The Business Doctor

'eradicating the Mad Management Virus'

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


I’m writing this in the cafĂ© of the Centre of Creative Leadership in Brussels so forgive the leaps. The tea is great and all the varying languages going on around me, it feels a little like the UN, it's so entertaining. As an aside, it is interesting that how, when you don’t recognise the words (my French is weak, okay pretty appalling if honest), you try to guess the conversation by body language and gestures of the actors. I’m sure this does not work however, otherwise when you are listening to native Chinese talk, you would assume a domestic fight has broken out, and whilst the Chinese are not unlike the West in marital disputes, not all of the time I’m sure.

Let's get to the point of my rant. I have been amused this and last week at the Sky and Sports commentators’ scandal and it amazes me that people are so shocked, well shocked for the wrong reasons. I’m also strangely disappointed as pro-feminist, that most people still don’t get it. Sport was ‘created’ to enhance masculine values. Values, which I won't go into in this post, that promote masculinity per se, but mirror the values in most organisations that are also created out of these masculine roles. Organisations are built by men, for men, for men to play their games in, is one quote from Rosebeth Moss-Kanter work in the 90's switch sticks out even into days, liberal, equality bound, ethical structures and policy.

Forming a 'lobby group' as one 'expert' suggested, to change the male attitude is extremely difficult given that their whole life has been about creating an image based on not being the ‘other’ i.e. feminine. There is no grey area to most men. Its masculine or the other. Most men fear the notion that they can be fluid in terms of masculinity and femininity, and not based in any fixed category.

This for me is the rub. If feminist’s, or for that matter people want to change society then focussing efforts on to sport is only a tiny part of that change and some would say a waste of effort if it fails to grasp the core root of the values of sport itself. What I mean here is we spend a fortune trying to treat the symptoms of something rather than it's multifaceted cause. It somewhat like a company providing private healthcare to employees who go absent sick, to reduce the sickness figures, rather than attempting to find out why they are on the sick in the first place and removing the cause! What I mean specifically is with all this sport, is that I spent one hour on a running machine yesterday in a gym, which is a feat in itself as running indoors is so boring. Nevertheless the whole hour was spent looking at the music channel on TV, and what can only be described by my generation as ‘soft-porn’ music videos, which depicted women as purely sexual objects, even when the artist was female. These sort of images portray women as sex objects, to be used and stared at AND if you ask any teenager its "cool"!

My point? Things are always a lot more complex than sacking two football pundits and hoping this will change the sexism in sport. Most simplistic ideas are counter-intuitive and fail really to achieve the answer, without causing other problems, hidden away in the system. Just think ASBO, and the now badge of honour having one is, to the disruptive youth. If we are really to achieve diversity, respect and equality (in the true sense) then we need to look deeper, and explore human solutions to human causes. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Business Doctor: Be the Boss - Council Update

The Business Doctor: Be the Boss - Council Update: "Just a quick update on life and progress. I am now a visiting Research Fellow at Plymouth, I just found out this week! How nice and it ..."

Be the Boss - Council Update

Just a quick update on life and progress.

I am now a visiting Research Fellow at Plymouth, I just found out this week! How nice and it makes me proud and delighted to be part of a successful research team and University with a vision. I have other job offer changes but will let you know this at a later date.

However, as many who follow me on Twitter know, I did a re-visit to the Council Depot this week to catch up with the latest gossip, news, issues and tantrums. Wow…… what a difference!

The Council, Councilors (Labour mainly) are still acting like five year olds and fighting amongst themselves, the opposition and the Senior Officers anyone it seems to score points, failing to realize the good work that’s going on in the Borough and the impending doom for local authorities and lives at risk. Nothing changes there then, but the greatest change of all…. The Environmental Service Department, the focus of my programme last year.

They are leading by example, with great ethics and passion. The Binmen and Recycling Crews are at one! The work I did last year in removing ‘management’ theory and systems, has been truly taken on, and driven to new heights. I never doubted them, but I never thought it would have such dramatic results so quickly, and this is of course down to people like

Keri Jones (HR), Phil Edwards, Steve Price, Mike Wilcoks, Beth Jones, Justin Hodges (the man), Lisa, John, Matthew Stone, John Issacs, Steve Postlethewaite, to name but a few of the ‘democratic leaders’. The process hasn’t been smooth, but the results amazing. Why? Well its simple, give people the chance to change the system, trust them and allow them to do it their way and the results will always be beyond what you expect. Is it perfect, of course not, no system is perfect, but with this way of thinking we have 60 leaders now not just one as in the old system.

