Blogging

My Walk on the Wild Side

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We all strive to do the very best we can to develop deep capability in our chosen professions. We also sometimes have to dig deep to keep the motivation and belief that our contribution is valued and our legacy provides long term sustainable contribution to our chosen discipline.

We are also told to tell stories as part of any engagement; selling, describing, explaining . .  . .. consulting!

Me as a DrummerI recently had the good fortune to work with someone who in spite of his age and in spite of circumstance (business model) still shows real joy and fun in what he does. He was able to deliver wisdom, advice and stories of sheer joy of his work and accomplishments.

A confession. I was so chuffed to be asked to do this and “we” had absolutely no rehearsal prior and never played together. It was the first time I used that kit in about 5 years! But it was music to my ears.

Listen to him tell stories. Song starts about 5.50 in. Enjoy my walk on the wild side!

But what did this teach me? A team of professionals (in this instance semi-pro in my case) that all understood the part they played in the execution; their role, their responsibility, their contribution and collaboration and support all danced (played) to the same tune and pulled off an immediate and fun accomplishment. At no point did any of us doubt that the other wouldn’t do their job, deliver their part to time and beat and be there for the other.

Why isn’t work more like this more of the time? Why is it that we develop skills that are then compromised by “process” or “policies” or worse – politics and power play! Turning out a horrible tune!

If you don’t know who Herbie Flowers is check out this link http://www.herbieflowers.com/ and just think of Lou Reed Walk on the Wild Side and David Bowie Space Oddity, to name a few . . .

Herbie’s stories made me reflect on how I view my career. My contribution, my legacy and what it is that keeps me motivated irrespective of the challenges and demands that our modern work cadence places upon us. Is it creating beautiful music or wonderful stories!

So I hope you enjoy this and many thanks to Nik for providing me the opportunity to listen, learn and revisit my drumming skills for such an iconic and wonderful piece of music under the instruction of a one of the world’s greatest bass player ever. Thanks Herbie.

Gee Businesses Make It Tough To Change – Change the Tune!

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avril-lavigne-1

The thing is everyone in the room is a solutions architect. But not one a pop star! There’s tension and their pain and emotional investment of a life time career is exposed and raw. There is great endeavours and knowledge experts that would score highly in Master Mind for their chosen subject, and a fascinating array of professional office politicking. But not one harmonious tune.

My role gives me great insight into many situations, sectors and cultures where change and design clash constantly and where ownership and authority dance to the tune of a different song to that which they think is playing. They need to change tune but more on that later.

I see this clash more and more as enterprises make that move from old platform to Cloud and the realisation that standardisation demands a new song that only a shared platform can sing.

In the room they are all looking for a solution; they are all trapped in a decision of the past and now embroiled in the challenge of change. What often astounds me are the players in the room, the leadership of risk taking and the real issue; “our business model is no longer fit for purpose and our operating practice broken!”

Large amounts of operational expense are maintained in maintaining the modus operandi. Large capital expense is questioned and fought for to establish “betterment” against the backdrop of legacy.  This is modern enterprise business in a world of unpredictable change and overpowering competition of new business models of “subscription”.

The intent of all in the room is to do the right thing. The opinion of what is “right” is the challenge of culture, belief, experience and legacy at odds with each other.

When I am sitting in the room and layer after layer of conversation, deviation and ultimate indecision fills the air with noise and awkward body language, indifference, and/or dogma I can’t help having the tune “Complicated” pop into my head. You’re singing the chorus now aren’t you?

Chill out, what you yellin’ for?, Lay back, it’s all been done before , And if you could only let it be, You will see . . . .

I want these companies to go back to the beginning and try to find the true reason why the company and its product became. What drove it to success? Where is the value? What is the differentiator? Cling on to these and then ask:

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?
I see the way you’re acting like you’re somebody else
Gets me frustrated
You fall and you crawl and you break
And you take what you get and you turn it into honesty
You promised me I’m never gonna find you fake it
No no no

If you fancy a sing alone try this!

Must thank Avril Lavigne fo adding to my corporate change wisdom and therophy.

Talking ‘Bout My Generation – Too Busy Posting to Blog – Time and Content Social Media Trash

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It’s been awhile since I have written and published a blog. I’m writing all the time, in my mind, at work and in my personal life and some pretty interesting stuff may I add. With the best endeavors time beats me every time in pursuing my blogging activities. Now this isn’t an excuse as I haven’t made a commitment to any one (except myself) and frankly, my blogs are not number 1 in the blog parade! Nevertheless I punish myself in my lack of whatever that appears to trip me up. Yes time . . . .

What-happens-online 2014
More and more and more . . .

That said I guess micro blogging, posts and comments go some way to satisfying “I have a voice” therapy even though no one may want to listen.  Every time we make a comment in the Social Media sphere we are exercising our need to express and be heard.

This image is striking and adds to the plethora of statistics coming out of every “big data” sales pitch and Internet innovation post. And clearly it shows that the world has developed time to have a voice as part of the natural day-to-day order of life.

I often say “You can always make money but you can never make time”. Time is money, time makes money and various permutations of time over money and money over time and on and on.  But it’s not all about money is it? It is all about time and what we value in that moment of “time”.

My last blog published in February 2015 (clearly I do not have enough time) is inspired by the need to reinvent the local library as a more 21st Century offering for this internet generation. That way I guess the act of posting aligns to a very social and open collaboration. Since then a number of articles, experiences and events have amused, confused, angered, and inspired me but clearly not enough to urge me to make time to blog. Why is that?

Is it that access to so many feeds, posts and information sources has reached saturation that the whole experience and value is becoming like wall paper? Is it that when it comes down to it you need significant determination, discipline I and creativity to maintain a frequent blog? Or is it that you need time!

For a generation it is time and tools. The tools being the omnipresent smartphone and all the Apps that captures your life in step by step posts, pixelated and videoed on every exciting memory that will hold an audience forever, and just look at the “Likes” and comments! I mean who has time to live these events as we’re so busy capturing them to share.

Use of SM by Age comScore
Who will survive a generational change?

It will be interesting to see in 10-15 years time if the % demographic shown in this chart reflects the  the survival rate of some of these platforms through the transitions of generations. What strikes me is the 25 to 34 demographic dominance of nearly all of these. So say you’re the lucky one who invents a new Social Media platforms and takes it all the way to IPO and WOW! The success if predicated on the usage of a demographic that is constantly changing it stance from generation to generation and suggests no real longevity based upon the investment you have made. Would you buy stock? Will the next 25-34s really be so drawn to Social Media?  And will the technology still be valid (that’s another blog)?

This century has seen a significant change in how we live, work, communicate, socialize and behave. We can no longer live in a time bubble, safe in our local understandings and ignoring the wider world. The change in technology and the perceived benefits that it brings demonstrates that events all over the world can directly impact our daily lives through the connections that information technology has empowered through Social Media. It suggests that we have a voice and want to be heard. It suggests that this is forming part of our daily habits and part of the ritual of living.

We have a voice and want to be heard and will use anything that empowers us to do so. Or “you can post all you want to but you can’t always have something worthwhile to say”.

Not Liking Professional Social Media

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summer-wine

It’s was a tough hard Saturday, enjoyable and painful, I ache, but good. That week was hectic and the demand relentless. I made good progress but more to do. As tough and demanding the weeks work had been that Saturday gardening core really wore me out. Nothing wrong with hard work!

I enjoyed every physical, therapeutic and deep thinking moment of it. And at the end of the day, sun setting, grass cut, patio jet washed and all things looking where they should be, I achieve a sense of “in control” which sometimes is difficult to realise in a work environment, not to mention home life.

