Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Customer care is simple

When I was younger there was clear difference in product reliability. There were numerous jokes going around like:

What do you get if you merge British Leyland with Mothercare?

Answer - A car with a built in rattle.

Nowadays cars work. Vacuum cleaners work. Washing machines work. Televisions work …. And so the list goes on. Anything I buy seems to work.

I would say reliability has improved beyond recognition in the last 10 years. Occasionally of course the product we buy doesn't work but I suggest that is now the exception rather than the rule.

Where am I going with this?

Well - My question is … if everything works... what is it that makes me part with my money to a particular supplier versus another?

For instance if the specification is the same for the Washing Machine and the price is the same in two shops what makes me choose one shop over another?

My feeling is it has to do with the attitude of the staff who deal with me as the customer.

The business that makes me feel special and important is the one I am likely to use and recommend. The one that does not treat me with that care will not get my future business. And of course, more importantly, I am going to tell my friends and family about the good and the bad. So when you lose one direct customer you may also be losing more because people talk.

Why do some staff in direct contact with customers give the impression that we customers are some sort of inconvenience spoiling the tranquillity of their working day?

This really is simple stuff … Isn’t it? … Or am I missing something here?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jukebox jury!!

A comment from my friend David Wike about the Jukebox on a recent Simplicity posting prompted me to think about what is my favourite single track of all time and why. That is easy for me - Amazed by Lonestar because that is a song that means a lot to Annie and me.

There are numerous other songs that I would list as favourites …. But they will never be as special as Amazed.

Here are three of my all time favourites – it’s difficult to narrow my list of hundreds!

  • The Last Resort – The Eagles
  • Imagine – John Lennon
  • Vincent – Don McLean

I would love to hear from Simplicity readers two things:

1 Your favourite track and why
2 Three additional favourites

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Professor Randy Pausch

Ruth commented on a previous Simplicity post with this remark:

‘Slightly off topic, I thought about Simplicity Blog the other day after being recommended The Last Lecture from Randy Pausch, it's a pretty incredible video!
Apologies if it's been posted before'

This man Randy Pausch is quite incredible. It is very long video and I hope you get the time to look at it – it is well worth setting aside the time

And thank you again Ruth for the link.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


My darling wife Annie took this picture in the lounge on Friday evening as we ‘christened’ our newly delivered bar/display unit.

It brought back memories of my many hours spent as a barman earlier in my life!

This was a very nice Red Wine called Malbec 2006 from Argentina!

Obesity in young people - Don't blame the NHS

What is it with childhood obesity?

The NHS can do some of the work but the big solution is NOTHING TO DO WITH DOCTORS AND NURSES.

The big solution is within us all individually. I have to ask the thorny question - who are the role models for our precious young people?

I am so optimistic when I see the passion of young people for healthy activity - despite the example many adults set rather than because of it.

Why do we jump to blame others before we look in the mirror?

I am appalled for instance that some of the top people in the NHS are significantly overweight. Sorry, but that is just not the right image and smacks of hypocrisy in the extreme.

Frankly I am fed up with the blame for obesity being given to burgers from MacDonald’s – sorry but that is just a cop out from our own accountability as parents and adults.

Phew I feel so much better now ….

Friday, October 26, 2007

George Galloway - Rascal or Realist?

George Galloway is one of those politicians that people tend to either love or hate. I neither love nor hate the man. I am intrigued more than anything else.

George is a man of principle and he really speaks his mind. Anyone - friend or enemy - who watched him take on and beat the US Senate in his evidence about the Iraq war will admit that he is a man with great experience and knowledge about the Middle East troubles. He has studied this for more than 30 years I gather.

He appeared on BBC Question Time on Thursday night. The other four panel members were overshadowed completely, not only by George’s gift of superb speaking, but also by his intimate knowledge of the Middle East.

Whether people like George Galloway or not is not the issue actually as far as I am concerned.

He is enormously popular as a working MP in his constituency in London and he is very popular on his Radio phone in programme on Talksport.

I would be very worried about picking an argument with him on the history of the Middle East and on Question Time I would say he was streets ahead of his fellow politicians on the panel as far as knowledge of the Middle East goes.

George is one of those frustrating people as far as I am concerned.

In some ways I can’t stand him and yet in other ways I admire him tremendously.

It is not as simple as right and wrong methinks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The best Leaders can handle Paradox

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." - Tom Peters and Robert Waterman 'In Search of Excellence'

I love that.

Some of my favourite paradoxes that brilliant leaders seem to manage easily:

*Listen but don’t listen
*Delegate like crazy – work yourself out of a job
*The best way to gain power is to let go of power
*Recruit people who are smarter than you

Any paradoxes you like?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tom Peters in UK

I have been alerted to a new Tom Peters Company Website for the UK element of Tom’s business. This is the link:

I am a long time admirer (about 28 years) of the work of Tom Peters and I had the pleasure of meeting the Tom in person a couple of years ago on one of his all day seminars in London.

