Low hanging fruit? Don’t waste your time


This is an extended metaphor about fruit. You have been warned.


Managers love low hanging fruit.
Improvements that are the easiest and quickest to carry out, surely only an idiot wouldn’t go for them.
Well that must mean I’m an idiot.

Yesterday I went blackberry picking and learnt that the WORST fruit to go for are the low hanging sort. Here’s why…


Some high hanging fruit, yesterday

1: Low hanging fruit won’t be there.
You go to the blackberry bush, and there’s no blackberries. Why? Because somebody has beaten you to it. They’re always somebody who beats you to it, these things don’t hang around. forever. It might have been YOU who beat you to it, the very first time you went for the low hanging fruit. You can only go once and then there aren’t any.
Lesson: most of the time you want to improve something, the easy stuff will already have been done. It’s always the hard stuff that’s left over.

2: The juiciest best fruit is the hardest to reach.
See those berries, right the back. Just to the left of the leaf. No, not THAT leaf. The other one. See how juicy they are? Is because they’re not the easy low hanging sort, these are plump ripe and ready to pluck and nobody has because they’re hard to get to. A bit of effort is required.
Lesson:The easy small stuff will be gone, so that only leaves the hard GOOD STUFF. Not only that but…

3: It hurts at first, then it doesn’t
The berries at the back are surrounded by thorns and nettles. You’ll get stung, and at first it’ll hurt but eventually you’ll get used to it as the price you pay and you won’t notice the stings only the berries.
Lesson: The first time you start to do the hard things it’ll hurt, too hard! You’ll cry. After that it becomes normal.

4: One you start you can’t stop
Pick one berry, there’s another one right next to it. Why stop when there’s always another one within finger reach.
Lesson: Improvement is continuous because otherwise it’s not. There’s no such thing as complacent improvement. Once all the low hanging stuff had gone and you’re into the hard stuff that’s you started, so don’t stop.

5: You pick a thousand berries one berry at a time.


One thousand berries, yesterday.

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I want to be a Dual Action Dad


THIS is an advert by Persil for a product of theirs called “dual action”. The person in the shower is doing two things at once, showering and cleaning the shower, this is the point of their marketing. Why do one thing, when you can do two.

That’s the last bit of publicity I’m going to give to their wretched product.

Instead. LOOK CLOSER at the person in that advert. Looks quite female eh? Nothing unusual, half of us are female and the other half aren’t.


CaptureYou know you’re a Dual Action MUM? Shurely shome mishtake?

Let’s see their website has to say about this….


Ignore the AMAZING skill needed to online shop and bake a cake.


What is this, the 1950s? No it is 2014 and I thought the lazy stereotyping of women as housewives stopped around about the same time we recognised that Jews aren’t grasping misers and black people aren’t grinning idiots.

Persil didn’t get the email, apparently.

This matters because it is a huge multinational plastering this message that normal is mums dual acting, normal is mums cleaning showers, normal is mums baking cakes, normal is mums online shopping.

But it isn’t, the reason why this caught my eye is that the previous day I, a dad, had spent the morning cleaning the bathroom, starting with the shower whilst I showered myself.



Yes, I am a Dual Action DAD. At least on this occasion anyway, and the Persil ad by stating what is and what is not normal has showed me for one tiny moment what I am guessing it might be like FOR WOMEN’S ENTIRE LIVES. And I found it annoying.

Being told a complete pack of lies about normality and what is right for a mum or dad to to, by a company that can plaster its lies everywhere, that’s annoying.

Having to live an entire life dictated by that, I’m imagining is worse.
So that’s my systems thnking lesson for today. I don’t have a clue about what it’s like to stereotyped as I’m the default standard for people, I’m English, white, male, straight and able-bodied. The one time I have been stereotyped in a tiny way, I loathe it.

So if you don’t want Unilever to tell you who you are and what normal behaviour is, go here and tell them exactly what your dual action is. In my case it is this…


You however could tell them to sit on it AND swivel. Up to you.

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9 more ways to tell you have a Joke Job

As per previous post, there are many types of Joke Jobs in C&C land. Here are 9 ways to tell you might have one of them.