With a glass of red, steak on the BBQ I had a chance to catch up on some Social Media on the iPad, the standard past-time activity in this day and age.

I do most Social Media places to a greater or lesser extent. Wish I had msocial_media_icons_largeore time on them especially LinkedIn and Twitter. Yah, yah I am on Facebook but that is more a family and friends sort of thing, content fleeting, often assuming and sometimes heartfelt. Funny assuming videos and pictures of pets – yawn – but yes share away, you don’t have log in!

But Facebook isn’t the source for my curious mind to obtain professional views of the state of business practice and opportunity, which is always of interest. I turn to LinkedIn for professional business like content. I’m aware that this will be governed by who I am contented with, the nature for their business, my profession, and the path by which our network contention were established along with the typical profiling analytics to ensure push content is identified, advertising targeting maximised, and as a user I am fully informed. Got to keep the shareholders happy.

Some great articles were to be found and some great comments and news as to who now works where, who connected to whom and what’s going on etc . . . and of course the plethora of job adverts accompanied by the relentless product news. Yes!

All that stuff is cool. But what’s this? A give away “prize competition”, “happy Friday cupcake” picture, a “lol”, “omg”, a caption quiz, a maths conundrum, and on and on . . . . Not what I was looking for, not what I was expecting and now a jungle of stuff that I have to navigate through to find the real voices that I was so looking forward to.

I guess I’m guilty of a “like” or two on these types of “fun” posts, but it dawned on me, what the heck, I want to distinguish between my professional working social network and my more private fun network. I’ll buy the Time newspaper to be more fully informed and the Daily Mail for a joke. I have a choice based upon the publications editorial practice and positioning. On Social Media, self-governed editorial practice rules. This could become a problem!

Is it inevitable that all Social Networks will merge? Is it that our lives will be unable to distinguish between work, play and family time and zones? Broadsheets v’s Tabloids! The tracking of our likes, responses and posts are all part of your social media history and build a picture of us as a person, a professional, our values, interests, views, beliefs, likes and dislikes.

I do think for LinkedIn members as a starting point your profile and activity history is a Linkedinfundamental part of a business transaction worth, a professional currency. Linkedin should be professional fun yes, engaging and assuming content yes, but ultimately business related . . .

So we should “Like”, we should “Comment” and we should “Share”. But I worry as to where this is going. So should I be worried? Am I over reacting?

Lime Comm Share

Help get me out of here I have my serious hat on!

A Sideways View and the Road Ahead

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Often I get a little vexed when travelling in a taxi and having to look at the head rest of the chair in front. It obscures my forward vision and obstructs my line of direction. And then on an aeroplane with only one view even worse!!!

With the long traffic congested journey to the airport frustrating me for the lack of doing anything productive eats in.  Really I’m an okay traveller but  . . .

When I discovered the dashboard for my membership with British Airways it further made me consider the impact business travel has on productivity and wasted time.  But that’s often our 21st century busy life. And we all have to arrive somewhere, somehow.

BA Travel

On a particular journey I decided to ignore the big black seat in front with the tall head rest blocking the view and looked out of the side windows. It got me thinking. Trying to move forward and make progress whilst managing the obstacles of company, customer politics, policy procedure and legalities and work life balance can often bring to the surface the feelings of frustration, unproductive, time wasted and no clear line of sight.

 

Fundamentally we drive our business objectives and how we achieve our personal or professional goals interlink with though around us through as a shared journey of which some get the front seat and other peer over the shoulders.

However, it occurred to me that maybe a sideway glance, a look left or right may actual unearth opportunities that move all forward via an alternative route. It also speaks to the need to collaborate and stay in tune with the side view of your career and/or corporate activities.

Business will continue to change and challenge in 2015 and with these will produce opportunities which were previously not visible in a straight line of direction of the journey of yester year.

Yes it can be advantageous to sit in the front seat and see the road ahead but a sideways glance can reveal a more interesting landscape.

