12 Lessons from a Labrador on what
Joyful Purpose looks like

I’m sure there’s a whole shelf in the management library on ‘lessons from animals’ but this 35 second clip illustrating the power of purpose could keep me going for hours.

Here are 12 Lessons from Walter the Labrador on Joyful Purpose :

Lesson 1
Our furry friend Walter has been held back from achieving by his master. Normally this is A Bad Thing, however, placing oneself under artificial constraint can induce lots of great alternative ideas, through the necessity to challenge your assumptions and seek alternative solutions.

Lesson 2
Constraining the release point also serves to charge motivation as the energy has nowhere else to go. Holding back and waiting for the right time to release pent up energy can also serve to provide an extra charge to momentum and get things flying from the word go.

Lesson 3
Note how the hound is constrained yet still has an abundance of motivation (A.K.A. a waggy tail). Walter desires to achieve his goal and abides until he is triggered. He powers himself with hope and belief that he will one day be able to make the leap to the ocean.

Lesson 4
Observe the pace unleashed when he is let off the leash. No dithering, no waiting for permission, no hesitation on executing his mission. He Just Delivers.

Lesson 5
His destination is out of sight. Not just obscured, but completely out of sight.
He launches despite of this. Continue reading →

How much should you offer employees to Pay to Quit?

We’re all familiar with concept of getting the right people on the bus before you even think about embarking on any sort of challenge but how many times have you wished you could get the wrong ones off at the next stop just a little bit faster?

Depending on the employment laws where you are, this can be pretty tricky, particularly when you wish to demonstrate you’ve tried everything reasonable to find the right seat or get the person to a place where they “get it” and are capable of operating in your organisation.

Buried at the bottom of this Guardian article I read that Amazon have apparently hit upon the genius idea of Pay to Quit : simply offering a standing $2000 to anyone that wants to quit. Continue reading →

How reframing can stop smart people giving dumb answers

Ever been in a room full of smart people asked a question?

It’s not hard for them to come up with a bunch of perfectly sensible, rational answers founded on prejudice and assumption experience and logic. Reasonable and rational propositions abound but crucially, they’re often not founded on evidence.

It’s pretty much how it seems some financial reporting works. Revenue was down 4% this quarter due to :

  • the weather was [hotter/wetter/colder/windier], so people didn’t behave normally
  • the [insert sports event here] took place which distracted people
  • competitors launched a new ad campaign
  • the planets weren’t in alignment
  • etc, etc.

Some, none or all of them may be true but as they say, correlation is not causation.

This post about discussing challenge and direction on The Lean Thinker blog, highlights a great use of reframing to get round this problem.

Mark describes how a well-meaning manager keeps asking one of his people “How can we reduce the overtime”. Continue reading →

How HMRC costs us 90 hospitals through complexity

There’s a good article in the Guardian by Polly Toynbee today, illustrating the chaotic effects of politically influenced short term-ism on systems. The official estimate (i.e. lowest, most optimistic level) of missed revenue on tax collection is £35bn but it could range as high as £100bn. The entire HMRC costs £3.5bn to operate yet their system generates 10 times as much again in effective failure demand.

£35bn is about the cost to build 90 hospitals. It’s a third of the NHS Budget. We could give all 450,000 full time teachers in England a £12k raise to £50k (similar to average newly qualified accountants/solicitors) so they’re paid like the professionals de-facto developing the next generation should be – and still have enough leftover to give all 2.3 million unemployed a £5k grant to start a business.

Take one look at a self-assesment form and it’s no wonder the system is rife with potential for misery and manipulation, never mind what a corporate tax adviser can do with it.

I’m sure a big part of why taxes are so complex and high is the inevitable overhead in simply maintaining a system so horrifically complex and impenetrable. When the head of the National Audit Office says “Reducing running costs by £1.6 billion over four years is a big challenge for HMRC“, it seems like ripping out complexity would make that rather trivial.

Moral of the story: If it’s simple, it’s hard to game. It’s hard to get wrong, fake, cock-up, cover-up and miss mistakes that cost yet more in failure. If it’s simple, it’s easier to operate. It’s easier to teach, support, use, improve, scale, monitor and measure. Simple resists meddling. Simple is powerful.

Engineering Simple into a system isn’t easy, but it’s so powerful when you can achieve it : 90 hospitals powerful.

Ask a silly question, get a winning answer – how reframing unlocks insight

Questions. One of those deceptively simple words that punches way above it’s length or dry definition. One of my favourite coaches, the inimitable Terry Russell, calls words like these ‘fat words’ because they contain so much more possibility than their superficial delivery or appearance.

The W questions are great examples of how simple questions can quickly provide insight and help reframe activity.

  • What are we trying to do?
  • Why is it important/urgent?
  • Who is responsible for making this happen?
  • When do we need to have this done by?

Whatever W’s you employ, questioning is vital in any exercise to explore possibility because asking the ‘right’ question is a superb mechanism to unlock perspective, break down constrained thinking and challenge assumptions.

The ability of a simple question to reframe and inspire – to change how something is perceived, considered or evaluated makes it one of the most powerful tools in reframing strategy. Why are those three elements desirable in reframing ? Because they require people to engage in what’s possible, rather than remain blinkered in a world of closed options.

Reframing something through asking the right questions is fantastically valuable because it opens up perspective to consider challenges in a different light. Continue reading →