Sunday, June 29, 2008

A life on the road ....

Sorry for lack of postings recently – it's a pretty full work programme.

Thursday 19th – Oxford – Car
Friday 20th – London - Train
Monday 23rd – Portsmouth - Car
Tuesday 24th – Birmingham – Car
Wednesday 25th – Exeter – Car
Thursday 26th – London – Train
Friday 27th – Birmingham – Car
Saturday 28th – Cardiff - Coach
Monday 30th - morning - Slough – Car
Monday 30th - evening to Newcastle - Train
Tuesday 1st July – Working Newcastle and home by train evening
Wednesday 2nd – Wigan – Car
Thursday 3rd– Belfast – Flying from Birmingham
Friday 4th – Working all day Belfast – Plane back to Birmingham

Estimated 3500 miles in 13 days - I hope to have more time in July and August.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Joel D Canfield

My 'Friend of Simplicity' interview today is with Joel D Canfield who lives in Roseville, a suburb of California’s capital, Sacramento, in the US.

Joel and I have things in common. We both work from home and our businesses partners are our wives Annie and Sue – we both appreciate how blessed we are for that. Joel and I share a passion for not over complicating things. We have a similar sense of humour that I'm delighted to say often comes through in our regular email exchanges.

TREVOR: Thanks Joel for agreeing to take part in this series of interviews. Can you give me a quick summary of your career to date?

JOEL: Thanks for having me!

I started working with computers about 25 years ago, doing database work and being the first digital coach I know of. When I discovered the internet I switched to web development. Over the past 10 years I worked at two small companies developing web-based automation and efficiency tools, which required extensive research since I was not only the coder, but also the business analyst on these projects.

I realized during that time that I was enjoying the problem-solving and research more than pounding code, and when the last company I worked at closed down (not my fault!) I began my focus on helping small businesses to resolve, or better still, avoid, the most common pitfalls that afflict so many of us.

TREVOR: I mentioned in the introduction working from home- what do you see as the advantages to this as opposed to ‘going to work’ and are there any disadvantages?

JOEL: I think best in an environment I can control. Working from home allows me to negotiate ‘quiet time’ where no one disturbs me. I put on my headphones, crank up the Mozart (or Dylan, or Stan Ridgway, or the Beatles . . . ) and pretend the world around me doesn’t exist. Since, as you mentioned, my business partner is my wife who knows me well, food and drink appear on my side table as needed without disrupting me, and distractions are headed off at the pass.

I’m also free to work odd hours. I have never worked best getting all my sleep in one fell swoop; to me, it feels the same as if you ate your entire daily intake of food at once. I tend to take long naps ‘round the clock, with a good five-hour chunk at night and shorter naps late morning and afternoon. If I wake up at 3 a.m. with an idea, I can be at my office in 30 seconds, executing it, instead of trying vainly to get back to sleep so I can ‘go to work’ at 8 a.m.

It also personalizes all my work effort, in my own mind. Every client, whether they arrive physically or not (most don’t) feels, to me, like a guest in my home. It helps keep the ‘warm and friendly’ in our business, better than a formal office environment could.

Also saves on gas.

The disadvantages are primarily controlling distractions, so that when you’re at work you’re really at work, and then quitting at the end of the day.

The first is less of a challenge for me since we work as a team, although two parents will never be equal to a single four-year-old, no matter how well-behaved she is. Fiona has learned, though, that when Mommy or Daddy is on the phone, she stands quietly in the office until we talk to her instead of interrupting. (She’s the youngest of seven, the culmination of 27 years of experience parenting. Don’t try this with your first child.)

The second is more difficult for us, because we do tend to work when we feel like it, and we both spend a certain amount of ‘play’ time at the computer, too. We’ve made it a habit to take an evening walk to get away from the office, and to schedule an evening or afternoon away from home at least once a month to have a healthy chunk of time where we’re disconnected from the office’s umbilical.

TREVOR: Who are you management heroes?

JOEL: First, my father, Wes Canfield. He had four teenagers at once, and despite the inevitable moments of tension, my brothers and sister and I each hold a picture in our minds of the greatest teacher and trainer and motivator we’ve ever known. He was powerfully opinionated, but knew that the only way to get anyone to do anything was to make them want to do it. He was universally respected where he worked, despite the fact that he was a ‘gringo’ managing three electronics assembly plants in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico, just south of San Diego where spent most of my childhood.

My father set the bar pretty high, so while I’ve had some very good managers in my professional life, none quite achieve hero status (two, in fact, may have been the inspiration for Dogbert and the pointy-haired boss of Dilbert fame.)

I read lots of Tom Peters, and base my employee-cultivation training on Marcus Cunningham and Curt Coffman’s excellent “First, Break All The Rules.”

When I have employees of my own again, the two management examples I’d most like to emulate are Jesus of Nazareth, and George Martin, manager of the Beatles.

Without crossing over into a religious discussion, when I consider the infinite patience and understanding Jesus displayed in his dealings with twelve men who were, by their own admission incredibly difficult at times, I can’t help but examine my own patience. You cannot manage impatiently.

George Martin held the Beatles in awe; after 40 years he still shakes his head in wonderment when he’s noodling with their music on a mixing board. He nudged them into a path to greatness. They would have found it anyway, but it was better because he smoothed it as they walked it. He helped them become more of what they were, not something different. He knew his only possible success was to make them the very best they could be.

TREVOR: Tell me about your book on commonsense in business Joel and how can people get hold of it?

JOEL: Which one? ;)

My 110-page pocketbook 49 Commonsense Business Observations, is available from my website click here or directly from the publisher click here It’s also been reviewed around here somewhere; ah, here it is click here

Each page is a stand-alone observation which I hope makes readers stop and think about how they might apply it in business. (Seth Godin once wrote that he’s not really a guru, he’s just ‘a guy who notices things.’ I feel the same way, thus the ‘observations’ part of the title.)

The Commonsense Entrepreneur, which will run closer to 200 pages, will be available in July from the same sources. It follows the ‘Observations’ concept, being, not an exhaustive treatise on operating a business, but things I’ve noticed over the years which I think many small business operators and frontline managers have either never learned or had trained out of them by corporate thinking.

TREVOR: Why do people over-complicate management and business?

JOEL: I can’t trace the mess management and business are in back to their origins, so instead I’ll focus on what I see today.

I’ve seen a number of reasons people make it all more complicated than it really is. I divide them into two camps: bad intent and lack of confidence. I won’t waste time on those who complicate things in order to avoid responsibility, maintain perceived power, or hide incompetence.

There are far too many small business operators and frontline managers, though, who think someone else has the answers; that they’re not smart enough or don’t have the training to come up with solutions. Big business and big education have created a self-sustaining mystique around MBAs and the like. I’m not opposed to education and training, of course, but I believe that the person closest to the problem usually knows a commonsense solution. As I tell my clients, it’s not rocket surgery. (I know; I know; it’s a long story, but that’s what I say.)

Virtually all of my consulting, formal and informal, consists of asking folks questions. I’ll never know their business the way they do, so I have no hope of conjuring a solution out of a vacuum; I have to extract it from them. Which means, they generally have the answer already and just don’t realize it. Often, they have a solution, but don’t trust it because homegrown advice can’t be as good as an expert, right?

TREVOR: Have you visited England and if not do you have any plans to come over the pond?

JOEL: No and yes!

In early 2005 my wife Sue and I took our daughters Rachelle (17 years at the time) and Fiona (18 months at the time) to Ireland. We spent parts of January and February in County Kerry. Our hope was to visit friends in Scotland, England, and France—and then the dollar and the Euro had a falling out, and our car money vanished in a puff of currency exchange.

