Human Resources means many things to many people, and that variety encompasses the differing needs of businesses and people and cultures, but have you ever considered what HR could be - if it reached it’s full potential?
Here’s an MP3 file of Andy Lippok interviewing the founder of the Vanguard Systems Thinking Method, John Seddon, about trends in HR for 2010 and beyond.
Google has a clear purpose: To ensure that when folks like us are searching, we have a great (and relevant experience).
What’s interesting is that they don’t make money from the searchers, well not directly. They make money from the advertisers (the little ad’s down the side of the Google page). But if there’s ever a conflict between the two it’s the end user who wins.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say that you are running an ad for your latest book. Your research has shown that 5,000 people per month type in the name of your book searching Google and there are no advertisers; result: you can run an ad for 1p per click.
However you get a bit lazy and greedy, rather than creating a site that gives the searchers lots of useful information about your book with different pages and lots of content you just throw up a single page site to sell your book, and worse you try to sell other books on your site. Google won’t be happy, they will deem that the visitor experience is poor and they’ll Google slap you.
What this means is that they’ll impose a minimum bid on your ad for anything between £5 and £10 per click, thus making your advertising pointlessly expensive.
The point is this: when Google have to choose between their intermediary advertisers and their end users the real customers will win every time, they know that if the customer has a poor experience then they’ll use another search engine. So they choose to take a hit on short term advertising money for the sake of long term visitor value; as a result they are the world’s largest and most popular search engine and make billions of pounds annually.
What can we learn from this? Two points:
Make sure that you are clear on who your real customer is and decide how you are going to serve them.
When there is a conflict between an intermediary and the real customer always take the side of the end user.
Google have a clear single purpose built around creating value for the end customer, as a result it allows them to stay focused and make good decisions in their business, how about you..?
Q:I work in a large and complex life insurance and investment business and we have been changing huge areas of our business using the Systems Thinking method for over 18 months now.
My question is really about how a Systems Thinking approach fits with other perceived business drivers; particularly our declared objective to cross sell more of our products to existing customers, up sell more of the same and crucially retain more of our existing customers for longer.
I hope it is not an over simplification but the Systems Thinking argument I think goes something like this - Our purpose is to design our work to fulfil the “nominal” demand of our customers (eg provide a retirement income). If we do this well we will deliver a level of service that our customers expect, we won’t make mistakes, we will keep our promises and waste and failure will have as little impact as possible on both us (in terms of costs) and our customers (in terms of frustration and disappointment).
Customer satisfaction is a by-product of the way the work works. Like staff engagement it comes for free as we redesign our system against the value demands of our customers.
Because we are delivering what we promise (within our control) it is a natural consequence that customers stay with us and buy more from us. Our brand promise and the actual real experiences of our customers are aligned. There is no need to “Push” additional products or up sell at every contact opportunity - fundamentally this is not responding to customer demand (e.g. please change my address) but is part of our own agenda and will cost us money, might not work and could undermine our newly designed business.
If this argument is correct we would be far better redesigning our service and getting the basics right before embarking on a major up-sell / retention / cross-sell programme across our operational business. Especially when over 1/2 the work we do is waste / failure.
As you might guess the logic above does not resonate with some key players in our business. In fact I’m not even sure that I have captured what an experienced “Systems Thinker” would propose.
What do you think - does pro active multi-channel CRM type retention and cross-selling have a place in a Systems Thinking service organisation?
Stuart’s A: Many thanks for your question. This is a really important subject because I don’t think that there’s an obvious enough link between Systems Thinking and growing your business. But I will do my best to give you my philosophy on the subject.
As you say it’s a given that in order to enable people to buy from you, they have to have a good experience and it has to be easy to buy. Additionally when they make a service request it should be fulfilled quickly, with high quality and in such a way that it’s efficient for the organisation. So the customer has a great experience, they tell others and you most likely get some organic growth.