So my 2015 starting point is to keep sideways view of all the activities that may contribute to the shared success, achievements and wellbeing of colleague, family and friends. Have a great and adventurous journey through 2015 one and all.

Socially Face-to-Face – service through the whites of their eyes – the distance of the Internet

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SM ServiceIt’s really great this social media thing. It is such a great space for education and awareness. The sheer volume of posts, blogs, reports, info-graph and all things. All supported by the sheer weight of big data making sense of things we couldn’t prove before whilst at times tearing down our historic perceptions of our past reality. I love it. But it can become a paranoiac minefield of self-harming opinion. It is almost akin to “Death by PowerPoint”.

Death by PowerPoint a common fatality of many a great and important message. That said pictures paint a thousand words and ShowTime can be fun. Thinking back on the multitude of events I have attended, the presentations that resonated most have to be those that told a personal story. A story you could relate. Not the slide or statistic that you had to jot down. I guess it is dependent on all having a shared experience – speaking to the masses! Data would suggest this is more often the case than not in our modern overly monitored, categories and processed lives.

I attended an event on customer service back in 2011 that had a lot of case studies and statistics on where, why and how to manage and deliver it supported by copious amounts or diagrams/slides showing best practice, architecture, tools etc. All very useful, informative but I have to confess with a retention score of Zero in creating a call to action or influencing me past the next speaker.

Funny I am in the midst of setting out an initiative and find I am producing copious number of slides to help galvanise my thoughts! A tool or a communication medium? That’s another blog! Where’s my mind-map?

Returning to this event and one particular presentation, well more like story-time.  A futurologist (I kid you not) working at BT, a Dr Nicola Millard delivered such a poignant and relevant message of the future of service engagement that it basically put to shame 80% of the previous days speeches, industry advice and undermined most of the solutions presented and best practices pitched.

She explained that the rate of change and the speed of consumer opinion is overwhelming and unstoppable in this connected social mobile Smartphone App futurologist .  That the reality is that no matter how hard companies try to perfect engagement they can only do so retrospectively which is often too late, too behind the curve to satisfy and putting at risk customers retention or limit any damage to the brand.

What made Dr Millard presentation so impactful was her delivery of this dilemma and the fact that she reached out to the audience by using the whole stage and not standing behind a lectern or referred to slides as the main delivery.

You could see the whites of her eyes the passion in her beliefs. She instilled confidence and therefore commanded attention. She spoke directly and enthusiastically and put “us” in the story recalling our everyday activities in relation to the proposition of “how to control the un-controllable” which was overly oopinionated customers using smartphone/social app at the point of service delivery –  a queue that was way too long against the backdrop of unattended service booths. #poorservice

BA TweetAnd the picture she painted is one that I have experienced personally. In situations where I have required assistance from some large organisations I have used social media (mainly Twitter) to achieve success. In most cases this has worked far better than traditional channels (LG, British Airways to name a few good ones).

Her positioning of this dilemma still resonates with me.  I hear in so many conversations I experience in business to this day. The need to change, modernise, and deliver “world class” customer service and perform better.  A constant challenge and at times struggle for most organisations. “It’s all about the platform” cries out a stressed out management team; “If we had a single view of the customer with all channels captured and . . . . .”

So how does Social Media and customer service close the gap, crosses the divide between the post, the like, the comment and shows the whites of it eyes? It must give that personal touch, that empathy or a call to actions that changes the nature of the broadcast to really be a service offering.

Do I have the answer? I guess Social Media fundamentally promotes tailored service and breaking the call centre-all script. Why? Because the transparency and collaboration that can develop from a single post or a single tweet can be immense and lasts forever in the Social Cloud. The conversation can become global quickly so containment and direct help is imperative to rescue the experience to maintain reputation and relevance with a customer.  But it can’t be one of process as that is not a good experience and this is very public.

