Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Twist & shaking off the past

SPOILER ALERT: I went to see Before I Go To Sleep last night.

Having just about recovered from a trailer to a horror movie that I am definitely not going to see, I settled down to the film billed as "an intriguing amnesia thriller with an extraordinary twist!" This meant I spent almost the whole time trying to guess what the twist was going to be. (Please note Cineworld: declaring there to be a twist is akin to a spoiler - which is why I have put this at the top of this blog)

As for the movie, it just was not taut enough for me. I am not sure how many 'amnesia thrillers' there have been (is this a genre that I need to study more?) but I don't think this is one of the best. It just felt a bit too heavily ladled with clue hints to the audience. Technically the movie is proficient, the acting solid (as you would expect from the cast) but something was missing. But maybe all the narrative twists have been deployed before?


Leadership is about change and developing organisations to do things differently in a changing world. Learning new skills, exploring new outlooks on the world and adjusting personal, as well as organisational, strategies is mix of acquiring something new and forgetting something old.

In other words, learning something new is also almost invariably about unlearning something old. So as a leader, it is your job not only to usher in the new, but also assist yourself and others unlearn the old. This means, at the very least, highlighting this fact and allowing people time to decouple themselves from the old ways. A bit of managed amnesia, if you like.

When was the last time you helped someone forget an old skill or outlook? What did you learn about how best to do this?

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This is the forty ninth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Baseball movies usually do nothing for me...

Being a Brit, I have always failed to grasp the quasi religious obsession that America has with baseball and therefore baseball based movies. But Million Dollar Arm is different. Not many films make me punch the air with elation, but this one did! This is a peach of film that will leave you glowing like the Taj Mahal at sunset. Go see it. You will be uplifted.

The acting is superb: understated but completely authentic. The story, as all true stories are, is a classic mix of ups & downs, "will he/she/they, won't they/she/he" moments and a sumptuous & satisfying conclusion. The photography is evocative & ironic. It all comes together so well. Indeed, I was driven to buy an Indian take-away on the way home: that is how sensory the film is.


There is only one character who doesn't go on a journey in this film, but I will leave you guess who I think this is. Some long distances are traveled geographically but these are short compared to the spiritual treks the remaining characters have. But this isn't a film about enlightenment. This is a film about self belief and confidence.

I was asked to design a series of modules for a leadership programme the other day which I happily listed to include strategy development & application, coaching, process redesign, change management... yada yada. But actually what I would like to do, is just show them this movie... Because in the end, how fast and accurately you throw the (leadership) ball is far less about technique and far more about self belief.

What do you believe you can become?

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This is the forty eighth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cops breaking the rules

Let's be cops if fantasy romp with about as much narrative integrity and close directorial editing as a blancmange, albeit a very funny (in the main) blancmange. Whereas the Keeper of Lost Causes is anything but funny but is probably a far truer reflection of grimy, frustrating, laborious policing. Both films are worth seeing, but not in the same sitting. I saw them both separated by a day. A week in between would have been better.

Many of the biggest laughs with the funny cops movie appeared in the trailer and, as it turned out, this buddy movie had its strong poignant and thriller moments. The unfunny cops movie, in Danish with subtitles, continued the now established genre of dark Scandinavian crime thriller with excellent acting from the three main characters. Although in the end, it felt like more of a TV drama than a feature film.




Oddly, although the two films are very different, what links them is a commitment to doing the right thing even when they have been told not to so. I won't expand on that, as I do not want to give too much away about either plot.

And this is also the case for exceptional leaders: they will do what they know to be right even when people around them are telling them to stop or do something different. Indeed what probably marks superlative leaders out is their courage to break the rules.

When did you last break a rule or defy an instruction?

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This is the forty sixth (and seventh) of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

100% simplicity

After Under the Skin, I was a little nervous that Lucy would underwhelm me as much. Thankfully I can report that, safe in the hands of Luc Besson, it is film to enthrall, shock and shake you. You may think you have the gist of the story from the trailer, but you don't.