  1. You type a lot of words.
    If you’re typing, try speaking. If there’s too many people to speak to, there’s too many people full stop.
  2. You write strategies, plans or policies.
    All strategies, plans and policies exist in people’s heads. If they don’t, writing one won’t put it there. It just puts words on paper.
  3. You refresh things.
    Strategies, plans, policies. If youre refreshing anything other than the decor in your house, you’re not refreshing anything at all.
  4. You “theme” things.
    If you use the word “theme” in any context at work and you don’t work in musical composition, you have a Joke Job. Dead givaway.
  5. You draft emails.
    Emails are typed and sent. They are casual communication, they are not papal announcements. Drafting one, for others to read and check, is the sign of a Joke Job.
  6. You use the word “inform” whilst meaning the complete opposite
    For example, “the data will inform the development of this years Partnership Strategy“, means “the data will be completely ignored in the  development of this years Partnership Strategy
  7. The passive tense is used in all communications that are sent by you.
    Words that are sent by you will therefore have been born with the air of inevitibility, universal truth and fait accompli showered upon them.
  8. You form conclusions with no data.
    Outside of work this is called “having an opinion“. At work it is called “making a decision“.
  9. You take documents places.
    You take documents for a walk. You take policies into the Theme Board, strategies into the Executive Strategic Meeting or reports into Cabinet. Documents aren’t young children or dogs, they don’t need to be taken on small excursions.
Posted in command and control, public sector, systems thinking | Tagged | 2 Comments

Do you have a joke job?

kk (paint)


I think “manager” is a Joke Job.

I feel sorry for the people who are managers, they’ve been duped into believing that working hard and doing things right will be rewarded with a bigger and better job.
In fact they’ve been duped into a Joke Job. This is not another post where I have a go at managers, “managers” are just as much a feature of command and control thinking as other Joke Jobs like “policy officer” or “internal audit”. It’s not their fault. Here are…

4 reasons why “manager” is a joke job

  1.  You have little control over the work
    The phrase “command and control” is a lie.
    Most organisations are command and control, but in theory only. Changes are made that have no actual impact on reality outside of a report. You say things, other things get done. Managers cannot control work standing outside it, based on flawed second hand knowledge, but that’s their job.
  2. You perform meaningless tasks and have to pretend they’re real
    IPRs, performance reviews, appraisals, call them what you want, most of us have to deal with only one of them, our own. Managers have to deal with handfuls of the things. Typing up lie after lie, “If I’m doing all this work, either it’s worthwhile or I’M stupid.“, finding themselves in “a situation in which a person’s behavior is inconsistent with their beliefs, that person tends to justify the behavior and deny any negative feedback associated with the behavior.”[link] And so the stupid rolls on…
  3. People regularly lie to you
    The centre of purpose in a command and control organisation is “whoever tells me what to do“, and if youre a manager, thats you. Due to Point 1 [above], you are making all sorts of changes to the work that odds on won’t be making things better, but people will be telling that it is. Why so? Because you are purpose. Hard to achieve, but rather easier to lie to, especially when somebodies job depends upon it. Two people’s, theirs AND yours.
    Consensual lying flourishes, the best type too, the type that doesn’t know it is a lie after a short while. Whenever you say something people are expected to not only hear the words you say but also the thoughts you think. This helps with communication no end as people can only guess what’s in your head and then lie to you based on their assumptions of what you would like to hear. Everyone’s a winner.
  4. You are expected to know everything even when completely ignorant
    Poor you. Making decisions in ignorance, people lying to you about the results, AND STILL you’re supposed to know what’s going on. Here’s some help though…your staff will still act as if you know everything. “What should we do?”, “I dunno, let’s ask the boss”. Note the use of the word “should” , not what could we do, but should do. What are the chances that the person who knows what to do is a person who’s lied to, doesn’t know what’s going on and will assume you can read their mind?
    Slim at best?

Any job that could only make sense in a command and control organization is based on a flawed theory about how work works, and therefore is not a real job. “Manager” is a joke job.



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Pick Your Path


Binary Comparisons, mistaking noise for signal and the futility of silly straight lines on graphs.
A vg blog post from Bulldozer.

