Friday, 24 May 2019

Learning from Mistakes

If you’re anything like me, you HATE making mistakes.  None of us begin the day (I hope) thinking “how many errors can I make today?”, but we’re all human and so likely to have “off moments” which cause mistakes.

In my time working with the aviation industry, I’ve been impressed by the approach it takes to mistakes and safety.  Anything that can be a lesson in how to do things more safely is distributed so that others can use it, making aviation one of the safest industries in the world.

When investigating mistakes, one technique used is to analyse what are known as Contributing Factorsand Performance Inducing Factors.  These can be defined as follows:

Contributing Factors (CF): 
A condition or activity that contributes to the hazard or makes it more likely to happen.

Performance Inducing Factors (PIF): 
A condition or activity that acts on how a person performs an activity that contributes to the hazard or makes it more likely to happen.

A simple example of a Contributing Factor would be the classic slapstick comedy situation of a banana peel being left on the floor.  Someone slips on it and takes a fall (hopefully, without serious injury).   The CF here is the banana peel.

A Performance Inducing Factor would typically occur in a situation where someone was under pressure to get a job done fast, with the increased likelihood that they would ignore certain steps in a process that they feel prevent the job being done quickly, but which result in more time being pent correcting their error.

Another typical example of a Contributing Factor is an out of date manual that gives incorrect instructions.  By following the manual as written, one is bound to make a mistake.  Alternatively, the guidelines written by “Compliance” may upset customers who take it out on staff.  In this case the Performance Inducing Factor is the staff not weaning to deal with an irate customer (possible losing business for their employer) and thereby ignoring a process that is intended to safeguard the employer’s interests (albeit at the expense of an upset customer).

At times, both Contributing Factors and Performance Inducing Factors  will be present!

How many Contributing Factors and Performance Inducing Factors could we eliminate if we talked to the people that matter – our staff and customers?


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 websiteprovides 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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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

When Should We Review?

Our lives are spent reviewing – although we may not actually realise it.  We “review” what time it is so we don’t miss that vital appointment or flight.  We “review” the speed at which we’re driving – particularly when we pass a sign reminding us of the speed limit or to slow down.  Once we’ve reviewed, we take some kind of action.

When it comes to business, again, there’s “subconscious review” which I encountered as a bank commercial lending manager.  I was always amazed at how many of my small business clients knew to almost the dollar/pound or other currency how much profit they’d made for the month and year to date.  It was just “instinctive”.

When I ask, “When do you review”, I’m talking about the business.  For some, it’s a case of when something happens that forcesthem to review (e.g. when a new competitor starts undercutting them).  Others (particularly larger organisations) tend to review at periodic intervals. What suits one doesn’t always suit the other.

The first thing we need to do as business owners is work outwhatneeds to be reviewed and when. For some owners, as long as they continue to show an excess of income over expenditure, they may feel they only need to review their financial position once a year when it comes to closing the books.  They may, however, review their competitive environment much more frequently.

What about staff as well and the “annual appraisal”?  We need to reward our good performers and motivate those who need it.  We need to know if what we’re paying is “competitive” with the market, that is, with any other business in the same line of work that we are.

We could go on thinking of what needs to be reviewed – equipment, uniforms, condition of premises, and so on.  Quite often, we’ll get an untimely reminder that maintenance needs attention (e.g. a pipe bursts…).  

Who should be involved in the review?  We should never underestimate the knowledge our staff have of what's going on with customers and preferences, for example.  Suppliers may also have good ideas.  

After reviewing, the critical step is reacting  within an appropriate length of time.  If a competitor drops their prices and we lose business because we didn’t (or couldn’t) react quickly enough, we have a problem.  If salaries in the industry go up and we can’t raise them, we risk losing our best staff.  Reviewing sometimes means anticipatingwhat others might do and when.  This comes from both experience and what some call “gut feeling” or instinct.

What needs to be reviewed in our business, and when’s the best time to do it?



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 websiteprovides 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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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Passion or Paycheque?

In the world of work, we see two basic types: employer/business owner and employee/worker.

Assuming we’re the lucky owners of a growing/successful/both business, it’s because we have a passion for whatever it is we do and have managed to convert that into a working business model – and at a profit.    

I’ve also noticed that this passion isn’t necessarily shared by one’s workforce and herein lies the fundamental difference.  Many employees often see a job as a means of earning a living.  Hopefully, they work in that business because at the very least it interests them.  However, in some cases, they have no choice through no fault of their own.

