Friday, November 30, 2007

Ronaldo - best player in the world?

Forgive me - but I haven't mentioned Manchester United for a while! We heard today that Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United has been shortlisted with two other players for the award of best player in the world 2007. I am very biased of course but I think he is easily the best of the three. The award will be made on December 17th. My fingers will be crossed!!

Mr Brown - Wake up and smell the coffee!

I am disappointed and disillusioned with Politics right now.
I’ve never made it a secret on Simplicity Blog I have been a Labour supporter all my life. This goes back to my formative years and my upbringing I think rather than some well argued decision I came to. My late beloved Dad was a Trade Union member working in a car factory and that is where I got much of my political views from. Dad was a staunch Labour Party supporter.

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 I was really excited.

I felt in 1997 that - at last - after many years of Conservative Government – we had a young man with new ideas who was going to bring a smile to our faces and some passion to the political scene.

And he did.

Until the Iraq conflict make no mistake Tony Blair was flying high in the opinion polls and don’t forget he won three General Election which is something never achieved by any other Labour leader.

I think it desperately sad to watch senior members of the Labour Party (particularly the PM Gordon Brown, who I like) running away, like scared animals, from crisis after crisis. It feels to me like we hear nothing but excuses for things that have gone wrong rather than exciting plans for new ways ahead for our country.

I think we need a General Election desperately and the way things are going with this latest crisis about donations to the Labour Party I suspect we might be having a General Election sooner than Mr Brown had planned.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

'Too simplistic' - A compliment ... I think!

I’ve always had an obsession to make management and leadership simpler. As a result I’m often accused of being 'too simplistic' in the complex world of business. I take that as a compliment but I somehow think it is not always meant as one.

As far as I'm concerned the best leaders concentrate mainly on two things - their customers and their staff.

I am sure great leaders are also interested in process and numbers and all the other ‘hard stuff’ – they just get others to do that stuff for them.

I am firmly in the camp that if you look after your staff and your customers, the bottom line and all the other ‘hard stuff’ will take care of itself.

Some people probably think I don’t rate 'process people' which is the way off the mark.

I have the ultimate respect for people who are turned on by the process side of any business. Good processes and governance are essential parts of any business and some of my best friends are accountants. I am just not good at that stuff. I have to have people alongside me who are good at that.

In my experience the folks obsessed with process and numbers usually have less time or concern for the 'people bit' and do not make the most effective leaders.

So … what is my conclusion?

I will continue to actively promote simplicity and a focus on people above process for business leaders.

Let the folks who are good at ‘process’ work effectively in the background but don't let them get in the way of leaders. These people can 'muddy the waters' by creating myths that everything in business is complex – it just isn’t!

Looking after your people (staff and customers) is not complex … it is just caring about them and that is simple.

I would value comments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't make promises you don't meet!

An angry rant I’m afraid ….

To run a business is actually very easy. Here is my simple theory:

'If you tell the truth and deliver your promises you won't go far wrong. If you don't do those things your business will fail.'

The reason running a business gets bad press is because some people who run businesses are just hopeless at making sure they do what they say they will do.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I waited all day to receive an important parcel delivery for which a premium was paid to get a guarantee of delivery within 24 hours by one of my clients.

Guess what? – The parcel didn't arrive – no explanation - nothing.

That is not complicated - it is simple.

It is just a total lack of integrity and checking on the part of the business responsible for that promise.

I won’t accept any other explanation – it is that simple for crying out loud!

What is so complicated about checking whether you actually met your promise?

Such laziness and lack of professionalism annoys me intensely and there is just no excuse in my book.

Because this business failed to deliver their promise I am considerably out of pocket, I am considerably inconvenienced and another client of mine will receive a less than perfect service as a result – and none of this is the fault of me or my client.

This is simply and only to do with someone not having the decency, the good manners, the professionalism and the conscientiousness to check on their promises.

Don’t make promises if you don’t have methods of checking you deliver them.

I feel a little bit better having got that off my chest.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Philips and Simplicity

Needless to say I am thrilled to see Philips using simplicity as their brand identity.

Philips is one of the world's biggest electronics companies and Europe's largest. It is a global leader in Healthcare, Lifestyle and Technology based products and services.

I hope this represents the thin end of a massive wedge that is needed to make the whole business world sit up and take notice.

Thanks and well done Philips for taking the initiative and leading the way in the business world and proclaiming the very same wonderful simplicity I’ve been talking about for 30 years!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dan Ward and the Boomer Sisters!

