Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Many of us are Facebook members and, if you're anything like me, you use it mainly to keep in touch with friends and hear their news. 

Facebook has evolved over the years, at times for the better, at others for worse.  I find that, if I’m not careful, I end up spending too much time on it.  Often, this is on weeding out posts telling me that my friends “liked” or “reacted” to something, or that they’re now friends with someone or use Instagram, or some other piece of equally irrelevant (to me) news.

One thing that Facebook has been useful for is to show me how some people use it, e.g. as a tool for self-promotion (lots of pictures of themselves and/or the wonderful life/partner/activity they enjoy). 

Sometimes they “react” (usually with an “angry” emoticon ) to posts from those who delight in reviling others or in spreading hatred, false news or any other number of distasteful pastimes.   Thanks to this, I’ve seen more “angry” people on Facebook than I’ve encountered in my lifetime, mainly because Facebook’s comparative “anonymity” gives them a platform to say things that they would never dare say to someone’s face.

I recently went through an exercise in which I “unfriended” or “unfollowed” a number of people whom I like, but from whom I hadn't heard in ages (although I saw plenty of self-promoting posts).  It was a sad experience.  

Something else Facebook does for us is remind us of our friends’ birthdays (if they’ve allowed that information to be viewed by their other friends).  As an experiment this year, I allowed my birthday to be visible only to myself.  Result: no birthday wishes and less time on Facebook.  I keep a diary note of the birth dates of those to whom I want to send birthday greetings and do it by email with a suitable picture attached to make it personal.

Employers these days are highly likely to conduct a Facebook and LinkedIn search of potential employees.  Some actually go as far as to ask for candidates’ usernames and passwords (that’s the time to leave).  People have been fired (or not hired) for posting what others deem inappropriate or “offensive” comments, so beware!  It’s too easy to forget once you’ve posted something that it’s “out there” in the public domain.  Personally, I feel that this is the same as asking to read someone’s bank statements.  Peoples’ private lives are just that (private). 

Facebook is a friend and a foe for me.  My main concern is that it “de-humanises” the personal interaction between genuine friends and/or people in general by making it too easy to “like”, wish Happy Birthday, etc with a simple tap on a screen.  Equally it makes it too easy to air views which you might not air face-to-face in a very public forum with little chance of “taking them back” once they’re “out there”.  

In a world where interpersonal skills continue to be at a premium, one can't help but wonder how much value is added by Facebook…  How do you use it to add value to your “brand”? 

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Taking The Initiative

In a number of cases  I’ve discussed with clients, they complain that their people “don’t take the initiative”.  When I ask questions like “Why do they need to take more initiative?” or “What procedures have you changed to support more initiative-taking?”, I’m usually greeted with silence.

It’s trendy to state that we expect our employees to “take initiatives”, after all, it shows we’re enlightened employers.  However, these initiatives often meet a wall of bureaucracy “compliance” is the latest”) that sends them back to the proverbial drawing board and discouraging them from taking things any further, or else they get “ticked off” for daring to take the initiative...

Where things break down is at the organisational level.  The larger the organisation, the more it’s likely to have different “departments” who specialise in their own particular area of expertise (HR, IT, etc).  What happens is that the other departments may not be aware of what’s going on and, through no fault of their own, end up “obstructing” things rather than helping them along.  I remember thinking this when I worked in the banking world and “compliance” were contently slowing things down (as we saw it). 

In the business world, speed of response is critical.   If a business can't react quickly enough, it risks becoming uncompetitive and going out of business.  Taking the initiative is part of responding.

It comes down to what some call alignment.  Every department, function and employee needs to know what the organisation is there for, its goals and to understand how they contribute to achieving them.  Unfortunately, what often happens is that each head of function gets their goals, then cascades them to their direct reports and so on without taking account of the “big picture”.  The result: “organarchy” as someone once described it, where everyone actually seems to be working against their peers.

