Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Good luck Keano!

In the history of football very few top class players in Britain have gone on to become great club managers or coaches. Apart from Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool who did win some trophies I cannot think of any great players that have achieved any significant success as managers or coaches after their playing career ended.

Roy Keane was appointed yesterday as the new manager of Sunderland Football Club and all Sunderland fans will be hoping Keano can bring them the success they have craved for so many years.

Roy Keane has been a fantastic player and Captain of Manchester United who are my team for the last 43 years. There is no doubt Keano is one of the greatest players ever to pull on the famous Red shirt for United and he played under Sir Alex Ferguson (pictured above shaking Keano's hand) who has been the most successful Manager in Britain in the last 40 years. Keane will no doubt be picking the brains of Sir Alex as he begins his management career.

I sincerely hope Keano does the business for Sunderland and bucks the trend of great players – failed managers. If anyone has the determination, focus and bloody mindedness to succeed it is Roy Keane

Good luck Keano – and any players who step out of line at Sunderland will surely soon discover the wrath of the great man. He has never been one to hold back in giving his opinion.

Monday, August 28, 2006

George Giarchi - my idea of a role model

I often write about how much I respect my Academic Supervisor Professor George Giarchi who has inspired me for so many years.

George is now 76 years old and still works as a lecturer at Plymouth University. He has a contract taking him to age 78. I just cannot imagine George not working beyond that date and he tells me he hopes to have an annual renewable contract at the University once he reaches 78.

Annie and I recently visited George in Plymouth.

I see George less often these days and it was great to catch up with him. Please note the red ‘L’ plate on his office wall. I have often told the story behind this. George says it is there to remind him he is still learning from his students.

When I look for the best qualities of leaders, integrity, honesty and humility always feature as the top three on my list. George has all three of these qualities and many more

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Stupidity – Day Three!

The inimatable Basil Fawlty - some people's customer-care role model I think!

Today’s offering concerns front line customer care.

Can anyone explain why managers appoint people to front line jobs with customer contact who just do not seem to have any respect for the customer?

To me this is simple – appoint people who can empathise and understand the customer - surely this is a no brainer?

Soooooo …. How come I constantly meet morose people dealing with customers?

The customer is made to feel like an inconvenience and an interruption to the tranquility the staff seem to feel they are entitled to enjoy. These people do not smile, they deal with the customer with a dismissive tone of voice and they make little or no eye contact. I am convinced there just has to be a training school from which such people graduate with honours after weeks or months of intensive training.

It really cannot be that difficult or challenging to find the right people to 'front' your business.

Anyone who owns a business is being represented by the person who is interacting with the customer. Next time you have a confrontation with the sort of person I am talking about, why don’t you send a quick e–mail to the owner of the business to explain they are being represented by someone who makes Basil Fawlty seem like Mother Theresa.

That is three really good rants off my chest but I must be careful - I have never been a moaner but I am starting to enjoy bringing out these ironic practices!

I will give thought to my next Stupidity award - any suggestions?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Stupidity - Day Two!

I’m still on my current passionate bandwagon of questioning what I see as plain stupidity in management.

Today I want to get another one off my chest.

How many times do you sit on a train as a paying passenger and an announcement comes across the very poor quality speaker system that is not comprehensible due to the equipment or the clarity of the speakers voice or both?

My simple point is;

Why doesn’t the manager responsible for this shambles simply sit in the train as 'customer' for a few minutes and listen to such rubbish and then do something about it? Surely it is not beyond the wit of man (sorry … person) to do that as a manager and then arrange for the speakers to be replaced with some that actually work so that the clear speaking announcers can be heard. If it is the problem of the annoucers voice and not the speakers then arrange for that person to be either re-trained or moved to another job. Not rocket science is it?

The way I think about this is:

Do we really think the great Shakespeare plays performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford would ever have a lead actor who could not speak clearly or the technology be so inefficient that the paying audience could not hear?

So why do we tolerate it as paying customers in public services such as trains?

