Monthly Archives: December 2012

The one with the smudged crystal ball

A year ago almost to the day following some Twitter banter I published a post with my (tongue in cheek) predictions for 2012. It turns out I was pretty spot on except for the fact that London’s transport infrastructure held up beautifully during the Olympics thwarting the Daily Mail’s opportunity to bash it.

In the same vein I thought I’d have a crack at 2013, so here goes:

1. People will continue to bemoan things they get for free

With so many of the tools and apps that become part of our daily lives based on a free or freemium model it’s easy to forget they are offered by businesses….who need to make money. Next year will see more column and Twitter inches wasted on complaining about things that if you don’t like you can stop using – or even pay for (must credit @CallumSaunders for helping me realise this!)

2. Bookshops will continue to deluged with 50 shades of Rip-Off

Publishers need to make money too and when they see a gravy train, bless them they ride it just like everyone else. We seem to have moved out of the Scando-crime wave stirred up by that girl and her tattoo and it’s all artistically photographed belts and ties these days as the 50 Shades wave continues tsunami-like through popular culture. I’ve got a great idea about an aloof, womanising MI6 agent who drives fast cars and saves the world – I think it could be huge

3. The Germans will be OK

Whichever list you read Germany is the 4th largest economy in the world by GDP. It has a highly educated and skilled population, some world class companies/brands and is a very powerful player on both the world and European stages. Whatever happens to the Eurozone (Greece won’t have a good year) Germany will be OK and although they may end up bankrolling some of their neighbours in the medium term – they’ll be fine. Bless

4. George Osborne will be to blame

Whatever your political views there is something fundamental about George Osborne that makes him easy to dislike. The fact that his austerity measures will be affecting many people and that the economy has not bounced back into sustainable growth yet are all easy reasons to blame George for your lot but even if it wasn’t for that I still don’t think many people will be uncomfortable blaming him for something in 2013

5. Banks will ignore the base rate

I’m no economist (you should see my overdraft) but it seems to me the Bank of England (or the Fed etc) can’t do much to the base rate of interest at the moment without doing even further damage to the possibility of economic recovery. That should mean happy days surely? No it seems not. Whilst I appreciate the cost of borrowing money wholesale has changed and continues to change there seems to be some unfair dislocation between the base rate of interest and the cost of consumer borrowing (I believe this is referred to as profit margin). This will continue. I will continue to resent it.

6. Lawyers will benefit from the mobile wars

Apple will sue Samsung (again). Samsung will sue Apple (again). Nokia will continue to try and convince everyone that THIS is the phone they’ve been waiting for. RIM (Blackberry) will have a tough year. Lawyers will bill – lots. Apple fans will continue to buy Apple (and download the Google Maps app). People who resent Apple will continue to buy Android phones. Not many people will believe Nokia.

7. Freedom will be the new black

With information technology and mobile making the world smaller/more open/less controllable the impetus for freedom (in all senses) will continue in parts of the world that haven’t experienced it for some time. The dam has burst – there’s no going back now. For those who already have it (and get it recorded on CCTV) they will continue to take it for granted, the Daily Mail will continue to try and make mountains out of middle class molehills and in reality black will continue to be the new black.

8. Kate will have a baby

I can’t reveal my sources but come Spring of 2013 Mrs. Wills will produce the third in line to the throne. My prediction is it will be….a baby. The nation (or at least those that read The Daily Mail) will rejoice. Harry will throw a party at the Wynn and hand back his “Spare On-Call” kit.

9. Celebrities will do lots of stuff that gets heavily reported

Ashton will marry. Tom will divorce (and likely remarry). X-Factor rejects will get photographed on beaches. Katie will dream up another high concept TV show etc etc etc. The real impact of all of this will be Pi x radius squared of bugger all. Advertisers will love it.

10. The sun will rise in the East and set in the West

Whatever happens in the coming year some things will remain the same. I think it’s easy to focus on the daily peaks and troughs and forget the bigger picture. If life isn’t great right now, what’s your plan? If it isn’t working either get a new plan or find somebody to help you with some options. If life is good then stop and smell the roses and maybe tell the people who are important to you how important they are. Whatever 2013 holds we’ll always have Paris…

Happy New Year!



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The one with the thwarted Bollinger

I appreciate with all the information flying around the place these days taking time to read blog posts let alone comment, retweet or share is worthy of thanks and appreciation.

With that in mind I had planned to buy each of the followers, commenters and retweeters of this blog a bottle of Bollinger as a thanks for their/your support. I was aware that this would set me back a few quid but I was confident with some investments and decisions I made this year that this wouldn’t be an issue and come Christmas morning you could all be opening your bubbles.

I must confess I thought it a fool proof plan. I had spread the risk and thought with the diversity of my interests there was no way I would come unstuck. The list was as follows:

  1. My share in Lance Armstrong’s future endorsements
  2. My ongoing consulting work with Comet
  3. My £10 bet at 1000-1 for Yorkshire to beat the USA in the Olympic medal table
  4. My revenue share driven by customer satisfaction survey for Apple Maps
  5. My wager on George Osborne winning GQ “Man of the Year”

It is therefore with regret that I announce there will be no Bollinger for any of you this year (well at least not at my expense) and the way things are looking Tiny Tim may be scrabbling around for shoes!!

As today is the ‘last day of term’ for me I thought I would take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support this year (it’s been an interesting year!!) and wish you and yours a happy and relaxed festive season. If you are working over the holidays…then I hope you manage at least some fun

Eyes down for a grand 2013

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The one with the mixed measures

Some weeks ago (I don’t remember exactly when) I responded to a statement made on Twitter by Sukh Pabial. He said something along the lines of ‘we need to stop collecting scores when evaluating training’ and I disagreed with him. Some tweets later I retired to bed thinking that was that. I was wrong.
The discussion continued the next day and last week Sukh suggested we put our respective view points in blog posts to try and stir up some debate and take it from there….so here goes.

This house believes that learning evaluation should utilise both quantitative and qualitative measurement…

I am tempted to use my Mother’s reasoning – “because I said so” or use a Toby quote from ‘The West Wing’ which goes, “But not because I’m right and you’re wrong. Although I am and you are. But because I am better at this than you are.” But that’s not true either (I am not often right) so I’ve actually had to think through why this house believes…well what it says up there.

1.    Blanket Statements
I have an aversion to blanket statements – especially in the context of something as difficult to do well as evaluating learning. Take all the theory (Kirkpatrick, Phillips, Brinkerhoff etc) and you will find very little agreement on the best way to achieve this so making a blanket statement that says we should remove quant doesn’t work for me

2.    What’s the need?
If you start any evaluation design with questions along the lines of 1) what do we need to know? 2) who wants to know it? 3) how does the evaluation information need to be used? Then I believe it will prove testing to design an evaluation without any quantitative data gathering that answers those 3 questions unless the answers are 1) the thoughts of the participants 2) me 3) to improve the learning experience

3.    Different strokes
People express themselves differently – thank goodness. In this instance you may have some people who are very comfortable to express their thoughts and feelings about a particular learning experience through description and in response to open questions. The flip side of that however is those people who aren’t that comfortable or that able to express their sentiments that way and prefer to rate their experience through numbers.

4.    Context
I believe that quant gives qual context e.g. imagine a qualitative response that says “It was a very interesting workshop” – what does that mean? Interesting good or interesting bad? Now imagine that combined with a  Likert scale from strongly disagree through a range to strongly agree  in response to “I believe this learning event will allow me to safely complete <Insert task>.” Context.

5.    Analysis
I know there are some very clever methods and tools for analysing sentiment in qualitative responses. I know there are means through which you can compare answers given at different times. I also know that the day to day reality involves limited resources and a general absence of statistical brilliance. You want to understand how learner reactions to workshops change over time? Numbers. You want to understand how different functional populations respond to identical material? Numbers. You want to understand how different cultures respond to similar learning? Numbers.

6.    Consistency
Imagine you have an identical piece of training. This training is delivered by multiple trainers, in multiple locations and to diverse populations. Whilst qualitative data will give you insight into the impact, how the learning can be developed/improved and activity that can be included to help embed that learning, managing the consistent delivery of an identical product will be efficiently achieved quantitatively.

