Saturday, December 30, 2006

What a joke!

Hazel Blears MP - Chairperson of the Labour Party

As regular readers of Simplicity Blog will know I am one of the greatest critics of health service managers but I cannot help but feel for my ex-colleagues when I read the latest soap opera. Click here for the story

The Government has been putting pressure on managers to make the NHS more efficient, reduce costs and increase efficiency. I believe there is still plenty of slack in the system with potential to redistribute millions of pounds to make the service more efficient and patient-centred.

The biggest problem for NHS managers has always been interference from Politicians who seem intent on ‘dabbling’ in the everyday running of the service instead of letting managers get on and manage things as they are paid handsome sums to do.

So it comes as no surprise, to me anyway, that Hazel Blears MP who is Chairperson of the Labour Party and presumably therefore fully signed up to her own Government’s agenda on health should stand outside her local hospital that is threatened with closure as a protestor along with other members of the public, I suspect managers in Hope Hospital, Manchester must feel like they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

In the NHS, managers are often sacked for not carrying out Government policy and yet when they do just that, we see the Chairperson of the Labour Party no less opposing what her own Government is recommending!

Madness! - They could not write a better soap opera script.

It also makes a total mockery of the concept of letting managers in the NHS get on with managing.

For once my sympathy is with NHS managers and my three word summary - What a joke!

Friday, December 29, 2006

This is purely in the interests of Christmas research!!

Intrigued?? .......
For more pictures and explanation click here

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy Christmas to the workers!

At this time of goodwill to all, I was interested to see today’s report from the TUC that top executive salaries at FTSE 100 firms have risen seventeen times faster than their workers' pay.

More details can be seen by clicking here

The staff whose salaries have risen 17 times slower than their bosses will once again read the Annual Report of their company as it says each year; ‘We owe everything to our staff’

Mmmmmm … Bah Humbug!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Beatles - they changed the world

I have just been listening to (Christmas Gift) The Beatles CD ‘Love’

Listening to that CD brings back many memories of being around at the dawn of a revolutionary era in Britain early 1960’s and how The Beatles touched the world.

I was old enough to realise the impact and young enough to enjoy it.

I was 11 years old in 1963 when The Beatles burst on the scene and music and pop culture was changed forever.

So wonderful to think I was in my formative years when this happened.

Some of the Lennon/McCartney lyrics are crazy but memorable for some strange reason.

Here are just a few examples:

From Strawberry Fields

‘Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see’

From Help!

‘When I was younger, so much younger than today

I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone
I'm not so self assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors.’

From Eleanor Rigby

‘Father Mckenzie, writing the words to a sermon that no-one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working
Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?’

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas is coming ....

Each year in my working life for the last 36 years as Christmas approaches the pace of work generally slows down as everyone looks to do just enough to keep the ship afloat. Generally speaking this is not the time to start new projects and I have lost count of the times I have said over the years ‘we will sort that out in the New Year.’

I suspect most people are the same.

The run up to Christmas 2006 has been very busy for me and for the next day or so it will remain hectic. I am looking forward then to some relaxing time for a week or so.

I always think about staff in the National Health Service and the other essential services who have to work over the holiday period as normal.

My ‘Blogging’ over the next week or so will probably not be as frequent as normal and so I take this opportunity to wish all those who read Simplicity Blog a happy holiday time from both Annie and me.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Interview With God

This was sent to me by my friend Keith Ready in Australia - it is beautiful.

Click Here

When you reach the Web Page click on 'View Presentation'


Visit Keith Ready's Website A Gift of Inspiration by clicking here

Friday, December 15, 2006

Shackleton's Way

Ernest Shackleton

My friend Roger (Rocky) Noe from Kentucky recommended a book to me recently that I bought and I am really enjoying. For anyone interested in leadership I highly recommend this book

Shackleton’s Way is the story of Ernest Shackleton the Antarctic Explorer in the early 20th Century and his inspirational leadership style. Although Shackleton ‘failed’ to hit some objectives he is nevertheless regarded as one of the greatest leaders in history particularly in respect of his care for the people who were his ‘followers.’ It is one of those books I can’t put down.
Some highlights from the book already;

  • 'The foundation of Shackleton’s belief is OPTIMISM.'

  • ‘A leader is a dealer in hope’ – Napoleon

  • 'How did you survive? – one word answer: SHACKLETON

  • 'In matters of leadership the most reliable sources are the ones who are led.

  • 'One person can change the entire work environment'

  • 'Shackleton’s leadership tools were humour generosity, intelligence, strength and compassion.'

  • 'We search for leaders who are survivors and optimists.'

  • 'Shackleton had a disregard for class and custom.'

Sometimes when I read a book I know within two or three pages this is going to be a wonderful and educational experience. This book is one of those. You can see reviews by clicking here

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The truth about management?

'If you’re not achieving you aims. Don’t blame government policy, head office decisions, the state of the economy, the strength of the pound or the high rate of taxation. Instead have the courage to blame the person who’s really responsible – your predecessor'

‘The Little Book of Management Bollocks’ Alistair Beaton

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Know what it is that you do.

What follows is an extract from my latest book 'I Wanna Tell You a Story' click here to order the book.

“Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” - Ann Landers

In a previous place I had a friend and neighbour who is a builder. We often had interesting discussions about our respective jobs. This is the sort of dialogue of one of our typical discussions;

Maurice: What is it that you do as a manager in the health service?

Me: I help doctors and nurses do their job easier by doing the complicated management stuff.

Maurice: Mmmmm …but what do you do?