I received an e-mail today from my friend Dan Ward in the US. Dan is a prolific writer and this is what Dan says:

I just wanted to let you all know the third book in the Boomer Sisters series (The Boomer Sisters In The City) is now finished and ready for sale, just in time for Christmas! You can find a preview of the entire book at

I hope you will visit Dan's site to see the full range of his writing.Dan also has an excellent Blog - click here

Friday, November 23, 2007

Three years on ... Hard work ... But HAPPY!!

Friday evening … Phew!! … Some time to catch my breath and catch up with Simplicity Blogging!!

What a week so far … but come on … it keeps me awake and as a friend once said 'sleep is over rated.'

Monday – Two hour return train journey to London for 3 hour conference.

Tuesday – Drove 300 mile return journey to Ipswich (rain for whole of both journeys) for 4 hour workshop. Home midnight.
Wednesday - Up at 6 am to catch 7 am train to London for all day workshop home at 7 pm.
Thursday - Up at 6am to drive 200 mile return journey to Cambridge (rain for whole of both journeys) for all day workshop - home at 7 pm.
Friday - Drove 180 mile return journey to see Mum!
Tomorrow (Saturday) - Train journey to London for 4 hour workshop.
Sunday - A rest.
Monday - Delivering 3 hour workshop to 120 health professionals in Nottingham.
Wednesday – Delivering 3 hour customer care workshop in Kent – another 400 mile return drive.

Then it slows down a bit …

This may look like a hectic schedule and I guess it is.

BUT .... compared to going in to the same office everyday in the National Health Service like an automaton for my 9-5 Monday – Friday boring existence, this is just BRILLIANT.

Unless things go pear shaped I never want to have a job of that type again. The thought of ever moving away from my self-employment and freelance independence fills me with dread.

One of the reasons I work hard is to try and make sure I never have to go back to the ‘alleged’ security of a contract of employment. 'Security' can be another word for imprisonment.

Three years into self-employment this feels like hard work but it is so much more rewarding and it is freedom.

I feel like an 'adult' – unlike the 'child' in the restricted, controlling environment of NHS management where I spent 35 years unaware of what freedom at work really means.

Roll on next week! And the Next 50 years! Life is great!

And most of all thank you to my darling Annie for putting up with me this week and keeping me sane (I think).

I promise I'll slow down when I'm 95 honey!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On the road again ......

Sorry for lack of posts this week … work has occupied my time all week.

Monday - London
Tuesday – Ipswich
Wednesday - London
Thursday – Cambridge

Many train journeys and many driven miles …. Looking forward to a rest sometime.

Tomorrow is another day away near Peterborough (visiting Mum!!) and then working in London on Saturday.

Hope to be back to normal next week!!

Something has to give sometimes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Talent ... waiting to be given a chance

What talent do you have in your organisation just waiting to be noticed?

Paul Potts was a mobile phone salesman with no self confidence ... and then once upon a time (last year), someone believed in him …

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wisdom from Mother Theresa

I am indebted to my good friend Brian Ward in Edmonton, Canada for these wonderful words credited to Mother Theresa.

It just seems somehow appropriate to post this at a time in our history when it seems to me there is a lot of self interest.

Please don't misunderstand - I’m not on a mission to convert anyone, so take it or leave it – that’s fine by me - but I hope you find the time to read it.


This was found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:

· People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered ... forgive them anyway.

· If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives... be kind anyway.

· If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies... succeed anyway.

· If you are honest and sincere people may cheat you... be honest and sincere anyway.

· What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight... build anyway.

· If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous... be happy anyway.

· The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow... do good anyway.

· Give the world the best you have, and it will never be enough... give the world the best you've got anyway.

· You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God...

It was never between you and them anyway.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

You couldn't make it up!

It was like something from a 'Carry On' film.

Annie and I called in at Taunton Services on the M5 motorway this morning for a breakfast on our way back home from Devon.

We were at the hot food bar for the traditional English breakfast in a small queue of us two and one very nice man.

The young lady behind the counter asked the man in the queue if he would like fried or scrambled egg … fair question we thought. The man replied 'scrambled egg please' and we were amazed as she said to him … ‘the scrambled egg is not very nice at all!’ … we smiled at each other and the man smiled at us … I said to him ‘At least she's honest!' … but we just couldn't work out why the heck would you have scrambled egg on display as an option only to be told it’s not very nice?

We were then asked by about three or four unoccupied young male staff whether there was anything they could do for us.

I was sorely tempted to say ‘Well as there are so many of you, apparently doing nothing, why don’t one of you go and make a decent scrambled egg?’ … but I resisted.