We’re considering right now how we could move Sue’s virtual office administration business and my web and consulting businesses to Killorglin in County Kerry. Once we do, and start making the odd trip to Stratford-On-Avon, those virtual drinks in Trevor’s Public House will take on a dangerous reality.

TREVOR: One of the things I always notice about you is your great sense of humour – do you think there is enough light relief in business generally?


Humour (thank you for spelling it correctly!) has so much value in business. It keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously. It helps keep setbacks, ‘learning experiences’ (some call them ‘mistakes’), and loss, in perspective. It can defuse a tense conversation and make folks who feel like outsiders feel like insiders.

The balance, of course, is that it always has to be within the bounds of the golden rule. I don’t like derisive or sarcastic humour; I’d rather laugh with someone than at them.

Remind me to tell you about the time the Irish declared war on Iran . . .

TREVOR: Finally Joel thank you for your offer recently to buy everyone a ‘virtual drink’ in my ‘virtual simplicity pub’ … you made this offer at something like 2 am UK time so there were no take-ups! I look forward to the day when I can buy you a real English beer or vice versa!

JOEL: Shhh . . . don’t tell anyone, but my favourite pints have happened primarily at 2 a.m. We’ll keep you posted on this whole immi-/emigration thing, and then talk about that drink!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The joy of being appreciated

Regular readers of my Simplicity Blog will remember a few weeks ago I posted my thoughts on the Pain of Learning. This was about some poor feedback we had after one of our Trust Me I’m a Patient workshops.

This morning in my email inbox came this from the person who commissioned our latest Trust Me I’m a Patient workshop yesterday morning.

‘Thanks so much for such a fun and useful workshop. I had a great time and am really pleased it went so well. The few people on my floor that also attended were still buzzing when they got back – it was the talk of the office for the afternoon! Feedback was fantastic and it was wonderful to see everyone engaging and having fun’.

So my posting today is not about the pain of learning but about the joy of being appreciated.

Say 'thank you' to someone today - they will enjoy the feeling - you might just make their day. And I suspect you will feel good for doing it

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Article Published - New technology - friend or foe?

My monthly Simplicity article on Training is published today – comments on the Training Zone Site welcomed!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The future workforce?

My friend Brian Galbraith from Perth, Australia recently sent me a copy of a new report – published this month by IBM Global Business Services.

The report is called 'Unlocking the DNA of the Adaptable Workforce.'

There are 4 key isses to emerge for the future of workforce development - according to this worldwide research. The report was written after interviews with 400 Human Resources Executives in 40 countries

  • Create an adaptable workforce – my take on that - encourage the frontliners who actually do the work
  • Leadership Gap – my take - find inspiring leaders
  • Talent – my take - find your talent and nurture it
  • Workforce Analysis – my take - HR to use information to help transform business rather than simply gather and collate information for transactional purposes.

These 4 conclusions, needless to say, are music to my ears.

If you want to read the full report go to this IBM Website to download it:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Simplicity solves problem & saves money!

I've never been stupid enough to suggest complexity doesn’t exist.

It’s just that sometimes our mindset and our actions promote what I would call the myth of complexity when solutions are actually very simple and quite often staring us in the face. I am indebted to my great friend Sriram Kannan in Hong Kong for these two absolutely wonderful examples of what I am trying to say.

Thank you Sriram - I love this!!

Case 1

When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn't work at zero gravity (ink won't flow down to the writing surface). To solve this problem, it took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C.

And what did the Russians do....?? They used a pencil.

Case 2

One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan’s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soapbox that was empty. Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soapbox went through the assembly line empty. Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soapboxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but they spent whoopee amount to do so.

But when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc., but instead came out with another solution. He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soapbox passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.


1 Always look for simple solutions.

2 Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problems.

3 Always focus on solutions & not on problems.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Simplicity Blog in the Top 100

I was delighted to hear from one of my Simplicity friends John O'Leary that Simplicity Blog has been selected as one of the "Top 100 Management and Leadership Blogs" by HR World.

