Bob the consultant and the Brexit Business Plan

While I’m generally of the view we should stop the rearward sniping, work it out and insist the solution is actually a proper plan and a sensible option, so as on the one hand not blindly meander off into oblivion because the people have spoken, yet on the other hand not think it remotely credible that the status quo is much cop either …

This made me laugh. Worthy of Yes Minister meets The Thick Of It by my old pal Tony who will by now be far too busy with tv execs to bother with me:

Nog's Musings

Bob the management consultant is called in to UK Futures Ltd. He’s meeting Bill, head of Business development to give an external sign off on a new business proposal – “Project Break Free”.

Hello, I’m Bob.  Thanks for calling me in.  So can you give me some background? What exactly is “Project Break Free”?

Well, its a very ambitious and ground breaking project, we’re all very excited about it.  We’re looking to revolutionize our Sales operation.

Sounds interesting. What’s involved?

Well, we have a number of sales agreements in place with 27 primary partners/customers and 50 odd sales agreements with secondary partners.  We want to radically change these Sales agreements in order to increase our sales.

Why? Have sales been disappointing?

Yes, we’re only the 5th largest company worldwide. Well, we were.

What, are you 4th now?

No, 6th.  Unfortunately the markets got wind of our plans and reacted quite badly.


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Good To Great (Again)

I wrote this summary of Good To Great in 2012 I think.  I look it up every now and then.  I posted it here ages ago.  Today I read it again.  What a great book.  Today I could replace the opening with something about how,  I am on a train, thinking about work, I suppose.

“…I woke up at 0100 last night, thinking about work. This is rare. One of the more challenging aspects of my new role is establishing the facts about how it all works so we can confront and deal with them. “I need facts!”, I thought, as my mind raced and the LED clock seemingly stopped.

I remembered how important the confrontation of facts is in Good to Great by Jim Collins. I reckoned at 0100 that facts must be the most important bit, the idea that trumps all the others.

Then I remembered I’d clumsily summarised the book last year. I decided to read the summary in the morning to prove myself right, and got myself back to sleep by imagining I was Geoff Boycott batting in a test match. It works every time…

I woke five hours later to find I was wrong, the whole book is brilliant. Here is my clunky summary. It is made all the better by each chapter having a one page summary from which I extracted the bits I agreed with and ignored the bits I didn’t, or which I simply didn’t understand:


1 Level 5 Leaders

  • Humility, low ego and high will
  • Set up successors for success
  • Diligent, work horses
  • Credit to others for success, blame themselves for failings, think their success is luck
  • Lack of celebrity status


2 Who Then What

  • Get the right people on the bus first
  • The  “genius with followers” model fails when the genius departs
  • Little reliance on lay offs (got it right in the first place)
  • Right people in each role
  • Vigorous debate common place
  • The right people are your greatest asset (not just people)


3 Confront the Facts

  • Create a culture in which people can be heard by
    • Asking questions not giving answers
    • Engaging in dialogue and debate not coercion
    • Conducting autopsies without blame
    • Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored
  • Retain faith and you will prevail AND confront the facts. Need to to both.
  • It’s equally as important as the vision
  • Dealing with the facts is central to motivating people


4 Hedgehog Concept

  • Understand three circles to define your hedgehog
    • What are you deeply passionate about
    • What can you be best in the world at
    • What drives your economic engine
  • The concept is not a goal or strategy, it is an understanding
  • What you can be best at might not be your core business, it might even be a competence you currently don’t have
  • For economic engine, seek out a unifying metric,
  • It’s iterative, be information rather than bravado driven
  • It takes years to work out the simple set of factors that make your HC


5 Culture of Discipline

  • Fanatical discipline within the circles
  • Bureaucracy rises to overcome incompetence and a lack of discipline. Mostly the result of having the wrong people in the first place.
  • Duality: adhere to system but freedom to act within the framework of that system
  • Disciplined people, thought and action


6 Technology Accelerators

  • Avoid bandwagons
  • Select carefully
  • Does it fit the HC? If so then pioneer. If not then you can ignore or settle for standard.
  • It’s an accelerator of momentum not the basis of it
  • Employ technology for outcomes not as an end in itself or out of fear of being left behind
  • Not cited as the top five factors in change by 80% of successful companies
  • Crawl, walk, run…


7 The Flywheel and the Loop of Doom




  • They look dramatic from the outside, it is attritional in reality
  • There is no transformational programme or event
  • Consistent build up and break through reign, it’s a flywheel
  • Those that fail, skip build up and seek quick breakthrough, then fall back on a set back
  • Failures use acquisitions to break through, successes consolidate break through with acquisition
  • Successes tend only to notice their success after the fact, there was no event, no programme
  • Great leaders spent no time explicitly creating alignment, motivating or managing change. These follow results, they are not precursors.
  • The short term pressures of Wall Street aren’t consistent with this model.




I drink coffee.  This is not news.  I buy it from a very nice if slightly corporate Italian Restaurant in Canary Wharf (which is a ghastly place).  It is called Obica.

Their coffee is very good, as you’d expect of Italian coffee, even from a chain.

Today I half jokingly offered to key in the price myself and swipe my card to help in the busy morning rush.  The man on the counter lamented the rise of self service, telling me how he enjoyed serving customers.  It was a friendly exchange.  I saw his point.

This afternoon I decided to have another one.  This too is not news.

He remembered me and offered me a loyalty card.  One of those based on a bit of card that gets stamped.  Being an honest soul I politely declined, I never remember to keep let alone use them.  They find their way with change and receipts into a pot on the mantle piece that every so often then gets cleared out when the floatsom of London gets binned.

He said this was ok but that next time I came I was going to get a free coffee anyway and would from time to time, “For people I know” and I suspect make the effort to establish eye contact and do just a little more than conduct a transaction.

It is fair to say I will be a loyal customer.

If you do find yourself in Canary Wharf, I would recommend the coffee (and lunch) here:


I woke up with an odd feeling this morning.

We were out last night, for dinner with friends. The mobiles stayed at home. We had a lovely time.

We got back to the news that Boris Johnson is our Foreign Secretary. A friend had contacted me while we were out to ask what I thought of that news, knowing I’d not be impressed. I said I’d sleep on it.

I woke up with an odd feeling. I felt a little sick, slightly alarmed and realised there are some people I’ll now struggle to look in the eye.

The feeling is shame, I am ashamed of someone in my government, the one who represents me abroad.

For the record, I understand the rationales. They don’t make me feel any better, the silly games are not acceptable.

I’m still ashamed.

Thank You Scotland

The Scots are about to demonstrate an important principle.

We plainly can’t ask the Brexit question again, just because 48.1% of us think we got it wrong. That’s not how democracy works.

But then the Scots are about to do just that. Ask the independence question again.

They can, because there is new information, a material change in the circumstances. Fairly obviously, that’s that Britain has decided to leave the EU and they don’t want to.

Given the margin on the 23rd which while clear was still small, it’d be interesting to see what constitutes “new information” for Britain as a whole.

Will the exposure of some of the suspected lies count? I say, “suspected”…

Will the effect on the Union dawn on and shock people? I said previously how worried I am about NI.

Will the reality that emerges in negotiations count? The fairly obvious fact that we won’t get what we want.

What might really make the difference, driven by those emerging facts, is a dramatic opinion poll, say a 58/42 In/Out split. For now, let’s not rush, if we are still happy to leave as a nation in a few months, I’ll roll with it, we will work it out, crazy though I think it is.

The thing is, democracy is an iterative process, as the Scots are about to demonstrate.

Thanks guys.

I Am A European



I have been away for the week.  I voted by proxy.  When I landed back here this morning it occurred to me I was an unwelcome alien in my own country. I am a European citizen living in the UK.  Just like lots of people from Poland and other European states are.

I’m not sure a referendum can take that European citizenship away from me,  it’s mine.  I certainly don’t want to lose it and I am wondering what choices I have to remain one.

Perhaps I can apply to be a European citizen? Could I have dual nationality, be European and be British but have two passports? Or must I select another EU nation to affiliate with, perhaps Belgium to be neutral, Polish to make a point or Scottish for convenience.

It would be interesting if 10s of millions of us did something like this. The most likely route being some form of dual nationality.

How do I apply for some form of European citizenship? It is what I choose and I am going to have it thank you.

You cannot take away from me who I am. It is not that I won’t let you, or that it isn’t fair, you actually, simply cannot. I am a European.

May Seriously Diminish Your Empathy

I mostly shut up about my thoughts on the internet a while ago.  In part because the idea that not all was well had gone main stream and in part because I began to bore myself!

For the nth time I should point out that I work in technology and consider the internet to be both wonderful but also something we need to look very hard at to ensure it serves us for good.

Our history is littered with our obsessions with new and interesting things which, encouraged by well meaning marketing people, we thought terribly cool, but which turned out to be rather bad for us.  When we look back it is easy to ridicule our forebears for embracing cigarettes, radium toothpaste, soda with cocaine in it and my favourite, radium cigarettes.





My favourite which I stumbled on while writing this and simply could not believe:


Then there is this.  Shouldn’t they be talking to each other?


“…In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan led by the psychologist Sara Konrath put together the findings of 72 studies that were conducted over a 30-year period. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.”

The whole article is here:

The whole NY Times Article that comes from is here.  It is about Sherry Turkle’s latest tome, Reclaiming Conversation.  If you think this goes on a bit…

Much of that decline is attributed to our use of the internet and primarily social media.  That study was carried out on students.  Typically outgoing, bright young things.

I am wondering if Social Media (among other online things, I’ve tried to keep this short, but I could have added on line Gaming for example) is doing so much more harm than good, that we ought to either re design it (see previous tedious rambles on that) or simply turn it off.  Not as individuals, but off altogether, pull the plug.

Empathy matters, it is essential to our being human, it is essential to our humanity.  Empathy is what causes us to behave well towards each other it is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

I have no idea what level of empathy has fallen to among young poor, uneducated, unemployed, isolated people.  I am willing to guess that it has fallen a lot further than 40%.  Every time we suffer a terrorist outrage, those factors tend to feature in the analysis of the perpetrators, as do tales of radicalisation through Social Media with its narrow perspectives, easy anonymity and lack of accountability.

The situation in Europe at present is dangerous and complicated.  The causes many, having built over centuries.  Declining empathy, arcane though it sounds, is a dangerous and destabilising accelerant though, and I suspect what is tipping the balance towards chaos.  Dewy eyed middle class concerns about ensuring that bright young things are fully rounded are a bit of a side show. The examples are many.


I suppose we could put a health warning on it.

Social Media May Seriously Diminish Your Empathy.

I doubt that will be enough.

I wonder also if we will look back with incredulity at how we allowed ourselves to embrace something that damaged our very humanity. (And yes, its good fun and I’ve learned a lot and made some new friends, blah blah blah.)

Anyway, what do you think?