It was a thoroughly lovely evening with close friends, colleagues and connected people in Buckingham.
Here is the speech I gave:
Good evening and thank you all for coming along.
I would especially like to thank Sir Anthony for agreeing to host this evening and to Alison in the University Bookshop for all your help in making tonight happen. And thank you to Nigel Adams for making the connections join up too. Thank you all.
Cracking Questions is the first book I have ever written and it will probably be my last unless I can focus on writing a novel that is bubbling inside me. But the world is full of management books. Why on earth would I wish to add another?
Perhaps because I think there is a small gap in the world business library for Cracking Questions…
To use a military expression: we live in a VUCA world. Our world is more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous than it has ever been. By a significant factor. And this means all organisations - from small to big, from public to commercial, from all points on the compass - need to be able to dance and weave their strategy like never before. There is no room to be anything less than optimally effective,efficient and economic in use of increasingly scarce resources.
And it is my belief that organisations do this best when the whole organisation is doing its best.
Sadly far too many management theories and practices live only in the rarefied air of a few - usually the senior managers and staff. The few might also be the hired consultants spinning their way into the the fabric of the organisations. I think the most strategic and successful organisations are ones in which everyone is part of that strategy and success - because each person has a critical part to play.
So this is mainly why I wrote the book. It is a short, simple, readable and practical book that is focused on helping people come up with their own creative ideas that would improve the ways in which business is done: more economy, more efficiency and more effectiveness.
And because the book can be used by anyone, wherever they sit in an organisation, it also helps people shape their own working lives. This is also part of the reason for writing the book. Most of my life - personal, professional and political - has been about trying to find ways in which to help people become true authors of their own lives and not characters in someone else’s narrative.
And I felt there is room for a book that does not need an army of consultants to back it up. Too many organisations, it seems to me, are addicted to using external consultants while their own in-house talent is overlooked or worse diminished.
So what is the book about? The core idea is very simple: in all organisations there is a complex web of processes and procedures that have evolved into the way that they are. Many of these processes are not working very well. But rather than spend months process mapping to the point of physical and spiritual exhaustion, Cracking Questions take a radically different approach. Choose a process, map it only lightly and then ask a series of questions.
Each question is a solution looking for a problem. So called inductive problem solving. Some of the questions when asked will not reveal any innovation. Whereas another one or two may well. I guarantee an improvement or two will be found.
Indeed, the book comes with a money back guarantee - if nothing useful is discovered after reading the book, I will refund the money used to purchase it.
So that is it. There are chapters on leading change and service restructuring. There is also a comprehensive crowd sourced bibliography in the back as well. It may only be a thin book but it is fat with ideas about improvement.
So I thought I would just read a couple of the chapters to give you the flavour...