Inspiring Customer Care Can Transform a Culture

Great Video for Getting to the Heart of Customer Care and its potential to transform a culture.

And not a transformation plan in sight!

Are you Getting the Gifts?

Initiative, creativity and passion are gifts.

They are benefactions that employees choose, day by day and moment by moment, to give or withhold.

They cannot be commanded.

Gary Hamel – The Future of Management

Nor can they be bought.

You can’t get these gifts from employees by challenging them to work harder.

Nor by exhorting them to ‘beat the competition’ or ‘care for the customers’.

You will only get these gifts from employees when you give them a purpose that merits their best.

The Fine Art of Progress

I get fired up about management because it the best tool for helping both organisations and the people that work in them to make progress.

Outstanding managers are able to facilitate the progress of both the individual and the organisation and to connect these in a way that results in win/wins for both.

They do this by:

  • regularly creating time and space to allow people to understand what progress looks and feels like right now – for them and for the organisation
  • building a consensus around the ‘direction(s) in which progress lies’
  • enabling people to make things happen in pursuit of progress – they promote a ‘bias for action’
  • by building the skills and confidence of people to act creatively and pro-actively in pursuit of progress within the mission, vision and values of the organisation.

One of the greatest opportunities for performance improvement is to take more time to explore these questions about progress in some depth and then to link them to immediate next steps – practical things that individuals and groups can do to close the gap between where we are now and where we want to be.  And this is what Brilliant 121s are all about.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

This is the title of blog post by Jim Estill over at CEO Blog – Time Leadership.  And as Wally Bock says this is ‘one of those hoary old management sayings that hangs around because it’s both true and useful’.

Interestingly in the main body of the post Jim changes the saying slightly to:

What gets tracked and measured gets done.

The addition of this one word makes a massive difference.  The truism leads to poor management because it often gets put into practice as:

  1. What can be measured (objectively) that appears to be a reasonable proxy for what we want to get done?
  2. Let’s measure it and then hope we will get the important things done.

However many of the ‘important things’ are difficult to objectify and measure.  But they can usually be tracked.

Take for example this core value:

‘We challenge complacency and the second rate and embrace change’

My guess is that it would not ‘get measured’.  My second guess is that it would rarely be tracked.  And my third guess is that it would therefore rarely get done!

So how might it be tracked to see if it does get done?

By asking regularly (in 121s perhaps…) questions like:

‘Have you found yourself putting any of our core values in to practice this week?’

‘Which ones?’

‘How did they help or hinder your progress?’

we can regularly track core values and are far more likely to get all team members thinking about how they live the values (or not) in their day to day work.  We can track which are being used to shape practice and decision making and which ones aren’t.  Can you imagine the impact on equality and diversity in your organisation if every employee was asked regularly:

How has your work, this week, lived our value of ‘welcoming people’s differences’.

Or have you found any situations this week where living this value was difficult?

So revisit the mission, vision, values, principles and objectives of your organisation and ask yourself:

  • Are these important enough for me to want to measure or track regularly?
  • How can I track these in such a way that they are more likely to get done? (If you are doing 121s this should be a no-brainer!)
  • Do we have the balance right between tracking and measuring the ‘whats’ the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’?
  • What are the risks of writing these sorts of statements and then not tracking them regularly and building them into expectations around employee performance and development?

Your answer to this last question might feature some or all of the following – hypocrisy, mediocrity, blandness, disillusionment….

The Limits of Lean?


Earlier this week I went to ‘An Evening with Simon Hill’. Drawing on his experience of manufacturing industry and Yorkshire Forward, Simon Hill, Executive Director of Business at Yorkshire Forward talked about strategic business improvement using ‘Lean Principles’. Simon chose not to offer a quick reminder of what these Lean Principles are – leaving a proportion of the audience in the dark. As a reminder they are:

  1. Specify what creates value from the customers’ perspective
  2. Identify all the steps along the process chain
  3. Make those processes flow
  4. Make only what is pulled by the customer
  5. Strive for perfection by continually removing waste

With its origins in the world of total quality management Lean Principles provide a wonderful way to ensure efficient product or service delivery by allowing the whole business process to be analysed and made efficient. It emphasises systems, compliance, analysis and objectivity in pursuit of the perfect process. It really is scientific management for the late 20th Century. It is one of several business improvement tools that can help an organisation with one of its purposes – that of the efficient delivery of a product or service.

However increasingly efficiency is not the only game in town. Indeed it is not even the main game for most organisations. Renewal, re-invention and transformation are increasingly the key drivers of sustainable value creation in modern knowledge based economies. If I heard Simen rightly then after a considerable investment of money and time in implementing Lean his business had just about managed to stand still. Now this is an great achievement for a manufacturer of automotive components in South Yorkshire – but I doubt if it carries the seeds for a major economic re-birth.

My concern is the ‘story’ that Lean tells about the nature of business and enterprise. That it is about analysis, rationality, incremental improvement and mediocrity – giving the customer just what they ask for – when they ask for it. It is that the expectations of the customer should drive the production of the organisation. And Lean is not just a set of tools – it is a management philosophy – a culture. It becomes the way we think and act.

Andrew Mawson – one of the UKs most outstanding social entrepreneurs tells of the first time he asked some members of his community what they would really like to do. It turned out that they aspired to go on a day trip to the coast. Fair enough thought Andrew and worked with them to make it happen. After the trip had been undertaken he asked them what they would like to do next? And the reply came – ‘Let’s go on another trip to the (same) coast’! Let’s do it again! Andrew recognised that the aspirations of his customers were narrow. That he could provide experiences far more powerful and effective in driving community development. He understood that they had no real idea of what was possible. So he proposed that their next project was to be a journey across the Sinai desert. As their supplier he transformed their ideas of what could be achieved based on his on his knowledge, experience and expertise. This would never had happened had been trained in Lean principles.

And now Lean Simon tells us Lean consultants are being engaged by Yorkshire Forward to increase organisational efficiency. No doubt pieces of paper will soon be travelling less far on their journey through the offices, being touched by fewer people and processes generally more efficiently. And many of the employees perceptions will be reinforced that their role is not to facilitate the entrepreneurial re-birth of the region – but to design and administer effective bureaucratic processes.

For me business is about emotion, aspiration, imagination, passion, energy and risk. I am not making an argument for waste (although I do often find myself encouraging clients to ‘create slack’) but I am arguing for cultures that favour action and re-invention over perfection. If the price of Lean is a culture that favours analysis and incrementalism over imagination, re-invention and risk taking then I for one find it a price I am not prepared to pay.

At the end of the presentation I asked Simon whether he really felt that Lean held the answers to sustainable competitiveness in knowledge based business – whether it could drive the creativity and innovation necessary to compete in the future. And he answered ‘ No!’.

Good Boss Behaviours

As part of a training session on Managing Your Boss I recently asked a group of managers to think about what their best managers did that made them so good.  I got lots of the usual labels (passionate, visionary, inspiring etc) and had to work quite hard to explore what they actually did that made the followers believe them to be those things.

Here are some of the results:

  1. Always drove ideas forward
  2. Made you feel a part of it, valued your achievements.
  3. Saw in me things that I did not see in myself. A mentor.
  4. Tended to say ‘yes’ – always encouraging – looking for reasons ‘why’ rather than ‘why not’.
  5. Saying  ‘Thanks’.  Appreciating my work.

You will notice that I still didn’t get to the behaviours behind some of these.

What did the boss do that made you believe they were driving ideas forward?  Regular updates, clear achievements against goals?

How did the boss make you feel a part of it?  What did he or she do?

What does your boss do that makes them so effective?

Describe their behaviours in the comments section below.  The best entry by the end of the month – January 08 –  (as decreed by me) will get a prize.

Making it Easy to Say Thanks


Sometimes saying thanks can be just too much work. You know you should drop someone a thank you card – but it is just too much effort to get to the shops and somehow it never gets done. So you just fire off an impersonal e-mail.

Instead, make it really easy to say ‘Thanks’ by setting up an emergency ‘Thank You’ kit. It should include some beautiful cards or notepaper, some postage stamps, and a selection of small but interesting gifts (I tend to give books or toys!). If you have to regularly thank chocolate loves you might want to look at this new service from Thorntons. (Big Thanks to Jayne Pickard from Encompass Marketing for the idea!)

You might also want to think about recording just how often you say thanks – and who to!

Why Should We Learn with the Third Sector?

We try to attract managers to PMN events from a wide range of organisations and sectors. I am often asked by managers from ‘for profit’ organisations ‘Why should we ask our managers to learn alongside managers from the third sector?’ The implication is that it might ‘set them back’ or ‘slow them down’, or ‘develop skills and knowledge that are not relevant to ‘for profit’ managers’.

Some facts

  • The total turnover of social enterprises is estimated at £27 billion, or 1.3% of the total turnover of all businesses with employees. Their contribution to GDP is estimated to be £8.4 billion.
  • There are around 55,000 social enterprises, and numbers are rising.
  • Since 2004, the Government has invested more than £350 million in the capacity of the third sector.
  • Over £18 million has been allocated to support and develop the social enterprise sector over the next few years.
  • Total public funding (from local and central government) reported by the voluntary and community sector has doubled from less than £5 billion in 1996/97 to more than £10 billion in 2004/05.
  • It is a growing sector.
  • It has cash to spend and demands high quality professional services.
  • It will choose to work wherever possible with partners that share its values and vision. With people that it knows, likes and trusts.
  • It delivers work of great social value. The best staff  demand more than just a good pay packet. They find the sector challenging and rewarding to work with. They meet remarkable people and organisations.
  • Working effectively with the ‘third sector’ – as well as with the ‘for profit’ and ‘public sector’ should be a key part of your strategic thinking.

Jim Collins (of ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Built to Last’ fame) urged the third sector not to ape the practices of the ‘for profits’. Instead he urged the ‘for profits’ to learn lessons from the third sector – about managing people with passion for real social purpose. If you do that well, then profits follow. Both ‘first sector’ and ‘third’ then have to decide the level at which surpluses should be re-invested to pursue the aims of the business and what should be distributed to stakeholders.

Managers face similar challenges whether they are managing in the ‘for profit’, ‘not for profit’ or ‘public’ sectors. Learning alongside colleagues from other sectors enriches the experience and the increases the possibility of doing good business for all.

Set the Foundations

The Mavericks at Work blog reminds us that all the:



mass collaboration



MySpace-ing and



in the world isn’t going to help if you don’t already have some very persuasive answers to some very basic questions:


  • What ideas are we fighting for?

  • What do we see that the competition doesn’t?

  • How are we rethinking our business every day?

Why Do More Women Resign than Men?

Gender Gap

In the UK, now,

  • More women resign than men. More women are resigning now than ever.
  • Women get promoted younger than men.
  • Women are paid significantly less than men – and last year the gap widened.

These findings are from the Chartered Management Institute and Remuneration Economics.

What explains the high rate of resignations?

Is it the sense of injustice at the widening pay differentials as women take on more responsibility – younger – for less money than men?

Do women have more choices that they can exercise? They are more likely to take up self-employment than men. They may also be more ‘in-demand’ than men as their skill sets leave them better equipped to work in a modern economy. The ‘skill sets’ in which women generally outperform men include

  • better improvisational skills,
  • more relationship-focussed,
  • less rank-conscious,
  • more trust sensitive,
  • more intuitive,
  • more collaborative,
  • more comfortable with ambiguity,
  • better sharers of information
  • more able to balance rational thought with intuition and belief,
  • more articulate,
  • better at reading non-verbal clues,
  • better at multi-tasking, networking and negotiating to win/wins,
  • a preference to take the long view,
  • an ability to promote egalitarian team working and a
  • more naturally empowering management style

Or is it because many management hierarchies are still male dominated cultures in which more feminine values linked to the enhanced skill-sets listed above are under valued?

One trend is very clear. Women’s power in a modern economy is increasing. This is driven by their generally superior leadership skills and their influence over just about every major purchasing decision.

This means that organisations that cannot recruit and retain women will be at a significant disadvantage in the marketplace.

“When land was the productive asset, nations battled over it. The same is happening now for talented people.”

Stan Davis & Christopher Meyer, futureWEALTH