I'm enjoying rattling a few cages ..... hope it does not come over as negative .... it is meant to be constructive! As the old saying goes - If the cap fits :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Can designers really be that stupid?

A delicate subject today …. Forgive me!

Please tell me I am not the only person sad enough to notice these things or perhaps I am the only one silly enough to write them down.

It has intrigued me for many years how professionals with such astonishingly bright minds and fabulous qualifications in design can produce such crap design in areas that are so important to all human beings.

I am talking toilet roll holders here … no joke... it has annoyed me for so long that I just have to write about it!!!

I have – like everyone else – visited toilets in hotels, on trains and planes and all sorts of public places all my life. It amazes me that anyone can position toilet roll holders in places that are almost impossible to get to when you are sat down. The only plausible conclusion I can possibly reach is that designers of this must have a warped sense of humour. There can be no sane explanation for such stupidity!

I am not kidding when I say that on occasions I have come across toilet rolls that are in positions where only a contortionist can get to.

Another thing that annoyed me yesterday was how anyone can design a toilet roll where the perforations are so weak that one piece of tissue breaks off the moment you as much as touch it!

Now let me be clear – I have never professed to be any good at practical stuff with my hands – I am happy to let others far brighter than me do that sort of stuff. But when such crazy design and planning happens I believe we have to say something … so there goes I have said it.

I have got off my chest something that has bugged me for ages. Phew I feel better for that …… maybe I need to get a life :-)

The deep joy of normality?

Slowly getting back to something approaching normal work after the break - seems a long while ago now .... even if it is only 36 hours!!!

Mmmmm ... an interesting thought ... what is normal?

Anyone interested in more pictures of our holiday in Malta can see loads of photos by clicking here

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Back home and raring to go!

A big thank you Steve, Phil and Troy for keeping Simplicity Blog ‘awake’ for the last week while we have been sunning ourselves in the wonderful island of Malta.

The weather was superb - very hot all week and the Maltese people were charming, helpful and very friendly.

It was an honour to visit their country and how awesome it is to know that only a few short hours ago we were thousands of miles from home in a totally different culture.

I’m looking forward over the next few days to getting back into the routine of Blogging and it’s good to be back in touch.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Simplicity can Make It Great!

My name is Phil Gerbyshak, and as you may know, Trevor is on vacation, so you're reading the 3rd of his friends sharing their ideas on Simplicity. Thanks to Steve and Troy for setting the bar high with their previous posts. I'm aiming for greatness, and I hope I hit it with this post.

First, to define simplicity. Simplicity is the opposite of complexity; that is, anything that's unnecessary is extracted, and you're left with only what is absolutely important. An attitude of simplicity is one that you say only what's really important, you don't mince words, and you just say what's in your heart.

Now to define Make It Great! Make it Great is to create something, anything, that's better than others settle for. If you "Make It Great!" you don't settle for "good enough."

Make sense? Now just reading those definitions, you may be wondering how simplicity can help you Make It Great! or wondering if I am just trying to tie 2 completely unrelated concepts together, for the sake of argument.

Here's how simplicity can help you Make It Great! in just 15 short minutes, using only a pad of paper and a pen.

Take the time to define your greatness. Right here and now, write down everything that's important to you. Write for 10 minutes, and put everything down. Put your pen and notepad down, and take the next 3 minutes to circle everything on the list that you can't live without. For the next 2 minutes, write everything on the list that you said you can't live without, thinking quickly about whether or not you really REALLY need it and can't live without it.

Time's up.

Look at your list of items. This is your Make It Great! Simplicity list. This is what you should be working on for the rest of your life. Find new ways to work these things into your life. Right here, right now. And enjoy the simplicity of it all.

Phil Gerbyshak

Phil Gerbyshak thanks Trevor Gay for the opportunity to share his message with the readers of Simplicity! For more of Phil's message, stop over to Make It Great! anytime. Phil challenges you to stop having a nice day...and Make it Great!