At times, this film felt like a lecture with a melange of what appears to be stock footage to emphasise certain points. But at other times it is a roller coaster ride through the streets of Paris and synapses of Scarlett Johansson. A strong narrative, determined and grimy performances from all the cast and seamless editing all make for a movie you will not forget.


This is no SPOILER (unless you have not seen the trailer..): the premise of the film rests on the idea that we are only using 10% to 15% of our brain power and upping that percentage leads to exponential increases in our capacity to manipulate our environment. (What this does to your ethical standards, I will leave you to judge!)

Many leaders spend a good deal of time on increasing their capacity to absorb information, practice techniques and approaches acquired in business schools and generally seek to be better, sharper and more skilled than those around them. However the best leaders also seem to be able to inspire fresh efforts with simplicity and common sense.

So when you are 'sharpening your saw', how are you also keeping things simple as they can be (but no simpler...)? 

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This is the forty fifth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What if there is no question mark (...?)

I spent the first few moments of What If wondering why there was no question mark at the end of the title. Was this just another (Canadian) way of saying whatever? Was the other half of the title missing, so why not miss out the question mark too? Anyway, then I got wrapped up in the movie and began wondering how it would all end. How would this movie take fresh look at an old topic: can a (straight) man and woman just be friends or... Harry met Sally yada yada (?)

Well the good news is that this film will keep you guessing up until its closing minutes. I dare you to predict how it all ends. This is a fine script, delivered authentically by the main characters. It is well cast, photographed and scored. It has cute and awkward moments in good measure. The film will leave you wistful, philosophic, hopeful and twinkling about fidelity and love. Go see it. Another film to make you smile.


The plot of the film centres on truth and honesty: are we being honest with a person if we don't tell them the whole truth? There are always plenty of rational reasons why a leader may not always tell the whole story and feel obliged to keep something back. And this conflicts with a broader principle of being a truthful & straightforward leader. Or is this what makes a leader a leader: the ability to balance honesty with discretion?

Someone once said (was it Groucho?) that if you can fake authenticity then you have got it made. And we have all observed leaders who appear to be able to do this and yet we still want to follow them: as if we are prepared to collude in the deception that we are not being told all that we need to be told... Perhaps this is because we know (or think we know) that being 100% open, honest, truthful is just not tenable in many situations. And then do we go a step further and stop being wholly honest with ourselves? When does less than 100% honesty turn from being discrete, politic & careful into mendacious, manipulative and corrosive?

What if we don't know when we are crossing that boundary?

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This is the forty fourth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Australia is just a small island

I gave up resistance yesterday and went to see The Inbetweeners 2. I can report that it is funny: very funny. Although if you are not into scatological humour, you might find some of the scenes a bit close to the edge of 'OMG!'for you. I have been following this teenage (?) foursome since the TV series began in 2008 and enjoyed the first movie as well. It is possible that you can only truly appreciate this oeuvre of humour if you were a teenage boy once, but the cinema was full of both men and women yesterday afternoon.

As you will probably know by now, the plot centres on a trip to Australia by the four likely lads (ranging in real ages from 27 to 31) in search of >insert appropriate inappropriate slang word<. It isn't all ribald, raunchy & rough comedy (well not quite): it does contain some well aimed satire on the whole 'travelling the world' culture. You will leave with a smile on your face and (if you are like me) a few memorable lines (watch out for the guitar quote by the fire) to cite.


The yurt scene highlighted for me the challenge of inquiring, listening and truly accepting all that might be said when a leader asks for views on a particular topic. The humour in the scene centres on whether some statements are deemed acceptable whilst others are not, even though the leader has said that all contributions are OK...

Leaders cannot operate in isolation. They must inquire, listen and absorb the views contributed by those around them. They may disagree with what is said or written. But if there is any schism between inviting complete honesty and not being prepared to hear the honest opinions of others, this will close down the dialogue. People will just contribute what they think the leaders wants to hear.

How are your schisms?

