I cannot mark today’s Thursday Thoughts without a tribute to Steve Jobs. He became a legend in his own lifetime and he has surely changed the way that we work, play and think. He will be sadly missed having made a unique contribution to those who live beyond his untimely death.
Before he died, he expressed his philosophy on death with simplicity and elegance:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
This week, the bees went to bed for the winter. Fed down with verroa treatment in the hope that most colonies will survive the winter.
I have also had three very different conversations this week about the importance of Business Processes. In each conversation, I came to a different set of conclusions. However, there was one over-riding idea that shone through from each conversation. The obsession with the current process-centric religion in management thinking has actually made many of our service-based organisations less, not more effective and less, not more efficient.
The first conversation came from an experience I had with a US-based hosting company I have used for about ten years. Last year they put SAP into the company. Two months ago the company was sold. The service has been declining for about a year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The new process involves forcing you to ring a US telephone number which is actually answered by someone in the Phillipines who filters you so they can direct you to the right department. The problem I had involved both Domain Names and Hosting – so I ended up being put through to two departments. In the end I was double-billed and had to ring back a week later to complain – when I went through the same rigmarole – and was sent an email to say I couldn’t reclaim the money because it was against company policy. I rang a third time and finally got through to someone who sorted me there-and-then. Sounds familiar? More like a telephone company? Yes, indeed. I then got hold of the Director for Customer Experience and Process Design on LinkedIn to share my story. He was a Harvard MBA. He saw my profile but ignored me. The company is called Network Solutions.
The second case was with a former colleague whom I had lunch with. He is an aspiring partner at one of the big five consulting practices. He told me he was writing a paper about the importance of process design in telecoms companies. I cited the above story and said that Presence was more important than Process. He looked quizzical. He could not compute. He was not sure how he could implement Presence and make money out of the idea from a consulting assignment.
The final conversation was with an enlightened ex COO of a Telecoms company with whom I had lunch with on Tuesday. He said he was process mad – yet when you listened to his stories of how he managed processes, there was a great deal of practicality and experience blended in with the importance of providing the right information to the right person at the right time to turn customer issues and questions around on the first call.
In the crusade to banish the obsession with Process centricity, I continue to marvel at the bees that I keep. They don’t have crazy processes to waste time. They have developed an approach that balances Process AND Content (or pollen/nectar collection) IN THE MOMENT so that they can respond with far more intelligence than just following a book of rules. Interestingly, the model they use shows that outsourcing is extremely wasteful and makes no sense at all. If you have to hand off, do it only once (not three times like ITIL). The models from the bees also demonstrates the sense of investing in small, agile “cells” of capacity and capability tuned to specific types of demand.
To summarise, I believe it is time to create a new management paradigm based on Presence (modelled much more on the natural world that the bees have developed over 50 million years). It creates a paradigm shift that takes us away from the insanity (or caetextic thinking) of process-obsession and into a new much more organic model based on cells or colonies that can respond to demand of various types a seasonal basis.
Just like the bees do.
I am writing a book on the idea – so expect more like this in future postings.
I have also posted Presence over Process on MIX – The Management Information Exchange – please add comments and vote for the idea there or add your comments here as you wish. Always valuable!
What joy! In the past week we have been taking off the honey and harvesting the goldengages and runner beans that have magically grown through the summer. It is a truly magnificent time of the year!
But our biggest success is the most ENORMOUS pumpkin – grown from two (out of nine) pumpkin seeds that I planted in July sometime. (The birds ate the other seven). Here is a picture of the triffid-like plant when we got back from holiday:
Great Oaks from little acorns grow, as they say. Even businesses have to start somewhere – but the natural powers of nature still let two out of nine seeds (for the pumpkin) and two out of nine hives (for the honey harvest) do SO much better than the rest.
I wonder if there is some formula that someone has noticed about productivity and two-ninths of any system being SO much more productive than the rest?
In the week that Steve Jobs gave up as CEO of Apple, I was reminded by a good friend, Cliff, of part of Jobs’ address to Stamford students in 2005:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever – because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
The idea that “dots will connect down the road” is such an interesting one. So many things become obvious with the benefit of hindsight. So it was, whilst on holiday in Sicily over the past ten days, that I was thinking about the importance of coincidences when looking back in life.
How many times in your life have you thought “That’s a coincidence!” – and the event or chance meeting has led to something important developing further down the road?
There is also the famous puzzle about how many people you need to gather together in a group for there to be less than a 50% probability that two in the group will share a birthday. The answer is not, as may would think 183 (or a half or 366) – but it is, in fact, a mere 23! Therefore coincidences are actually more common than we might at first think!
James Redfield in his book “The Celestine Prophecy” develops the main character with him beginning to notice instances of “synchronicity”, or the realisation that coincidences may have deep, sometimes spiritual meanings.