On Simplicity - Part 3

From Vince Lombardi:
Mental toughness is many things. It is humility because it behooves all of us to remember that simplicity is the sign of greatness and meekness is the sign of true strength. Mental toughness is spartanism with qualities of sacrifice, self-denial, dedication. It is fearlessness, and it is love.

On Simplicity - Part 2

From Leonardo Da Vinci

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

On Simplicity

With Trevor traveling, this one is appropriate:

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”

Charles Dudley Warner

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Extreme ironing

As noted, Trevor is away on holiday and has graciously arranged for Troy, Phil, and I to help with some postings here in his absence.

I'll start with a story about a trip by car from Rhode Island to Fort Kent, Maine. The car was borrowed from my brother-in-law. Six of us fit into the sedan for the 12-13 hour ride north. My mother brought along a small (travel version) ironing board. Yes, we were going to be staying at a hotel but this was in the days well before finding an iron and ironing board in your hotel room was standard. This trip was for my brother's wedding. Mother thought it was very important that we all were dressed properly. Something, whether a dress, or suit coat, or shirt, or whatever might need some touching up after the trip, hence the board and iron. However, the board did not fit into the trunk so it was destined to ride on the laps of those in the back seat. It was handy for playing cards to pass the time away but other than that the board began to get in the way.

The board earned a few choice names from the back seat passengers as they took turns being the primary holder. It was long enough, about 3 feet, to spread across two people at a time. The person in the middle never seemed to get away from it at all. Eventually, on one of the pit stops, the passengers began rotating spots to get a break from the board. We did make it without a mishap to Ft. Kent. The wedding was a grand success partly due to our clothes being so well pressed for the event. No doubt this single fact has contributed to my brother and sister-in-law celebrating their 25 wedding anniversary this September.

At the beginning of August, I joined a group of folks to do a hike up Mount Mansfield, Vermont. We were all hiking to support our friend Marty on his 67th and final ascent of a peak more than 4,000 feet above sea level in New England. He picked a good day. Gorgeous weather (70 F, no humidity, clear skies) and a good mountain to be the last one on the list. Mount Mansfield peaks at 4,393 feet and is the high point for the State of Vermont. The group rendezvoused at the trail head in Underhill State Park. For additional details, Marty filed a trip report with the View from the Top that you can read. My photo essay of the day can be found here. The main point of this part of the story is shown in this picture which was taken on the summit.

We met up and I talked with the "extreme ironing man"”. This was something I had never seen in my previous hikes so I had to find out more. We did have a brief conversation as he mounted the board to his day pack. He seemed to be on a schedule so I did not pursue the 20 questions that where ready to be asked. His collared shirt was nicely pressed as headed down the trail.

When I got down from the mountain I was anxious to do some research on this phenomenon. Mr. Extreme Ironing had mentioned that he had a book about extreme ironing.

Someone had written a book about extreme ironing? Yes, indeed. This was true.

It turns out that a Leicester lad by the name of Phil Smith in 1997 had the urge to go hiking but was also faced with a pile of ironing to do in order to have some clothes to wear for the week ahead. He decided to combine the two and took part of the ironing with him on the hike. Others have since taken this form of ironing to further extremes as photos on the web site and book will attest.

So my mother may have been on to something 25 years ago and we did not realize it!

What does this have to do with Simplicity?

To be different, to be great, to find your niche does not mean you need to do anything really extreme. Phil Smith took two simple activities; one purely domestic (ironing) and one active outdoor (hiking) and put them together. Hiking, a rather pleasurable if somewhat strenuous activity, combined with ironing, a somewhat tedious but necessary domestic activity. He made an opportunity. He found a niche. He did something great by asking a simple question: Why not?

Why can't I do my ironing on my hike?

We may not all be as successful as Phil. We may not be the first to find the next big thing. It certainly won't happen to us if we don't ask Why or Why not?

So what are you going to why not about?

When are you going to ask why?

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

No more from me until 23 August!

During our holiday you will find writings from three of my American friends Troy Worman, Steve Sherlock and Phil Gerbyshak – I hope regular Simplicity readers enjoy the different perspectives. Good luck to my three friends and I will be looking in from a PC in some Internet CafĂ© somewhere I am sure. We fly to Malta on Tuesday next week so thanks Troy for starting early!! - It means I can relax and start to get ready for the holiday!!! I will be back to Blogging on 23 August.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Its good being a Grandad

Above are a couple of pictures of our latest visit to see my Grandson Sebastian. He is now 16 months old - how time flies. We enjoyed some time on the beach with him. Wonderful!

The Stuff of Synergy

What is the stuff of synergy?

Synergy is defined as a cooperative interaction among groups or individuals, two or more agents or forces, so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects, so that they create a whole which is greater than its parts.

But how exactly does this happen?

Check out my post What is the stuff of synergy at the blog Synergy and join the conversation.

Tags: synergy, teamwork, collaboration.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cluetrain author dispels absolute transparency myth

Guest Strumpette writer David Weinberger warns that transparency is not inherently good.

Be sure to read the comments.

Secrets To Our Success

My friend Terry has posted a great topic on his Blog which is called Ramblings From a Glass Half Full

Terry has listed 29 things that have influenced and helped him in his career and his list is well worth reading. I endorse all 29!

The most interesting thing to me is that 'technical' aspects, 'systematic' stuff and 'process' stuff hardly get a mention in Terry's 29 items and almost all of them are what I would call ‘heart and minds’ stuff.

As a fully signed up member of the ‘softer side’ of management and leadership I say Terry’s list is BRILLIANT!

Why not take a look by clicking here and let Terry have your comments.

Monday, August 07, 2006

We are in!!

Phew … at last ... we are settled (I think!) in the new house.

After a really hectic weekend we are still unpacking multitudes of cardboard boxes and we have found most of the important stuff … I think.

We got the two PC’s up and running yesterday after a bit of a panic and things seem to be working well on the IT front. I must admit it is great that we now have a real office!

Annie, bless her, has done all the work today in the house as I have been working at a local hospital and tomorrow I am again out most of the day on business ... no, that is not just a feeble male excuse – it is real work honest!

We also have to get ready now for our holiday next week also so as they say there really is no rest for the wicked!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Three Amigos with One Messge

I am delighted to say Three Amigos with One Message is now published and is available worldwide from LULU click here for details.

It has been wonderful to be a part of this exciting project with my two Amigos, Felix from the Basque Country, Spain and Roger (Rocky) from Kentucky, USA.

We hope you enjoy our book and that you will tell your friends!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Technology - friend or foe?

I got involved in an interesting discussion today about whether technology has diminished social interaction.

My view is the opposite - I think technology can actually increase social interaction as long as the technology is used wisely and effectively. I have many friends around the world I have never met – maybe never will meet and that is totally down to modern technology.

My summary statement on this subject;

"Insularity is not a consequence of technology it is a consequence of our mindset."

I like that.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

'It's a Goal'

Pete Sayers - one of the driving forces behind the project

Malcolm McClean, project founder with his son

Sir Bobby Charlton talks about the project - apologies for poor quality photo

One of the most disturbing statistics in healthcare is the high number of young men who commit suicide and those who suffer from depression.

I was honoured today to be invited to the official launch of a wonderful project called “It’s a Goal’ which already has had some startling results that are very encouraging.

‘It’s a goal’ is a 12 week programme using football metaphor to enable young men suffering from depression to be the best that they can be.

The project started at Macclesfield Town Football Club in 2004 and has now been adopted by the biggest football club in the world – and of course my favourite team Manchester United.

At the launch today we heard from Sir Bobby Charlton, the Manchester United legend about how Manchester United will fully support the programme and Sir Bobby said he hopes that more football clubs in England, Europe and far beyond will take on board this simple and yet effective programme.

The pictures above capture some of the highlights of a great event which was held at Old Trafford - affectionately known as the Theatre of Dreams - the home of Manchester United Football Club.

I am fortunate to know Malcolm McClean who had the original idea of using football to help this group of people.

Good luck to Malcolm and the team for the continued success of the project and if anyone wants more information please contact Malcolm