Saturday, 27 December 2008

Remember Who You Are!

As a teenager growing up in rural New Zealand if I ever wanted to go out I needed to borrow my parents’ car.  Borrowing the car involved a pretty standard ritual of asking for it, explaining where I was going and who I would be with and when I expected to be home.  Based on this explanation I would be given access to the family car (or the farm truck, depending on what was available).  The final part of the ritual was that just before I left Dad would always say “remember who you are”.  Every time he would say this and it drove me nuts.  I interpreted “remember who you are” as an overt attempt to control me and my actions to ensure I didn’t sully the family name.  As a teenage boy I wasn’t about to be controlled by anyone, especially my father! 

As time went by I left home and went to University.  There I met the love of my life (Jo, now my wife and mother to our 4 amazing children).  After a couple of years I took the big step of bringing her home to meet the parents.  I was very nervous about this meeting.  Much to my surprise she liked my parents and they liked her.  One day while Jo was at my parents place we wanted to go out.  I went through after the standard “can I borrow the car please” ritual and Dad added the usual “remember who you are”.  As we left I muttered under my breath something about what a control freak my father was, although the language may have been a little more colourful.  Jo just stared at me “what are you talking about?”.  So I explained to her in simple clear (emotional?) language what the problem was.

She just shook her head in disbelief “is that what you really think?  That’s not what he means at all.  What he means is ...” and she proceeded to give me a big long explanation on what he really meant.  I don’t remember exactly what she said but it was something along the lines of don’t go and get all caught up in the moment, cave into peer pressure and do something that you know is wrong and will regret later.  English students!!  Always reading stuff into things that don’t exist.  I mean really, she barely knew my father.  If she did she wouldn’t say such ridiculous things.

Now as it happens my father and I got on a lot better when we were apart from each other (something to do with being so alike I’m told) and over time I began to see that maybe there was another possible interpretation to “remember who you are” and maybe, just maybe Jo was right.  Without getting into it too deeply eventually I made peace with my father and remember who you are.  That is until I started participating in a series of leadership and personal development courses and reading a number of books on leadership.  These courses and books raised “remember who you are” back to my consciousness but in a new and unexpected way.  It began to dawn on me that “remember who you are” was really short hand for “remember who you really are and always act with integrity to that true self”.  Jo was right and perhaps my father was actually quite wise to say such a thing.  

This caused me a bit of a problem however as it posed a question I couldn’t easily answer. “Who am I really?”  It’s very difficult to “remember who you are”, if you have no idea who you are or who you want to be!!  “Ummm, best I find out”, and the quest began!

I won’t bore you with the details of the journey to answering this question.  It was long, often frustrating (frustration being my negative emotion of choice) and in truth continues daily. I would however like to share some of the things I have learnt along the way.

My first major insight came from Stephen Covey (see  If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that the work of Stephen Covey has had a major influence on me.  One major learning for me was when I really began to understand that Habit 1 – Be Proactive, actually meant that everything we experience in life is a choice and that the person who is doing the choosing is me.  It wasn’t someone or something out there, it was me.  I was responsible both in the common understanding of the word and also in the sense of “being the cause of …” whatever it was that life sent my way.  Life is a choice.  (the actual definition of responsible referred to above goes on to say “being the cause of something, usually something wrong or disapproved of”.  No wonder we hate being responsible!!  The true definition of being responsible does not differentiate between good and bad it is simply being the cause of something.).

My second major insight on this journey is that who you are is not the same thing as what you have or don’t have.  Nor is it a description of what you do or the roles you play in your life.  It is much more to do with what you stand for, what’s important to you and how well you reflect that in your life now, in the moment.  I explored some of this in my first blog entry Living Inside Out which described that the order for living is BE, DO, HAVE.  The message of living from the inside out is that what you do and what you have is ultimately determined by who you are being, or, to say it another way who you are being causes (is responsible for) what you do and what you have.  The irony is the world seems to work exactly the opposite to what we have all been taught.

My third major insight was that while I do believe in the fundamental premise that I can do anything I want, the reality is that we have all been given a unique set of gifts, both positive and negative.  In life I can choose to use these natural endowments to my advantage or not.  There is no right or wrong answer, however, I am likely to be more effective and happier in life if I work with my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses rather than the other way round.  There are a lot of good teachings on this.  My favourite is Marcus Buckingham (see  So the question is what do I love to do?  That is, what is it that makes me stronger and feeling great?  You probably will not be surprised to know that sharing (either written or in person) about things I have learnt, insights I have gained and changes I wish to see in the world is something that makes me feel stronger!!  What’s interesting is that working consistently with your strengths helps to build energy and passion.   Energy and passion are two things I want more of in my life!!

My fourth major insight is that there is no success without focus.  We all have our strengths, however, if we never focus these strengths we are unlikely to succeed on any significant scale.  To take an often cited example, Tiger Woods clearly has a series of gifts and strengths that mean he is a good golfer however it is his unrelenting focus on honing and building on those gifts that has made him a great golfer.  The chances are that with focus Tiger Woods could have been exceptional at a number of different things. He chose golf.  At the end of the day talent without focus does not create lasting success. 

One last thing on focus.  As you work to hone your skills through focus and to become the very best you can, you will find that you become very good at a number of auxiliary things as well.  These are things that although not what you are focusing on, are capabilities that support you in what you are focusing on.  For example, Tiger Woods is by all normal measures physically strong and flexible.  Not because he wants to be strong and flexible, but because it helps his golf.  If I look at my own case, my focus is on building and leveraging world class IS organisations.  As I focus on this I am beginning to build skills in leadership.  This is not because I want to be a great leader (truth be known, leadership scares me to death) but because these skills support building a great IS team.

Finally, the world is a very big place and it is not just about me.  I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed when I made this realisation.  I, as in fact most of us do, live my life from my own perspective.  That is, what is important to me?  What do I want?  How does this impact me?  In my generous moments I would include my family and maybe even friends and colleagues.  Even then however, it was still what I thought they would want, from my perspective.  It is in fact all about me!!  I know some of you are sitting there thinking “I’m not like this.  I often think about other people and their feelings and do many things for others selflessly”.  Maybe.  I would ask you to consider, is your selflessness really about others or is it about what a great giving person you are, sacrificing yourself for others and therefore really about your sense of self worth?   Don’t despair it seems to be the standard human condition.  Standard maybe, but not normal.  (Normal - physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy).

If you pause and think about it for a while we all know that it is not just about us.  As the saying goes no man (or woman) is an island.  We are social creatures by nature.  That’s why we build halls and other meeting places and live in towns and cities.  We intuitively know that it is not about us, it is about our family, our community, our society and that all of these things interrelate and depend on each other.  When we allow ourselves to remember this, the question is what are we doing to make our families, our communities, our society a better place to live?  Or how are we contributing?

That’s what I’ve learnt.  So, who do I understand myself be?  Well, as of today:

  • I believe my natural strengths include:
    • A natural desire for and attraction to new challenges.  This includes being naturally curious about why things are the way they are, and a real drive to question the status quo.
    • The ability to take complex situations and circumstances, distil them to their essence, and communicate them in a way that people can understand and relate to.
    • The ability to design systems, processes, mechanisms and measurements that support teams and organisations to achieve their goals
  • My focus is to be the authority on how to build great IS organisations that deliver on the promise of technology and add real competitive value to businesses and other organisations
  • I will contribute to my community and society by working to make New Zealand a place where everyone can and does feel safe and loved
  • To do these things on a consistent basis I need to be a role model of inspiration, opportunity and vitality

So now that I know who I am, I can begin to remember.  Now that I can remember, the challenge in life is to fulfil the promise of who I am meant to be.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Safe and Loved

Earlier this year my 14 year old daughter came to Jo (my wife) and I to ask if she could go to the movies on a Friday evening. Her proposal was that her and her friend would catch a bus to Takapuna watch the movie and then catch the bus home. She didn't ask to be out late. The movie started around 6.00pm and she expected to be home by 8.30. We said no. We were concerned about her safety because of the "wilding" and issues in and around Takapuna especially the bus terminal area. As a compromise we drove them there and picked them up again. I tell this story to people fairly often and they all agree they wouldn't let their daughters do it either. BUT SURELY THIS ISN'T RIGHT!! My daughter should be able to catch the bus to a movie in the early evening and be safe!! We shouldn't have to say no!!

Now about this time several other events thrust themselves onto our consciousness. These include a series of local events such as the much publicised suicide associated with Takapuna Grammar. While we were not at all close to this it impacted our family as our oldest daughter is a student at Grammar. There were several incidents on the streets around Devonport which either were or were alluded to be attempted abductions. In addition through my increasing involvement with the stepUP Foundation I have become aware of many issues affecting the teens of our country. In particular I am shocked at the rate of teen suicide and depression and the number of families for who violence in the home is a regular occurrence. The ongoing publicity surrounding the Kahui twins really highlights this issue and for those of us who sit in our comfortable middle and upper income suburbs let's not forget about the Tony Vietch affair. It happens everywhere.

It's highly likely that these "events" as I call them are happening all the time and that we had just been sensitised to them (mainly as a result of our involvement with Landmark Education's Curriculum for Living). Up until that point all of my life had been concerned with what had been happening to my family and I. Really little else mattered. Over time came to the twin realisations of:



The synergy of this struck me immediately. Because of the interconnectedness of our world ultimately if we wanted to do what was right for my family we had to do what was right for our community and society in general. While you may be able to ignore what is going on outside your family in the short term in the long run my family and New Zealand society are interconnected and can not be separated. (Well they could. We could move countries but then the same applies for wherever you go). Selfishness of wanting the best for my family and the selflessness in working for a better society are in fact the same thing!

So all fired up we set out to change the world!! But how?? Where do you start?? Our focus immediately went to the two core issues above:
  • We have one of the worst records in the world for teenage suicide and depression. The future of our country see so little for them that they are constantly depressed and killing themselves in large numbers.
  • People are not safe in our country. In fact people are not even safe in their own homes. Violence, particularly domestic violence, is everywhere and as a society we are ignoring it.

As I looked into this closer I noticed that many approaches to these issues took a fairly negative stance. Indeed I noticed that we tend to look at nearly every issue in our world from a negative stance. What do I mean by this? Well we tend to focus on what we don't want rather than what we do want. We don't want violence in our society so we are anti violence. We don't want our teens to commit suicide so we set out to prevent suicide. It really struck me that this "get rid of the negative stuff" approach is reactionary and in many ways blame oriented. That is your violent, so you are bad and you need to be punished is a typical response. Really this is just treating the symptom of a problem not the cause - if you lock up the bad people forever they will not be able to do any harm. The problem is it never gets to addressing the cause and so our society keeps producing ever increasing numbers of bad people (or more depressed people) to replace them.

I do not want to be part of the "anti world". Yes these are real issues and they need to be addressed (we'll get back to that again soon) but I want to be part of creating something positive. What I wanted was not the elimination of bad but the creation of a community and society that I would love to live in and would love my family to live in. What would that world look like? I began to imagine.

To start with, my daughter would be able to go to the movies on a Friday evening and there would be no fears for her. Let's take it further. I or any member of my family would be able to go anywhere in New Zealand and be safe. Not just my family. Everyone would be able to go anywhere in New Zealand and be safe. I began to see my 73 year old pakeha mother from Southland walking through Mangere on any given night night with her gammy knee in the middle of an open, festive and welcoming atmosphere. People of all ages and every ethnic background you can imagine including families, teens and twenty somethings and many grandparents partying together.

What's next? Let's be specific on an issue that I think really matters and that I mentioned earlier. Everyone would be safe in their own home. Children and partners (both male and female) should be excited about the arrival home of their parent, carer and partner. In too many houses they are terrified. What I could see was mum or dad walking through the door and children of all ages would excitedly rush up to them to greet them because they are so pleased they are home. Their loved one is back. Now that's a family!! (OK some realism. The teenagers would look up, grunt and maybe smile to acknowledge their arrival!).

Let's extend it. We know our neighbours. All of them. In your own street and adjoining streets. When I say know them I mean know them as people. Not just enough to politely say hello as you pass each other to of from your daily chores, if you acknowledge them at all. It doesn't mean we live in each others pockets or be best mates but it does mean we stop hiding in our houses and we socialise together and support each other. Now that's community...or is it simply an extended family?

No one would be depressed. No wait. Being sad or depressed on occasion is actually part of a complete human experience. It is often said that you need to experience sadness so you know when you are happy. Perhaps more appropriately then, no one would be so depressed for so long, that they would contemplate taking their own life. If I think about that more, if everyone knew that they were loved and that the important people in their lives loved them and cared about them, I mean really knew and personally felt it, then it would be very unlikely that they would be constantly depressed and take their own lives.

My thoughts and imaginings went on and on but to get to a point I wanted to create a society where:


That was it. If everyone was safe and loved then there would be nothing that could stop us from expressing who we really are in the world. If you can truly express who you are then imagine the impact to your self esteem and also the "esteem" in our society. It is very likely that from this base every one's creativity can flow and all things would be possible for us. We discussed this as a family over several weeks (everyone from our 5 year old up) and yes this is what we wanted to stand for! FANTASTIC - so where to start!!

