Saturday, 5 October 2019



In a previous posting I noted that the book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable the author argues that data is better than narrative. This is because we can always create a story to account for the data but in fact the explanation may not be correct. We are better accepting the data than explaining it because the explanation smooths over the rough edges and exceptions which may turn out to be really important.

I also noted that we are overly influenced by people, characters and charisma because of a bias toward trust which Malcolm Gladwell notes may expose us to risk, but perhaps is a necessary price for a workable society.

The Black Swan concludes that we should not predict but prepare.

The book A Seat at the Table argues that Chief Information Officers CIO should abandon the old [1] command and control,[2] customer service and [3] waterfall approaches to technology delivery which [a] create well intended but unhelpful barriers and boundaries, [b] focus on technology being a servant of the business rather than a leader or enabler and [c] focus too heavily on projects which plan too far ahead and inevitably fail to hit the moving target of business needs.

Here too the emphasis appears to be on ditching the adherence to plans which seek to predict and slavish commitment to requirements that are ill defined, out of date and short on vision. Instead we should be more agile and prepared to embrace small, frequent rapid and incremental change in the face of uncertainty.

It is great when theories align and compliment each-other because it gives confidence that they might be right.

The old Mission and Command and Control of 1950’s is as dead as Central Moscow planning and yet Business Planning and IT Strategies still feel obliged to talk with the certainties that offer exact budgets, delivery dates and outputs somehow ignoring that the objective is not spend but value, not a delivery date but a capability, not an output but an outcome.

A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility by Mark Schwartz pretty much turns IT on its head and is a compelling read, especially if you believe in LEAN, Agile and perhaps have read either The Goal, or The Phoenix Project, or if you are really serious about IT and business transformation all of these!

However… this point the tide appears to turn.

As soon as we abandon foolish and optimistic plans and embrace uncertainty with experimentation we move from the concept of Intelligent Design to Evolution and the latter seems more about connections, randomness, culture and back to being about circumstances and character than precision or data.

In the book A Seat at the Table it is noted that code paring, working together, sometimes literally with one programmer at the shoulder of another, instead of doubling the cost of delivery will reduce errors and increase productivity by 30%.

In the book The Culture Code it is noted that putting a difficult, lazy or negative person in a four person team will cause the whole team to under-perform by 30%. But that having someone enthusiastic and collegiate brings trust and social cohesion that can reverse the effect. This is not about the person being inspirational or a great leader. To have an effect the positive person only has to smile and listen. This is about social and emotional safety bringing trust that Malcolm Gladwell notes as being essential for a workable society.

So maybe data is great for history, markets, economies and government but culture and connection is vital for the sub-structures of people, process and technology that underpin these.

Gladwell in his boot Outliers notes the importance of connectors and connections to be the catalyst of change and notes both the Dunbar Number (that most people can only really maintain about 150 relationships ) and those rare Outliers who like the six Degrees of Kevin Bacon seem to be able to be both a super connector and use that to be a catalyst for community and change.

These communities for change whether Open Source evangelists or part of an Arab Spring seem to defy data and achieve the impossible though connection and cohesion, pairing and splitting, evolving and learning.

The company Valve literally put wheels on desks and abandon hierarchy to allow people to move to the projects and people they most believe in. In the book A Seat at the Table, reference is made to the Allen Curve suggesting that connection, communication and potentially culture breaks when you are more than 8 meters away from your colleagues.

Let’s bring all this together and consider the implications.

It appears good to measure data because explanation is generally self-serving. One can often seek to offer an explanation that is more comforting than correct. This can result in group-think, error and wilful blindness. (I recommend Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious by Margaret Heffernan)

Put more simply: It is good to measure data to really see with evidence the position or the situation at hand, rather than allowing people justify the situation to their liking.

However working in groups appears essential to getting anything done. There is more allegiance and cohesion to a colleague or partner than a plan. Anyone training for a marathon knows your training buddy is more likely to get you out on a cold and windy night than the schedule pinned to the fridge.