Click here for the evidence!

I'm never quite sure about these polls and who selects the Blogs but I am nevertheless thrilled to be mentioned in the same company as two of my heroes Tom Peters and Seth Godin.

I was particularly pleased that Simplicity Blog was in the category Creativity and Inspiration.

No fawning over Trevor please .... Compliments are very nice but just send me money....ONLY JOKING FOLKS!

PS - This is posting number 850 since I started Simplicity Blog in January 2005.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Mike Gardner

My 'Friend of Simplicity' interview today is with Mike Gardner who lives in Shepherd, Michigan in the US.

Mike and I have been exchanging e-mails and comments on various Blogs for over three years now and I always love my exchanges with him. Mike doesn’t always agree with me and often corrects (as he sees it) the error of my ways. The great thing about Mike is he always does it in a nice way.

Mike and I have promised each other that the next time Mike and his wife Keiko are in England or the first time Annie and I get to the States we will all meet up for a beer and/or a Red Wine! - I look forward to that.

TREVOR: Hi Mike – can you tell me a bit about your career history?

MIKE: I sort of “fell” into manufacturing about nineteen years ago. I attended university for several years until I ran out of money then got work in a restaurant. I ended up managing the kitchen for several years, which was a valuable lesson in how NOT to be an effective leader. The company I currently work for is Japanese and they opened their first North American facility in the late nineteen eighties. I heard they were hiring in 1989 and decided that anything had to be better than the restaurant business, so I applied. I started working on the assembly line and was promoted to Team Leader in 1993. Since then I have worked as a Supervisor, and as a Manager in different roles. I am currently responsible for education, development, and training in lean manufacturing systems—emphasizing Total Productive Maintenance—in our seven North American facilities. This has been a rewarding career and I will always be grateful to those who gave me so many opportunities to develop as a leader. We manufacture automotive electrical motors such as wipers, power window motors, cooling fan systems, and starters. Many of our processes are highly automated so if we do not have reliable equipment we can not meet our customers’ expectations. We try to run a “lean” production system, which means we do not carry excess inventories of either raw material or finished product. Everything must flow. Our focus is to constantly see where the flow stops and correct the root cause of the problem. I have had the chance to study the theories of lean manufacturing and implement much of it in our various facilities over the years. I am a perpetual student and am always learning about several different things at once.

TREVOR: I know you and your wife Keiko visited London a couple of years ago. What were your impressions of London in particular and England in general and when is your next visit and, most importantly, did you like our Beer?

MIKE: Keiko and I were only in England for four days, so we did not get a chance to see much of it. We attended the wedding of some friends in Epping. Epping was a wonderful town and very accommodating to tourists. Keiko and I both play competitive-level darts and one of her dreams was to play darts in a real English pub, which we had the chance to do in Epping. London was great, but hideously expensive. We bought food at Harrod’s and had a nice picnic lunch in Hyde Park near the Guards’ barracks. We are planning a return trip in the next few years.

I have always loved English beer. In the past, I had to travel to a larger community to find an import store that stocked it, but now I can buy it at the local liquor store near my home. I have always been a fan of Newcastle, Bass, John Courage, Old Speckled Hen, Tadcaster, and many other brews. I used to make my own beer and I based many of my recipes on traditional English pub ale.

TREVOR: You and I have been known to disagree occasionally about management, leadership and customer care. Here is your chance to put me right. What do you see as the big challenges for managers in 2008? – I promise I won’t interrupt! Your focus on the front line employees is the key,

MIKE: A manager in the future must be of the empowerment school to succeed. The old “boss management” style of leadership simply will not work with the tech-savvy, free agent nation folks of the 21st century. I am firmly convinced that empowering all employees to do more, become more, and develop meaningful careers is the key to success. In automotive manufacturing we often look to Toyota as a model for success. One of the two key pillars of the Toyota Production System is Respect for People. Toyota defines respect as giving people meaningful work and engaging them in continuous improvement of their job. That does not require a Japanese culture to implement. It only requires leaders committed to engaging all employees in achieving the vision, building a teamwork culture, and listening more than speaking.