Me: I attend lots of meetings to hear what needs to be done and then I try and make changes to achieve those things.

Maurice: Mmmmm ..Ok …but what to do you actually do?

Me: (becoming more uncomfortable) … Well I manage budgets and write reports and do lots of presentations. I also manage lots of staff.

Maurice: You still haven’t told me what you actually do

Me: (now distinctly uncomfortable and seeking divine intervention) … Well I am responsible for the management of my entire department and for the smooth running of my part of the healthcare system … (Thinking rather smugly – that should finally satisfy him)

Maurice: Look Trevor when I go to work I can show you what I have done. I might have built a wall. I might have repaired a roof. I can give you the evidence – I can show you. You just talk in ‘woolly’ words that mean nothing to the everyday person. Try in future to tell me what you do.

This little exchange illustrates that we managers and leaders need to be able to illustrate what it is that we actually do. It simply is not good enough use woolly expressions that do not tell anyone anything.

Leadership Lesson

Don’t rely on the dog - Know what it is that you do and more importantly, know how you can prove it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Best quote heard this year

Overheard recently:

"The only mistake I ever made was the one I didn't learn from"

I like that

Monday, December 11, 2006

Exercise Exercise!

You too could end up like this!

Sad to say our exercise regime has slipped in the last six months. What with moving house and our wedding this is something that has slipped on to the back burner!

In the early part of 2006 Annie and I ran 5km three or four times a week combining that with a visit to our health club for a swim and some weight training.

I have just read a BBC report (click here for details) about the importance of exercise and its place in helping avoid heart disease. The report stresses the importance of regular exercise. The report also says half the population does no exercise at all!

Everyone knows this makes sense but we both seem to have lost our previous focus. It seems hard work now.

Reading this report it is clear we are not alone but we have promised ourselves we will try harder!

One of the inevitable consequences is weight gain and in my case I am now heavier than at any time in my life. I am too much of a gentleman to comment about Annie's weight and she is as beautiful as ever!

I am sure one of the reasons for the weight gain is contentment but there really is no defence about the lack of regular exercise – the focus must return!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

5 Things You Don't Know About Me (aka Keeping the Tag Alive)

I have been ‘tagged’ by my American Blogger friend Starbucker as part of a ‘virtual chain’ where 5 Bloggers have to reveal five new things about themselves.

So here goes:

1 I enjoy ironing!

2 Speedway was my obsession for a few years when I was a teenager and I travelled all over Britain watching my team King’s Lynn Stars!

3 I once drove non-stop apart from a one hour break for 17 hours from Spain to France.

4 Last year on holiday in the Channel Islands Annie and I were passengers on a local bus. I fell flat on my back carrying my heavy rucksack resulting in great embarrassment for me and great hilarity for the 20 or so passengers who watched as I struggled to get up. I looked rather like an upside down beetle struggling to right itself. A holiday highlight for everyone and it brightened up a rainy day.

5 I am not particularly observant and Valentine’s Day 2005 Annie put about 6 heart shaped balloons in the ‘office’ (our lounge) and despite working in the lounge I didn’t notice them until Annie asked if I had noticed anything unusual

I am not sure how many people have already been tagged but here are five regular Bogs that I visit for them to keep this thing going.

Tom Asacker
Phil Gerbyshak
Steve Sherlock
Troy Worman
Dmity Linkov

Friday, December 08, 2006


I recently became a Director on the Board of a small local charitable organisation called SNAP. You can see more about the organisation by clicking here

The aims are to enable parents and carers, the voluntary sector and statutory bodies to work together on behalf of children with special needs. Last night I attended the Annual General Meeting of SNAP and saw a DVD about the leisure activities of some of the young people.

I watched the young people with special needs enjoying themselves in Drayton Manor Theme Park alongside other young people. It made me think about my early career in the NHS when many of these young people would have found themselves completely isolated from the rest of society in long term care in hospitals. Amazing to think this was the policy until as recently as the 1980’s

In 1983 I was appointed as the hospital manager responsible for the closure of a large hospital for people with learning disabilities. It is horrifying to think it is only 20 years ago we had hospitals where patients’ liberty was taken away from them and their dignity was definitely not respected. I remember for instance one hospital ward that had no doors on toilets.

The most rewarding period of my entire career was without a doubt working in learning disability services from 1980 to 1986.

I hope in 2006 these people are at long last enjoying the rights the rest of us take for granted. I hope people are aware that learning disability is not an ‘illness’ and therefore we must not label them as ‘patients’ – it really is as simple as that. These people have the same rights as me.

There still are many critics of the closure of large hospitals for people with a learning disability but I have always been a passionate supporter of it providing there are adequate support services for the people who leave the hospital.

SNAP is an amazing organisation that started from an idea and discussions around the kitchen table ten years ago of women who wanted to do something positive and practical to support parents and the young people with special needs.

It was wonderful to hear how far SNAP has come and to hear about the high esteem in which both the staff and the organisation are held by parents.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Keep Asking Patients

I’m spending two days (Wednesday and Thursday) at the conference of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in Birmingham.

NICE is the body that publishes the best evidence-based practice in the National Health Service. They are well known for making the most authoritative statements about whether new drugs should be introduced in the NHS based on strict trials.

Imagine my delight therefore when I heard a discussion on stage in front of 500 or more people involving 4 highly regarded healthcare Gurus who all agreed that there is a desperate need for more patient involvement in the work of the NHS. Hooray - I have been saying that for 30 years!

