Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Learning for business through drama

This was me as Sam Pickles pleading with my 'daughter'
Rosie to visit her estranged mother, Dolly.

Annie, as a drunken Dolly, tells her daughter Rosie
that she shouldn't hate her

Annie and I got back from our week on a residential summer drama school and I didn't really give much feedback on my Blog. We were 2 of a group 24 completely unconnected people thrown together with two directors and two assistant directors. The task was, starting from scratch, to rehearse and perform in a public setting - within a week - the Australian play (set in the 1940's) called ‘Cloudstreet’ by Tim Winton

An amazing week for many reasons. I've been thinking about what I learned in that week from a business/organisation perspective;

1 – Getting out of the comfort zone …. A long way out!! ... is good!

2 – Seeing two talented directors illustrate real leadership

3 – The joy of being part of a team committed to delivering a product in a very tight schedule

4 – Realising how much we rely on others when the chips are down and when we feel vulnerable and out of our depth

5 – Seeing how much business can learn from the arts

6 – Keeping going when half way through the week our heads were telling us ‘we’ve made a big mistake coming here’

7 - Feeling the exhilaration of a successfully completed ‘project’ that customers enjoyed

8 - Realising life needs to be as much about doing different stuff as that stuff we are used to doing every day

More pictures can be seen here on Annie’s Blog

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Revisiting the Fox Interview - January 2008

My friend David Wike made the suggestion that I re-post the Fox Business TV interview I did with Ashley Webster in January as a background to the Friend of Simplicity interview below.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friend of Simplicity - Ashley Webster

Apologies for the delay since my last ‘Friend of Simplicity’ interview. It seems these interviews are popular and so I have another 12 or so lined up over the next few months.

Today, in the words of the old saying, it is really a case of ‘poacher turned gamekeeper.'

I am delighted to publish my interview with Ashley Webster of FOX Business TV. You can read more about Ashley by clicking here

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed, live to the US, by Ashley in January 2008 on Fox Business Network about some of my thoughts about simplicity.

I liked Ashley immediately and I have great respect for his professionalism. He helped me feel relaxed before going on TV for a live interview for the first time in my life. It could have been a bit scary but Ashley’s calmness, professionalism and experience was a great help – he actually made it easy for me. He is a real pro!

I was also impressed by the slick operation of the Fox Business studio especially the friendliness of the small team of people I met including Lauren Bedsole the Producer.

Ashley kindly agreed to share some thoughts with me - so here it is - I hope you enjoy it ...........

TREVOR: Ashley – thanks for agreeing to be the interviewee this time. Tell me a bit about your career in the media world.

ASHLEY: I started my career as a reporter/anchor for an NBC affiliate in Helena, Montana. From there I have worked in the same capacity at a number of different stations in California, Arizona, Wisconsin and Tennessee. After 20 years of working for local affiliates I joined the Fox Business Network in 2007 as the overseas markets editor and correspondent based in London, England.

TREVOR: When we did the Fox interview it felt like you and I were just informally chatting – and I mean that as a compliment to your skills. Is it just experience or do you have a different strategy with each guest?

ASHLEY: I have always enjoyed meeting and talking with people that is why reporting is the perfect job for me. When it comes to interviewing guests the best approach for me has always been to be relaxed and conversational. There is nothing natural about sitting in front of a camera and lights, so I try to make the experience as comfortable as possible and just let the guest talk about his or her subject.

TREVOR: You have the most fantastic view of London from your office. How do you like working in London versus the US?

ASHLEY: I am originally from Brighton, England and lived in the UK for 20 years before emigrating to the United States. Coming back to London after being away for more than 20 years has been a unique and rewarding experience. The studio has a wonderful view looking down on Big Ben and Parliament, so every morning I am reminded how lucky I am to be working in such a unique place.

TREVOR: As you well know I believe the search for simplicity is vital in business – what are you views about this and do you meet many people with similar views?

ASHLEY: Keeping it simple in business is vital. In business, as in life, it seems to be human nature to make things more complicated than they have to be. In business this can have disastrous consequences because without simplicity the function of the business can be severely hampered. I often meet people who agree but it seems big corporations are unable to make the necessary changes because there are too many people on the totem pole to get the changes enacted.

TREVOR: I was very impressed with the smooth efficiency of the Fox team – particularly Lauren Bedsole your Producer. It feels like you are a very effective and 'together' team. I assume teamwork is crucial in the broadcasting world with such acute and demanding deadlines. Am I right about that and how do you think team work is maintained in Fox?

ASHLEY: Teamwork in any environment is critical to success but working in a bureau so far away from the New York headquarters it is a necessity. We work under deadlines that often come around every 10 minutes throughout the day and it can be extremely stressful and without teamwork we would not be able to make it work. I think it’s a great example of simplicity at work!

TREVOR: What do you see as the main similarities and differences between managers in the US and Britain?

ASHLEY: Having worked in both countries I have noticed some differences in the style of management on either side of the Atlantic. Managers in the United States tend to be more macro in their approach, very goal oriented and expect a high level of devotion and accomplishment. I think UK managers are a little more relaxed and take a more hands-off approach but at the end of the day still expect results. I think this is as much a cultural difference as a work philosophy and both have their strengths and weaknesses.

TREVOR: Finally Ashley what is the future for Fox Business Network in Britain – will we soon be able to pick it up on our satellite TV?

ASHLEY: As a brand new network based in the United States it takes time to reach as many households as possible and this is an ongoing process. We hope the Fox Business Network will soon become a part of the regular UK channel options as soon as possible!