TREVOR: I love the way you challenge Tom Peters on his Blog sometimes. You definitely call a spade a spade as we say in England. What is your opinion of Tom Peters’ contribution to management and business in the last 30 years?

MIKE: Dr. Peters has made a significant contribution to management through his writings. There was a time about twelve years ago when I was having a lot of difficulty understanding what my career was supposed to be about and where I was headed. I discovered Tom Peters’ work at that point and I was heartened and reassured by what I read. I learned that not only was it OK for me to be who I was and to chart my own course, it was essential for my success. I don’t visit his blog much any more because I think the Tom Peters brand has moved away from that philosophy and toward the glorification of Tom Peters. I think he has become a little too full of himself and rather dogmatic in his views.

TREVOR: What is your vision for the future of the auto industry in the US?

MIKE: The US automotive industry will be smaller, leaner, and more efficient in the future. It will include GM, Ford, and Chrysler, but in different roles than they have enjoyed in the past. The “Big Three” have lost their leadership due to poor vision, poor leadership, and poor focus over the last two decades. It is a very rough time for them and for their supply base. There will be many hard times coming in the next few years until the new versions become stable. Even the Japanese powerhouse automotive companies in the US, such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, are going to have to adapt to changes very quickly. There is always a new competitor to watch out for. The Korean manufacturers are making a significant “splash” in the US market right now, and even the Japanese are looking over their shoulders at the impact of the Chinese producers.

TREVOR: What would be your advice to a young up and coming manager just setting out on their management career in the auto industry on 2008?

MIKE: Don’t. Not unless you really want to be in a rough environment. If you do, be a change agent. Really live Winston Churchill’s paradoxical statement that “to improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.” Empower your people, engage them in continuous improvement, and make change happen. It can be very frustrating, but also very rewarding.

TREVOR: Finally Mike – Why do you folks in the US believe you have the right to call the game played by fully grown men all wrapped up in padding ‘football.?’ You know deep down real ‘football’ is played by real men without padding and it originated here in England. We invented the game you decided to call ‘soccer.’

MIKE: I expect it to be a priority for the new incoming President to change the belief you folks have in the US of what ‘football’ really is! Considering the current crop of presidential candidates, I don’t think they will be changing anyone’s beliefs about anything. I am seriously considering voting “third party” again for the first time in many years. The reason American football is superior to “soccer” is that they actually score points during regulation play. American football is truly an outgrowth of our culture. Our ancestors were kicked out of every civilized country in Europe because they were unruly, loud, violent, and super-competitive. After we stopped shooting at each other all the time we needed a controlled outlet for our passions. Football became America’s game. Soccer is trying to gain a foothold in the US and is becoming more popular with time. There is a very large youth soccer movement here now, which there never was when I was a child. This will increase the popularity of the sport as those children grow up. At the same time, American football is gaining a following in Europe through the minor-league system of the EFL. I think that both of those are good signs for the future. I think we should both recognize the Aussies, though. They play American-style football without padding. That’s tough!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Simplicity and Google

I am indebted to my good friend Steve Sherlock in the US for tipping me off about a recent article. In the article, Google Executive, Marissa Mayer celebrates 'simplicity' as one of the most important principles in the success of Google.

There are critics who say simplicity is a ‘dated’ concept and that the world is really far more complex than people like me make out. We are all of course entitled to our opinion.

I am not stupid enough to think there is no such thing as complexity but I maintain with a passion that we make things far more complicated than they need to be.

Thanks again Steve for tipping me off – you can read what Marissa Mayer of Google thinks about simplicity by clicking here.