Archive for August, 2014


One of the perks of my job is I get to learn about fantastic organisations and people doing amazing things.

I also get to read up on amazing leaders in fields like technology; psychology; behavioural economics and more.  Once such is Patrick Lencioni.  A man I have met, and who signed me a book – which he had to fetch from his hotel in Dublin where I “bumped” into him.   Anyway, so I met him through his UK rep picking a tweet of mine that I was lecturing at Dublin City University.  Oh the power of social media.


So Pat (as he insisted I call him – oh the familiarity I now felt about him) shares his insight and wisdom using theories, models and constructs he has put together following his research.  Which is often based on real-life application and results.  He then shares his work with others through books in fable format.  Constructed around fictional characters and events, pretend companies and challenges, Pat shows us what goes on in everyday TradCo Ltd and how he has helped people and their companies move on and improve.

I suspect Pat gets paid a lot.  His books like “3 Signs of a Miserable Job” and “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” are a bit iconic to some and “meh” to others.  He is very readable though.  Part insight “a – ha” moments and usable models; and part because he puts his books into a fable format.

So here’s my tale – about a band of people who worked in the same area but not necessarily the same company.  Who came together in some form of coalition and then who tore it apart (almost) because of attitudes.  It is actually a tale about human spirit, endeavour and overcoming arrogance and anger in favour of togetherness and belief.

It starts with a few people and a good idea…

Simon started this whole thing.  He and Raj, Jonah and Phil.  Angela, Malcolm and Julia came on shortly afterwards.  It was really underground,  It was unconventional and no-one in their industry (project management) had done this.  Come together in unison to change their profession through work they did both in their companies, in independent practice, in education and in PR for their profession.  They’d had enough of pretenders to their throne.  Of amateur jocks screwing up projects left right and centre that they took some control. The Institutes were not helping the cause – being too distracted by conferences, glossy journals and raking it in through training courses,

They had come up with different ways to “do” project management (this was around the time Scrum became popular) and was similar to that and incorporated other practices from business especially around scenarios and simulation methods.  Anyway it was less a product and more a way of “doing” Projects IF you were “in the know!”

The people involved then.

Simon was a rising star.  A Project Manager in Telecomms In Berkshire in the 1990s he had risen to take up a very senior post in a large company (global) and was racking up some successes.  So he thought he would get something going to reinvigorate other rebellious but successful sorts in his industry.  And he could also size up his competition that way.  Though he never confirmed that to anyone except Jonah his most trusted sidekick (who was just leaving a PAC-ASIA role and coming back to Hampshire).  Simon and Jonah were funny, charismatic and had good track records.  They started blogging, making waves at conferences and started their own social media channel for PMs.  It was a nice underground movement and it then got noticed. 7 become 20 became a couple of hundred and even some Irish, Canadian, Aussie and Dutch PMs joined in.  Before anyone noticed it was going global.

That’s when the fun started.  Raj dabbled in projects in HR and PR in the US, Phil became a bona fide Journalist when a PM magazine poached him from his UK Government post.  Days were good but people were beginning to either drift apart, in fight or deny others could get “involved” like they were.  What started as a movement to change Projects for good, became an elite club for certain types of people.

Malcolm tried to hold it together but Angela and Julia were already disenchanted and fractures appeared.  Gino joined – a newly transferred PM from FIAT now working for Mini in Oxford – and his strength of personality forged some new connections.  Simon, meanwhile, was getting to fly across to Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Poland to talk up his take on Project Management.  He even built an app through a developer friend of his.

What had started as a group of enthusiasts whose desire to change Project Management fell apart through egos, disinterest, infighting, arrogance and no eye on the future blood needed to sustain a charge at a lame profession struggling to keep up with relevant methods and models.

Self interest took over as the jet setting replaced the Reading Pub meetings.

The dreaded “I’m so ahead of everyone else” delusion turned people away who were just discovering this new form of Project Management and way of delivering work.

But Malcolm and Julia were not so deterred.  Raj now had a thriving US faction of PMs so they turned their attention to new PMs; graduates; freelancers; and found a mass of people just discovering Scrum and Agile.  They took over the social channel and it had a second lease of life.  Except this time it was about the future, not bemoaning the past and current.  It seemed to have an injection of positive psychology and belief from (perhaps) Malcolm and Julia taking a lead role.

Phil though, slagged it off a little through his (now online) magazine; Simon was known to declare it was “all his” and that what was there now was a pale, amateur version of the rebel yell he’d created and Raj didn’t even respond to emails anymore.

Angela had enough and left Julia and Malcolm to it.  So Gino was now back in Italy with Maserati but this new crop of PMs weren’t about to let it falter through the new/old guard taking it over.  No they put on events; published articles; created a Saturday conference every quarter using member premises; and the previous 230 members ballooned to over 2000.  On board now were the South Africans, the Emirates States and India.

Simon still travels; to Russia (a lot); Latvia, Saudi and Singapore.  Raj was last seen in San Diego.  Phil lost his job through a twitter spat with a Minister and Angela lives in Loire Valley and is off Projects for life.

The moral of this fable?


Nothing lasts for ever. No-ones an expert.  It’s not about you it’s about IT.  Fresh insight; new blood; rolling tenures; rotating stewards; self-organisation.  All property is theft.  We own nothing.  We only rent it.  If a “group” is good enough it will outlast its founders and next wave.  Let it happen.  Don’t be bitter.  Create your own faction if you like.

This association of Project Managers is still thriving somewhere.  I was told the tale by Angela, now well over it and that’s not her real name either.  Was she bitter?  A little.  Did she enjoy it whilst it lasted?  A lot.  Would she do it again?  No way.  Although she has just set up a small group of UK folks in France who love real ale.  Once a huddle creator always a huddle creator eh?  She is though, she said to me over the Skype call we had – regenerated.  I wryly smiled as I told her I was blogging this.  “Change the names she said” some people might follow you.  So I did. But I don’t think they do follow me.

So this is not a patch on Pat but I enjoyed hearing about it and hope you did reading about it.


doctor-who-peter-capaldiGratuitous Scooter Picture courtesy of Quadrophenia UK;
Dr Who courtesy of;
Patrick Lencioni –


A tale of work told through Northern Soul Song Titles.


That this title comes from that most amazing of unknown soul harmony groups The Precisions is – to me anyway – apt. It’s been one of THE constant songs to get me sad, angry, fired up, emotionally charged and determined. Sometimes I leapt to the dancefloor. Other times I sat and soaked up the song. It’s one of my all-time top 3 songs of the Northern Soul “genre” ever. I’ve been into this song since I was 17. Ironically, just before I started work. And since then, work has had a dramatic effect on me. Not just getting paid to do a job: Finding a calling that gets me charged up, down beat and all inbetween.

So here’s where my story begins.

Darling, there’s a Job Opening… and so it was that I took to the job market just days before my 18th birthday. A job. Workin’. Money In My Pocket.

Not a Work Song “breaking up big rocks on a chain gang” type hard graft, no this was Stepping Out of the Picture of factory-work decimation (this was post-Miners Strike, Thatcher’s Britain) and into an office job. Wearing a shirt and tie everyday. For a Mod, this was a perfect situation. Except by this point, I was cutting the soul boy/casual look but I could get away with LaCoste Cardigan and Farah slacks over said shirt and tie.

So I didn’t do university. I’ve Had It. That’s Enough of Sitting In My Class. I knew best of course. But Mum and Dad persuaded me to do sixth form. Good move because a job opening did occur. Well 2. And I took the one where I didn’t have to worry about my grades quite so much. Grades which I earned in sixth form through an experimental CEE (Certificate of Extended Education) that no-one recognised as valid for ‘O’ levels. Typical. I only had 2 interviews, and both were successful. I took the one working for the Court Office. “That will be nice and stable” I think my parents said.

It was where I first understood workplace training and structures and systems. I was thinking then All Of My Life is now ahead of me with this opportunity. I saw people around who had the role of leading others and that’s where I saw myself. Sure there were others, but Competition Ain’t Nothing so I set about my ambitions.

I found this display of ambition was met with some odd reactions from others. King For A Day some angled. What More Do You Want? Some accused. I’m The Next In Line said some long-stagers overlooked on past recruitment drives to manager roles.

Whatever, I found this new approach a bit puzzling. It wasn’t like I had The Magic Touch or anything. It was a Free For All as far as I was concerned.

It was my first experience of not liking what was going on “at work”. I could take slightly arsey managers (they were like slightly arsey teachers) but this new approach to being critical of someone’s Determination left me feeling in my Darkest Days. Looking back now, it is all part of the circus that is the workplace but The Feeling Is Real was a new one.

Lonely In A Crowd. Isolation yet surrounded.

Just A Little Misunderstanding maybe? Suspicion?

I was successful in all bar one interview throughout my career in that organisation. And I was still successful just that someone else was able to answer the overall question Can You Qualify?

Gettin’ To Me? Well not as much as I thought. I was still Happy Go Lucky and far from For Crying Out Loud I was doing well and didn’t take anything For Granted.

It did remind me of the Wolf pack/Lion pride where there were clear benefits to “hunting in packs” but that pack was a Competition in itself to select the fittest, the hardest, the most assertive. I got that it was tough and Only Fools Run Away. I wasn’t prepared to be The Drifter.

If I Had Known there was this to come, I’d Think It Over Twice before I let my intentions be known. It was my first experiences of being open backfiring. I Won’t Believe It Till I See It I suppose but it happened.

Far from saying I’m Not Strong Enough it was building my self belief. So any attempts to knock me down failed. I Don’t Like To Lose became a motto for this Hometown Boy and I wasn’t prepared to be Left Out. It’s Needless To Say this wasn’t always the case and in many circumstances I had nothing but support when climbing the corporate pole. I was Wishing And Hoping for better – a chance to improve and do things in a way that was deserved and not what predictable, toxic types were in charge were saying.

(Just a Little) Faith And Understanding was seeing me through and made good of working life but eventually I Wanna Be Free became my mantra as it became clear corporate life was no longer What I Want. Continued progression was likely to lead to more Unsatisfied feelings. Somebody Somewhere Needs You meant there was the possibility of moving company, but You Better Move didn’t feel right.

I was a bit Lost in terms of another job so thought I Travel Alone was my option. But this was Fear like never before. I had to Think Smart as there was No Explanation about what I was going to do.

I’ve Arrived but no fanfare;

I’ve Only Got Myself To Blame if it doesn’t work out;

Because Of My Heart I had belief;

Can We Talk It Over was my style – not please employ me;

Call On Me not me call you;

I Got The Power for whatever you need to change your ways of working;

How High Can You Fly became my metaphor for wanting to see others succeed;

Something New To Do and my desire to help create a new work history starting from now.

So Where Does That Leave Me?

I’ve got to Make A Change to the world of work writ large – as much as I can.

Too many people are Moaning, Groaning and Crying about the thing they do that earns them a living and The Pain Gets A Little Deeper with every bad hire, duff manager and toxic culture.

So I am now aiming to be part of The New Breed to Lay This Burden Down and Breakaway from bad work and into good work. Where people feel work is the Key To My Happiness.

So to return to the title of this piece – if work as it is is love, then I’d rather be lonely. However, there is hope. Do You Believe It?

No longer on Your Ship Of Fools, I’ve been Hurting for too long, so I’m On My Way and no longer on The Uphill Climb (To The Bottom) and instead I’m going to spread A Little Togetherness to where Soul Self Satisfaction means We Go Together and we can all Walk With A Winner – To The Ends Of The Earth if need be.

Song Credits

The Precisions – If This Is Love (I’d Rather Be Lonely)
The Del-Larks – Job Opening (Part 1)
Timmy Carr – Workin’
Moss Tolbert – Money In My Pocket
Cleveland Robinson – The Work Song
Johnny Maestro – I’m Stepping Out (Of The Picture)
George Smith – I’ve Had It
Roscoe Robinson – That’s Enough
Ronnie McNeir – Sitting In My Class
The Quotations – I Don’t Have To Worry
The Ringleaders – All Of My Life
Little Carl Carlton – Competition Ain’t Nothing
Stewart Ames – King For A Day
Gene Toones – What More Do You Want?
Hoagy Lands – The Next In Line
Melba Moore – The Magic Touch
Philip Mitchell – Free For All (Winner Takes All)
Dean Parrish – Determination
Jackie Lee – Darkest Days
George Pepp – The Feeling Is Real
The Superlatives – Lonely In A Crowd
The Contours – Just A Little Misunderstanding
The Originals – Suspicion
Ozz & The Sperlings – Can You Qualify?
Ben E King – Gettin’ To Me
Herbert Hunter – Happy Go Lucky
Bunny Sigler – For Crying Out Loud
The Moonlighters – For Granted
Timmie Williams – Competition
James Carr – Only Fools Run Away
Ray Pollard – The Drifter
Freddie Houston – If I Had Known
Sam Fletcher – I’d Think It Over Twice
Little Bobby Parker – I Won’t Believe It Till I See It
The Four Perfections – I’m Not Strong Enough
Cecil Washington & The Group – I Don’t Like To Lose
Sebastian Williams – Hometown Boy
Jesse Johnson – Left Out
Bernard Williams & the Original BlueNotes – It’s Needless To Say
Billy Keene – Wishing and Hoping
The Magicians – (Just A Little) Faith and Understanding
Joe Tex – I Wanna Be Free
The Precisions – What I Want
Lou Johnson – Unsatisfied
Darrell Banks – Somebody, Somewhere Needs You
The Gambrells – You Better Move
The Darletts – Lost
Lou Ragland – I Travel Alone
Scotty Williams – Fear
The Fiestas – Think Smart
The Jobettes- No Explanation
Steve Flanagan – I’ve Arrived
Bobby WIlliams – I’ve Only Got Myself To Blame
Frank Beverely & The Butlers – Because Of My Heart
L. Allen – Can We Talk It Over
Percy Millem – Call On Me
The Masqueraders – I Got The Power
Willie Small – How High Can You Fly
Bobby Sheen – Something New To Do
Romance Watson – So Where Does That Leave Me?
Johnny Rodgers – Make A Change
The Fuller Bros – Moaning, Groaning and Crying
Darrow Fletcher – The Pain Just Gets A Little Deeper
Jimmy Holiday – The New Breed
Mary Love – Lay This Burden Down
The Valentines – Breakaway
The Charades – Key To My Happiness
Jack Montgomery – Do You Believe It?
Ray Marchand – Your Ship Of Fools
Eric & The Vikings – Hurting
Dean Parrish – I’m On My Way
Walter Jackson – It’s An Uphill Climb (To The Bottom)
The Younghearts – A Little Togetherness
Earl Jackson – Soul Self Satisfaction
The Cavaliers – We Go Together
Gene McDaniels – Walk With A Winner
Tony Middleton – To The Ends of The Earth

Yes. This. Couldn’t say it better myself

Inspirational interludes

Posted: August 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

Who knows when inspiration will strike?

It’s amazing that mere words, stories, a collection of sentences can move us in a spiritual, psychological and physical sense. We might question whether we are caught in some conspiracy theory or a plot from a movie we’ve seen before or be cynical of a reaction to something which challenges a convention; but inspiration is an interesting phenomenon. And the more we know about the brain and the chemical and neural pathways and the affect on our mind that impacts on physical self, the more we understand the power of inspiration.

So how do you inspire? How do you get inspired? What do you do with it? How do you deal with it and who the hell cares anyway?

I see a lot of under-inspired people which is saddening. I see people who are inspired and who share that with people only to be knocked down, bruised and battered so that they sense check their inspiration and may choose to let it go because someone else took them on about it.

I read a lot of books. At the same time and on devices and in paper format. I watch a lot of video footage from TED and the likes. I pick up blog posts and social media feeds. I get a news feed and get involved in conversations.

I think I am an inspiration hunter. I seek it out. I thrive on it. I get energised, excited and imagine all sorts of possibilities. I don’t think I’ve ever been any different but certainly becoming a member of the workforce of the UK PLC had a dramatic impact on me in terms of inspiration. My loved ones continue to inspire me. My friends, business partners, associates, colleagues whatever you want to call them inspire me. The dreaded category of thought leaders often inspire me (NB I have discernment in this and not just taken on board by evangelists, showmen and pretenders – I know a false deity when I see one).

So let’s take the books thing. I read a lot at the same time. I just do that. So I don’t jump from book to book wanting to “Gary Hamel” everyone or do a “Dan Pink” on people. I tend to take a range of thinking and stories and insight from books and mash them up (how trendy am I?) into a playlist of my own. I add my own stories of experiences from my own life and professional pursuits and those of others who have shared them with me. I do so to inspire. Because I was inspired and because I love to see others inspired.

Some people might say “oh look, he’s read Lencioni so he thinks every team is dysfunctional, has 5 of them and needs shaping like a load of lego into what Patrick says”.

Except I don’t. There are times when the letter of the way someone has cleverly synthesised research that the model or applied thinking needs to be put into practice to get the benefits sought. Largely, I use this thinking to spur people into thinking about things differently and, yes you’ve guessed it, to be inspired.

So why the hell don’t we try and inspire at every turn, with every word, with every deed?

OK there’s not much inspiration in transactional exchanges is there. Or is there.

So here’s my tiny story.

I queued for a coffee from a well known chain and the guy in front of me was ordering. He changed his order, he looked very solemn and he had clearly had a bad day (or so it seemed). So he grumped through the order and despite the Barista’s best attempts at making a light conversation he grunted and sourly passed over his tenner to pay for his drink. I witnessed this and felt the negativity.

The Barista then looked at me forlorn. I commented “what was going on there, I have no idea”. I wanted to acknowledge that she transacted 3 perfectly good drinks to order in the expected way and tried to ensure this customer was made to feel at least human in the exchange. I was overly polite and nice in my order and was attentive to how I conducted myself in that exchange.

As I left the coffee shop, I made sure I thanked the Barista and wished her a good evening.

Now I don’t need a “nice person” medal. I don’t even know that I wanted to inspire that person but I wanted to mildly restore someone’s sense of worth and value. So yes, I did want to inspire her.

We have a lot to compute and do in our working lives. We may not always be civil, accidentally be brusque or unattentive. However, why we can’t look for inspiration and give inspiration in almost everything we do is a little beyond me. And I don’t mean make a big deal out of things that don’t need a big deal but I hope you get my drift.

Inspiring people can move their own particular mountains. Acts of (random) kindness can make people feel better about their fellow humans and the world and can be infectious.

So, whatever’s inspiring you, might also inspire others. Share it. Give it away and you get double the impact of what you had in the first place. You create energy, kinship, a sense of possibility. You create a chemical, emotional and electrical impulse that is good for the head, heart and soul.

Don’t judge others inspiration as insipid, outmoded “so what’s”? Provided people aren’t inspired to do harm, then their inspiration is theirs and you shouldn’t take that away from them. You can add to it with additional, linked and maybe even challenging inspiration.

Before you think it, I am not advocating you shy away from calling out dangerous acts/thoughts or naivety brought on (potentially) by inspiration. If you knock it down though, you run the risk of merely points gained in the “let me tell you what IS really inspiring” game that no-one ever wins or really should play.

The point to this musing is about being aware of your actions. If you have to deliver something tough to people, you’re more likely to get something from them when you can inspire them to alternative actions/thoughts/solutions than you are to tell them, castigate them or embarrass them.

How inspirational are you? Are you even aware that you might be? Why would people be inspired by you and what inspiration do you need to lead a more fulfilling way of being, living, working and loving?

I don’t know about “be the change you want to see” being relevant here it’s maybe more be the inspiration you know you should be. You could be. You deserve to be. We need you to be.

Is it time to de-couple?

Posted: August 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin aside, the only time we heard of de-coupling was trains connected together.

Now, it appears we are looking at a future where work is decoupled from the concept of a job. Not a career, a job. A job has become a contractual obligation between an organisation and an individual to agree terms, remuneration and all that other standard guff that doesn’t matter until something’s not right. OK that’s an exaggeration, it’s also where we put exit clauses and the like but generally it’s a protective covenant between the two parties and binds people legally.

Of course spiritually it probably means squat. And emotionally it can raise hackles and cause resentment and fear. So this thing called a job is – of course – more than the contractual side we know that.

But what do I mean then when I say work decoupling from jobs?

I first heard this phrase from wise Social Media and Recruitment Guv’nor @MervynDinnen. I then read the excellent @Nilofer (Merchant)’s “11 Rules for Creating Value in a Social Era” and it was there – numerous mentions where Nilofer refers to “freeing work from jobs” and challenges HR to do something about / with that. Chapter 4 in the book (which I thoroughly recommend) says this.

Work if Freed from Jobs

When there is a shared purpose, it doesn’t matter how many people work “in the company” and how many people work “with” the company or how many are serving as an army of volunteers who want to advance the mission of the company. What will organisations look like when only 5% of the talent affecting output is directly on payroll and others come and go?

And Chapter 7 says it again.

Work is freed from jobs. This means that Human resources change when most of the people who create value are neither hired nor paid by you.

So this is a more open, Wikipedia-style of work done in Nilofer’s example but also I guess the Apple and Giff-Gaff help/support model. There are now all sorts of models where people are doing things because they love them and not because they have a job with the organisation.

Games makers anyone? OK that’s an exceptional model but the amount of people who will do things for no financial exchange or contractual protection is increasing.

People searching for meaning from there work is not restricted to care, charitable or rescue services. As we get more into digitised knowledge work, we may just click a button on screen and type stuff in but we want to think that our professional endeavours go beyond mere human to human transactions.

I am about to spend time with Sewerage workers, meter readers and front line staff. I respect what they do as I wouldn’t fancy it and I have a great lifestyle because of people like them doing work like this.

I will find out what gives them meaning in their role and whether they love having a job or it’s something about the work they do. Are they proud to work for the company or is it the sense of meaning and service and value they have that drives them to go knee deep in sludge day in, day out.

So, this decouple thing then. Why do I think this is so crucial to the future of work?

Jobs – recruiting people to it – is a bit like an identikit process. Find me the person who for 40 hours a week does this, this, this and that. Who has this, this and that level of education. Who has this, this and that experience. And who wants this reward.

We build role profiles for 7 hours a day, competent, 5 days a week people. We aggregate tasks and responsibilities to create a job.

We don’t tend to do as much time and motion study as we used to but I bet a lot of jobs were built around the physical ability to stamp/insert/stitch/craft something or other on a line and then create a job based on 1 hour’s observation then x 7 x 5 and then tag some money to it we think is right by the market. That invisible hand.

So as we’ve gone down the route of more automation and outsourced manufacturing, we’ve grown more knowledge and service work, and we’ve created 7 hours/5 days role on whatever basis we could that this constitutes a week’s work.

Now, the alternative scenario is this.

We put all work into a marketplace type environment. Project X needs a range of tasks completing and things to happen so we break that down into work packages / products (in a Scrum/Agile world – the product backlog). We then say “who can do this” and people bid for it based on the competence and abilities in a range of areas and through a conversation, the time needed and so is becomes part of the smaller deal we strike to get that work done.

In essence, this might sound like the dockyards of old. People turn up, get picked and get work. It is sort of that model but without the random, human bias maybe.

If, as it appears to is rightly the case, organisations in constant restructures and garden leave scenarios have to reshape, then why not keep the core to a minimum and they are supported by a contigent of freelancers, flexible workers, experts, volunteers, students looking for experiences and so on.

“But the organisations will rip them off” I hear you proclaim. NOT if we skill people in how to know their value and price themselves and create a market that has people back in the driving seat and not the UTTERLY mystifying Hay evaluation thing we have now. Honestly, that’s like the Coca Cola/KFC recipe thing it’s so secretive. The trouble I’ve had with this…

Anyway, instead of identikit jobs, work with passionate, capable, equipped and available people doing it who love their craft and will do it for a range of companies. None of whom will need to restructured out. None of whom will be that bothered about progression into a management role they don’t really want and who can focus on all the things they’re good at and not have to flex and try and deliver the 1/5th of a job they’re not meant for and don’t like doing.

We won’t have that ridiculous situation @HR_Gem (Gemma Reucroft to her parents) just blogged about with overqualified or high risk of leaving but highly competent applicants being passed over. The best people for the work will get it perhaps only when we can decouple work from jobs. Or freed as Nilofer Merchant says.

Just a thought. Decoupling could just be the saviour of “good” work. For more on this see Nick Isles much under known “The Good Work Guide”.

I’ll see you in the marketplace soon maybe? Unless you have a job to apply for of course.