TREVOR: Thanks again for your insights.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The NHS …Warts and all .. Is still great

I have been away from the National Health Service (NHS) for almost 4 years after a long career of over 35 years working inside it.

The NHS is the third largest employer in the world after the Chinese Army and the Indian Railways.

The NHS celebrated its 60th birthday in July 2008 having been created as part of the radical, reforming Labour Government of post Second World War Britain in 1948. The NHS was a fundamental part of the new Welfare State.

The founder of the NHS was the eloquent Welsh MP Aneurin Bevan. Among Mr Bevan's many wonderful quotes was this one that I love most;

‘No longer will wealth be an advantage nor poverty a disadvantage. Healthcare will be provided free of charge based on clinical need and not on ability to pay.’

Call me old fashioned if you like but this statement from the great man underpins why our NHS is still the envy of many parts of the world.

What we forget sometimes in Britain is that our health service is a UNIVERSAL service provided to all citizens based on clinical need.

It has been good for me to be away from the NHS for almost 4 years because I have been able to see the service from ‘outside’ and I admit I have sometimes been critical of what I see.

However in recent discussions on Tom Peters Blog I’ve been delighted to see so many people praising the NHS. Dare I suggest there have even been some envious glances from our friends across the pond that we have a well established and (generally) well-loved universal healthcare system?

I will continue to criticise the NHS where it fails patients and their families but let me be clear about something.

Until I see hard evidence that a privately funded healthcare system provides at least as good a service to the WHOLE population of Britain as the NHS currently provides I will continue to promote the NHS as the right way to organise the healthcare for the ENTIRE population.

It is simply not good enough to make shallow unproven throw-away woolly statements like ‘the market must decide.’

One key criterion of how a country should be judged is surely how it treats it most vulnerable and most ill citizens. In Britain I feel we can and should be very proud that successive governments since 1948 have not seen fit to move away from universal healthcare provided through the tax funded NHS and I for one hope we never do.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Important Stuff!!

Sincere apologies for lack of Simplicity Blog postings this week. Must do better!!

I’ve been back, working again in the National Health Service (NHS) to help out with some urgent work that has to be done in a local NHS organisation. It felt quite strange really to ‘go back to work’ in an office setting for 4 days this week after almost 4 years working from home. It gave me an opportunity to reflect about how the two scenarios differ. More of that in future postings.

Today is Annie’s birthday and we’ve had a great day together – I am a lucky man.

My life has changed dramatically in the last 4 years.

• Leaving the NHS after 35 years
• Setting up my own business
• Moving home three times
• Marrying the most wonderful woman in the world
• Becoming a Grandad to Sebastian and Reece

I have made many friends from all over the world through Blogging and this has been terrific. I have learned about how lucky I am when I think about the challenges faced in their families by my good friends Dick Field and Dave Wheeler.

What I have learned most in the last 4 years is that if you are supported by the person closest to you then all challenges become easier to face.

So …. On your birthday my darling Annie….Thank you. You will never know how much you have done for me … I love you more than Walkers Crisps xxx

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Learning about how 'stuff' gets done .....

Well … amazingly enough (to me) I did it. I actually went a whole week without checking my inbox.

That’s not quite true. On my mobile phone I can access gmail and so I was able to read the odd email that was sent to my gmail address but I was disciplined and didn’t reply to any. I never checked my hotmail inbox … and even more surprisingly (to me) I never even glanced at Simplicity Blog.

I’m grateful to my friends David Wike, Dave Wheeler, Richard Lipscombe, John O’Leary, Joel Canfield, and Mark Foscoe. Looks like you guys had an interesting exchange whilst I was away and I hope David Wike fulfilled his promise of buying all the drinks!

Annie and I got home earlier this (Saturday) evening from sunny (not) Harrogate in Yorkshire and so far I’ve only had time to glance at your excellent comments. I want to read them fully, reflect a bit and then reply properly.

By the way we worked intensively for seven days on performing the Australian play 'Cloudstreet' by Tim Winton. I know that Richard is well aware of the work of Tim Winton.

Our week started from scratch as a group of 24 totally unconnected people under the leadership of two directors and two assistant directors building up to a public performance.

It was certainly a terrific learning experience for me. I was well outside my comfort zone. I learned a lot about leadership, front liners and team work.

Our public performance took place on Saturday morning; seven days after 28 people unknown to each other met for the first time. The performance was well received by the audience of approximately 125 people.

It was terrific 'learning by doing.' It reminded me yet again how focus, teamwork and good leadership can produce a 'product' that people seem to enjoy.

  • Friday, August 01, 2008

    Customer Feedback Needed

    I’m really looking forward to a week away with Annie from Saturday 2nd August. We will be leaving our two dogs and the house in the capable hands of my in-laws Eric and Pauline.

    We are going on a residential acting summer school in Harrogate – should be fun!!

    I was having an email conversation with David Wike and David rightly feels I should leave something ‘meaty’ on Simplicity Blog for hearty and meaningful discussion over a few virtual beers (wine for the more sophisticated among you).

    So … having thought about it for at least 2 minutes I am going to ask you to discuss what sort of stuff you like to see on the Simplicity Blog – what works – what doesn’t etc.

    I am always going on about my passion for finding out what customers think so please don’t be backward with your advice - as if you would have any hesitation anyway.

    Discuss it among yourselves to your heart’s content while I am away.

    Needless to say I'll try hard to resist visiting a PC next week but if I do manage to find an odd moment or two I may join in the conversation from sunny Yorkshire.

    Enjoy the discussion and of course .... all the drinks are on David Wike!!!