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This is the forty third of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Galactic diversity

Despite having seen the trailer a number of times and not being a comic book reader, I didn't really know what to expect from Guardians of the Galaxy. So it was with unalloyed joy, that I sat back in my seat, and reveled in this romp through the universe. This is a 'fat' movie that has several subcutaneous layers full of humour, pathos, tenderness, irony and seamless sfx. And the story is damn fine too and sets up well for a sequel, which I believe is on the way.

It is difficult to talk about the acting especially when several of the characters are submerged in CGI makeup and one says the same the line over and over again (well, nearly, and with different intonation). But the acting is convincing: indeed the first ten minutes plummeted me into an emotional relationship with the main character at a speed that is rare. If scifi is even a small part of your soul, go see this movie!


There have been a few times in my career when I have been part of a dream team: where everyone just seemed to bend and wrap themselves around the other team members creating a fusion of collaborative high performance. I and they just seemed to know how the others would think and act, and could adjust our actions to complement everyone else's.

I have long wondered whether this was just good luck or whether the quality of the leadership made the difference? The team that saves the galaxy in this movie are thrown together by chance. But it is the leadership which manages to change the group into a team. On display in the film is a combination of straight talking, the setting of inspirational goals, determination, compassion and humour. That recipe works in the movie, but I think different recipes are needed with different teams. The art of leadership is determining just what is needed.

When did you last turn a group into a team? How did you accomplish this? What did you learn?

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This is the forty second of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Disturbing dystopia

I know many people just don't get science fiction: how can something so unreal have anything worthwhile to say? On the other hand, I would say that SciFi allows for hypotheses to be tested and (more critically) current trends to be extrapolated. In this sense, SciFi movies are history in reverse. Just as people who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, people who 'forget' the future are condemned to enter it...

The Purge: Anarchy is probably one of the most discomforting films I have seen in a long while. If you look past the bloody violence, you will see a violence of an even greater kind (I will let you find out what). The message that this is where America is heading unless it sorts out its gun worship / crime is imparted with as much subtlety as a machete. Nonetheless, the story (within the hopefully implausible future) is plausible (just) and the acting workaday convincing. Mix Rollerball, 1900 and Grand Theft Auto and you are about there. Go with gritted teeth and something to grip...


Timing is everything in leadership. It is about knowing when to act, when to pause, when to run (as in away from people brandishing machetes!) The film is full of such moments when the leader/hero stops, collects his breath, thinks and coolly decides what to do next. As the audience, we are doing the same: what would we do now?

Pausing is one of the most powerful leadership traits. I know we are sometimes lured into admiring and therefore seeking to emulate the 'snap decision makers', the leaders who can 'make things up as they go along' and 'think on their feet'. But good leaders only do this when the situation demands: pausing not only allows more time to consider options, it also means that others are more engaged as well.

When did you last pause publicly?

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This is the forty first of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fairer outsourcing to SMEs

There is an article in this morning's Independent heralding the arrival of Piers Linney (BBC Dragon) to the Cabinet Office's SME Panel. You can read the article here. As the Indie's comment system seems a bit restrictive, here is the full comment that I wanted to post!
For readers' information: the Cabinet Office SME panel has been meeting for over 3 years and welcomed Piers to his first meeting last week. The Panel has been working with the Cabinet Office on a suite of interventions designed to ensure a level playing field for government procurement. 
If you search on > sme panel cabinet < a number of useful links will pop up. 
Panel members represent the breadth of suppliers to government and have given their time freely in support of the bold objective to introduce the hyper value for money, innovation and boost to British enterprise that only SME's can bring.
Jon Harvey (SME Panel Member since 2011)
There is also a stream of articles on this blog about the work of the panel, if you wish to know more. Here is the link to all those articles (and related ones connected to procurement).

UPDATE 290714 | 0758: The Cabinet Office has published its own follow up article, listing (for the first time) the members of the Panel that has been meeting over the last three years. Including yours truly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Duh movie

I feared when I saw he trailer for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie some weeks ago that all the best (and possibly only corker) gags would feature. Sadly I was right. I enjoy the TV show hugely and I really wanted the film to be good. But it is not, sadly. Basically, the film is neither fish nor fowl.

