Monthly Archives: August 2010


Mindset is a peculiar phenomenon that is only now being recognised as a key component in the success or failure of any department, organisation or industry.  To be successful a majority of people must have a success mindset.  If we hear words like ‘we’ve always do it like this round here’ or ‘we need a period of stability’ or ‘it’ll never work’ we take these as warning signs that we are dealing with fixed Mindset.
Organisations can spend fortunes on restructuring or reengineering and produce wonderful structural charts that demonstrate massive benefits to the organisation. On implementation however, some of these benefits fail to materialise as they have not attended to the one essential component that will make a difference – the mindset of those responsible for delivering the change.
How many times have we been frustrated by the pace of change, by the reluctance in some to take up new ideas?  Why do people react to new situations in different ways?
For example: how can football supporters from two teams go to the same game and see two different matches? “We won easily” vs. “We was robbed”.    Or the management of your organisation see the latest change initiative delivering a real improvement to the way we work with our customers and some colleagues see it as something that will make it harder to put the customer’s first.
Our view of the world, like a television set, has different controls; brightness, contrast, colour, volume.  All these controls affect the picture we see, the story we tell, they filter, distort, emphasise or minimise different aspects of what is happening around us.  The funny thing is we have our own control stick;  people are responsible for their own settings.  Over time we reinforce our view of the world and the story we want to believe.  This is mindset.
When a mindset becomes established it is very hard to change.  How often do we find departments, teams, families all sharing the same view of the world?  Peer group pressure ensures the status quo is maintained. 
To make a real change, to shift to the next level of productivity, there has to be a change in Mindset.  Alternatively organisations can throw huge amounts of effort, time, money and goodwill into the change process only to find that whilst some things are different (usually processes and structure) fundamentally the same attitudes and behaviours are still prevalent.  The only way for change to be successful is for mindsets to adjust accordingly.  It is the toughest aspect of the change process; it is frustrating and challenging.  But when it starts to happen it is the most inspiring, satisfying and ultimately vital aspect of realising all the ambitions of a change programme. 
(Thanks to Mike Rix for the inspiration)

The Co-operative Movement

I can’t be bothered to remember significant numbers.  I even have to look up my mobile phone number.  However, there is one number that has been indelibly printed in my brain, 19517.  This is the number I had to give to the shopkeeper every time I was sent to the local co-op to buy groceries for my mother when I was a child.  A share of the Co-op profit, the dividend, was allocated to each member according to how much they spent in the shop over the course of the year.  My mother and all our neighbours would go on an annual pilgrimage to the store to collect their ‘divi’,  along with all the other members in the area. 
I thought this quaint (though cruel from the child’s perspective) practice had died out until I moved to Wooldale and for £1 joined the local Co-op founded in 1886, where you still quote your number and they write it on your till receipt. In the true spirit of the co-op number I have also committed this sacred numeral to memory.
The foundations of the Co-operative movement were laid down in the Mill town of Rochdale in northern England in 1844 by 28 poverty stricken weavers.  They wanted a change from the practice of being tied to buying their food from the mill owner’s shop where prices were high and the food was poor quality.  They were driven to change the rules to create a different way for them to buy sugar, flour, butter, oatmeal and candles, so they founded the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers and set out their seven Rochdale Principles for a co-operative organisation:
  • Open membership
  • Democratic control (one person, one vote)
  • Distribution of surplus in proportion to trade
  • Payment of  limited interest on capital
  • Political and religious neutrality
  • Cash trading (no credit)
  • Promotion of education

They captured the radicalising mood of their time and soon other Co-operatives, like the Wooldale Co-operative, were springing up across the country. These principles changed the world forever, not only for consumer retailing but as a model for bringing a social conscience and an ethical stance to business. As such, the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers fulfil all our current criteria as exemplars of Paradigmeering.
For those who are interested visit to see how these principles are still very much alive today.

Good Morning Friendliness Index

I developed this set of indicators as a way of testing how willing people were to engage with others around their workplace.  It all started when I was asked how a group of enthused customer friendly people might get their colleagues to engage more.  They grumbled that most of the people in their large open plan office came to work, sat at their desk, switched on their computer and rarely looked up for the rest of the day.  I suggested they set about a campaign to infect their colleagues with a dose of bon homie.  They each agreed to acknowledge their reticent colleagues with a cheery ‘Good Morning’ every time they passed by their workstations.  Six weeks later the results were in.  At first they were regarded as an unorthodox oddity but, after persisting for several weeks others started to join their ‘Good Morning’ group until eventually the whole office was transformed.
We tried this out in a very large foundation Hospital Trust where we were delivering a patient experience programme.  When we first arrived no-one ever gave eye contact or acknowledged us as we went around the hospital!  At the end of the project about 50% of staff would engage with us, with their colleagues and with patients as they passed.
I like to go out running when I stay over in a new town or city and I have devised my ‘Good Morning’ Friendliness Index (GMFI) to compare the friendliness of each place.  I assume I will pass a random selection of people so it is possible to make a fair comparison. Every time I meet someone I greet them.  Each person who responds, in any way positively, scores one friendliness point; if they ignore me I award an unfriendly point.  At the end of the run I’m able to work out the friendliness index.

My first attempt around Hyde Park in London had 25 people ignoring me with only one, a Japanese tourist, saying hello.  My latest attempt along the Thames footpath this weekend received 11 acknowledgements and 5 non responses.  So it looks like things are getting better in London.  Compare this with my home in the Yorkshire Pennines where it is rare for people not to say hello.  This in itself has caused problems.  It means the GMFI is not rigorous enough for Yorkshire so I have had to move on to the second level; UGMFI, this is the Unsolicited Good Morning Friendliness Index.  Here I am not allowed to initiate the contact.  Locally, I normally score about 30%.
There are, however, two even higher levels to aspire to.  The CFI is the Chat Friendliness Index, which obviously can’t be done whilst running,  (although I did engage with a famous fashion designer on a bike ride once). This test involves making an attempt to engage total strangers in conversation, say in a queue or on a tube.  Camp sites and scenic railway stations always score highly, whereas the London Underground rarely scores positively.  Top of the tree is the UCFI, or Unsolicited Chat Friendliness Index which only usually happens if you have a small child, animal or broken bike with you.
The rewards for participating in these tests are enormous.  I’ve been rejected by thousands of people but I’ve also stopped to chat with some incredible strangers like the man flying his Harris Hawk from his wrist as he took his morning constitutional. 

If London is to make a brilliant impression during the Olympics a few more people need to adopt the Yorkshire habit of politely acknowledging passers bye, after all deep down, given a little encouragement, we are still a really friendly nation.

Lessons from Triathlon

My colleagues have allowed me just two Triathlon blogs per year which I’m sure you’ll agree is tantamount to censorship, after all, my experiences in the three disciplined sport can surely give many and varied insights into the development of excellence.
I have just completed the Alpe D’Huez Triathlon in a time of 9 hours 26 minutes which I know is a contradiction of the previous sentence but I am at this moment ‘work in progress’ and it’s always good to give yourself plenty of room for improvement. Indeed, the race centred around the French ski resort of Alpe D’Huez has given me a concentrated learning experience from which to build.
It all started in November when Sara, my wife, noticed I had put on weight and tactfully suggested I enter a race of some kind as motivation to get fit.  In a fit of pique, armed with the internet and a credit card I entered what is considered to be one of the hardest triathlons on the planet. When I announced to anyone who cared to listen that I had entered the fifth edition of this long distance race one of them remarked that this was impressive.  I now realise that anyone with a credit card can enter, that in itself is not impressive, finishing is!  2.2 km swim in a very cold lake, followed by 115km cycle over three alpine passes, the final one being 12km up the infamous Alpe D’Huez hairpins, the 1,200 meters of climb raced up regularly on the Tour de France. Top that off by running a half marathon.  Nine months training ensued, motivated by bravado, a reducing waistline, and the opportunity to skive off making dinner, washing up and the like because of the need to go out training.
Bravado lasted until about ten minutes from the start when I entered the cold water of Lac Verney insulated only by my wetsuit.  I scoured the horizon for the buoys that denoted the turnaround point  when the chill changed from that caused by the icy water seeping down my back to sudden realisation that this was going to be hard.
Swim went well, next was the bike.  All round the course were groups of spectators.  Cries of ‘ Allez, allez, allez’ rang around the mountains as I laboured uphill for the majority of the day.  As the temperature soared and the crowds went to lunch I gradually cooked on the Col D’Ornon.  Le Bourg D’Oisans, the small town at the foot of the great climb of Alp D’ Huez found me in a state of sweltered suffering.  At the drinks station I tipped water over my head, stuffed food into my mouth and could see no way I was going to be able to do the final climb.  Then came on of the most profound moments in my life.  An elderly volunteer handed me a water bottle; he looked into my half dead eyes and simply said, “Courage, Courage”.  My soul stirred.  At that moment I understood what it was to be French.  I was there at the barricades of the Bastille.  Courage was not optional, it was expected.  Courage led the revolution, it gave the world Egality, Fraternity, Liberty.  Courage would take me to the top.
Well, it took me to bend 13 where a fluttering heart rate suggested to me that cooling down for a bit in a mountain stream might be more prudent.  Dehydration changed my perception of the crowd. The large numbers of spectators becoming reminiscent of the baying mobs around le guillotine. How they like to watch me suffer to show them that they should never be lured into such foolhardy adventures.
One last effort and the final transition arrived. Elation quickly subsided as I realised there was still a half marathon to go.  I have no idea why but when I started running I felt great.  As others faltered, I sauntered, for about two hours.  Alpe D’Huez Triathlon completed.
What did I learn? 
  1. Always aim for things that are a real challenge.  Only by pushing the absolute limits can you find out what is possible.
  2. Courage is a very helpful mindset.
  3. Eat fewer pies.  This is considerably easier than the Alpe D’Huez Triathlon as a weight control programme.

Microeconomic view of moving to the next level

When we consider an issue from a different perspective it can sometimes enable new insights.  This blog site is about uncovering opportunities to create a better outcome; to breakthrough to the next level.
Microeconomics is a strand of economics which examines the decision making of individuals and firms as small units and what determines their purchasing decisions and their willingness to supply goods and services.
Let’s focus on the willingness and ability of a firm to supply their goods or services.  They will organise resources of people, expertise, equipment and the like to produce a level of output.  Generally the more resources they devote to the task give a greater output.

Given X clinicians the medical unit is able to provide Y treatments. How common is it to hear the argument that more can be done if we are given more resources?  What is often ignored is the codicil; ‘provided the way we are organised stays the same’. 
But what if things challenge the way we are organised?  What can we do with the resources if we find new ways to organise them?  What if we were to ask “what more can we do”?
Perhaps we can organise ourselves in a different way which would enable us to deliver better levels of care and treatment using the same total amount of resources.  To which the response is often heard, ‘So you want us to do more?’  This is not about individuals working harder but the organisation changing current practices (changing the rules) and current mindsets in order to deliver more.  It is about an organisation being willing (motivated) and able (capacity) to deliver a greater levels of service.

It may not be an increase in productivity that you are seeking but whatever it may be the same principles apply.  Simply change the lower axis from output to whatever you want to achieve be it better customer experience, better reputation, greater customer wellbeing or greater workforce wellbeing for example. What are the things you need to challenge to shift to the next level?
Change the rules:
  • More effective use of resources
  • Different use of resources
  • Use different resources
  • Use technology
  • Change working patterns
  • Change processes
  • Stop doing the unproductive stuff

Change Mindsets:
  • Develop a growth / innovation mindset
  • Consult your workforce
  • Encourage personal responsibility
  • Encourage personal accountability
  • Measure effectiveness as a means of evaluating improvement
  • Improve motivation
  • Improve wellbeing
  • Improve emotional engagement across the workforce
  • Improve leadership

A shift to the next level could come from a change in delivery patterns. The shift might be from an inflexible unit towards a flexible unit.  Few organisations have a steady level of production throughout the year schools, hotels, mental health units, accident and emergency, undertakers, accountants, armed services are often inflexible units and could be more responsive to the demand for their services.

Our inflexible unit might produce only marginal improvements in delivery if we put more resources into it whereas our flexible unit is able to respond with greater than normal levels of delivery given the same level of resource change. In economics parlance this is known as elasticity.
It looks great that our flexible unit is able to give such large changes in output if we increase resources but, if resources are cut, there seems to be a corresponding decline in service provision.  Ideally we would want large improvements in output if we increase resources and small declines if the reverse happens.
Most organisations can change shift patterns in order to change their flexibility but ‘what more could there be?’  Are there other ways of organising production? Does this require a change in the rules or a change in the mindset? Or a change in both?