I also have to mention here Alan Reed, the ‘Director’ of Environmental Service, who was brave by volunteering his service, some 15 months ago. He stepped up to the mark, and never wavered in his commitment to change the service, relationship with his team and the public. I am hoping that he will never stop working for the Council and gain some reward and recognition for the tireless effort to support this programme.

The results:
The results at BGCBC (and I use BGCBC to represent the crews rather than the five year olds) are truly wonderful a year on. Not sure if you picked up the press this week, but BGCBC Recycling crews topped the league in Wales for the biggest improvement in recycling rates. From 19% when we first went in to 41% as measured in October, but I can't wait until the official Audit figures come out in May as we suspect they will be in the 50% region. It’s the biggest change in recycling rates WAG have seen. Also the waste to tip is down 140%.....stunning figures, all done by managementless crews/teams by implementing their ideas. Ideas such as Buster & Dean, who went around houses in the evening to ask people to recycle more of their food waste. Also Justin Hodges, who on the programme was, lets say not very happy with me and my ideas, driving the new bins delivery and fortnightly collection implemented seamlessly over the past year.

The binmen were also praised over Christmas being the best authority in the UK for maintaining collections in the snow. In two months of snow disruption the Binmen only missed one day, claimed NO overtime, and lost just one staff day in sickness. Unlike the more affluent, and flatter counties such as Oxford who were a whole month behind collections. I know some out there, will still say so what, but the saving made, the increases in service targets and WAG PI’s are all clear indications that the Environmental Services have it right.

More to follow… 

Friday, 31 December 2010

The Business Doctor: A Year in Review

The Business Doctor: A Year in Review: "The year is about to end and as always I like to do a personal reflection of what happened and if things have changed throughout the year..."

A Year in Review

The year is about to end and as always I like to do a personal reflection of what happened and if things have changed throughout the year gone by. I suppose, like with reflections in history, I do this, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes…. As if! Even as I write, David Cameron is warning us that we have a difficult year ahead! As if we didn’t already know this….

The year 2010 started badly and I was certainly up to my knees in Rubbish and being filmed at every moment by the BBC. I’m joking here because this time last year I was working with the Refuse & Recycling Crews at BGCBC. It was a tough 5 months and even though the project continued well into the summer, it was without question, worth every minute of sacrifice. The crews are now running themselves and with a strange twist of fait I’m back working with them as after the Refuse project I moved onto after the Binmen, changed its product line to reuse scheme for the things we through away, and yep the Binmen were the best consultants in the business. Their advice and new mindset has been outstanding. So from one tough project of changing the Binmen minds, two new mindsets have resulted. Bonus!

It’s not been a totally great year though. Research from First Direct reveals almost 7m (28%) of workers have moved jobs in an attempt to find a better boss and improve their working environment which is a stark reminder to all those companies worried about loosing their talent. Forget the bonus schemes or free tea, get the leadership right and you will be a long way to being the best. So elusive is the perfect manager that more than 12% of workers have taken up a new career entirely in their search, while 5% have decided to leave the corporate world and set up a business by themselves. DNA Wales Research along with First Direct conformation clearly sees that when working under a manager doing traditional management, employees report a loss of motivation of on average 63% and productivity decreases by 30% best scenario and 90% worst, with one on average 29% of public sector workers and 22% of private taking "sickies" as an avoidance tactic to get away from managers nonsense (I added the nonsense bit in…).

The main key to all this year has been the frequent and heart breaking waste of talent in organisations. The key message here, as always is the utter failing of managers who are simply uninspiring.

The problem as I see it:

  • They think management is the way forward
  • They think they as managers they know best, and anyone who challenges them is trouble
  • They fail to be accountable, blaming others or the 'system' for their actions
  • They don’t trust the people they work with (even though they say they do!)
  • They think risk, means trouble and therefore has to be removed
  • They mistake fear with respect (Bullies tend to thrive on this)
  • They don’t understand that their intellect is not as good as the combined people that work with them
  • They forget that the people on the frontline add value, not cost, unlike most managers
  • They think any idea from the shop floor, cannot be any good, as they’ve not thought of it first
  • They also think problems have easy solutions

  • And this maybe just a welsh thing, but managers here seem to dislike anyone who may have a better solution, idea, profile or energy, which ‘shows them up’ (or they think so)

One final thing from the First Direct (FD) research was the startling similarity in their results and our concerning the failure of managers to inspire the people. 88% according to FD, 92% according to ours, claim their manager is well simply ‘not inspiring’. Yet as I have commented on and proved now, in over 25 companies, leaders are the energy, which drive the people. If your manager(s) are uninspiring the can you imagine the impact this has on your company/service.