It is music to my ears that these words are coming out of the mouths of such high profile people. My concern is whether this message is understood and implemented by Chief Executives, Directors of Finance and Senior Managers in the NHS.

In my experience (35 years as a manager in the NHS) when the chips are down and hard decisions have to be made the patients opinion comes nowhere in the list and it is the financial position and the bottom line that always is the priority.

So many times in my career I heard expressions like “We agree in principle about greater involvement of patients but our priority is to balance the books.” That sort of statement says it all.

My feeling is, and always has been, that if we genuinely engage with patients in an honest and open relationship then patients will help us make those difficult decisions. I believe patients are harsher critics than managers about wasted expenditure and inefficiency in the NHS. And patients have many creative ideas to solve these problems.

Nevertheless I remain optimistic as long as I hear these encouraging words from NICE.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Trust your Staff.

Take a look at the Business Week news video that was highlighted at Tom Peters Blog by clicking here - it takes a few seconds to load.

I have written for years about how managers need to trust their staff much more and in one of my crazier moments I suggested we should do away with counter signature by the manager of all travel claims in the NHS. Not surprisingly perhaps my suggestion was seen as 'crazy' and never implemented.

This story from a company called Best Buy in America is wonderful and gives me hope that things may be changing.

I hope we see more and more of this sort of thing in the UK.

Enjoy and I would love to hear your comments on this.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Aggie and Lil

Annie and I performed a short comedy sketch yesterday (Sunday) at our Church.

The theme of the service was to celebrate the upcoming birth of Jesus and as part of that we played the parts of two Birmingham women of the 1950's. They were having a discussion around the kitchen table over a cup of tea.

Aggie (played by Annie) explained to Lil (played by Me) how she had been whisked back in time from 1953 to Bethlehem by Dr Who, to witness the birth of Jesus. Then Dr Who apparently took Aggie through time again to the future (2006) where Aggie was amazed to discover such things as telephones without wires, that even young children had all to themselves. She was gobsmacked!

As a highly respected and sober professional manager I would just like to say that this type of 'dressing up' on my part is done purely in the interests of entertainment and research :-)

Annie wrote a wonderful script and it seemed to go down well with the congregation.

If you really have to you can see more pics by clicking here

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Wedding Photos

If you are interested in taking a look at wedding pics click here

Actually these photos were taken in a studio as Annie and I got dressed up again in our wedding gear a few days after our wedding to try and get some better pics than we managed to get on the day itself - 14th October.

When you click on the link you can also view other photos of our wedding day.

Enjoy .....

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another Sir Alex master-stroke?

Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, is the grand old man of English football and I just wonder if he has pulled of another master stroke today.

The highly talented Henrik Larsson signed for Manchester United for three months from January to March. Larsson has played at the top level for many years and has always scored goals. He is now 35 years old and not looking for a long term deal. This may prove to be the final piece in the United team building as the fixtures pile up towards the end of the season.

United are currently top of the Premiership and next Wednesday they should reach the knock out stages of the European Champions League.

I hope I will re-visit this posting in May 2007 and be able to say the signing of Henrik Larsson was indeed an inspired decision.

Scrap complicated management structures

There is an interesting discussion going on at Tom Peters Blog about modern management structures.

I worked my whole career until 2 years ago in a heavily ‘managed’ system - the National Health Service. There have always been numerous ‘layers’ of management in the NHS and two years on from leaving that environment I am convinced most of those layers are unnecessary.

My Simplicity principles give away my style - this is how I see it;

Simplicity Tip Number 1 - Staff at the front line know ALL the answers ALL the time.

Simplicity Tip Number 2 - If managers have a job at all in 2006 it is to make it easy for front line staff to do their job with freedom.

Simplicity Tip Number 3 - Give all the money – YES ALL THE MONEY to front line staff

The logical conclusion from my principles means giving more responsibility to front line staff and managers having to justify their existence.

In my experience, the staff at the front line are almost always frustrated by management processes that are designed, it seems to me, to prevent front line staff showing any responsibility, imagination or creativity.

I am not calling for anarchy – although sometimes it feels that way. Surely we have moved away from a ‘heavily managed’ world in any sort of business setting in 2006.

Give people at the front line the power – PLEASE!!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why do we get stressed?

I have been pretty stressed and wound up about work for the last two or three weeks.

This is because I have a pressing deadline for an important piece of work and I have not been motivated to crack and get the work done.

With my deadline approaching fast I have finally got my motivation and enthusiasm back and I am confident I will hit the deadline with a good piece of work.

I feel so much better today.

So …..

I would love to hear from Simplicity readers the answers to 3 questions:

1 Do you sometimes feel that way too?

2 If yes, why do you think we feel that way?

3 If yes, where do you get your inspiration from to ‘knuckle down’ and get back on track?

I will share with you after our discussion where my own ‘solutions’ come from.

I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Patients know best.

I was invited to the official launch of the National Centre for Involvement yesterday in London.

This new organisation based in Warwick University will be responsible for collecting examples of how patients and the public have been involved in achieving change to healthcare services.

The new centre aims to provide help to the whole NHS by cascading examples of good practice. It is felt that learning how to effectively involve patients will spread so that patients and the public become more influential in driving change.

The team at the new centre is full of optimism but also realism and I wish them well.

My view has always been that involving patients in change is a hearts and minds issue. Many healthcare managers seem more intent on balancing their budget than finding a way of involving their customers (patients) in everything they do.

I genuinely hope that the new centre will help to change the culture in the NHS to one where there is no ‘separation’ between the service and the patients.

The NHS is owned by patients so they are not ‘on the outside’ looking in – they are indeed the purpose of it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

'Cock up' or Conspiracy?

I have always been suspicious of suggestions of conspiracy. I have often been accused of seeing the world through rose tinted glasses.

My personal experience has always led me to believe that ‘cock up’ rather than ‘conspiracy’ is usually the correct answer.

But somehow I feel worried about the story of the Russian ex spy Alexander Litvinenko who died last Friday.

Do I need to remove my rose tinted glasses?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Martin Luther King on Humility

I have always believed humility is the greatest quality of great leaders.

I recently came across this piece. It was written by Martin Luther King Junior before he was brutally murdered in 1968.

I can remember his assassination very well and I can hardly believe is it nearly 40 years ago the world lost one of its greatest leaders. The following words of Dr King sum up perfectly everything I believe about humility.

"If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral.

And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.

If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Management lessons from our Christmas Fayre

Today I had the pleasure of running a stall at our church Christmas Fayre. My small contribution was to sell greeting cards. Annie was Santa's Buddy!

I am delighted to say the Fayre was a great success. The goodwill and ‘giving’ of free time by dozens of people always amazes me. What inspires me too is the simplicity of it all as a management project. There was no 50 page written strategy about how all this should fall into place. There was no complex action plan. There was no complicated flow chart diagram. It was achieved mainly through word of mouth – asking people to do things, trusting that they will do those things and then leaving it to them.

Oh dear, I thought to myself, (as I saw this 'smooth operation' achieve all its targets) .... if only management was that simple in our big organisations.

Then I thought … why CAN’T it be that easy?

Moving on…

One interesting observation is that my experience today reminded me again that for men, shopping is ‘a job’ and for women, shopping is ‘an experience.’

The men who bought cards came to the stall looked at two or three cards and then bought those they wanted. Some of the women who came up to the stall looked – I kid you not - for 15 minutes at hundreds of cards .. and walked away not having made a purchase.

It is joyful that men and women are different - very, very different.

We CAN all be like Albert McMakin.

I’m sure I am not alone in this way of thinking. In my work, I often wonder if I am making any significant contribution. Is it all worthwhile? In the great scale of things, am I so insignificant that I cannot possibly make a real difference? Nicky Gumbel (pictured) in his excellent book Questions of Life tells the story of Albert McMakin.

Nicky writes:

‘Albert McMakin was a 24 year old farmer who had recently come to faith in Christ. He was so full of enthusiasm that he filled a truck with people and took them to a meeting to hear about Jesus. There was a good looking farmer’s son whom he was especially keen to get to a meeting, but this young man was hard to persuade – he was busy falling in and out of love with different girls and did not seem to be attracted to Christianity. Eventually Albert McMakin managed to persuade him to come by asking him to drive the truck. When they arrived, Albert’s guest decided to go in and was ‘spellbound’ and began to have thoughts he had never known before. He went back again and again until one night he went forward and gave his life to Jesus Christ. The year was 1934. Since then Billy Graham has led thousands to faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot all be like Billy Graham but we can all be like Albert McMakin.’

Applying Nicky’s story to the business world, I would say; if we only mentor one person in our entire career we may be doing something that can change the world

So the answers is – WE ARE ALL IMPORTANT.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

See you Saturday!

On the road for a few days – should be Blogging again on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More than one way of achieving your dreams.

When I was a kid I was mad keen on football. Playing in my street with my mates, I dreamed of becoming a professional footballer and playing at such magnificent stadiums as Old Trafford home of my beloved Manchester United.

My dream, like those of many thousands of other young lads, didn't come true because I was never good enough to play professionally.

It is really odd how things turn out though.

In the last 9 months I have run management workshops at major football stadiums including Old Trafford, (Manchester United) Pride Park (Derby County) and at Villa Park (Aston Villa). These are three magnificent stadiums.

I guess dreams can be fulfilled in different ways.

The use of major football stadiums for corporate business events is now common practice.

I have to confess the view from the very plush corporate boxes overlooking the perfect pitch is breathtaking. Maybe only football fans feel that buzz.

When I look out at the pitch I conjure up images in my head of me in my Manchester United kit, in front of 75000 fans, scoring the winning goal in the last minute.

Dreams are wonderful ….. And of course boys will always be boys.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Classic Comedy!

My favourite ever TV sitcom is Fawlty Towers.

John Cleese played the part of Basil Fawlty, the eccentric owner and manager of Fawlty Towers a Hotel in Torquay, England.

Basil is the henpecked husband of Sybil - played by Prunella Scales.

I came across this legendary extract and it brought back memories of this classic comedy.

Only about 10 episodes were made and it was over 30 years ago. It still makes me laugh!

Sybil: You're going to wear that jacket, are you Basil?

Basil: Yes I am, thank you dear, yes.

Sybil: You just haven't a clue, have you?

Basil: You wouldn't understand, dear - it's called 'style'.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

You have to be joking!

I saw this on a Website today .... can anyone put this in English?

'Many organisations in the Corporate and the Public Sectors today are striving to achieve greater value from islands of information which typically reside in multiple, disparate sources. Our specialisation is in turning data into information through our scaleable data warehouse Data Academy and Corporate Radar reporting solutions. '

Errr .... what was that?? ... please pass my pills Nurse

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Justice Not Charity

This is the longest posting I have done to date but please bear with me.

'This is not a charity issue, it is a justice issue' - these words of Bono are often used to inspire campaigners to rid the world of extreme poverty.

