood line.

An awesome feeling - Sebastian is a wonderful little chap.

Now I am getting all sentimental :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

George Galloway
pointing the finger!

George Galloway - Hero or Villian?

George Galloway is without doubt an interesting politician.

He has something about him that makes me pay attention. He is so brash and confident that he sounds convincing. He is in the news again today because he says he has been falsely accused of lying under oath by the US Senate committee which accused him of receiving oil cash from Saddam Hussein.

Mr Galloway said: "I am ready to fly to the US today... to face such a charge (perjury) because it is simply false."

That sounds like confidence to me and I am sure he is not just wanting a trip to the States to do some early Christmas shopping!

It is covered on BBC News at this link

Whether George Galloway is right or wrong does not really interest me that much. The fascination to me is why he grabs so many headlines.

Like him or loathe him - I guess he has charisma and is an excellent speaker.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Read an interesting
story below about
this little chap

A little weekend comic relief

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While it was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on it. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, it began to realize how warm it was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Moral of the story:

1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend.
3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tony Benn

A busy 80 year old

and a real gentleman.

Tony Benn - Part Three - see previous Simplicity posting dated 6 September

Today was an ordinary working day when out of the blue Tony Benn rang to thank me for sending him a copy of my book.

He said he had enjoyed reading it and had passed it on to his son to read as part of a management course. Of course I was delighted that he enjoyed reading the book and that he had said some nice things about it - but more than that, we were simply gob-smacked that he took the time and trouble to ring me with his comments.

Tony Benn is 80 years of age and suffered a fall at the recent Labour Party Conference resulting in a head injury. He explained this had resulted in cutting back on his working schedule and postponing 43 ...yes 43 speaking engagements before Christmas.

Not bad for an 80 year old aye?

Mr Benn spoke to both Annie and I and he seemed as interested in us as we clearly were in him. We hope to meet him one day in the New Year at a speaking engagement when he is back on the road.

This was another powerful illustration to me of how someone can rise to almost the pinnacle of British politics and yet remain as approachable and 'grounded' as anyone I have ever met in my life.

No pretentiousness - no arrogance - no conceit - just good manners, dignity, respect and humility. A real gentleman.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What is 'Typically English?'

The famous New Zealand Haka dance that is performed by the All Blacks Rugby Team before every match is meant to fire up the New Zealand players to fight to the end for their country. It is also meant to intimidate the opposition. This is a picture of the New Zealand team before a match against England. Pretty scary I would say.
I have decided to put forward that we English should do something similar.

We need a dance that typifies the fighting English bulldog spirit and terrifies the opposition …

So here we are .. This is a picture of English Morris Dancers is bound to put the fear of God into any opposition don’t you think?

What to you is typically English?

Plan or have it 'Done To You'

Life offers two great gifts - time, and the ability to choose how we spend it. Planning is a process of choosing among those many options. If we do not choose to plan, then we choose to have others plan for us. - Richard I. Winword

Courtesy of Cynthia Kersey, Author of ''Unstoppable''

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

To fail is to learn

"We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure - all your life." - John W. Gardner, Educator

A no-hoper?

Annie and I are in the middle of a 10 week ALPHA course and it is very enlightening. I would recommend the course. We are hearing some fascinating stories during the course, one of which I wanted to share on Simplicity Blog today.

It is about a single mother called Monica who had a troubled teenage son. He had gone astray badly in his life and had ended up in the wrong company. In a nutshell he was a ‘drop out’ and his behavior and morals left much to be desired. He was a ‘no-hoper’ in the eyes of most of the people who knew him.

Monica felt her only way of helping him - after she had tried all the traditional ways - was to pray that her son would find God. She prayed tirelessly for 9 years from when her son was aged 19 until at 28 years of age he did find God. He was later ordained and became a Bishop. He became Saint Augustine in 386 AD and has became known as a highly influential Christian thinker

There are many points to this story - not least there is always hope for anyone. You will draw your own conclusions

On the course we discussed the power of prayer. I am told by people far more educated than me about religion there are numerous practical examples of the power of praying. I have never been deeply religious and I know there are many who do not have a faith – and that is fine by the way.

It now feels like I am on a journey. I have something of a thirst for more knowledge. There is something called ‘co-incidence’ that can be used to explain away many things but when ‘co-incidences’ just keep on happening then perhaps we may wish to consider opening our minds to ‘other things’ going on.

This is a great educational journey for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sunday lunch does not have to be Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding

In the words of my favourite band 'The Kinks' 'Lazing on a Sunday (ok 'Sunny') afternoon'. Great value buffet style Chinese meal, house Red excellent :-)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bird Flu

I normally like to keep my Simplicity Blog up-beat and optimistic so forgive me if this one is a little more down-beat. I think however it is an important topic for all of us.