We paid our bill and sat down to enjoy our scrambled eggless breakfast.

The man who had been in the queue brought over a £5 note to me and said he had noticed they had over-charged me at the till!

What a lovely experience ….

And yet more evidence about the crazy world of business and customer care!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good boss Bad boss!

My completely random thought for today has been about the features of the best and worst bosses I had during my long healthcare management career. So here goes ......

My best bosses
  • inspired confidence

  • were humble

  • had integrity

  • knew what they were talking about

  • let me get on with things

  • were always there when I needed help

  • usually said ‘yes, try it’

My worst bosses

  • never seemed to be around when I needed them

  • always asked me to justify what I wanted to do

  • always wanted to know what I was doing

  • often said ‘no, we can’t do that'

  • gave the impression of being distrustful

  • didn’t smile much

  • talked about themselves a lot

What features can you add to either list?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's all about people for crying out loud!

You won’t be surprised to learn that I believe management is ALL ABOUT PEOPLE.

If we get the 'people thing' right everything else falls into place. If we are not thinking people first in EVERYTHING we do then I think we can pack up and go home.

I am not saying process is not important – of course it is. I would say the mix in the most successful business is one gallon of passion and one pint of process. Most organisations I know have those proportions the wrong way round and then they wonder why there is no innovation and enthusiasm.

I sign up fully to the Tom Peters view that 'soft' is 'hard.'

Any process management is simple – it’s a stroll in the park compared to the really difficult stuff which is always to do with people. How do we coach them to bring out the best in them? How can we help them? How can we get them to buy into our dream?

Two thoughts:

1 I've often been told I am too ‘soft and fluffy’ as a manager.

2 I've been told I am not ‘hard enough’ to be a Chief Executive.

I plead guilty to both charges with great pride. My view has always been if you only have to be ‘hard’ to be a CEO then you are not skilled enough in the really important stuff of coaching people.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Amazing how quick time goes by don’t you think?

I remember starting Simplicity Blog in January 2005 – almost three years ago. I wasn’t sure how it would go and whether or not I would keep it going.

I have written 734 postings - an average of 5.02 posts per week. Not bad – almost one posting per day and I’m pretty pleased with that output.

I’ve also looked at comments and discovered I've had a total of 2253 comments – the most for a single post is 19 comments (4 times)

I like messing around with numbers ….

My Blog will never create business and frankly that has never been my intention. I just love the banter and discussion the Blog creates.

I have made friends with many people from all over the world and without Simplicity Blog I doubt that would have happened.

Hope you continue to respond so brilliantly with your comments on Simplicity Blog. I have taken notice of readers comments over the last 34 months and tried to adapt the content in the light of readers comments.

I’m looking forward to hitting 1000 postings sometime around Christmas 2008

As a matter of interest this is what I wrote on my first posting on 22 January 2005:

Blogging - Is this the new way to make a difference?

I love communicating and Blogging is the latest way of doing it. Isn't it wonderful how we can now share thoughts instantly with like minded people from all over the world about how organisations are led and how things need to change?

Monday, November 12, 2007

We must not forget

Annie and I attended the outdoor memorial service in our tiny village with one hundred or so other people yesterday, Sunday 11 November.

I saw an old man brush away a tear during the two minute silence. He stood proudly alongside a broken hearted young mother and her three young children – her soldier husband was killed last month in Afghanistan.

The service made me appreciate again the debt I owe for my freedom – we all need to be reminded.

Yesterday was not a time to argue the rights and wrongs of war. Yesterday was simply about remembering millions of young men and women who lost their lives in wars fighting for the freedoms I now enjoy.

We must NEVER be allowed to forget.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Best and Ronaldo

I am biased but I believe Cristiano Ronaldo is now the best footballer in the world. My all-time football hero is the late immortal George Best and I always said that no player will ever be as good as 'Bestie.' I now believe Cristiano Ronaldo can become as great as George. Cristiano is only 22 and yet to reach his peak.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Firing staff is not something to be proud of

One of the hardest things to do as a manager is to give bad news. When that bad news is implementing disciplinary action it really challenges the emotions of conscientious managers.

As a manager I had people responsible to me in the health care business and I always found giving bad news the most difficult part of my job. I had to sack 2 people in my 35 year career and on both occasions I found it really difficult to deal with emotionally. I felt awful in fact and I still feel bad about it all these years later.

In both cases I feel the decision was right and despite appeals by both people, my decision was upheld on both occasions when heard on appeal by a higher authority than me in the organisation. Despite being proved right I would rather not have had to do it and it gave me no satisfaction whatsoever. I would say that anyone who actually enjoys doing that sort of thing is in urgent need of therapy.

What are your experiences of doing this sort of thing and how did you feel emotionally?

Friday, November 09, 2007

It's ok to laugh at work!

When I worked in the NHS the good news is we occasionally had a laugh in the office.

I remember one day I conspired with a colleague and friend of mine to produce a spoof evaluation form that we sent out to a few people who had attended an in-house training event.

We had a real laugh about it and everyone in the office seemed to think it was good fun.

I got involved recently in a discussion on Tom Peters Blog about whether there is a place for humour at work.

I believe there is far too little humour at work. I also think humour does not mean being any less professional. In fact I believe people are far more productive if they are happy – What do you think?

Here is what we said in our spoof letter:

Dear Colleague

As part of the continuing professional development we have introduced a new feedback system following away days/seminars and teaching sessions to ensure that learning has taken place.

As a result a few people are randomly selected at the end of each session to answer a few simple questions to assure the organisers that learning has occurred.

I hope you don’t mind filling in this short questionnaire and your honesty will be appreciated.

Bill Bloggs (name changed to protect the innocent)
Chief Executive


1 Did you find your way to the venue ok?
2 Was the coffee good? (tea if you drink tea)
3 Was the room comfortable or would you have preferred somewhere with Sky Sports TV?
4 Did you think the standard of dress of delegates was good enough to maintain the professional image of the organisation?
5 Did you fall asleep in any of the presentations? – We need you to name names
6 Do you think it would have helped if jokes had been part of the meeting?
7 Were you able to make the dolls house out of balsa wood without copying your friend?
8 How would you sum up the experience?
9 Could you have benefited from a lady of the night?
10 Was it worth missing out on bacon rolls back at the office?
11 Whilst you were looking through the window (we know you did), did you think the groundsman could have made a better job of the hedges with a Black and Decker 3200?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rules are made to be stretched.

Last year my business and home internet connection went down for 35 days. I was forced to consider how I was going to survive given my seemingly total reliance on modern technology for my communication needs.

The first thing I discovered is that is a myth. Sure I became stressed about being unable to instantly respond in the way I had become accustomed to but the reality is that we find ways of coping and in fact every e mail is not so urgent that it must be replied to immediately.

The best way I could cope in dealing with my e mails and updating my website and Blog was to visit three local libraries. There was the main library in the town centre and two more local smaller libraries.

The rules for use are that customers are allowed one hour on a computer and, if the computer is not booked, it is possible to gain an extension for a further 30 minutes.

I visited all three libraries almost every day for the 35 days I was without my internet connection at home.

It was a fascinating experience. My priority was to make the most of the limited time I had available to me and it is only since the experience that I have been able to reflect on the differences in each of the three libraries.

The main library has the most machines, is a very large building and is run very efficiently. It is big and somewhat impersonal but overall a satisfactory service. The other two libraries are much smaller and after a few days I got to know the staff – there are less of them – and generally I felt more at home in the two smaller libraries.

An interesting thing happened in one of the small local libraries.

It was a Friday afternoon. There were 6 machines available and I was working on one of the six. There was one other person on another machine and four were free. The library was due to close at 4 pm and the time was approaching 3 pm.

Although I had been on the computer for my allowance of 90 minutes, I thought I would just ask if I could have an extension as it was fairly obvious that no-one was going to come into the library at that time on a Friday afternoon - and certainly not five people rushing in.

I was somewhat surprised with the reaction of the rather ‘frosty’ staff member who said that I had used my 90 minutes and she would not be able to extend my time beyond that. I accepted her decision but made a comment that it seemed rather a shame that I could not stay when there were now five computers free and it was less than an hour before the library would close.

Despite this she told me I could not have an extension and so I left – rather peeved but at least it was the weekend.

Contrast that situation with the staff at the other smaller, local library. They got to know me well and even if I had used my 90 minutes and the library was not busy I was regularly allowed to stay on the machine for another hour at least and sometimes longer!

The difference is simple.

* The ‘jobsworth’ library assistant stuck rigidly to the rules and I suppose she is technically ‘correct.’

* The staff at the other local library used their discretion and made a decision based on common sense and customer care.

I know which I prefer and would suggest that if more people at the front line used their discretion rather than stick strictly to every rule then customer care could be celebrated more often.

I would not want to see rigid rules stretched in life and death situations, for instance in healthcare or airline travel, but come on... we are talking a library!

It is ironic that all three libraries are run as part of the same organisation and yet each one has its own distinct culture, values and beliefs and styles. If any senior manager in the organisation believes there is a common and consistent customer care culture they need to visit the libraries themselves to discover the truth. The three libraries could have been in different continents they were so different. The joy of this example is that it proves we are all individuals and we can celebrate difference.

Leadership Lesson

Rules are made to be stretched and sometimes broken.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Class is Permanent - The Eagles - Number One!

My favourite Band The Eagles have hit number one in the UK Album charts with their new album Long Road out of Eden. This is the first album The Eagles have recorded for 28 years.

The Eagles have never had a number one in the UK album charts until this week despite having the third best selling album of all time after Thriller (Michael Jackson) and Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) .

Not bad for a band that has been around for well over 30 years.

This means I must try and persuade Annie it will be a good idea to see The Eagles again on their next UK Tour ….… How about it darling – can we afford it?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sir Alex - The Guvnor!

Today Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates 21 years as Manager of Manchester United.

There is an article today in The Independent - click here to read it.

I am very biased – I think Sir Alex is the best manager in the history of British football - just count his trophies. The Independent article however gives a more balanced and impartial view than mine of the record of Sir Alex.

I love these extracts;

‘How it is that he acquires years but not age? Why is it that his partiality still burns like some tinder-box canyon in southern California? Can it be true that he still takes offence quicker than a hell-fire preacher in a bawdy house?

Will he ever mellow? Will he ever take off the clothes of a curmudgeon when things do not go quite as well as he likes? No, he will not ….

Ferguson will be 66 on the last day of December. Time to act like a guy who owns a bus pass? Not with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo and the likely lad from Brazil, Anderson, still in the foothills of their careers.

He ignites the game to which he has devoted his life and because he cares so much, and whatever we think of his style, so do we. It means that today the toast is not so much to a unique football manager as the sheer force of life.’

Friday, November 02, 2007

Customers decide if you live or die

In these days of intense competition only the smartest businesses will survive. I’ve been thinking about how businesses retain customers for repeat business.

My view has always been that if you are in touch with customers – in fact if you make customers feel really special - you won’t go far wrong.

There are thousands of management consultants who will charge a lot of money trying to convince you there is a technical, rational, systems answer to all this. I disagree.
I have always said (and written) that there is a place for process in businesses but the proportions in my opinion should be a pint of process and a gallon of passion. In my experience many businesses have a gallon of process and a pint of passion – and they then wonder why their business is a not a hotbed of creativity and in touch with front line staff and customers. I say value and trust your front line staff and look after your customers and you will succeed.

These are the stages I recognise in many businesses:

Stage 1 Passion

The owner of the company starts small with a vision to establish the business. There is real passion at this stage because the owner has to work to eat. It will be a struggle to make any money. This is about making your reputation.

Stage 2 Established

The owner sees the business is meeting a need and begins to break even and maybe make some money. More work is generated and the business is becoming established. The owner is still very hands on - driving the business.

Stage 3 Growth

The reputation of the business grows and more work is generated. The owner decides it is time to get some help and staff are recruited to assist. The owner is still heavily involved. The business is becoming profitable.

Stage 4 Expansion

Now things are buzzing and the owner decides that it can expand. Staff recruitment takes off, business is growing and everything looks great. The owner is now slightly more removed from the front line and customers and has people doing ‘all that stuff.

Stage 5 Comfort

The business is now comfortable in terms of profits and growth. The owner now has a monitoring role because the senior management team takes care of the day to day business including customer care.

Stage 6 Complacency

Because things are now ‘comfortable’ complacency sets in. Standards provided to customers that were hugely important in the earlier stages seem to have slipped because the business is now big and less responsive to the changing needs of customers.

Stage 7 Vulnerability

Whilst standards have slipped existing competitors and new businesses have emerged as serious rivals. You have become vulnerable. You start to notice profits are reducing and repeat business is not happening. Your staff are not as happy as they were. The owner is now far removed from the everyday business – and may even be oblivious to what is happening.

Stage 8 Arrogance

The business ignores the obvious and growing competition and refuses to learn from what is happening – a classic case of burying your head in the sand. The need for change is now smacking you between the eyes but refusal to accept the inevitable seems to be the overriding culture.

Stage 9 Death - RIP

This is what happens when we refuse to listen to what our customers are telling us. Customers are our heartbeat and if we do not listen and respond to what our pulse is telling us then the outcome is sadly inevitable. The owner – now completely out of touch – is heard to say ‘What went wrong?’


I would suggest that being closely in touch with our customers is important throughout all the first 8 stages and arguably more important from stage 5 onwards. Sadly many businesses seem to lose touch with customers once they have become comfortable.