Saturday, 31 December 2011

Leicester Tigers and Business Basics

My last blog on consulting skills and basketball was the most successful yet, so to continue the theme read on about Rugby, Leicester Tigers and Business basics.

Success in a game of Rugby depends on many factors, but before flair and clever hands, you have to get the basics and especially the set pieces right: Scrums, line outs, Re-starts, goal kicking.

I support Leicester Tigers, my local East Midlands Premier Rugby Team. When I visit Welford Road, the site of our home ground, the knowledgeable fans appreciate it when the Team get their set pieces right!

Well it occurred to me that there are some business basics and Set pieces that you need to have under your belt to be effective in a general business environment. Here is a list to start with, let me know your additions please:

  • Running effective meetings
  • Constructing a Project Gannt
  • A successful Routine to keep up to date with emails, voicemail, texts etc.
  • Able to write Capital investment proposals
  • Planning your time with a calendar
  • Write a one page prĂ©cis of almost anything for exec. Review.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Consulting Tools, Skills and Basketball

It occurred to me recently that when Consultants list out the tools that they use, or unfortunately the only tool that they use (thinking everything looks like a nail when you only have a hammer..), that Skills should have greater profile.

The real key to whether you can use a tool is when the pressure is on, the client has an urgent or critical problem, the room is lost, the way forward unclear. The ability to deploy a tool or technique in a training situation bears no relation to that test.

Which brings me to basketball. Years ago when my children were young, I attended the annual Parents/Award Giving at my son's Basketball club. As the parents gathered on benches at the back of the gym, a tall stately, elderly gentleman walked in with his grandson. After the coach had presented awards and reviewed the year, the guest speaker was revealed. You guessed it, the Granddad.

He was an ex England national player from the '50's. He spoke eloquently about the need for the kids to practise their basic skills, until they could ALWAYS make that shot in the dying seconds of a match. As he said all this he had in his hands a basketball. He had done nothing with it throughout his time in the gym, but as he closed his speech, he said" You have to know you can make the shot", and as he said it threw a shot to a Basket, 5 metres away...

Now if he had fluffed that shot, his speech was a disaster, but of course he didn't...

Can we always use our tools, techniques and personal interventions with that sort of skill? Thats what the client wants... skills not just tools.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ethical motivation in the Pharma and medical device industry

We read a lot of bad press about the pharmaceutical business: the high cost of drugs, supplies to third works countries, me-too new drug applications....But let's not forget the good that drugs can do and so the motivation for everyone in the industry that makes drugs to do a job that "Makes A Difference."

In industries that manufacture household goods, white goods or plumbing supplies, the motivation to produce high quality goods, deliver on time and write records or monitor processes lacks a little meaning in comparison.

If you work in the Supply of pharmaceutical products, and thousands do, don't forget to:
  • Make sure you and your team know what your drug does
  • The indication it addresses
  • What the key properties of the product are.
If you're in our Sector and you want to engage your team in any improvement activity don't forget your and your team's ethical responsibility to the patients. You are part of the same chain of custody as a pharmacist in the high street. When they check the bag, your name and address they are completing the process that you have protected through GMP, GLP, in fact all GXP!

Sunday, 30 October 2011


In my experience there is a danger in expending vast amounts of effort in designing your Strategy and Goals. Often this type of work is comfortable and unthreatening. We don't have to face the real world yet, as we are still "Strategising"

Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying don't think things through, challenge your goals, or develop plans; but consider the following:

• The old adage about the survival of the plan when it meets the enemy
• The importance of speed in today's world. Speed to market, speed to communicate etc
• The energy needed to construct the plan and the danger of "relaxing" into implementation.
• You can learn very fast about the strengths and weaknesses in your plan, or thinking, by testing it out, adapting and moving forward

So what should you do? Well good leaders everywhere recognise the need to bias towards action. They ask when things will start happening, changing, because while it doesn't guarantee completion it's a good indicator!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Visual Management

Managing the invisible is a real challenge. Talk to the bankers and regulators in the invisible world of Off-Balance Sheet instruments!

Of course there are different and less controversial ways of making things invisible. Consider the humble laptop. How many spreadsheets have you seen crushed into a tiny Laptop screen or projected in hope onto a wobbly screen? The beauty of computers is the amount of data that can be collected, analysed and manipulated. I wouldn't be without mine either, but the trouble starts when you have to manage with the data and even more when you have to work with a team of people using that information.