Additionally because the customer has had a good experience I think it’s logical to suggest that they are more open to hearing from you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will buy more. This is when you have to think about Systems Thinking from a slightly different perspective. Let me try to lay it out as a series of principles.
Pull not push
Having done what matters to the customer (or met their nominal value), you have won their trust. Now you have to ask permission to talk them on a regular basis. So once you have done what they asked, you ask a question “Can we talk to you once per week/month/year with highly relevant information to your circumstances. Also you need to make sure that the offer is designed from the customer’s point of view. It talks in terms of what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them.
But you must make sure they have a good experience first! I tried to get a quote during a famous insurance company’s ‘quote me happy campaign’, it was a terrible experience.
Create even more value for the customer
Assuming that you know what matters to the group of customers with which you want to converse, you have to now add value. You do this by providing content that is associated with your product, even though it will not necessarily lead to a short term sale for you. For example let’s say you provide annuities for retirement. And you know what matters to your customers is income maximisation, tax avoidance and providing for a spouse after death. You put together information booklets/CDs/DVDs etc that are easy to understand and have useful content that can help customers meet their goals. In other words you become a reliable source of expert information, a trusted adviser.
Then every so often you put an offer in communication that a client may want to buy.
But there’s no point doing this if when they’ve asked you for something and you messed up.
You also need to plan the whole process so that it’s slick and easy for the customer to get something if you offer it.
Reduce waste to free up capacity
It need not be the case that designing and administering the whole sales funnel should cost money, because if you have freed up staff from the improvement of flow then you can use them in the new marketing processes.
Also you should gather data on the lifetime value of a client so that you know how much you can afford to spend on each client.
But yes before you go working on outbound processes make sure that you’re making the most of the inbound stuff.
Gather capability data, then test rigorously and maximise
Before you go designing new outbound processes first gather data on what works now, then start to tweak these to optimise their performance. For example change headlines, pictures, copy, offers, testimonials, check the frequency of mailings, check your database and see how much failure demand a campaign attracts.
Make sure that everyone who wants to spend money with you actually does spend money with you. Last week I saw a car I liked on a website, I filled in the details and then waited, I thought my phone would ring within minutes. Four days later they called and it was too late.
Dump the processes that perform poorly and put more money behind those that perform well.
Make sure you know exactly how each process drives traffic and converts.
Once maximised, look at others to see how they have leveraged their operational capability. The most obvious thing to do (but UK businesses don’t) is to use your improved capability to make a guarantee. Can you think of how you can leverage your new and improved service to give clients more confidence so that they try you out?
I think that a company that has previously worked on push CAN move to a different model, especially as it’s cheaper and much more aligned to growth and profitability. The challenge is that it takes time and patience to improve the operational capability such that you win over the confidence of a client. And that depends on whether management are willing to do the work to build relationships with clients before they ask them to buy more.
Finally, I’m thankful that you took the time to write, as using Systems Thinking as a means to an end is a subject close to my heart. Too often I’ve looked at how well I’ve done Systems Thinking rather than asking how I can leverage the operational and measurement capability to create more demand in the market.
(A story of cold sausages, a string quartet and climate change protestors)
I was in London last week with some friends. On Friday morning we were sitting in a restaurant having breakfast. Then my blackberry went ballistic; message after message telling me that the link to the free guide on presenting data wasn’t working. And to make matters worse the team in the office didn’t have the PDF of the guide, so they couldn’t help.
Big problem, you see we use a web hosting company in the US and their system was down. So the first thing I did was to drop my fork and knife and ping a note back to everyone to let them know we were trying to resolve the situation.
Eventually I tracked down one of the team (who was on holiday) who had a copy of the guide (for who didn’t manage to pick it up click here) and we got it sent again as an attachment. And I as I chewed my way through my, now freezing cold, bacon and eggs I pondered the messages.
Trust is fleeting. It doesn’t really matter how much good you think you’ve done it can all go pear shaped in a moment.