I don’t often read newspapers but today I read an article in the Daily Mail. The headline was ‘So rich you want to slap them.’

The article sub heading says;

‘The City (London) is awash with obscene amounts of money but the men who work there are too busy to spend it. So meet the wives who throw £1 million birthday parties and go shopping by private jet.’

The next article I read was how thousands of older people in Britain with early dementia are unable to have a drug that costs £2.50 per day because the government cannot afford it.

Next there was an article about how Romanian orphans are still in orphanages (76,000 children) almost 20 years after the discovery of the scandal of inhumane living conditions for children in care under the Nicolae Ceausescu regime. It seems things are better but still far away from meeting the aspirations of those who had a vision to eliminate poverty in the new democracy in Romania.

Then I reflected about how I was told earlier this year that 20,000 people die every day – mostly children – entirely due to extreme poverty.

Please don't misunderstand. I am not a spoilsport or a party pooper. I am a great fan of individuals in business pushing themselves to get on and make a real difference.

But I have to voice my concern that something is surely wrong when we have such obscene wealth and extreme poverty on the same planet that is given to us free.

Maybe I am an idealist. Maybe fairness means there will always be extremes.

I would rather believe that we can all do something by keeping these issues in the spotlight and shaming us into doing something if indeed shaming is the only way.

Maybe I am just in a particularly reflective mood but look at some of the extracts from the article about ‘obscene wealth’ and ask yourself whether we can justify this sort of thing whilst there is such suffering in many parts of the world including on our own doorstep in Britain;

  • ‘Back at home his mother picked up the telephone to call her project manager to enquire waspishly on the progress of the family’s plans for a basement swimming pool, paid for with her banker husband’s latest £1 million bonus.’

  • ‘A record 4200 City high-fliers will collect bonuses worth more than £1 million each in the next few weeks – 40 per cent more than last year.’

  • ‘Forget the £1 million home - £2 million is the norm for these people. For £5 million you will get a property with a bit of class, £10 million for real luxury. For a London home with a large garden that pretends it is in the country investment bankers and hedge fund managers think nothing of spending £20 million plus.’

  • ‘Major players in the City are taking home as much as £75 million per year.’

  • ‘These extremely glamorous women will employ an average of ten people to help them keep an immaculate home, look wonderful, take care of their stressed husband’s needs and bring up the children.’

  • ‘Michael Spencer’s wife Lorraine organised a party for his 50th birthday at their St Tropez mansion hiring Robbie Williams at a reported £1 million to sing to 300 guests’’

There are many more extracts but I think you probably get my point by now.

No one is available?

We recently heard this wonderful story from Nicky Gumbel.

A home owner rang 999 emergency services to report a burglary at his property – this is how the conversation went:

Caller: A person is breaking into my garden shed right now, can you send someone immediately please?

Police: Sorry we have no one to send immediately but we will try to get someone there as soon as we can.

The caller hung up. One minute later he rang back:

Caller: I rang a minute ago about someone breaking into my garden shed. You don’t need to send anyone now – I’ve shot him.

Within minutes polices cars, sirens and blue lights, special arms units, police helicopter all arrive at the scene.

The conversation in the house goes as follows:

Police Officer – I thought you said you had shot him.

Home owner: I thought you said no one was available.

I just love that!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Simplicity on Blog Talk Radio

Early this morning I had the opportunity to do a live Blog Talk Radio interview about Simplicity with host Wayne Hurlbert who is based in Canada. I was phoning from England to North America from my landline and hence the recorded quality is not perfect from my end ... such is life .. I hope you enjoy it nevertheless and I look forward to comments.

You can hear the interview by clicking

Thank you Wayne for giving me the opportunity to talk about simplicity which is never a problem for me of course.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Helpful Comment or Complaint?

Annie and I went out for a meal tonight (to be more accurate, a quick pub snack) at our local drinking hole.

We had a lovely young girl serving us … lovely …but:

  • She messed up the food order twice – first for the main course and second when she forgot to order our dessert from the kitchen.

  • She forgot to pour the drinks I had ordered and paid for. She wandered off to the kitchen leaving me at the bar for 5 minutes or so wondering what was happening. When she came back delivering meals I asked her about our drinks which she had completely forgotten.

Having had three children I am like all parents - a great ‘forgiver’ - that's one of the roles of parents isn't it?

We have to be patient and tolerant as youngsters learn. I didn't really want to complain to her bosses because I worry that some uncaring person may come across in a 'heavy' way.

Having said that, I still felt uncomfortable about leaving such pretty awful service ‘unreported.’

I decided to have a quiet word with another member of staff who was a bit older and a bit more experienced. I simply said that I think the first girl needed a gentle reminder about the importance of remembering to do things for customers.

I remember when I was just starting out at work at 16 years of age I made plenty of mistakes (probably still making them).

I hope this girl will be given time, support and understanding. I hope the message gets back to her in the spirit it was intended and that it helps her in the long run.

Should I have handled it another way or simply ignored it and said nothing?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This is my 500th posting on Simplicity Blog since I started Blogging in January 2005.

What a fabulous journey it has been so far. I have learned so much from my many friends who have taken the time and trouble to comment on my Blog.

I took the view when I started that we are having a 'conversation' here. Yes of course the Blog enables me to rant sometimes and get things off my chest, but this is more than just a soapbox.

I am proud to say that every individual comment in those 500 postings has been responded to by me - usually within a day.

Thank you all for your continuing support and long may we fight to make life and work simpler.

