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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Release the spiders

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We are what we do

This is a little bit of on line marketing for a web site that some people may not have heard off - but I think the concept is quite good and I'd like to pass it on.

Last year, I met up via the RSA with an organisation called we are what we do. They were selling a book called "Change the world for a fiver" So I did and in it it has 50 small things that people can do that if we all did it would make a big difference.

I've been a firm believer that it is the small things that people do that can start avalanches in life - but like most human beings, I find that we need to feel that we belong to something wider.

So if you go to their web site and sign up, you can tick off the actions as you do it.

We are what we do! (I've also made the title a hyperlink too)

Well I felt that this needed a bit of a wider airing and I arranged for them to meet with Sport England so that some exercise element could be incorporated and this turned out to be beneficial to both parties.

Well on the 7th September, they are launching a new book called "Change the World 9 to 5" so not only can you change the world outside from home, you can do it from your desk to.

Why don't you ask your company if they are thinking of something for corporate social responsibility to buy a job lot of books and sell it or give it to clients to spread the message.

As they said a long time ago if your not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

When does a winning streak end?

Being a fan of Liverpool Football Club of some 40 years and coming from a family of fanatical Red supporters - the last few years have been interesting - we have won every trophy going bar one - the League and as I write this, I think that if we can be more consistent we stand a good chance of winning the premiership title.

I've been reading a bit of a recent book by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, one of the leading gurus of change management called

Confidence - How winning streaks and losing streaks begin and end.

To Kanter a winning streak is a matter of confidence which are a cocktail of self belief, empowerment motivation and most important to me on knowledge management open communications and strong systems.

However, I am also interested whether she has expanded on the death spiral of organisations and I have to say that she hasn't added too much to her preceding work in this area. But the downward slide into oblivion for firms is where systems become neglected and managers start to retreat to protect their turf and go into a silo mentality and stop sharing knowledge, communication decreases a blame culture becomes pervasive and then talented people start to leave the organisation. Once this occurs all confidence evaporates. If you take a knowledge based firm then this is totally fatal.

It usually takes a new broom to start to instil a new sense of self belief into the organisation and that you start to deliver on the goals set. I believe that initially the bar must be set low so that people can get their confidence back by all being able to step over it and then slowly starting to raise the bar as you start to climb back up the mountain.

Rick Parry the Chief Executive of Liverpool FC talks about Rafael Benitez's half time talk when Liverpool where losing 3-0 to AC Milan in the 2005 European Cup Final:

'I don't think his speech was Churchillian or anything massively inspirational. That's not Rafa's style. He is still a leader for sure, but he's not generally one to shout. He is more tactical. He focuses on people's jobs and things that have to be done, rather than on grand emotional exhortations. He'll say, "Hang on, you are good players, let's change things." He gives people confidence. You don't have to shout to do that.'

A lesson for Managers everywhere when trying to rebuild confidence in people and the organisation - maybe Kanter is a Liverpool fan .....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Meeting my Hero

It isn't often in life that you get to meet somebody who truly changed your life 180 degrees and placed you on a different path. In May of this year I got to meet Charles Handy who was talking about his new book called "Myself & other more important matters" which is a little bit more of an autobiography.

Well he was signing his book and I'd also bought a copy of the book that changed my life called the 'Age of Unreason' which painted a vision of a world that unless I took control of furthering my education wasn't going to be a very pleasant one. I was in Banking at the time just before it started shedding staff and closing branches (to become trendy wine bars as the advert goes).

So I started my continuing education and in March 2006 I graduated with an MBA. however I did manage to have a brief chat and say thank you to Charles Handy and to say that if I had not read his book I probably would not have been standing where I am today and in my current job.

Handy has influenced my thinking greatly and especially in my thesis where I started to appreciate the importance of people in the process of knowledge management especially as we move towards the era of the knowledge worker. If you ever get the chance read some of his works such as the Empty Raincoat and the Hungry Spirit which are not only managerial classics they do provoke stimulate and challenge you to look at the whole of your organisation and the people within it and their aspirations.

As Duke Leto in Dune says - without the opportunity to have challenges, something within us withers and dies.

I mention this today as the place where I now work and where I sit used to be an office - how I remember it well as it was where I was interviewed for my very first job in July 1980.

Sometimes we take very long loops in our life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More on demographics

On the BBC web site today, there was a brief news item that highlighted that Germany's birth rate had fallen yet again whilst the death rate had increased. As readers of this site will be aware I have an interest in demographics especially as parts of the world especially the Middle East are more fecund than Europe. In fact for the population to be maintained every woman has to produce 2.5 children. Nowhere in Europe is that rate being maintained. So it is likely that in order for Europe to survive economically we will need to encourage immigration from beyond Europe and why the EU needs to have Turkey as a member so that it can provide some of the workforce that we need.

What that of course means for law firms is that the war for talent will intensify and knowledge and the sharing of it will become of more and more important to knowledge based firms. It may also mean that if the war is hot, then as people become more experienced, then they are likely to demand from concessions from the managers of firms in terms of work life balance and a move away from the emphasis on the billing hour and the targets that they are set. My colleague Bruce MacEwen has highlighted to me in the past the insanity of the 2100 and in a couple of instances with very senior partners putting close to 3000 hours a year.

As I've said in earlier blogs demographics are like glaciers, they move slowly but have inexorable results.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Inflation Report at the Bank of England

Last night I was at the Bank of England Inflation Report seminar in Birmingham. I go to these every quarter so that I can get a feeling for what is going on in the West Midlands economy as well as the UK economy as a whole. One of the interesting areas for discussion was that the Bank saw no signs of widespread pay pressure.

However I was talking to the Agent, John Bartlett and asked him whether there was a fear in the Bank about inflationary psychology taking hold. This is where if people start feeling that faster inflation is not just temporary but here to stay for longer, then they tend to start to anticipate this in their wage claims and the way that they set their prices.

Autumn does tend to mark the start of the pay round and although it is a concern within the Bank that this inflationary psychology might take hold if energy prices do ratchet up markedly over the winter and that it starts to impact on input price inflation figures and that organisations start to pass on increased energy costs on to consumers through consumer prices.

However in the last review of consumer sentiment it doesn't look as if people do think that this is likely to happen, but it was interesting to note that the biggest rise took place in January of this year just when energy prices shot through the roof.

Something to watch for in the future

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Do you need a conductor?

I was fortunate enough about 8 years ago to watch A Money Programme special, with Roger Nierenburg who whilst being the conductor of an orchestra is also a recognised management speaker. He highlighted that today's knowledge workers although being highly specialised did not always need the services of a conductor to lead them in the usual command and control manner - but to help guide them. Well I was reading an interesting article in this weeks Economist about the Orpheus Chamber orchestra who have gone one step further than Nierenburg and works to prove that it thrives without the use of a baton.

Orpheus works by rotating leadership every so often. A core group initially works on the piece and then brings in the rest of the orchestra. Like most organisations learning this way led to a few false starts but the process has now got back on track once it has gone through the problems of creating a new team. (Look at Bruce Tuckmans work in 1965 via Wikipedia if you want to see how new teams develop) It is also interesting that they do require more rehearsal time but that that time spent means that they get closer and see behind the notes and come up with a different interpretation than the herd. Th article highlights that the string section has a more lush powerful sound than would be expected from a section of its size.

People do seem to enjoy the opportunity to try out new ideas. Interestingly they also have limited their team size to about 40 people which is interesting as it may have some consequences in team theory. As they have an initial core who start the process and then branch it out - the group size because they are all wedded to the concept of musical and group excellence there is a peer pressure to deliver and prove the conductorless concept to the world at large.

One interesting observation is that the removal of the conductor means that people are more empowered to make their own decisions rather than taking a passive approach and waiting for the leader to make the decision. This in many respects mirrors some of the work carried out by Gerald Fairtlough regarding the reduction of hierarchies in organisations.

The orchestra aren't saying that conductors are bad for them as knowledge workers - only that sometimes it helps if they get out of the way and aren't all inspiring.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Apples are not the only fruit

As some of my readers will be aware, I have a passion for Apples - not only those of the fruit variety but also of those beautifully designed computers and also the iPod. Next week in San Francisco, the software developers will meet to have a further look at Apples new operating system called Leopard. This is the 5th iteration of the OS X since it first came out just over 5 years ago. It is anticipated that this is likely to come out before Microsoft's much anticipated and much scaled down Vista. I'm always amazed that Apple can just ke twitching in due course.

However, there was an interesting article in Todays Independent - the link is below

Independent article

which seems to imply that Apple is losing it's cool status what with some options scandal and problems of Mac Books and a load of new arrivals to the Mac scene that don't have the visceral love for Apple that a number of Mac heads have got.

Well for me considering all the problems that Apple had when I first bought my first Mac - I'm glad to have so many more people who are getting the Mac habit and discovering that there is a life beyond beige and boring boxes. I think that people like the essence of Apple's design and knowing that their computers are made to work seamlessly with very little trouble. My next computer will be a Mac.

Moving to a new site

This is the first blog utilising Blogger. I've moved to this new way of writing my blog as I have just started a new and exciting job with Wragge & Co as their new knowledge and compliance manager - but I will probably working on the knowledge management side for the near future.

Because I'm working for them full time, I don't feel that it is ethical for me to continue writing on the Mazarin web site which effectively advertised my old business as I am working for Wragges on a full time basis.

For those of you thatwould like to look at some of the old blogs then here is the link

Mazarin link

So in the future all my blogs will be on this site so I hope that you will enjoy my weekly updates on a variety of managerial subjects but also talking about issues in knowledge management as I see them.

If you would like to see some more about Wragge & Co then here is a link to their web site

Wragge & Co link