It should be noted that well aligned teams very often outperform more skilled teams who do not work together well.

Increasingly we need to give-up the 5 year plan and focus on 5 weekly improvement and that requires a combination of character, connection, colleagues and culture, but also some impartial, objective, challenging and possibly confusing data.

Long term plans can be a waste of time, but we have to have clear objectives in mind from which we develop potential paths for achieving them. Remember The Black Swan concludes that we should not predict but prepare.

We need to embrace uncertainty and rather than trot out a revised Gantt chart or updated budget accept that we are not there to serve solutions to an expectant CEO or demanding customer but instead become a trusted partner who delivers benefit by intelligent experimentation, feedback, learning and growth.

Perhaps we should not be measured by delivery on-time, on-budget, to-specification but instead by rapid response, adding value and delivering outcomes, whilst all the time learning and improving at all these things through dynamic teams rather than static department.

Ultimately, if a department or individuals do not add business value they become waste.


I am interested in your thoughts and experiences. Maybe you agree. Maybe you do not. Maybe you can recommend some other books, blogs or videos. Do not hesitate to get in touch, and if you are in Jersey I will happily buy you a coffee if you would like to talk about your experience.


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
A Seat at the Table: It Leadership in the Age of Agility by Mark Schwartz
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement - 30th Anniversary Edition by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox, et al.
The Phoenix Project: A Novel about It, Devops, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim and Kevin Behr
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious by Margaret Heffernan



@TimHJRogers +447797762051
MBA (Management Consulting) Projects & Change Practitioner,
TEDx & Jersey Policy Forum, Public Accounts Committee,


Sunday, 17 February 2019

What is culture in 2019?

I read a LinkedIn article (link below) and posted a lengthy reply. However, the immediate response and small window did not allow me the time or space to explore the implications, which I will attempt to do here.

This is the article…

CIO's will steer cultural change to drive digital transformation, says Gartner

These are my thoughts…

So culture is about data and information is it? Nothing to do with process and behaviour, leadership or understanding? If this is culture: every asset is data (including people) I’m not sure it should be our aim.

Sure, Facebook, Google, Apple all regard customers as data points and cash dispensers but is that culture?

What would happen if a company treated employees like this: as automatons who clock in and out, whose email is scanned and whose moving is on CCTV or tracked by sensors which plot activity and heart rate. All this already exists and is the domain of the CIO

A technology company has created an electronic badge that can monitor workers’ conversations, posture and even time spent in the toilet. This type of office surveillance raises concerns about workers’ rights and privacy

Is this the culture we want?

This is where machine learning and AI might take us and it is a million miles away from the Cultural Web Analysis was developed by Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes in 1992.

Culture isn’t a table tennis or pool table, nor is it a kitchen and lunch. I don’t think it is data either. I think is behaviour and relationships. I have long been a fan of Cultural Web Analysis and have factored this into planning change: notably when turning public sector organisations into private companies (something I have done a few times over the years)

The model is simple in concept, but challenging to apply

1. Stories–The past and present events and people talked about inside and outside the company.
2. Rituals and routines–The daily behaviour and actions of people that signal acceptable behaviour.
3. Symbols–The visual representations of the company including logos, offices decor and formal or informal dress codes.
4. Organisational structure–Includes structures defined by the organisation chart, and the unwritten lines of power and influence that indicate whose contributions are most valued.
5. Control systems–The ways that the organisation is controlled including financial systems, quality systems, and rewards.
6. Power structures–Power in the company may lay with one or two executives a group of executives, or a department. These people have the greatest amount of influence on decisions, operations, and strategic direction

The problem now is that the application is less likely to be via leadership and management and more by message manipulation. Moreover, the six elements above are very different today than in 1992