We have spent the year, driving the message home to more companies, managers than I care to remember and I have felt this year that the resistance to my message has begun to diminish. People of all sectors are starting to realise that there is another way. Its not the darkside, or chaos, or indeed ‘tree-hugging’ bollox, as one person stated 6 years ago. Its real, human, messy, fun but above all sustainable, but only if you have the respect from the people within.

I have come across both professionally as an academic, working in company and personally some awful managers/people. I am constantly amazed how devious, corrupt (in the ethic sense) and morally devoid some people are, but here again it’s the company or organisation that allowed this dreadful behaviour to be encouraged/promoted in the organisation. I would like to say here that these people will soon disappear, but even if this wish were true and there was a ‘God’ like figure for companies, organisations who would smite the evil souls, the damage for a lot of people has already happened.

So my work, with organisations has still a strong pull. I won’t be working for Glamorgan University any longer, which is another story for my book, but the work goes on.

There will be a new Institute of Social Innovation, Creativity and Change (ISICC). Based in company and driven by organisations for bottom-line impact (and here I don’t mean just profits).

My work with Monwel, e-Vale Service, a Social Enterprise for disabled workers will continue, and this has been one of those life changing projects for me, one I will be eternally grateful for, even though at times I thought it would never happen.

So my friends, colleagues and partners; I’m now going out for my off-road run, which I now do for the scenery rather than any times, or to beat last years stopwatch, so Happy New Year!  And a VERY big thank you for all those who questioned, listened, thought, considered, helped and was there for me at my deepest, darkest moments. Without friends and certain people, who I know, have no idea they do it, energise and support me, I would not have had the success gained over the past year.

Happy Chaos! 

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Institute of Social Innovation, Creativity and Change (ISICC)

The Educational and Social Innovation part of Monwel Social Enterprise (MSE) in Ebbw Vale, which is informally known as 'my factory' will host the ISICC. This Institute to be launched in the new year will create a Non-Profit educational and training arm of MSE principles in Wales and beyond. It will offer training, education, advice and objective negotiation services for other organisations looking to create and establish a Social Enterprise, Democratic and Empowered workforce or department. I have in the past needed an organisation which would help
ISICC Passion - To improve and change the quality, criticality and impact of Leadership, Human engagement and 'Emergent Leadership' within the Context of all organisations.
ISICC will aid ‘all leaders’, Policy Makers and advisors within the organisation to understand that the behaviour of the people and how the Strategic Human Assets (SHA) impacts the design and direction of the whole organisation in a non-linear human perspective. The ISICC will change practice first, to create a body of connected bodies which is reactive and faster than traditional tools/methods normally seen in business management today.
ISICC will also influence the level, type, and direction of intervention by various representative forums and training programmes. It will compliment and extend the work of various leadership development initiatives by adding a new dimension to the sustainability of economic development.
Staffing – These will mainly comprise of external Consultants, Academics, Representative Bodies and Advisors. There will be internal administration support and a venue presence at MSE.
Ethos – Non Profit, CIC – All income will directly support the ISICC actions and income gained will be reinvested back into the MSE for distribution and reuse. 

It is hoped that this Institute will be created by and driven from the passion of its members. It will however be about saying the things some cannot say due to funding or fear. It will be about action and not words, articles or anything other than changing the social world of organisations to truly empower and trust the workforce for the 21st Century. 

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Okay - The simple version

Dear Public Sector Leaders, 

I am writing confidentially again to express an interest to help save the Public Service (any public services, Police, Fire, Health at any level…just need to prove a point...). 

As you may already know, I have recently completed two major in-'company' research and change projects in Public Services. We helped save large amounts of money, without a single job loss or move to Social Enterprise, Co-operative, CIC, Charity or any other ‘new’ form of organization.  

