WHERE TO FIX THE BULLET HOLES

Returning aircrews inspected their damaged machines to see where bullet holes were clustered and then asked the ground crew to strengthen the very places where they were hit.

Managers do this time and time again. They repeat this kind of thinking over and over in their organisations. They see the bullet holes and fix where they hit. They have the data and the evidence is clear for all to see. Their debriefing is full of impact drawings and hole cluster charts. They know what to do. They instruct their teams to do the fix. Yet still, there are more losses, fewer returning to base.

Hiring an experienced consultant brings with it a different way of thinking. A different perspective on the same issues. A perspective that leads to change and growth. A perspective that when seen from the edge of the battlefield, can bring solutions based on their wide array of experiences drawn from other conflicts.

A consultant would show that the place you really should strengthen is where the bullet hole didn’t hit…why?

Because that aircraft that didn’t return were more likely to have been hit there.

Those that were hit in less destructive areas all returned safely…if a little bit worse for wear.

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle

Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash

Strategy – Often Confused With Tactics

I’ve worked with hundreds of our oft named captains of industry, savvy business owners and budding entrepreneurs and without fail they all have great minds full of brilliant ideas.

True leaders have surprisingly little in their heads. Don’t get me wrong, they have an enormous capacity for thinking but they develop a hierarchy of thought and clarity of vision. And it is this that translates into action. The rest of it is just noise and this, they relegate to a secondary brain space. It’s just background noise to them.

All leaders want to be successful. Many are scared of the unknown and some are terrified of failure. Yet on their shoulders, many will depend and from their actions, businesses will succeed or fail. Strategy is the life-blood of any business. I hear people say that money is the lifeblood but that simply isn’t true. Money oils the wheels and is needed in various levels of supply to ensure that all of the other elements do their work.

The old saying “fail to plan and you are planning to fail” haunts many of our leaders as it did Benjamin Franklin. Simply described, strategy is no more than planning and attributing the available resources in order to achieve a goal or aim. So if it can sound this simple, why is it so hard to do for many good leaders?

Well, it’s down to two things in my experience. Firstly, many confuse tactics with strategy. Tactics are the tasks we do to work towards the strategic goal. Secondly, leaders try to serve too many masters. The first part is relatively easy to fix. Simply concentrate on the why instead of the what and the how. The second part is much more difficult. Masters are the people who have a stake in what you are doing. Time is indeed a punishing master, finances a constricting clerk. Competitors don’t stay still for long enough to shoot them and shareholders…well, they just don’t understand what you’re going through. As for family, they want what you want but they just want you home in time for dinner. And you! Well, many of our leaders work for psychopaths…themselves.

So if we think of an American football team, the goal is to win the Superbowl. They can only do this if they are consistently better than their competition, that they can consistently sustain that betterness and that they can score one more point than the third-placed team. So their first aim is to score enough points to get them to the Superbowl final.

Each area of the club will manage a prescribed range of outcomes and outputs. Physios will get them and keep them fit. Nutritionists will make sure they eat optimally to achieve their targets and ensure they have enough fuel to get them over the line. Finance will ensure that the income and expenditure flows to and through the club as and when needed. Groundkeepers will prepare an optimal playing surface including the exact dimensions of the pitch. Team managers will devise and impart to the players a whole range of tactical plays and team psychologists will ensure that they are mentally tough and resilient under any conditions. The players just get to dress up and earn most of the money…they are, after all, the dream team (and the product – the human capital). Once in the final of the Superbowl…all of these things form a microcosm of activities and events finely tuned to achieve one aim over a few hours in the game…finite details and knowing every strength and weakness both teams possess and finding those moments where the extraordinary happens.

So if we follow this model. We work out where we want to be in say five years from now. We can visualise what it looks like and how it feels. We examine where we are now and what we need to do to make the journey from here to five years away. We consider resources, the market, our products or offer and the health of the business. We know what we need to make the journey from starting point A to finishing point B. We have a plan, a strategy.

