Reflect Category

What DEE-cisions?

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Imagine the scene. A producer pitching the idea for a film: in Africa, people are living insecure and impoverished lives; thousands of people decide to start an exodus to Europe; they walk and walk and walk, and they talk to the media covering their movement – “we are poor because you are rich”; those in the North are fearful of the mass migration from the South.

The surprise about this film? Well, firstly it is has already been made. By the BBC. A long time ago. In the 1980s a pitch something like the one imagined above actually happened. ‘The March’ was made with leading figures in front and behind the lens. It was broadcast over 25 years ago.

Even so, the surprise is not that it was so prophetic – the story remains prescient.

Rather, it is striking that the film is almost totally forgotten. It has never been repeated. You can’t buy it online – even through the BBC bookshop. It has just about disappeared, other than a couple of YouTube clips, for example.


This film was an insight – into insecure lives and the challenge of economic development.  Today, in our work (and lives) we are offered insights all the time. Sometimes our colleagues or bosses or contacts expect us to act.

We have four options in any situation:

First, we can IGNORE the information and time to decide.

Or, we might DO something. Possibly instinctively.

These are the two main responses. Both can be due to cognitive biases. The complexity or anxiery might just be too much for our busy life – so we ignore it. Or we are a bit discombobulated and just want to do something – so we rush to action.  Either way, we may (over) rely on our intuition.

Or possibly we want to take our time. Our third option is EXPERIMENTATION. We might want to give something a go. We might wish to try something out.

The fourth and final possible choice is EXPLORATION – wanting to find out more, or reflect.

When viewers saw ‘The March’, my hunch is most ignored the implications. Maybe it seemed too fanciful. Or worrying. Some probably signed up to the campaigns for third world debt relief that were popular at the time. Others maybe chose to give supporting a particular charity a go. Some others might have decided to read more about the issues and think about how best to respond.

In our organisations we can manage our DEE-cisions by:

1) being totally clear of the criteria for ignoring a topic or possible choice. Maybe it is the responsibility of another group. However, ignoring should be used sparingly.  Often issues that are important are not on the radar. Methods like ‘scenario planning’ help shift some issues from being tuned out to ones that have further effort put into them – i.e. making the shift from ignoring to exploration or maybe even experimentation.

2) Deciding and acting is important for progress. Even here, ‘do and review’ is both poetry and philosophy. When will you take time to see if your ‘no-brainer’ decision had indeed worked?

3) Setting up some trials is at the heart of experimentation. What ‘improvement cycles’ or ‘prototypes’ can you try? The 90 day cycle is really valuable – what will you take stock of in a Quarter? Or 30 days? Or even after a week? This tweet remains a very popular tool for managing this spirit of trial (and error) and taking stock.  Experimentation builds momentum.

4) I do believe in the ‘art of procrastination’ in decision making – and this is where exploration can really come in.  The ‘art’ thing is the difference between ‘ignoring’ and ‘exploring’ – the difference between unecessary or unproductive delays and choosing deep, insightful thought. Keeping an eye on a topic or deciding to come back to an issue before making a decision can very helpful – or it can be avoidance. A symptom of a troubled group is continually revisiting and changing prior judgments – very sloppy governance indeed. But if it is well managed (sparingly, with strict deadlines and some effort) then exploration is helpful time to ponder and consider – and helps limber up our thinking for a future experiment or action.

So why not try triaging your next set of decisions in the group you work with. What can you ignore? But most importantly, what would DEE have you decide? What should you DO? What could you EXPERIMENT with? What might you EXPLORE a bit more?

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The Art of Business: The importance of perspective

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You probably agree with these two beliefs:
1) We all see an issue, an event, our lives, our work in ways that are a bit different to the person sitting next to us, on the phone or at the other end of cyberspace.
2) In our lives and work we will do better if we see and understand more of what is going on in any situation: our decisions will be more informed, a way forward will have more chance of success, a plan will have more support and things will feel fairer all round.

[If you don’t agree – please let me know, I would like to understand more of your point of view!]

I propose that understanding more of what others see is highly useful, however you view knowledge and whatever your stance on the Enlightenment Project :
a) If you are seeking to discover and promote truth – with a positivistic approach (maybe if you work in basic research or are someone who likes to develop a rational strategy in your organisation)
b) If you are keen to understand more of each other’s contingent realities – in a postmodern way (for example in staff engagement and listening to potential customers in a focus group or existing product users as a designer)
c) If you are trying to learn more about your assumptions and prejudices – in a ‘post-positivist’ sort of way (which can be very useful in a organisation where you are trying to avoid group think in deciding on a more emergent strategy or a team where you are trying to navigate your way through conflict)

Given how we are as humans (with mind-sets that are both firmly fixed and fluid too) and the importance of trying to understand different viewpoints as we work to improve things, maybe you will agree that in addition to the two truisms at the start of this blog there is a third crucial one for any leader (defined as someone who is trying to influence the behaviour and action of others, from a sports team captain to a member of a band; from a charity volunteer to the CEO of a major corporation).