7.    Reporting
We live in the real world. In that world we have to sing for our suppers, our budgets and the licence to commit organisational resource (yes people) to learning. That requires demonstrating some form of success and whilst I acknowledge there is significant power in a summary of positive quotes taken from evaluations I am also acutely aware that numbers win arguments. Reporting and tracking numbers is far easier to do and I would rather focus my time, energy and team on improvement rather than making reporting and gaining/maintaining organisational licence even more difficult than it already is.

I had planned to research this post, be able to cite journals, quote the finest minds of the day and bring their insights to bare in adding weight to this side of the debate. But instead I met some friends for beers and am writing this at 11.30pm so instead you just get me and my personal insight.

Don’t misunderstand me I have at no point dismissed qualitative measures – I love them. They provide a richness of data you will never achieve using quantitative measures alone but for me, in my work I can’t see a time when no learning evaluation will contain any quantitative questions.

I urge you to consider both sides of this debate (you can find the other house here) and then realise that of course this house (i.e. me) is right!!

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The one for those who manage mavericks

Well not strictly mavericks – what I really mean is intrapreneurs. Those who operate as entrepreneurs but within organisations. If you’ve been reading this blog from the start you’ll know the whole purpose behind writing it was to find some individuals who may be described as intrapreneurs and get in contact with them for interviews. Now having finished the whole research process it seemed appropriate to share at least some of what I found.

One of the my research interests was discovering the impact of the line manager on the individual intrapreneur. What I found was broadly there were three modes of behaviour that supported intrapreneurial behaviour. The list of behaviours that DIDN’T support intrapreneurs was SO long that it would be a whole project in itself but they can be summarised as ‘being a risk adverse, arse covering scaredy cat’ although I wouldn’t have submitted that to uni!!

So the three types are:

1. Sponsor

Provide organisational support (as opposed to personal support). Are usually a very senior manager. Help get hold of resources or keep those you’ve already got. Protect you from the cogs of the machine (governance). Manage senior stakeholders and calm them down when they get to flapping. Hold back the tide of resistance until you can get some success

2. Mentor

Provide personal support. Help the individual cope with the ups and downs of an initiative especially for those who are used to having results to keep themselves calm. Encouragements – lots of it. Help the individual make sense of the nonsense going on in their heads. Sometimes just sit and listen (and sooth with wine)

3. Licensor

Combine many of the things in both 1 and 2 but significantly have been involved in the genesis of the idea/concept/product/initiative so are likely to be more comfortable doing some of the hand holding/tide holding mentioned above.

So there it is – about 1200 words of academese in 3 short paragraphs and I’ll spare you from the rest for now at least. However I will leave you with something to think about – if you are leading people who are operating outside of ‘normal’ corporate operations with the intent of improving the organisation (i.e. mavericks as opposed to rogues who’s intent is less clear) then think about which if any of these roles you play…

Oh and for anyone interested this is a word cloud of my project just in case you’re having trouble sleeping at any time!

Project Wordle


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The one with the bouncing bomb

When I was a kid and still living at home the question of what film to watch together was the topic of much debate. My Dad’s automatic reaction was always, without fail “Zulu” and whatever suggestion followed would be met with the question “is there any shooting in it?” I remember the look of desperation on his face when my Mum got him to sit through “Somewhere in Time”. At time I conceded (usually in the name of pocket-money) to sitting through one of his favourites and I now proudly confess I knew most of the words to “A Bridge too Far” at an early age.  One of his recurring favourites was (and still is) “The Dambusters” and he would tell me every time we watched it that Barnes Wallis also designed the Wellington bomber. I’m sure you all know the story – it’s the quest to bounce bombs into the dams of the Ruhr valley to significantly reduce the Nazi’s ability to manufacture.

So fast forward some years to a rainy Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, herself (being a world-class potterer) was doing various things around the house and I was yet again testing the effectiveness of the sofa as a host for my relaxation when I noticed “The Dambusters” was ‘live’ on TV. So I watched it.

