Thursday, May 31, 2007

I agree with Pat Conroy

'I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position. '
- Pat Conroy
Actually the version I am more familiar with and I had posted on my office wall in the NHS was as follows:
'I'm NOT paranoid ... I KNOW the b*****ds are out to get me'

This train calls at xbhsgfyutu2bfbb.....and kkkkklpk

I return to one of my favourite rants on customer service today.

Two simple questions;

1 Why do rail companies install obviously inefficient technology for ‘in-train’ announcements that means passengers can’t hear the announcement?

2 When the technology is good and the sound quality is perfect why do the people speaking talk so fast or so incoherently that passengers again cannot understand the message?

Please, please, please, this is really not complicated is it???!!!!

Two simple solutions;

1 – Have a manager from the rail company sit in the carriage as a ‘passenger’ to listen to what paying passengers have to put up with!

2 – Someone tell the staff very kindly to talk slowly and clearly.

Now that really wasn't too complicated was it?


Phew I feel so much better for that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Be humble, you are still learning

‘A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.’ D. L. Moody.

I studied relatively late in my career for my MA Management (Healthcare). I was 43 when I returned to study at Plymouth University Business School in 1996. This was a three year commitment – I did the course on day release from my job - and balancing the responsibilities of a family, a senior management position in healthcare and a significant learning requirement meant I had to learn many skills about priorities.

It was during this time that one of the most influential individuals ‘arrived’ in my life.

I had known Professor George Giarchi (pictured above) for a few years prior to 1996 through some work that we had done together in support of family carers. George had always struck me as an inspirational sort of character if a little eccentric. He was not my idea of a traditional teacher.

In the first of my 3 years I was told by my lecturers to start searching for an academic supervisor for my third year major research project and the 20,000 word dissertation that would be required. George was one of our lecturers in the first and second year for subjects such as ethics. One day in year one I asked George if he would be my supervisor for the third year including the research and the dissertation and he had no hesitation in saying yes. I was relieved and delighted at having identified someone so early in my course. I was particularly pleased it was George who was held in the highest esteem by all my peer students – there was plenty of envy that I had obtained George’s commitment so early in our course!
As I began my major research at the end of year two I made a plan in partnership with George to schedule our regular supervision sessions throughout year three. We agreed to meet once every six weeks for an hour.
As I began this journey I got to know George much better with each session. His academic knowledge is awesome. He has written many books and has lived a fascinating life. Above all else he remains a humble man. I used to visit George in his basement office at the University – completely unpretentious. His room including the floor was full of reports and files. I remember one day asking him if he knew of a particular author and George promptly disappeared among his precious and valued boxes scattered all over the floor and emerged with a reference muttering words to the effect ‘Ah yes I remember he wrote something in 1968 that will be interesting … I was staggered that from this apparently disorganised pile of paper came something that was so precious to me.’ I often smile at George’s eccentricities.

One day I asked him why he had a large red ‘L’ plate on white background nailed to his office wall. George explained “The letter ‘L’ is on display just to remind me I am still learning.’

One another occasion I remember George telling me: ‘I learn more from my students than they ever learn from me.’

In the case of some people I have known in my career these two examples would not have been authentic behaviour. With George you just need to look into his eyes and listen to his words to appreciate this is authentic.

In the time I have known George which is probably over 20 years there has never been one second when I have heard George utter one word of self praise. He always defers to his students and can even be self deprecating. He is 76 going on 18 and a better role model does not exist.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Trust Me I'm a Patient

In the next month or so in various parts of England, Annie and I will be delivering 4 more of our highly successful inter-active workshops called Trust Me I’m a Patient.

This is an exciting and creative way for healthcare staff to see change through the eyes of others - especially patients.
Click here for more details.

Trust Me I'm a Patient is a facilitated workshop that last for between two and three hours.
It enables all participants to play a different role to their normal role in a scenario we re-create similar to those everyday scenarios faced by healthcare managers in the real world. For example the closure of three GP Surgeries and their replacement with a new purpose built health centre in the out of town shopping centre. The issues of public and patient involvement are then played out.

Feedback to date has been good and we have delivered the workshop to almost 550 participants.

It is great to receive bookings for more workshop as words gets around that role play and drama is an effective way of learning.

It is even more encouraging that hard pressed NHS managers who are struggling to balance their budgets are finding money to invest in this creative way of developing their staff.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Two more books from Dan Ward

Two more new books written by my prolific US author friend Dan Ward are now published and available for sale from LULU.

First The Desert at this link

Second The Simplicity Cycle at this link

I hope readers of Simplicity Blog will spread the word about these two easy to read books.

Dan is a talented writer who incorporates the lighter side of life and humour together with profound messages in the same book.