SM SPSince that event way back in 2011 I am seeing and experiencing companies taking Social Media so much more seriously, not for the “Likes” alone, but for supportive interactions and turning this into positive, global and fully transparent PR opportunity of what a great company does when it needs to support its customers.

Great service will always starts with a personal touch, an experience, a human touch at the end of the post or send button. So I wouldn’t bet on transformational cost savings in service delivery through the transition into Social Media Customer Service practice. After all it is just another channel to manage! A ferociously public one which will require the good old Service Agent to manage as much as any “one on one” experiences on traditional channels. The existing internal training, couching and product/service training and CRM practices as is standard in any good service organisation will still be demanded and expected by your customers. So don’t look to save using Social Media as a “cheaper channel”, but look to improve your return creating a Social Media Service experience that shows them the whites of your eye and gets the word out that your a great Brand to work with.

Doing the “right thing” by mixing your drinks or how not to wet your self

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DTRTIt was always going to be a challenging project. The end users had the attention span of a gnat.  The delivery was to change their way of working significantly.  We knew we were looking at an uphill battle of acceptance, agreement and adoption. But it was a transformational project and had benefits beyond the front line use (CRM).

My key sponsor knew how to play this landscape and knew how to navigate the culture and habitat of the business. As such he drove an extremely hard line on the project team and maintained a level of focus and engagement that ensured that we did the “right things”, not always “did things right”.

As the project manager this approach often conflicted with the fundamental way minds work in an engineering project discipline.  It clearly did not sit well with the project team. “Where is the best practice?” rang in each team meeting, “this doesn’t work with the deliver dependencies in the plan!”  Somehow we needed to find common ground and understanding with the business and agreed demarcation of decision making and domain respect.

I was accountable for the delivery of the solution.  It had to meet the business needs but also needed to be sustainable and workable across the wider solutions and process platforms.  It also must protect the long term ROI by the manner in which we engineered the solutions for several international areas of the business.

Some environments can tolerated the “do the right thing” v’s “doing things right” approach and other will push back. The birth of Agile PM as an example has been bastardised from it pure efficiency gains into a delivery expectation paradigm which is wrong, wrong, wrong.  It places business, projects and outcomes at risk by setting expectation that do not align to a design and puts avoidable pressure on all sides of the project. Some things we build need foundations; it isn’t just painting and decorating!

However, in this instance my sponsor had the positioning bang on and influenced the way I priorities and multitasked the project into what would “curry” favour with key stakeholders, answers their concerns and keep the project from by flushed down the loo!  The key was to make an early deliverable to the end user communities and make an immediate and important win whilst building solid reputation and greater tolerance of the project for doing thing right going forward.

I must confess, at the beginning of this journey this approach created some degree of challenge for me and great anxiety for the team.  It went against all my experience and best practice as a PM. I was tasked with managing a delivery whilst my sponsor was tasked with delivering an outcome. I have since come to realise that these in essence are one and the same.

So over too many drinks one night this miss-alignment resulted in a heated debate (constructive and open) between us. My Beersponsor resolved it by setting me a test.  This proved his point and influenced how I would assess delivery forevermore.

“You have been out all night drinking copious amounts of beer. You’re hungry and in desperate need of a toilet. You grab a microwave curry on the way back to your flat. Keys in the door into the hallway and you see that you have some messages on your answerphone (those were the days). So you’re hungry, desperate for the toilet and there are messages waiting for you. What do you do first?”

I’ll leave you to work out what is the correct answer and please let me know by leaving your comment below,

Suffice to say this approach has continued to influence my thoughts and approach in engagements and project management. Where there is a clear need for “quick wins”  that conflicts with “best practice” it is important to find a way forward that allows leveraging greater stakeholder tolerance of the wider delivery and a more pragmatic direct focus on doing the “right things” by the team in order to do things right.

As a leader of the project team my task is to gain buy-in from all parties to identifying why a “doing the right thing” by your business stakeholders is the first deliver that any project needs to make.