Saturday, 29 January 2022

Don't Always Focus

Focus! Focus! Focus!  That’s the advice we are given. If we focus, we can perform, we can achieve.

But as with all such exhortations, such simplistic advice, such trite sayings, there is another side to examine.

Those who don;t focus all the time, who don’t keep their mind fixed on the way ahead, on the goal, are the ones that will have the sideways thought, the idea of a new direction, the innovative idea, the recognition of new ways of doing things.

Innovation does not arise from rigid thinking, from doing what we’ve always done but working harder at it, concentrating more.  We need new inputs to create new insights, new stimuli to create new ideas.

So, by all means, consider the goal and the direction of travel. But for some periods at least, allow your mind to wander down new paths, to explore things so far unexplored.

A single focus can be limiting.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

There are Few, Quick Fixes

Lowering working  hours may give a quick boost but is not sustainable.

There have  been numerous reports lately of organisations cutting working  hours to increase  the engagement of employees, whilst paying the same salaries.  This is said to improve productivity.

I am somewhat skeptical of such reports - and of the projects that  generate them.

I am totally in favour of increasing  the engagement of employees but this has to be done in ways that are sustainable in the longer-term. We have to raise and then maintain engagement.  

This normally means changing the nature of the work and of working, and supervisory, relationships.

Just giving the same  money for fewer working hours may give a short-term boost but is not sustainable.  Remember the Hawthorne effect? (If you don’t, Google it.)

Of course, I could be proved wrong but I doubt it.

Think more carefully about what you expect people to do, how you engage with them and how you supervise and control them.

There are few productivity quick fixes.  

Saturday, 15 January 2022


Story-telling is becoming recognised as a very effective means of communication. People react better to an interesting narrative than to a boring set of facts or exhortations.

So, telling people your vision, and what you expect them to do to support it, is largely a waste of time.  

But tell them a story set in the future of your organisation, which includes their future, and your can interest, inspire and motivate them to help you create the vision outlined in, and by, the story. 

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Short-term thinking, short-term success

 If we give our staff a list of objectives to meet or tasks to complete, they will generally do so. After all, most come to work to do a good job and to please their employer.

If we give them lots of tasks to do, they will need to prioritise.  Their priorities will not necessarily be the same as ours.

There will be a tendency for them to complete all the quick, short duration tasks as this will make their completed lists look longer.  Unfortunately, this probably means they leave very important, longer-duration tasks at the back of the queue.  

If not careful, you will hamper long-term success for a few quick wins.

Prioritisation is too important to leave to them. You must share with them what you believe is really important and what, for example, may be urgent but trivial.

You need to MANAGE; you can’t leave it to them. 

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Throw Away the Plans

That headline does not mean we should stop making plans.  Those who don’t plan, don’t succeed.

It means that we must recognise that a post-pandemic world causes us to rethink some of the old certainties.  The Omicron variant of the virus is resulting in many more people catching the virus, though, luckily, generally with less severe results.

It does mean, however, that some workforces are decimated by those off with the virus, or self-quarantining because they have been in contact with someone with the virus. The number of people absent from work can change dramatically from day to day.

Firms have to recognise this and be prepared to adjust plans and schedules at short notice.  In some industries, where a number of job roles may be directly inter-connected, this makes life very difficult.

But, for now at least, this is ‘the new normal’.

We should be grateful that the effects of the Omicron virus are less severe but be prepared to deal with whatever it throws at us.

Those who have effective business continuity plans and can demonstrate resilience will, rightly, emerge from the tunnel with greater success.  If we don't build resilience into our systems and our staffing policies, we end up relying on the resilience of our individual staff; this is not fair on them and no recipe for longer-term success.