After much discussion we determined that the right place for us to start was twofold:

Firstly we would open our home and our family to children who needed a place to go so they can be safe and loved. Practically for us this meant becoming a foster family. We have now completed the process to become a foster family and 2 sisters (5 and 8) have joined our family, at least for now while they need us. As an aside, pretty much everybody thinks that we are nuts to do this. Most just think we are nuts period. The rest look at us and go "but you already have 4 children of your own .... why (and how!!) do you do it?". The how is you just do. While six children make for a busy life it's not as different to four as you'd think. Jo answers the why very elegantly - "if they were your brother's or sister's children who needed support would you do it?" Most people acknowledge that they would. "well, it is all just a matter of how you define your family!". Selfishness of wanting the best for your family and selflessness are ultimately the same thing as you cannot separate your family from society!

The second is domestic violence. It didn't seem to matter how I thought about it this had to be the start. I could not get past the notion that everyone had an absolute right to be safe in their own home. Safe and Loved would never be possible if domestic violence was allowed to continue and flourish. So the question then became very simple if somewhat large - how do you stop domestic violence? I had no idea so I began by doing some research. I have documented what I found in my blog entry "causes of violence". I then began to look at solutions and models that could be applied. I documented this in my blog entry "potential solutions to violence". The conclusions I reached from this exercises were:

Causes of Violence

The literature and opinions I have researched suggest there is no easy definitive answer to what causes violence. Many factors correlate but a causal link has proven elusive. In the end however most commentators seem to believe the core causes of violence are likely to be:
  1. Lack of or bad role models
  2. Feeling alone, as if no one cares
  3. Inability to resolve highly charged emotions

As a result, I speculated that the explanation for this is that the critical factor is not what has happened to a person but how the person perceives what has happened and how they react to it. In particular a persons ability to express and "complete" unresolved emotions is critical. If you cannot resolve the emotional state then you tend to suppress the negative energy. If you do this enough it is likely to erupt! With this as a framework the correlations to violence begets violence, poverty etc are reasonably explainable. The more intense the event the harder it is to resolve. Correlated yes but not causal as there is a way to change the outcome through the choices we make as individuals and through completion of the associated emotional reaction. If you then put this in the context of no one cares about me (probably including myself) and a lack of positive role models and therefore probably a lack of any real coping skills then violence is almost inevitable!

Potential Solutions

So what can we do about this. To answer this question I primarily looked to use the vital behaviour framework proposed by the authors of Influencer. Based on this framework I concluded that the following seem like a good place to start:

  1. Make domestic violence unacceptable. Within New Zealand we too often see something going on that doesn't seem right but rather than act we turn away because "it is none of our business!!". While we do not support the behaviour, by doing nothing and "turning a blind eye" we create an environment where we make it acceptable and allow it to continue. I am not advocating that you put yourself into harms way however the message needs to be loud and clear - violence is not acceptable, it cannot be allowed to continue and we need to take action to demonstrate this every time we encounter it so everyone gets the message!
  2. Develop active parenting skills. Various studies have found that for children growing up in very disadvantaged and violent neighbourhoods, the one factor that seems to protect that child from growing up to be violent is having a parent who supervises her child very strictly and who nips misbehaviour in the bud. It appears then that parenting skills and active parenting in particular can help to break the cycle.
  3. Build emotional resilience and self esteem. The literature suggests that violence is usually a result of suppressed emotions bubbling to the surface and lashing out. This is often referred to as the silence / violence cycle. We can break this cycle by teaching people how to positively (or harmlessly) express their emotions.

So there we have it. Three places to start. They are not going to be the total picture but they are good places to start. I looked at them and pondered. I'm no educator and while I'm a parent and I think a reasonable good one I don't hold myself up as an expert. Although psychology fascinates me I am no psychologist and certainly no councilor!! Also there are plenty of great organisations and people working these areas. For me then it seemed that the logical place to start then was to champion the cause of making domestic violence unacceptable in every sense and ensure people actively oppose it whenever they encounter it and in so doing removing the current safe space created by society turning a blind eye.

So that's what I'm up to. I have decided to start close to home in my community, Devonport and we will see what grows from there. Specifically I am initiating a number of projects aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence. Raising awareness that it happens here in Devonport just as much as it does anywhere else and we need to stop kidding ourselves that it doesn't. At the end of the day it is up to all of us to act positively if we want it to stop and we want to progress towards a society as a positive expression of being a place where everyone can and does feel safe and loved.

So, do you want to join me?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The IS Hierarchy of Needs

About 5 years ago I made a major career move. I left the consulting business, a business I had been part of for 18 years since leaving University, and moved into the corporate world. My reasons for the change were many and I won't bore you with all of them but one major motivating factor was that over many years as a consultant I was frustrated that I seldom got to see the fruits of my labour, that is the final results, from the projects I had led or been a part of. As a consultant we tried to build ongoing capability within our clients (yes really we did try!!) so I usually left my client after the implementation project was over. Most IS enabled projects however take time to actually deliver the promised benefits so I rarely got to see the final results achieved. Worse yet I could see that in many instances the decisions that my clients were making meant that they were well on the path to ensuring the project failed to deliver on the promises that were made. I found this very frustrating as it meant all my hard work and all the hard work of the team would be wasted or worse we would get blamed for a bad result.

I do believe in the power of technology. I believe that technology has the potential to be a major catalyst of change and a source of competitive advantage. What we as an industry deliver however is somewhat different. As an industry we consistently fail to deliver against the expectations that we set. The statistics and evidence for this is everywhere. For example depending on the study you look at 30% to 70% of all projects fail. Most CEOs and senior non-technology executives believe that IS costs them too much and does not represent value for money and worse that IS is a drag on the organisation and slows change and agility!! Oh and to take perhaps a silly example has anyone seen the paperless office? I wanted the opportunity to deliver on the promise of IT and consistently add value to the organisation and indeed provide competitive advantage. I felt that by "changing sides" I would get this chance.

So full of the joys and hope of the world I set off to be a CIO. What I found was an IS organisation in disarray. There was no time or money to focus on driving competitive advantage because our systems didn't work or at least didn't work consistently. In the first 60 days in my new role our IS department had 62 priority 1 issues, issues that directly impacted our ability to trade, or buy and move inventory (which is a bit of a problem for a retailer) or meant that hundreds of people were stranded unable to work. Most of our time was spent fixing these systems. When we did get a chance to think about broader strategy issues and issues of competitive advantage no one wanted to listen!! The general feeling - don't talk to me about IS for competitive advantage please just make sure the systems work!!

The IS team hated that no one wanted to listen. They worked hard (some times all night to bring systems back up). They were smart. They held the keys to so much potential. They felt that no one understood them. No one valued them. As for me. I had a lot of empathy for my team, they were smart and they did work hard, but really I was on "management's side". As I looked at our department and our systems there was no way I would trust us to deliver major strategic initiatives. We couldn't even run our systems!!! We were nowhere near competitive advantage and the realities of corporate IT began to sink in. I began to ponder - how do we get from where we are today to be in a position to deliver value to our organisation and ultimately be a source of advantage??

I began to research. I read, books and analysts papers, I talked to peers I went to conferences and seminars. No matter how hard I looked however I couldn't find anywhere a consistent map or guideline of how to move from a dysfunctional under performing "anchor" to a team that was the source of advantage for our organisation (perhaps to complete the nautical metaphor the sails that provide the power to push the organisation forward)!! I found pieces. One important piece was a outline of what an IS department in a high performing organisation looked like. Surprisingly high performing companies generally had high performing IS departments!! These IS departments spend less on average than their peers but still manage to invest more in competitive advantage and (presumably) deliver the value of that investment. The implication - they are very operationally efficient (about 40% more efficient than average).

We weren't very operationally efficient. Based on some statistics I managed to put together I reckoned we were about 20% - 25% less efficient than average). So what to do?? I sat back and thought. Over time a few things came to mind.

Firstly if our systems don't work nothing else matters!! Our priority number 1 was do whatever we needed to do to make sure our systems worked. I couldn't believe that anybody was going to engage us in a strategic conversation if we couldn't get the systems working. I had used ITIL in a previous life and while not an expert it seemed to be a sensible framework to help us move forward, create a common way of running our systems and to improve system reliability. Also many members of the team talked about ITIL as something that they thought had value. So there we had our first key decision. Drive system reliability and use ITIL as an organising framework for everything we did and use ITIL methods as a way to improve system performance. Bringing this to a reality became the major focus for the majority of the IS team for the next 4 years.

The next thought came as I was reflecting on the teachings of Stephen Covey and the the 7 habits of highly effective people. Specifically I began to dwell on Coveys concept of the Private Victory and how the Private Victory needs to precede the Public Victory. Broadly speaking I interpreted this as meaning you need to sort your own shit out before you were in a position to effectively engage with others. That is you need to be independently healthy before you can effectively synergise with others. Now Covey's work was primarily directed at the individual however I could easily see parallels to our department and our business and I began to realise that before we could work with other parts of the organisation to drive competitive advantage we first had to be very good at what we were primarily charged to do. That is we had to be a very good IS department!! Only then would we have sufficient credibility with other departments to allow us to proactively work with them to help them improve their areas of the business and through this create competitive advantage. In hindsight this seems obvious. Why would anyone ask me to help them if they couldn't at least see that I was capable of helping ourselves and were good at our own job!! (Later came to realise that this was true for all parts of the business and that the way you work with a department who hasn't achieved the private victory is very different to the way you can work with one who has. Maybe I'll write more on this later).

So I began to turn my attention to answering two questions.
  1. what does a very good IS department look like? (I had some guidance on this from the high performing organisations work mentioned above) and

  2. what do you need to do to create a very good IS department?

I started researching maturity models. It seems that in and around IS we have maturity models for just about everything but I couldn't find one for an actual IS department!! Maybe I needed to make one up!! My mind fell onto Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I have no idea why or how this happened. While I was aware of the concept of the hierarchy of needs I wasn't really a great scholar of Maslow's work or psychology generally (this has changed over time and the more I study leadership, myself and people's reactions to the world and others the more the topic fascinates me).

Through the hierarchy of needs Maslow teaches us that when it comes to motivation some human needs are more important than others thus forming a hierarchy. For people the first basic set of needs relates to our physical needs such as the needs for food and shelter. While these needs are unmet nothing else really matters. If you are starving to death the only thing that is important is finding food. There is no room for anything else. Once these physical needs are met however then they stop motivating you and you move on to the next level of the hierarchy. In Maslow's case the need for safety. This compulsion until satisfied and then failure to motivate cycle continues until we reach the ultimate state of self actualisation. (for those who are interested wikipedia and both have good summaries for Maslow's hierarchy as I'm sure do many other sites).

It seemed to me that Maslow's concept of a hierarchy of needs fitted very neatly with Covey's work of driving change from the inside out (ie private victory precedes public victory). I began to mess with these ideas and came up with the following IS hierarchy of needs:

The hierarchy of needs provides a basis for understanding what needs to occur in order for you to be able to deliver business model innovation and differentiation for your organisation. Further it explains what you need to focus on today to meet today's needs and provides an explanation as to why we do or do not have influence as a department or as a CIO within our organisation.

You'll notice that the first two layers of the hierarchy are internally focused and represent the private victory of IS becoming a high performing IT organisation. The top two layers of the hierarchy represent IS's ability to build synergistic relationships with all departments to create sustainable advantage. The reality is if you haven't shown your ability to operate a high performing IS department then the organisation will not trust you as a partner with issues of enablement outside of IS or with issues of enabling substantial changes to your business model.

One point of clarification. The IS hierarchy of needs shows where the IS organisation needs to focus. It does not say that innovative projects are impossible if your main focus is on for example cost effectiveness. It does however say that this innovation is probably at the request of the business rather than as a result of a true partnership between IS and the business as you are unlikely to have the credibility to effectively partner. In these circumstances clearly the projects must be done and they represent a great opportunity to do them well and further build credibility while still primarily focusing on the core need of cost effectiveness.

So let's look at the hierarchy in some detail:

Systems Reliability

The most basic need for an IS department is to ensure that the systems that you currently operate are running when the users expect them to be running. In today's world if the systems are not running then the organisation will not be able to complete its most basic operations and in the extreme will very quickly close down. At this level of the hierarchy the focus is not really on whether the functionality is any good just is it available and does it work? There are many things that you can do drive reliability. For us, with ITIL as our framework of choice, the emphasis was initially on defining services, measuring service levels, problem management particularly for major incidents and change and release management to ensure we were not introducing new issues to our production systems. As we all know ultimately there is a trade off between systems reliability and cost. It is important that you agree this trade-off with key people in the business. 99.999% is not always appropriate. It depends on your business. Initially I agreed service levels with my colleagues as an aspirational target. I had no way of meeting them but asked them to agree to the targets so I could begin to measure my team and their progress. For us this meant 90% compliance with SLAs (standard 4 hours for P1s, 8 hours for P2s etc) and 99.5% availability for business critical services. They agreed. We began to measure our performance and improvement began (I'm a big believer in that you always get what you measure). It took nearly 2 years before we met these targets, now however, we meet and exceed these levels and my colleagues are very happy with the level of service.

Cost Effectiveness

It is at the level of cost effectiveness that you begin to demonstrate your commercial acumen. You do this by demonstrating that you spend money with care and you understand that cost control and value for money are critical for the ultimate success of the business. In this stage all IS business cases must have a positive impact on the cost of IS operations, however you choose to measure it (for us it is a combination of net present value and payback). The only exception to this is if you need to explicitly invest in such things are disaster recovery which directly target reducing business risk. Even here you should show that you are cognisant of the need for a balance between cost and risk. One of the outcomes that you should seek to achieve as you progress through cost effectiveness is to reinvest at least some portion of the operational savings into projects to help move your systems forward (through economically positive projects). For us our total IS spending basically remained flat for years (as a percentage of sales) as we progressed through cost effectiveness however during this time we reduced our operational costs by over 35%, built our capacity to deliver more projects and increased our capital/project spend by nearly 300%.

Many IS commentators believe that you shouldn't look at you IS department on the basis of costs but rather you should as quickly as possible move towards a profit center or even an investment center so all discussions are based on "value". While I have no objection to accounting for IS an a profit center I do not believe it is necessary. The main aim here is to demonstrate commercial acumen not to avoid scrutiny. My experience is that most executives are quite capable of understanding value no matter what the basis of accounting is. Also every organisation that I have been in looks at it's costs hard no matter how the accounting is done. The bottom line, however your organisation typically accounts for things is fine. Work within the accounting framework and show your competence.

As you work through the first two layers of the hierarchy and towards achieving the private victory it is likely that you will find that there are many initiatives that serve both reliability and cost effectiveness purposes. For example the less faults you have the more reliable but also the lower the operational costs as you can redirect peoples time and therefore costs away from operations towards improvement initiatives. Another example is that the modernisation of old legacy systems will often provide substantial cost savings and improved reliability.

Business Enablement

Having achieved the private victory most of your colleagues will have at least begun to reevaluate the IS departments contribution to the organisation. If our example is anything to go by you will begin to receive reasonably regular recognitions for the work that you have done. Also the types of conversations you are having with your colleagues will be changing. It is likely that your colleagues have all but lost interest in talking about service levels and if you are charging for your services it is likely that they have stopped talking so much about the charges. Rather most of your conversations will be about the projects they want delivered and increasingly they will engage in conversations about their longer terms goals and the role IS can play in helping to achieve them.

The purpose of business enablement then is to leverage the reliable and cost effective systems that you have created to enable all parts of the business to optimise the current core business model. This enablement will take two main forms. Firstly to use technology to improve operational efficiency through process automation. For many organisations this is likely to lead to a move towards greater process orientation. Secondly, to make better use of your data and information and begin to present this information to key decision makers in a way that will support them to make more effective decisions. Generally, process automation works on business efficiency and therefore cost reduction. Decision effectiveness however tends to work on improvements in sales and margin through better decisions. Both sets of tools operate side by side although they may be more effective in different parts of the business. For example in retail, process automation works best in operational areas such as supply chain and store operations whereas decision effectiveness is the tool of choice for our merchandising teams.

While this level of the hierarchy is not characterised as providing competitive differentiation the reality is that very few organisations truly optimise their existing models. As a result you are likely to begin to gain significant competitive advantage within your market place as you work through the process of optimising your existing business model.

Finally a quick note on the skills you require within your IS team. When the focus is on the first two layers of the hierarchy the primary skills you want in your team is great technologists who know how to really make your IS systems hum. As you move into business enablement however the core skill set changes. Yes you will still need great technologists but now your focus is on proactively teaming with other departments. This means you will need some new skill within your IS team. Specifically, you will need to build a deep understanding of how the business works and adds value to your customers (ie how it makes money). Indeed, the IS team needs to understand the business and how it operates as well as their colleagues in the departments they are engaging with. Only then will they begin to engage with you proactively as peers and in a strategic way.

Competitive Differentiation

Having worked with your colleagues to get the most out of your existing business model the door is now open to begin to look at ways to either change your business model or introduce new business models that will substantially change the basis of competition within your industry. This is where all the industry hype says you should be but it is a place that few achieve, especially few for large traditional industry incumbents. Honestly I do not really know what happens at this level of the hierarchy as we haven't achieved this and are some way off getting to here (our current focus is business enablement). I do believe however that when you seriously focusing on new business models there is a lot more at play than simply technology. For example the role of disruptive technology and the difficulty that incumbents have in nurturing disruptive technology will need to be examined. I am a fan of the work that Clayton Christensen has done in this area.

So, that's my version of the IS hierarchy of needs. It plays a major role in our IS strategy, what we do day to day and how we explain why we do what we do in IS. The hierarchy of needs philosophy is beginning t be picked up by other parts of our business. They are looking at the technology and asking how they can apply it to their parts of the business so we are starting to get a shared development language across the business.

Another key part of how we operate is the concept of persistent
needs. That is focusing on those issues that are ever present no
matter how good or bad you may be. I will explore this topic and how
it relates to the hierarchy of needs in more detail in a future post.

Finally some acknowledgements. None of the ideas presented here are really mine. Pretty much everything is borrowed. While I have acknowledged two key sources being the work of Abraham Maslow and Stephen Covey the reality is that this thinking is the result of many ideas from many sources and many tangential thoughts. While I was developing this framework I thought the final outcome was unique. I have since discovered that a number of other people have taken the ideas of Maslow in particular and applied them to IS. This includes Stephen Sheinheit CIO for Metlife, Cathy Harris from Gartner and Claude Durand from Osiatis.

It is very reassuring to me that others have reached similar conclusions as it provides a source of validation to my thinking. To the extent that I have inadvertently borrowed someone else's ideas, thank you for helping me on my journey and I apologise if it has caused you angst as it was unintentional.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Guide the Passion

During the last Christmas holidays our family choose to tour the South Island. So we packed up the family, including the dog, and set off from Auckland for the South Island. It started with a trip to Granny’s, in Tapanui for Christmas and ended at Grandma’s in Nelson for a classic Kiwi summer holiday. It was an amazing trip with one of the highlights being the West Coast and Franz Josef in particular.

We stayed with the Tinirau’s who operate a small bed and breakfast just out of Franz. Their dedication to us and ensuring we enjoyed our stay was amazing. This story however is not about their customer service but rather a lesson in leadership I received from Ryan, my 5 year old son.

We decided to spend the day walking into the glacier terminal. Haka Tinirau hosted and guided us on our walk. The trip begins with a short bush walk. As is often the case with family outings everything started out extremely well. The children were keen and striding out in front. As we walked along there were frequent stops as we were introduced to the native flora and fauna along the track. It looked like the start of a great day. It wasn’t long before we broke out of the bush and the river bed opened up before us.

We stopped and took in the view. The river bed was huge and strewn with massive boulders that the glacier and floods had pulled out of the mountain. The river ran along the right hand edge of the valley. It was swift and a dirty milky colour full of glacial dirt and rock. The track we had to follow was clearly set out on the very right hand fringe and off we set. Well most of us did. Ryan saw the large rocks and immediately began to climb up on them, and jump off (as a five year old boy does). “Daddy” he called “can you help me down?”. He was up on top of a large boulder, about 5 feet up. I grabbed his hands and swung him down. He was rapped!!!! Off he went to the next rock and up he climbed. “Daddy, swing me down”. I did. He burst out laughing, an exuberant, incredibly loud “ha ha” and away he ran to start the cycle all over again.

His passion was infectious so off we went. The only problem, he was heading left. The track and the rest of the family were heading right. We were already well behind and in no way going in the right direction. “Ryan” I called, “we need to catch up with Mum.”

