Friday, January 22, 2016

Leadersship Conundrums

In Management there is a strong focus on Leadership for senior management. I have been asked if there are any courses I can recommend on it and I can respond quickly with a 'No'. Defining Leadership is tricky as the examples vary from situation to situation. If Shackleton was a great leader would he be successful as the CEO of a FTSE 100 company; could Richard Branson flourish in another environment or even replicate his early success? Steve Jobs had a patch record as a leader but had enough tenacity to get back in the game when by all other measures he was over.

Have there ever been any political leaders who have not been deeply flawed? Most end their career in failure but some make their mark before they get off the stage. John F Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. All great, all flawed but changed things.

If there is an approach then you need to identify the leaders who you think have attributes you wish to emulate and they see if they have the attributes you think they had. See how they dealt with failure, how they dealt with success and how they interacted with those above, below and those they liked and disliked. From that type of biographical study you can see whether they had the stuff you need to get where you want to go.

I prefer people who get things done and produce tangible results and work in a simple way. Therefore I am not CEO material as I have not the inclination to sit in the meetings needed to get approval to get things done. All the time I am thinking, "It would be cheaper to try it and see if it works than have another report or discuss about it". Prototyping, regular drafts and discussions with co-workers and people who have ideas to contribute mean that I end up with something that may have value but will create additional benefits - increased experienced, more trust in the team and better ideas.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

From The The Kast Off Kinks to Modern Talent Shows

I saw a band made up of ex-members of the Kinks tonight in Twickenham. It was how I imagine a Kinks gig but without the angst, ego and in-fighting. They played hits, they played less well known music and non-Kinks music. Throughout this gig they were joking, playing and taking the mickey out of each other.

It's a shame that RnB isn't popular any more as they were knockout and I don't see people going to a Take That / 1D / Jay Z  gig in another 20 years time and getting the same innocent enjoyment out of it.

In December I've got tickets to see Dave Davies, one of the two brothers who were always fighting in the Kinks and I've heard some of his recent music and it is interesting.

Maybe there is a difference with these guys who like making music and have a creative urge that they want to scratch and the fame seeking egoists who have replaced them. Perhaps I'm being mean but apart from old Adele records there doesn't seem to be much going on.

The talent shows have erased the idea of the creative maverick. If you don't conform you won't progress to Hollywood week. How would David Bowie, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan on US/UK's Got Talent. How could the judges measure them when they have contributed so little, but they would oh yes they would.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Woody Allen Invented the Internet of Things So can the psudo-techie-visionaries take a break

It's all there in black and white - everything was in black and white back in the 60s. Woody Allen had a comedy sketch where all of his electronic objects ganged up on him and discussed his behaviour among themselves and with other electrical objects outside of the apartment. 

I include a scrap of the show below but it's available online. So not only is he a comedy genius he is a technology visionary.

From Woody Allen
"About three years ago I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was home one night. I called a meeting with my possessions. I got everything I owned into the living room. My toaster, my clock, my blender. They’d never been in the living room before. And I spoke to them. I opened with a joke. And then I said, “I know what’s going on, and cut it out!…” And I spoke to each appliance. I was really articulate. Then I put them back, and I felt good. Two nights later, I’m watching my portable television set, and [the picture on] the set begins to jump up and down, and I go up to it. And I always talk before I hit, and I said, “I thought we had discussed this — what’s the problem?” And the set kept going up and down, so I hit it, and it felt good hitting it, and I beat the hell out of it. I was really great, I tore off the antenna, and I felt very virile.
And two days later I go to my dentist in New York. (I had gone to my dentist, but I had a deep cavity, and he’d sent me to a chiropodist.) I’m going into a building in mid-town New York, and they have those elevators, and I hear a voice say, “Kindly call out your floors, please,” and I say, “Sixteen,” and the doors close and the elevator starts going up to sixteen.
And on the way up the elevator says to me, “Are you the guy that hit the television set?” I felt like an ass, y’know, and it took me up and down fast between floors, and it threw me off in the basement."
It's just so funny the way that everyone is buzzed about 'the Internet of Things' where it was discussed with a wide audience back in the 60s. Next we need to check out 'The Twilight Zone' for any other clues as to the future of social media.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Nothing ever changes in Finance and never did

Another week another book or documentary to give the definitive, or a fresh spin, on the financial
crash. If you've read a good one then you will have read them all. If you have read the receding ripples of the newspaper articles as the journalists try and piece together the pieces of the aftermath.

A typical statement is: "Although we did not quite fall off the edge after the crash in the way some bankers were anticipating, the painful effects are still being felt in almost every sector. At this distance, however, seven years on, it’s hard to see what has changed."

Why would something different happen? A lot of people have been replaced, some have retired and they believe that the new regulations and compliance that is in place will protect them. This cycle has been repeated since the 1980s for different crises and I think that the increase in commentary reassures everybody that somebody knows the truth and that somebody knows what to do. In fact, we have multiple versions of reality, all true, from bankers, politicians, bank employees, CEOs and shareholders. Splicing them together doesn't tell you how to avoid the next one because the crisis always has a familiar pattern, the bubble or the long term stability ones are getting more popular. To understand the markets you may as well treat it as a personality and give it motives to determine what happens next. is it trying to teach us a lesson, is it withdrawing and not responding or is it angry? have a read of Eric Berne's 'Games People Play' to get a feel for the games.

Currently I think we are ending a game called 'I bet you think you're safe now' and returning to a more primal game that will involve some border changes and power shifts.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Altman Documentary

I saw the 'Altman' documentary on Sunday. I was interesting but skipped over the defects that made him such an important character. He made a remark about going and out of fashion - he regarded what he did as travelling in a straight line and through his eyes all the different things he did from pilot, writer, television & films had a sequence. Public taste is changeable and twists and turns. Sometimes his work and public taste coincided and then he was regarded as 'hot' and in demand. Other times the reviews would say his best work was behind him. He seemed to deal with both situations pretty well and in the bad times he sold his house and moved to Paris.

I saw more of his films than I had thought - MASH, The Long Goodbye, Popeye, Gosford Park, Short Cuts

Its a good perspective on life but I could tell that his wife and kids picked up the emotional load as he concentrated on his film career. Needless to say I have bought 'Altman on Altman' and will be interested in how he interpreted his myth.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hedgehogs and Foxes Pt III

Examples of Hedgehog and Fox Behaviours

The choice is not simply between one style of behaviour and another. There is a continuum of behaviour – Do we want the hedgehog’s certainty and possible overconfidence. Do we need the fox’s adaptability and lack of certainty? It’s the difference between an expert providing a proposal that contains a lot of ‘howevers’ and knowing that they are probably right and comparing it  with a plausible expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell but is probably wrong.

Andy Warhol
Bill Clinton
Dickens, Twain
Shakespeare, Wilde
James Dyson
Steve Jobs
Johnny Cash
David Bowie

This classification is subjective but then so is the view of the client. Review how things have worked out with the client and see whether your responses have been appropriate, whether your communication style is effective. It may seem that hedgehogs are old fashioned but the increase in frequency of this behaviour may be a consequence of the ways we are working and not who we are. Underneath the emails, tweets, blogs, conference calls there may be a vision of the team or a set of values that has not been shared because of the ‘chunking’ nature of the technology that promotes lots of small communications over a few large ones because we may not be able to process those big ideas at a single sitting.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Client Focus - Advantages and Disadvantages of Foxes and Hedgehogs

Advantages and Disadvantages of Foxes and Hedgehogs


Hedgehogs are admired.  They are strong on vision and values and less willing to negotiate on quality. The fact that they have a core set of values means that they can provide a vision and leadership to a company or a group that is amplified by attracting people to those values and they can be an effective operator because their team and the client knows what they stand for and do not need to escalate decisions as they can predict the answer. Their self-belief and confidence is infectious and can get a smaller motivated, focussed team to beat the odds. These people are typically founders of start-ups or may have turned around a large organisation.
Foxes are appreciated. They do not believe in large visions or programmes just people and events. Their view is that events will occur and they need to be adaptable and flexible to take advantage of the opportunities they present these but they also  know that fashions and trends  will change, decisions will be overruled and it will be the ability to change direction that will keep them in the game. They are good at short range forecasting.  Foxes will be low on originality but can get things done within a large bureaucracy. Foxes are adaptive and versatile. They are good at operating within a bureaucracy or a large organisation and getting things done.


The disadvantage of a hedgehog is that if they keep changing their vision then they are no longer a hedgehog but a fox. If they do not change their vision it may become outdated or out of step with changing realties. Winston Churchill and George Orwell can be regarded as typical hedgehogs although Orwell’s vision seems to be timeless.
The disadvantage of a fox is that they can be regarded as too adaptable and it can be difficult to trust them as you may suspect that they will agree with what you say to avoid conflict. They will annoy their supporters and their opponents equally as they will cherry pick the best ideas regardless of ownership.

Impact on Client Focus?

Do we treat the client a continuous flow of interactions that generate sales opportunities, change requests and incidents that need action? Or do we treat the client as a holistic being? Let’s consider a set of scenarios between the client and a provider of services and predict some outcomes.
·         Client- Hedgehog and Provider-Hedgehog: If the  values and beliefs are aligned there is a high likelihood of a good ending. Example: The client is focussed on quality rather than cost and so are we. If the values and beliefs do not align. The client wants low-cost and the provider delivers a specification that is beyond their budget and expectations then the relationship is damaged.  Too much damage and the provider will be replaced.
·         Client-Hedgehog and Provider-Fox:  The provider will deliver enhancements and change requests but unless they share an overall view of the client businesses then the relationship will stagnate and revenue will decline unless the provider comes up something that re-aligns the relationship and shows some value in the continuance of the relationship beyond cash flow.
·         Client-Fox and Provider-Fox:  the relationship is based on speed of response to requests from the client and less strategic thinking is required. This relationship can continue indefinitely unless the status changes and their working practices no longer align or the provider underperforms for a period of time. 

·         Client-Fox and Provider-Hedgehog: this can be a fruitful relationship if the provider can demonstrate leadership and new ideas to the client that enable the client to adapt to the changes in technology and their industry. The onus is on the provider to understand the client industry and to take the initiative. If this does not happen the provider will be seen as passive and reactive and the relationship will decline.