I’ve seen entrepreneurs complaining that their workforce just aren’t “interested” in or “committed” to the job.  The paragraph above is the reason why.  It’s easy to forget that what motivates us doesn’t always motivate others.  If we’re lucky, a few come to share our passion, but the majority may simply not have the same degree of attachment as we do.  

Is there a solution? Part of it lies in recruitment and in efforts to find people who “fit”.  In a limited labour market, though, we may have no choice and it will be up to “Quality Control” to ensure that any key criteria are met and enforced.

At best, we’ll have to accept that there will always be a part of our workforce who simply don’t “feel the love” but who nonetheless perform a vital role.  It’s the others that make the real difference to our success. 


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 websiteprovides 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, 23 April 2019

What’s Your Contingency?

Businesses survive on their ability to … carry on doing business. What happens, though, when through no fault of their own, they’re prevented from doing this?

A business needs to sell products or services to its customers to survive.  We hear stories of businesses “going under” due to lack of demand for their product/service, or because a competitor muscled in or because a bank pulled their credit lines.  But what of when something else happens that is beyond their control?

By this, I mean something like inability to access premises, or a major contagion outbreak.  Let’s talk about inability to access premises. Usually, businesses carry on their trade from offices, warehouses or (in some cases) a room at home in the case of a business of one. We take for granted that we’ll arrive every morning, work and leave at the end of the day.  One day, however, we may arrive to find that we can’t get in because of a: 
  • Gas leak
  • Fire (either on our premises or a neighbour’s)
  • Explosion
  • Accident blocking the local access road
  • Inclement weather making roads impassable

These are “Acts of God” beyond our control.  However, our customers, staff and other stakeholders still rely on us, so the real test is in how we respond.  Businesses who can handle a crisis arising from unforeseen circumstances are generally those who will survive because of the way they handle things.  

The question then becomes, “Do we have a Contingency (or Business Continuity) Plan?”

Every business needs a plan (even if it's only on one sheet of paper).  The bigger or more complex the business, the more we may need to include.  An important or large buyer may also ask to see our Contingency Plan as part of their due diligence.  Typical contents would cover:
  • What the business does and how;
  • Where it does it (premises);
  • Vital equipment and/or records;
  • How premises are accessed;
  • Utility supplies;
  • Communications infrastructure;
  • Location of emergency services (police, hospital, fire brigade);
  • Staff;
  • Records;
  • Assembly points;
  • Contingency Site (CS);
  • Communications (staff, suppliers, buyers, regulators, banks, insurance, other stakeholders);
  • Suppliers;
  • Buyers;
  • Response Team and duties.
A vital feature is to test the plan to see if it works and what needs improving.  In one of the areas I worked, our Contingency Plan included flying two staff to another country, accessing systems remotely and communicating with us by satellite phone. 

The objective of a Contingency Plan is to achieve two goals:

First Goal: “Recovery Mode”
  • Business as Usual (BAU) premises not available; staff working from home/at the CS.
  • Staff/systems/equipment/infrastructure functioning at sub- “normal” levels or one or more elements not functioning at all.
  • Only “essential” functions are being performed, not necessarily at “normal” levels.
  • “Damage Control” and/or “Firefighting” are the main activities at this stage.
  • Communication with staff and stakeholders is key.
Ultimate Goal: “BAU Mode”
  • Staff/systems/equipment/infrastructure functioning at “normal”.
Ideally, the business should have “target times” to achieve recovery and then BAU.  Remember that the second goal may require us to locate, rent, refit and equip brand new premises… 


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 websiteprovides 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, 16 April 2019

The Dangers of "Group Think"

I’m reading a fascinating book by Richard de Crespigny, captain of Qantas flight QF 32 from Singapore to Sydney on 4thNovember 2010 which nearly became one of the world’s worst air disasters with 469 people on board.

Apart from a riveting story, one of Captain de Crespigny’s comments was:

It is even more common for ‘group think’ syndrome to take hold, where individuals who detect faults fail to expose them because they believe the group is more intelligent and more correct. The ‘group think’ problem is remarkably prevalent in crews augmented with management and checking captains, because junior pilots feel intimidated.

This highlights something which I (and, I’m sure, others) have experienced.  We’re in a group of people (some of whom may be more “senior” to us) and we notice something that we think may be going wrong.  Question: do we say something, and risk being slapped down or (at the very least) made fun of or do we keep quiet?