So what is this third belief, that makes a trilogy of truisms? The proposal: the core skill a leader needs is ‘perspective management’. This ranges from:
i. A deep curiosity in what others see – whether those ‘others’ are senior colleagues, complaining customers, union stewards with a grievance or people who are met in the course of a journey. This leads to seeking out opportunities to see things differently – from starting a Board meeting with a ‘patient journey’, to walking the floor, to sitting quietly in a café or store watching potential customers examine your product.
ii. An ability to ‘hold their own beliefs lightly’. Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ described how level 5 leaders have a rare combination of humility and will. Leading through perspective is more about the humility of that formule– the harder part of a determined (and possibly arrogant) leader to master.
iii. A desire to reflect and refine, to review to improve in the light of experience and others opinions. They are a ‘cycle manager’.

Perspectives (and how they are explored, entertained and used) is at the heart of excellence, for a leader, team and organisation.

‘Perspective management’ is difficult to apply, it is not a precise science. Leading with and through an exchange and exploration of perspectives is more like an art, with some disciplines and a desire to help others (and oneself) seen anew:
– Like an artist, the leader is thinking all the time about how (and how far) to challenge themselves and others to see things differently
– Like an artist, the leader is open to different methods and media to help themselves and others see.
– The leader has to decide, often intuitively, how much time to invest in exploring and considering, before (and during, and after) ‘execution’

Are you a perspective manager? I hope you might see you are, or at least see the need to try and be one.


The 2×2 Holy Grail

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There is one 2×2 matrix I am drawn to (and draw on) more than any other.

One that I have heard applied to government ministers, heart surgeons and sports players.

It is described in a number of ways, but it is really the same each time:
• Technical ability vrs living corporate values
• Aptitude vrs Attitude – see this tweet on it
• Skill vrs will
• Competence vrs likeability – see this  and the middle of this

When Secretary of State for health Alan Johnson was described by a few senior officials as a rare minister in the upper right box.

I have heard managers (and sports coaches) say they hire for aptitude and fire for attitude.

I have seen star performers sacked for refusing to budge out of the top left box.

It links to level 4 and 5 leadership in my values framework:

Where are you? Where are your colleagues? Do you feedback on these things to each other? See the third type of feedback here.

The Holy Grail? Certainly the hardest.


On the purpose of rules

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Rules can help us achieve at least two things…

Here are some suggested new rules for urban (cage) cricket – designed to broaden the appeal of the game.

And here are some rules for great fiction advocated by the ‘Dickens of Detroit’, who died earlier this week.

In your workplace, what rules would you like to
1) Break – to bring down stuffy barriers and increase inclusion of those who don’t normally get involved in things?
2) Suggest – to improve quality of various work outputs?

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Makes you think

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Is this teaching, community building, marketing, engagement, trust building?

This video on empathy from the States is powerful stuff.

A bit on the back story here.

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Wiki wiki who?

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My big surprise of 2012? And one that is continuing into 2013…

not a viral media sensation involving a K-Pop star – or anything high brow to do with economy or the defining moments for massive institutions like the BBC, Police or NHS…

Rather, this article on the most popular pages on Wikipedia reminded me of how fruitless my search to meet someone, anyone, who contributes to the online encyclopedia was during 2012 (as per this blog). In my travels and events I met some who know people who do write and edit – but no one directly.

So…maybe I should start and be that person : )


How to live life? A-F

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Anticipation > anxiety?

Broadening >belief?

Curious > certain?

Determined > demanding?

Example > exhort?

Fascination > frustration?

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Why roofs?

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A few reasons for the recent interest in roofs in these blogs…

1) As we go into 2013, are you running your life at the right speed for you personally?

2) What design and ideas can you get for deciding how much speed or friction you can face, such as this . We have a pack of materials we can share if you want too – let us know.

3) How can you make things smoother, simpler where necessary – applying the ideas of lean as well as personal productivity.

4) What are you keen to protect and preserve in your life? What outside elements are you trying to keep out?

5) In your conversation, does the chat move at the right speed – or too fast or tediously slow? How are you helping or getting in the way of the right speed – with curious questions, clever interjections or bored indifference?

6) Other? Please let us know any other connections you have made to this metaphor.


A stone roof…

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So, if a slate roof needs a pitch of 33 degrees, a stone roof must have one of 45 degrees or more. The irregularities of the surface increase friction and the risk of leaks into a home at lower angles.

Flat roofs in contrast need a smoothness, slight tilt and large drains to reduce the risk

So, why this interest in roof design…do email if you think you know. More from us next time?


A slate roof…

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In Manchester, according to the novelist Jeanette Winterson (in “Why be Happy when you can be normal” – a joyous, sad read ) slate roofs on two up two down terraces are built at 33 degrees – to get the optimum balance for steady draining and no external or internal water damage that happens if the gradient is too great and the water cascades down the roof in a torrent too fast for the gutters to handle.

Why the attention to roofs…read on…


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