Friday, May 25, 2007

NHS is top of the league!

Given the constant - and I believe - unfair criticism of the NHS I thought you might like to see a report published last week by the world renowned Commonwealth Fund based in New York.

The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency. The Fund carries out this mandate by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy. An international program in health policy is designed to stimulate innovative policies and practices in the United States and other industrialised countries.

You can see a summary of the findings by clicking here

In a nutshell this report concludes the UK Health care system emerges as the top overall performer in terms of value for money in healthcare of 6 countries - Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, UK and US.

In fact the US is the worst performer on 4 of the 5 headings.

I am the first to admit our NHS has problems but it is encouraging to know we are top of the league.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Customers are not Stupid

Something that irritates me intensely is when I see advertisements for example as ‘Fly to X or Y place for £1’

When you make further enquires it turns out the flight ticket itself may well be £1 but with airport taxes and extras the cost can be anything up to £100 in my experience.

Not only is this a morally wrong 'con' I believe it should be made illegal.

I have had heated rows with representatives and I tell them they are lying to customers.

I usually get some very patronising person telling me it is ‘technically correct’ the flight costs £1 – it is airport taxes etc., that push up the price!

We customers are not stupid so please do not treat us as such.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I do listen ... honest Guv!

I decided to do my latest Audio Blog about feedback received from readers of Simplicity Blog. As you know customer care is a topic I often rant about ...... sooooo ..... to make sure I'm not 'a poacher turned gamekeeper' I thought I must respond! Thanks again to all the folks who provided such fabulous and constructive feedback and I hope Simplicity Blog will continue to retain your interest. This Audio is 2 minutes 32 seconds

MP3 File

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Lead Well and Prosper

If you are anything like me you will already have a pile of reading material waiting to be read. So I don’t want to burden you with another book BUT

If you are looking for something to read in no more than two hours – even for slow readers - then please order Nick McCormick’s new book called ‘Lead Well and Prosper’

I read the book in less than an hour.

What comes through most to me is how Nick is firmly grounded in the reality of everyday management. He uses his experience to propose common sense in all aspects of management. The book contains a brilliant summary at the end of each section with ‘do’s’ ‘don’ts’ and action points.

The book is available on Amazon by clicking here where you can see other customer reviews.

I have only just come across Nick’s work but I can see he has a great deal to offer all of us in the campaign to simplify unnecessarily complex management practice and language. I share that passion with Nick and I wish him well with this book.

If you are looking for a deeply academic and theoretical book about management don't bother to buy it. If on the other hand you want something that is practical, is about the real world and is helpful to everyday management then I urge to you consider adding this to your book collection.

I said in my endorsement of Nick's book;

‘I really love it – simple, straightforward and practical. It can and should be read by front liners through to Chief Executives.’

Saturday, May 19, 2007

We lost but I'm a United fan for Life!

Well done lads!! - United players looking gutted after losing 1-0

The new Wembley - today was the first matach at the magnificent new stadium

My team Manchester United lost in the first FA Cup Final at the new Wembley today ..... But hey ..... Come on United ... True United fans will never lose the faith.

Chelsea won the match 1-0 and sadly it was probably one of the worst finals ever as a spectacle considering these were the top two teams in the English Premiership this season.

United just didn’t get into top gear although I think they always looked the more attacking team.

It has nevertheless been a fabulous and memorable season for Sir Alex Ferguson’s young team winning the Premiership which has proved they are the best English team over 38 games.

The one match that now remains this season is the European Champions League final in Athens this coming Wednesday when Liverpool will be carrying the English flag against AC Milan from Italy.

I will be cheering for Liverpool despite the great and often bitter rivalry between my team Manchester United and Liverpool.

On such occasions however we English football fans must stick together in Europe!!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Customer Care .... P.S.

Two other things that often intrigue both Annie and me about customer care:

1 Those allegedly ‘helpful staff’ in clothes stores who approach me when I’m obviously trying to browse only and I’m doing my level best to avoid eye contact. They still INSIST on asking ‘Can I help you?’

2 Those staff behind the counter who look me in the eye and say ‘Next please’ as I stand in an orderly queue anyway … I can work it out without being told .. honest … I really can!!

I guess I really must get out more :-)

Do you have any classics you can share?

Customer Care again ...

I would like to return briefly to the subject of customer care.

Last time I raised this it created more comments than most topics so I just wanted to put the positive side of customer care forward.

My previous post was about how front line staff were unable - it seemed to me - to make any decision about flexibility and pleasing the customer.

How wonderful it is to report there are some people who just take the bull by the horns and use their plain common sense and intiative without having to be scared about ‘asking the boss’ or ‘worrying about what the procedure says.’