But we often disregard the most important part of the plan, the people. Imagine the Superbowl winners. They will have exactly the right person in the right role completing the right tasks at the right time. They are hired for their talent and the club then sets about developing their skills to the level at which they are expected to consistently perform. Everyone is matched exactly to the strategic needs. Most businesses fall short because they don’t recruit properly or develop their team to the optimum. Businesses simply hope that everyone will step up to the plate and do what is needed. Much of it is by chance.

The owner of the business will articulate their vision and ensure that each area of the business has the resources deployed at exactly the right time and monitor progress to ensure everything stays on track. Their sole responsibility is resources. To make sure everyone has exactly what they need to be highly successful. And as Franklin often said, “a penny saved is twopence (tuppence) dear”. By cutting corners in an attempt to serve a profit master, leaders can simply lose sight of the goal. The first thing that is cut is training…imagine setting out to win the Superbowl if you cut the training.

When I ran businesses I put myself through a system of development to learn about selecting Board Members based on their motivated abilities. When I use this tool to develop leadership teams, I can see very quickly where there are gaps and what impacts this will have on achieving the aims of the business.

Thanks for reading.

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It Won’t Go Back To Normal

31st May 2020

A few weeks ago the world changed and people were asked to change and make changes to the way they lived. We are social animals, we like to operate in packs and we associate with our different tribes. Some people work with and for other people, a few have people working for them. Nobody was immune from the impact os these changes.

Everyone was asked to make sacrifices and in the true human community of spirit we pretty much did what was asked and behaved in a way that was expected of us. History will pick over the bones of our actions and it will show us for good or bad the way our leaders performed in a time of crisis.

But changes were made, sacrifices given and minds were changed. We adapted and very quickly learned how to make the most of what we were given and make do with what we had. Everyone suffered financial loss and yet the government stepped in and plugged some of the gaps. Of course we will all have to pay it back in one way or another, but we are all in it together.

We have, however, discovered that a new work/life balance is possible and in the main, we are enjoying the benefit of becoming renaissance family people again and felt the value of our many relationships and the small things in our lives.

Those running businesses large and small are hoping that the workers return refreshed, enthused and reinvigorated, ready to get the job done and that their markets will be right where they left them and ready to place orders. I suspect that this hope may well be dashed as markets adjust to a reduction in consumerism and employees demand that the work/life benefits remain long after lockdown.

This week I heard a White House spokesperson, Kevin Hassett, eulogise over the idea that “our human capital stock hasn’t been destroyed; our human capital stock is ready to get back to work”. A chilling statement about how working people are seen and valued.

Many of our global businesses have thrived on consumer led economics. Human capital went out to work, they worked hard, they worked long hours, they were cubicled and ordered in lines of efficient output. When they finished they wanted to show off the rewards of their labour. They surrounded themselves with the symbols of success. It was how they became recognised for their efforts. But people are changing. Their values are changing. Their needs and wants are changing. Their outlook and aspirations are changing.

People want connection more than they want stuff. People want intimacy and shared experiences more than they want to jet off to an island in the sun or a ski resort to be seen. People became dry and burnt out. They sought nourishment in inanimate objects and they subordinated the art of cherishing life to the lusts of consuming more and more product.

Human capital isn’t coming back to work…people are coming back to live amongst work and lifestyle changes. There will be conflict and struggles. There will be a retrenchment of commitment. There will be downsizing of application. And all of this will impact upon consumer demand and work output.

Leaders of businesses will have to think anew about how they sanction a new way of working so that their business adapts and flourishes in these times of change. If you run a business and think ‘this won’t happen to me’…it will and it has, deal with it.

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Which Type of Thinking Will Make Britain Great Again? Conservative or Liberal?

Within the world of business, there are only two types of thinkers. Conservative thinkers, those that become the really great managers. And their counterparts, the liberal thinkers, those that don’t become really great managers.

Conservative thinkers, and yes folks, that’s with a small c, are great at doing the right thing. They are very diligent, dutiful and conscientious. They know what is right for them and they stick to it. They are happy making big decisions and most of the time they aren’t emotional about it, they just do what is clearly the right thing at the time.

