James Lawther

How to Make a Pile of Money

Continuous Improvement When he died last year Feodor Ingvar Kamprad was worth — depending on who you listen to —  somewhere between 3 and 28 billion dollars.  According to Forbes he was one of the ten richest men in the world.  How yo...

The Most Profitable Activity in the World

Collaboration The iPhone is — arguably — the most profitable product in the world.  Since it was launched in 2007 it has sold over 700 million units.  In my household alone we have 4 of the damned things. I hasten to add my daughter’s phones…

Are Your Human Resources an Asset or a Liability?

Theory X or theory Y? In the 1950’s Douglas McGregor proposed theory X and theory Y.  He suggested that managers see their employees in one of two ways: It was an astute observation, but it is difficult to show which perspective is the most produc...

How to Turn a Supertanker

Leverage There is a management metaphor that changing the direction of an organisation is a bit like changing the direction of a supertanker.  It can be done, but organisations are big, cumbersome and it takes a lot of time to push them onto anoth...

Stating the Blindingly Obvious

High Performing Teams If there’s a subject that will get the good people in H.R. excited it is high performing teams.  They are the holy grail of human resource management.  Everybody wants a high performing team. Conventional wisdo...

Centre of Excellence or Management Folly?

The centre of excellence How many times have you heard the claim “We are building a centre of excellence”? Or, even more triumphant, “We are a centre of excellence!” It is great management speak. It shows strategic drive and direction. Every thrusting ...

All That Glisters…

The next big thing There is a revolution going on in the world of medicine.  Robotic surgery equipment is being installed in operating theatres across the western world.  The robots allow surgeons to make far smaller incisions and operate muc...

Pointless Conversations

Defining the metric People get very excited about metrics, they spend hours debating exceptions and accuracy.  Definition becomes everything. Imagine the conversation… My Boss: You take too long to get to work in the morning, we must measure perfo...

Outcome or Effort, Which Should You Reward?

Do you focus on outcomes, positioning your staff and yourself as life’s winners. Or does all your effort go into the inputs, how hard your staff tried, what they did well and what they can learn from?

Short Breaks Will Kill You

Quantitative or Qualitative Analysis? An apocryphal tale… A statistician working for a large organisation was asked to explain why sick pay was increasing.  The business had an ageing workforce and sickness levels were rising.  He gathered lo...

Cigarettes and Alcohol

Prohibition Noun: The act of forbidding something, especially by law In 1919 the US government attempted to reduce levels of alcohol consumption.  They passed legislation that prohibited its production, transportation and sale.  The ban was a...

Which Is Most Important, Perception or Performance?

For those who believe that perception is reality, performance isn’t important, but perceived performance is everything. There are three ways to improve perceived performance:

What Do You Wish You Were You Good At?

Management Innovation When people think about innovative businesses what excites them? I’ve heard plenty of people getting frothy about their new phone and all the fancy apps it comes with but I have yet to hear anybody getting agitated about washing m...

Do You Believe in Brainstorming?

Conventional wisdom Noun: The generally accepted belief or opinion about a particular matter. Conventional wisdom may be proven to be untrue. Example: It is widely believed that before the voyage of Christo...

Taking the Sting out of Failure

The failure A couple of years ago I had a workplace nightmare.  I was pushing a big initiative and I needed it to be a success.  I had my boss’s boss on my back and the project was going belly up.  It was all very…

Pointless Conversations

Management meetings Do you ever lose the will to live in management meetings?  Sometimes they are so bad I want to scoop out my eyeballs with a tea-spoon.  I’d do anything to get out of the conversation. I hate futile meetings that are a was...

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...

New Posts