The new cultural web

a) Stories–These are now fake news by social media in echo chambers which play back only what we choose to hear from friends, followers and facebook. This is different from office gossip at the watercooler – especially for those without an office or a watercooler. In the gig economy, the contracted and the self employed have very different source of stories to those of 27 years ago.
b) Rituals and routines–For the reasons above these are also very different nearly three decades later where our waking moments include a check of facebook, Instagram, twitter, breakfast TV and a quick check on what other people feel our meaning and purpose should be.
c) Symbols–This hasn’t changed much, but has perhaps grown in significance. We all aspire and despite the next generation being poorer than the last it is more important than ever to fight for the oxygen of fame and to “buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like”
d) Organisational structure– Organisation are flatter, more disbursed (often global) with informational structure (who gets included in messages) more important than reporting-lines which are likely managed by document rather than discussion.
e) Control systems–Financial systems, quality systems, and rewards have also changed. With zero-hours contracts and the gig economy we are measured by our presence and attendance more than our value as a human.

The above is a social commentary on life in 2019 whereas the original cultural web was more about the organisation. However, I think we are seeing boundaries collapse and it is increasingly difficult to discern where one ends and the other begins. The boundaries used to be between Monday to Friday and 9 to 5. Whereas now flexible work patterns and collaborative partnerships and short-term project focus make it increasingly difficult to define an organisation beyond the task that it is currently performing.

If Gartner are right that CIO's will steer cultural change then perhaps George Orwell was right too.

I hope not.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Don’t just do something sit there!


Mindfulness is topical. I won’t write about Mindfulness but will recommend a book by local well-being entrepreneur Glenda Rivoallan. No instead I will write about something related, but not the same.

Some context is useful. I was part of  PhD study on Mindfulness for Entrepreneurs and I can tell you that entrepreneurs or high performance athletes can all be a pretty stressed out bunch with many things to manage and a significant about of self-reliance and solo dependence for success. That’s not to say we don’t value colleagues and coaches, but in the end if you are launching your business or at the start-line of a triathlon it is a pretty singular experience.

The PhD study sought to see if Mindfulness can help entrepreneurs or high performance athletes. The answer is YES.

Interestingly most performance athletes already perform mindfulness when they zone-in and focus, exclude everything around them and in that moment of performance show flow with the precision and control that comes from single minded concentration and rehearsal that they switch-on at show-time.

We didn’t call it Mindfulness, but all the attributes that were called meditation, contemplation, and thought and are now branded Mindfulness and advocated to busy people consumed with the demands of friends, family, social media and work.


The challenge for entrepreneurs or high performance athletes is to demote everything in favour of your goal. The opposite is to try and do everything and achieve nothing.


Bob Hope apparently once said: I dont know the key to success but key to failure is surely trying to please everyone

Therein lies the problem. If our lives are empty of goals we fill them with distractions, with drink or drugs, with chores, with the millions of small tasks that steal our time and offer little reward. With likes, friends and followers.

However, I am not an advocate for heroic dedication to goals. That isn’t for everyone. Nor do goals need to be serious or noble. George Best said: “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds, and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” Nobody said your goals cannot be fun.

Most people seek a purpose in their life and being a parent, author, sportsman or friend are all equally worthy.

The challenge for the lost is to find their goal.

For some that goal may be the pursuit of meaning and truth. Buddhism, Meditation and Mindfulness all allow for periods of reflection that may help you find that path. But so does Music, Reading and any other pastime that consumes you wholly in the moment free from the demands, obligations or expectations of yourself or others.


Knowing what you want is much harder than getting it. I know plenty of people who think they want money, cars, qualifications, houses.

It is naïve at this point to go hippie and give up all material things in pursuit of your charity, community or soul. But it is worth thinking what will you do with those things?

Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics says “these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions”, Durant sums it up this way: “…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”

Replacing “Excellence” with life or goals it isn’t about a single event but an approach.

So if we are identified and valued by what we DO whether that it benevolence or buildings, teaching or technology we should not give-up on money, cars, qualifications, houses but think how should we use them, or more fundamentally: why.



So if you are thinking about what you want to do with your time, energy and money perhaps start with why and begin from within.

There is a quote: ”All endurance athletes are running away from something inside themselves”

I think however this existential crisis is not just entrepreneurs or high-performance athletes. Many people who have such anxiety channel that into Leadership (Churchill) Comedy (Spike Milligan) Creativity (J.K. Rowling)

Now that we have passed the agrarian revolution, the industrial revolution and the technology revolution most of us have food on the table and a roof over our heads and an existential crisis – what should I do now?

But before you rush to fill that time, perhaps think WHY lest you achieve your goals and then find they have no value because you’ve forgotten why you wanted them (if indeed you ever knew)


if you have knowledge, experience, qualification of any type (especially opposing views) please add to the comments and provide a different perspective to readers. If you can recommend books, videos or blogs please do so.

Gaining control of our selves and our environment

I saw a link about The Buurtzorg Model: Self-management, continuity, building trusting relationships, and building networks in the neighbourhood are all important and logical principles for the teams.


There is no doubt that “BELONGING” is key to wellbeing and providing teams are diverse and interesting (ie avoiding introspective and self-satisfying group-think) teams can be good for social and mental stimulation as well as personal growth.

However, to what extent to people want control over their own lives and to what extent do we look to the stars, fate, God, the boss, the economy or politics for our past, present and future circumstance?


There is much to be gained from gaining control over your life, but surely first there is the need to believe you can gain control

I have long been inspired by Robert Dilts and a key phase “I can do that here” or indeed “I can’t do that here” because it breaks down some of the key components of values and culture into things we can easily understand and manage.

I – Is about me, myself, my core belief, my talent. (Individual)
Can – Is about capability, competence, and capacity. (Belief)
Do – Is about action, permission, freedom, responsibility. (Capability)
That – Is about values, culture and behaviour. (Behaviour)
Here – Is about place, environment and timing. (Environment)

Now what is interesting about this model is that whilst ostensibly it starts with the individual who thought a step-by-step process might change the world, it also suggests (going in the opposite direction) that the world might step-by-step change the individual.

We can manage that! The set-up of the environment, agreeing the “rules/values”, giving permission, freedom, responsibility etc., these are all project management things that can have a change management outcome.


See and application of Dilts Model

You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
-- Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel—American children’s book writer and cartoonist)

If people did not believe they were capable of successfully producing desired results, there would be very little incentive to face even the slightest challenge

The secret to change therefore may not be in leadership seizing control but making sure that other people do.


Therein lies the paradox of Leadership, it is not about accumulating power or knowledge but actually about giving it away.

What weight do you attach to the source of the data when making a decision?

In 2018 the Jersey Policy Forum ran a series of workshops with the media and key persons of influence to discuss fake news and the effect on democracy.


This happened about the same time the Parliament and ICO Regulator were reviewing the effect of social media manipulation on Brexit and Trump votes.


The 1960’s Stanley Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was interesting in so far as it showed with the right context and in the right circumstances anyone can be persuaded to act in ways that they would not otherwise countenance.


But we already knew that. Joseph Goebbels said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”


Of course, now with social media and the four horsemen of the information apocalypse: Google; Apple; Facebook; Amazon. The power that once belonged to the State now belongs to those that hold and control the data and opinions we consume and believe. Accordingly the effect our behaviour whether that is buying or believing.

So we appear to be at risk of being manipulated by authority figures and data holders into making bad decisions.

Take for example the fraudulent research paper authored by Andrew Wakefield and published in The Lancet claimed to link the MMR vaccine to colitis and autism spectrum disorders. This was totally untrue but the naïve public and press chose to believe it and many denied their children the MMR vaccine and thus put them needlessly at risk.


The problem however is that if we have “had enough of experts” (as Michael Gove suggests) how do we know what is true, or properly evaluate the credibility of the people who try to influence us?


