A Culture of Fear, Intimidation and Retaliation

The scandal In 2011, a state report to the Governor’s office in Georgia claimed that there was “organised and systemic misconduct” in 44 of Atlanta’s 56 schools.  2 years later 35 teachers, head teachers and administrative staff were brought to trial and charged with racketeering and other offences. The smoking gun The accusations revolved around […]

Management Cardboard

Management control Rather longer ago than I care to admit, I worked for an FMCG company.  I worked in R&D, and developed new frozen food products for a living. There were two things we worried about: The contents – the product that customers pay for, the fish finger or ice cream. The container – the […]

Poor Behaviour

Dysfunctional situations It is easy to blame other people’s behaviour for poor performance: He is uncooperative She is selfish He is incompetent She is a bully He is power crazed She is rude Poor behaviour causes all sorts of dysfunctional situations.  Doesn’t it? The experiment In 1971 Phillipe Zimbardo set up the Stanford prison experiment. […]

Tool Hire

There are lots of tools out there I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.  I mean process improvement tools: 5S, control charts, swim lanes… those sort of tools. There are also lots of people who know how to use those tools. It is easy to recruit staff who can bring a toolbox stuffed with approaches […]

One Hundred Bad Ideas

Notable failures Even the most successful people have failures: James Dyson built 5,127 prototypes before he perfected one vacuum cleaner. Mozart wrote over 64 symphonies.  How many have you heard? Richard Branson has launched over 400 business ventures, remember Virgin Vodka?  Nope, nor do I. Over 30 years Albert Einstein published ~ 345 scientific papers but his major work […]

Thou Shalt Not Delay, Distort or Withhold Information

Systems need information They use that information to control the way they act. In a system of cells (like your body) that information flows along nerves and via hormones. In a system of animals (like a colony of ants) that information flows via pheromones and signals. In a system of people (like your business) it […]

Three Types of Culture

1. Blame culture I am not a big fan of blaming people when things go wrong. There are two reasons why: It is hard to apportion blame correctly. Business is a team sport. With so many players involved failures are rarely the fault of one person. If a goal keeper lets in a goal, was […]

Pseudoscientific Management

Pseudoscience Pseudoscience answers everything Pseudoscience hates being challenged Pseudoscience rejects new ideas Pseudoscience cannot fail Pseudoscience is static Science Science questions everything Science thrives on being challenged Science opens up to new ideas Science is designed to fail Science changes Pseudoscience or Science? Opinions or observations? Dogma or debate? Convinced or sceptical? Performance Management or Test […]


A problem with motivation My youngest daughter (8) is learning to play the saxophone. I’m very jealous, I’d love to be able to play the saxophone. It sounds like so much more fun than management meetings and PowerPoint. Yet no matter what I do, she doesn’t practice. And because she doesn’t practice she will never […]

The Project That Couldn’t Fail

Trite management sayings Managers love clichés. They pick them up as they gain experience and seniority. The most popular are those that prove their superiority and make others feel small. A couple of my personal favourite statements of the obvious are: “Fail to plan and plan to fail” and “Poor Planning leads to P### Poor Performance”. […]