Originally posted on Bulldozer00's Blog:

Make a measurement, one measurement, of any personal metric you might fancy… right now. Next, plot your sample point on a graph where time is the independent variable on the x-axis:

One Sample

Next, even though you most likely have no prior measurements to plot, reflect on the path that got you to “now“. You’re likely to concoct a smooth, logical, linear narrative like this:


However, because of our propensity to be, as Nassim Taleb says, easily “fooled by randomness“, you’re most likely to have traveled one of the ragged, noisy paths plotted on this graph:


Because of the malady of linear-think, you’re most likely to envision the future as a continued journey on the smooth, forward projection of your made-up narrative. Good luck with that.


View original

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This is my washing machine wpid-wp-1405273249161.jpeg These are the two settings I use on the washing machine.

The first…


The second…


And these are all the other settings on the washing machine that I don’t use…


This washing machine does not solve my problem completely, it adds to it with unneccessary settings that get in the way of cleaning my clothes.

Some people would say my washing machine is suffering from Featuritis. image

The problem isn’t “featureitis“, that’s just the symptom, the problem is the thinking that produced the washing machine.

The organisation that made my washing machine thought what matters to me is “more features are better” …and they thought wrong.

 I want “easier” not “more features“.

Adding to the “more features” dimension is a simple task for a company that makes washing machines. They are the experts in washing machines, they know more than anybody else what they can add.

Making things “easier” though is much more of a task. A washing machine company does not naturally specialise in “easier“. This is an extra thing they need to learn and become experts in.

This is the difference between a customer focused organisation and a product focused organisation.

Product focused is where they plan, make and produce from the inside of the organisation, using their technical knowledge they produce things for the outside.

It looks at the world and acts on it from the “inside-out”.

Customer focused is where they learn what matters to the customer, what problem the customer is trying to solve and they work backwards from there to design and deliver their service to meet that.

It looks at the world and acts on it from the “outside-in“.

Some people look down on taking the outside-in perspective. They misunderstand it as slavishly following what people already want and get, rather than innovating and giving them something new and better, using the expertise of the organisation. You may have heard the pretend Henry Ford quote used in this context…

“If I’d have asked people what they wanted, I’d have given them faster horses”

This supposes that taking an outside-in perspective is about asking the customer what they want. It isn’t, that’s not customer research, it’s just being lazy. It also supposes that “what people want” is a faster horse rather than a faster way to travel. This is a classic example of taking a product focused approach (a faster horse), rather than a customer focused approach (a faster way to travel).

Outside-in is about understanding the customer, not just asking them a lazy question. It is the job of the organisation to do the understanding, not the customer to tell them.

Taking the outside-in perspective isn’t about abandoning your organisation’s skills and expertise. It is about using them effectively to give the customer what they need and didn’t know they wanted.

In the case of my washing machine it would give me something like an iPad. Something I “already know how to use” without puzzling over symbols and an instruction booklet.

The hard stuff should be hidden from the user, the clever expertise of the organisation should be hidden under the hood making things work telepathically, it shouldn’t be the stuff the user has to battle through to get what they need.



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25 things (that just might work) about measuring the right thing

I’ve concocted 25 suggestions, questions, hints and tips for a colleague policy officer who has seen the systemsy light yet still faces the task that everybody else hasn’t. Here they are. One just might work. All might be complete duff. No matter, it was my last day at work before my holidays so it was this or sorting out my inbox. Here are 25 things to do with measuring the right thing.

  1.  It’s all about changing management thinking, so if managers brains are not physically and metaphorically in the room you’re not changing management thinking
  2. To change management thinking you have to work at the cognitive level, not the email level, the meeting level or the report level. See point 1.
  3. Ask performance staff what measures they have in their scorecard that this pie-chart applies to…

    Always. No, wait….

  4. Or just tell them
  5. Trying to turn performance people against scorecards, targets and binary comparisons is like trying to persuade people who make a living from producing scorecards, targets and binary comparisons that producing scorecards, targets and binary comparisons is worthless and harmful. See point 1.
  6. Find a manager with a problem they can’t solve and want help with. All managers have problems. How to make a better scorecard is not one of them.
  7. Nobody needs persuading to learn how to eat cake. If they don’t want to pull for help on their problem, they don’t have a big enough problem.
  8. They actually do, they just don’t know they do.
  9. This is from someone’s LinkedIns profile, it says it neater than I’ve ever read. Every morning recite this mantra into the bathroom mirror. I am a tiger, raarrr.

    It is my aim to help organisations break away from gimmick and tool based projects to understand what truly drives improvement. Only with a thorough understanding of an organisation and utilisation of their own gifted people can leaders achieve real, sustainable improvement. To do this requires two skills: the ability to understand an organisation as a complex system and secondly the ability to move that organisation with intervention methodology to a new way of working. I work with clients to help them in these two areas of expertise to achieve stunning results and transfer expertise to design myself out of their organisation in the process. I only consider those programmes which have continued to drive improvement over time as the true success stories. Uninterested in modern fads, I find the key to success is the implementation of simple, proven theory in a practical context.

  10. The simple test of a measure is “Can this measure help me understand and improve?” This pre-supposes that this is what is expected from a measure. In a world of challenge and defend, demonstrating and celebrating, this has never been seen before with measures. You are talking magic at them and they won’t believe you until a rabbit actually does appear out of a top-hat. This is normative learning.
  11. There are three ways things change in organisations, only one of which will work in this case…
    1. Coercion: “You see a rabbit coming out this top-hat, alright. It is a corporate requirement that you do.”
    2. Logical/rational: “See this top-hat, I’m telling you that a rabbit is coming out of it, because if you look at the space between my hands and the top-hat it is clearly rabbit shaped and the same size as a rabbit too.”
    3. Normative: “Look!” [point at rabbit coming out of hat]
  12. The characteristics of a bad measure are what performance people aspire to having been told for years by my very team that this is the right thing to do. What will their response be to being told it was all wrong. What would anybodies response be?
  13. The right measures come from the right thinking. It is much easier to do it this way round. Performance people who get into this sort of thing may do so as a result of coming at it from seeing how measures are being done wrong. But that’s their problem. Not a managers’ problem. Getting the right measures comes a low 74th on the list of their problems. See point 6.
  14. If you don’t know what you’re measuring or why, any random measure is as good as any other. This results in a never-succesful endless hunt for “the right measure”. Hence people that think they have a measurement problem, one they can never solve. They don’t, but they don’t know it. This is because they have a thinking-about-the-work problem. Talking about measures might be a way in, but its just a way in. Not the problem itself.
  15. Ask people to split all their scorecard measures into one of three categories. All are good, but used in different ways.
    1. Customer satisfaction-how well customers feel  we give them what matters. A useless measure given the way we do it normally I reckon, but its canon.
    2. Capability-how well the service delivers what matters to the customer. eg time to solve problem completely.
    3. Process measures-how well the customer demand flows through the service, measures of the workflow that predict impact on delivering capability eg errors, time work has been waiting . etc. Then see how many of all these measures are capability measures. This is the key measure of how well the system is working. IT’S PURPOSE. If any measure should be going outside the service for others to peruse at a strategic level, it is this. I’ve never seen any.
  16. Question for managers : “If you never saw these performance measures, what would you do differently?”
  17. Question for performance people: “What would YOU do with these scorecard measures?”
  18. Question for both: “What is it you get out of performance monitoring?”
  19. Question for both: “Would you give us some time to work with you to make a different kind of measure, for you to compare its usefulness
  20. Question for the Boardroom: “if reporting these measures to this room drove the wrong type of behaviour, would you stop? How do you know it isn’t?”
  21. Question for the Boardroom, if yes: “What would you do instead?”
  22. Question for all: “Is it about improving performance measures or about improving performance? What is the difference?”
  23. I once was a directorate performance management person who DID know all this stuff and it got me nowhere. The problem is baked into the role, as the role is shaped by management thinking.
  24. I used to try and change OTHER directorate peroformance management people, who didn’t know this stuff. This got me nowhere as the problem is baked into the role, and the role is shaped by management thinking.
  25. Point 1 is the only point that matters.
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