·      The process is not radical, or controversial but stops, simplistic reduction in staff numbers simply on financial principles.
·      It does not make managers (people) redundant or anyone else for that matter. It simply stops them doing this thing call management and starts ‘Democratic Leadership’.
·      Its an alternative to top-down change, with a little bottom-up mixed in, it becomes everyone's change.
·      It does not encourage a ‘one-way’ of thinking, but a mix of theory/tools to suit your organization.
·      Yes, it removes management power and control, but replaces it with much greater powers of influence, trust and respect through leadership from within
·      There are no tricks, hidden fees, cons, or anything other than open, honest, transparent and democratic processes. Yep anyone can stop the process at any stage….its the organization that drives the process
·      Its not chaos….. there are clear boundaries, movable to improve but never reducible, but it still deconstructs the service from the frontline up (or in my world down ;-).
·      The new way of ‘doing’ is completely customer focused and built
·      The change has no resistance. Its led by the people themselves, at their pace, with their way of thinking.
·      Its sustainable. Why because the frontline providers drive the ‘new thinking’ and therefore once started, they continue to adapt, evolve and create new (always within boundaries) as the customer demands/constraints change

You would like to hear more, or require external references to check out this change initiative, please do not hesitate to contact me, IT WORKS! 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Greedy People....

Will Hutton today published a report in a vain attempt to cap Public Sector Chief Executives pay in Public Services. He states that top executives should be kept below what is around 20 times that of their lowest paid staff. Hutton said the pay of the top 1% of earners in the UK was escalating disproportionately and “outstripping the rest. Well tell us something we don’t know! I have written about this not only with Public Sector Leaders, but also Private Sectors, including our Banks. Now Owners of private companies can earn what they want…that’s a different argument we’ll save for another time (but I have written and talked about this many times)

Hutton claims the “ratchet effect”, where the rise in top senior public-sector salaries was simply “to compete in the labour market for CEOs”. What utter nonsense. Its greed, plain and simple, and an abuse of power by a certain small group or network of people. It was only revealed a few months ago that the university VC’s, a small and very elite group, earn some of the highest in the public sector between £250k-£350k yet the cutback in this sector over the past few months has meant the loss of frontline teaching and research jobs and the cutback of classes & courses. Yet, no VC, or ProVC’s have lost their jobs that I am aware of….

“There should be a proportionate relationship between effort and pay,” states Hutton, of the Work Foundation, who earns a reported £200k salary, must now have joined the ‘other side’ as the book which sprang him to popularity called the ‘State we’re In’ demonstrated the massive injustice in pay and work in the UK in the 1980’s. Yet we are now seeing our MP’s, Senior Leaders and Public Servants doing the same as Hutton complained about in the 80’s.

The problem here; this is a “missed the point” report. The question should be ‘Why pay them this amount in the first place?’

There is no evidence that suggests placing a ‘super-star’ manager at the top of an organization helps the organization succeed. Why? Well the Public Sector is not Private Sector without the profit element. The meddling by ‘Management Theorists’ and the MBA world has done untold damage already to non-profit, service driven, people led organizations. Take Targets and PI’s for example, they are now starting to be removed in the more progressive organizations, simply because they have proved worthless in service delivery and indeed, some (me) would say that they have been detrimental. Why? because they have diverted resources away from frontline services and into this measurement mindset. Great if you like numbers, graphs, and stats, but bloody-hopeless if you need a housing repair or replacement hip!

Anyhow, back to my point…..sorry, I have a tendency to rant and wander!

We do not need to pay Bankers, Chief Executives or anyone else for that matter more than what the frontline staff agree with! If the frontline staff think, ‘you’ as the ‘Boss’ deserve £500k per year then who am I to disagree, however it should be up to them to decide as they are fully aware of your contribution to the cause. If all you have done is slow things down, create more bureaucracy and policies, which hinder frontline speed and services, then, expect a low payout…..simples! 

Friday, 26 November 2010

Its a Friday

Well I’m sitting in the only ‘business meeting’ hotel convenient to the M4, Valleys and Cardiff and it’s a strange world if I'm honest. Firstly I’m sitting here in casual dress, and jeans are definitely not the standard dress in this establishment. However, what’s strange is the conversations going on around me. Now I don’t normally eves-drop on peoples conversations, but some of these people are what my Grandfather would call ‘Characters’. That is they are loud and wanting to be the centre of conversation. I have one former student (seems to happen everywhere I go these days, and is a distinct sign of age) sitting opposite trying to sell something with great care and concentration and another by the side, desperately trying to convince the three quiet suits he’s their man…..why, he’s even written a book on the subject. Yet despite this, his loud tie, flamboyant arm gestures and of course obligatory book, not gaining much ground with his surrounding suits…..