The news is coming thick and fast now about the threat of Bird Flu hitting the UK.

There are some alarming statistics being quoted as you can see from the quotes from Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health.

First of all it is alarming that 12000 people die every winter on average in the UK from ordinary flu! The worst case scenario appears to be up to 750000 deaths if the UK if Bird Flue becomes a Pandemic.

Scary stuff, and in my view, if the Chief Medical Officer goes on prime time BBC-TV to announce such figures quite openly than there must be worries in high places that this is more than just scare stories.

I think we need to watch very carefully as this story develops and make sure we protect our families - particularly those who are most vulnerable.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Westminster Cathedral (next door to Parliament) - My Dad aways said 'Red sky at night shepherds delight'

A visit to Parliament

Yesterday Annie and I went to the House of Commons!!

No - we have not been elected as MP’s – we are happy to remain normal thank you.

No - I had not been not summoned to appear before Parliament to explain my rants, outbursts and criticisms on this Blog of poor management in healthcare.

Seriously - We were there to help support Carers UK in their efforts to promote the needs of the millions of family carers in the UK. Carers are unpaid but their efforts keep this country’s health and social care services solvent by providing care for family members, friends and neighbours through a sense of love, obligation and duty – usually in that order.

The MP Hywel Francis, MP for Aberavon took the Carers Equal Opportuinities Act through Parliament this year and the event yesterday was to celebrate and launch the resource pack that all Local Authorities will be expected to adhere to in implementing the new Act. We were priveledged to be invited to the launch.

The Act means that Carers can expect equal opportunity in employment, education and healthcare and it marks yet another major milestone in raising awareness about the needs of Carers who otherwise just carry on without being acknowledged or recognised.

I intend to regularly report about the progress to support Carers on my Simplicity Blog and I will continue to work with Carers UK to raise the profile of Carers.

The country owes Carers a great debt.

I hope you enjoy pictures below from our outing to the Commons – it was a horrible rainy day but the House of Commons is an awesome sight – such fantastic architecture and such history as you walk through the corridors imagining the great political characters that trod those same corridors.

I intended to leave a copy of my book with Elizabeth and Philip here at Buckingham Palace but sadly no one replied to my knock on the door. They must get fed up too I suppose with double glazing sales people.
Me outside Parliament pretending to look busy!
Annie meets Guy Fawkes!
Dr Hywel Francis MP and Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive Carers UK
Big Ben - a wonderful landmark next door to the Commons - a very dull overcast day - no sunshine I am afraid.

This is just to prove management consultants do actually work outside 9-5!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thank You Annie

"You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don't have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you'll stop at the first giant hurdle." - George Lucas

Annie has been the inspiration for me to take risks; leap hurdles; and break through brickwalls in the last 18 months - more than anyone will ever know.

I love you hun - thank you x

Critcism is a two way street

On Sunday evening Annie and I went to listen to Clare Short discussing her new book. It was an event that is part of the Birmingham Book Festival. Her book is called “An Honourable Deception” and is about the political issues surrounding the Iraq War.

Clare Short is an interesting politician who has always been a rebel in the Labour Party. She is outspoken and she resigned her Ministerial position over the Iraq war. I admire people immensely who feel so strongly and I wish more politicians had her convictions and acted accordingly in resigning.

She is critical of the motives for war of both British and American leaders. We did not buy the book but the evidence she talks about lies in high places sounded pretty compelling.


The main thing that put us off buying her book was the way she reacted so aggressively to someone who asked her what, to us, seemed a reasonable question.

I think it is great that people have strong views and that we can all express those extreme views in our society. It is even OK in my book that leaders in politics can be personally criticised and Clare Short was indeed very critical of Tony Blair.

When she is then criticised it is only fair she takes it on the chin rather than reacting aggressively in my opinion. In other words 'people in glass houses should not throw stones.'

I am sure the book is a good read and I am also pretty sure she is technically correct about many of the things she says. On a human level I wish she could accept criticism a little more graciously – the aggressive reaction does her no favours whatsoever.

She was also critical of the close relationship between Britain and America and suggested the two countries are too close. I can see what she means and I know there are many people in Britain who agree with her about that. I don’t.

My view is pragmatic. I want to be on the side of America. Britain is a small country that one day may need America in my opinion. We have desperately needed America in our past and we should remember that.

My position on America and Britain is best summed by the quote of former US President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Please excuse the swearing – Johnson’s words not mine – I just agree with the sentiment.

Clare Short

Monday, October 10, 2005

"If you die a penny in debt you made a proft"

I wish I could remember who said this - I think it may have been Groucho Marx - it certainly sounds like a Groucho quote don't you think?

Anyone know?

Groucho Marx

Football is not a matter of life and death - it is far more important than that!

Before I start getting complaints my Blog is turning into a Football (Soccer) Blog let me say it is only temporary – I promise!!!

What with a visit to the Theatre of Dreams and then England qualifying for the World Cup it is a bit like buses – you wait for ages to see one and then two come along at the same time.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow – but hey – it is good fun to have a little light relief anyway surely

Frank Lampard scores from the penalty spot last Saturday at Old Trafford to take England to the World Cup Finals in 2006

England on a roll - so why do fans want Sven sacked??!!!

Great news over the weekend is that England has qualified to play in the soccer World Cup Final tournament next summer in Germany.

If they beat Poland on Wednesday night England will win their qualifying group having lost just one match. At the same the other three home countries – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland did not qualify.

So how come there is still such a clamor for the resignation of the England manager Sven Goran Eriksson?

It amazes me. The man has lost only three competitive matches since he became England’s manager three or four years ago and yet many football fans are calling for him to be dismissed.

If England goes onto win the World Cup in 2006 - which is a real possibility – then I wonder what those same people will be saying about Sven.

I suspect that the reasons he is not popular are nothing at all to do with his ability as a football coach but more to do with his ‘off field’ antics and maybe even the simple fact that he is not an Englishman.

But then I do see things simplistically!

Friday, October 07, 2005

This was work???!!!!

I was doing some work on Wednesday and the venue was – Old Trafford, ‘Theatre of Dreams’ – home of my beloved Manchester United Football Club.

There are a few pictures below.

The stadium is incredible. I was talking to one of the staff and he told me the stadium upgrade happening now will mean there will be 75000 seating capacity – just awesome!

The conference suites are majestic. I just had to keep pinching myself to remind myself this was a day at work

Up the Reds!!!

The Memorial

This is the famous memorial plaque at Old Trafford to remember the deaths of so many young players in the Munich air crash in 1958

The Theatre of Dreams - Old Trafford

View from the all seater Stretford End where I stood many years ago to watch George Best, Bobby Chalrton and Dennis Law ...ahh memories

Welcome to the Theatre of Dreams

The United club crest that is known the world over

They will never be forgotten

A permanent reminder of the Munich air crash that robbed us of so many young players - the lowest point in the glorious history of Manchester United

Still looking for improvement

Sir Alex - the greatest leader and manager ever in the history of British football. 62 years of age and still looking for improvement. He is the Boss!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Exercise and Live Longer?

In the news today is research from Sweden suggesting exercise in middle age significantly reduces the chances of people suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The study also suggests exercise prevents high blood pressure and the reduced likelihood of Diabetes.

We all know it makes sense to keep physically fit throughout our lives.

Both Annie and I were smokers until early 2004. We decided to make a big effort to keep fit and do regular exercise. The money we spent on cigarettes was far in excess of our combined monthly subscriptions fees for our gym.

Of course there is never an absolute guarantee of long life and all we can do is to work to improve the odds of living a long and relatively healthy life. We both feel exercise has now become such an integral part of our lives – without being obsessive about it – that we now cannot imagine a week going by when we do not visit our gym at least twice as well as running 5 km at least twice a week.

Unless you are blind or in denial, you can see an increasing incidence of obesity in our population, particularly among the younger generation. You rarely see very old people who are obese or smokers – my own, perhaps cynical view, is that the obese and the smokers have already died!

It surely makes sense to place more emphasis on promoting exercise to our young people to prevent problems that otherwise await them in middle and older age.

Yes it may sound boring and yes it may sound a little bit like ‘nanny state’ but the great news is that exercise can be fun; something you look forward to; and something you miss when you do not do it. Everyone of course has an individual choice about this and the freedom to make choices is something I advocate strongly and defend strongly.

We have made a conscious decision to work to improve the odds.

Persistance always pays dividends

As I have written elsewhere on numerous occasions I do not believe there are such people as 'overnight successes.' I love this quote;

"Your decision to be, have and do something out of the ordinary entails facing difficulties that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than anyone else." - Brian Tracy

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A wonderful Sunday

What a fabulous day today.

This morning I played the third football match of my comeback and we got our first win by 2 goals to 1. Then this evening Annie read (wonderfully) three pieces at the Harvest Festival service at our church.

We feel like we have earned some sleep after a particularly hectic week which has seen us travel over 500 miles in the car to deliver three workshops and all the time Annie was really under the weather suffering from a head cold and throat infection.