How do we change this?  The simple answer is “leadership”.  Everyone needs to know:
  • What the organisation is there to achieve and what their part is;
  • Why the organisation exists (often the trickiest question to answer);
  • When things need to be done;
  • How things are to be done and how they can support others;
  • Where help can be found;
  • Who is accountable for what and will help when things go “off track”.

An overall set of Guiding Principles that state the reason for the organisation’s being and what its values are will help people in making decisions that are aligned with the organisation’s objectives.  For an example of this, see Chapter 23 of Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet.

People don't work against each other deliberately.  It’s usually “the system” that lets them down.  Our job as leaders is to change that.



I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

It's All About "Attitude"

I visited a government department today to follow up on an outstanding issue (we won't say what it was to “protect the innocent”), but basically, I needed a certain set of documents in order to progress something and only those people could issue.  I started things in the middle of the month, so here we are almost at the end.

What was interesting was the different attitudes I encountered from the two staff who saw me.  One was older and more experienced in terms of “time served”.  The other was younger. 

The first kept pointing to a calendar, counting the number of days lapsed since I had initiated this matter and not really wanting to commit to a firm time.  The younger one simply asked me for my contact number and said she’d check and give me a call if things were ready.

Both did their jobs, and were very pleasant, but which would you say left a better impression?  The one who “played by the rules”, or the one who took my number?

Was one “set in her ways”, whilst the other was a “modern thinker”?  Who’s to say. 

Here’s the fun part – I know that, in fact, I shouldn't have gone until at least tomorrow.  However, miracles do occasionally happen in the “government machine” and I’ve had pleasant surprises before.  I knew I was taking a risk, I’m not going out of my way to detour to the department concerned, so I’m fairly relaxed about things.

My thoughts on this were simply that two different people displayed two very different attitudes and I know which one left me feeling better.  I made me ask, what attitude am I showing others, and is it helping me and my business to achieve our objectives?


I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.


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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Outcomes or Methods?

I’m reading a fascinating book by L. David Marquet who is credited with turning around one of the lowest-performing submarines in the US Navy.  For his full story, read his book “Turn The Ship Around!”.

One of the related issues that Marquet explores is how things are done, focussing both on methods and outcomes.  He’s very clear in his disapproval of processes (methods) becoming the “raison d’etre” of an organisation, rather than working to serve users or customers.

Having worked in the financial services industry for a long time, “process” was everything.  Our processes were designed to prevent errors (they didn’t), fraud (nope) and to provide high-quality service (err…).  We were audited to make sure we were following the process and “written up” if we didn't.  In the “old days” there was no questioning why people might not be following the exact process laid down, or whether it was still relevant.  You just weren’t following it.  That was bad.

As you can see, my opinion of processes in the financial services industry isn't high, and I suspect that the same holds true of other industries as well.  We need processes, yes, but when one hides behind them as an excuse for poor service or sub-standard product performance, we should be asking why our process let us down – that’s not meant to happen, it’s meant to work...

A lot has been written about process management and engineering (I even consult on it when called on), but we’re only just beginning to question whether the traditional practice of implementing it through the traditional “Leader/Follower” system works.  This usually results in processes designed to serve the user, not the customer.

As a result of processes imposed by “leadership” getting in the way, we’re seeing the development of concepts such as “Total Quality Management”, “Customer Experience”, “Process Management” and people who (like me) make a living out of them.  They still, however, rely on “Commitment from the top”.  The way you get commitment is from the bottom up.

My question is, shouldn't we focus on outcomes, rather than how we achieve them?  I’m not advocating that instruction manuals be shredded (they’ll still be needed) but rather that we actually ask what the end result is that our customers (and therefore, we) want and design things around that. 

No matter how “good” our procedures, if they don't deliver what the customer wants, we’ll all be out of business.



I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. With more than 20 years in international financial services around the world  running different operations and lending businesses, I started my own Consultancy to provide solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions across the world. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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