I’ve never felt at home with the business world or indeed business discourse.  It is as I grow more experienced (okay older) with running various organisations and tired of the traditional Business School teachings, (which for the most part of not moved on since the 1990’s), I grow more comfortable with this gap. This world ‘ant-just like that’ I was once told by a leading business academic Charles Handy. Which was a strange tone of voice for a very ‘well-to-do’ chap like Charles, but his point was clear, books, theory (which is someones experience made formal) are fine but they don’t help much in real world of business itself. And why should it…..its someone else's experience....simples!

I have often said that people are inherently messy, than getting a group of them together in one place for one cause is well, even more messy and yet Business Schools and society seems to expect the manager to manage this mess into order, neatness, uniformity and well structure. Its just not going to happen. The 21st Century needs to understand that whilst we may all dress the same, we are not the same underneath. The great company understands this and celebrates individuality, mess and creativity which results. Great service doesn’t come from a company or organisation, it comes from a human at the point of contact with that customer.

Lets stop management, managing and all that silly stuff produced about people in organisations in our failing Schools and lets start ‘emergent leading’ or allowing the ‘mess-influence’ to start moving us into the sustainable world of great companies.

Leadership is about, passion, people, energy and love. Its not about, the appearance, the tie, the strategy or the ‘book’….they are all meaningless if you don’t love people, can handle the mess each day and have the energy to lift others to that happy place who are delivering your product, service or simply doing the back office stuff. 

You have to love it, for it to work. I always say that the day you get paid for the thing you love you will stop working….

Friday, 19 November 2010

Dear Public Sector Leaders!

Dear Public Sector Leaders, 

I am writing confidentially to express an interest and volunteer to help with the current drive for efficiency within the Public Service (any public services, Police, Fire, Health...). 

As you may already know, I have recently completed two major in-'company' research and change projects in Public Services. The most 'public' being the Environmental Services Department in Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. My methodology has now worked on 26 companies, mainly UK based, but also from 17 countries around the world. These companies range from small to large, national to multi national, the largest being USA based with 48,000 staff. In short, the Human Architecture Intervention (HAI) has seen 26 sustainable interventions, ranging from saving companies from bankruptcy to recovering over £750k in a public services dept. The results would be seen in weeks, not months and is also driven from the customer (frontline) backup the system, ensuring all staff are adding value to service quality, cost and performance. 

The process is not radical, or controversial but stops, simplistic reduction in staff or process or simply on financial savings at the expense of long-term sustainability. It offers a real alternative that limits damage to already stretched resources by working out with frontline staff where and more importantly how service cuts and improvements are made. It defines three phases of activity, Fluid-Diagnosis, Adaptive-Connectivity by frontline and seamless Emergent-Implementation. 

HAI is a cyclical methodology that operates very clearly in unstructured and uncertain environments. It is intended for a team of inquirers such as us to examine the various perspectives of a situation, organisation (large) and produce appropriate system models (human based) to act as an intervention strategy for change (continuous and sustainable). It should be seen that normal models and methodology might become invalid when the situation that they are intending to represent is subject to environmental change. The HAI method is well proven to establishing core strategic directions incorporating change and environmental dynamics, without the normal harm seen by convention thinking in cost reductions. 

HAI also provides a returning structure for inquiry to the core values that, for example the employee passion for customer/service user experience, so the principle of iteration to deal with uncertainty and human interaction, individuality and identity (change) is built into the process. 

HAI operation lies more or less centrally within the hard-soft continuum, which should please 'both' schools of thought within the Senior People, Staff, Unions and above all customers. Indeed the approach was developed as a reaction to the difficulties associated with hard methods seen in simplistic reductions. I have also been doing this for several years. HAI is simple methodologies applicable to complex uncertain situations such as we are experiencing at the moment in Wales, UK and beyond. It is an architecture-approach that is designed to enable development of a set of intervention strategies (note the 'ies') for change, which is sustainable, and product/service led. This change is 'effective' first and then efficient. 

I would seriously offer to help the Public Services through these changes, knowing the successes, which can be, achieved overnight, without loss of key skills, frontline people or long-term recovery lapse. I am more than willing to offer my services immediately and suspend all other projects. I would also be willing to provide an 'experiment' area to prove this methodology would/could work, in providing immediate savings, increases in quality and greater service provisions and satisfaction. 

You would like to hear more, or require external references to check out this change initiative, please do not hesitate to contact me, 

Dr Paul Thomas