Conservative thinkers work hard to maintain integrity in their world. They develop and maintain well thought through systems and they create good habits. Habits they revert to and rely upon time after time. Conservative thinkers are usually very reasonable.

Liberal thinkers are the flaky ones. They are really good at seeing the overall ‘aesthetic’ of an idea; the broader picture. Liberal thinkers are more abstract and likely to veer off at tangents and throw stones into the pond just to see it ripple.

Liberal thinkers are much more open to the ideas and concepts of others. They broaden out the debate and create a soup of thoughts and conjecture. They are very hard to pin down and are sceptical of reason or constraint.

So, who would be best to drive us forward as a nation and put us back on the map of greatness around the world? Well, it’s the small band of liberal thinkers. The Ferdinand Porsche or Nikola Tesla. The Alfred Nobel or Earnest Rutherford. The Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein. For these are some of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time.

And whilst greatness is largely built, commercialised and industrialised by conservative thinkers, it was done on the shoulders of our flaky liberals. Great entrepreneurs are a very rare breed and very hard to spot. In the wild, they look just like you and me. But if we release them from their cages, if we unshackle them from the ties that bind them and if we invest all that we can into them, they will be unstoppable in a new post-neoliberal virus riven world.

Britain has some great and amazing liberal thinkers, unfortunately, we are governed by managers.

It was George Bernard Shaw that said…

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Franchise Your Business? – If You Can’t, You Could Be In Trouble.

Now, before you start, I’m not advocating that all businesses should be franchised, hence the question mark.

What I am saying is that the most successful businesses on the planet could be franchised because they have wide ranging and far reaching systems. Systems are just repeatable ways of carrying out consistent business functions and tasks. Most businesses start with a team of people and then grow that team as demand increases. Many business owners then look at ways of automating functions to cut down on staffing. A cost saving.

I would suggest that the first thing any start up team should do is to look at the business when it is big. To imagine what it looks like when it’s all done and the size it could be. The reason for this is to design systems ahead of when they are needed and then build them as the business grows. But what happens next can strangle a business and become a constraint. Highly skilled and deeply knowledgeable people leave the business.

If you have run the business well with these people in post and invested in automation and AI then I would suggest that firstly, everyone is then trained to operate in all parts of the business. Why? Well, innovation. Everything that has gone into building the business has built a business that works as it is. Secondly, it frees up team members to think. To think and innovate and then think some more. To crystal ball gaze. To Imagine. To build a new future for the business. After all, they built the first one.

Whatever you do, whatever the pressure to reduce costs, whatever you think about rainy days…don’t lose this knowledge and talent. They are your future business.

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Using Social Media

Using Social Media

There is some mystery about the array of platforms available to us as we try to inspire and motivate people to engage with us. The reason we communicate is to grow the business and the way we grow is through engaging with ‘friends’ who become our clients, ambassadors and evangelists.

We should use social media to capture the hearts and minds of our followers by giving them something for free. Free works, free is good and free is always well received. We should always be on the lookout for stuff we can do for free.

This can be show and tells, knowhow, skills, knowledge and facts. The way we assemble this is to first occupy the mind of your audience and become them. Once you become them you will know what is important to them, what is valuable to them and what will cause them to act on our behalf.

There is only one danger with sharing our knowledge, with showing people our stuff and with giving things away that are important to us…that we do it badly. We need to show excellent stuff using excellent tools and through the right channels.

We are all capable of creating valuable and interesting materials. Materials that are easy to produce, unique to us and, most of all, valuable to our audience.

So when you are out and about feeling the creative juices flowing through your mind you should come up with the messages we need to get out there and creative ways to communicate them.

Twitter

This is a ticker-tape type of platform to announce small sound-bites about something current, interesting and important using just 144 characters including short links to information and photos…a snapshot in time as the event unfolds.

Pros – quick and dirty…feels good

Cons – you need to work hard to build a good follower base and make it really topical (or it gets lost in the ether)

Facebook

A forum based platform for sharing opinions and feelings about a topic close to everyone’s heart. Something of real value that will invite people to participate and share with their friends. This platform never works (in business) as a ‘look at me’ profile as people build resentment and will you to fail and fall. Nobody likes a happy t*”t…we are British and don’t do the disingenuous and falsely gratifying selfie promotion…it’s crass.

Pros – a people’s platform and is ‘friendly’

Cons – needs a huge ‘follower’ base to have any meaningful impact

Instagram

Now owned by Facebook, Instagram is a photo based repository where you can enhance shots and host them online for others to see. The obvious platform for location snaps and course promotion…but only when linked to something of demonstrable value to the intended audience.

Pros – a picture tells a thousands stories

Cons – crap pics don’t have any positive impact

YouTube (or Vimeo)

A Google owned platform for hosting video content for show hows and live records of exceptional events. Training materials can be added and a knowledge base built. This can build quickly and categorised into useful and valuable content.

Pros – media heavyweight and forms a strong and useful resource. Can integrate into websites and blogs. Is more personal and gives a face to the viewer

Cons – do it on the cheap and it will work against you

LinkedIn

This is the platform to show your credentials. It’s your work CV and carries enormous weight when people search for individuals. It is very useful to add gravitas to our online profiles and is impressive when tended and displayed correctly.

Pros – great for an organisational CV platform (if the CV’s are strong)

Cons – rarely gets used unless someone is looking specifically for you of for people that do what you say you do.

Pinterest.

This is like a scrap book of all of the (work related) things you find interesting. Topics can be arranged into individual pin-boards and you can deposit things you have discovered online that you want to share with the rest of the world.

Pros – great nostalgic feel to it all

Cons – only usful for others to find your topics when they are looking for topics that you like

G+ ( Google Circles)

This hasn’t taken off as everyone expected as we are still hooked into old platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. When (if) it does it will need some careful thought as it is powerful and links everything to everything.

Pros – immensely powerful and far reaching

Cons – used mainly by techies as they a) can be bothered and b0 can work it all out.

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Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

We probably all know people, either at work or in our personal lives, who are really good listeners. No matter what kind of situation we’re in, they always seem to know just what to say – and how to say it – so that we’re not offended or upset. They’re caring and considerate, and even if we don’t find a solution to our problem, we usually leave feeling more hopeful and optimistic.

We probably also know people who are masters at managing their emotions. They don’t get angry in stressful situations. Instead, they have the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution. They’re excellent decision makers, and they know when to trust their intuition. Regardless of their strengths, however, they’re usually willing to look at themselves honestly. They take criticism well, and they know when to use it to improve their performance.

People like this have a high degree of emotional intelligence, or EI. They know themselves very well, and they’re also able to sense the emotional needs of others.

People with high emotional intelligence are usually successful in most things they do. Why? Because they’re the ones that others want on their team. When people with high EI send an email, it gets answered. When they need help, they get it. Because they make others feel good, they go through life much more easily than people who are easily angered or upset.

Characteristics of Emotional Intelligence are: self awareness (understand themselves), honest in self reflection (know what makes them tick), self regulation (control their emotions), motivated (they look at the long game), empathetic (understand relationships), social (thoughtful and helpful).

Emotional intelligence is an awareness of your actions and feelings – and how they affect those around you. It also means that you value others, listen to their wants and needs, and are able to empathize or identify with them on many different levels.

The real key to developing organisational EI is to switch around from top down, to bottom up. Listening to the needs and wants of those below you will provide the platform for you to facilitate their successes. As a manager, your role is to assist those below you in succeeding and excelling in all they do.

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Betterness

Betterness

I have always been interested in better-ness. Improvements that make things better than they are and what does this betterness mean? Statistically, Brazil dominated Germany in the recent semi final, they had more possession and they completed more passes yet they lost 7 – 1. Back in 2001 England beat Germany 5-1 and Germany decided to overhaul their entire footballing system and are the dominant force in the world game.

The statistic on which they centred their change programme and one that is starting to be used in other improvement programmes is time on the ball or the completion rate. When England beat Germany, Germany spent on average around 3.4 seconds on the ball (the time each player had control of the ball). When Germany beat Brazil they spent less than a second.

When we recognise change is needed we must focus on one key benchmark at a time and build a programme of improvements around it. Defining that benchmark is where the real skill lies. It is the single most important thing that is core to all decision making.

By reducing their time on the ball the German FA had created a core that affected everything else. Players needed greater skill, they needed to operate in more confined spaces, they had to think faster and read the game better, they had to be fitter and show more fortitude and mental resilience.

The alchemy and dark art of any consultant is to identify that key change champion. The one thing that will define all other changes. The one thing that will lead to success. They didn’t ask the players, they didn’t ask the manager, they asked consultant analysts to impartially study where wrongness starts and to replace it with a programme of betterness.

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Ethical Market Research

Ethical Market Research

Competitive analysis is a statement of the business strategy and how its strategy relates to that of the competition. The purpose of the competitive analysis is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors within your market, strategies that will provide you with a distinct advantage, the barriers that can be developed in order to prevent competition from entering your market, and any weaknesses that can be exploited within the product development cycle.

The first step in a competitor analysis is to identify the current and potential competition. There are essentially two ways you can identify competitors. The first is to look at the market from the customer’s viewpoint and group all your competitors by the degree to which they compete for the buyer’s money. The second method is to group competitors according to their various competitive strategies so you understand what motivates them.

Grouping your competitors allows you to analyse their strategies and identify the areas where they are most vulnerable. This can be done through an examination of your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths. A competitor’s strengths and weaknesses are usually based on the presence and absence of key assets and skills needed to compete in the market.

Through your competitor analysis, you will also have to create a marketing strategy that will generate an asset or skill competitors do not have, which will provide you with a distinct and enduring competitive advantage. Since competitive advantages are developed from key assets and skills, you should sit down and put together a competitive strength grid. This is a scale that lists all your major competitors or strategic groups based upon their applicable assets and skills and how your own company fits on this scale.

To put together a competitive strength grid, list all the key assets and skills down the left margin of a piece of paper. Along the top, write down two column headers: “weakness” and “strength.” In each asset or skill category, place all the competitors that have weaknesses in that particular category under the weakness column, and all those that have strengths in that specific category in the strength column. After you’ve finished, you’ll be able to determine just where you stand in relation to the other firms competing in your industry.

Once you’ve established the key assets and skills necessary to succeed in this business and have defined your distinct competitive advantage, you need to communicate them in a strategic form that will attract market share as well as defend it.

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IT Support Is Failing You

Many IT Companies are failing the market because they are not seeing an obvious need nor are they satisfying customers but persisting in tying up firms with costs that are both over valued and over priced.

I have been looking at a client’s IT needs and their spend on IT support (risk insurance). They currently have a contract with an excellent IT company after first upgrading all of their kit so that it provides a great platform on which to manage their business information.

But my client doesn’t want to own any IT, they don’t want to manage any IT and they don’t want to learn about IT…they just want to use the software that sits upon it.

I don’t want to own a car, I don’t want to run or fix a car, I don’t need a car for image and I don’t need or want the latest car on the market. I want to travel from A to B safe in the knowledge that I will get there.

I really want an IT company that provides my clients with a platform on which they run their businesses…it’s just that simple?

But no, instead, I find myself aghast at the plethora of time consuming emails between the IT company, the broadband company, the line supplier, the telephony equipment supplier, the IT kit suppliers and the company employees. They are all apportioning blame on each other, when what my clients really want is for their employees to simply get on with their real work.

If I were to advise any IT supplier I would simply say “take away the problem”.

Provide everything on a rental system, look after everything, offer resilience, responsiveness and do away with obsolescence. Provide the kit, the licences, the connectivity, the support and peace of mind for a monthly fee per employee. Upgrade the kit every three years, monitor line use and provide bandwidth accordingly, check licences for cloud based software and ensure upgrades, back-ups and security happen behind the scenes as and when the client has downtime capacity.

Car companies don’t sell cars anymore. They sell complete solutions at a monthly cost…they finance peace of mind and aspiration. You just add the driver and off you go.

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