James Lawther

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 if you want “game changing”, what are your options?Three parts to an organisationThe systems thinkers categorise organisations into three elements:The...

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 correctly. Business is a team sport. With so many players involved failures are rarely the fault of one…

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 her this morning I slipped on what I could most graciously describe as a pile of underwear.  I took 5...

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 what to do and sell you a model. But which practice is the best practice? In 2002 the corporate leadership council…

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 way in the world.  I am a strong believer in education so I decided to study for an MBA.  I...

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 managed.  If everybody reduced their costs then the total cost would go down.  Or so the logic went. The cost of…

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 unknown reasons it happened that some of the houses were built with the electric meter down in the basement. In…

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 outcome. Unfortunately the world isn’t like that.  An initiative might work for a while, but then it will stop or backfire. Unintended…

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 constraint on my business wasn’t the lack of good ideas or cash — I have plenty of ideas…

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 — to read the whole thing click here. From: Howard Schultz Sent: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 Subject: The Commoditization…

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 to prove it. If you set someone a goal they will try to hit it. It is so effective…

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 I am all for a bit of self belief, but does it work for organisations as well as…

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 all the presents wrapped by Christmas. His management information team endorsed their view. His key measure – Presents Wrapped per...

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 intrinsic, it comes from within. It isn’t something you can hand out with a carrot or a stick. You can...

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 8 hour night shift cutting up blocks of frozen cod.  The icy, sleety, wind from the North Sea was a...

Are Sales Incentives a Good Thing?

Should you incentivise your sales staff? It is widely known that if you want to drive sales you need to incentivise your staff.  Sales men are a mercenary lot and they only respond to cash. Paying out large sales incentives is the default option. Yet a…

The “A” Team

The escalation What do you do when things get out of hand?  When your staff are bombarded with queries that they can’t handle? There are two lines of thought… Management Model 1: First split your staff into two pools, the experienced people who know what…

The Sure Thing

Pain and despair Imagine you run a servicing centre. You have a staff of 100 who fill in forms to order things for customers. Maybe they process applications Maybe they fill in patient’s details Maybe they capture the details of car repairs You get the gist of it……

Books won’t Make you Clever

Correlation does not imply causation There is an apocryphal tale about an inner city education department in the American Mid West. In their efforts to increase children’s performance they commissioned an extensive study of the socioeconomic environment their students were raised in, to see what impact…

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