One simple approach is to be skeptical about everything and ask a probability question. Is it more or less probable that there is an ulterior motive behind what is being said: perhaps a sale or a vote? This is more honest about uncertainty because probability acknowledges that there is seldom 0% or 100% certainty.

Another approach with interesting implications (but a few challenges in application) is the dot collector approach championed by Ray Dalio in the book Principles and the TED Talk of the same name:


This means that instead of authority (I’m the boss, I decide) or democracy (we all get a vote, no matter how stupid we are) there is a weighting system applied to people’s opinions based on their track-record.

It is an interesting idea particularly if we can jolt the system with radical transparency and radical honesty. If the iconoclast can scream “The emperor has no clothes!” we need to be cautious that this isn’t the headline grabbing and attention seeking idiot. Are they credible, qualified, experienced, knowledgeable or consistently right? Maybe we should check.


We need people to stir things up, to challenge the norm and rebel against the country-club group-think that places being liked above being right. In her book Wilful Blindness Margaret Heffernan demonstrates the danger of willful blindness, and praises ordinary people who are willing to speak up.


So how should we use all this knowledge and experience to make better decisions?

My view is that we have an obligation to educate ourselves and others. Ironically however that education should not be along the lines of “here is the answer” or even this it right or wrong but more along the lines of …

What are the implications if this is true or false?
Is this useful to our thinking, what if the opposite is true?

This is useful in terms of the asymmetric bet: some truths have little impact but the opposite may have a massive impact. Or vice versa. So if the truth has discernible impact but the opposite is catastrophic which should influence our behaviour?


Having said that, don’t believe the author – go a check for yourself.

I hope the references are helpful rather than distracting and if you have knowledge, experience, qualification of any type (especially opposing views) please add to the comments and provide a different perspective to readers.

Escaping the Drama Triangle to deliver change

I run a number of facilitation workshops for different organisations to help unblock the path to success

In many cases this isn’t about introducing new initiatives but actually just removing blockers.

What is interesting is the Drama Triangle that often provides a THEM and US story and why people are POWERLESS and NOTHING EVER CHANGES

1.     The Victim: The Victim's stance is "Poor me!" The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight. The Victim, if not being persecuted, will seek out a Persecutor and also a Rescuer who will save the day but also perpetuate the Victim's negative feelings.

2.     The Rescuer: The rescuer's line is "Let me help you." A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if they don't go to the rescue. Yet their rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When they focuses their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also pivotal because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.

3.     The Persecutor: (a.k.a. Villain) The Persecutor insists, "It's all your fault." The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.

It is really important to listen to the Drama Triangle and help people break-out. Once you have escaped the trap you have a new path. My role as facilitator is to help them blaze a new trail to examine people, process and technology to think about policy and practices, structure and culture to build a new set of circumstances.

As a former athlete and now coach I love the aim: We create the environment where success is inevitable, which is based on Lane4

I am also a fan of Team Sky “Rules of the Bus” which I adapted for the World Champs Rowing Squad to be Rule of the Boat

1.     We will respect each other and watch each other’s backs
2.     We will train hard but sensibly and responsibly to drive performance and avoid injury
3.     We will be honest, but fair with each other
4.     We will be on-time
5.     We will communicate openly and often
6.     We will put aside any personal preferences to make the boat go faster
7.     We will debrief after every race
8.     We will maintain a log of training and Personal Best milestones which we will be available for everyone in the team to see
9.     We will always wear team kit
10.  After every session every team-member will shake hands – ritual is important to trust
11.  We will respect the boat
12.  We will be professional when racing: We will respect our opponents and be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat.
13.  We will request any changes to be made to boat set-up the day before a race and not on race day
14.  These rules (and any that are added, amended or deleted) will be agreed and followed by us all.

I feel this approach to taking ownership and managing behaviours make a real difference

See great video

More Information


CULTURE OR DATA – WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT? In a previous posting I noted that the book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improb...