“One more time Daddy”. It was a statement not question.

“OK but then we need to catch up to the others”. Away he went and found another great rock. It wasn’t hard, there were plenty to choose from!!! Up he went and down he swung. This is life and he could do this all day, which is exactly what bothered me. The others were getting further ahead. Come on Ryan lets go and catch up with the others. He happily grabbed my hand and off we went. Maybe 10 yards later he dropped my hand and was off in the wrong direction clambering up a rock!! This one was not so big so off he jumped landing beautifully and at full speed away to the next rock.

“Ryan, you’re going the wrong way mate. Mum and the others are over there. Come on”. He looked at me and I could see the struggle on his face. The rocks, so much fun or do what Dad has asked?

I gave him a look “come on”. He sighed bowed his head and came over. I offered him my hand and off we went trying to catch up.

We had gone maybe 100 metres. He was getting slower and slower. Suddenly he throws himself in front of my legs arms extended “I’m tired, carry me”.

I looked at him. He was listless and pathetic. All that went through my head was it’s 5kms and there is no way I am carrying this child!!! “No I’m not carrying you. You can walk”

“But Daddy I’m tired, carry me”.

I physically move him out the way grabbed his hand “come on let’s go”. So much energy one second complete exhaustion the next. I shock my head in disbelief. Kids!! Off we trod. Every few steps it was the same cycle.

“Daddy carry me”.

“No you can walk.”

Then suddenly he was off at full speed up onto a rock and ready for me to swing him off. I gave him an exasperated look but grabbed his hands and swung him off. Off he charged in the wrong direction to the next rock. I called after him “Ryan you’re going the wrong way. We need to go this way. Come on.” His head dropped. Suddenly he was tired again. I could feel myself getting frustrated (frustration is my negative emotion of choice!!). I opened my mouth ready to growl when it hit me.

“Ryan” I said. “Can you see where Mum and the girls are?”


“Well we need to go that way and catch them up. How many rocks can you climb on between here and Mummy?”

He paused and then ran full tilt towards his mother. Found a rock and climbed up! “One!” he yelled

“Awesome”. I grabbed him and swung him down. “Where’s Mummy now? Can you find another rock on the way to Mummy?”

Off he went at full throttle. Found a rock and up he went. This one was small so off he jumped and away he went, in the wrong direction!! “Ryan, towards Mummy remember!!”

He stopped momentarily and then off he set going in the right direction. Big rocks, little rocks, boulders. He was having a blast. Going in the right direction and catching up fast. As I walked along with him, swinging him off sometimes and others not I was also having a great time. Not just because I wasn’t carrying him, but his joy and energy were infectious.

Soon enough we caught up with the rest of the family. Ryan continued to climb up rocks and jump off. It wasn’t long until Sarah, his older sister, noticed and joined in. The laughter, enthusiasm and joy captured everyone. Soon our oldest two children Emily and Katie noticed. They joined in sometimes climbing rocks, sometimes swinging their younger siblings off.

This carried on all the way to the glacier terminal and all the way back. At the terminal we all had a great time with the ice and posing for pictures!!

Later I reflected on what a great day we had and I wondered why? Why was this day so great? My mind went to that moment where I choose to stop trying to control Ryan and make him do things my way and instead found a way to use his enthusiasm and passion to get us along the path we needed to go. Not only did this mean that Ryan had a great time but so did everybody else as we all got caught in his energy. I need to remember this and use it again and again with Ryan. What learning.

As I let the triumph sink I heard myself thinking, “You know, you do this at work as well.”


“Kill people’s passion by trying to make them do things your way!”

It was true I did. This wasn’t about parenting this was about me and my leadership style. Trying to be in control had infected all parts of my life not just my relationship with Ryan.

I began to see many instances where I had been killing my team’s passion by trying to make them do things my way. I resolved there and then to begin to look for ways to guide people’s passions at work rather than crushing them. What a difference it would make.

I wouldn’t need to explain everything and passionate people don’t need to be managed they just go. They do need to be guided so they remain on track but they don’t need to be managed. My job then is not to manage them and their tasks but to guide them on how to use their passions more effectively for themselves, the team and the company as a whole.

“Ummm” I muttered, “I think I now understand one of the differences between leadership and management.”

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Potential Solutions to Violence

There are many many books written on how to lead and create change. Of all the books that I have read on this topic the framework that appears to be the strongest to me is presented by the authors of Influencer. This book sets out a simple and intuitively appealing approach to creating change.

Step 1. Focus on Vital Behaviours. In most change efforts people tend to focus on the outcome they want to produce. Influencer recommends focusing on behaviours that need to change. Not just any behaviour but a limited number of high leverage behaviours, typically the most difficult to change, so that when they are changed it will cause a significant ripple effect.

Step 2. Make Change Inevitable by utilising as many influencing strategies as possible. They identify 6 key sources of leverage working on a persons motivation to change and their perceived ability to change across personal motivation, social enablers and structural enablers.

So how would you apply this model to the issue of violence?

Identify Vital Behaviours.

What makes a vital behaviour vital and how do you "discover" them? On the Influencer website, David Maxfield one of the book authors says that a vital behaviour has three critical characteristics:

  1. It leads directly to the desired results.
  2. It breaks a self-defeating cycle.
  3. It is likely to be the toughest and most obnoxious part of the problem and so solving this solves a bundle of other behaviours as well.

He also recommends 2 critical steps to identify vital behaviours. They are look for crucial moments where cycles are repeated or broken and look for positive deviants - people who are succeeding against the odds.

In my previous piece I wrote about the result of some basic research I had done on the causes of violence. What I discovered is that no one really knows what causes violence. There are many things that correlate with violence, for example experiencing violence and abuse, poverty and a perception of abandonment, however identifying one or several causes is elusive. I speculated (with some support from literature) that the explanation for this is that the critical factor is not what has happened to a person but how the person perceives what has happened and how they react to it. In particular a persons ability to express and "complete" unresolved emotions is critical. If you cannot resolve the emotional state then you tend to suppress the negative energy. If you do this enough it is likely to erupt! With this as a framework the correlations to violence be gets violence, poverty etc are reasonably explainable. The more intense the event the harder it is to resolve. Correlated yes but not causal as there is a way to change the outcome. Through completion of the associated emotional reaction.

So if we do not know the causes of violence how can we identify critical behaviours? While I am not certain the following seem like a good place to start:

  1. Make domestic violence unacceptable
  2. Develop active parenting skills
  3. Build emotional resilience, and self esteem
Make Domestic Violence Unacceptable

Within New Zealand we too often see something going on that doesn't seem right but rather than act we turn away because "it is none of our business!!". This happens all the time. Maybe it is bullying, maybe it's a fight of some kind, maybe it is verbal abuse maybe it is the constant fighting, crashing and beating next door!!! While we do not support the behaviour by doing nothing and "turning a blind eye" we create an environment where we make it acceptable and allow it to continue. I am not advocating that you put yourself into harms way however the message needs to be loud and clear - violence is not acceptable, it cannot be allowed to continue and we need to take action to demonstrate this every time we encounter it so everyone gets the message!