The solution? Go big, go visual, and put the picture on the wall. Print out that spreadsheet out on a big bit of paper, or use a big whiteboard. Easy to read as a team, easy to modify together, easy to see gaps, problems or patterns. As a team. When all, or nearly all can see it the job if solving the problem, getting buy-in, and deciding what to do becomes much simpler.

Give it a try, think visual and think big in more ways than one. It's also harder to ignore a problem writ so large, more power to your elbow and harder for your boss to brush away too when you have an idea.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Lord Digby Jones

I was fortunate to receive an invitation to listen to Lord Digby Jones speak at Pera in Melton Mowbray this week. He made an impassioned speech without notes on the subject of "Growth through Innovation". His visual imagery of the Taxi driver providing for his son to learn skills so that he would in future sit in the back of some else's Taxi was excellent. The most powerful of the images however was the likely direction of countries such as China and Brazil this Century. Not surprisingly he was also a strong advocate of the importance of skills in this country as one of the routes to grow UK plc through Innovation.

He entertained his audience by confirming all of our views that Governments just don't get it when it comes to business. The recent Bombardier news, being so local was extra relevant.

Of course as he is a Leicester Tigers fan like myself, it makes me a little biased. To read more about him yourself, click on the link above.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Calcs and Assumptions

Never underestimate the value of doing a little analysis. I say a little because a limited amount of calculation puts you a surprisingly long way ahead of those that don't, or can't be bothered. And I say a little because if you think carefully about what to calculate it limits what you have to do, to just what is important.

And remember the assumptions you make. Write them down, let people know. Often the thinking that sets the assumptions is more important than the calcs. They set out the quality of your thinking, they prompt a debate.

Decide what it's important to calculate
Think about what assumptions to make and write them down
Do the simple calcs and draw the conclusions.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Applying Flow to NPD

Donald Reinertsen has written a very good book looking at the application of Lean techniques and Flow to the world of New Product development. He also applies his experience of network design problems to consider how inherently variable NPD can benefit from the experience of unpredictable web and phone traffic. There are lots of principles and a useful cost model. Major lessons are to manage queues and understand the cost of delays and not worry too much about utilisation while reducing the batch sizes of work.
When I have some time I'll list out the key interventions his principles propose for our industry. I can recommend his book.

Monday, 16 May 2011

CIA Phoenix Question list

As some of you may have seen from one of my recent Tweets, a Question checklist by the CIA has been revealed. I can't vouch for the source of the checklist, but it does make interesting reading whether you consider it from the point of view of your own work, or pretend that you are trying to flush out a double agent.

Of course if that is your work, I'm surprised that you are reading this blog!

Questions include:
  • Can you restate your problem? How many different ways can you restate it? More general? More specific?
  • Can the rules be changed?

And then as a bonus there is a list of questions that help you plan (always a favourite topic of mine). They include:
  • What do you need to do at this time?
  • Who will be responsible for what?
  • Can you use this problem to solve some other problem?

Read the list and enjoy. Remember to add some Kudos when solving the next problem with your team. "Hey guys, it's time to use the CIA's checklist"

Friday, 15 April 2011

GSK Brings some manufacturing into Scotland from India

Some good news for the UK Pharma industry this week, with GSK announcing that it is bringing back some Manufacturing from India and putting it into their Montrose Site in Scotland. Click on the title to see an article about it on Fierce Pharma.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gemba walks

Gemba Walks by James Womack (Available from Amazon) is an edited and slightly revised collection of his generally excellent Lean e-Letters.

Of particular interest to me is the emphasis that he places on the importance of Purpose. Why are you pursuing Lean? This is an excellent question that stops wild lean activity (e.g. the number of workshops completed) or "Islands of Lean" (Why didn't it make a difference to the customer?). Those that have worked with me on change in Manufacturing and Supply Chain will know that asking why and establishing Purpose is high on my agenda. This was heightened by the work that I have done with McCourts and Roy Sallabank in particular.

A number of clients and others have embarked on Lean transformations without properly answering the question of why and establishing purpose. It takes a brave "belted" expert to ask a VP why are we doing this, but believe me, the largest waste of value is frequently that spent on carrying out a Purposeless Lean programme.

I would recommend Gemba Walks, even if you just read the first few pages!