Reliability is king. I continually hear people moaning that things are tough in the current climate. So you have to make the most of every opportunity. This is the same in the public sector, if you don’t keep your promises you get hit with failure demand, the cost to me was a cold breakfast, what would it be for you? So make sure every process delivers.
Knowledge will save the day. Stuff happens, things go wrong, I get that. But the key is to know the predictable nature of the failure. Is it a one off or is it predictable? The problem is that most managers don’t know, as a result they react to special causes as if they are every day occurrences and make a storm in a team into a hurricane. So you need measures that help you understand and improve performance, do you have that?
I was now firmly in the bad books with everyone. Denise, for spending two hours on my phone (I hope you appreciate what I do for you), Sean for bugging him on his holiday and you for a missing link. But there was light at the end of the tunnel and another message.
We left Covent Garden to the sound of music, not the Julie Andrews musical, but a string quartet. We stood and watched for a while, they were brilliant. Then they upped the ante, they started dancing with their violins! The crowd went wild and started throwing money at them.
And yes there’s a message here, if you want to do well, even during tough times, you need more than just reliability…
Be unique. This can come in the form of a product, a service, or how about a guarantee. Most people can’t offer a guarantee because they are too scared that they will mess up. Though that problem soon disappears when you have knowledge about how the work works.
And if you’re in the public sector and you’re reading this and wondering how it applies? My thoughts are that what would make you unique would be the delivery of consistently high service at low cost, do you agree?
Having seen the quartet I now had a warm feeling, everything was all right with the world. Or was the warm feeling something else. Was it climate change? The protestors in London that day certainly believe it’s the latter. And don’t get me wrong I’m all for a good rant and saving the planet, but…
We wanted to cross the road and the protestors were shouting at everyone as they crossed the line; time for another lesson. In some sectors your message might not be to everyone’s taste, so don’t make it worse by being difficult to deal with (one pedestrian got so infuriated he even burst a protestor’s balloon; that could have gone nasty). Here’s the lesson:
When you want people to comply with your message or process, don’t infuriate them by being difficult.
We ended our weekend by a visit to a Japanese restaurant chain in terminal 5 called Wagamama, it was brilliant. And it had a number of amazing characteristics:
They told us when what was going to happen and when we would get our food. Then they delivered on their promises.
They had a simple method to keep track of who was getting what and who still had to get their meals. They wrote the number of the dish on the menu. That way if a customer didn’t get the right food, the waiter knew before the customer.
They were unique. The food was unusual but very tasty.
It was easy and flawless.
Isn’t it funny how things go full circle?
P.S. This week I have an e-book of some questions I’ve answered over the past few months. The questions range from how to improve support for drug users, how systems thinking works in businesses that need to grow and get new clients, whether Kanban is appropriate to service organisations, and a few more. You can get the short book by clicking here (and yes I’m praying that it works).
Once you’ve got your free MP3, check out what I have for you at the end of this blog.
You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve managed to twist the arm of a business guru so you can get some top tips on building a strategy. Robin Field, ex Chairman and CEO of Filofax, was for many years, the business partner of Richard Koch. Richard wrote two best selling strategy books, ‘Smart Strategy, and The Financial Times Guide to Strategy’.
Robin worked alongside Richard, to turn around failing businesses. In 1998 Robin took charge of Filofax. At the time it was a dying business and its shares were trading at 30p per share. Within one year he turned the business around and during its floatation the shares changed hands for £2.10 per share with a return on investment of 27%
In this short interview Robin explains:
Why CEO’s should work on only the vital issues in a business
How to build your strategy from the customer backwards
The 3 most important activities when taking over as a new manager
The exact strategy he used to turn around Filofax (you’ll kick yourself when you hear it, it’s so simple)
What goes wrong in the handover of a business that involves family members
How being lazy is a great attribute for running a business and running your life. Yep, less work with more success!
I believe that this is an interview you’ll want to keep and play at your next team meeting. To download it just go to this page, right click on the link then select ’save target as’.
