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

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 tim...