Whenever, I see poor movie, I try to think how it could have been better. So here goes: the story needed more credibility (it did not hang together). If you are going to make a point of saying 'but this is a movie', do it more! Make that a comedic theme. And if you are going to use the knowingly playing to camera trick (a la Frankie Howerd), then do it more (it's a movie not a half hour TV show!) A disappointing film and I hope there is no sequel made except on the small screen (where it works really well)


The film is peppered with the talents of the usual cast of characters who reveal themselves to have depths & pasts that have hitherto been hidden. At various times these talents are all deployed to bring the story to a successful conclusion (just!) This got me to pondering on how good leaders can bring out the hidden talents of people.

Much of this comes from the belief that everyone has at least one hidden talent if not several. The leadership art is in creating the conditions within which people will be prepared to show what they can do and that these talents can be subsequently harnessed in pursuit of organisational goals.

Do you believe that everyone has at least one hidden talent? How good are you at creating the conditions whereby these talents are revealed and then used?

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This is the fortieth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Planet of Trust

The story of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes pivots on trust: can two tribes (humans and apes) learn to trust each other enough to prevent war... or not. Anyone who knows the whole story (and I can still remember the moment when Charlton Heston rides along the beach - which I saw more than 45 years ago), will know which way the story goes. Nonetheless, the narrative is gripping and leaves you pondering on the real conflicts of the world.

Of course, you can simply be amazed by the quality of the special effects and the digital make-up worn by the apes: it is breathtaking. Andy Serkis probably won't but would deserve an Oscar for his portrayal of Caesar. And this is a spectacular film with excellent cinematography. It won't be everyone's cup of tea. But it is a very worthy film.


Some leaders appear to think that trust is like a tap that can be turned on or off. Whereas in truth, I think, trust is something as fragile as butterfly's wing, is earned by (not to be expected as a result of) assiduous and ethically consistent behaviour, and exists in the minds of those who trust.

It has been my experience that most people want to trust their leaders and look for opportunities to do so. Which means, I think, that most people are reasonably forgiving when a leader takes a decision that appears at odds with wider plans. But there are decisions from which there is no going back and trust if not destroyed forever, is lost for a very long time. The art of being a good leader is knowing when you are at risk of crossing the line and making one of those latter decisions. It is then a question of finding another path (or not of course).

What have you done recently that might have come close to that line? 

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This is the thirty ninth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Voluptuous panic

Some films transport you to different worlds and places - essentially taking you out of yourself. Some films get under your skin and bury deep into your heart - taking you into yourself. Boyhood is a film of the latter kind. Watching a boy grow up (and his family change around him) compels you to mull on your own childhood. And if you are are Dad like me, on your own fatherhood too. Indeed the word that sums this film up is: compelling.

Some of the acting felt a little bit stiff and if you are hoping for some great storyline, there isn't one. Instead we observe the kinds of events that shape all of our lives: the humdrum, the awkward, the occasionally dramatic and achingly poignant. All are momentous and yet all are ordinary. Just go with the flow and go see this movie: it will stay with you for a very long time. (And watch out for the line that talks of voluptuous panic!)


Leaders never stop growing up. If you think you have leadership sorted, it will be because you don't have it sorted. Leadership is about learning: nothing more, nothing less. I am told that sharks die if they stop moving. It is the same for leaders: stop growing, stop learning, stop reflecting and you may just as well stop.

Recently I was fortunate enough to receive some impromptu coaching from someone I trust and have great confidence in. Over some damn fine coffee, she asked me some damn fine questions. And I changed: made a critical decision and reframed what I am spending my time doing. It felt like a load had been lifted from my shoulders (and still does). At any moment (and good coaching helps), this can happen to any of us. We keep on moving, changing, growing and developing.

Perhaps there is a sequel to this film that may have already begun: called 'Adulthood'??

What moments from your childhood would you put on film? (Why?)

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This is the thirty eighth of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Again & again!

