Re-Designing Unemployment

I recently got round to watching a programme I had been meaning to watch for a while after I saw the trailer for the show.

The programme in question was called: Secret Millions. The series aired and was backed by Channel 4 and the Big Lottery Fund who I used to work for. The idea behind the show was to make £2 million per episode available to back radical ideas tackling some of Britain’s big issues.

The show put entrepreneurs and celebrities in with charities in amongst the work and on the frontline developing innovative and ground-breaking projects that could have profound, positive effects for those in need tackling some of Britains biggest issues, while secretly trying to help secure £2 million of Lottery money that could turn the big idea into reality.

With youth unemployment increasing and now nearly 1 million people under 25 not in work, job centres are failing in my opinion to engage young people with the idea of finding a job. But what if the job centre was reinvented by young people, for young people? (designed by the customer for the customer, in other words).

Dave Fishwick was tasked with tackling this issue.

Straight-talking, self-made millionaire Dave Fishwick is one of the biggest suppliers of minibuses in Britain and in 2011 he took on the banking industry and successfully fought to open his own bank, so he is used to radical thinking.

20130925-012825.jpg^^My name is Dave and I don’t much care for your banking system and how you run it.

In this episode the show secretly put Dave Fishwick in amongst the Foyer Foundation as a worker tasked with helping the foundation drive a new initiative called ‘Pop-up Talent Shops’, going into the heart of deprived communities. The Foyer Federation wanted to deal with high youth unemployment head on, and had devised a project where instead of the unemployed going to job centres, employers go to them in the setting of a pop-up talent shop – run by young people. The job shop could pop up anywhere from shopping centres, to community centres or even on the streets. Designed to encourage young people into the work place, often away from crime, the shop introduces local employers to people they would never normally consider hiring. In the Talent shops businesses can display what they do and potential employees can try, have a go, ask questions and potentially get taken on be given an apprenticeship or go for a trail run at different jobs.

One of the businesses commented in the programme that he had signed up with the job centre in the past to do his recruitment as well as numerous agencies and had had issues and had found that although the people recommended to him by the job centre were nice people they were not right for the jobs and he wondered and doubted whether the job centre or the agencies had even profiled someone correctly. He further commented that he thought at times that job centres:

“seem to be putting people in jobs just for the sake of it so that they change the figures they report, hit a target get someone off the book.what they should be doing is getting it right for the individual get them in the right job first time, rather than the wrong job loads of times”

Dave Fishwick went round meeting young people living in some of the the Foyer Federation’s homeless hostels, Dave went looking for those with a strong work ethic (5% of the system, no one tries harder, behaviours) to create, design and run the new job centre (the system 95%).

The aim of the programme was to reduce the failure of job centres, agencies constantly putting people in the wrong jobs just to meet their purpose( hitting their target, better government figures, getting a bonus), which meant that they failed to meet their customers need/purpose (the employee).

If the cycle isn’t broken and systems thinking is not applied then all that will happen is just just moving the figure around or “hiding” it, rather than tackling it.

Dave’s main aim was to inspire youths and try and release them from the fear and control of looking for a job and been put into jobs that the targets say would want them to be in rather than the jobs they need to be in.

See Alan Watts: What do you Desire

He focused on the system, changed the inputs, raised the knowledge and closed the gaps on the failure and the outputs changed for the right reasons.

Of the ten people that Dave found to help run the shops, all of them have since found jobs and have maintained them jobs and all commented that although some of them are not in the best paid jobs, they are for the first time in their life’s in jobs that they can see as a career as a opposed to just another job.
Added to that he secured the Big Lottery Funding of £2 million and the project is being trailed on a larger scale and the initial signs are good.


Posted in leadership, lean, Purpose, six sigma, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sir Alex Ferguson Systems Thinker? Blueprint for Success

Thought this was relevant considering Manchester United’s battering at the hands of their nearest rivals Manchester City today. This might be worth a read Mr Moyes if you fancy it haha.

Also worth a read for the chairman at Sunderland not exactly disagreeing with the sacking of Di Canio but it may help for the interview process of the new manager.

I was recently reading a article about a series of interviews Sir Alex Ferguson had done following a run of seminars he had done as a guest speaker at the Harvard business school.

He is highly successful, he has been winning trophies, medals, titles and accolades since I was born.


Anyway whilst reading the various articles one thing triggered my interest. Sir Alex mentioned that in the early days when things were not going well and the press, fans, the board and even maybe some of the players were challenging his thinking, one man wasn’t worried and that was Sir Alex, he had a vision and a clear Purpose.

20130922-220544.jpg^ Sir Alex Ferguson Looking all glum 27 years ago, don’t worry though fergy behind this photo was a man with a plan.

These were his key principles:

1. Start With The Foundation

“From the moment I got to Manchester United, I thought of only one thing: building a football club. I wanted to build right from the bottom to the top and from top to bottom. The first thought of 99% of newly appointed managers is to make sure they win – to survive and reach the targets set by the board, the fans and the media. They bring experienced players in. At some clubs, you need only to lose three games in a row and you’re fired. In today’s football world, with a new breed of directors and owners, I am not sure any club would have the patience to wait for a manager to build a team over a four-year period. Winning a game is only a short-term gain – you can lose the next game. Building a club brings stability and consistency and in my experience the results anyway.”

2. Dare to rebuild your Team

“We identified three levels of players: 30 and older, 23 to 30, and the younger ones. The idea was that the younger players were developing and would meet the standards the older ones had set. I believe that the cycle of a successful team lasts maybe four years and then some change is needed. So we tried to visualise the team three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly. Because I was at United for such a long time, I could afford to plan ahead. I was very fortunate in that respect. The hardest thing is to let go of a player who has been a great guy – but all the evidence is on the field.”

3. Set High Standards,Set Expectations, Agree the Vision from the Top Down and Lead from the Front

“Everything we did was about maintaining the standards we had set as a football club – this applied to all my team building, my team preparation, motivational talks and tactical talks. I had to lift players’ expectations. They should never give in. I said to them all the time: ‘If you give in once, you’ll give in twice’. I used to be the first to arrive in the morning. In my later years, a lot of my staff members would already be there when I got in at 7am.

“I expected even more from the star players. Superstars with egos are not the problem some people may think. They need to be winners because that massages their egos, so they will do what it takes to win. I used to see Ronaldo, Beckham, Giggs, Scholes practising for hours. They realised that being a Manchester United player is not an easy job.”

4. Match the Message to the Moment

“No one likes to be criticised. Most respond to encouragement. For any human being – there is nothing better than hearing ‘Well done’. Those are the two best words ever invented. At the same time you need to point out mistakes when players don’t meet expectations. That is when reprimands are important. I would do it right after the game. I wouldn’t wait until Monday and then it was finished. My pre-game talks were about our expectations, the players’ belief in themselves and their trust in one another. In half-time talks, you have maybe eight minutes to deliver your message, so it is vital to use the time well. Everything is easier when you are winning. When you are losing, you have to make an impact. Fear has to come into it. But you can be too hard; if players are fearful all the time, they won’t perform well. You play different roles at different times. Sometimes you have to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a father.”

5. Prepare to Win

“Winning is in my nature. There is no other option for me. Even if five of the most important players were injured, I expected to win. I am a risk taker and you can see that in how we played in the late stages of matches. If we were still down with 15 minutes to go, I was ready to take more risks. I was perfectly happy to lose 3-1 if it meant we’d given ourselves a good chance to draw or win. So in those last 15 minutes, we’d go for it. We’d put in an extra attacking player and worry less about defence. We knew that if we ended up winning 3-2, it would be a fantastic feeling. And if we lost 3-1, we’d been losing anyway. All my teams had perseverance – they never gave in. It’s a fantastic characteristic to have.”

6. Rely on the Power of Observation

“Observation is the final part of my management structure. One afternoon at Aberdeen I had a conversation with my assistant manager and another coach who pointed out I could benefit from not always having to lead the training. At first I said no but deep down I knew he was right. So I delegated training to the experts. It was the best thing I ever did. Trust the people around you. Keeping control just so you know it is done is stupid when you know someone who has more expertise can do it better. This is hard for some managers to do as they like to keep unchallenged control, these in my experience are not the managers who go far. My presence and ability to supervise were always there and what you can pick up by watching is incredibly valuable. I wanted to get in amongst my team and thought training them would be it but realised it stopped me seeing the bigger picture, observing and getting in amongst my players helped. Seeing a change in a player’s habits or a sudden dip in his enthusiasm allowed me to go further with him. Sometimes I could even tell that a player was injured when he thought he was fine.”

7. Never Stop Adapting

“When I started, there were no agents and although games were televised, the media did not elevate players to the level of film stars and constantly look for new stories about them. Stadiums have improved, pitches are in perfect condition now and sports science has a strong influence on how we prepare for the season. Owners from Russia, the Middle East and other regions have poured a lot of money into the game and are putting pressure on managers. And players have led more sheltered lives, so they are much more fragile than players were 25 years ago. Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger were probably the two best things to happen to me which might sound weird considering they took titles and trophies away from me. But they taught me to never rest on what you have it’s about continually improving and seeking inspiration both externally and internally and surrounding yourself by people who share that vision”

Posted in leadership, lean, Purpose, six sigma, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Leadership Skills My Team Expects



My team strives for excellence, they fight through harsh times, and they do it with a smile on their face. We all demand so much from our teams, so understanding what they expect will help keep them engaged and committed to our conquest.

  1. Trust: one of the most impactful competencies a leader has is trust. Without trust your team will only agree with your initiatives until you turn your back. Questioning your intentions, your loyalty, and even your decision making, employees will lose faith in your abilities to lead.
  2. Development: the only person that comes before me is everyone else. My job is to lead, to inspire, and to ensure my team’s careers are taken care of to the best of my abilities. Taking time to learn my employee’s dreams and aspirations will help drive a loyal group of appreciative enthusiasts. Years from now, the credit my employees…

View original post 312 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Flavor of Life…


Flavor of Life

“My life is like cooking, I will check other’s recipes, but that doesn’t mean I have to follow them.”- Michael Dooley

View original post

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Simplify it’s The Least We Can Do

Recently I was tasked with coaching an discussing with colleagues about ways of simplifying our conversations with our customers. Now we know from customer surveys they want us to be experts with what we do but they equally want us to realise that they may not be and therefore in an un-patronising way want us to simplify our conversations at times.

Now some staff will not and I know getting people to change is difficult unless they get to see the impact and the effectiveness and efficiencies of what that change can make so I thought I would lead by example. I was trying to think of an exercise for a team meeting that would best suite my point and was struggling at first until I got talking to a young relative of mine who is only 7.

Kids are great to coach and learn and simplify things as they have no preconceived barriers like use adults do and a no one tries harder attitude to learning which is normally a cornerstone of most companies purpose statements.
Anyway she was looking at a picture of the pyramids and I started explaining the history and complexities of the pyramids to her to which she replied “so basically they are big yellow triangles if I drew them”.

20130901-223233.jpgI laughed and tried to then explain it was a bit more complicated than that then laughed again and thought in its most basic to simplify it she is right. If we were playing pictionary and she drew a big yellow triangle I would probably get that it was the pyramids. What I could do is take even longer and draw it exactly and still get to the same point as the little girl but only quicker and you wouldn’t lose my attention or see me get bored as quick.


So the exercise I did was to put people in pairs with pictures on cards of famous landmarks and the other had to describe in it’s most basic without using geographical information, and giving like a full Wikipedia type explanation, without using any part of the name and so on and just like a system make their own and really think and cut out the waste and try and get it done within as little amount of questions as possible.

This did help the group to realise you can really simplify things down it doesn’t always have to be so complicated.

Think like the little girl remove your barriers and simplify it’s the least we can do.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Purpose is all good and that, but at the end of the day we have to remember we are a business

Recently I have heard having discussions with people about the company they work for who have said:

“purpose and doing it is all good and that, but at the end of the day we have to remember we are business”

Now what they are trying to say is that implementing purpose to our business is all fine but facing reality we have to have resort to the old way basically targeted environment. Which for the people who are saying that I understand why when things get tough resort back to what you know and in their opinion in previous roles had relative success. They therefore think well I will just apply that here then…..tempting but wrong.

👆let’s stay doing what we have always done……ohhhhh no let’s not because treating customers the way we have is why we are In the situation we are.

At certain workplaces they do something different but there is still people who reject the idea’s as their thinking is still stuck steadfast in a target environment and so say some ridiculous things to bring down what we are trying to achieve.

It’s easy to get annoyed with these people but actually you need to realise you were probably there once. It just takes some people longer. Create Pull for what you are doing and stay true to what you are trying to achieve as its the right thing to do


Although saying that sometimes it can feel like this until you get there:


To these people I would respond with:

“if our business is not purpose and our purpose is not our business, then what are we”. Doesn’t really mean anything but baffles them anyway and they can’t work it out.

Posted in leadership, Purpose, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mmmmm Lean tastes Gooood

I was talking to one of my friends Chris who highlighted to me that he had recently seen something quite interesting on a popular programme called The Great British Bake Off. He was on about one of the contestants who worked in a way for NASA.

👆👆meet Rob a Great British Bake off contestant who applies his scientific methods and technical precision to his cooking to achieve flawless results.

Anyway I got round to watching it this morning, rob actually is a Space Satellite Designer( some people have all the cool jobs) which supply to NASA. Now NASA are famous for Lean Thinking and Six sigma thinking . NASA and most of the companies it employs use these methods within their work. It was really interesting to watch when everyone started baking and just went straight into it rushing around all over and seemingly running out of time rapidly. A lot of them made what looked like good products(cakes) but once tasted there were flaws all over and were being told they missed what the judges were after(the customer)

However not our Rob the judges looked perplexed when he didn’t seem in their eyes to have a sense of urgency about him from the off.

He mapped his whole system out, physically putting his utensils, bowls and other cooking products where he needed them for when he needed them to reduce waste.
He also in his actions seemed to apply a lot of the following:

There are FIVE overriding principles to Lean.


1.Identify Customers and Specify Value – The starting point is to recognise that only a small fraction of the total time and effort in any organisation actually adds value for the end customer. By clearly defining Value for a specific product or service from the end customer’s perspective, all the non value activities – or waste – can be targeted for removal.

2.Identify and Map the Value Stream – The Value Stream is the entire set of activities across all parts of the organisation involved in jointly delivering the product or service. This represents the end-to-end process that delivers the value to the customer. Once you understand what your customer wants the next step is to identify how you are delivering (or not) that to them.

3. Create Flow by Eliminating Waste – Typically when you first map the Value Stream you will find that only 5% of activities add value, this can rise to 45% in a service environment. Eliminating this waste ensures that your product or service “flows” to the customer without any interruption, detour or waiting.

4.Respond to Customer Pull – This is about understanding the customer demand on your service and then creating your process to respond to this. Such that you produce only what the customer wants when the customer wants it.

5.Pursue Perfection – Creating flow and pull starts with radically reorganising individual process steps, but the gains become truly significant as all the steps link together. As this happens more and more layers of waste become visible and the process continues towards the theoretical end point of perfection, where every asset and every action adds value for the end customer.
In following these five principles of Lean you will implement a philosophy that will become “just the way things are done”. You are ensuring that you are driving towards the overall organisational strategy by constant review of your processes to ensure that they are constantly and consistently delivering value to your customer. This allows the organisation to maintain its high level of service whilst being able to grow and flex with a changing environment and it does this through implementing sustainable change.

So Rob won the first week and gained the title ‘star baker’ for his lemon drizzle cake. Comments back were you really understood what we asked from you your cake is flawless and what you have put into this and how you have applied yourself is brilliant.

So next time someone at your work place doubts systems thinking, purpose, lean six sigma or whatever, just shove a piece of cake made using rob’s thinking in their face and say: “does that taste good” the reply will be yes. Well lean made that ha.

Posted in leadership, Purpose, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment