Human Error

World War 2 During the second world war over 60 million people were killed.  That was roughly 3% of the world-wide population.  It was a hazardous time. Amongst the hardest hit were the bomber crews.  The Eighth Air Force suffered half of all the U.S. Air Force’s casualties.  The British fared as badly.  The chances of surviving the […]

Strategic Plans and Complex Systems

Organisations are systems System  /ˈsɪstəm/ A set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole There are (at the risk of gross oversimplification) three types of system: Simple Complicated Complex Simple systems These are easy to understand and predict.  Boiling an electric kettle is a simple system, there […]

The Irresistible Force and the Immovable Object

A middle manager’s view of change As managers get older their chances of promotion shrink.  There are fewer senior jobs than junior jobs.  The sad truth is that if you haven’t “made it” by the time you are 40, you probably never will. There is little upside to being a middle-aged middle manager. But most middle-aged managers have plenty […]

An Extraordinary System

The logistics organisation In Mumbai there is an organisation that delivers meals to office workers. It is called the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association.  That is a bit of a mouthful, they are more commonly known as Dabbawalas (lunch box men).  Think deliveroo and you wouldn’t be too wide of the mark, except that meals […]

Performance Management Best Practice

What is the best way to improve staff performance? There is an awful lot of performance management “best practice” out there.  Lots of books, seminars, HR gurus and management consultants who tell you what to do and sell you a model. But which practice is the best practice? In 2002 the corporate leadership council decided […]

Evolution or Revolution?

What’s the best way to improve your business? Where should you put your development time and effort to get the greatest return? There are two lines of thought: #1: Revolution Focus on the big strategic levers and the radical steps.  Making bold moves is the most important thing you can do.  Don’t worry about the […]

How to Make a Point

Death and taxes In the U.K. we pay car tax — we pay lots of other taxes as well. Every private car owner pays the DVLA (driver vehicle licensing authority) about £200 per year — the exact price depends on the car.  (This complicated approach to taxation confuses the public and allows the government to […]

Good Boss, Bad Boss

What makes a good boss? Julian Birkinshaw wanted to know. After pondering the question for a while, he came to the conclusion that the best way to find out was to ask some employees.  They are the people most capable of defining what a good or bad boss looks like — we have all worked for a nightmare or […]

Outputs and Outcomes

Similar but not the same It may be semantics, but I think we confuse outcomes and outputs: A call that has been answered is an output A query that has been resolved is and outcome A “finished consultant episode” is an output A patient that has been treated is an outcome An order that has been shipped […]

Should You Dress Like Your Boss?

Conformity Have you ever noticed that people conform? If your boss comes into work wearing a pin strip suit it will spread.  Before you know it, there will be wall to wall pin stripes. If your boss is more of a creative type — skinny jeans and a hipster beard — then you can rest […]