Here's to the next 500!!!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I survived

My workshop went well – I survived with my life in tact.

On a serious point, many managers in the National Health Service are under all sorts of pressures at the moment with radical changes happening and no guarantees for their future job security. That however sounds a bit like the rest of the business world to me.

I believe the NHS is still ‘over managed’ but that does not stop me feeling sorry for individual managers who are trying to do a good job against an uncertain backcloth.

Managers in the NHS have to change because the world is changing around them and one request to individual managers in my talk is that they become ‘an enemy of inertia.’

In other words; firstly to accept change; then to welcome change; and then actively seek and create change.

Needless to say many managers disagree with me about this and that is fine. I take the view that the world is changing all around the NHS and the status quo is not even an option nowadays so why not try to do something rather than wait for something to be done to you.

I love a challenge

I am in Cardiff today (Tuesday) talking at the Institute of Health Management Annual Conference about Simplicity.

Wow!! .... do we need that in the National Health Service or what??!

I am running a workshop for about 32 senior NHS managers, and I intend yet again to challenge them to convince me we have to carry on with this ridiculous fantasy language and complexity that, in my opinion, is created by managers for managers.

I am looking forward to it and will report back on how it went tomorrow ... that is if I escape with all my faculties intact!

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Personal Remembrance

In the words of the Remembrance Prayer:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning.
We will remember them".

A temporary blip with Blogger IT means I am unable to post photos today but you can see BBC pictures of Remembrance Day by clicking here

Maybe it is simply because I am getting older but to me the Remembrance Service yesterday seemed more emotional than usual. We went to our local church service and in the two minute silence at 11 o'clock, I had feelings including sadness, pride and sympathy for all the families of those millions of brave men, women and children who have died for me, my country and my freedom in wars.

The merits of war disappeared from my thoughts for those two minutes. I thought only of parents who saw their sons go to war and not return; the young children who must have wondered where and why their Dad was going away and then the questions to Mum about why he did not come back; the brave women left at home without their husbands trying to keep the family together only to die in bombing raids; the young men in the forces who died alone in a foreign land.

I looked around and as some older people gently raised a tissue to mop a tear, my own eyes became moist and a gulp or two was needed.

Some people want us to stop this Remembrance Day – not me. I hope we NEVER change this tradition.

It is a reminder to those if us lucky enough never to have fought in a war where many brave people have made (and of course continue to make) the ultimate sacrifice for their country ..... and therefore for ME.

I did some quick research with Wikipedia to get a feel of the numbers involved – it is staggering!

In the two world wars the number of UK citizens, military and civilian, who died is 1.2 million.

The total deaths among civilians and the military in the two world wars on both sides amount to over 78 million people. That seems unbelievable and lets us remember that every one of those people was ‘somebody’s someone.’

Saturday, November 11, 2006

And all it cost is £7.50

Even though I no longer work in the National Health Service I still get frustrated when I hear stories about what actually happens in the service.

What follows is a true story – it is not some made up urban myth. I was told the story by Simon, my Surgeon friend a couple of weeks ago.

It seems the Radiology staff in his hospital could not use a camera because the tripod had a small plastic flange missing where the camera should be housed. Simon asked how long it had been on order with the Hospital Supplies Department and was told the Radiology Department had been waiting nine months for the part.

This meant that the department had, for nine months, only one camera available for a particular procedure when they should have two – in other words the department was operating at 50% capacity.

Simon returned to his office, went online to the Kodak Website and found the required part on the Website. It was available in stock at £7.50. He ordered it online and paid for it with his own personal credit card. The part was delivered within two days and this meant the camera was up and running again.

The hundreds – possibly thousands of pounds that were being ‘spent’ in paperwork and procedures to order a tiny piece of equipment and the lack of capacity for nine months was all solved in 10 minutes at a cost of £7.50.

Amazing but true - and some people insist 'big is beautiful.'

Friday, November 10, 2006

Is this your experience too?

Whenever I have been a member of committees, groups, clubs, teams, etc. it seems to me the work is usually done by a few people. Another popular saying on the same subject is ‘If you want a job done, give it to a busy person.’

This seems common practice whenever I speak to friends and colleagues about the subject. The Pareto Principle is often referred to as the ‘80/20 rule.’ That is 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the people.

Recently I came across a lovely analogy about this as follows;

‘It’s likened to a football match, in which thousands of people desperately in need of exercise are watching 22 people desperately in need of a rest.’

Simple and yet powerful don’t you think?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lonestar's latest!

Sometimes I come across song lyrics that portray very accurately the challenges faced in leadership and management.

This week we bought the newly released CD called 'Mountains' by Texas based band Lonestar and came across these wonderful lyrics:

‘Walking’s easy when the road is flat … the good Lord gave us mountains so we can learn how to climb.’

Sounds familiar - I love that.

Do you have any song lyrics that offer inspirational and yet simple advice?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Wanna Tell You a Story

I am delighted to say my fourth book is published.

‘I Wanna Tell You a Story’ can be ordered by clicking here.

This book contains the ‘story’ of 16 incidents that happened during my career where there has been an important leadership lesson for me. I enjoyed writing this book because it reminds me again of the power of story telling as a driver for change.

I hope readers of my Blog will spread the word about this book.

I want to thank my colleagues Felix Gerena and Rocky Noe with whom I share the Sweet Friendships Publishing Brand.

Felix in particular does all the ‘graft’ in getting the book published and both Rocky and I appreciate that skill enormously.

