Archive for November, 2012

Radical change at the Bank of England

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yesterday appointed Mark Carey as the new governor of the Bank of England. He was previously the governor the Canadian central bank, but also worked in the private sector for Goldman Sachs.  So he is a man with a serious background in the banking but also an outsider.  He studied economics at Oxford and spent a decade in London, so he has some insight into our ways.  He comes with a relatively unbesmirched record as Canada was least affected by the world banking crisis.  So he represents a new broom, and a fresh set of eyes.  He is someone with no vested interest in the past and only interested in setting Britain’s financial house in order.

Sometimes it is necessary to just cleanse the Augean stable, and whilst one can never truly start over, having no past mistakes to defend can make it much easier to do the right thing.  In my experience, the wisdom often exists in a company to know what needs doing, what is more often lacking is the political will to take that path.

So if you are not in a position to bring a world class outsider to run your business perhaps you should start with a blank sheet of paper, forget all the reasons why you can’t do things and ask some fundamental questions:-

  1. What is it we are trying to achieve?
  2. What are key drivers?
  3. How do we measure success?
  4. What is required to make this equation balance?
  5.      … Then ask “Are we willing to do what it takes?”

A fresh start?

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

I was listening to one of my favourite radio shows, Desert Island Disks, the other day and the guest was Blanche Marvin, a theatre critic, actress, and producer.  Kirsty Young asked her about her childhood and she said she never talked about that.  When pressed further she said that it had been unhappy so she had walked away from it and started over.  She closed the door on it and buried it.  I suspect that there are some that would question whether one can ever erase the scars of childhood by a sheer act of will, but she seems to have made a happy and successful life for herself on those foundations.

In reality, most change happens as part of a continuum, with the future being built on the foundations of the past.  You have to acknowledge where you are and what brought you there, in order to learn the lessons and avoid repeating them.  In South Africa, part of the success of their transition was the Truth and Reconciliation process was the admission of what had happened as part of the emotional cleansing. I have found this to be a better model.

Resources:

  1. Click on the photo to hear the program 

The Animals… a different spin on change

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

The other night I happened to discover the Animals… yes the original 1960’s pop band were playing not far away, so I thought it might be interesting to check them out.  I was pretty apprehensive that it would not be the ‘real’ band, I knew that Eric Burden, their singer and frontman, was not with the band.  However, they had the original drummer and one of the keyboard players who joined after Alan Price left in the 60’s.  The audience was made up mainly of people with grey hair and memories of seeing the band on Top of the Pops, back in the day, but they had all arrived prepared to have fun, and there were however a few relative youngsters. 

The band launched into a series of songs including predictable old favourites like ‘We’ve got to get out of this place’ and ending with the ‘House of the rising sun’.  They sounded great and the audience had a great time, singing along with them.  The band enjoyed it and a good time was had by all. 

The interesting thing is, here were a bunch of guys, one of whom had been in the same band for over 50 years, they had done the whole rock and rock thing, and here they were, old to enough to be collecting their pensions doing the same old thing and playing the very same songs.  There are two ways of looking at this.  If you don’t make a change you’ll stay in exactly the same place as you are today (although the world will change around you!)  The other side of that coin is that if you are happy there, then why not?

Resources:

  1. The Animals.. a potted history

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing pains or … Sometimes avoiding is a decision is the same as making one…

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

I recently spent an hour chatting to a very busy and successful businessman.  He is running a profitable and rapidly growing business.  It is a venture that he started and is very close to his heart.  Not only is it close to his heart but he is very much at the heart of it too.  This is something of a dilemma as the heart can only pump round so much blood and that limits the size of the body.  He is at that point where he needs to switch from being its heart to its head.  It is a very difficult transition.  In order to distance himself from the day-to-day activities he needs to install an infra structure of people and processes that will enable him to stay in touch but no longer be drowned in a detail.  This, as I told him, involves a certain amount of pain.  It is like going to a gym to loose weight.  There is the up front investment in membership and kit, then there is the pain you have to go through before you see any benefit.  It also costs in terms of your time and effort.

It is like that when you are running a small to medium sized business and want to take the next step.  You have to invest in people and systems perhaps before you really need them so that you have the capacity as well as the capability of handling the volume and complexity of taking the next step up without being swamped by it.  It is perfectly natural for a founder to want to be prudent and generate the income before committing to extra outgoings but this often leads to disaster as he becomes more and more overwhelmed trying to be everywhere and do everything.

I suggested a course of action to him and I believe that he saw the wisdom of taking it, but he didn’t commit to it then and there.  There is a second step in this dance and that is if you avoid making a positive decision that is often the same as deciding not to do it, as pretty soon you are once again in overwhelm and too busy to think about it.  It is reminiscent of General Custer who was ‘too busy’ to consider the advantages of the newly invented Gatling gun. Cartoonists later drew Custer, out-numbered 9 to 1 and already hit with several arrows, sending a Gatling gun salesman away because Custer was too busy reloading his single-shot pistol to listen to a sales pitch about a gun that would fire 200+ rounds a minute!

Sometimes putting off decisions can be very, very expensive… (not to say ‘arrowing!)