In the aviation world, where safety is paramount, the answer is simple: you speak up.

In one of the local oil companies in this country, they encourage(if not demand) that you speak up if a potential danger is spotted and thank youfor doing so!  The person who made the best report actually over the year gets officially recognised as well.

In other cultures, however, the convention is not to say anything because we might cause offence or “loss of face” to the senior person or persons.  Worse, they may think we’re trying to show how clever we are. Whatever happens, we’ll be in hot water, so better to keep quiet and, if something doesgo wrong, blame the seniors who “should have known”.

Do we as a leader encourage group think or speaking up (whatever the consequences) if there’s a problem?  If we work in a culture where group think is the norm. how can we encourage others to speak up?

A leader who encourages “yes men” ends up surrounded by people with nothing to say.



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 websiteprovides 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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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Who Are Your "Core"?

In any organisation, be it government, business or voluntary, experience suggests that there are three types.

Type one is those people who are unconditionally dedicated to the objectives and advancement of the organisation.  These are the ones who always come to meetings, events, committee and generally “make things work”.  They are “the core”.

The second is those who turn up regularly to meetings, contribute ideas, but don’t take on anything (unless specifically requested).  They turn up but aren’t likely to volunteer (this is left to the core).  

The third type are the “peripherals”.  For whatever reason they can’t, don’t or won’t contribute anything more than the bare minimum.  Whilst the first group will often go above and beyond the call of duty and the second can usually be relied on to get things done if asked specifically, the third tends to leave things to the others whom they know will always pick up the proverbial slack.  They usually make sure they appear in any photo opportunities though…

With peripherals, I’ve found that the important thing is to understand where they’re coming from. Some genuinely want to help, but have equally genuine reasons why their support must necessarily be limited. Once we know this, we can work with it. They’re capable of being there when really needed.

For those who don’t/won’t carry their weight, the question is why?  Is there a political/personality conflict?  Sometimes a full and frank discussion is needed to understand their perspective and identify where they can contribute meaningfully.  At others (particularly in voluntary organisations) it may simply be we’re “stuck” with these people – they may have “useful contacts”, or some other important arttribute.  The only solution is either to await some “natural event” that precipitates their departure or (if possible) “engineer” one.

Have you identified your “1s, 2s and 3s”?


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 websiteprovides 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, 26 March 2019

Don't Prioritise "Value" Over "Value Added"

I was observing a contract negotiation between two parties. The other party’s (let’s call them the “buyer") negotiator was playing the usual game of beating down price and focussing on that alone.

What the negotiator seemed unaware of was that they were not getting the difference between “value” and “value added”.  In this case, the negotiator thought that their objective was to get the lowest (“best”) price, without thinking about the best deal.

The risk the negotiator was taking was that, in their focus on getting the lowest price, they were actually doing two things, neither of which were good:
  1. They were alienating the supplier with their “nickel and dime game”;
  2. They were losing out on other intangible benefits that would actually make the contract work more smoothly.
When I explain that this negotiation was actually a renegotiation of a contract coming to an end, in which the supplier had done a lot of work outside the scope of the original agreement, the negotiator’s stance was clearly not going to help. The supplier was clearly feeling unappreciated and not respected.  The buyer’s representative could see what was going on, but was “under orders” not to interfere.

The conclusion was that:
  • The supplier left feeling aggrieved and determined to stick to their guns;
  • The negotiator thought they’d done their job well;
  • The buyer clearly was going to get the “bare minimum” for their buck.
This is where the concept of value added comes in.  In every contract, one usually finds instances where the “supplier” of the service may throw in little “extras” that aren’t part of the contract, but help things run smoothly for their buyer.  These may be, for example, services that aren’t covered in the terms or scope laid out in the contract, but add value and/or save money for the buyer.  

Occasionally, it’s better to preserve the goodwill of the other party, as well as leave room for the “value added” from that goodwill by knowing when to stop (as long as you’re comfortable with the price).  In the long term, everyone’s in business to do well, but by frustrating this, there’s a risk of losing valuable “hidden benefits” as well as supplier goodwill.

This extends to other aspects of business, such as how one treats staff, equipment, premises and any number of other aspects.  Skimp on these, and customers and staff will notice.  It'll show in staff attitude and (worse) reduced customer service.

In the end, the motto "You get what you pay for" is one to remember.


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 websiteprovides 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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