Saturday, 20 December 2008

Reach for the Sky (Plus)

Here in the UK we have a PVR (personal video recorder)called Sky+ (similar to a TiVO for those who know that model). It is immensely popular partly because of its functionality, but equally because of its 'user interface'. People who could never work out how to record on their old (tape-based) video recorders have been liberated and empowered, freed from the technology by the technology to be able to use the technology.

Remember, its not just what you do but how you do it that's important!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Stop ... think ... and learn

I'm in Amsterdam ... en route for Leeds ... and home! I'll be at home for a few weeks. I need the time. I've been so busy doing things, I haven't had time to process all I've seen and heard ... which means I haven't yet learnt all the lessons I need to learn.

It is important to build in time for thought, reflection and learning ... and time to consolidate things done, changes made.

Continuous change and continuous improvement are fine in theory but occasionally we need to stop.... think ... and learn!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Weather forecast

Continuing the theme of the weather ... here in Toronto, the climate is like the current business climate - very chilly .... with little likelihood of a temperature rise anytime soon. The only thing to do (assumng you can't move to warmer climes) is to wrap up warm and sit out the big freeze..... hopefully surviving until the thaw.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Next stop - Toronto

Back from Poland ... and on (tomorrow) to Toronto - exchanging the cold for the cold! Of course if you travel to cold climes, you take warm clothes.

In business too, you should always keep an eye on the 'weather' (the emerging business environment) and make sure you are prepared.

I saw a comment recently that the current ('credit crunch') financial situation is like the tide going out ... leaving many companies exposed like bathers with no swimwear.

So, look to the future and make sure you are 'dressed' appropriately.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Polish lesson

I'm in Poznan .... in Poland. Yesterday I got taken for a meal and tried a new - honey-based - beer ... which was excellent. You have to try new flavours if you want to expand your tastes. You have to keep trying new things.

Otherwise, you always taste what you've always tasted ... and in business, if you always do what you've always done, you'll aways get what you've always got!

Try something new.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


I'm feeling quite ill - some kind of virus. I know I am not at my best ... physically or mentally. The answer is to stop doing things! Especially things like taking important decisions. Of course, sometimes we have no choice ... but try to make it your choice. If forced to take an important decision whilst ill, don't!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Does it make phone calls

New mobile phones seem to do almost everything ... yet, whilst upgrading recently and selecting a new phone, I found it amazing that many of them do not do the basics well. Call quality is poor ... or battery life is low.

Get the core things right before adding 'extras'. People will forgive you for not having a feature ... but never for falling down on core competency!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Just give me the facts

In China recently someone pointed out that China uses one tenth of the world's farmland to feed one fifth of the world's population.

Now when you are 'communicating', try to go for simple, straightforward messages like that one ... even better, of course if they have some degree of 'wow' factor ... like that one.

Say less but make it count!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Learn to Play

Recently I urged you to learn to dance ... now I am suggesting you learn to play an instrument. (A Fender Telecaster is my weapon of choice.) Why? It helps you realise that music is made up of a tiny collection of notes that can be combined, re-arranged and re-presented to form new tunes and songs. Even though man has been doing this for hundreds, thousands of years ... we can still create new songs from the same, small collection of notes.

In your business what can you achieve by looking afresh at what you do - by combining and re-arranging activities to come up with new ways of doing things?

And remember, in music a silence, a pause if often very effective. So, what can you eliminate to improve what you do?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


We have had an overseas visitor in the office recently. Someone on day 3 asked me if we should take him out for a meal (as we had done on days 1 and 2) or did I think he had suffered enough of our hospitality. My reply? Don't ask me ... ask him ... but ask him in a way that allows him to say 'no' without feeling he is giving us offence.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Learn to Dance

When things look complicated, try to uncover the basic simplicity underneath. Take dancing ... very sophisticated dances are made up of a very limited set of basic steps.

Don't look at the dance. Look at the steps. Then the simplicity emerges.

Many complicated issues have such underlying, simple features. If you can identify them, you can understand and solve complex problems far more easily.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Who's important?

I recently 'suffered' a service. It was delayed because the staff were being trained. As a result, I had to borrow equipment, set it up and get it running in front of a group that I was presenting to - rather than doing all that earlier before they arrived.

Staff are important. Their training is important. But it shouldn't impact on the customer!

DoNotComplicate - concentrate on your customers first.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Slow down

You're a busy person! Most of us are. But sometimes you have to slow down and allow time to think, to reflect. Think about the things you've done over the last few weeks and months ... and how successful they've been. Think critically. If you can't admit your own mistakes, you are doomed to keep repeating them.

Think about the problems you face ... and how real they are. Give your sub-conscious time to act on your behalf. That's how good ideas come - silently and overnight. They need evaluating in the cold light of day but if you haven't got ideas to evaluate ....

So, stop rushing everywhere - and think!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Be Careful What You Measure!

We all measure things in our businesses. We measure the performance of our business and we measure the performance of our people. But measurement drives behaviours so it is very important to make sure you are measuring things which will cause behaviour to change in the right directions.

For example, if you want to improve the performance of maintenance workers, don't measure how long they take to do a job - they might work faster but less effectively. What matters most to you is the time when they are not working - when everything is running smoothly and nothing is broken.

So reward them for being idle!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Never forget the obvious

I have just sat through the presentation of some new e-learning material ... produced by an international group - but produced in English. The English was very good - but not good enough. They hadn't bothered to have a native English speaker edit the material (there wasn't a native English speaker on the group).

Sometimes we forget the simple things!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Old and Slow can be best

I've just printed a document in someone else's office. The printer was very slow - but it worked. It gave me no problems. Quality was good.

Remember, old technologies are often the most stable. Never buy the first (or often even the second) version of new technology - hardware or software. By version 3 it will work properly - and be cheaper!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Of course I innovate

Well, do you? What (and when) was the last thing you did to change your business? I am not pretending that innovation is easy - but you have to keep trying. Make time to think ... and use that time constructively. If ideas don't flow (and very often they won't), go visit the library and browse any shelf. Pick books at random .. and pick a random page. Read a sentence and ask yourself - how do any of those words relate to problems I'm having back at the office ... or to what my customers think of our services ... or to the way we do things. Keep doing this till you get a 'connection'.... then think through what this means and what changes might result.

Innovation demands effort!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Think like a child

We all know that children are simple, direct and honest … until the educational system trains them out of being so! So, spend some time around young children (3 – 6 year olds). Listen to them. Talk to them. Try to think how their minds work – why they keep asking “Why?” If they can learn like that – so can you. Go back to your organisation and keep asking why – until you are satisfied with the answers you get, or until you realise someone has over-complicated things already.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Take a look outside

When you take a pause from your work (even you have to do that)... take a look outside your window ... take the first thing you see and think "How could I make that different to make it better?".

If you want to to be creative and innovative, you have to practise and train your mind.

Keep asking the questions

Assuming any task or activity is essential (because it adds value to what we offer our customers) then we can ask further questions ....

Who does it? Why is it done by that section or department, or by that team or by that individual. Could it be done better or cheaper by someone else – perhaps an external supplier or outsourcing unit?

When is it done? When in the sequence of activities that make up the process? What is done before it? What is done after it? Could changing the order of things make a difference? When in terms of days of the week or time of day is it done? Does this matter?

Where is it done? Is this the right place? Does it have the right equipment? Do things have to be moved before or after the task to make sure everything is in the right place?

How is it done? What is the process? What equipment is used? What skills are needed?

If we ask these questions seriously … and make sure we answer them properly … we should end up by being able to answer these questions ….

Who should do it? ( … and why)
When should it be done? (… and why)
Where should it be done? (… and why)
How should it be done? ( … and why)

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Ask simple questions

Organisations – and individuals – that succeed …. and remain successful over time … never rest on their laurels. They know that in an increasingly competitive world, the only way is forward … and moving forward needs continual change.

This need not be massive or even large-scale change … but incremental change and improvement so that we know that this year we are at least a little better than we were last year.

We make these small improvements by making sure that we always ask questions about what we do and the way we do it. In fact, we should always ask first …

What do we achieve (by performing this task or activity)?
Why do we need to do it?
Is there anything else we could do instead?

Big stuff, little stuff

Being a productivity guru (see my profile), I know what works in large companies ... more importantly I know how to make it work in all companies ... and in not-for-profits too.

Guess why this blog is called DoNotComplicate.

Start Somewhere

This blog sets out to prove that business is essentially a simple process - but as businesses get bigger, they get more complicated. They don't have to ... but they do. Stick with me and I'll show you how you can keep things simple.

So ... do not complicate!