Two weeks ago Annie and I went along to our local fish and chip shop and ordered our take away family meal. When we arrived home we discovered the curry sauce had not been placed in the bag. It was not worth going back so we put it down to experience and enjoyed our meal.

Yesterday we went back to the same fish and chip shop and casually mentioned this matter - a wee bit tongue in cheek.

The young lady dealt with our current order and we paid.

Just as we were about to leave the shop she handed us 90p which was the value of the previous unpacked Curry sauce order from 2 weeks before.

She didn’t have to believe us but she did.










Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I am delighted to say I have been appointed Chairman of a local voluntary organisation (in an unpaid capacity)


SNAP aims to enable parents and carers, the voluntary sector and statutory bodies to work together on behalf of children with special needs.

SNAP is an independent charity which works with parents from all parts of the Borough of Solihull.

I initially did some work about a year ago as a consultant for SNAP to try and assist them come to terms with massive changes going on in the voluntary sector. I was subsequently invited to join the Board of Directors and now comes the opportunity to become Chairman after just a few months.

How quickly these things happen.

SNAP is an organisation that is held in the highest possible esteem by the ‘customers’ of the services provided.

Last night (Tuesday) was my first Board Meeting as Chairman of the Board and I genuinely feel a sense of pride in being associated with an organisation that is so highly regarded by 'customers' of the service.

During the meeting the senior manager of SNAP showed us a letter signed by 10 parents of children who have special needs. The letter sang the praises of the service SNAP provides and how important it is for the quality of life of these parents.

It feels like a great responsibility to be Chairman of such a well respected and well loved organisation.

I just hope I can live up to this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Confucius Says

The best advice is often just a few words.

I was 24 and very inexperienced when I got a good job as manager in healthcare in a residential unit for people with a learning disability.

To be perfectly honest I was scared of people with a learning disability because in my childhood in the 1960’s these people were never in the community – they were in hospitals.

I met the doctor I was to work with for the following 4 years and he told me;

‘I expect just two things from you as a manager. One is to keep an open mind and the second is to spend time with the patients and their families’

That was terrific wisdom from a man I greatly respect. By following his advice I came to love the time I spent working in that service.

It turned out to be the best possible advice I could have had at that time in my career. I spent 4 years working in this area of healthcare alongside this doctor and it was the most rewarding and educational of the 35 years I spent in the NHS.

What great wisdom have you received in your career?

Monday, May 14, 2007

More power to Front Liners PLEASE

The great Andrew Carnegie got it right - see quote below

I have long advocated for front line staff.

Since I started work in 1969 – as a front liner of course - my opinion has not changed. Front line staff are not valued anywhere near enough in most organisations.
This is despite patronising platitudes from senior management such as;

‘Our staff are our most valuable asset’

In my opinion that is usually not the way staff are treated in reality when we take apart, in some detail, the ACTIONS of managers compared to their WORDS. In the words of the legendary Andrew Carnegie 'As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.'

I argue almost every single front liner is ‘over managed’

Processes that are always invented by managers usually mean front line staff have to jump through completely unnecessary hoops and I believe many management jobs could easily be wiped out overnight if we give front line staff more freedom to make decisions.

I saw this directly for 35 years in my health service career and I still see it when I look at the way most organisations work - whether a big organisation or even (and more sadly) in small businesses.

I get a real buzz when I see staff ALLOWED to use their initiative and work for the customer rather than having to disappear and ask permission of someone more 'senior' (but often less 'in touch' with customers)

In reality, the front liner usually knows the right answer.

If it is frustrating for me as a customer just imagine how it feels for the member of staff and how demoralising it is.

I’d love to hear your examples of companies where front line staff are GENUINELY allowed to make decisions and just get on with it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Manchester United were presented with the Premiership Trophy on Sunday. A wonderful achievement!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thank you Mr Blair

Since Tony Blair was elected as our Prime Minister in 1997 I have said he is a great leader. I still believe that and today he announced his resignation effective from 27th June 2007. I also believe history will be kinder to him than current opponents. Thank you Tony Blair and I hope you will enjoy your well deserved less pressurised life.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

World of Work - Then and Now

Since 2004 my world of work has changed dramatically for me.

For the last two and a half years I’ve worked from home as a self- employed trainer, consultant and author following my career of over 35 years in administration and management in the National Health Service (NHS).