Yes it’s a cracking film and yes being made nearly 60 years ago hasn’t aged that well but I sat happily engrossed in the story. It was only afterwards in reflecting on the film with a man called Keith that I started to think about some of the plot and how relevant it was to modern organisations and particularly to those trying to generate traction or change.

Barnes Wallis failed on numerous occasions before he got the bomb to successfully bounce. He persisted (in a Wile E. Coyote like fashion) to believe in his vision and to solve the problems that would stop him failing. He didn’t blame anyone for the failure and didn’t start to doubt his vision or belief – he just got on with it (to the point of wading into the water to collect bomb fragments).

The planes needed to fly incredibly low (60 feet as helpfully pointed out by Lydia) and the instruments of the day couldn’t measure that low – so they used two carefully positioned torches which when lined up would indicate the height. They needed to bomb from a specific position which they couldn’t judge effectively using the available systems so they used a small wooden device that lined up the structures of the dams to indicate the required position. They didn’t admit defeat they just calmly faced the problems and solved them.

It started me thinking about how both individually and through the vast machine that must have been the government and armed forces of that time were they able to continue to persist and to get the support and resources to take something from the drawing board to success in a relatively short space of time. I got past personal dedication, commitment, stubbornness and it was in their personal objectives (!!) fairly quickly and landed on imperative. Britain needed to reduce the manufacturing capacity of the enemy otherwise the war would be lost. I think it’s what a management consultant would refer to as a burning platform. Failure wasn’t an option.

We sit in organisations every day with visions and missions, purpose statements, objectives, milestones, intents, strategic goals and all nature of terminology surrounding what the organisation is trying to achieve. If in reading them they don’t create a sense of failure not being an option then stop, think and do them again. They MUST create a sense of imperative.


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The one with another two things they don’t teach you

A few years ago I read a book written by a former Daily Telegraph journalist who had ‘cashed in his chips’ and returned to education, undertaking the MBA at Harvard Business School. The title was a play on the eponymous (if eponymous means egotistical self aggrandising) tome “What they didn’t teach you at Harvard Business School”, in this case the negative becoming a positive.

Having read several such books in my time it does appear to me that everyone has an angle, everyone has a view, everyone has a model and there is no single one right answer to leading (whether than be teams or larger organisations).

In the course of carrying out my day job I encounter lots of different people in many different roles and in the course of my reflections and in discussions with them I have landed on two qualities that very few of the books, courses or similar capture and I have chosen to represent them in a way serious and grown up manner…

The first is resilience represented thus:


Why a weeble? Well of course weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. However much you bash them, push them or drop them they just bounce back to where to upright with their fixed smile on their faces.

It’s interesting at times watching leaders facing challenges of various size and import and noticing what nature of challenge really impacts their resilience and how they cope with it. The thought that keeps on coming back to me is that resilience is definitely not born but made and made through a variety of routes the most effective of which appears to be previous failure.

I remember a conversation in a previous life when two colleagues at risk of redundancy reacted very differently to the situation. The first was in a flat panic about what it could all mean, the second calm and collected. It seemed at the time the latter’s calm was based on firstly having been through redundancy before and secondly having an innate confidence in their ability to find another job.

You know that saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. That (to a point!)

The second is persistence, represented thus:

 wile e

Why Wile E. Coyote? Well if you’ve watched the cartoon Mr Coyote NEVER EVER gives up. There he is episode after episode desperately trying to get the Roadrunner. He usually ends up in some form of pain or suffering some dreadful injury (and in an organisational context we must be mindful of this!!) but he remains steadfastly commited to his objective.

A management consultant may question is his objective correct and I am sure he would be better served in beginning a form of shared reward with his main supplier ACME products but it’s not creativity, innovation or continuous improvement that defines Wile – it’s persistence.

Unlike resilience which is I think something one develops with time, persistence is definitely in the state of mind category. Apparently it was W.E. Hickson who said “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” although W.C. Fields did develop that a little later “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it”. It appears to me at times that the numbers of ‘try’ aren’t where they could be and it’s something we would all benefit from.


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