Develop Active Parenting Skills

Various studies have found that many delinquent teenagers are not consistently supervised. More importantly studies have found that for children growing up in very disadvantaged and violent neighbourhoods, who look like they have everything going against them, the one factor that seems to protect that child from growing up to be violent is having a parent--overwhelmingly, a mother--who supervises her child very strictly and who nips misbehaviour in the bud, rather than waiting for the principal to call or the police officer to knock on the door (H. Wilson, "Parenting in Poverty,"). It appears then that active parenting can help to break the cycle.

Build Emotional Resilience

The literature suggests that violence is usually a result of suppressed emotions bubbling to the surface and lashing out. Unfortunately suppressing emotions is something kiwi's, particularly kiwi men, specialise in. We are taught to suppress our emotions, "get yourself together and be a man." For abusers as long as these emotions remain unresolved the violence is likely to reoccur. For the abused if they are not able to complete and resolve the emotions attached to being abused or witnessing abuse then there is a heightened chance of repeating the cycle!! We can break this cycle by teaching people how to positively (or harmlessly) express their emotions.

Motivational Strategies.

So what motivational strategies can we use to make change inevitable. As with the vital behaviours I am not certain but here are some suggestions:
  1. Drive a publicity campaign that talks about violence, and it's unacceptability and what alternatives there are. It addresses what can be done if you are the abuser, the abused or a witness of the abuse. An example of this type of campaign that has already begun in New Zealand and is getting results is "It's not OK!". We need to roll this out to all communities and repeat as often as needed,
  2. There are a number of examples overseas of media programming that has set up a storyline and characters who are the perpetrators and victims of violence. These characters are "normal people". During the course of the story the community of friends intervene to stop the violence. In one of these documented in "Influencer" the neighbours gathered outside the home of the abuser as he was beating his wife and banged pots and pans together. This let them know in a safe way that they knew what was going on and that it was unacceptable. After this episode was aired communities across the country spontaneously began the same technique!
  3. Teach/show people how to deal with negative emotions and negative situations in a positive way. There are many ways this could be done. Some examples:
    • anger management courses
    • counselling for offenders and victims
    • skills development through education. Examples might include Stephen Covey's 7 Habits, Crucial conversations (by the authors of Influencer), and courses/events such as stepUP the Landmark Forum or school programmes such as though documented by the University of Colorado's Blueprints for violence prevention
    • self help and peer support "institutions". By far my favourite model is that used by Delancey Street. Imagine the power of teens supporting each other to build new skills, break the cycle of violence and build genuine and powerful leadership skills. (watch this space. I think we should do this one!!)
  4. Improve parenting skills especially active parenting (ability, personal/social). There are a number of great organisations out there who are working on parenting issues. These include the Grant's Parents Inc, DIY Father, and the more established Plunket and many others.
So even though this is probably incomplete it provides a lot of ways to start. If your reading this and are wondering what can I do. Pick one. Any one. It all helps.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Causes of Violence

Several months ago my family and I resolved that our vision is to create a society in New Zealand where everyone can feel safe and loved. As a result of this over the past several months I have been investigating what are the causes of violence and abuse as it is highly unlikely that you can feel safe and loved while you are under the threat of violence and abuse. This investigation has taken me down many paths and many views. The literature and opinions I have researched suggest there is no easy definitive answer to what causes violence. Many factors correlate but a causal link has proven elusive. For example see this article on "risk factors" for youth violence from the USA Centre for Disease Control (Note also the protective factors). In the end however most commentators seem to believe the core causes of violence are likely to be:

Bad role models. This starts in the home and in the family. If you grow up in an environment where violence and abuse is the norm then it is highly likely that as you grow up and get more physical power that you will act this way as this is what was modeled for you. While role modeling starts in the home, bad role models go beyond the home and can come from anywhere in society. In this context a role model is anyone or anything that has a significant impact on a person. It maybe a teacher, a sports star, a social worker, a coach, a TV show, a computer game, or any other person or thing who forges a connection either intentionally or not. Any positive role model can help to turn a life around. Yes they have to overcome the conditioning of the home but it is possible as pretty much everyone craves connection and love. The main hurdle is establishing trust as a basis for influence. This sounds simple but if your experience is violence and abuse then you will likely believe that no one can be trusted so building trust takes time and patience.

The problem is that for many people, young people in particular, the only role models they have outside of the home come from the media and games. While I am no psychologist it doesn't take a lot of imagination to consider that if you come from an abusive home and your main release is Grand Theft Auto that this only serves to reinforce violence, abuse and drugs as an acceptable, indeed normal lifestyle.

Feeling alone, as if no one cares. This may occur as a result of violence and abuse but this is certainly no prerequisite. The key issue here is not reality but what the person feels. If they feel abandoned, then they feel abandoned. If they are abandoned but don't feel it then they aren't. This can lead to violence as a person feels that there are no consequences for themselves or for other people. Although this can lead to violence it can also lead to depression and suicide. Violence being an external expression or flash point. Depression being a withdrawal. Indeed one can lead to another and a vicious cycle can be created (see silence/Violence ).

There is a growing concern that we are raising a generation of teens who feel abandoned. This trend is being driven by significant changes in the structure of the family and while it is not PC to say so the rise of two income families. Traditionally parental responsibilities within the family were split. One parent would primarily work outside the home and be responsible to provide for the economic needs of the family. The other parent would work primarily within the home and be the main care giver and nurturer. Increasingly either both parents are now active in the work force and the role of the primary care giver is "outsourced" to day care centers, nannies and schools ....etc... or there is a single parent. This circumstance can lead to little continuity of care or care where while all physical needs are well catered for emotional needs are neglected. Why is this an issue? Rather than recreate a discussion on which I am no expert, here are a couple of interesting Wikipedia articles on Psychosocial Development and Attachment Theory that point to the importance of children's connection to others, especially their parents while very young.

Inability to resolve highly charged emotions. The bottom line in a lot of the research is we simply do not know the root cause of violence. Yes people who are exposed to violence are more prone to violence however most are not violent. From my research to date the same is true for every possible "risk factor". Yes there are correlations between certain events and conditions but nothing that can be said to be causal. Why? I don't know but one possible answer is that it is not your circumstances that are important but how you interpret them or how you react to them. In particular a persons ability to be able to express and resolve potentially harmful emotions. This may explain why the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by men. Men are basically emotional incompetents whereas woman are much better at expressing and resolving conflict. This thinking is reflected in the silence/violence piece above and also in several other references I have come across.

