How to have an organisational detox!


Ever wanted to empty your mind of organisational bumf?
Start again with a fresh clear mind, untainted by this year’s key strategic priority aims? This seasons value statements cluttering your head up too much to think straight?

Have an organisational detox!

The purpose of a detox is to remove harmful unwanted elements from your life, to leave only the things that you need and do you good.
People these days have digital detoxes and news detoxes, an organisational detox is very similar to them. Just as social media is full of gossip with no substance, and news is a constant onrush of events, organisational culture is mainly wind and air that pollutes the mind with nonsense. Nonsense can only harm, cos it’s knowledge you want, not wind-baggery and corporate posturing.

The essence of an organisational detox is to remove the toxins of the noise generated by the operation of a normal ordinary command and control organisations, and replace it with the simple clear signal of knowledge of what is actually happening.

There’s two steps you have to undertake…

1: Understand the difference between signal and noise

Signal-to-noise ratio is sometimes used informally to refer to the ratio of useful information to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or exchange. [link]

There is so much noise in organisations. Noise is any information that is false or irrelevant or otherwise not useful. Not useful to what? To achievement of purpose, ie customer purpose. Meeting what matters to customers should be what matters to organisations. It mainly doesn’t, although it will think it does, and it should.
So the toxins you want to get rid of is all that noise that gets in the way of the signal.
So what is signal? Signal is authentic knowledge, knowledge of what customers need, what matters to them, how the system is meeting that need and what matters, what is happening to help it, and what to hinder it, and ultimately why your workplace does what it does.

2: Distinguish between the signal and noise you encounter

See the pic below…


If you don’t do the conscious splitting up of signal and noise, deciding…

  • what is authentic and useful, and
  • what is inauthentic and not useful

…then you’re just bathing in pure noise unable to determine what to act on and what not to.

The signal to noise ratio in most organisations is quite high. ie simply boat loads of pure noise that should be ignored and a tiny amount of signal, if any. Finding the signal in that is impossible without a conscious deliberate decision of that is signal and that is noise.

Here are some suggested areas of noise you’ll want to avoid.

1: performance reports

There’s an awful load of nonsense in performance reports. This is because the wrong measures are measured the wrong way. This effectively shuts out any authentic knowledge of how your organisation is performing. So bin ’em. Go on. There’s nothing there for you.

2: anything about values or culture or transformation

Just stick your fingers in your ear and “la-la-la-cant hear you” etc Values and culture and that, if they’re good it’s because you’re doing the right thing, if they’re bad it’s because you’re doing the wrong thing. So concentrate on doing the right thing and ignore all talk of values. It’ll be HR doing the talking anyway, and you know what they’re like.

3: meetings

FOG- Fact , opinion or guess. Play that game anytime anybody says anything in a meeting.

  • A fact is something independently verifiable.
  • An opinion is a statement about the fact.
  • A guess is a prediction of a fact.

In most meetings there are no facts, only opinions and guesses all masquerading as facts. Avoid meetings.

4: talking about work

A different sort of thing than a meeting, its an informal meeting. Might happen at the watercooler, if you’re American, or the tea-room, if you’re normal. If it is gossip about who dislikes who etc, then pay rapt attention. This is good stuff. If it is gossip about which bit of your organisation is being reorganised into which other bit and what unlikely name it is likely to adopt next, then avoid, it’s rubbish.

5: your work

Most jobs do nothing to help the customer. Remember Sturgeon’s Law?

You’re probably plate spinning at best. Do your work, that’ll keep paying your mortgage, but try not to pay it any attention.

Avoiding all this might leave you with little to actually pay attention to at work.


It is essential to avoid the noise if you don’t want to drown in ignorance.
There IS signal to be discovered, but you’ve got to go work for it, it isn’t just laying around waiting for you unlike the noise. The good stuff has to be excavated.

Here’s where to go to find it!

  • Walk to the work. Authentic knowledge is nowhere else.
  • Understand demand. That’s where you’ll find your purpose, walking in the door.
  • Understand what matters to the customer. Now you know what matters to the organisation. Simple eh? No need for values.
  • Understand how capable your organisation is at meeting “what matters” . Find out your true performance, minus the red triangles and gold stars, it’s a real eye-opener.
  • Find out why work is the way it is. Track how customers are dealt with, beginning to end, from first contact to last. Look for all the things that help and hinder meeting customer purpose.

BAAM! There you go. Authentic knowledge, all signal, no noise.

And I bet you feel a whole lot better for it.





Posted in all wrong, command and control, plausible but untrue, systems thinking, vanguard method | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Your job is not what you think it is

“The role of code developers is not to develop code, but to overcome problems through the use of code.”

This sentence is lifted straight from here. It says that…

The role of X is not to Y, but to overcome problems through the use of Y.



-How is your job measured?

-What are you targeted on?

-What do your managers pay attention to?

-What does the design and management of your workplace make it most easy to do?

This is your actual job. 

The role of X is not to overcome problems through the use of Y, but to do the easiest things according to the design of the work that you are expected to do, when you do Y.

Not as snappy, but more truthful in a normal ordinary command and control organisation.


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This mug cost £224,000,000

Well the mug itself didn’t but this is the only visible sign left in this building of a SIMPLY HUGE national computer system built at the cheap cheap rate of a quarter of a billion pounds.

It was a database of every single child in the UK, and contained details of which services (Doctors, police, social services etc) had been working with a child. After the high profile Victoria Climbie murder in 2000, it was found that doctors, police and social workers all had been working on her case, but the actual poor child herself fell through the gaps between the services. It prompted a huge review into how public services worked with children, and as part of the Every Child Matters policy framework, came this database.

It caused a massive stink at the time over individual rights to privacy as EVERY child would be on the database, the papers were full of talk about it. Frankly if you didn’t have an opinion on ContactPoint you were nobody.
In 2010 the new coalition government scrapped it.

There was a huge bureaucratic hullabaloo that accompanied this computer system in the public sector and now nobody can remember it, it’s almost as if it never happened.
But 7 years ago this would have been all that some people talked about, filled their days with. Went on courses about, wrote status updates about, created bespoke posts for people to be employed solely because of this database.

And now the only sign it existed in this building, a Local Authority that would have been one of the main users of it, is this dusty mug I found sitting at the back of the cupboard.

I checked the website address on the mug. Dead.

The hullabaloo back then is no predictor of how real or lasting a corporate or governmental effort is likely to be. In fact, I say the greater the hullabaloo, the less likely it is to last.

Hullabaloo is a sign that someone really wants you to know that something is important and big and you’d better pay attention. Whereas in reality, it isn’t important, it doesn’t matter and everybody can tell. There’s nothing much the people giving away the corporate tat can do to change this, and there’s nothing at all the people who get the tat can do either.

So I made myself a nice cup of tea and drank it out of my quarter of a billion pounds mug.

Posted in all wrong, public sector, systems thinking | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Wanted: idle, indifferent and irresponsible staff for absurd work.


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You are no Daniel Kahneman, sir, and I would have you unhand me before I call the gendarmie


This is Daniel Kahneman
He won a Nobel prize, he has written loads of books, all about how you think and how you make decisions.

He has simply loads to offer to help people make better decisions.

You’d think that people whose very job it is to make good decisions would really want him to help them get better?
People like senior leaders in organisations, them surely?

No. They do not.

Here is Daniel…

“The reaction is always the same—they are very interested, but unless they invited you specifically because they wanted to do something, they don’t want to apply anything.”[link]

When asked “Why do you think leaders are hesitant to act on your ideas?”…

That’s easy.
Leaders know that any procedure they put in place is going to cause their judgement to be questioned.
And whether they’re fully aware of it or not, they’re really not in the market to have their decisions and choices questioned.”

So, if THIS man, clutching his Nobel Prize For Cleverness can’t get leaders interested, why would a leader listen to some oik like you*?




















That’s it. No more to this post. No clever 7 point plan outlining cunning strategies. The point was in that last question.

*Or me too obviously. I’m a total oik

Posted in all wrong, psychology, systems thinking, thinking | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Why do you need a hole in your head?

Why is it that a…

d5371688a …is a really essential thing to have?

Here’s why!

You’re the head cook in a primary school.
It’s your job to design the menu and make the meals.

You want to make the healthiest food you can, but also food that will actually be eaten by the kids.
You know what healthy is, but how do you find out what kids actually will eat?
The best way  is to find out what they DO eat.Carrot-taste-test-3

If you worked in an office or a factory you might be able to run a report on your work that’d show you this sort of thing.  Capture

But you can’t, cos you’re a cook, there’s no database, no performance person.
There’s just you.

You and your curiosity.

With that you can do anything.

Here is what one cook with curiosity did…

Watching her talking to the children as they clear their plates, it’s obvious she is utterly committed to the job. “I stand by the bins so I can hear what they’re saying,” she says. “But, just as importantly, I can see exactly what they’re eating.[link]

She wanted to know so she went and found out. She went to the work and got knowledge because she wanted to know.

People who are curious will find a way to find out.
People who are not curious will not.

It is easy to learn when you are curious.
When you are not curious you won’t learn a thing.


Here’s what happens when you’re presented with some dead important knowledge. An answer to something you need is right in front of you…



The answer has nowhere to go! That’s the thing with knowledge, it’s like a vampire, it can’t get inside your head until invited inside


But what happens if the person has a question in their head?


The answer has somewhere to go!
Not only does it have somewhere to go, it is sucked in.



“Questions are places in your mind where answers fit.
If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off.
You have to ask the question – you have to want to know – in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.” [link]

That’s the purpose of questions, they are the receptors for answers. They make room for answers by creating a space your mind has to fill with answers.
No questions, no answers.

CaptureSo what’s this got to do with systems thinking then?

I once was doing listening to demand with some staff who were nice and polite, well intentioned and hard working. But it wasn’t going spectacularly well. Then they said something that made me understand why…
They asked me when I wanted my demand data.

They didn’t want it, they thought they were collecting it for me, the performance person
They didn’t have the question, the hole in the mind needing filled, they just were collecting the answers for somebody else out of a sense of duty.


When I stopped doing things with them, they stopped. There was nothing needed filling, no hole.
They were not the people who asked me to help them with a problem they had. It wasn’t their manager who asked me, who wasn’t in the room. It was someone else who ALSO wasn’t in the room. The person with the problem wasn’t in the room, therefore the question wasn’t in the room. Without the question being in the room, there was nowhere for the answers to go.

Without curiosity there’s nothing.

Posted in knowledge, systems thinking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ooooohhh Matron!

How mucked up things can get when you focus on the wrong thing…
Four years later and it is STILL hilarious to me



Quick! This patient is haemorrhaging fast!
We need to get him to the Lean Project Room!
Nurse, 30 mils of Takttime and VSM intravenous!
Intubate and bag him! He’s going AS-IS!

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Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments