Sunday, 7 December 2014

The End of the Year is Nigh...

The end of the year is nigh, and I'm sure you're thinking about winding down for the end of the year... and there's the problem. So are your sales people.

"There's no point doing anything in December", they say, "No-one's going to make any decisions until the New Year"

Even if that's true, why not hit the ground running in 2015?

Get your sales team together now, while they're saying things are quiet anyway, for an intensive strategy planning and goal setting session.

And best of all, if you pay before Christmas and hold the workshop before the end of January, I'm going to give you a half price offer. Normally, a full day strategy and goal setting workshop would cost £995, so I'm only going to charge £495.*

Why would you bother? Because I've doubled sales conversion rates for D&G and FIE, I've increased profitability at Parker Hannifin by 700% and I could get similar results for you.

Get ready for 2015. Before your competitors beat you to it.

* Plus travel expenses from the Midlands.

Monday, 28 April 2014


Recently, on a management development program, we advised managers to put reminders of quality standards next to staff rotas, so when the rota says 'goods in', staff know exactly what they are responsible for during that period of time.

As a manger, you have to make it easy for staff to achieve the standards that you hold them accountable for. It's simply not fair or reasonable to let them get on with it and then lay into them afterwards for not doing a job properly. Define what 'properly' means and they have at least half a chance.

This then sets the standard for performance management, so if a member of staff doesn't achieve the standard that's there in black and white, they're really out of excuses.

Compare that with a situation where the standards are all in a procedures manual, tucked away in the manager's office. Are you really expecting anyone to read it.

Make it easy for your staff to achieve the standards that you hold them accountable for.

And, lo and behold, after we told the managers this, we visited a sweet shop, and look what we found:

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Is Evaluation Still Relevant?

I'm getting ready to release the second edition of Genius at Work with some all new stuff and a whole new modelling case study.

I was just updating the chapter on Evaluation - specifically evaluation of learning, but it could apply to anything that you want to measure.

I thought I'd share it with you here to get you all excited about the upcoming second edition, which you can win a copy of in our competition to support this year's Learning at Work Week.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Talent Management - an Application of Modelling

Some companies have excellent talent management processes. They have regular, fair appraisals, competency frameworks and encourage career progression through mentoring, secondments and networking events.

However, the majority of employees aren't that lucky. They have to attend to their own career development if they want to 'get on'.

One company which recognised this problem was Babcock - at the time, known as Alstec. They had an ageing workforce with decades of technical knowledge locked up in engineers' heads. There was no plan to capture that knowledge before these people retired, so the normal routine was for someone to retire on a Friday and come back as a contractor the following Monday - paid more, and with no incentive to do much of anything other than protect their knowledge, because that was what they were being paid for. Once someone reached this position, it was practically impossible to 'download' their knowledge, because that would make them expendable.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Talent is, in Itself, Irrelevant

RSA Premiums has launched a 'Valuing your Talent Challenge' to discover new ways to identify and develop talent within an organisation, so I have submitted an idea based on Genius at Work; that talent is entirely culture dependent.

Everyone's focusing on talent; nurturing talent, the war for talent etc. and forgetting a very important point; that talent, in itself is irrelevant. If that talent cannot express itself in a which which creates value, it's a waste. In fact, we can only ever identify talent in light of an organisation's goals. Do we analyse an investment banker's talent for playing the trumpet? Or a production manager's talent for creating hybrid roses in his garden? No. So, if we don't also look at an organisation's culture then talent means nothing.

This is the subject of over 20 years of research that is shared in my book Genius at Work.

A culture can be enabling, where organisational and tacit rules inhibit the expression of rules, or it can be enabling, where those rules allow or even reinforce the expression of talent.

A culture is simply a set of rules (plus a language) which adapts as quickly as the people who make those rules. When managers talk about culture as an ethereal, intangible concept, they're talking about tacit rules - rules that aren't written down anywhere and which are passed on through experience. Our approach maps these rules as they connect with a person's behaviours and beliefs to create an interaction which either makes it difficult for that person to express their talents or easy.

We already know, intuitively, that you can have the best candidate in the world, on paper, but if they don't 'fit in', they won't perform. What we lack is a way to quantify and predict this. On the other hand, a group of average performers, working as a close-knit team to achieve shared, inspiring goals, will achieve more than a team of superstars, each fighting for the limelight.

My insight is therefore that talent is irrelevant, in itself, and you must look at the relationship between talent and culture to see how to improve performance, which is ultimately what we're aiming for.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Diminishing Returns in Customer Service

I'm working on a customer service module for a client's management development program and came across some interesting research showing that the connection between customer service and profit is non-linear.


In other words, better service = more profit up to a point, and then profit declines with improvements in service.

So instead of giving your customers more, give them what they value.


Friday, 7 February 2014

Overwhelmed by Supernormal Stimuli

This fascinating article about supersnormal stimuli is copied from Quora...
A wise man rules his passions, a fool obeys them. Publius Syrus
Given the rapid pace of technology, one has to wonder whether or not our brains (and bodies) have been able to keep up with all the new “stimulation” that is available.

Fact is, a frightening amount of research suggests that many of the things we enjoy today would be classified as supernormal stimuli, a term evolutionary biologists use describe any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved, even if it is artificial—in other words, are “fake” stimuli like junk food and video games too much for our brains to handle?

It’s a question that deserves investigating.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Three Levels of Activity Design

When we design training exercises, they have three levels.

Well, actually, that's not quite fair. In fact, all training exercises and activities have three levels. It's just that most trainers don't know about the third level, so the results of the activity are unpredictable and the training program fails to achieve its outcomes. This is a particular problem with 'team building' events run by the people who manage outdoor activity centres and the like.

The result is that your team gets a day off, has a lovely time, but completely fails to address the reasons why they're not performing effectively.

Activity Structure The rules of the activity itself; what to do with what, where and when
Learning Outcome What the trainer wants the learners to take away from the activity, such as the conclusion that 'teamwork is important'
Learning Experience What the learners have to covertly do or experience in order to achieve the learning outcome

The third level of Learning Experience, the hidden level, is missing when the trainer focuses on the learning outcome. The problem with the top two levels is that the learners know that they're happening, so they 'play along' and second guess what's supposed to happen. Partially, we could see this as a conspiracy with the trainer, who of course wants an easy life and wants the learners to write "I learned that teamwork is important" on their feedback forms, therefore proving that the trainer did a great job.

Whilst the learners may be able to recite this great insight, it doesn't mean anything to them. Most importantly, it makes absolutely no difference to how they perform as a team.

What does make a difference is what they do, what they experience, that they don't know is happening until it's over and they have achieved something much more valuable than a superficial learning outcome.

What's the difference between conscientious and lazy staff?

Not much, it turns out.

Because we can only see what's happening on the outside, it's easy to think that conscientious, careful, customer caring staff always do the right thing, therefore they don't even think about doing things the wrong way.

Lazy staff, on the other hand, don't care about the customer, therefore they don't think about how their actions affect the customer.

Actually, this isn't quite true.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Comparing the Average

When we model high performers, we don't compare the highest to the lowest, we compare the highest to the average. The difference between your best and worst staff isn't performance - it's intention.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

You Can Trust Me, I'm a Scientist

For the past 50 years,we've been talking about the power of authority, all because Stanley Milgram conducted a famous experiment. Derren Brown even reproduced the experiment on TV, with the same shocking results. But you have to remember, he's a magician, whereas Milgram was a serious scientist working under strict experimental conditions.

Or was he?

A new book by Gina Perry, 'Behind the Shock Machine', shows that, in fact he manipulated the experiment and the data to show the result that he wanted.

So are our views of authority changing, or was our point of reference just a lie all along?

You can find out more about the book here: