Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I am the 99%

I am a great fan of the occupy movement. I love it. I particularity like the way the great diversity of opinion and lack of coherent, single issue, manifesto leader led style confounds and confuses the vested interest groups that are unnerved by it. It is like a group expression of teenage rebellion, that hormone driven maelstrom of pooled discomforts that grump and grumble as a rumble of scowls that hates ….. well …. stuff! Its not a single issue thing its juts a groundswell of discontent at more or less everything and that its not fair and it all being stacked against you while everyone else parties.

The absence of a single agenda and specific manifesto means that the usual defence tactics of the vested interst groups – the 1% - cant directly challenge and unpick it so it confuses them. Yiou can almost see th frowns and thoughts of “How can this be? Our usual media management techniques of vacuous words and supposedly rational argument about this is the best and only way – dont work.” Here we have the 99% saying we the majority state the systems broke. You the 1% with the levers to change it must change it even if its harms your privileged position. Physician heal yourself or else.

There is undoubtedly a younger demographic very much embracing this. Many would say the Gen Y's (I hate the labels) You hear many in that group declare that what has brought them to this is action is the fact that the promises made to them have been broken in that they were promised opportunity and told to aspire and now its all been taken away.

I would say – as a baby boomer / Gen Xer ( The fact I could be either shows how daft the terms are) twas ever thus. Its not that is is not true it just we have all been there. We all have dreams and ambition. We are all told to aspire, that things are possible, the world is your oyster, the good and honest prosper etc etc, only to find that actually it aint so. We discover life passes quickly, that the things we are told we should have require taking on commitment and debt and that the need to service this demand means holding onto dreadful jobs with hateful organizations that exploit and degrade you because you need them more than they need you. Liars and charlatans often get on and lying is a necessary evil. Of course none of this needs to be so but the system sucks you in and grinds you down and soma to deal with this deep disappointment is the council of “Well its life. That’s the way it is. Its growing up.” Some console themselves with that other opium, religion – it will be better in another life. But even that seems to be unravelling as “grown ups” in the privileged west come to understand that the whole edifice is not as sounds as it seemed.

Personally I never bought that “growing up”idea. Inequality and lies still leave me angry. So I say to the disgruntled youth – your experience is not unique.

What is unique however is that we have a real opportunity to genuinely challenge the “status quo”. Never before have the 99% had such possibility to rapidly come together, organise articulate and act in concert to bring about change. The appetite to do it has always been there, but now we have to tools. Lets make the change actually happen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Change is coming - hopefully

If you needed a more telling indication of the absurdity of our current global arrangements look no further than the eurozone ”bailout”. Apart from the fact that this is not a solution but merely a cobbled together postponement we have the ghastly spectacle of Europe’s barely chastened leaders sending their envoy, cap in hand, to an appalling totalitarian regime to beg for cash to help them out of a utterly self imposed crisis. The supreme irony is that the money they hope to secure was once their own but was happily handed over in exchange for cheap goods produced in poor circumstances with an artificially subsidised exchange rate at the expense of their own citizens jobs. And the bargaining chip? We will criticise less your human rights record and maybe make you a market economy. So much for Tahrir Square I haven’t forgotten Tiananmen Sq.

And that this ridiculous sticking plaster onto a gaping wound should happen on the 25th anniversary of Big Bang – that monument to greed and selfishness - and the announcement that UK Directors have seen their remuneration package expand vigorously at a time when others are forced to tighten their belt in “austerity measures” only makes the situation more repulsive.

Now we have Nicolas Sarkozy finally saying what many of us said all along that Greece shouldn’t have joined the Euro. But then Europe loves making rules that it can then simply ignore. Perhaps Mr Sarkosy might want to turn that new found sharp economic insight onto getting the EU accounts audited and signed off for the first time in umpteen years – but that might open up another can of worms of fudge, fraud, graft and greed.

However – there has to be hope and I find some comfort in Don Tapscotts challenge and vision that mass collaboration can change things and turn long held assumptions on their head. As the printing press played a role in bursting open the corruption and vested interest of religious institutions, and lit the fire of many a revolution so too must mass collaboration liberate us from our tired and broken institutions. Unlike Don I don’t think they have or do serve us well – hasta la vicotria siempre!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Land of the long white flops

So England are on the plane home after another world cup failure this time in rugby as they fall to France in Auckland. And rather like the exit from the Soccer World Cup (and yes it is soccer) a couple of years ago it is both no surprise and to be honest a bit of a relief and, as before, there are lessons to be learned from the defeat.

In South Africa for me it was clear from very early on that they would not progress as it was quite apparent that this was not a team – it was a group of individuals. As if to underline the point it was exquisitely demonstrated by their reaction when a mistake by Rob Green the goal keeper led to a soft goal, not a single player took the time to go back and speak to him. They left him swinging in the wind, compounding and accentuating the scale of the error in a wholly destructive way. As my old Rules coach used to say (yes that’s Aussie Rules) “A champion team will always beat a team of champions.” Lack of leadership too - where is the captains example?

And so to Auckland. IMHO it has been apparent to me that this team has lost its ability to reflect, consider and to be self critical. They are self absorbed but that is not the same as being self critical. They have lost humility, they have lost a sense of responsibility and, let’s be frank, lost touch with reality. They are smug. How do I know this? Simply witness their reaction to the criticism levelled at them for their behaviour and “antics” in the last few weeks. They believe the criticism is unjustified, a storm in a tea cup, exaggerated, and their responses in interview have been chippy, smirky, the demeanour of schoolbullys.

Hmm? Well I think they have forgotten the privilege and responsibility bestowed on them. Well guys don’t forget there would be no criticism if you behaved yourselves and as for storm in a tea cup, the behaviour in the Dunedin hotel would see you very much departing most normal jobs these days so why should we tolerate it in national representatives? Get some perspective and learn some respect.

For those that say this is the way with modern sports men I say “Erm? not so!” and offer Sam Warburton of Wales as a much better example of behaviour attitude and, at this time, success.

But the most telling indicator is the penalty count. Now it really doesn’t matter if you agree with the interpretation of the referee or not. I have major issues with how the Southern hemisphere officials referee the game and yes I am a qualified Rugby Referee. However if you are shipping penalties it is no point saying you don’t agree, the guy with the whistle will keep blowing it and you need to adjust and adapt. This means taking a long hard look at what you do and admitting it’s not going right and adjust. England’s penalty count has been lamentable and costly and they simply haven’t LEARNED. Lack of leadership both on and off the field.

I take nothing away from France who were, as they can be, magnificent – believe me I know being married to a Kiwi! But the inability to be humble, lack the honesty and self awareness to be critical and examine performance will defeat you regardless of the opposition because you defeat yourself.

I don’t lament the defeat such moronic national representatives don’t deserve to wear the jersey, best to have them home. And as for the black jerseys and the state of the RFU – don’t get me started.

So why am I writing this apart from the need to get it off my chest?

Well the lessons are the same in business. I recall joining a consultancy firm and having “The Wisdom of Teams” Katzenbach and Smith – thrust into my hand as I walked into the first day induction, and it is a fine message, and fine text that has served me well.

The ability to be self critical is essential too. Review and adapt and learn. It is not an admission of failure it’s an acknowledgement that nothing we do is perfect but we should constantly strive for it. Coaching is of no value if you can’t learn – knowledge is a verb.

As for leadership - well that is a post on its own. Lets save it for another day.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oh Lord! You Dannatt know the law.

Lord Dannatt – former chief of the defence staff keeps telling us that deploying Apache helicopters to Libya isn’t an mission creep its an “escalation”. He also rattles on about it being entirely legitimate to takes sides in a civil war and look to regime change because Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama published articles saying that was their intent. I must have missed the meeting where regime change was made legal and that by politicians printing things in the papers makes it okay.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Knowledge

One of the ongoing debates in the world of KM is the ever controversial “collection or connection” classification. It neatly defines the two most common wings of the discipline, one emphasising an information or artefact driven approach, the other endorsing the essential role of the human context or, as I would say it, the application of the Mk1 Brain. As someone who describes knowledge as a verb not a noun in order to break with the information managers of this world and to reinforce the necessity of action to create value I think you can guess where I sit on this one.

However the argument neatly highlights the problem with KM. KM is hard. Its hard to define, hard to demonstrate ROI, counter cultural, long term, and yet it promises so much. Because it is hard it is easier to characterise it as information on steroids because people can “get” that and can task someone to go away and do it – problem solved. It gives management the secure warm feeling that they are “doing KM” because they have neatly pigeon-holed it under something that is somehow familiar. The problem is that this isn't KM and it is in fact something of a dead end.

In a way the the debate has found an echo in the Social Media domain. Creating value from Social Media is much more complicated than simply starting a Facebook page. There is familiar debate about the value of curation as opposed to creation, a debate about ROI, and we have an over emphasis of seeing Social Media through the lens of Marketing because once again people can “get” that and task someone to do it. But again that really isn't the whole story by any means and again is something of a dead end.

But curiously enough there is an area where we can find some progress and value by bringing the two together. Social Media is underpinned by a mindset rooted in collaboration and sharing, iteration, evolution and tearing down barriers to participation. This mindset is coming from outside the boundaries of the organisation and shaking the traditional structures and practises as it permeates its way in. The challenge is for organisations to embrace that and create value from it through new approaches, new business models and new thinking – in a word innovation.

KM is rooted in the same insight but has come from the other end of the telescope in that it has sought to to create that environment within organisations and push it outwards.

We can now go beyond this and by bringing these insights together and we can create tremendously rich possibilities for organisations by bringing together the elements of curation, collection, connection and most importantly applications that can operationalise these elements in to action and value generation. We call this Social Knowledge.

Of course it takes planning, analysis, and a strategy but it can be done and a good deal of my work at twintangibles is taken up with this

Friday, April 22, 2011

How refreshing - "Let me think about that"

How refreshing to hear someone in the public eye say I need to give it more thought. In our world of all at once ness, instant communications and sound bite opportunistic politics we have become accustomed to public figures having a view on everything and an instant response for any question. What it often leads to is very shallow polarised debate, an expectation that celebrities have an answer to anything, or even the trite and vacuous media speak that coach those put on the spot to say something that means nothing and leads to the development of execrable phrases like “going forward”!

So how refreshing when someone asked a question has the courage to say – “Actually I will give that a bit more thought.” Now David Cameron is not a chap I see eye to eye on a lot, nor do I have much in common with him but credit where credit is due that is what he said yesterday when questioned about the privacy debate currently going on regarding judges awarding gagging orders to public figures whose privacy is alleged to have been invaded. The debate I will leave for another day, but Cameron said he was uncomfortable with the situation but added that he needed to give it a bit more thought and for that alone he has earned my respect as it is a rare quality.

Archbishop Rowan Williams – another man I have little in common with – I don’t even have a beard – did much the same once when being interviewed on the radio. He was asked a question and asked for time to think before answering. Now this is a chap who is very sharp so it wasn’t that he was struggling its just that he felt a need to consider. It was such an unusual thing to hear that it struck em at the time and has stayed with me since and for all my considerable distaste for organsiaed religion I have to say that this episode causes me to have respect for the Archbishop as a thinker and a man of refelction and probably principle.

I have always used the same method when interviewing, be it recruitment or other occasions. It seems to me that offering an opportunity for an interviewee to consider their response, or respect their request for time to think, will generally produce a much more insightful contribution that the panicked platitudes and buzz words that a flustered candidate might produce.

So lets hear it for consideration and reflection and the application of the Mk 1 brain – it is after all the essence of knowledge as a verb!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Portugal - old pal - its like this mate......

Portugal is sometimes described as “England’s oldest Ally.” Given its current predicament it is a pertinent to ask what that ally should do. I, as an Englishman, have written and spoken a fair bit about the financial crisis and the commoditisation of banking obscuring risk. I have also been pretty forthright in saying that our personal and corporate and national appetite for debt is misplaced and unsustainable. So I have to say again bad debt is bad debt, no matter how you try to repackage it. Already Greece and Ireland have or are in the process of renegotiating their bailouts – guys it will not go away. There has to be, IMHO, a fundamental readjustment of the models we have been using and so I think for all concerned Portugal should default so as an ally we should ...let it happen. Tough love as they say. It would be tough on Portugal – however its a mess of their own making - politicians blaming the markets wont cut it, you made the calls to play them guys. It would also hit the lenders - so be more careful next time. The resulting double whammy might also shake the tree sufficiently to finally get action to address the underlying problems that mean 2008 will happen again and it will be worse next time.
Sorry Portugal sometimes a friends job is to give you the bad news no one else will.
And if you want to know - yes AIG should have been allowed to fail to.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ambridge Extra - the Stealth attack!

Now call me cynical.........I haven't heard it yet but........I have a prediction about the Ambridge Extra which is due to go to air on BBC Radio 4 Extra this morning. Now the Archers, for those that don't know, is “an everyday story of country folk” charting the lives of a variety of characters in the fictitious village of Ambridge. Whilst it is not in anyway a true reflection of country life, they do go to some lengths to have strong farming story lines and point up some of the challenges that people in rural locations face.

However, what it doesn't have is a cast of characters that are reflective of a London Centric Metropolitan demographic. This has clealry always rankled with the London Centric Metropolitan powers that be at Auntie and they have tried to introduce characters and story lines that are more in keeping with their dinner party friends. This has generally been met with a resounding raspberry from the programmes loyal followers who have endured this to make it the longest ruining radio soap in the world.

The recent 50th anniversary “shocking” death of Nigel Pargetter was, in some people view an effort to make the characters less “posh”. The programme has become increasingly “yoof” focussed with increasing emphasis on younger characters and their rather trite stories which has done it no favours – but it is still just about bearable

Well I will take bets on the fact that the Archers Extra is going to be a stealth attack on the show by the metropolitan snoots in the upper reaches of Auntie. The show will, I predict, unremittingly “yoof”, peppered with a much more”diverse” group of characters and will be the long game to make the main show that way to. The promise to focus on the minor characters lives that don't get the attention in the main show will - I suggest - be exclusively under 25.

Now I wonder if there will be incidental music too? :o)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Douglas Alexander you are a complete *rse

Is it any wonder that people despair of the political process and politicians in general. Opportunistic, self serving, disconnected, greedy, lazy, vacuous, choose what you will and apply liberally. . For myself I am getting a bit long in the tooth to want mount the barricades and seldom do I get exercised about them – far too much to do to be bothered. Generally I can just tut and shake my head at the generally parlous state of politics. You would have thought that the expenses scandal might have been a watershed and we could expect better now. However it seems that we still have at least a few who have so lost sight of principles or beliefs that they cannot ever become more than chattering empty heads spouting ridiculous mantras of spin and knee jerk froth.

One such raised his head today and frankly I can only condemn the broadcaster for giving him the space to belch out such stinking halitosis. His name, Douglas Alexander that pathetic excuse for a ventriloquists doll – not capable of a thought of his own but more than able to make a noise when a hand is shoved up his behind.

Instead of being critical of a government visiting the middle east with a bunch of arms dealers in tow, excusing their selling of arms and tear gas to repressive regimes on the basis that this wasn’t the tear gas in use at the time, Douglas Alexander criticises the tardy supply of a plane to Libya to airlift British nationals. Of course we want our our nationals safe and home but really!!! Well Douglas your right it wasn’t quite as quick as the one that carried your former leader to shake hands and kiss the but of the same despot who is now merrily killing civilians, or indeed as fast as the plane that took him to a buckshee holiday courtesy of a neighbouring despot, or even the one that took him to the arms of the ghastly fascist of Italy. Didn’t hear you speaking up about that Douglas. Lost your voice then did you? You always have been and always will be a non entity as shallow as pavement spit and with a lot less integrity.

God help the lot of us if this is the best our politicians can manage at a time of hope being won at intolerable cost by courageous people sick of being under the heel of monsters supported and endorsed by our government on the basis that they may be sons of bitches but they are at least our sons of bitches.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Big Society - Big Headache

You know I have a bit of sympathy with David Cameron and the Big Society challenge he faces. Now my sympathy has nothing to do with my view of either the Big Society initiative or, for that matter, David Cameron. My sympathy is with regard to the challenge of communicating a philosophy to a diverse audience with diverse agendas and an audience more used to sound bite communications and an appetite for the more binary or concrete.

Why should I sympathise? Well anyone that has been involved with Knowledge Management should be able to empathise with him because a constant refrain to the ears of those seeking to bring KM to an organisation has been “I don’t know what KM means”. Now the reasons for “not understanding” were in some cases intentional, manufactured and considered as well as in others ones of genuine confusion. The reasons for this variety range from those who sought to discredit the initiative because it wasn’t in their interests so a feigned misunderstanding; through to the advocates of KM not really understanding the philosophy themselves or being un able to articulate it.

To expand on that a little I mean this. I always knew what the philosophy of KM meant and I also knew that, when applied properly, it challenged many of the Taylorist management traditions that persist to the detriment of business and to the benefit of a few vested interests. So it was in the interests of some to discredit any KM initiative and a simple but effective method for this was to pretend to not understand. An alternative approach was to directly misrepresent the philosophy of KM into a service based model so that it compartmentalised any initiative and emasculated the practitioners.

By the same token it was misrepresented by those who sought to ride on its coat tails – I am thinking particularly of software vendors who rebadged their database products as KM product – which of course they were/are not. It was in their interests to make it something that suited their ends regardless of whether that was an accurate representation or not. They could “de mystify” KM and sell a product at the same time. Management could either use the procurement as a representation of their “doing KM” or as a constrained and manageable project – whilst business as usual was maintained.

You may call me cynical but believe me its true.

And so to the less Machiavellian but no less challenging causes of misunderstanding. For some KM is and was a difficult thing to grasp as it went beyond their management experience and the advocates were unable to encourage the opening up process. Notably for some it was a challenging concept to grasp because it was a philosophical stance to managing an organisation that did not offer a simple recipe based or system based approach with best practice or rules to be followed – or even coloured belts to wear! For some, who genuinely understood its flexibility of application, this in itself was problematic as that liberty can be scary.

And finally there were those who advocated it but either didn’t understand it or could not articulate it with sufficient clarity and so the audience was genuinely confused.

There is no simple solution to the “communications” and “understanding” challenges but it remains an un resolved problem for KM and has, in my view, caused it to under achieve as a management style.

David Cameron will face the same challenges because he will face those with an agenda to oppose or subvert, and those that truly find it difficult to embrace a somewhat nebulous concept, and the limits of the communications generally in an anti thinking sound bite based world.

Wonder how it will go?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bannatyne, Budgets and Public Sector Bodies

Duncan Bannatyne (@DuncanBannatyne) started a bit of a Twitter trend today when he asked, in a sense of outrage, if Sir Andrew Cahn should repay £1million pounds to the tax payer. But I would say this Duncan, whilst I have sympathy with the sentiment the revelation that Cahn instructed staff to spend £1million because of a budget underspend at UK Trade and Investment comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever held budgetary responsibility in the public sector or has worked with the public sector. Its common practice.

I remember my astonishment at encountering this type of mind set when working with and for public sector bodies. The argument advanced is generally termed – use it or lose it – and you are generally regarded as completely bonkers for not spending every penny of an annual budget

Having private sector experience of budget building and management I had become accustomed to being given a pat on the back for underspending, smart procurement, driving down costs through innovation. Being informed that such things were not only unnecessary but actually unwelcome was a bit of a shock

It does make one wonder why this is the case.

Well I offer two fundamental problems that I believe underpin it. One is the typical budget building approach in many public sector bodies. In essence the starting point for your budget is essentially determined by what has gone before as a starting point. Hence the “use it or lose it” idea. There is almost an assumption that these costs are somehow fixed costs. A major failure of knowledge management in my view. Such rigid formulaic or unquestioning of assumptions demonstrate a lack of Knowledge Aware Management.

This can in part be addressed by introducing different budget strategies in an environment where trying different approaches is encouraged, where no numbers are sacrosanct and assumptions underpinning figures are reexamined. Zero Based Budgeting as some of my counting friends might have it. Of course Social Knowledge principles have a role to play here as drawing on the collective insight and wisdom of the organization and its partners can surface opportunities to innovate and reduce costs.

Another contributory factor is the culture that suggests size of budget is one of the most important benchmarks and confers status in an environment where status is of greatest import rather than effectiveness.

Of course this is challenging issue to overcome, but again Social Knowledge approaches have a role in helping to reveal the true metrics of success of the client group, and for exposing them to the organization as part of an effort to break that inwardly focused and rigid mindset.

However in the meantime should he repay it – of course – but he wont.