Friday, 20 November 2009

Notes from "Managing & Leading Through Challenging Times" - part 4 of 4

Fourth and final installment of my notes from the recent Chartered management Institute's conference (part 1, part 2, part 3). In here we will meet a "Future Strategist" and a "Business Guru" - both very good and compelling speakers.

First we have Charles Leadbeater who was there to talk to us about Innovation and New Leadership thinking. As an aside his surname seemed to cause a few people problems as they introduced him or referred to him later - so I offer you the handy hint that it's not the same as Margot and Jerry's.

Charles told us that he used to be a journalist at the FT and then The Independent but over 13 years ago he left to work for himself. As he rather wonderfully put it "The longer my title got the more boring my job got, and the more boring my job got the more boring I got."

He offered 3 simple rules for what to work on
  1. Don't do it unless it's interesting
  2. Stop doing it if you're not learning
  3. Build new relationships
.. do this and he suggested the money will follow.

Turning to think about Innovation he had the thought provoking definition that if you are describing something truly innovative then at least half of your audience should think you are mad :-)

To innovate you need to address three dilemmas :- Technology (will it work), Business (who will pay) & Social (will consumers incorporate it into their lives).   Successful innovations are technical, organisational and social.

He offered us the 8 C's of how to get innovation going....
  • Crisis - generates focus, urgency, sharing, and innovators respond  by seeing new ways of doing things
  • Curiosity - space to explore, where do you have your best ideas?  Don't get trapped by your desk.
  • Combination - finding new mixes and recipies often of old ideas.  eg iPod was based on a new combination of existing technologies.  
  • Connection - look sideways (even backwards) and borrow.  most ideas come from looking sideways even though we tend to think of innovation as being about looking forwards
  • Conversation - need to create settings for exchange of ideas and discussion
  • Challenge - ask "stupid" questions, value useful deviants, to get innovation need to have a climate where people are willing to challenge
  • Co-creation - innovate for but also with customers.  There are more people that know more about your business outside your company than inside it.
  • Commitment - you don't learn to swim standing by the side of the pool.  

The final talk of the day was a high energy affair and was given by "business guru" René Carayol.

His slides can be downloaded from his website where he also has a range of other materials and links to clips of him presenting - if you are interested in leadership I'd recommend watching a few of his clips on YouTube

He covered a lot of ground in his talk looking at attributes of leaders as well as the importance of a company's culture.  Here are a few of, what for me were, the highlights.

The "illiterate" of the 21st century will be the people who can't learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Management = responsibility for people
Leadership = responsibility to people

The A class (ie best) leaders surround themselves with people who are better than them....  B class leaders however surround themselves with C class players.

"Leadership is the art of achieving more than the science of management says is possible".

He was very hot on the importance of values, both personal and organisational, and suggested that in some cases companies are sacrificing their values at the alter of performance management.

He mentioned that google is one of only 2 companies (the other being Proctor & Gamble) that receive over 1 million unsolicited job applications a year.  His point was that these people are not applying because they fancy working on a search engine - no, they want to be part of the organisation and its story.

Throughout his talk he referred to many great leaders.  His final example was Rudi Giuliani and he recounted hearing him talk and stress 3 essentials for successful leadership
  • Love people - if you don't then please find a different role, don't seek to lead
  • Optimism - if you aren't optimistic how on earth are the people you lead going to be
  • Be clear what you stand for - what are your values and how do you display them
He closed the talk (spot on schedule as he had promised at the start) with a question for anyone interested in being a leader to consider........

"What do you stand for and why would anyone want to be led by you?"

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Governor day in school

For just over a year now I have been a parent governor at Henry Beaufort School in Winchester. Given my other interests and career it is perhaps not surprising that as well as being a member of the full governing body I am also on the Finance & Premises Committee and the "attached governor" for ICT.

Today all the governors were invited to come and spend a day in the school and I'm glad I took the offer up.

First up was a discussion with the Senior Leadership Team about their varied roles and the huge range of initiatives and activities that they are involved with.

Over the course of the rest of the day I got to .....

- Have a tour round the school with 2 of the year 11 "Student Leaders" including a chance to see the new all weather pitch up close.

- Spend time with the ICT teachers and see a range of lessons in progress in the various IT suites including the very swish Apple Mac equipped media suite. As part of this I got to talk with a number of the students about what they were doing.

- Have a very nice cottage pie in the Bistro

- Sit in on a vertical tutoring session

- See the Student Council in action helping to provide feedback to the staff for use at a future inset day.

- Experience the general ebb and flow of the school day

We finished the day discussing our thoughts and reflections on what we had seen and done.

I never cease to be amazed at the enormous breadth of activities that there are at the school and the ability and quality of work being produced by many of the students I saw seemed superb. What will stick with me longest though is the outstanding maturity of the discussion I heard in the Student Council meeting. The way the students were able to express their own point view, listen to others with different thoughts and collectively discuss the topic was simply amazing.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Weekend at Morston Barn

We spent last weekend at Morston Barn helping to celebrate my sister's birthday.   The building is lovely and full of character - great place to stay but not sure it would suit me as a place to live.  Minimalism is all well and good but I have a lot of stuff that would need to go somewhere :-)

Morston Barn

We were blessed with 2 days of great weather.  On the Saturday we drove along the coast to Cromer including a stop at Sheringham to have a look around.  By the sea they have a great mural celebrating the lives of fisherfolk and lifeboat crew through the ages.  I really liked the way that the pictures seemed to be of real people such as Tom "Coaly" Barnes Cooper (celebrated for being skipper of the lifeboat for 39 years).

39 - Tom "Coaly" Barnes Cooper

We had lunch at The Crown Hotel which was tucked away in Wells-Next-The-Sea. Sat Nav said she knew where it was but at the last minute as we were supposedly just about to get there she changed her mind and denied all knowledge of it ! A U-turn and a press of the recalculate route button and she remembered, taking us down a road she had previously mysteriously ignored and delivering us to the door - though finding a parking space was very much left to me.

Rest of the afternoon and evening were spent back at the barn helping to eat copious quantities of cake ... and a little Pina Colada that needed drinking up... well, it would be rude not to....

Sunday dawned clear and sunny and we headed off to the lovely Holkham Beach
Holkham Beach
where we enjoyed the sunshine and had a go a flying Bridget's kite.
Holkham Beach

A delicious late lunch (I can recommend the Roast Rib Eye beef with trimmings) at The White Horse in Brancaster Staithe and then, all too soon, it was time to hit the road and head for home.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Notes from "Managing & Leading Through Challenging Times" - part 3 of 4

Third installment of my notes from the recent Chartered management Institute's conference (part 1, part 2).  In this episode we will meet Prof Lord Eatwell, have lunch and then hear from Lord Bilimoria.

Prof Lord Eatwell is the chief economist for the CMI and is responsible, amongst other things, for the production of their "Economic Outlook".  He discussed the second edition of this publication which is based on survey responses from the CMI membership.  During Aug/Sept 15,000 members were invited to respond and the report brings together the responses from those who took part.

Couple of points of interest that I noted down.  A year ago there was a strong sense of commitment from managers to trying to preserving the workforce and retain investment in skills growth.  Twelve months later the continued recession has had an impact and managers are being forced into making redundancies and have reduced investment in skills. On the positive side, though things are bad, the perception is that we are getting through.  A year ago the responders thought that the recession would last for 2 years.  This time they are expecting it to last another year or so.

Next we had lunch which provided an opportunity to talk with other delegates.  On hearing I had worked for IBM for over 21 years one person amusingly remarked "but I didn't think people like you were supposed to exist anymore".  As ever things aren't quite as cut and dried as they may seem.  We hear a lot of attention on changes in patterns of careers with people moving between companies more than they did before but of course there are still those who will remain with one company for many years.

Lord Bilimoria (Chairman of Cobra Beer) was first up after lunch and spoke about "Leading your business through challenging times".  He spoke about the history of Cobra Beer from its creation through to where it is today working with Molson Coors.   He provided lots of examples and insights but for me the thing that shone through most was the need to be responsive to change.   He talked about some key moments where external events had impacted his business and had the potential to destroy much of what they had built.  There would have been no way to forecast these changes and so the ability of the organisation to adapt to the new circumstances was critical to their survival.  This chimed well with some of Brent Hoberman's comments in the morning.  In another nice link to an earlier talk he listed Molsen Coors' definition of what makes for an extraordinary brand :-
  1. Tell a compelling story based on an undeniable brand truth
  2. Live by & refuse to compromise on your principles
  3. Be instantly recognisable
  4. Provide a unique, relevant and consistent experience
  5. Inspire people to become loyal brand champions
  6. Deliver enduring extraordinary profits

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Notes from "Managing & Leading Through Challenging Times" - part 2 of 4

Part 2 of my notes from this year's Chartered Management Institute Conference covering talks by Rita Clifton and Brent Hoberman.  In part 1 I talked about the adresses from Sir David Howard and Ruth Spellman.

Rita Clifton is the Chariman of Interbrand and was the first of the non CMI speakers to take to the stage.   Her topic was "How to build a world class brand".

She starting out by talking about the importance of a good brand and to help convince us of this told us that Warren Buffet's investment criteria include (in increasing order of importance) a good balance sheet, the management team and the brand. (Note - since attending the conference I happened to see a TV programme on Warren Buffet and they also listed that in order for them to invest the business needed to be something they could understand and to have a sustainable competitive advantage)

She referred disparagingly to companies that were just interested in "logslogs" ie logos and slogans and not in understanding what the brand stood for and ensuring that the brand promise is delivered consistently across the organisation.  If your brand is all about excellent customer service it would be a good idea to make sure this is communicated to the people who answer the phones.  Ultimately, what makes brands work isn't the visible bit.

She offered a definition that I liked ..."A brand is a central organising principle, symbolized in a trade mark, which if used correctly creates value".

She noted that of the top 100 brands ("by value" but I'm not sure how that is assessed) 8 come from France, 11 from Germany, America racks up 51 but UK only manages 4.  ( During Q&A someone asked which ones they were and they are ... BP, HSBC, Smirnoff and Burberry).

As an IBM employee it was nice to see us get a mention as the second most valuable brand.  Significant risers up the league table in 2009 include Google, Amazon and Zara.  Fallers included Morgan Stanley, Amex, Citi, UBS (spotted a pattern yet?) and Harley Davidson.

Made the interesting comment that one of the banks that has survived better than most is Goldman Sachs which has a clear brand and she said was also the one that had Warren Buffet as an investor.

For the final part of her talk she turned to the question of how we could think of ourselves as a brand.  To do this successfully we need to get clarity of what we stand for and how this makes us different.  Next we need to ensure that we are consistent across everything that we do - internal has to match how we portray ourselves externally.  This is an interesting comment as I am sure that many people see themselves as different in their work environment to how they behave at home/with friends.  With the increased emergence of social networking sites that bring together people from different aspects of our lives into one "place" I think this issue of behaving with consistency and integrity will become more important.

After a break for coffee we had Brent Hoberman - co-founder of talk about Entrepreneurship and innovation in difficult times.  The original programme had listed Martha Lane Fox but she had been called away elsewhere.  Intriguingly the switch had happened early enough that the printed programme showed Brent as the speaker but the website still showed (and indeed still shows) Martha.

The talk was more a series of interesting thoughts than a narrative flow and some of the bits that jumped out for me were....

Don't over intellectualise - if in advance they had known how hard it was going to be to get running they could well have argued themselves into not doing it.  Sometimes you've got to "jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down."

React as circumstance change ( a theme that was also called out by Lord Bilimoria later in the day) - He would receive basic sales data updates every 15 minutes and more detailed info every hour !  Key thing is that whilst reports are good what matters is how you react to the data.

Make each mistake once

Take decisions quickly - if you get it wrong you can change (see reacting as circumstances change...) very easy to not spot the potentially huge cost of failing to take a decision

Understand and communicate the behaviours you want from your employees

Put your smartest technical folks on the most boring and repetitive tasks - they will find ways to automate them away.

Be courageous - say what you think, take smart risks, question decisions that are inconsistent with company's values.

Constantly recruit the smartest people - means you can run company less formally, in buzz word speak .. "increase the talent density".

If you find that the company / department/ ... can only manage to handle 3 things at once don't restrict what you do to 3 but rather figure out what the inhibitors are that are stopping you from getting on with 20 things ar a time.

Keep changing ... as Benjamin Franklin put it "When you're finished changing, you're finished."

Monday, 26 October 2009

Notes from "Managing & Leading Through Challenging Times" - part 1 of 4

On the 15th October I attended the Chartered Management Institute's Annual National Conference. During the course of the day we had a range of speakers talking about different aspects of how we cope with the challenging times we live in. This is the first in a series of posts covering what for me were the key points of the various talks and some of my thoughts on the topics covered.

Nadine Dereza was the chair/facilitator for the day and got things started with the usual housekeeping, please turn of your phones etc messages. She then introduced Sir David Howard (President of the CMI) who proceeded to set the scene for the conference - "Managing & Leading Through Challenging Times" - by talking about how there has been a change in the business and economic landscape and the challenge of motivating teams in a period of austerity. We've undoubtedly been through some tough times and, though there may be some signs of recovery/reduction in rate of decline, we should expect the next few years to be tough as well - as he put it rather poetically "the sea is still foaming and the sky is still grey".

He handed over to Ruth Spellman (Chief Executive of the CMI). Ruth joined the CMI in June last year and it is interesting to see how much change has occurred in the Institute in that time. To me there seems to be much more of a sense of purpose and urgency about the organisation than I remember from the past. She talked passionately about the importance of skills and in particular driving improvements in the skills of the UK's managers. There are currently 4.6 million managers in the UK and it is estimated that over 60% lack any formal management qualification. The CMI has set itself a target of driving towards 50% of managers being professionally qualified by 2020. By my maths that means getting in excess of 460,000 managers to complete a qualification in the next 11 years (if you assume the 4.6m figure remains static and approx 40% of new entrants to the profession over that time have a qualification) which would be an impressive achievement. She talked about how the CMI is responding to the needs of managers and how they are seeking to broaden appeal through access to training and an emphasis on the value of professional membership. Clearly doing something right as membership is up 11% on last year and there are now 965 chartered managers (up 271 on last year). She noted that "too many people suffer from poverty of aspiration" and talked about how the CMI is looking to establish a "Youth Academy" and this forms part of the CMI Manifesto for a Better Managed Britain.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Thoughtful Thursday

Yesterday evening I headed off to Canary Wharf (30th floor of 10 Upper Bank Street to be exact) for an Oxford Business Alumni "Thoughtful Thursday" meeting. I caught the 17:18 train from Winchester and for the second time that day realised I had made a false assumption - it was a lot fuller than I had expected. (The first false assumption being it doesn't matter that I can't find my small umbrella it won't rain). All went smoothly on the journey to London and I got to encounter what has to be the cheeriest Guard I've ever come across on a train - I didn't notice her name but whoever you are you brightened the day of a lot of travelers.

Clifford Chance kindly provided the location for the meeting on the top floor of their building. The architects clearly felt at ease with heights as they had installed floor to ceiling windows - great views but not designed to engender a feeling of security in those of a nervous disposition at heights. There was a good crowd there and after drinks and some time to mingle Satish Pradhan (Executive Vice President Global Human resources, Tata Sons Limited) spoke about careers and career development. His main theme was around the importance of figuring out what truly matters to you and what you want to become. He drew an interesting contrast between 2 senior managers he had worked with. The first one would walk around meeting staff and ask them "Are you winning?". Management style was very driven seeing challenges as either win or lose. The other manager would walk around asking people "Are you enjoying yourself?" - a very different style reflecting his belief that if you create a good climate in the workplace then you have a fertile ground for success. Both managers were successful leaders but clearly stood by very different values and beliefs.

He was asked what experience and skills were critical for people aspiring to senior leadership roles to develop. He suggested there were three key areas - ability to deal with complexity, ability to cope with scale and the ability to exercise good judgement in the face of uncertainty.

All in all an interesting evening, chance to meet some new people (including a fellow IBMer) and some useful thoughts.

Around 9pm I decided it was time to head home so made my way back to the Canary Wharf underground station which, despite the late hour, was still very busy with people heading home from work. Got myself back to Waterloo and then home on the 21:35 train to Winchester. 41 - 21:35 South West Trains service from London Waterloo to Weymouth

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Chartered Management Institute's Annual Conference #CMIConf

I spent today at the impressive Hilton London Metropole Hotel attending this year's Chartered Management Institute Conference.

This was the 5th such conference and the other 4 have all been 2 day affairs with a mixture of workshops and main tent sessions. This year the format had been changed to a single day and there were no workshops - just a series of talks from a range of speakers.

I missed the opportunity for discussion that the workshops had given but on the other hand liked the range of talks that had been put on and the greater consistency.

I've not done a careful check of the attendee list but it certainly felt like the proportion of people from the education sector was higher this year. I also met a number of people who were sole traders or worked for a small/medium companies but I don't recall meeting anyone else from the world of large corporates - though that could of course be down to the random nature of who I go to talk with over lunch/tea/waiting for speakers to start etc.

Interested to see IBM get a mention by 2 of the speakers including our standing as the 2nd most valuable brand in the Interbrand survey.

I have quite a few notes to work through from the various talks and will post some more thoughts in the coming days.

Right now I'm going to sit down with a coffee and then tune into the analyst webcast on IBM's 3rd Quarter Results.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Wadham Networking Event

This evening I attended a Wadham Networking Event up in London at the rather splendid offices of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP at 65 Fleet Street. I'd received the invitation a couple of weeks ago and coincidentally was already booked to be at IBM's Bedfont Lakes location near Heathrow in the morning so worked from there for the day and then headed into London. From the numerous possible approaches I opted to drive to Richmond, park there and take the train into London. Worked really well - even remembered to get off the train on the way home to collect my car.

There were a lot more people at the event than I had expected which was great - got to meet up with some folks I knew already and plenty more that I didn't. I love the huge diversity of careers and people you get at events like this. Met quite a few lawyers but with lots of different specialisations from employment law to property via medical negligence. Also met up with consultants, a commentator on middle east politics, member of an NGO focusing on helping the Palestinian people, and a specialist in the manufacture of hair bleach amongst many more.

Looking forward to 2010 and all the celebrations to mark Wadham's 400th birthday.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

1st Invention Plateau award

Earlier this year I reached my first IBM Invention Plateau -I was a co-inventor of 2 ideas which have been submitted to the US patent office and 6 other ideas which, though novel, weren't deemed worthy to attempt to patent and were hence published through

As this is my first plateau I qualified for an "IBM non monetary award" in addition to the regular plateau cash award.  This turned out to be a choice from an online catalog with a range of gifts.  I made my choice, placed the order and it duly made its way across the Atlantic to be with me. Box arrives .  I'd chosen a Bob Mackie luggage set and am pleased to say that having opened it up it looks very good - there was one worrying black screw loose in amongst the packaging but can't find anywhere that it's come out of so guess it's just there to puzzle me. Suitcases and Pisces luggage tag
Sadly, look as I might, I couldn't find a number anywhere on the packaging that would help me towards my photo challenge :-( It did however come with a nice small brass luggage tag with the Pisces logo on it (can you spot it in the picture?) - the same logo that appears on any invention related certificates you receive at IBM. Next step...get my thinking cap on, have some more good ideas and see if I can work my way up to the next plateau....

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Generosity in Discipleship

Last night I attended a meeting arranged by the Diocese of Winchester called "Generosity in Discipleship" which promised to look at issues of giving in general and money in particular. 

The meeting was held at Christ Church, Chineham near Basingstoke - it was my first visit to the church and I was really impressed by the facilities they have.  As a modern building it is a real contrast with my usual church - St Catherine's, Littleton.

The evening was led by Dr John Preston, National Stewardship Adviser, and Rev Steve Pierce, head of Stewardship Money.  They did a fantastic job of guiding us through a presentation that covered biblical models of giving, key tasks for PCCs and church leadership in teaching on giving, a range of ideas on how to analyse giving as well as pointers to a wealth of resources to help - and a few jokes along the way :-)

At one point in the evening we were asked to estimate how the "average" church expenditure broke down between 5 categories.   As treasurer for our church I was relieved that my answers were close to what they had which were...

Supporting other organisations (eg charity donations) - 7%
Maintaining inspiring centres for worship - 17%
Mission and Ministry - 51%
Administration - 6%
Running costs - 19%

I have already done some of the things they suggested, particularly around how we analyse the breakdown of giving to the church.  They did however have other ideas that I think would be well worth investigating further including making some changes to how we structure our annual report - something to remember come 1Q2010 when we have to write it.

It is interesting to consider the lessons from the corporate world and mainstream charities and think about how they do or do not translate into the church.   For example, much of the giving analysis suggested is straight out of business text books on how to look at clients and assess their relative contribution to your organisation's profitability.  The difference though is what you do with the outcome of the analysis - in the church context rather than the absolute level of giving we would see giving in proportion to what you have as more significant - widow's mite and all that.  We certainly wouldn't want to focus our attentions only on those who gave the most and ditch the low contributors.

As well as doing more to provide teaching on what the bible says on giving I think our focus needs to be on creating a compelling vision for our church and what we want to achieve.

I long for us to have such a strong sense of what we want to do that our next budget has a huge hole in it that we need to fund from reserves because we just can't wait to get on and realise the vision.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The visible things matter - particularly in the absence of good communication - lessons from a car service

My car went in for a service and MOT last Friday.   It's a lease car so the garage selection and booking was done by the lease company, all I had to do was make sure the car was in the car park at work in the morning and it would be collected, work done and returned to me in the afternoon.

In the morning I called the garage to confirm the car was there and also to tell them that I had spotted that the rear wiper had started to split so please could they replace it.

Car was collected as planned and returned to the car park. On the front passenger seat was a survey form for me to complete and send off - no other communication from the garage.  The car had been washed so looked good but two things concerned me.  Firstly the feedback form had a box on it for them to tick if they had done an MOT and it was blank. Secondly the rear wiper hadn't been replaced.

I phoned the garage and they said that the MOT had been done but by a separate mechanic who wasn't the one who filled in the form on the seat.  As regards the wiper blade they queried whether this was something I had asked them to look at.  I confirmed I had, he did some checking and came back on the line to say that they "hadn't been able to get one the right length".  Suggested I should pop into a Halfords and get one .... which does beg the question why they couldn't get one...

That evening I checked the details in the service book and inspecting the condition of the wiper blades should be part of the service.

I now start to wonder what the quality/thoroughness of the rest of the service was like... if the thing I can see hasn't been addressed how confident can I be that things like brake pads/disks have been checked properly?
Odds are that everything else is fine but my confidence is shaken.   Full marks at this point to Leaseplan - having spoken to them they have booked car into a main dealer for them to do a check over for me and replace faulty wiper.

Things would have been so different if the garage had left a note in the car saying - we noticed that the blade is damaged but couldn't replace today, we have ordered one and would it be OK for us to pop over on Monday to fit it while it's parked in the car park?

Then I would have had an entirely different impression.

Communication is critical and so is making sure that the easily visible things are done well - they may not be the most important part but they set the tone for everything else.   I am reminded of the beautifully tied knots on a bandage round my head when I'd undergone surgery on my ear and the confidence that this inspired that the work inside my ear was good as well.  Irrational maybe but somehow reasuring :-)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Littleton & Harestock Show

For us this weekend has been dominated by the annual Littleton and Harestock Show.  Saturday morning saw us getting to the tent in time to set up our entries - photos, cake, veg, floral display, clay models, marzipan animals, pizza, collages, pictures.  Quick trip back home for a coffee and then we were back on site to set up the St Catherine's church stand where people were going to be able to make puppets.  Home again for lunch and then back for the show opening at 1pm.  The next 4 hours were spent on the stand or looking round the show.  Helen helped out on the Teddy Bear bungee jump (with 3 of Alice's teddies being on hand to take part in the jumps).  We also had the excitement after 2pm of being able to see whether any of our entries had won a prize.  Nothing this year for me or Carol but the girls managed a good haul of prizes each.

I managed to grab 5 more numbers (8, 33, 44, 48 & 99) towards my photography challenge which means I now only need another 40 to complete the set.

Sunday saw us return to the show once more, this time for the annual Littleton & Harestock Show Service.  This ecumenical service brings together the Churches in North Winchester for a celebration in the show marquee.  The highlight this year was without a doubt (in my biased opinion) the 2 performances by the "Ups and Downs" puppets.  Their first spot was a reprise of their award winning (in the southern regional puppet ministry competition) "I turn to God" and for their second number they gave us "He's the one that I want".  The performances were very well received and it looks like they may have some more bookings as a result.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Toilet Twinning

While we were at New Wine this year we came across the CORD stand in the Market Place offering the opportunity to "Twin" a toilet with a "bog in Burundi". We thought it was a great idea - the £60 payment covers the costs of building a toilet and you are then sent a certificate with details of your twinned toilet.

I'm very pleased to announce that we have received our certificate and our downstairs toilet...Toilet Twinning now officially twinned with Latrine No 332 in Giharo, Rutana Province, Burundi, Africa (lat -3.852969, long 30.249261). Here is a link to the satellite image from google maps - sadly the image quality is low .. just to the west is a much better resolution.

If you want to twin your toilet get yourself along to

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Ordinations at Old Basing for Diocese of Winchester

This evening I was privileged to be able to attend the Ordination of new priests for the Winchester Diocese. The service was held at St Mary's Church in Old Basing - a lovely church with plenty of room in the Sanctuary for the assembled clergy and deacons. I was there with the rest of the family as guests of Stuart our curate.

It was a lovely service and great to see so many people there to support the 5 deacons being ordained.

After the service there was a chance to chat over drinks and I was able to take to the opportunity to meet the Archdeacon. He and I are both speaking at a deanery meeting in a couple of weeks so nice to have the chance to meet him beforehand.

After availing of the evening sunshine to take some photos (clicking on the one below will take you to my flickr account where there are a few more)
Stuart's ordination at St Mary's church Old Basing
it was time to head for home. I hope you noticed the way his stole is now adjusted to be worn in the manner of a priest rather than the sash configuration of a deacon.

God's blessing on you Stuart as you embark on this new phase of your ministry and we look forward to being at your first communion service in Chilbolton tomorrow.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Year 7 Celebration Assembly at Henry Beaufort School

This morning we, along with all the other parents of year 7 children at Henry Beaufort School, were invited to a "celebration assembly".

The morning started with coffee and croissant at the Beaufort Bistro - near to the hole in the ground that will become a fantastic new all weather pitch in the coming months.

We then moved to the hall where all of the year 7 children (just under 180 of them) were gathered with their form tutors.

The headmaster started with a talk highlighting some of the impressive list of achievements of the school over the last year and talked about how well the year 7's had settled into the school and how they are shaping up to be a great year.

This was followed by a short violin quartet performed by 4 of the year 7 boys to an impressive standard.

Next, 2 of the teachers read out statements from each of the form tutors which outlined some of their thoughts about the individual tutor groups.

Finally, we had the impressive logistical operation of presenting each of the children with a certificate of achievement. Each child had been assessed on 4 separate criteria (reward level/stamp total, attendance, uniform, and participation in school life) and for each given a score between 1 and 4 depending on level of achievement. Their total score then determined whether they received a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum level certificate.

The children didn't know what level they were going to receive until their name was called out. I think Helen was pleased with platinum - I know we were proud of her.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sway - The irresistible pull of irrational behaviour

I recently read this excellent little book by Ori & Rom Brafman - ( with thanks to Michael who recommended it and lent me a copy )

Based around a series of engaging anecdotes the book explores some of the factors at play that can cause us to depart from what our experience, training and logic would lead us to and instead take seemingly rash and illogical decisions.

Influences covered included

- how the desire to avoid potential loss can lead us to illogical choices - "all-in" packages versus pay-as-you-go being one area where the risk of being charged more than the all in price causes us to accept the fixed rate even when the other option could well be cheaper.
- how the perceived cost of something affects how we value it - if it's free can it really be any good
- why as a man you should be wary of an attractive women who approaches you after you have just crossed a high rope bridge
- how the concept of "fairness" could lead people to turn down free money and studio audiences to deliberately banjax a contestant's chances of winning
- how offering a bit of money can lead to a worse result than relying purely on altruism. Altruism triggers the nucleus accumbens area of the brain whilst monetary reward triggers the posterior superior temporal sulcus - they say, and who am I to doubt them. They can't both operate at the same time so if you try and rely mainly on altruism but offer a small monetary sweetener you can end up closing down the altruism response completely.
- the value of dissent (and dissenters)

Ultimately I think the main lesson to take from the book is to be aware that as I take decisions and make judgments all sorts of hidden forces and influences are at work swaying my choices. By being more aware of what they could be, staying alert to wayward value attributions and assumptions about those around me plus taking steps, such as seeking out the dissenting voice, to counteract them, hopefully some bad choices can be avoided. I think the reality is that being "Sway"ed is here to stay so we need to accept that some of the decisions we take will be wrong and be prepared to admit it when it happens.

I hope there's a sequel sometime in the future and, like anyone else who has traveled out of Waterloo on the Weymouth train, my money's on the title being "New Milton".

