The Business Doctor

'eradicating the Mad Management Virus'

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 

A Week in Being Out

Well it’s been a very busy few weeks indeed. A great trip to the USA, North Wales, London and yesterday Pembroke.

I have already commented on my trip to the USA and I am already receiving some great ideas, contacts with possibilities of working overseas. Lots to think about over the next few weeks. 

However, positioned in between all this were the comments I made for the Week in Week Out programme shown on the BBC. Not all my interview was shown, so I'm told as I've not seen the programme. Firstly, I must add that, I have always been and still am an avid supporter of the University of Wales, indeed I have stated on numerous occasions it should be re-instated in its old form, with all the Universities positioned underneath one administration body, with one VC. The shambles we have at the moment with Universities, leadership and management is simply unsustainable in Wales. The answer is the University of Wales. However my comments were simply to say ‘stop’ the growth strategy and commercialisation. It’s so unhelpful.

I also feel that whilst the quality processes of the University of Wales are exactly the same as other Universities, the problems as seen with the Malaysian Pop-star is that the system adopted doesn’t hold when not in the host country or indeed a ‘University’ setting. So perhaps, the WAG should radically remove all the VC, PVC’s management layers and hand some of the power back to the UoW and reinvest the rest in creating more world-class education.

I’ve not seen the programme, nor read the comments from there on, but I am sure that if Business Schools do not alter what they offer in Universities such as Glamorgan then the future of our industries and communities will be at risk. The DTi in 2001 clearly stated that the only thing which students from business schools should be certain about when leaving, is the ‘irreducible core skill of thinking!’….. We are perhaps, over teaching simplistic models and techniques, crushing creativity and innovation but more importantly removing ‘Critical Thinkers’ both academics and students. We have mechanised teaching, with its measures, teaching schemes, assignments, grading and fear of being sued by students. Its time to change....or perhaps we have missed even this opportunity 

Its NOW! 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Business Doctor: Absent....but not gone!

The Business Doctor: Absent....but not gone!: " Oh dear, its been a long while since my last update. Not for one reason but a combination of unsavoury events coupled..."

Absent....but not gone!

Oh dear, its been a long while since my last update. Not for one reason but a combination of unsavoury events coupled with pleasant proceedings.

Firstly, I left Glamorgan University on 8th October, and despite 6 years of dedicated work commitment with only ever taking one week’s holiday in four years on the day I finish I get only a single email from the ‘establishment’….which said, “Your email account is now closed”….. that was it! Never mind, I have to say that since ending my role there, my friends and colleagues at the Business School have been in constant touch, seeking advice and information. Its good to help and be of use to people going through change.

Then my laptop completely broke! In May this year I ‘lost’ my Apple laptop, replaced it with another ‘nearly new’ identical model and the day I was intending to travel to London to teach, it had a complete, Hard Drive meltdown. Oh, yes and of course before you ask, I did not have the memory backed-up…..yep! Lost everything….including passwords, photos, files, PowerPoint’s…. I won’t say anymore at this stage for fear of crying in public.

However, having changed life-direction, and completely ‘let-go’ as a true Buddhist would expect, every aspect of past life I had a great venture to the USA. I met up at North-western University colleagues, then onto Florida and a meeting with a great academic from Mississippi University. The venue for the meeting was in Tampa, and wow what a warm place, and here I mean friendly not temperature. Then it was back to Chicago and onto Wisconsin University.

I have to say the people, staff and students at Wisconsin were truly magnificent. The faculty build, outstanding and the ideas of the staff I met, cutting edge, passionate, and I went away energised.

As a bonus, I also drove through Wales! Wales the village, not the country and met some lovely people. I called in on the Fire Chief and Village Hall and found myself feeling so proud of my home country and the Village of Wales, who had our dragon on every street sign.

Thank You Wales!

Okay, enough from me as this was just a quick email to say, normal blog will resume shortly


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Death by a Thousand Cuts...

Our government here in Wales is top-heavy and costly and our universities have been accused of being poorly led, with a huge waste of money going on administrative services and top salaries. The public sector wastes money and everyone it seems is about to pick on it. Anyone in the Public Sector will now be saying ‘nothing new there then’, but we in the Public Sector world have to realise that we have reached a watershed moment. For we have to accept that many public bodies here in Wales are simply "not fit for purpose". They are living in yesterday’s era, fighting yesterday’s battles, in terms of criminals and health issues and public needs, not today’s. Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that what you see on The Bill is not what you get in real life. Nor is it Ashes to Ashes or Life on Mars, yet some police forces still manage as if they were still in the 1980s. I suppose there’s the rub. Most senior managers and politicians take their lead from the same era or worse still yesterdays when it comes to seeking out new ways to save money, deliver better resources and serve our communities and residents.
In 2009 we saw the sad management trait of making people redundant and this has continued into 2010. One company, Air New Zealand, announced it would “disestablish up to 100 long-haul cabin crew positions”. I am sure public servants will feel much better knowing they are going to be ‘disestablished’ rather than thrown on the scrap heap. This will ease the blow, even when they learn that some CEOs received great pay awards throughout 2009/10.

Recently our education minister Leighton Andrews, warning that he was about to be “blunt and candid”, brought home what I think most knew but were too frightened to say. Universities in Wales are, frankly, poorly led. Speaking at Cardiff University, he said he saw “too much institutional behaviour and not enough leadership”, and added that 52% of funding goes on support administration and managers’ salaries. In my world, I’ve seen that increase to 60% of costs, yet we now again see frontline jobs under threats of cuts, service closures and being indeed “disestablished” without any thought to the real costs and consequences. One vice chancellor shouted that her/his salary was not that large compared to industry. Indeed CEOs of large companies would think VCs’ salaries to be peanuts. Yet, when you think that universities are public sector, are small by comparison and carry less financial risk, their salaries seem rather large. Or am I alone in that thought? Whatever – that’s not really the point.
What’s actually needed is a real, radical overhaul of public services in Wales. They really could do more with less if they simply took a long, hard look at their set-up, their purpose and what they now do for us ‘the public’. For far too long we have known they are too big, over-burdened with administration and are a mess when it comes to structures, layers of hierarchy and 1950s styles of management thinking.
A little like in the NHS, we have seen the rise of a management and performance measurement ethos in most public services. We’re all familiar with tales of more and more targets, performance measures and indicators, which actually do very little to help the police officer, teacher, binman or woman, when they’re trying to battle the agile criminal, teach children or help reduce waste. We know, all of us, that what public services do now is spend too much of their time ticking boxes and completing forms and feeding the bureaucratic beast. None of it is to ensure the criminal is punished, bins collected or children taught with the correct resources, but rather to feed the ‘management’ animal in a bid to prove their worth.
But while we, the customers, might know what service we want our public services to provide, we can’t pretend we know how they should go about providing it or indeed continue to. We can’t be experts in all these areas. So who would be best placed to decide that? How about those on the frontline – the police officers, the refuse collectors, the teachers, the social workers, out there providing the service to the customers? How about those in power asking the frontline people how services should be providing the best possible service? But instead what we see – and it’s endemic in public services – is a lack of democracy and accountability for performance, and instead a culture of rules, procedures and control and top-down decision making. That disengages frontline staff to the point where they don’t even question their own methods and procedures. Surely what we need are enthusiastic, empowered staff, who are trusted to make decisions about what’s best for the customer, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that officers, staff, teachers and so on are meant merely to follow.

I have heard claims of political independence are a "myth", and senior managers are already "highly politicised". Those dealing with the public services need to act as if their every decision is open to scrutiny, that every penny must be justified not by targets, but simply by how is it adding value to the customer. They should be subjected to the scrutiny of the public, but, even more so, to that of frontline staff.
It’s time to have a major, open and harsh investigation into the system of organising the public sector in Wales, and the way it’s managed and before cuts are made, what do we want from our Services, and more importantly what can we, should we be doing for ourselves. We cannot keep tinkering with an engine which burns fuel inefficiently, breaks down frequently, needs an army of mechanics (HR, Consultants) to keep patching up the problems and fails to start quickly when needs must.

Radical change needed? No. Costly consultants needed to help this change process? No. But can a liberating change in the mindset of ‘the public’, which releases savings whilst improving frontline service actually happen? Yes. Just take a visit to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Environmental Services Department, where the binmen, recycling crews and mechanics have all grouped together to make savings, increase quality and do things in a way that focuses on customers. How? They simply removed managers, replaced some of them with specially selected leaders and started to take ownership of the services they deliver. Who best to make the change? The people who deliver it. It’s simple and the consultants are already there….yes, the frontline staff.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Time is HERE!

I have for over 15 years, been telling organisations and Leaders, that Complexity will help understand the problems of today. 
I have written to most Political Leaders, Blair, Cameron, Brown....who have never replied, not sure why? Yet, even with 26 companies now operating using the fundamental principles or architecture of Complexity we still fail to make inroads to the major issues, of crime, health, education. 
Complex adaptive systems or CAS, is old in terms of theory and understanding. It explains nature, its unpredictability and or failure as humans to control it. When we think we understand one thing then something else comes along and upsets this certainty or fact. Indeed, many CAS thinkers state there is no such thing as fact, only truth. But we won't go down this philosophical argument, otherwise we'll be here for days.
I know research and talk about CES, nor CAS. Complex Evolving Systems or simply, humans! Human systems who unlike animals and plants, not only adapt (although a lot would say we've even stopped doing this) to the environment/circumstance we evolve. By this I mean we can alter, change the environment or circumstance. Air conditioning is one such simple example, allowing us to work in hot conditions. 
However, one thing is for sure. The problems we have created in the 21st century and in particular in our organisations cannot be solved by current thinking. There are a number of impacts which the CES approach may potentially have for organisational leadership/structure in terms of adaptive, innovative and sustainable operations. The first and most obvious is the major implications for strategy, its suggestion of control, visions and mission statements, most of which are consistently ignored by organisations in daily operation. For Critical Leadership which underpins the CES, the fact that fully accurate prediction is impossible but still commonplace is of growing worry for business in Wales as everyone understands that the only certainty is the need for constant adaptation to consumer demands. We are still unable to predict the path of a simple raindrop moving downwards on a pane of glass, let-alone a human organisation. So why do we get so stressed in trying to do so?
So much of the dominant management literature focuses on the role of the ‘leader’ as an enabler of change and that most leaders believe that they can ‘make things happen’ which according to CES this is at best mistaken and at worst highly damaging for the organisation and the employees within.
The mechanical engineering metaphors still dominate most management discourse and whilst ‘organic’ approaches may have a higher feel-good factor, cut little ice with those charged with satisfying shareholders. The traditional view of the linear supply chain and ‘controlled employee’, while useful for academic analysis for example, is well recognised as being unrepresentative of the true operating environment of many organisations, who’s reality requires them to function effectively within a structure better described as a dynamic, random network built on relationships. The environment organisations operate in is therefore inherently multifarious and the most effective approach to managing such an organisation is to accept this dynamic impact and allow the agents themselves to evolve the next product, service or innovations. Rules, procedures, regulations etc. normally used by managers to control staff limit the organisations ability to evolve and remain ‘fit’ for the present day customer expectation.
We are now at that point in time, where the next revolution of thinking is taking place....

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Ban The Boss - Update

I want to comment on some resent comments and emails, in one hit. So here is one reply I made earlier. 

This idea started 10 years ago for me, when at the LSE I met a guy called Ricardo Selmer. He owned a company of 4000 staff, made everything from ship pumps to Insurances, all without a single manager in sight (I will explain what I mean by manager & management in a moment). It was remarkable. No plans, strategies, KPI's or anything like that. He offered an alternative from the ‘machine’ idea of an organisation with people as cogs and not humans. He did it intuitively, not as a result of theory or with a management consultant, no pre-conception or ‘plan’ just a need to have a fun, happy place to work. Soon after meeting and learning about Ricardo I discovered and studied ‘Complexity Theory’ or Human Systems thinking, which in simple terms explores how we ‘operate’ as people, in our systems, life and how this particular organisation stayed together and worked.

I started BGCBC over two years ago when the CEO invited me in to talk to the Senior Management. They were looking to change the way Public Services operated, whilst maintaining services with ever decreasing finances. My theory, tried and tested in over 25 small, medium, large businesses, I thought could help achieve results, increase democracy, remove the ‘systems’ of nonsense such as KPI’s and release staff to do things their way. 

This was NEVER about getting 'rid' of managers (people), only management (the thing they get paid to do). If you get frontline staff to realise that they know the job best, that they can change it to do things better, then the results are amazing. Despite the impression from the programme it took two months to gain trust from the staff, to get them to understand they can change the ‘system’ and deliver a better service to the people of Blaenau Gwent. After all, most if not all of the staff were from the Borough, and customers themselves. 

There are now no 'managers' left in Environmental Services, only a few leaders, and they change according to experience, responsibility, project and needs of customers and councilors, voted in as and when needed by the staff themselves.  The money saved by this experiment was/is being invested for the most part back into frontline services, decided by the staff themselves.

I would add here, that in all other organisations I have dealt with ‘managers’ or as I call them leaders receive less money than frontline staff, after all as one person stated at the beginning, managers do less, have more freedom and after my process less responsibility.

It’s also worth noting here that the Binmen and the Garage bosses were the product of the Council system. They have behaved and acted this way, I suppose, simply as that was what the system expected. They are the product of the way the organisation was socially constructed and structured. They were/are not naturally managers, they became managers because the organisation expected them to and indeed the staff wanted it. They saw only one way of organisation. I showed them that there is an alternative. This alternative, whilst similar to ‘co-operatives’ is not, as there are always elected ‘leaders’, and in my private companies profit is still a motive, albeit a tiny part.

I also have to add that as the ‘Expert’ in all this, I never got paid a penny. I did this to prove to everyone, Councilors, Unions, Academics, more than anyone that if you ask the staff, trust them and let them do it their way to please the public, it is more effective, less expensive (for the most part) and much more efficient. Organisations are about people; people are messy, subjective and individual. Leadership is about people, dealing with messy, understanding we don’t see it all ‘one-way’ and if we treat people with respect and difference we get a better place to live and work. Good leaders sell passion and trust others.

I would also note here that as an academic, I never once ‘taught’ the Binmen or Recycling Crews ‘Leadership or Management’ theory. As I think most of the problems of businesses and work today is the historical subjectification of managerialism and performativity that still ruins most organisations in the western world.

In short I moved the 250 staff beyond focusing on targets and measures of effectiveness, away from performance management and instead focus on values and boundaries that really matter for organisational sustainability, which is people focused, more so individually maintained. Values and boundaries that inspire innovativeness, creativity and support natural human-system. The starting point of all this is ‘managers’, ‘CEO’s’ and anyone who will block the removal of power from the top and disperse throughout the organisation.

The change is taking managers to this place called ‘leadership’ (but not in the conventional sense, but I still don’t know how to describe it’s fluid, emergent process). Leadership for me revolves around ‘individual values’, ideas, direction, and has more to do with inspiring and influencing people as to direction and values than with day-to-day implementation, which is best left to the experts – the frontline staff. The ‘democratic leaders’ in my thinking, are capable of influencing other people to do things without actually sitting on top of them with a checklist. But all this requires trust, openness, communication, risk and creativity, which are founded on the leaders being from within the social network of the organisation. Leaders in my companies are within and throughout the organisation and resultant democratic processes as inspiring confidence in others and ourselves and as a result, we become more relaxed, communicative and successful (whatever this means for the organization or department).

My dislike for ‘management’ is nothing personal bytheway. It is about how we think about what management and managers are, and about how we act and behave in our role as manager, it is not the person. Managers cause so much unhappiness in organisations through a focus on targets and measurement, control, organising others with an absence of critical thinking skills, and not people. This is in part due to the growing standardisation in MBA programs and the trend toward measurement, regulation and command in vain attempts to avoid uncertainty. There are exceptions, but these managers (leaders) are rare and usually eventually ‘conform’ to the world of mechanics, cogs, targets and measurement. This destroys the natural fabric of human creativity, innovativeness, trust, openness, ownership, inspiration and leadership. We are simply different, each one of us are individuals with our own ways of thinking and doing. I attempt to realise this in my work and the development of an organisational architecture that accepts direction is needed in the organisation without causing harm to the people within.

Then it’s about changing the mindset of the workforce. From one of subservience to ownership; from a blaming culture to one of responsibility; from the individual to the networked. For employees to take increased ownership and personal responsibility for moving the organisation forward, employees require support, respect, trust, open communication, and opportunities. They have to network and communicate far more than is currently realised. However with change, comes risk and uncertainty and the biggest challenge is the acceptance that uncertainty is a natural part of the process. For example, inspiring frontline staff to choose their staff uniforms, or arrange shift-patterns, or order equipment, gradually increasing responsibility. Naturally, self-organisation and self-leadership will start to unfold, as other questions will begin to be raised.

The successes are always different in each division, organization, department and these are always stated, as ‘successes’ by the frontline staff themselves, no manager states what s/he wants from the outset. I am not a ‘management consultant’. The job and finish for the binmen and now all the workers still remains. The idea of this is we buy talent and outcomes (note here not output) and not time. If we maintain the same ‘managerial ideals’ systems, thought processes, then yes the increasing burden on the ‘men would result in a decrease of the value in wages, but this doesn’t happen. Why? Well its quite simple in most organisations we throw out all of the systems, processes, rules, regulations (even Health & Safety) and rebuild them from the service/product back up the structure (or in my world down). The Binmen, get released from for example filling in 5 forms before they leave each morning to one simple checklist. You are correct in that senior managers were not replaced, one left and wasn’t replaced right at the beginning, but his salary was used to hire 4 full time letter wardens and the same with others, although I accept a little was used to pay the frontline staff more, but this was to equal out injustices in the pay scales. 

Whilst there are on the face of things similarities in Post-Fordism approach, these are incidental and if I’m honest only used by me to allow me in to the next department/organization as it simply ‘talks their language i.e. Manageralism. The quest of my approach is freedom, fun, trust, happiness and fulfillment of the workers. Allowing the passion of people to come to the fore, result in post-fordism symptoms (increasing productivity) but again, in some it doesn’t, it’s not the purpose. The purpose is simply to show, if we don’t treat people like children in work, telling them what to do, when, how and then watch them like 5 years we get similar results (perhaps) but a dam better place to work.

I agree with your worry and concern that I may indeed be providing a ‘shot in the arm of capitalism’ and or doing the work of "lazy" Senior Managers, and that thought was never my intension and indeed frightens me with same level. All I would say that as an academic in a business school for the last 15 years, the only way to change the managerial discourse is to change organisations from within, then hopefully the theory will follow, and we have an upwards spiral of change, towards the working class interests.

I hope this helps, and thank you for taking time to respond. I appreciate the thoughtful debate. 

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Have YOUR Say.....

So the Government has been given 100,000 ideas of ways to cut public spending.

And it says about two-thirds of them have come from public sector workers themselves. The BBC is reporting that Prime Minister David Cameron apparently favours those ideas which chime with his Big Society philosophy.

And they also report that public sector unions have described the Government’s Spending Challenge as an “outrage”, seeing it as getting workers to contribute to their own sacking.

I really cannot see what all the fuss is about. Surely every single one of us who works for a company (i.e. not for ourselves) moans on a fairly regular basis about what could be done better. Haven’t we all been caught declaring how much better the place would be if we/you/anyone else but the bosses were running it? All this without cutting jobs! We did it in Blaenau Gwent, in a small service, so I'm sure there are better ideas out there for doing the same, cutting costs, removing waste and saving vital jobs in the process. 

So now’s our chance. If we’ve implementing a money-saving scheme, spread the word and see if others can follow suit. If we think we could save a bit of cash, if only the powers-that-be took off their blinkers and allowed us to do it, let’s speak up about it.
As for voting ourselves out of a job, the way I see it we’d all be much more secure if we starting implementing some efficiencies. 

How can anyone really argue for the status quo? Of course the big question which remains to be answered is how many of these 100,000 ideas will we see in practice? How much of this will be taken on board? How will we know what ideas are taken are really from the democratic will of the 'can be bothered' bunch? 

But in the name of democracy, let’s not knock them for asking.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Customer Service...big or small

Dead squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), Tuscany, ItalyImage via Wikipedia

The Squirrel - Guest Blog

The customer is always…..dispensable.

The customer is always right. That’s the message I grew up with, coming from a retail family. It’s one I thought, in these straitened times, companies would be embracing with a new-found vigour, all competing for a share of a significantly smaller cake.

Well, it doesn’t seem to be happening. Not if my experience this week is anything to go by, anyway.

Having decided to treat myself to a (very self-indulgent) holiday learning to dance, I thought maybe my trainers weren’t really going to cut it in the clubs of Havana and set out to buy some proper, glamorous Latin ballroom shoes.