I advocate Tom’s ideas in business.

I don’t agree with everything Tom says but most of his teaching is based on cutting out complex (crap) processes, simplicity, common sense and trust in front line staff. I therefore find myself in support of most of what he says and writes.

If you ever get the chance to see Tom speak it is an opportunity not to miss.

Take a look around Tom Peters UK site. I know they are keen to have feedback about it – you can give your feedback to them by e mail

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A leader in our times?

I enjoy reading about politicians and leaders of the day from a few decades ago.

I often let my mind wander to try and imagine whether those same people would have the same impact in the modern world.

I think many of today’s political leaders rely far too much on technology and exposure in the media to create an image.

What will people be saying about modern day leaders in 60 years time? What will history record about Tony Blair and George Bush compared with Winston Churchill and John Kennedy?

Although I am not well read about American political history I think I am right in saying that Richard Nixon was perhaps the first politician to suffer as a result of his image and how he came across on TV.

Well before the Watergate scandal, Nixon was beaten hands down in a live TV debate by the young, good looking and charismatic John Kennedy. It is argued that single TV debate went a long way toward Kennedy actually winning the Presidential Election in 1960.

The traditional view I hold is probably out of date and way behind time.

I would much rather vote for a person with humility, integrity and competence rather than someone with charisma and TV appeal. I frankly don’t care what they may look like on TV or what school they went to.

But then again I am probably just getting older ……

Monday, October 22, 2007

Words of Wisdom

Andrew Carnegie (1835 -1919) is perhaps the best known philanthropist and I came across some superb wisdom from the great man.

These quotes need no explanation – I love their simplicity.

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.

Do not look for approval except for the consciousness of doing your best.

I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle.

There is little success where there is little laughter.

There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.

You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.

Every act you have ever performed since the day you were born was performed because you wanted something.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Not so good!

Oh well ....

England lost in the World Cup final after a valiant effort and Lewis Hamilton blew his chance of winning the world F1 title in the first few laps.

Such is life - not a brilliant weekend for England sad to say.

At least Manchester United won 4-1 so there were many smiles anyway in my house!

Friday, October 19, 2007

England Expects ......

Most of the English nation will be behind our boys tomorrow in World Cup Rugby Final against South Africa.

We have got to the final against all the odds and the predictions of all the media 'experts' but we are there. It has been a triumph for dogged determination rather than flowing attractive rugby and no one can take away the fact that England are in the Final.

No country has ever won two successive World Cup Finals and after our win in 2003 we stand on the edge of history tomorrow.

We could also see Lewis Hamilton become World Champion Formula One driver on Sunday in his first season.

What a marvellous weekend that would be for ENGLAND.

On the other hand ….. No … As an avowed optimist I refuse to think of any other scenario!!

So … Come on England! And Come on Lewis! – You can do it - We are right there with you!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

'There is a passion in Benn's writing and speaking that far transcends the miserable aspirations of most contemporary politicians' Paul Foot, Guardian

I finally got to meet Tony Benn last night!

What a fabulous man – he spoke without notes for 40 minutes then answered questions for another 45 minutes.

The person who introduced Tony last night said, quoting from one of the reviews of his new book. 'Tony Benn is a player'

I think that is a great description of the man. Many politicans today are 'spectators' and change to suit the latest opinion poll. Paul Foot's description above is also right on the button.

Absolutely brilliant – no hesitation in his speech, no uncertainty of thought, mentally ‘sharp as a tack’ and looking great physically. Not bad for 82 years of age and 51 years as a Labour MP.

Tony retired in 2001 as an MP - as he puts it - ‘to spend more time on politics’

He is now 82 and busier than ever. He is a cult figure to young people who want to see change and he is now regarded as the most loved politician in Britain – he speaks every year at the world famous Glastonbury rock festival to thousands of young people!

He takes part in every anti-war demonstration in the UK and his diary of speaking engagements is full. He regularly appears on our national media outlets both radio and TV. Tony puts many 40 year old men to shame with his energy and passion.

Last night Annie and I went to see him speak at the Birmingham Book Festival - he was guest speaker for the week of the festival. The occasion marked the publication of his latest book – ‘More Time for Politics’ – It is really Tony’s diaries from 2001 to 2007 and I bought a copy. I've read the first few pages and it is riveting stuff, brutally honest and as you would expect from Tony, no punches pulled. I highly recommend it.

This got me thinking …

I have another 27 years before I am 82 – so I now know I have only just started!!

Tony is the best role model I have come across – his skills, talent and experience are only exceeded by his honesty, humility and integrity. If I can be remembered for my honesty, integrity and humility, that will be good enough for me.

At the end of his talk Tony said;

Someone asked me the other day what would I like on my tombstone … I thought ... That’s a cheerful question … I thought about it and said … All I want is ‘He encouraged us’

That is awesome and says it all about the man!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Family Doctors Fed Up!

I can't say I was really surprised when I saw the BBC news headline today (click here for story) that one in six General Practitioners (GPs) is considering quitting.

That is tragic.

For the last 15 years of my health service management career I worked very closely alongside GPs who are also known as Family Doctors. I estimate I worked with more than 400 GPs in the course of my work and I would say I know 100 GPs very well. At least 20 GPs I would regard as good friends.

GPs are very harsh critics of themselves and they have very high professional standards.

Lets face it doctors are the brightest of the bright at school and they are ‘up there’ to be shot at from the moment they qualify as medical practitioners. The rest of us mere mortals often have to place our trust in doctors and as a result GPs are always ‘performers’ on the stage of life.

I am not just a 'blind' supporter of GPs and of course there are poor doctors – just as there are poor Lawyers, Politicians, Plumbers, Cleaners, Hairdressers and even ..Dare I say … health service managers!

My point is that doctors are no different than all of us and they have the same feelings as anyone else. I do however believe GPs have more responsibility than most of us.

When doctors make mistakes the consequences can be devastating – even life threatening. This awesome responsibility is carried by GPs every minute of the day.

I am not prepared to say that doctors deserve special treatment in any aspect of life but I do say, with confidence and some experience, that most GPs are dedicated, competent, decent, caring, compassionate people who see their main responsibility as looking after their patients.

I would be fascinated to hear views on this.

Monday, October 15, 2007

We are going to hear Tony Benn speak on Wednesday!

Some more great Tony Benn wisdom:

‘It’s one thing to die for your faith but another thing to kill for your doctrine

‘Fear is a prison you put yourself in’

‘The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to visit them’

‘Ask these questions of anyone with power:

1 What power have you got?
2 Where did you get it from?
3 In whose interest do you exercise it?
4 To whom are you accountable?
5 How can we get rid of you?’

Saturday, October 13, 2007

England into the final AGAIN!!

The brilliant England rugby team beat France 14-9 in the semi-final tonight to reach the World Cup final as we did the last time in 2003 when of course we won the World Cup in Australia. Jonny Wilkinson was once again the star – what a great player!

Click here to see more pictures and BBC report

Business with a Conscience?

Professor Charles Handy is my favourite business writer.

I had the great pleasure of hearing him speak a couple of years ago. Apart from his immense wisdom as perhaps the greatest living management guru I just love his obvious sincerity.

In this interview he talks about a new way for business with more emphasis on the social responsibility we all have.

The interview is just over 7 minutes long and well worth listening to.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Click here to read Random Ramblings!

David Wike is a business colleague here in the West Midlands, England. David has invited me to work with him next month in a new workshop he has designed called Towards the Perfect Business!

David has some great ideas about how small to medium size businesses can develop. In a nutshell David wants his workshop to provide an opportunity to discuss with people running small business how they can aim for the perfect business.

You can read more about David’s ideas at his excellent website by clicking here.

David recently set up a Blog called Random Ramblings as part of his website and each Wednesday he pens his thoughts about business, customers and life in general. It makes fascinating reading. David’s long management career in the motor industry means that his insights about management and business are well worth reading.

David and I agree on many things, in particular, passion for front line staff and customers and I am sure regular Simplicity readers will enjoy David’s banter.

Click here to view David's Random Ramblings for this week. Please pass this link to your friends.

PS .. David is a life long Liverpool football fan for which I have forgiven him. I am sure he will grow out of that as he gets older ….. Just joking David.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The best advice is simple

Given the human disaster that is unfolding in Maidstone Hospital – where 90 patients have died as a result of infections passed on within the hospital - the issue of hospital cleanliness rears its ugly head again. This tragedy is a timely reminder. Click here for report

Despite all the high-tech medical treatments, the advancements in medicines and all the great medical knowledge in the heads of our medical staff, the three most important words in the NHS are


I have heard it argued that doing more of this would significantly reduce the level of infection in our hospitals .... and of course like all the best advice this is about SIMPLICITY.

Walking's easy when the road is flat

Listening to the lyrics of a Lonestar song recently I came across these words;

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

Now I’m pretty sure when the song writers put together those few words they didn't expect people like me would be using the words in a management context.

It seems to me Lonestar have said something quite simple and yet profound about the job of managers introducing change. When everything in the garden is rosy and life is good in the business we are walking along a flat road.

When change is required we are confronted by hills that stretch us a bit or mountains that mean we have to work really hard to climb them to implement our latest idea that requires change.

No one ever said change is easy. If we always see the road ahead as flat then we are really kidding ourselves. As a manager there are always mountains to climb as and continuing the analogy, how wonderful it is when you climb a mountain and reach the top. Quite often the new panorama looks refreshingly different than the old one.

Cynics will say a lot of people don’t reach the top of mountains and that is true – we lose some people on our journey.

Cynics will also say if you are at the top of a mountain the only way is down.

I am an eternal optimist so I'll just try and remember Lonestar’s words the next time I am confronted with a difficult change to manage or be a part of.

‘Walking’s easy when the road is flat’ … good managers will train for the inclines and mountains … we need to be in good shape for the inevitable challenges.

Just some reflective Thursday musings …

Monday, October 08, 2007

Gordon's First Screw Up?

It’s really interesting to me that Gordon Brown is under fire because he has - according to the media – misled the great British public.

Media reports this morning say he has made a u-turn about calling a General Election and they are suggesting he is a weak leader because of this.

Actually, as far as I’m aware, Gordon Brown himself has never even hinted there will be an early election. He has not stated publicly that he is even contemplating calling a snap election. I have drawn my own conclusion that the people close to him must have leaked information to the press which in turn led to the media frenzy over the last week or so about an early election.

This is a massive reminder of the ability of the media to whip up an issue and how easily it can get out of control therefore creating a story out of something that may not even be a story. It is surely a wake up call to all politicians.

The criticism I have of Mr Brown in this shambles is that he should have spoken out earlier to prevent unnecessary and damaging publicity for him personally. He could have said two weeks ago he had no intention of calling an election and none of this would have happened. I think that is a tactical mistake on his part. He has now said that, albeit a bit late. I suspect he will regret not speaking out earlier but it is too late and I’m sure he will have learned.

Politics is about scoring points with the voters and the Tories have won this battle there is no doubt. In the short term I think Mr Brown has been damaged.

Time alone will tell whether that damage is just a temporary blip or a lasting wound.

When I was Head of Communications in a National Health Service Organisation I spoke to press reporters almost every day and often many times a day. I always said 'the press is our friend' and I was often criticised by colleague managers in the NHS for saying that.

My rationale was (and still is) that the press have an important and necessary job to do. They will write a story whether we like it or not.

If we don't give the press accurate information – usually called THE TRUTH - we should not be surprised when they speculate. That speculation then develops 'a life of its own' and wrongly becomes the perceived truth .... Even if it is not! They have column inches to fill with words. That is their job. Hope that mini-rant makes sense!

Key Learning Points

*Talk to the Press - they have an important job
*Talk to them early
*Talk to them regularly
*Tell them the truth

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Management or the art of de-motivation?

In my career as a manager in the NHS there were expressions that made me angry and frustrated. Here's a few that spring to mind – I would love to hear your examples of expressions that have the same effect on you.

‘That’s just the way it is’

‘But we’ve tried that before and it didn’t work’

‘Sorry I will have to ask my boss’

‘I agree in principle’

‘Sorry but that is the procedure’

‘That idea is just too wacky’

‘Why are you not wearing a tie today?’

‘We mustn’t put ourselves in a position where we might be criticised’

‘Laughing does not present a professional image’

‘You are making this too simple’

I look forward to hearing your gems!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Jane - our new friend

We have just invested in a Tom-Tom satellite navigation system for the car.

It is wonderful – you are reading a piece from the only person I know who got lost in a supermarket car park.

I once missed a motorway junction on the way back from the north down to Birmingham so I carried on to the next junction, turned round only to miss the same junction yet again. Much to Annie’s relief I got it right third time!

Jane is now our permanent friendly voice in the car and even I cannot get lost … or can I?

We will see. It is still early days.

Jane also warns us of speed cameras and speed limits - another useful addition in my armoury.

Technology is amazing.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Patients Stories

I do a number of talks nowadays to health professionals about greater patient involvement and improving communication between patients and professionals in the NHS.

I often use this fictitious story to illustrate some of the problems.

Joe Bloggs goes into his local hospital for routine surgery and a couple of days after his operation there is a phone call to the ward in which Joe is a patient.

The caller asks ‘Can I ask how Joe Bloggs is doing please?'

The nurse in charge of the Ward replies – ‘Oh Joe is doing fine. His surgery was successful; he is recuperating very well and we are expecting the Surgeon to allow Joe to be discharged home today. Can I ask who calling please?’

The caller replies ‘Thanks for that information, this is Joe Bloggs. No bugger tells me anything around here.’

Of course that is an exaggeration … isn’t it?

I would love to hear stories from Simplicity readers about the good and bad experiences of communncation in healthcare settings whether in hospital or General Practice.

Real stories (anonymous of course) are always great subject matter in my work

Thank you in anticipation.