I truly hope that you get value from the recording. I also have an interview lined up with Jim Mather, the Scottish Minister for Enterprise. If you have a question you’d like me to put to him please mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘minister’s question’ in the subject line.
Now listen up, I have something truly unique for you
Over the past 11 years that I have been using the Vanguard method I have kept detailed notes of how to apply it within service organisations. Every time the method was upgraded either by myself or another member of the Vanguard team I made a note.
Eighteen months ago I started to document in sequential detail exactly how to use our method to turn around a failing organisation, or make an already good organisation great.
The book was ready to launch in July but having read it, John Seddon, Vanguard’s chairman, asked me not to release the book. In his view it simply gave away too many of our secrets.
Since July I’ve literally begged (on your behalf) to be allowed to give you a copy. John agreed on the condition that I customise the book. So I had Ron Skea, our call centre expert, make the examples in the book specific to service centres.
But the good news is that book applies to any service organisation (except of course project environments).
So don’t let me down. I’ve promised John that those who bought the entire system would not pass it around or steal our ideas. Though you are free to use the information to dramatically improve service, slash your costs, boost morale and for those in the private sector, vastly improve your competitive advantage.
The system actually comes with three e-books that show you how to complete the check, plan and implementation stages of a change programme. There are templates for gathering demand, and process mapping. You also get the whole thing in MP3. And there are bonuses!
It’s available from Monday. If you register before the launch you get a 50% discount, just
Last Friday I was running a one day strategy session for a Director of Human Resources and he asked me a question. “How can I tell if I’m a good HR director?” I answered by telling him two stories.
About a year ago a client, who is also a good friend, called me to say “you will never believe what has just happened! My human resource manager has stormed into my office and told me that she is sick of Stuart Corrigan” (I’ve heard this from the female population a few times in my life, so it was no real surprise). “After a few questions she said that she used to feel like she was adding value by sorting those that were perpetually off sick, resolving disputes between departments, and counselling those that were fed up. She went on to say that her job has nigh on disappeared since we started doing systems thinking, because people are happier at their work.”
After my friend told me the story I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But it did help me to get a clear view on what an HR manager should not be doing.
Contrast this story from another client Helen Fitzpatrick, a senior HR manager at the financial services company Royal London. Helen and her colleague Julie Cropper, spend their time working with managers to help them optimise their divisions.
By optimise I mean that they show them how they can maximise productivity, revolutionise service, minimise operating expense and improve revenue and return on investment. The question of course is by what method?
They start with a simple premise; you can’t maximise what you are currently doing until you first understand exactly how the business works now, warts and all, including the assumptions under which it operates.
They, like most who understand this, know that if you start from a position of knowledge about what’s happening today and why it’s happening, then being able to fix what is wrong is actually very easy.
This is a universal principle, I don’t care whether you run one internet site or you are the chief executive of a global company, unless you know exactly how the business works (processes, policies, job role design, measures) and you can articulate it, you will never ever optimise your organisation.
Hence the perspective taken by Helen and Julie is outside-in; work with leaders to get data on how the business works from the customer’s perspective and then use that knowledge to make it better, that’s it. Oh, this also applies to functions like marketing, sales and finance.
Here’s an example; a few years ago we were working with a finance company that handles claims. There were long delays in the system, it took up to 942 days to close a claim, most claims were re-worked by a factor or 3-4 before being closed, customers were leaving, brokers had stopped recommending the company, and the cost of settling claims were increasing.
After having studied the system the problem was obvious (well, I told you it would be), the staff were measured on how fast they got a claim logged on to the system. So information about a claim was passed to claims handlers dirty. They then spent most of their time getting additional information before being able to settle the claim.
With knowledge about how the system worked the solution was obvious; by changing the measures and getting the expertise at the right point in the system, the time to settle a claim was slashed to two weeks. And the increase in capacity was used to work with corporate clients to inform them about the most predictable causes of crashes. Now that’s real added value. And it came about through knowledge of the current system.
