Thursday, 30 September 2010

New generation leadership

One of the hardest jobs for any leader is going off in a different direction. This may only be a small change of direction, but it may be enough for existing followers to stop following. Those followers may somehow feel betrayed by this altered course. “After all that I have done, and now we are doing this?!”

Cutting a fresh path is both harder and easier for a new leader.

It is easier because there is no baggage to jettison, no inconsistency to defend and no loyalty to the past to retain for retention’s sake. And there can be plenty of quoting of George Santayana about ‘those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it’ and so forth. The new leader is at liberty to both praise the old warriors and then, almost in the same sentence, make a virtue of departing from their strategies.

But it is also far harder because there is no guarantee that a new leader will bring the followers of the old leader with them. The new direction may just be too novel and be seen as too much of a break with the past. Existing bonds of friendship and trust will have to be rebuilt by the new leader, as they are now the leader and the world has changed.

The critical judgement comes in how bold to make the new direction. Will it just be ‘new’ in name only? Or will the new leader ‘boldly go where no one has gone before’? How will the new leader judge how bold to be, not just at the start of the new leadership journey but as it continues?

The best leaders have people that they can rely upon and trust to give them independent, full and frank feedback about whether their ‘boldness quotient’ is on the money or not.

How is your ‘BQ’ right now?

(How do you know?)

How will you stay ‘bold’ and avoid the ‘new’ becoming the ‘new old’

(How will you know?)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Diversity: Embracing the Tension

Great post on the Harvard Business Review blog - well worth a read. Marshall Goldsmith highlights the value of 'diversity tension' and offers a checklist to assess your own workplace / leadership.

Do have a read!

The article is here.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Maybe do...?

Are you a 'glass half full' or a 'glass half empty' kind of person? How do you know?

Whichever you are, we all experience barriers to what we are seeking to achieve. Sometimes these barriers may be clearly real and concrete, and other times we know the barriers are broadly of our making: arising from a lack of confidence or understanding.

But what about the barriers in between? Sometimes concrete obstacles are imaginary, and sometimes our bouncy confidence may prevent us from seeing the reality of hurdle we have to overcome.

When you meet a barrier, how do you test it to know which kind of barrier it is? Are you better at doing this nowadays than previously?

How come?  

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Ten ways to keep the peace

Major restructuring of the police appears inevitable and is creating a plenty of debate in political and media circles. Consultant Jon Harvey weighs in with his own points of order. There are many ways to respond to the looming 25% to 40% cuts in resources that are coming to a police station near you...

Full article in Guardian Public

Monday, 13 September 2010


I am part of a small team which is planning a guerilla conference on a make do and mend approach to using IT in public services. The aim is to create an event that will enable people to exchange ideas and develop new ones on how to make the most of existing IT. Specifically, we hope the (free) event will be a celebration and dissemination of all that can be achieved without purchasing new kit / software / contractor time / bells / whistles etc. (This event will be an antidote to the burgeoning number of other events which are still promising huge cost reductions by paying for just that one more piece of ("waffer thin mint?") IT investment

Please watch this space - there is more to follow - including what we mean by a guerilla conference! (Well - you have heard of guerilla gardening... try thinking along similar lines...!) The date will be towards the end of the year - possibly early into the next.

But meanwhile... do you have examples of where you have spotted or even initiated a change or achieved a result with a deft (and zero or very low cost) use of an existing IT system?

Please post these examples below as a comment or email me if you wish. With your permission - I will also upload these to my small creative ideas news blog as well.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

E-books: now more easily available

When this blog reached 10,000 uploads I turned into an e-book. You can now access and download if you wish, this off Google Docs by going here.

For your information my other blog (Small Creative Ideas) is also available in e-book form as well (produced when it hit 15,000 uploads) from here.

Austerity plans & budgets: who has the ideas?

In anticipation of the Comprehensive Spending Review outcomes, nearly all public service budget holders will now be taking a long hard look at where the money gets spent and what is achieved. I can almost hear the distant clicks of numerous hatches being battened down.

Less money, probably a lot less money is going to be spent on not only on the 'frippery' of change management, organisational development and public engagement (etc.), but also on the wages of people providing direct services to some very vulnerable citizens.

Whilst there may well be very limited room for manoeuvre with the amount by which budgets will have to be reduced in these austere times, I am wondering just how much scope there is in just how budgets are reshaped.

Who has the ideas? Who needs to be involved? How will those people be involved?

I am concerned that many managers will feel driven to retreat behind closed doors, perhaps with a tame accountant, to craft the changes to be made. This is not an unreasonable course of action, of course. If people's jobs & indeed livelihoods are being questioned, if services to people in severe need are being scrutinised or if some critical priorities are being examined then confidentiality is to be expected.

The stakes are so high and the interests so potentially in great conflict, as to prevent anyone else (staff member, other connected departments & agencies, the wider public & service users) being involved in a more open & transparent discussion... would be the argument from many people, I suspect.

I have argued previously on this blog for 'Austerity Charters' (see below) and I stand by this.

But, am I alone in thinking that there is much to be gained from having more inclusive approaches to deciding just where and how budgets should be cut? I take the view, that given the right context, the right leadership and the right information, many more people could contribute constructively to building these new austere budgets. Yes, there will be conflict and yes, people will seek to express and protect their interests. But also, I think, people could earnestly, collaboratively and creatively find many more ways to do more with less than a manager (with tame accountant) is able to achieve on their own.

Or am I living in some fairytale world a million miles away from the grinding & crushing reality of austerity budgets where the only 'involvement' of staff, colleagues and citizens must only be during the titular 'consultation' periods?  

Improving performance: who has all the ideas?

Some years ago, while being shown round a car manufacturing plant, I was told a story about the importance of workforce involvement. Part of the plant had to shut down for a refurbishment which meant that one car model had to use the paint shop normally used for another model. The manager in charge was prevailed upon by a company improvement facilitator to have a meeting with the staff involved to plan what needed to be done. The manager was unconvinced that he had anything more to discuss but dutifully went along with the idea.

The meeting was held.  The staff came forward with several ideas which the manager publicly noted but inwardly was ticking off all the ideas that he had already had. "What a waste of time", he thought. Right at the end, one person who had said nothing until then asked about what would happen with the estate models.

The manager paused and realised that was an issue he had not considered. The rest of the meeting was spent resolving what to do. From that day, that manager was convinced of the value of staff involvement.

How convinced are you?

How do you put your belief into action?

Or is this just a trite story with no relevance to the complex challenges you face as a manager..?