Friday, June 29, 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Memo to All 1.3 million NHS staff!

As a follow up to the Ricardo Semler posting this is a copy of a slide I use in all my talks on healthcare. This says it all - simplicity and a wonderful reminder to all staff in the NHS why they are employed.

Ricardo Semler proves Simplicity works

If you have 10 minutes to spare I beg you to watch this interview with Ricardo Semler – Chairman of Semco and perhaps the most radically successful business man in the world. Mr Semler turns upside down all traditional management theory and uses common sense and simplicity.


*He believes passionately in front line staff.
*Managers in his company are appointed by the staff and they might have to go through 5 interviews before the staff make up their minds.
*The staff set their own salaries.

And for the cynics about his approach ... just look at the record of his company.

Why can't we have more Semler’s in business?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Accepting Change

Change is always difficult.

I remember hearing a friend tell the story that he went along to a 30 year school reunion. He said the only person who had not changed was him!

It was of course tongue in cheek but within that there is an important statement.

Mahatma Gandhi said ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world’

So many people are passionate advocates of change that does not affect them directly – we have to get an emotional connection with the change if we really want to understand it.

My style as manager has always been to try and understand what is the rationale for any change? Then I can try and sell it.

But the greatest test of any change is surely - Would I accept it personally?

GK Chesterton wrote a letter to The Times in answer to their question in the reader’s letters section – What is wrong with the world?

His letter was the shortest of the lot ….. It read as follows:

Dear Sir

In answer to your question what is wrong with the world – I am.

Yours sincerely

GK Chesterton

My message? – Before implementing change ask yourself – would I accept this?

Monday, June 25, 2007

More Branson wisdom

Every now and again I find a book that I can’t wait to pick up for the next opportunity to read it!

Sir Richard Branson’s ‘Screw it Lets Do It - Expanded’ is such a book for me.

I’m two thirds of the way through it now and I keep finding gems that I will use in presentations, Blogs and books for years to come!

The latest simple Branson observation that grabbed me from the book;

‘There are always people who criticise and usually they’re the ones who come up with no solutions’

Amen Sir Richard - I have met many of them!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Justice Not Charity

*We can all produce facts that can be taken out of context.
*Statistics can be twisted to suit an argument.
*Spin doctors can put a slant on things to create a story.

Having said all that, and allowing for inevitable cynicism about such things, I say it is simply not acceptable in 2007 to just accept the following statement;

‘The amount of money we spend on ice cream in Europe is enough to immunize every child in the world’

Worldwatch Institute

In a world where 20,000 people die every day – mainly children – due to poverty, I have to agree with Bono who says ‘This is not a charity issue – it is a justice issue.’

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Boys will be Boys

Among male readers of Simplicity Blog I hope I am not alone in never really growing up. I’m 54 and one day I guess I will be forced to become an adult.

Occasionally something will make me laugh uncontrollably in that schoolboy playground way. This is a ‘boy thing’ I suspect and female readers of Simplicity Blog may or may not find this ‘You Tube’ video funny.

It features the late great Brian Johnston a much loved BBC cricket commentator and his much younger commentary colleague Jonathan Agnew who was 'learning the ropes' under his great mentor.

The year was 1991 and this was a live BBC radio broadcast.

Jonathan Agnew describes Ian Botham's freak dismissal where he fell over his own stumps, with the immortal "just couldn't quite get his leg over".

Brian Johnston desperately tries to maintain control of his hysteria and retain his professionalism while attempting to sum up the day's play, while Agnew sinks further and further into helpless laughter. Eventually both of them completely lose it and burst into uncontrollable laughter. It sounds hilarious

Each time I hear this, it makes me laugh more. It is only 1 minute 20 seconds of commentary and is one of the funniest ever live radio clips.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How to Deal with Anger

I was listening to a talk from Nicky Gumbel today on my MP3 player whilst on a train journey to London. The talk is called ‘How to Deal with Anger. ’ It is an incredibly moving talk and in one part of it Nicky talks about how people act out anger in the work setting. Nicky uses the 4 M’s of Rick Warren to illustrate this.

It is a really neat list and I recognise all 4 types of behaviours from my NHS career.

I believe I am a bit of each but of course other people are better qualified to say which 'M' I fall into.

The 4 M’s

Maniacs - These are people on a short fuse who yell and curse.

Mutes - These are the silent types who ‘hold it in’ and simmer and stew on things.

Martyrs – These hold 'pity parties' and make everyone miserable.

Manipulators – These don't get mad - they get even. They use sarcasm and play office politics to get even.

I’d love to hear if you recognise any or all of them in your work ..... and is anyone brave enough to tell us which 'M' they are?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gandhi Wisdom

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) promoted peace in his lifetime and here are a few of his quotes. How we could do with inspirational leaders like this in 2007.