Which leads us back to our question, how can you tell if you’re a good HR manager? (you should replace HR with your own job title). The answer lies in whether you can describe how your organisation looks and works from the customer’s point of view. Well can you?
I accept that for some managers this seems too difficult, it means getting out of their office and getting their hands dirty. But hey, what’s the alternative, filling in another spreadsheet on who was off sick this week?
A few years ago I was having dinner with some ex Toyota consultants. A question was posed, what is the best way to help a client learn how to transform their organisation, such that they get revolutionary service, at lower costs?
As you’ll see the answer was, unfortunately, common sense but not common practice.
We started by discussing the different ways in which people acquire knowledge in order to create change, I explained,
They are told they must learn. This might work in the short term, but over the long term, it’s a poor way of developing lasting skill.
They go on a course. But education assumes that people already want to learn. And the big problem with education is that if it is at odds with your current beliefs, then it is usually rejected.
There’s also the normative method, they are taken by the hand and helped to see what’s wrong before they learn what to do differently.
The Toyota guys nearly burst their belts laughing.
“We never thought that there were three ways of learning”, they said. “You see we were all in our teens when we started at Toyota, and when we graduated into consultants, we were assigned a Japanese mentor who gave us the knowledge at the rate we needed it by regularly checking that we were thinking in the right way”. One of the group gave a memorable example.
“I was working on A3 problem solving” he said “and I had spent hours crafting the problem, the containment strategy, gathering data, and analysing possible solutions. I presented the sheet to my Sensei, in his office, he said, “how can I judge if this is any good from here (my office)?” The consultant explained that all learning was done in the work not the office, and this also applied to senior executives of the business. This is normative learning.
Though at Vanguard we also work this way, I was reminded me of the importance of not compromising on principles. And how the best way to help a client sometimes is to take a stance on how they will learn.
But is Toyota’s method effective? Consider this, Toyota are one of only a few car manufacturers that haven’t had to be bailed out by government. This is because their operating expense is low, because they are so good at understanding and improving their system, all because they have been taught to think differently.
Here’s a question you should ask yourself
What about you? How much of your learning over the past year has been done on a training course or in a meeting? How much has been normative: un-learning before re-learning.
For example if you currently believe that targets will help your organisation, then before you can get new knowledge you first have to see why targets always destroy good work.
Here’s how to change
So, here’s what you should do today. Write down everything you think you know about how to manage an organisation i.e.:
A Back office front office set up reduces costs (actually it increases costs)
Targets improve performance (no, they ruin them)
Service standards are good for service (they are arbitrary and create delays)
Monthly appraisals are valuable (they are the most wasteful activity you can perform)
Incentives cause motivated workers (Actually they cheat and become depressed)
Investors in people is helpful (useless)
And that most of your meetings this week will achieve something (get serious)
Why not go out and gather data to see which of the above assumptions are right.
Of course to do this you have to get out into the work. Do this enough and just can’t avoid un-learning and then re-learning, this will make you a sought-after manager. Because if you adopt this method of learning not only do you purge bad habits, you hardwire new ways of thinking that allow you to go into any system and with laser like guidance, find out what’s wrong, and fix it; you know not just where to look, but more importantly how to think differently about what you find.
You may not have the luxury of lunching with a Japanese sensei today, but you can still pose the question, “how do we learn here?”
At the last count I have around 30 pairs of cufflinks, I love cufflinks because I love double cuff shirts. But sometimes, because I’m an idiot, I shouldn’t be allowed near the things because they just show how stupid I am.
Take last week. I was working with a team of senior executives. I was the guy they brought in to solve all their problems and get their business back on track. Yep, all the top people were assembled. I was thinking about this as I was getting dressed in my hotel.
I put on my shirt and reached for my cufflinks. They were in the bedroom, but not the one I was in, and I didn’t have the time to drive 700 miles to get them and be back for breakfast.