First stop was the internet, just to gauge the range available and the prices. Then I headed to my local dance shop, where they didn’t have my size in stock but were very helpful and said they’d order them. I wanted to support this local, independent store, so I duly placed my order, about six weeks ago or so. They promised to call me when they arrived.

After a month I thought I’d better check on the progress. No, they weren’t in yet, but maybe in a few days, I was told. A week later and still no call. I rang back. No, still out of stock with the supplier – we’ll call you next week. Still no call.
Last week I was starting to lose patience and went online and found another small, independent shop which sold online. I emailed them to check availability, telling them exactly which shoes I wanted, and that I needed them urgently. A week later, I’m still waiting for a response.
So on Tuesday, having again not received the promised call from shop number one, I called again. They might be able to get them next week, if they were in stock with the supplier, I was told. But the good news was they could get tap shoes from another supplier. Great! – except I don’t want tap shoes. Fat lot of good they’d be for salsa.

I cancelled my order and headed to Amazon. I placed my order at 5.30pm on Tuesday. My shoes arrived this morning – 36 hours later.
So, is the customer always right? And should we always assume that small – and local – is good, and big, corporate and global is bad? Whose business model is the most sustainable?
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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ban the Boss - BBC1

Just when managers thought it was safe to come back out......

Monday 2nd August 10.30pm BBC1
Tuesday 3rd August 1030pm BBC1

Ban the Boss at Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. The Binmen, Recycling Crews and Mechanics taking over the lead! 


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Which One Are YOU!

In most organisations, permission is required for employees to do things, particularly if this is outside of their daily routine.  In most organisations there are limited options for employees to function and there are inflexible structures. Once you are for example in ‘Marketing’ you cannot escape, unless you move organisation! Policies, rules, and guidelines tend to 'control' staff. Indeed my Dean who is pushing this thing called ‘Social Innovation’, recently stated in an email that she was appointed as Dean knowing the School was a bureaucracy and therefore she had to ensure the procedures, policy and rules were followed. How then can we have ‘Social Innovation’ as a core theme in the Business School if this is not practiced by the ‘leader’ or at least challenge the bureaucracy above?  

You see, in my organisations, people are treated and seen as individual who are, fluid and dynamic and who’s interest change over time. In my organisations, no permission is needed to do things, only responsibility to ensure the customers are satisfied within the core values/boundaries. The structures we are in, are changeable, emergent and fluid, with individuals who have unlimited options to do what ever it takes. The focus on boundaries the values become the guidance. Life becomes the main understanding of organisations, not the machine doctrine, which mirror clocks not nature.

We need to establish the simple yet difficult principle that we are buying talent not time. Everyone in the organisation needs to be a personnel manager, operational manager, finance manager, strategist, marketing manager…..and anything else needed at the point of contact with service users/needs of customers.  This new 'manager-throughout' means everyone needs to talk, but above all, listen to ALL employees, staff, competitors, non-users etc. on a minute by minute, hour by hour basis. How else do we maintain a Competitive advantage in this fast changing 21st century, if not via change through the people who actually deliver the service/product.

However, this is not easy as anyone leading people will know. Many issues impact on the organization but the biggest is the one of trust. Without trust nothing else works in the organization. With trust we have creativity, risk taking throughout and within our values as boundaries and we have customer as well as intelligent satisfaction. With trust we create simple but effective flexible performance. By this, I mean the product or service is delivered to the customer’s independent individual satisfaction. The employees with trust count the decision makers not just the implementers for the system. Great companies understand this, live this through their actions and it pays dividends. Great companies don't strive for efficiency they strive to be effective (efficiency follows).

For lots of employees, work means a daily torture, within a boring, arduous, energy-sapping , eight hours of wasted life. Yet in my organisation work becomes interesting,  fun, energising, creative, exciting, with life merging without any hours attached. If work is completed in six hours or a ten hours, no one cares, staff or leaders, as long as the customers are satisfied.

Impossible!!! You only have to ask the Recycling Teams at Blaenau Gwent Council, Environmental Services how its done. Why? Well as an example, some of the frontline crews, after a shift collecting waste are going out in the evening (when most people are home!) to ask if the homes they collect from, could recycle more to save the planet.

This is true ownership and empowerment in action….in a council…without job losses…making a saving in financial terms and still increasing a service to the public….. WELL DONE BGCBC!