Begin Again is one of those very rare movies that having seen, you will want to see again. I did. I would have quite happily walked straight back into the cinema and watched it once more. This is a delightful, charming, transcendental film with a sound track to die for. It is like watching a woodland brook bubble and glide over shimmering stones. There is a main narrative but surrounded by small eddies & whirlpools of sub plots which could have spun off into stories of themselves.

The acting is authentic and passionate: as naturalistic as many of the best films of France. I have no idea what Kiera Knightley & Mark Ruffalo are like in real life, but they just seem to inhabit their roles. Indeed, all the acting is magnetic & bright eyed: the performances draw you in. This is a powerful film that you simply must go and see.


This is story about doing what is right for you: not being persuaded to sell out, compromise or just fit in. In this respect, it is awkward movie that should (if you let it) make you wonder if you have, perhaps, lost some connection with the dreams you began with.

The hardest part of being a leader is truly knowing what is your 'thing', your 'bag', your 'cri de coeur', your passion / focus / aim / ambition... (whatever you want to call it). What will you not give up? What are you at risk of giving up? What have you given up so far but could find again? What have you lost forever?

If you want to lead people: you have to know the answers to these questions.

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This is the thirty seventh of my 2014 series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What makes a Mâch~iâ~velliân whistle blowing leader?

Machiavelli, not one to mince words, wrote:
A prince must therefore always seek advice… he must always be a constant questioner, and he must listen patiently to the truth regarding what he has inquired about, moreover if he finds that anyone for some reason holds the truth back he must show his wrath. (from 'The Prince' Penguin Classics publication translated by George Bull, 1981)
If he hadn't have been the world's first public sector management consultant, Machiavelli would have been a whistleblower. Truth was very important to him. Wise & grounded leaders still regard truth as an essential ingredient in running any organisation successfully. Only unwise leaders want to surround themselves with people who offer only sanitised versions of the truth.

And so it is that remarkable leaders take action to encourage whistleblowing. This of course is not what happened to James Patrick, whose story is now well known. But if you have not seen it, I commend this short video interview of him by the Cliff Caswell, editor of Police Oracle. But other leaders can and should do different. But what needs to be put in place?

There is some useful guidance here: Whistleblowing arrangements: Code of practice (PAS 1998:2008) which includes a useful checklist. The Public Concern At Work website is a rich source of information and case studies as well.

But all this got me to thinking, what would I expect of a leader who not only claims to be supportive of whistleblowing (as many do) but who is, in fact, supportive of it. In my opinion, such a leader would:
  • Evidence an ability to listen and act upon information provided via whistleblowing
  • Understand and be able to explain in straightforward terms, the difference between grievances and whistleblowing - and when they need to be invoked
  • Be able to give examples of where whistleblowing has made a positive difference to the services being provided to the public
  • Be able to counter convincingly (the oft repeated accusations) that those who whistleblow usually end up outside the organisation or being passed over for promotion (etc.)
  • Put in place sufficient resources (such as a helpline and more) to allow confidential whistleblowing to occur
  • Be clear that whistleblowing rights are extended to all, including contractors
  • Sponsor and help shape an effective communications strategy that reaches into every nook and crevice of the organisation, so that everyone knows about how they can whistleblow
  • See how whistleblowing connects with organisational improvement, reputation management, social media & comms policies and leadership development
  • Challenge other leaders who may have bought the T-shirt but are not quite wearing it yet!
  • Review progress and test whether whistleblowing is happening as it should
  • Be whistleblowers themselves (should the need arise) and have the capability and commitment to speak truth unto power
  • Show even more ability just to listen... (and learn and act...)
There is probably more (what would you add?).

But how do you measure up?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dancing on sunshine

I spent the first half an hour watching Walking on Sunshine wondering how I would improve the film. Some films just work from the off, while others... um... don't. Some musical movies segue from one song to another effortlessly and convincingly. This film doesn't. Instead 80's hits are shoehorned in to what is essentially a cup cake of movie.

The acting is uninspiring, the sets just a bit too twee (I wonder if the Pula tourism authority paid for a lot of this film!?) and the narrative is about as substantial as candyfloss. What can I say? Go see this movie if you are still living the dream of 80's and addicted to all romcom films. If not, there are better films around.