I ran to the hotel reception “do you have any cufflinks in lost property?”, the receptionist walked (in slow motion) over to a small cardboard box looked in, looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and simply said “nope!”
“Ok, where can I buy some?” I could have asked where I could source some plutonium and would have got the same answer, “dunno.”
“Do you have any paperclips, then?” I asked, (I prayed for the little silver ones). With a knowing smile he handed me one red one and one white one (different sizes). I rushed back to my room and twisted them into a pair of cufflinks.
The first two hours of the meeting were a bit tense until someone said, I like your cufflinks. They actually thought I was cool! I confessed, and it broke the ice (though one guy in the corner definitely though I was just an idiot). Though that soon changed when he saw what I could do for him.
The point is this: why doesn’t someone invent a paperclip that can also be used as emergency cufflinks? This is not such a crazy idea, my friend likes to fish and he uses Avon skin so soft, to ward off flies and midges; and as I write Denise has suggested another use for my books and reports, kindling (she’s so funny).
What about you, do you know how people are using your product? Are they using it in ways that you hadn’t thought of? Are there alternative uses that you could make you more money?
Study how people are using your product or service, you never know what you might find. And if you find nothing then there’s always the untapped market for emergency cufflinks, just send me a free pair for giving you the idea.
Oh and If you are looking for a three day strategy session, to get the lowdown on how to fix your service, reduce your costs, and get insight into your business (that a whole division of Mckinsey consultants couldn’t provide), drop me a note. I promise to bring my cufflinks.
The global economy is in a mess, why? Simple, managers were more interested in making money than innovating and solving customer problems; had they done so profits (not losses) would be the obvious outcome. In the public sector cost reduction is the by-product of such actions. Which begs another question, how do you innovate? The answer: by being in the work.
Managers say “We can’t innovate, do you know how much it costs?”
In some cases they may be right but not all innovations cost money. So let’s start by defining innovation. When you think of innovation typically what comes to mind? The iPod, The Sinclair C5, The Segway, or maybe the new airbus. And associated with these projects is typically a massive spend for all too frequently - a poor return on investment.
But what about the other type of innovation the type that starts by with identifying a clear customer or staff member with a problem and fixes it.
In my work I never cease to be amazed at the how many ideas are just waiting to be released into the consciousness of an organisation. What is also interesting is that the ideas are always born out of getting closer to the work, not further away, i.e. you won’t get flashes of inspiration by spending a few days in a hotel or visiting another organisation to see how they do things.
And some of these ideas are truly remarkable. Our country really needs remarkable right now. I experienced remarkable last week at the DVLA, and if they can do it…
On Tuesday I had to renew my road tax. I usually spend an hour trying to find all the forms and then stand in the queue at the post office. This time I decided to have a go at doing it on line. I say have a go because I expected it to be rubbish. But it was brilliant. I loved it. I told about twenty people, and now I’m telling another one thousand.
What if some of the people I told renew their tax on line, because it was so easy, also buy a private registration? The DVLA have saved, and generated money at the same time. They’ve freed activity that was using mundane brain power that could now be used in further innovation. What if the DVLA did motor insurance, or sold cars on-line. Why not?
The real secret to what the cool people at the DVLA did was they started from the customer and worked back, not the other way round, I hope the person that did this got promoted, if you know them let me know?
Over the years we’ve been proud to have nudged our clients to innovate. I say nudged because what we did was to show them how to find the ideas, as opposed to a cook book of recipies. But what’s really important is that they now have the knowledge about how to innovate and can replicate their actions over and over again. And once infected by the bug they tend to just keep doing it. I saw a great sign on a van yesterday, it said:
“Knowledge combined with passion is an unbeatable force”
Here’s a few notable nudges:
Edinburgh City Council - First time fix on potholes
Lothian and Borders Police (lost and found) - Lost items in clear plastic bags so quicker and easier to find
West Lothian Criminal Justice system - Give police access to fiscal reporting to reports easier to submit
Haldane UK - Numbering boxes containing handrails so that fitters know which ones to open first
VELUX - Training staff to deal with 80% of all demand and having experts on hand so that other 20% could be handled whilst customer on the phone
Haldane UK - Changing the staples on the boxes so that clients didn’t cut their hands
Dundee City Council - One assessment for elderly in need of care
Edinburgh Council advice services - Benefit checks over the phone
West Lothian Council Housing voids - inspector meets new tenant to discuss what needs done to the house.
