James Lawther

Cauliflower for Brains

Your brain is finite. Your brain is roughly the same size, shape and weight as a cauliflower. There the similarities end. Your brain is — I hope — physiologically more sophisticated than your average brassica. Some people’s brains, like cauliflowers, ...

Performance Appraisals Drive Mediocrity

It is mid-year If you work in the corporate world that means you have been busy writing appraisals.  If you have never seen one, the standard corporate appraisal form has about 5 sections: Progress Against Objectives — what you did Fit with Compe...

Failing to Learn

Flight 1549 On the 15th of January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of canada geese as it was climbing away from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport.  The plane lost all engine power.  The pilots, Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Sk...

Better to Be Approximately Right Than Precisely Wrong

Spurious accuracy Thirty years ago I sat in a factory office with my head bowed low, looking at the dirty grey lino floor.  My boss, a middle-aged, overweight man wearing a white coat smeared with ice-cream was berating me in a broad west country...

There Are Lies, Damned Lies and Descriptive Statistics

Anscombe’s quartet Here are some interesting numbers for you. Interesting in a geeky sort of way… They are 4 sets of readings for two variables, X and Y. That is a horribly algebraic. It brings back memories of a comprehensive school deep in the...

For “Game Changing” Performance, Change the Game

Game changingEverybody is hell-bent on moving quicker, faster and harder. Everybody wants “game changing” levels of performance improvement.  Managers, executives and shareholders demand it…So...

Three Types of Culture

1. Blame culture I am not a big fan of blaming people when things go wrong. There are two reasons why: It is hard to apportion blame...

Teenagers, Bedrooms and Cash Payments

I nearly broke my neck At the entrance to my eldest daughter’s bedroom there is a short flight of steps.  As I went to wake...

Performance Management Best Practice

There is an awful lot of performance management “best practice” out there.  Lots of books, seminars, HR gurus and management consultants who tell you...

Targets Don’t Work!

A management education 21 years ago I was a bright young thing.  I was single, had a good job and I was determined to make my...

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

Economies of scale For a while I worked in an organisation that obsessed about costs.  Everybody had a target to cut the costs that they...

The Simplest Way to Improve Performance – Possibly

An interesting story: Courtesy of Donella Meadows: Near Amsterdam, there is a suburb of single-family houses all built at the same time, all alike. Well, nearly alike. For...

The Problem with Cause and Effect

We think in straight lines Cause and effect. If I do this, then that will happen.  If I make this change then I will get that...

The Ultimate Business Constraint

Running a business is tough I used to run my own business. It was hard work. I have the utmost respect for anybody who does it. The...

Did Process Improvement Destroy Starbucks?

The Memo I came across a memo from Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks the other day. Here are the bits that caught my eye...

What Gets Measured Gets Done

You show me how I will be measured… … And I will show you how I will behave We all know it’s true. There is scientific evidence...

Management Beliefs

Do you believe in self-help? One of my favourite quotes is from Henry Ford: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right Personally...

Christmas Measures

Father Christmas had a problem… His planning elves had confirmed it. It was mid October and it was looking increasingly unlikely that he would get...

The Motivation Sink

Can you motivate someone? The gurus tell me that you can’t. You can’t give your staff motivation. It is not within your gift. Motivation is...

Ever Been Motivated by a Poster?

Imagine you make fish fingers for a living… Don’t laugh, it is a tough job I used to do it, I smelled awful after an...

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