At one point in the movie, one of the characters says that perhaps she is in love with love. This got me thinking about whether some leaders are in love with leadership rather than the results they are achieving. I finally got around to watching Into the Wild the other day (my son has been saying I should see this for a while) and a) it is a 1000 times better than Walking on Sunshine and b) it too carries a similar message: happiness is only real when it is shared.

Leadership is not a thing in itself. It is a always a means to an end. And than end is a result worth having: a change to the world that is valuable to more people that just the leader her/himself.

For whom do you practice your leadership?

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This is the thirty sixth of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If not engagement then what?

Yesterday was also good day: I spent more time at the Policing Social Citizens conference (see previous post below) in Manchester in the company of an awesome mix of great people. We were told that just before John Grieve left, he had told one of the organisers that there was more intelligence and insight in the room than at a typical ACPO conference! A most charming man and his presentation was certainly one of the highlights of yesterday.

Challenged by Royston Martis (via twitter) to come up with a better word than 'engagement', I convened a workshop entitled "If we are not going to use the word engagement, what should we use and do?" This is a report of that workshop, ably helped by Sue Ritchie who kept flipchart notes. As you might expect, the conversation ranged quite widely!

I will begin with one police officer's story who said he was once walking down the road on his patch and one his (dare we call him) 'customers' came up to him and said, with a wry grin "Are you engaging with me or reassuring me today?" Now we all know how the great unwashed British public have this irritating habit of raising an eyebrow (and sometimes more) to our carefully contrived words / concepts of the moment. And this doesn't necessarily negate the value of some words. However in this particular instance, I think we may have to listen and reframe...

So what else was raised in the meeting. Here is in a fairly random order are some reflections on the discussion and points raised (with thanks to all who came along):
  • Is it essentially about a model where the police service is the vehicle, the public are in the driving seat and the gears that connect the driver to the engine and wheels is where the 'engagement' happens. In other words, are we really talking about is the public not only participating in but leading on the shape and direction of the public services?
  • So the public are anything but passive customers / consumers of public services, they are and should be the drivers.
  • But if we talking about 'community engagement', which community are we talking about. Or more correctly: which communities... 
  • And moreover, do all these communities want to 'engage'..? Is the role of the public services to pester the public for their judgments & opinions?
  • Perhaps a greater focus on the future and the outcomes that the public want would be a better place to start. 
  • Can an organisation which is poor at 'engaging' its own staff and listening to them ever really properly engage with the public?
  • Is engagement really just about listening and having good conversations... and then using the ideas / information / hopes / ambitions gleaned in shaping the direction of policing really all that it is about?
  • How come we even have to talk about engagement? Just how did we get to a point where the police service (like other services) is not delivering policing in ways that the public need and want?
  • Is what is being done at the moment working? If not (as we suspect so), what creative alternatives do we need use instead?
  • Why do I feel more connected to my postman than to almost any other public (?) service? Perhaps because I feel he knows me... 
  • What are the barriers that get in the way to shaping and delivering public services that match what all communities need?
There was more of course. I have also uploaded a pdf file of the flipcharts produced by Sue. You can access them here. And if anyone wants to add their recollections and reflections, please do so below. Thanks.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting social media...

Today was a good day: I have spent the time at the Policing Social Citizens conference in Manchester in the company of some old social media pals and some new ones. If you touch base with the hashtag: #psc14 you will get a feel for who is here and what we have been talking about. As always with events like this - a rich mix of fascinating people having even richer conversations!