'I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.'

'What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea.'

'You must be the change you wish to see in the world'

'It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.'

'Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.'

'The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.'

'The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problem.'

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Listen to Patients Stories

I always said I learned more from patients and their carers than I ever did from bosses in my NHS career.

I am happy to say that learning from patients continues in my new work situation.

Two wonderful and touching examples in the last two days reminded me of this.

On Thursday I spoke to a young man in his thirties (I will call him 'Tom')

We were sharing our mutual love of football. Turned out he was a West Ham fan. I digress…

Tom told me how he had suffered intermittent shooting pains down his leg for a couple of years and had been told it was sciatica. He was on prescribed tablets to reduce inflammation and it seemed to work as he found that whilst taking the tablets the pain eased. When he stopped taking the tablets the pain returned. He played football and when his playing season ended a few weeks ago he decided he didn’t really want to spend the rest of his life on tablets. Tom decided to ask his doctor if there was anything that could be done. His doctor arranged for him to have a scan and it was discovered he had a rare cancer of the spine that needed surgery. Tom was rushed in as an emergency – had major surgery that lasted almost 7 hours - and here he was, back at work less than five weeks after his surgery. Tom told me he hopes to play football again and his doctor has said that should be possible.

Lesson – Respect the health professionals but also look after your own health as well. Always ask questions and don’t necessarily accept the initial diagnosis.

Then on Friday I had another powerful lesson.

I was facilitating a really interesting discussion with a group of 10 members of the public about healthy lifestyles and we were debating the controversial topic of smoking.

There were 3 smokers among the 10 people around my table. Those 3 people were understandably vocal about how everyone has the right to choose whether they smoke or not. And of course most of us agree with individual choice.

One of the other 7 people quietly made a very profound statement that affected us all. He is a man in his 70’s (for the sake of this story I will call him Bill)

Bill said he had given up smoking 40 years ago and we were all shocked when he calmly said, ‘But it was too late. I have cancer.’

Once we had recovered from this shock - and I had allowed the necessary respectful silence having heard Bill’s emotional statement - I decided to ask Bill a question.

I said ‘Bill, thank you for sharing that with us, what advice would you give to anyone who is a smoker?’

Bill replied with just one word ‘Stop’

That is all he said.

Bill's eyes moistened but he held his emotions in. It was enough for us all to know that here was a very strong man who now regrets the damage he had done in his earlier life. He was not looking for sympathy.

40 years ago smoking was not only acceptable – it was positively encouraged through glamorous advertisements.

Lesson - I pray the 3 people who smoked really thought hard about Bill’s experience and his one word of advice.

Real life stories from patients are just wonderful. There simply is no better way to learn about healthcare.

The job description of every Chief Executive in the NHS should contain a REQUIREMENT to listen to patient’s stories. This should be compulsory and regular – a minimum of three personal stories every week.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Does it really have to be this difficult?

Regular Simplicity Blog readers will remember a while ago I wrote a couple of postings about stupid things I simply could not understand. One of the things I mentioned was the ridiculous places that toilet rolls are fixed in public toilets.

I conclude after another week of visiting a few public conveniences on my travels that I was right all along.

In a nutshell designers either have a wicked sense of humour, they are contortionists and assume the rest of us are too, or they are just plain stupid. Who in their right mind would fix a toilet roll holder in the position shown on this photograph?
This is at Snow Hill Railway Station, Birmingham. Annie took the photo this evening while we were at Snow Hill simply because readers just would not believe me without the evidence - No planner could be that stupid you would be saying without seeing the evidence!

Earlier in the week I had the dubious pleasure of experiencing another crazy set up in the public toilets in Keele Services on the M6 Motorway.

The large toilet roll holder contained two of those really large rolls and every time I pulled the end of the roll just one piece of tissue came off the roll because of the weight of the roll and the relative weakness of the paper!

Therefore I had to use my imagination and hold my hand up inside the holder itself to manipulate the roll round to allow more than one sheet of tissue to appear out of the base of the holder and then remove my hands from inside the holder to tear off the tissue!!! – Am I exaggerating??? – No - just try it yourself next time you are passing Keele Services!!

It seems impossible to imagine that something so simple as fixing a toilet roll holder in an accessible place and designing a toilet roll holder that allows the customer to tear off tissue easily could be so difficult.

This posting is mildly amusing of course but behind it is a serious message about design and common sense and customer care (yes customer care – I AM DEADLY SERIOUS!)

It has been a long week and I have travelled many miles ….. Interesting that the thing that got me most motivated to write on my Blog was about public toilets!!

Maybe the travelling has finally got to my brain

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What a Week!

A busy week of rail and road travel to work in various places in England.

Monday - Bury
Tuesday - Bolton
Wednesday – Near Manchester
Thursday – Nottingham
Friday - Wigan

Saturday and Sunday to recover!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Screw it Lets Do It

Next week Monday to Friday I am on the road travelling to various parts of England for work. Life feels good and a lot more varied than the ‘old days’ of going into my NHS office – the same environment, day in, day out.

This feels much better and far more interesting … and if nothing else, I am becoming something of a rail travel expert!

Yesterday while I waited for my (ironically enough) Virgin Train at Birmingham New Street Railway Station at 6.30 am I bought Richard Branson's book 'Screw it Let's Do It - Expanded'

I'm only 40 pages in and already completely hooked.

From the first few pages here are some of Sir Richard's words – Simplicity and music to my ears!!
  • Most red tape is a tangled mess of utterly useless nonsensical jargon.
  • I won’t let silly rules stop me.
  • I will find a legal way around rules.

On my travels next week I will finish reading the book – if I can resist reading it over the weekend!!!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I'll stick with the NHS thanks!

Having worked in the NHS for over 30 years I am one of the biggest critics of our NHS when it fails to deliver for patients.

I am also one the NHS's greatest advocates.

I am immensely proud that we in Britain still have universal healthcare for over 60 million people regardless of their wealth. The important thing to know is we have a NATIONAL Health Service even though I acknowledge all its warts and wrinkles.

The NHS will never be perfect but I saw this video from the United States – one of the richest countries in the world - and it really made me think.

As I watched it I thought to myself … our NHS is wonderful!!!

Although the clip is 8 minutes long it is well worth sticking with to understand just how lucky we are to have the NHS.
I would love to have some comments on this.

Race for Life

This is Annie, her daughter and her pal 2006

On Wednesday 20th June my darling wife Annie will be running the 5 km 'Race for Life' in Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham for the third successive year.

'Race for Life' is an all women’s race dedicated to raising money for Cancer research.

Each year in the Birmingham event alone over 2000 women take part.

This is a fabulous charity and if any Simplicity Blog readers feel inclined you can sponsor Annie - and thereby Cancer Research - by going to this page to make a pledge.
You can also click on the icon in the right side panel 'Just Giving Sponsor Me' panel to go to the sponsorship page.

I am aware we are all constantly asked to give to good causes and I hope you don't mind me plugging this brilliant charity on my Blog.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I just love that!!!

I am indebted to David Wike for putting me on to this wonderful quote from Professor Nigel Nicholson when corresponding with a company owner.

‘Your job is to be the chief servant of your organisation - helping your staff to delight your consumers.’

David and I are currently musing about how many Chief Executives consider that as their job - how many Chief Executives do readers know that fit this description?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Knowledge and Wisdom

Annie and I heard a fascinating talk today and part of it was about the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

It got me thinking about the number of people I met in my NHS career who have many qualifications and numerous letters after their name.

Their knowledge is undeniable … It often surprises me that their wisdom does not always match up.

I would be fascinated to hear reader’s views about this knowledge/wisdom balance.

Any views?

Friday, June 01, 2007

What makes a great leader?

Anderson (left) and Nani two youngsters on their way to Old Trafford

I remember clearly May 1999 when Manchester United became the first English team to win the treble of English Premiership, FA Cup and European Champions League.

This feat had never been done before and never since. It probably never will be done again.

Needless to say there was great elation around Manchester United.

At the first national press conference after winning the treble, the United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson was asked what he thought of his wonderful unique treble winning team. His reply interested me:

“This team needs to improve” said Sir Alex calmly.

This told me that leadership is about not allowing complacency to creep in – or as someone put it – don’t believe your press cuttings. It told me you must keep the team on its toes and ALWAYS aim for improvement – however good you are.

In business we can, of course, accept what we have and not strive to improve – that is simply a decision we make.

GREAT LEADERSHIP to me is about never being satisfied that you have reached the pinnacle. If you have reached the top then aim for improvement on that.

So here we are in 2007 and it feels to me a bit like deja vu.

Manchester United have just won the Premiership title and already Sir Alex has added 2 new young players at a combined cost of £30 million and it is expected that Owen Hargreaves will join Manchester United next week at a cost of £17 million. There is talk of at least one more major signing. That means approaching £50 million expenditure already on a team that has just proved itself the best team in England. That tells me a lot about Sir Alex and leadership.

In addition the Youth team at Manchester United have just completed a highly successful season losing narrowly in the FA Youth Cup final. So the future looks bright too with home grown players.

All this tells me Sir Alex at 65 years of age is as passionate as ever about building the Manchester United dynasty through investing in young players thus ensuring that his passion will carry on long after the big man finally retires.

What a leader!!