Just a few musings about three years ago and now

Then – I had a boss
Now – I am my own boss

Then – Had set duties whether or not I liked them
Now – Only do work I enjoy

Then – Had set hours
Now – Work whenever I like

Then – Judged by bosses
Now – Judged by customers

Then – De-motivated, bored, tired and stale
Now – Enthusiastic, passionate keen to make a difference

Then – Uncertain about my future
Now – Looking forward to being 110 years old

Then – Not in love
Now – Very much in love

Then - Unhappy in my work
Now – Totally content in my work

Another huge issue is that I used to receive a healthy monthly salary that was guaranteed for me for another 12 years in the NHS if I had stayed.

Now I have no guarantee whatsoever of income each month and yet I love my new world of work much more than my old world of work.

Since I left the NHS I have received income from work every month and I have no regrets about leaving an 'apparent comfort blanket' of secure employment. That 'blanket' was not comfortable at all I assure you.

If you are fed up and wondering whether to jump from corporate life I would never tell you to go for it – I am not that arrogant. It must of course be your decision.

I would only say in my experience it worked for me and the reality was far less threatening than my fears about it before I made the jump.

Have OPTIMISM, ENTHUSIASM and most of all have FAITH in your own ability - that has been my biggest single learning point.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Feedback on Feedback!

It was great to have some comments about the content of Simplicity Blog and I have ‘heard’ everyone's comments. Thank you

It feels generally the direction I was going in was right for most people. Maybe I just need to make sure I keep a mixture of work and social stuff.

I don’t want a Blog that is solely and only about Business.

I’ve always felt that business is far too stuffy and serious and I want to keep a mixture of personal and business. I’ve always said it’s not compulsory to be miserable and serious at work.

We need to lighten things up a bit in the business world and by the way that doesn’t mean being less professional.

I always say there is no point in asking for feedback and then ignoring what people say. I hope therefore the balance in future will be ok for readers and I’ m pretty sure you will let me know if I don’t achieve that.

Don’t forget you can also visit
Annie’s Blog for other stuff that we do.

Monday, May 07, 2007




Sunday, May 06, 2007


Steve is a reader of Simplicity Blog and left me a really helpful comment about the recent content of Simplicity Blog.

Steve’s comment has given me food for thought. I am a big critic of people who do not listen to feedback from customers and change as a result.

Steve commented very honestly that he was disappointed about my recent postings on Simplicity Blog because I have concentrated too much on football, politics and religion.

I am delighted with Steve’s comments because it means people have an interest in what I write on my Blog and I genuinely want this to be a ‘conversation’ .......

Soooooooo .... please let me now what sort of thing you have enjoyed in the past on Simplicity Blog and I will make sure I post about those things.

My own thoughts are that I should comment about simplicity in leadership, management and business but please let me know what else you want to hear about!

Thanks again Steve - I value your comments. I hope I can change things.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Listen to Nicky Gumbel

We had the immense pleasure recently of listening live to Nicky Gumbel the Minister of Holy Trinity Brompton in London.

Nicky is an inspiring speaker and whether or not you are a Christian his gift of oratory is well worth listening to.

You can listen to a number of Nicky’s talks at the
HTB website at this link

The talk entitled
Engage by Nicky Gumbel is one I would strongly recommend.

There is much within Nicky’s talk about management, leadership and change and whether or not you are a Christian I’m confident you will learn something.

I hope regular Simplicity readers will take the opportunity to listen, free of charge – to a gifted speaker – one of the best I have come across.

I would love to hear your comments.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Spare a thought for the Receptionist

Annie and I ran a Customer Care Workshop for front line receptionists in a GP Surgery this week.

We had the pleasure of working with 16 receptionists and we were impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of these people to improve the way they do things.

Receptionists in doctor’s surgeries often get bad press and until you spend time working with them I would ask you to try and understand some of the pressures they are under.

They have to deal with the demands of ‘customers’ coming at them constantly. At the same time they are acting under strict instruction from doctors who are busy people and have to ration their time very carefully to meet the demands of their patients.

It makes for an interesting life as the ‘meat in a sandwich’ as a medical receptionist. Given the pressure they work under, it was good to hear that patient feedback is excellent on the whole.

What impressed us most was their willingness to accept that however good their service is, there is always potential to improve.

We enjoyed working with these front liners who represent their service very well.

Next time you visit your GP Surgery try and remember the Receptionists are key players in your treatment and they do their best under sometimes trying circumstances.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Disappointing United crash out.

Wayne Rooney shows his disappointment as Man Utd lose and miss out on playing Liverpool in the final

Well that’s it for another year in Europe.

Manchester United crashed out of the European Champions league tournament in the semi final against AC Milan. United were well land truly stuffed 3-0 by a better team on the night. The aggregate score over the two legs was 5-3. We will now have to concentrate on wining the English premiership and the FA Cup which would still be a brilliant season. Once more … so close yet so far away …. Well done boys and better luck next year.