And, as Einstein charmingly said: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
To bring me back to Steve Jobs – his creations (or the creations of Apple) have been important at certain transition points in my life – whether they be the first Apple 2 I bought in 1980, or the Macbook Air I ordered today because my MacBook Pro that I got when I set up Objective Designers 3 years ago packed up last week!
Whether you believe these deeper meanings or not, REFLECT ON IT: When have coincidences changed your direction in life – or the decisions you have made? They have for me. Maybe they have for you?
Please think about these coincidences that have turned your life….and, if you think you have a good story, please put it in the comment box below!
Living in Kent in the UK, I have always been fascinated by local currencies and hop tokens. These were issued by local farmers to the hop pickers who came down from London – and could only be spent in the local village or on local beer (provided by the farmer!). However unfair, this really was localism in action!
So it is, as Europe and the US faces its currency crisis, trying to payoff old debts with a money system that is totally broken, it becomes so interesting to look to history and the so-called Wörgl experiment. This was conducted from July 1932 to November 1933 and is a classic example of the potential efficacy of local currencies in a time of financial crisis.
Wörgl, a small town in Austria with 4000 inhabitants, introduced a local scrip during the Great Depression. By 1932 unemployment in Wörgl had risen to 30%. The local government had amassed debts of 1.3 million Austrian schillings (AS) against cash reserves of 40,000 AS. Local construction and civic maintenance had come to a standstill. On the initiative of the town’s mayor, Michael Unterguggenberger, the local government printed 32,000 in labor certificates which carried a negative 1% monthly interest rate and could be converted into schillings at 98% of face value. An equivalent amount in schillings was deposited in the local bank as cover for the certificates in case of mass redemption and earned interest for the government.
The certificates circulated so rapidly that only 12,000 were ever actually put into circulation. According to reports by the mayor and economists of the day who studied the experiment, the scrip was readily accepted by local merchants and the local population. It utilized the scrip to carry out 100,000 AS in public works projects involving construction and repair of roads, bridges, tanks, drainage systems, factories, and buildings. The scrip was also accepted as legal tender for payment of local taxes.
In the one year that the currency was in circulation, it circulated 13 times faster than the official shilling and served as a catalyst to the local economy. The heavy arrears in local tax collection declined dramatically. Local government revenue rose from 2,400 AS in 1931 to 20,400 in 1932. Unemployment was eliminated, while it remained very high throughout the rest of the country. No increase in prices was observed. Based on the dramatic success of the Wörgl experiment, several other communities introduced similar scrips.
In spite of the tangible benefits of the programme, it met with stiff opposition from the regional socialist party and from the Austrian central bank, which opposed the local currency as an infringement on its powers over the currency. As a result the program was suspended, unemployment rose, and the local economy soon degenerated to the level of other communities in the country.
So there is a way out of the currency crisis – if only we looked to history and suppressed the central banking systems. I cannot see the dollar and euro surviving in their current state for much longer without some re-thinking. Makes you think what we could do if we took localism to the next stage of its natural development.
In the week that the US space shuttle programme came to an end, the BBC put a cut-down and edited version of the film “Round the world in 90 minutes.
You can watch the older version on YouTube in five fifteen minute cuts:
Let’s hope that the planetary consciousness that the outstanding programme has delivered will continue to see the world as a fragile ecosystem and not as a toxic dumping ground for consumer madness (per the previous post).
In a week where the Murdoch media empire appeared to lose its power, I came across this video “The Story of Stuff”- perhaps the most important “News of the World” that Murdoch’s empire was at the heart of ignoring.
Even if you have seen it, watch it again: it will make you think again about how the world works.
It is interesting how, with the launch of Apple’s Lion operating system we are still seeing “Design for Obsolescence” as one of the main design principles from what many say is the best design company in the world. It’s time for Apple (and the rest of us) to re-think design for the 21st century so that we can close the circle, not keep pushing the 99% waste down the pipe. Designing for Pull has to be a major factor in this redesign philosophy – and something I will come back to in future posts.
As the honeybee swarming season is ending, I have been reflecting on the four swarms we have caught this season and the phenomenon that some call “swarm consciousness”. In researching more about the subject, I came across this short set of PBS videos describing a new way of thinking described as “emergence”. It not only describes the magic forces of nature that science somehow struggles with, it also gives a great explanation on how we learn. It is encouraging to hear that current computer design has a long way to go – and that the human brain still wins on its “connectedness”. Encouraging to think that swarm intelligence in humans is FAR greater than any political leader or dictator. Worth watching both clips and reflecting on them:
I am ever in awe of short stories that have been beautifully animated. Thanks to Pixar for this video. I could not help but draw the analogy between the players and the current banking crisis in Europe! Still, I wonder where the bag of gold will really come from to rescue the situation…..