Thank you Amigos – I value our Special Friendship greatly

Monday, November 06, 2006

You have to listen to this - Click here

If you want an example of the men/women divide that still exists in business in 2006 click here - 'BRMB Breakfast Best Of' is the heading you need.

You will hear the story of Helen, a member of staff and how she is treated by her male boss called Alistair. This taped phone call was featured live on local radio BRMB in Birmingham on Friday last week. It is hard to believe this is a conversation in 2006 and sounds more like the 1940’s.

To bypass the first nine minutes of the clip, click 'download' and move the slider on the player to the 9-minute mark.

Any manager acting this way in 2006 should hang their head in shame.

One of many questions I have is; - Would he have spoken the same way to a man dealing with the same issues Helen was raising?

This phone call illustrates what I have always said - that staff are much more in touch with reality than some managers. It also provides more evidence that some managers just do not and will never 'get it.'

Congratulations Sir Alex

Today is the 20th anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson joining Manchester United as Manager in 1986.

Sir Alex is the most successful football manager in my lifetime and most would agree the most successful ever

I had the immense pleasure of exchanging correspondence with Sir Alex who was kind enough to endorse my book Simplicity is the Key. I was impressed that this icon of world football found time to respond not once but twice to me about the book. He provided me with insightful and personal comments about leadership based on his experience and I continue to use his words.

And then, when I left the NHS 2 years ago, I received a photograph from Sir Alex that I have proudly displayed on our office wall. His hand written message on the photograph reads;

‘To Trevor, wishing you a happy future and good health to enjoy it.’ Yours Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex is not only a fantastic manager, he is a man who had the humility to make me feel very special. He did not have to take time in his busy schedule to do the things he has for me - I value his wisdom.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Professor Handy's favourite Gurus

I am listening to a series of talks on BBC Radio from one of my heroes Professor Charles Handy the leading British Management Guru and author of several famous management books – including 'The Age of Unreason' and 'The Empty Raincoat.'

You can download short programmes from BBC Radio Website about his favourite management gurus.
Professor Handy is narrator and each Guru has a programme dedicated to them.

This is the link;

These are the Gurus featured:

  • Peter Drucker
  • Tom Peters
  • Warren Bennis
  • Sumantra Ghoshal
  • Kenichi Ohmae
  • Gary Hamel
  • Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  • Bill Gates
  • Ricardo Semler
  • Michael Porter
  • Fons Trompenaar and Charles Hampden Turner

Happy Listening!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tom Asacker - A Good Bloke!

Tom Asacker is one of my good friends in the US and he been described by none other than Tom Peters as a ‘Marketing Guru.’

Tom Asacker has a great Blog called ‘A Clear Eye for Branding’ which contains a hilarious weekly feature called GuruBBQ – a tongue in cheek and funny ‘side swipe’ from Tom at pretentiousness in the business world. Click here to see the ‘GuruBBQ.’

Tom’s Blog contains great advice – click here to read his Blog and please pass it on to your contacts.

Apart from being a ‘Marketing guru’- Tom’s greatest quality is that he is a really nice bloke!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mysterious Creatures

Timothy Spall
Brenda Blethyn
For as long as I can remember I have had a passion for highlighting the needs of carers (care-givers as known in the US)

These are the people (about 7 million on the UK) who give their love and time to family members, relatives or friends who are ill and in need of support.

Carers have been described by some as the ‘invisible army’ of uncomplaining people who provide their care from a sense of duty, obligation and love. It is always unpaid work and usually a 24 hours a day 7 days a week commitment and is generally un-noticed by the rest of the population.

Tonight (Sunday) Annie and I watched on TV a fantastic and moving drama called Mysterious Creatures.
This tells the true story of two parents driven to a suicide pact because of the stress caused by looking after their ill daughter for 24 years with little effective help from the various agencies involved. The father died and the mother survived the suicide attempt. Click here for latest information

This drama in my opinion should be compulsory watching for all NHS and Social Services Managers.

It portrays the ‘helplessness’ carers often face when they are left alone to deal with terrible situations that sadly are experienced by millions of carers in the UK every day.

Timothy Spall and Brenda Blethyn played (brilliantly in my opinion) the parents who were the carers and the message they managed to portray was as powerful as anything I have seen about the plight of carers in 35 years working in the NHS.

I hope this programme will raise the awareness among the population about the needs of carers.

The needs of patients, of course, must always come first – but the needs of carers are paramount and if we do not invest in supporting carers we are surely just burying our heads in the sand.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Aneurin Bevan (pictured) would turn in his grave

In my opinion and indeed in my working experience one of the most distressing things about our welfare state is how older people towards the end of their lives have to sell their home to pay for their care in private nursing homes or residential care homes.

I think this is scandalous.

I imagine the scene in 1948 when these people were young men and young women and had just fought a 6 year World War.

They were told by the politicians of the day that following the creation of the National Health Service;

‘Poverty will no longer be a disadvantage or wealth an advantage. All health care will be free to all’

Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960) was the Minister of Health in 1948 and used these words to describe the birth of the new National Health Service and I am sure Mr Bevan, a passionate and committed Labour MP, believed and meant this with every last drop of his considerable passion for the NHS.

So here we are almost 60 years later and those young people who are now in the autumn of their lives, see their bank balances rapidly dropping as they pay anything up to £1000 per week for their care.

I have met many such people in my career and also their carers. They are just not interested in hearing subtle and complex reasons why politicians, health and social care managers argue between themselves about whether certain medical condition merit ‘free’ NHS care or ‘means tested’ Social Care.

What really matters to those older people is the promise of politicians 60 years ago – albeit well intentioned. Is there any wonder the population is cynical about politics and politicians when the most vulnerable, the most fragile and weakest in our society are taken advantage of in such an appalling way?

The other issue it brings to my mind is that we need to think very seriously about promises made in 2006 by politicians.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sock it to the NHS!

As I get back into the swing of work following our wedding I am delighted to see the NHS finally getting to grips with the really important stuff.

A report emerged today (click here for details) how the Board of Directors of one NHS organisation is spending time discussing the crucial topic of whether or not to ban NHS staff wearing novelty socks.

In all my years in the NHS I often said we were far too ‘uptight’ and if anyone wanted a good laugh it was seen by some as showing a lack of professionalism.

Caring for people who are sick demands the greatest professionalism - that goes without saying. I have always said that high standards of professionalism are not undermined by having the occasional bit of light relief.

Healthcare is a serious topic and I am not for one nanosecond suggesting we should ever be flippant at work in the NHS … but come on … we cannot afford to see Board members getting involved is what socks the staff wear whilst waiting lists lengthen and overspends increase day by day!!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Besty immortalised.

George Best's father Dickie looks at a print of the banknote at its launch in Belfast.

Almost a year on from his sad death (was it really that long ago?) the immortal George Best has been given the honour of having his picture on one million commemorative £5 bank notes. Click here for more

What a fabulous tribute to one of my all time heroes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More pictures of our Wedding

To view our online Gallery click here or on the photo above

Monday, October 23, 2006

Paul Scholes - a perfect role model for football

One of my favorite footballers of all time, Paul Scholes, yesterday played his 500th match for my team Manchester United.

'Scholesy' as he is affectionately known by all Man United fans, epitomizes for me everything good about professional football and about getting the priorities right. He never seeks publicity, in fact, he positively avoids it.

That does not mean Paul is not passionate about what he does as can be seen in the picture (above) after scoring the first goal in a 2-0 win for Man United yesterday over old rivals Liverpool. Click here for report

He has often been quoted as saying he is only interested in playing football for Manchester United, doing the job he paid for, and then going home to his family. He recently retired from international football for England (more’s the pity) because he wants to devote time to his family.

We live in a time when many very well paid (many would say overpaid) footballers seem to seek publicity and the bright lights lifestyle. These types act and live the lifestyle of celebrities to the full and that of course is a choice they make individually. That choice brings with it the personal responsibility for the image created and the flack such footballers receive from the media when things go ‘pear shaped’ in their celebrity lifestyle.

I think it is wonderful to see a role model like Paul Scholes emerge. To me Scholesy PROVES that a footballer who does not want to attract publicity can achieve that. It follows in my opinion that those footballers who get publicity must SEEK it. Avoiding or attracting publicity is a DECISION in other words. Paul Scholes has proved that.

Long live Paul Scholes as a Manchester United player. He has been loyal to United - his only club since he was in his early teens and now at 31 he obviously still loves it just as much as he always has.

He just wants to play football and care for his family – well done Scholesy - simplicity personified

Friday, October 20, 2006

An unforgettable day

Annie and I had a wonderful day last Saturday when we were married in the presence of our friends and family and of course, God.

It was a terrific day and many memories will stay with us forever. More photos will be posted on this Blog and the Simplicity Gallery soon.

We both enjoyed the day enormously and it feels brilliant to be Mr and Mrs Gay at last.

Just one small hiccup …. Those who know me well will not be surprised by this …

I arrived, as scheduled, at 2.30 pm at the Church with a sort of nagging feeling I had forgotten something but the rings were safe in the pocket of the Best Man. As I got out of the car my heart pounded as I realised I had left the Laptop computer in the boot of my car back at the hotel. Ooops!! The laptop was loaded with a presentation to be projected on the wall – photos and words of hymns etc.,

Thanks to my brother-in-law Rick who broke speed limits and jumped a couple of traffic lights, the Laptop arrived 30 seconds before Annie walked in looking beautiful and it was as if there had been no problem at all.

Thank you again God I love your sense of humour too :-)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tomorrow - A Very Special Day.

Tomorrow Saturday 14th October at 3 pm, Annie and I will be married in our local Church.

I can assure you’re the picture above is NOT our wedding rehearsal …. Although it was in our local Church where we will be married tomorrow. No, this was a piece of drama we performed recently in a normal (did I really say normal??!!) Sunday service.

Tomorrow I promise I will be in a suit and Annie will not have her turban on.

We have had many wonderful e-mails offering congratulations and we thank you for them.

All the preparations are now ready …we think!

Simplicity Blog will be back on Thursday 19th October

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Excellence? - What Excellence?

Tom Peters famous best selling management book published in 1982 was called 'In Search of Excellence.'

That book began a quest for excellence in the business and corporate world and ‘excellence’ became a fashionable, some would say, 'jargon' word.

Today’s report about the performance of the 570 NHS organisations tells us that only 2 (0.003%) of them have achieved the standard of ‘excellence’ in both finance and quality. Click here for more details

Many factors are taken into account before arriving at the assessment of performance of NHS Trusts and as always, there is not a ‘one bullet solution’ to the many problems of the NHS.

I worked for 35 years as a manager in the NHS until two years and I suggest that the biggest single problem is leadership that has its priorities wrong.

The dedication and hard work of staff in the NHS is legendary and in order to motivate those people top class leadership is required. Sad to say in my experience the leadership is usually more concerned about meeting targets and balancing budgets than the welfare of their staff and therein is the problem.