As heralded, I ran one of the sessions today on: "How do you get people (involved in policing etc), who don't get social media, to get it?" (And I added on the day... "who need to get it")

We had a wide ranging discussion with me acting as 'Faciliateur provocateur'... as it were. Here are some notes and reflections from the workshop:
  • The use (or not) of social media has to be about personal choice (although I later countered: would you employ someone who refused to use a telephone?)
  • But I think we agreed, as the social demographics show, this is about a generational shift which will probably come along in time.
  • The key challenge question proposed was "what do you need to know about social media in order to be effective?" A question worth pondering on.
  • This led onto a discussion of how the police interacted with the public during 7/7 (apparently while the police were still issuing press statements about a 'power surge' someone had already uploaded a wikipedia page on the 'London bombings' with 30 minutes...) the 2011 riots and the Clutha helicopter crash. In simple terms, the importance of social media in such crises is becoming ever greater.
  • We concluded that whilst some managers may well choose not to engage actively in social media, it is probably critical that they at least acknowledge their role in creating the milieu in which social media is deployed effectively.
  • The conversation then diverted into a wider analysis of how managing the use of social media is just another example of how managers need to lead the future. This branched into the value of scenario planning and organisations becoming more 'intelligent' as defined in Piagetian terms as 'knowing what to do when you don't know what to do'.
  • In other words, as was pointed out, strategic leaders have a 'duty to understand' all manner of things and social media is emphatically on that list. (Comparisons were made between police forces who were very active on social media during the August 2011 riots and those which struggled. Unproven perhaps but there is some anecdotal data to suggest that social media helped 'keep the lid on' in many places while its lack of deliberate use in other places, didn't.)
  • Emma Daniel presented a model which argued that there are five main types of users on social media: creators, campaigners, connectors, curators and lurkers. Each group has a positive role to play online (which often connects to their work in the real world too) Each group has a part in triangulating the social media world and making it a navigable and accessible space.
  • And (in what as I say was a wide ranging conversation) we touched the role of social media as a social weather: a way of sensing how the world is & predicting how it might change (social media meteorology, as it were). Research in this area is just beginning but perhaps we can look forward to a time when news bulletins will end not only the FTSE index rises and falls but maybe also an indicator of community well being... (drawn from social media)?
A useful and stimulating debate. I look forward to more tomorrow... Please watch this space!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New bright stars

The young actors in The Fault in Our Stars lead this luminous & brilliant movie: authentically, passionately and carefully. This is a film that could so easily have descended into cloying schmultz. But instead it ascends to the stars: offering a simple, tragic but ultimately hopeful love story (and Love Story it definitely isn't!)

If I had to criticise this film, I would say that the acting by the older actors is bit lack lustre but perhaps that was deliberate by the director: allowing the stage to be wholesomely filled by the two main characters? The sound track is engineered to perfection (indeed I have just bought it). I loved how this film connects the themes of life, death and infinity. Go see it!


There are many leadership themes in this film. The one I will pick to focus upon is the importance and value of secrecy. In this current transparent age where we expect to have all parts of our lives eviscerated on social media, the idea of positive secrecy might seem anachronistic. Certainly the suggestion that leaders should keep secrets is one that I suspect many would recoil from. Surely a good leader needs to be honest and up front with everyone around her/him?

Well yes... and no. Of course good leaders should not lie but perhaps sometimes the whole truth is best left for a while? In the film, various characters keep secrets for very positive reasons, although they are eventually revealed. It is a very hard judgement to make: what secrets to keep and when to tell the whole truth? This, of course, is the stuff of leadership ethics. Sometimes leaders need to keep secrets (and I do not mean confidences in this discussion), sometimes for a very long time.

What secrets are you holding? How sure are you that the ethical cost/benefits sum of keeping each one outweigh the sum of uncovering?

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This is the thirty fifth of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Preventing domestic homicide: results of my research

These are the results of my inquiries into domestic homicide.

You can read how this piece of research began here and later here. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to carry out such research is decidedly clunky and so please consider this when reviewing the data below. Moreover, in hindsight, my third question could have been better phrased. After responses from some of the FoIA officers, it morphed into whether the perpetrators had been discussed on the MARAC system and/or had a noted DASH assessment. Also, I probably could have been clearer about whether the data was to include perpetrators who had been arrested but were not yet convicted within the time period specified.

Even with these caveats, I believe the data points towards some stark conclusions (see below)
  • I wrote to 45 police services, including Police Scotland, PSNI and the City of London Police. All replied to me but 3 are yet to send me any definitive response saying that they are still working on this.
  • Of the remaining 42, all but 2 answered Q1. (Those two forces claimed exemption, on the basis of cost, from replying to any of the questions. One of these two forces was the Metropolitan Police Service)
  • Of the remaining 40, 36 were able to give answers to Q2. The other 3 claimed FoIA exemption. 
  • Of these 36, 25 were able to give answers to Q3. The other 11 forces explained they could not access such information easily without a great deal more effort, simply claimed FoIA exemption for this question or gave another reason.
  • In the last five years (noting the forces that did not respond), the total number of domestic homicides dealt with by UK police forces over the last five years is 395
  • 161 of the people committing these crimes had some sort of criminal record. Or to put it another way, 234 of the people convicted of these murders did not have a previous criminal record. (That is well over half.)
  • Whilst noting the exemptions invoked by many of the police forces replying, in only 17 of 395 cases were the perpetrators on any kind of watch list (MARAC discussion / DASH assessment). 
There are some details to the responses which I do not intend to blog about here but I am happy to answer any questions sent to me. I have not named any of the responders / non responders as I do not think that is relevant. (My one exception is naming the Met as one of the forces who were not able to provide me with any data. Since the Met is the biggest police service, I felt I had to note the absence of its figures.)

So what conclusions to draw?
  • It would appear that many of the perpetrators of domestic homicide are simply not on the police ‘radar’ at all since a minority have prior convictions. An extremely small number are on any kind of watch list. 
  • This suggests to me that targeted police enforcement action to prevent domestic homicide happening can only very limited. 
  • I am also left wondering (and this would definitely need more research) whether the people who commit murder in domestic circumstances are in a different criminological category to those who come to the attention of the police by dint of loud domestic arguments or other forms of violence (short of murder). 
  • This research also raises questions about the quality of the police & partner DV prevention systems: just how effective are those systems at spotting possible victims/perpetrators? I know there are issues of confidentiality and the need to keep secret certain police methods for tackling crime, but I was surprised how many police forces felt unable to give me any data in response to Q3. Is that data not readily available?
  • And finally, this comes back to just how can domestic homicides be prevented if police action is limited because many perpetrators appear to escalate to murder from an ‘unknown’ status beforehand. It seems to me that educating young people (especially young women but not only) in the early warning signs is critical. I am left wondering how many of these domestic homicides could have been prevented if the victims has spotted such early warning signs and spoke to the police or other agencies earlier…?
As you will have gathered, I am no expert on the causes of domestic violence & homicide and the actions needed to prevent such violence & murder. I am merely a very concerned observer. Also this research is necessarily limited.

Nonetheless, I sincerely hope that out there are people with the clout, nous and wit to use this small piece of research in helping to shape action that results in far fewer women and men suffering at the hands of existing or ex partners.

What conclusions, reflections, thoughts does this research leave you with?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The heart of a chief, the soul of a dragon

Dragons combine fire, fearlessness and flight: what could be more magical? Ever since I saw How to Train your Dragon, I have been waiting for sequel. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is great sequel! The story twists and turns like Toothless in flight. (Although I am disappointed that one of the films big reveals was added to the trailer, this did not detract greatly from my enjoyment of the film.)

I won't spoil the story at all except to say: this is film about heroism, reconciliation, peace and friendship... really about how anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Of course, it is a fantasy. But it is fantasy with a great heart and lots of fun. The movie will delight you, (if you let it).


The young hero of the story dares to different: Hiccup is not the archetypal viking leader. Much of the narrative tension comes from his 'otherness' and the acceptance or scorn with which others greet this. Hiccup remains content with his own style and feels no need to somehow try to be like his father (who is the archetypal viking leader). But of course, Hiccup admires and loves his father none the less. 

This acceptance of who you are and who others are lies at the centre of solid leadership. Leadership is not about changing who you are: it about bringing out who you are. Developing others is not about changing them but assisting them to bring out themselves. 

Heart and soul: who are you?

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This is the thirty fourth of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.