Choices 2

An interesting exchange broke out on my recent, typically arcane and impenetrable post, Choices. I replied with something close to this which I thought a damn sight better than the original post. It is more personal and direct:

“The thing is, we each have preferences and prejudices.

I have a very few good friends. They exist in little circles. I have an unconscious but ruthless tendency to prune and move on, retaining a very few over time. I reckon to make 2-3 long term friends per decade, though once you are in, assuming it is mutual, you are in for life.

I love small groups, of say 2 to 6. I hate parties but enjoy crowds.

I really struggle when I am thrust into any group where circle A is mixed with circle B because I behave differently with each and the average does not work. I have found myself at dinner parties experiencing the agony of being sympathetic with and interested in the person on my right, while being bawdy and foul mouthed with the person on my left.

The way I behave in this blog I find bizarre. It is usually thoughtful and fairly serious even if often flawed and wrong headed. In person, while I can be like that, my default, face to face with friends, or 1:1, say by email, is I think at best playful and likely downright facetious most of the time. You’d never guess that from my earnest outpourings here.

The discussion thread that sometimes follows these posts is my favourite bit. I suppose because it moves from being a house party (run away!) to a dinner party (stay up all night and hang the consequences!) and is a conversation, usually with a very few people.

My philosophy overall is that we live and work to create the opportunity and surplus to play and enjoy, otherwise what’s the bloody point!

As to Kindles and so on [the focus of the debate in the original post, where bar a few corrections and tweaks, this appeared as a comment]:

When I travel it is books on the Kindle and news and magazines on the iPad. To add a little twist, I consume autobiography as audio, which brings it alive, and business and factual books on paper, so I can scribble on, highlight and rapidly relocate the key parts in a way that the laughable and toy-like attempts at offering the same on the Kindle don’t even begin to replicate (“Pah!”, indeed!).

I generally like the random and spontaneous. I get a thrill from observing and adding to the incredible associations and diversions that happen in intense conversations, especially in pubs. I enjoy consuming content on the web because it allows for rapid connections of ideas. I still do, but I realised that I had stopped thinking about things, so I choose at times to constrain the connectedness a little to ensure I read long pieces fully and think about them. As a result, when I am at home I restarted reading news and magazines on paper a while ago.

My preferences drive my choices. My mother tells me I am complicated. I suspect that to be code for, “A pain in the arse”.

As I said above, I enjoy this bit of blogging the most.”

I did make one or two tweaks to that but it is pretty much the same as the original.

With thanks to @fridayfood and Mary, for joining in and for making me think.


Manage At The Speed of Light (Lighthouses Revisited)

I posted a shameless job advert a while ago. It sketched the characteristics of people I call lighthouses.

I said I would come back to it and explain more about them. To cut a very long story short, lighthouses make management easier, faster and considerably more enjoyable. You have to manage the risks of having favourites (let’s not kid ourselves here, that’s what they are) but it is worth it.

The customer service team I am responsible for are in seven primary sites around the world. My diary is rather stretched. There are numerous further complications, mostly driven by change and growth. They are good problems to have, so I will spare you.

Overall we strive to get better at what we do every day. In some areas that is attritional, driven by hypothesis, fact and action. At other times we rip it up and start again.

Success is happy customers and a happy team.  I want us to get better faster though. Just to really complicate matters, I insist we enjoy it all as well.

So what to do?

Well, we have top class infrastructure, connectivity, systems and superb collaboration tools. We strive to do the necessary operational stuff around metrics, continuous improvement, systems evolution, people development, objectives, reviews, controls and so on.

That allows us to manage the averages, play the percentages and get it right, most of the time. It allows us to move as quickly as a hierarchy can think, decide and act.

While some things, like accountability, necessitate hierarchy, much else is hindered by its lumbering pace.

The thing is, you can operate and change quickly through a network. The secret of the effective network? Lighthouses.

I listed their characteristics in . I forgot to point out the obvious, that they get things done at the speed of light and are not hierarchical but topographical, in that they exist at all levels in the org chart and at all locations. Increasingly, my map includes lighthouses outside my team. They all accelerate day to day operations, crisis management and, most amazingly, knowledge driven change.

Lighthouses are my favourites (gasp!). They are common in my immediate team for obvious reasons, but I know who all the others are, where they are, who they are connected to, who they can influence, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are.  Crucially, everyone else knows all that too.

Who can can access this network? Anyone. It is open, like all the best networks.

Some of them come to our team meetings as a matter of routine, even though the hierarchy says they shouldn’t. The team can work with them to get things done anywhere at any time. They connect to each other. I rarely get involved in making that happen. Best of all, while I recognise some the moment I meet them, others emerge later. They are my favourite favourites. I suspect that is utterly inexcusable!

Boringly, you can’t throw away the hierarchy, unless you particularly want another Jimmy Saville or Joseph Stalin that is.

Find your Lighthouses, encourage them (repeatedly), give them tools, goals, a license to play and a reason to smile and you are pressing the corporate, charitable, political or social accelerator and manage at the speed of light. You are also about to have a bit of a hoot.