Sunday, January 30, 2005

Check, Follow Up, Then Check and Follow Up Again

‘The Problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished’
George Bernard Shaw

I am really interested in communication ….

I have often been accused of obsessional checking that things have been done.

The older I get the more I believe I am right.

I recently wanted to get some documentation signed in time for a reduction in my January payment of a certain direct debit.

I decided to trust the system between my Solicitor and my Building Society without chasing either of them. I was assured the forms would be processed in time for my payment at the end of January.

I must admit I had an uneasy feeling and felt I should check that things were actually happening that I was told would happen … but no … for once I decided to let the system happen without my ‘interference.’

Of course it was a mistake not to check and chase and when I finally did chase things it was too late to effect the reduced payment for my direct debit in time for January payment … net result? … Me out of pocket and two agencies oblivious that their inadequate and ineffective communication had a negative effect on the customer i.e. me!

The lesson? ….despite the reputation I have of being an obsessional checker … I will obsessionally check even more to make sure things get done that are ‘promised.’

Morale of the story … if you want something doing well do it yourself!!!

Or words to that effect

Friday, January 28, 2005

You are never too old

Age fascinates me

The greatest influence academically and professionally on me has been Professor George Giarchi who is now 74 and has a three year part time contract with Plymouth University as a lecturer.

I am honoured to say George is my supervisor.

When I had my last supervision session with George I asked what he would do when this contract was finished and he would be 76 ... George looked surprised and said he will be looking for another contract of course.

George has as much energy as many 18 year olds I know.

Age is irrelevant in most things we do...

Fascinating.... I was prompted to write this by an e mail received from George this morning that once more reminded me of his fabulous qualities ... modesty and humility ... and yet so brilliant in motivating others...

Thank George for everything ... I hope I can still come for my supervision when you are 100...if - of course - you will be able to fit me in to your busy schedule

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Rattling the Cage .... from the inside

Can you rattle the cage of your organisation when you are working in it when the salary you get at the end of each month pays your mortgage and keeps your family afloat?

My view is YES you can

If the organisation is a good organisation it will welcome challenge to its current operation in everything it does.

I am not suggesting anarchy or revolution (although in some organisations that might well be required!).

I am suggesting the typical middle manager in organisations is probably a bit worried about challenging 'the way things are done around here.'

What can make your job easier as a middle manager in that situation?

Here are some ideas - please add to them;
  1. A supportive boss who will back you
  2. 'Tactical awareness' - know who your ‘friends’ are ...and know who your potential enemies are
  3. Smile ... a lot
  4. Believe you are the Chief Executive ...don't be arrogant or loud...just quietly and from within believe you can really make a difference - you often can - even if you think you can't!
  5. Don't feel powerless ... Tom Peters says ‘Powerlessness is a State of mind not a state of reality’.... I agree

For more ideas take a look at Rattle the Cage Web site ....

Rattle The Cage ( ) is a community of leaders who are passionate about what they want to achieve, as well as those who desire to become strong leaders. Our mission is to assist you on your journey by bringing together thought leaders and practice leaders from around the globe who are willing to share their knowledge and wisdom for the benefit of all. The world needs great leaders...will you be one?



In mourning today as my beloved Manchester United lost a semi-final last night against Chelsea!!! sob sob sob....

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Staff performance fascinates me.

I well remember many years ago working out that 90% of the £1 million annual budget I was responsible for as a Manager in the National Health Service (NHS) was in fact salary of staff.

My simple logic is that managers in that situation have one asset and that is flesh and blood – i.e. their staff. That percentage (90%) is not unusual among budgets in the NHS today. The NHS is very labour intensive. It follows therefore that we need to look after our staff.

I don’t mean that is some patronising way. I just mean that performance of an organisation will only be as good as the performance of its staff.

Therefore we need to keep our staff motivated and allow them to develop both personally and professionally - in that order please!

This is not rocket science – just good simple common sense.

I think the NHS often over complicates staff appraisals systems so they are full of boring paperwork that no-one really likes - and I believe many staff (and indeed managers) become disillusioned with all that stuff.

The best managers in my experience are those who can cut through all that process and paperwork and make one feel good and special about being at work.

There are many issues around accountability in the NHS that encourage what I call CYA ('Cover Your A***) - I will leave you to work that out. It means many staff become fearful that if they do take a risk that does not work, they will be punished.

I happen to believe taking a risk is often how progress is made;

  • The Wright Brothers would never have flown if they had not tried and failed many times.
  • Bill Gates did not achieve at Microsoft what he has without many mistakes on the way.
  • Richard Branson is another that springs to mind
  • Anita Roddick founder of the Body Shop is another – read her book - Body and Soul.

The NHS ‘talks’ about encouraging a ‘no blame culture’ but my feeling is that staff are not convinced about that and need to see that when they make a mistake they are not explicitly punished.

Let me be clear - I am not for one second suggesting we condone bad or negligent practice – but sometimes we have to make mistake to learn. There are many non-critical areas in healthcare where mistakes can be made and patients do not suffer as a result.

Let me be clear again - I would never condone or encourage mistakes in life/death scenarios in health care - most people working in the healthcare are sensible, caring, dedicated professional people with the same anxieties as everyone.

I just think managers and staff must be given ‘permission’ from the top to allow staff to make mistakes in non life threatening situations.

Sir Alex Ferguson - an Icon with a heart

When I was writing my book Simplicity is the Key I wrote to Sir Alex Ferguson, Manager of my beloved Manchester United Football Club to share with him one of my Chapters about leadership.

Sir Alex not only took the trouble to write back to me but also shared with me some of his thoughts about the subject and about how he recognised his own leadership abiltity as a young man.

I was gobsmacked that this world renowned Icon could take the trouble to respond to me - a very insignificant person in 'his world' ... and then he responded again more when I sent him a copy of my final manuscript for the book.

What a hero ...what a leader ...what a man .....

The morale of this story .... Icons have feelings too


Monday, January 24, 2005

Simplicity - what I believe

My passion is to dispel the myth of complexity in management and leadership.

After all, complexity is merely the sum of simple parts. Management is not complicated at all ….we just love to make it complicated.

I also love lists.

This is a list of 17 things I believe. Yes 17 is a strange number. There is no mystery or significance in 17 - that is as far as I got!

So here goes .....things I believe with a passion - not in priority order

  1. Staff at the front line know all the answers all the time
  2. The words “managing people” should be exorcised from the workplace. Nobody “manages” people any more - people manage themselves.
  3. If a manager has any job at all in 2005 it is to move heaven and earth to make it easier for front line staff to do neat work
  4. Get other people to do bits of your job - they usually do it better than you
  5. Management is simple
  6. Leadership is not - it is an art form
  7. The basics are the new cutting edge
  8. I’m not convinced leadership can be taught
  9. Give all the budget to front line staff ….yes I did say all the budget
  10. Complexity is merely the sum of simple parts
  11. Forget MBA think MST (Masters in Story Telling)
  12. We are all Chief Executives of our own future
  13. “Powerlessness is a state of mind - not a state of reality” Tom Peters
  14. I don’t know what “a big organisation” means in 2004
  15. I would take a pay cut for some leaders ….I would not follow some leaders if they doubled my wages
  16. Our greatest motivation is always from within
  17. The older I get the more I like words like “difference” and “diversity” …and the less I like words like “right” and “wrong

Happy Monday!

Powerlessness is a state of mind - not a state of reality.

I remember Tom Peters saying that when talking to senior managers as he launched his book Liberation Management in the early 1990’s...

I am fully signed up to Tom Peters view of powerlessness ... so many people seem to believe they are powerless and they give up battling the wrongs as they see them in organisations..... what a tragedy.

This means that many of the best and brightest ideas are lost forever and I believe it is one reason change does not happen in big organisations.

Since I left the National Health Service in October I have appreciated the freedom and liberation that self employment brings.

Sure it is challenging and I realise I now have to work to eat.

But give me this feeling over the mundane battles that one faces when trying to introduce change in big organisations. It is such a shame.

There are thousands of talented people locked in organisations just waiting to explode their ideas.... sometimes only time can enable that or you are lucky enough to have a boss who believes in you.

I do believe strongly that one can ‘rattle the cage’ from within and one should always try to do that inside the organisation …..... sadly, the reality is, it is easier to 'rattle the cage' from outside.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Blogging for Fun and Business

I am really getting into this blogging.

I visit Tom Peters Blog daily - it is excellent

Another excellent blog is my friend Tom Asacker

Take a look at Rattle the Cage Blog

Happy Blogging!


Blogging - Is this the new way to make a difference?

I love communicating and blogging is the latest way of doing it.

Isn't it wonderful how we can now share thoughts instantly with like minded people from all over the world about how organisations are led and how things need to change?

For those of you visiting Simplicity Blog for the first time please take a look at my friends in Rattle the Cage - a virtual organisation of like minded people who are trying to make a difference.