Well, that's about it. Everything I have learnt, or not learnt about violence. This is very much an initial review as the literature and study on this topic is huge!! The key question however is so what? What do we need to do to make substantial progress towards eliminating violence in our society? This is the subject of another article so watch this space.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Forget being PC - Results Count!

If you look through history for examples of great leaders they all have 1 thing in common. They have achieved amazing results. I cannot find one person who has achieved nothing or little who is considered a great leader. BAsed on this it seems reasonable to assume that the ultimate measure of leadership is the results that are achieved. Maybe the correlation is not perfect but it is there and it is strong.

To me this is remarkably uncontroversial however as I have talked to others about this many people are horrified at the idea that results are the ultimate measure of leadership. For them the way the result is achieved is just as important if not more important than the results themselves. Generally you can summarise their view as being the means are more important than the ends and the ends do not always justify the means.

This is a moral dilemma and clearly there are cases where the ends do not justify the means. This is particularly true where the freedom to choose is not present or is significantly diminished. Examples of this would include living within a dictatorial or repressive regime or in relationship, especially an abusive relationship, where one party seeks and achieves complete dominance over another. However where there is freedom to choice I wonder about the practical impact of this moral dilemma. If there is freedom people cannot be compelled they must agree to participate.

In a business context which is my primary interest for now no one can be compelled. If they do not like the “means”, the way results are achieved they can and do vote with their feet and leave. If we can accept then a pretext of freedom to choose then ultimately leadership must be judged by the results that are achieved. If this is true then the ultimate leadership question is….

"Is there a recipe or formula that can be used to guarantee, or at least enhance, the chances of achieving the results they desire and therefore leadership success?”

I think there is such a formula. Based on my study to date (which I will admit is somewhat random) here is a starter for 10 on what I think it takes to be a successful leader:

1. Lead yourself. If you are not capable of effectively and constructively leading yourself how can you lead others? The best exposition of this that I have read is Stephen Covey's 7 Habits.

2. Articulate your purpose or mission (why you exist) and your values (what's important to you).

3. Get clear on what you want to achieve (vision and goals) and on how you will know if you are successful (measures).

4. Work out what needs to be done to get you from where you are today to achieving your goals (strategy). Monitor progress using the measures and adjust your actions as required.

5. Enrol others to join you on the journey and to contribute everything they can to ensure the success of the journey. Two great books on this that I have read lately are:
The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni
Intrinsic Motivation at Work by Kenneth Thomas.

6. Don't give up until you succeed. Stay true to the vision but adjust your actions based on your results until you get there.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Living Inside Out

Over the last 12 months or so I have been lucky enough to complete a number of "personal development" programs and events. Each of these was different and I played very different roles fro participant to coach to leader of the team. One of concepts that has really stayed with me and changed my outlook on life has been the concept of "be, do have" as a driving force for how to live life. It is not the first time that I have been exposed to this concept (one of the best is Stephen Covey's 7 Habits) but it really stuck with me. This happened when I was at StepUp and at once I understood that I had been living my life the wrong way round. I have subsequently built on this understanding so that for the first time I now believe I understand the power of identity to shape my experience in life.

What exactly do I mean by living my life the wrong way round? Well I spend large parts of my life focusing on what I what to have. As I reflect on this I think this is a reflection of my and societies focus on goals and achieving goals. Focusing on goals isn't bad but actually if all you do is focus on the goal this doesn't actually help you to achieve the goal. An example. Those who know me probably privately wonder why I never address the issue of my excessive weight. The reality of my life is I think about this all the time and over the years I have created many very detailed goals and images of how I would like my body to look. As I look back some of these goals or images are quite funny and embarrassing. At one stage the six million dollar man loomed large because why wouldn't you want to be able to run at 60 miles per hour!!! One thing you can be certain of is none of these images had excess body fat!! . As I get older and thought I knew more about goal setting this process became quite sophisticated. You could guarantee I had SMART goals!! (SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound). But here I am not the trim bloke of my visions!!

So why didn't I achieve my goal. The answer probably seems obvious - I didn't actually do anything!!! Or to be more precise I didn't do anything different than I had been doing previously or if I did I didn't keep it up or do it well enough!! So focusing on what you want to have is useless unless it translates into consistent action to achieve. No let's reconsider. Focusing on your goals is worse than useless unless it leads to action. Worse than useless because as you focus on what you want to have, you come to inescapable conclusion that your life is not what it should be or that you want it to be!!! If this sense of lacking is a consistent experience it's depressing. Ever noticed that when you are depressed or in my case perhaps more realistically "a little down" the last thing you think about doing is taking serious action to achieve something. As time goes by and the goal doesn't happen you begin to realise you're unlikely to ever have it and you give up. What a BUMMER that feeling is!!

So focusing on what you want to have is great but getting it requires that you do something. Actually it requires that you do whatever it takes to achieve the goal!! So how do you get yourself to do something?? Knowledge is not enough. I know what I need to do to loose weight and create the body and energy levels I want. Indeed we all know. Eat less (and more healthily) and exercise more. It's a basic law of the universe - energy in minus energy out equals’ weight gain or weight loss.

So how do I get myself to act? Perhaps more precisely who would I need to be in order to do things that need to be done to have the result? I pondered this problem for quite some time with no real success. Then it hit me!! The insanely simple truth is I would have to be the type of person who exercised more and ate less!! So what's stopping me?? This answer came quickly. I am not the sort of person who exercises quickly and who wants to eat good nutritious food!! It is not how I see myself. Yes I have just discovered the power of identify. Who you believe you are governs who you are!!

This raises two big questions. Who do I actually believe I am? How do I change who I think I am (and do I really want to)? This is too much for one little story and I am not sure I actually know the answer!!! For now however I have a breakthrough - live life from the inside out - BE-DO-HAVE.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Short Thoughts on Leadership

Over the past year or so I have been reading and thinking a lot about leadership. The catalyst for this came from a number of sources. Firstly our company invests a lot of money on performing employee engagement surveys. My teams level of engagement was terrible and it seems that no matter what I did it would not improve. Secondly it became aparent to me that while I didn't see myself as a leader (the whole concept made me quiver with fear) other people did. So I thought best I find out some more about this. The short results of my search to date:

The Essence of Leadership

  1. Play to peoples strengths.
  2. Be a role model.
  3. Ensure everyone knows what's important and what we are aiming to achieve then let them make their own decisions on how things are to be done to make this happen.
  4. Performance measures are a powerful way of showing people what is important.
    a. Set the direction.
    b. Celebrate progress.
    c. Coach and mentor
  5. Set expectations of trust based on demonstrated trustworthiness and an individuals personal growth goals
  6. Support and coach people on their journey. Remember you can't travel for them (or it's not their journey)!
  7. Remember that ultimately great leadership is measured by the results achieved.
  8. Great leaders grow based on their extraordinary strengths not their lack of weakness.

So a starter for 10. Maybe I'll add some more thoughts on leadership later.