Next question is how do you innovate? Here’s the best five ways that I know how:
1. Study demand (listen, look, read e-mails, read letters). Look for customer requests to which you currently say no. Find out what it would take to say yes.
a. VELUX did this and now sell windows direct.
2. Watch people doing their work:
a. When I got a puncture repaired last week I wondered why no-one asked to give me a quote for my car insurance when I was in the depot. Instead they called 3 days later during dinner.
3. Be a demand, follow it through to the end look for friction:
a. In planning departments the main problem is that the planners have to constantly multi-task so everything takes longer. If management followed the flow they would see.
4. Be a customer:
a. The food at David Lloyd health club is terrible, maybe if Mr Lloyd ate his own spaghetti bolognese he would change the food.
5. Be a front line person for a day, week, month:
a. If the senior management of the HBOS spent a day being a corporate mortgage adviser they would see how stupid it is not to give them a direct phone number so that clients can call them direct rather than going through the call centre.
So you’re an innovator the next question is how do you become remarkable? I will answer that next week. And if you want the above list in a handy check-list that you can pin on your wall you can get it free here.
PS If you haven’t downloaded the first 4 steps of my presentations system click here now
PPS. If you think a friend or colleague may like this blog please pass it on.
As many of you know, I’ve just been on holiday. And like most people I bought some books at the Airport. The first book was by James Patterson, the second by Jeffrey Deaver and the third by a new author.
What I loved about the first two books was that they had a really clear premise, someone got murdered and someone else had to find the killer, and second there was a clear structure to the book and the characters. There were easy to read.
But the third book was different. I just couldn’t figure out what the book was about. I had to keep reading the back page to try and pick up the thread of the story. Also there was no clear structure, the book kept changing locations and characters. After sixty five painful pages I just gave up and left the book in the villa for someone else to read, after-all I suppose there’s a chance it was just me (it wasn’t).
I realise you may think I’m a bit sad but I just couldn’t help making the connection between books with no premise and no structure and presentations with the same problem.
I have sat through so many presentations, made by external and internal consultants, managers and leaders where there was a clear remit to present the findings of an analysis, explain why the problem occurred and then point to the direction of the solution, but they failed to engage the leader. This happened because there was no clear definition of the problem, premise, or coherent structured points for how to improve the business. In short the leader got lost, bored, and like me on holiday, lost interest in the story.
What’s worse is that in most of the cases, the analysis and the solution were good. But the communication was poor. Ultimately the consultant never got a second chance to get in front of the leader again. In worst the worst case, the presenter’s career stalled and in the end they left the business, all because they didn’t know how to structure a presentation.
Now think of a subject that you love to talk about, and write about; planning and making presentations is mine. In addition to teaching this subject for 10 years of my life I have probably spent more money, time and effort in learning about presentation design and delivery than on any other business activity.
If you have the need to build a presentation fast, and want to improve your skills in the area of delivering presentations that by their very nature contain data, and analysis, I have written a 19 page report that you can download for free.
A structure for building starting your presentation that will immediately engage your audience
How to build the outline of any presentation within 15 minutes
How to check that the points really answer the question
The report entitled “How to create change from your presentations Steps 1-4″ is free and offers real value as a stand alone product.
Dear Mr Brown, would you spend a day with me to see what I see?
If you did you would see housing associations failing because they are scared to challenge the regulator. They use service standards that cause repairs to take longer than they should. They use public money to take residents to court because they haven’t paid their rent, even though much of the failing is because of the housing benefits system.
If you did you would see local authority leaders who spend no time at the front line of failing services like adult elderly care, and child services. As a result they have little information on what to do to improve the service, but are quick to blame hard working front line staff when something goes wrong.
If you did you would see ministers who cite special causes when there is a failure of public services, rather than getting to the root cause of the problem and asking if it is predictable.
If you did you would surely stop the waste of spending millions on pointless CRM systems in the public sector.
If you did spend a day with me in the work, you would see private sector employees beleaguered by incentive schemes, targets and outsourcing; come to think of it you’d see the same in the public sector.
If you did spend some time in the work you would see that our lack of competitiveness is not because the workers don’t care but because the leaders don’t know how.
If you did you would see a criminal justice system that doesn’t work because of functionalised work design, a lack of cross functional measures, and no common purpose.
If you did you would see that our call centres don’t work because managers are obsessed with measuring number of calls per operator, time to answer, wrap up time and cost per call. You’d notice that these same managers think that service can be improved by outsourcing to India without realising that often fifty percent of their calls are failure demand.
If you did you would see that our manufacturing organisations don’t offer reliable delivery times or great product quality because they still care too much about batch size and efficiency rather than fulfilling customer demand.
If you did you would see managers wasting their time doing 1:1s, quarterly reviews, and annual appraisals.
If you did you would see why chartermark and investors in people don’t work.
If you did you would see that our banking sector will continue to make the same mistakes because the leaders haven’t realised that their failing is in not understanding the dysfunctional consequences of bonuses and incentives.
And most importantly if you did, and asked your ministers to do the same, you would have your eyes opened about how to fix the whole thing. You see I don’t doubt for one minute your intent only your methods.
I once had a manager with fabulous patter
But he got no respect because the work didn’t matter
He knew everyone’s names, and boy could he flatter
But he made no difference because the work didn’t matter
He suggested we have targets, standards and incentives
But we started to cheat and be lazy, no longer inventive
And when our attitude faltered and brains became numb
We got called to his office for another one to one
So he got into some fads, BPR and prince two
He even bought software that put the work into queues
But the new new thing made not one bit of change
Except that the staff started to get ill and feel a bit strange
His last gasp attempt was some offsite group hugging
So we all got involved and though no-one came last, one team was struggling
But come Monday morning when we got back to work
Nothing had changed and upstream and downstream we still shouted, burke!
In the end he gave up and left in a very fast motion
Cos head office thought he was brilliant and gave him a promotion
But then our luck changed and we got a new leader
And after years of command and control we really did need her
So she soon got to work studying demand, capability and flow
It looked like she’d been there for years she was so in the know
Things soon started to improve it was a quick as a flash
She used systems thinking, why don’t you give it a bash!
This blog is dedicated to my wife, Denise, who is without doubt the best leader I have ever met. Ask any of the teams she has led over the years and they will testify to this fact. Denise managed her teams on a very simple set of principles
On the first day she would call a team meeting and ask the team who they were trying to serve and what assumptions they held about how best to run the team (Thinking)
She then asked them to list all the things that got in the way of them doing their job, and then list all the things that they needed, but didn’t have, to do their job. (Understand and improve the system)
Finally having studied and designed the system she would work on job design (method).
So here is the idea:
Sit down with your team and ask them to list ten things that get in the way of them doing their job. Score each of the ten items on a scale of 1-7 (1: doesn’t get in the way much-7: If this happens one more time I will scream).
Then do a second list, this time all the things that they need, but don’t have, to do their job. This time score each of the ten items 1: This would be nice to have-7: I really needed this twelve months ago.
Rank each list and then get to work removing and improving; because one day a former member of staff might write a poem about you, and wouldn’t you rather have inspired than just hired and fired.
As ever, I would love to hear your comments on this blog. Click here now and share your thoughts .