We are hoping some semblance of normality will return over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Be yourself

A very busy week for us - we are on the road a lot – much to do - and not enough time to concentrate fully on my Simplicity Blog but one thing that came to my inbox today hits home powerfully to me.

"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself." - William Faulkner

Quite often, people - including me when I was younger - try to copy people we see as role models when what we should remember is that we are all special individuals. Living our life in the best way we can is always good enough. You and me don't need to copy anyone.

I always pinch good ideas from people I respect and admire - but as this quote indicates - just be yourself and do that well - then try to do that better. Simplicity!

Put another way - Just try to impress the person you see in the mirror.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Finance can be simple - honestly it can!!!!!

One of the complaints I have always had is that the profession of finance is far too complex and full of unnecessary jargon - designed to ‘confuse the ordinary’ such as me.

How refreshing then when I meet 'virtually' a person who is obviously highly qualified in the world of finance but lives simplicity.

Sriram Kannan works in the world of finance in Hong Kong and I am sure he is a young man who is going places.

I do hope you will visit Sriram's new Blog called Art and Science of Management at this link

Sriram had only started his Blog in the last week or so and I am sure you will find his style engaging and more straightforward than some of the highly complicated finance gobbledegook that is often seen in the finance world.

Good luck Sriram – and when you are a Chief Executive – remember to still keep it simple

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Teams and Innovation

Unstructured thoughts from the front room …

I have spent a lot of time talking about innovation in healthcare with a good friend Simon Dodds who is a prominent Vascular Surgeon and a well known innovator in the National Health Service. I had not really thought about the relationship of teams and innovation before discussions with Simon but having now read a few things I have formed some opinions. So here goes.

There is something of a paradox about all this. I love team working and I love innovation but I am beginning to think the two are not happy bedfellows. Teams generally work towards a common goal. This could actually suppress innovation because in a sense we do not want people in our team – ‘to row the boat in the opposite direction’. Having said that, I think a well functioning team can accommodate a ‘loose cannon.’ The teams I think about are sporting teams. For instance Manchester United as a team were highly successful when George Best was their star player and yet George Best was very much a ‘loose cannon’ with enormous talent. He always did things differently to everyone else in the team. He contributed to the team ethos quite definitely but he was also known to be unpopular with some other players because he was so different. Any yet the team was highly successful. Fascinating!

I think there is a clear link between leadership and innovation.

I think the leader must give explicit permission for innovators to ‘make mistakes’ and not punish those mistakes. I see no point in any organisation or department to say in one breath they welcome innovation and then punish mistakes if things do not work. This ‘leadership’ may not only be from the very top in organisations – it can simply be the head of the department. I think if the Chief Executive - for instance - does set the tone with explicit statements like ‘we welcome change’ then innovation may happen. I suppose the test is the Chief Executive must support Innovators explicitly – even if it doesn’t work out.

Is innovation and ‘passion for your idea' the same thing?

My feeling is that innovation is often the sole possession of the founder of the innovation and that person needs to convince key players in the organisation first – then find allies and work tactically to change culture. I do not think the National Health Service is brave enough for a big bang culture change overnight. There is a political dimension that the innovator must be aware of and find ways of working with it – there is frankly not much point in denying the existence of politics in any organisational setting – the trick is to find ways of working with politics.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Blogging - censorship or not?

Blogging is important to me and my business and it is also fun.

There has been much discussion on Tom Peters Blog about censorship on Blogs and whether comments should or should not be edited. I love the fact that censorship is totally down to the individual posting the comment.

On a wider front in management and leadership settings, my view has always been that if people are treated as adults they will always impose testing and high quality standards on themselves. Just trust people for God sake – when will business understand it is as simple as that - sorry rant over!!

My Simplicity thought for the day;

"When it comes to quality standards we are much harder on ourselves than any rules imposed on us"

I have just written an article about trusting front line staff - if anyone wants a copy just let me know

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Constant change is here to stay

Another cracking quote from 'Unstoppable' -

"After you've done a thing for two years, you should look at it carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. After ten years, throw it away and start all over." - Alfred E. Perlman

In management and leadership settings in business I would endorse this statement fully - and I would say make it far less than 10 years before throwing it away and starting all over - more like 5 years maximum in my view.


In love and relationships I don't agree with the statement at all. Finding someone special that you want spend the rest of our life with means for ever.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Simplicity Mantra

My latest Simplicity mantra is three points as follows;

1 Staff at the front line know ALL the answers ALL the time.

2 If managers have a job at all in 2005 it is to make it easy for front line staff to do their job with freedom.

3 Give all the money – YES ALL THE MONEY to front line staff.

I have always believed managers should give more trust to front line staff and I will be writing more on this in the next year.