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

LinkedIn milestone

I noticed today that my 3rd degree contacts on LinkedIn has just passed the magic 1 million mark. This is a doubling since October 2007 when I passed through the 500,000 mark. How long to the next 1m I wonder?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Happy Brithday Littleton Memorial Hall

It is now 10 years since the Littleton Millennium Memorial Hall opened (did you spot the clue in the name?)and to celebrate this milestone there was a party last Saturday.

A lot of people congregated at the hall with their provisions to enjoy some alfresco dining.

Party at the hall

despite some rain early on
Dining in the rain

the weather did clear so we all stayed dry and were also able to enjoy a flying display by Paul Ambrose

and some great music from the bands...

even if dancing on gently sloping grass did feel a bit like taking your life in your hands.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

One Way UK regional puppet ministry festival

Guest post from Carol who writes.....

Yesterday saw the "Ups and Downs" puppet team heading to Guildford for the One Way UK Puppet Ministry Regional Festival. Helen and I are still relatively new to this puppeting thing, so we allowed ourselves to be persuaded by Ros (our team leader, who has many years puppetry experience) to enter the song competition. We were amazed to find, on arrival, that we were the only team to have entered this particular competition, which removed some of the pressure. However, as each entry is judged on its own merits (rather like the Chelsea Flower Show), we still needed to put on a good performance.

Here is a video of a practice session for the routine

The morning consisted of workshops and performances by visiting puppet teams, who put on some very impressive shows. Lunch was next, and then the moment we had been waiting for arrived and we were on. The performance went without any major hitches, and we were then able to relax and enjoy the skit competition that followed, with 4 entries ranging from single puppeteers, to a sizeable team that told the story of the ascension of Elijah with a very impressive chariot.

When the team competitions were over, it was time for the Lip Synch challenge, which Ros had very kindly entered me for. This involved 4 contestants at a time going behind a screen, choosing a puppet, and then lip synching and performing along to a previously unannounced song. Ros and I both won our initial heats, which meant that we were competing against each other in the semi-final. I couldn't believe it when both our numbers were called to go through to the final, but really thought my ears were deceiving me when they announced the song for the final - Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! I had great difficulty stopping my arm from shaking at the end of that one!

The final workshop was followed by the results of the competitions. We were awarded a very respectful Silver for our song, and I was stunned to get second place in the Lip synch challenge (ahead of Ros who came third). Thankfully she didn't take it personally, and still agreed to drive us home after a very successful and entertaining day!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Cycling to work

A couple of months ago I bought a new bike under the bike to work scheme.New Bike :-)
This scheme provides the ability to buy a bike with pre tax income so long as you commit to its majority use being to cycle to work.

Well today I started to keep my end of the bargain and tackled the ride from home to Hursley.
Ready for the off... There he goes... 
The journey turned out to be 6.58 miles from door to bike shed and took me in the region of 1 hour. Coming home bizarrely was a tad further despite following the same route. Quietly pleased with myself though that I managed to keep going up the hill through Oliver's Battery.

I have worked out a great route based on small backroads which meant that even though I left home around 7:45am I only met a couple of cars on the whole route. Hopefully as my fitness level increases I will be able to enjoy the wonderful scenery a little more:-)

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Big Sleep Out

A guest entry post from Helen who writes....

On Friday 15th May I was privileged enough to take part in The Big Sleep Out hosted at Winchester Cathedral. It was in aid of the Trinity Centre and the Winchester Night Shelter. I went along with St Catherine's Youth Group. When we arrived we decided to set up outside in the Cathedral close. There were 2 adults, 2 boys and 4 girls in our group. At 10:00pm we went into the cathedral for the speeches. Sadly we only lasted 10 minutes till we decided to go out and get some dinner. Dinner was provided by the Army and there was a special sleepers soup from Brasserie Blanc, I had a Burger and salad. Later on in the evening we went back to our area and played some games. Later at about 11:30 Juliet the vicar came down to see us and wish us good luck and good weather. Finally, after visiting the Hot Chocolate and Coffee van, (and after being offered free doughnuts,) we settled down on our cardboard for bed. At 3:00am we all got up collected our things and trouped into the cathedral because it started raining! When we finally got up at 6:00am on Saturday morning we packed up our things and went to have breakfast in the refectory and then went back home for a hot shower. Between us (the youth group) we raised over £800. I would do it again if I ever got the opportunity. It was a great insight into how the homeless people live.


Tuesday, 19 May 2009

TED talk by Ken Robinson on education and creativity

Thanks to a twitter message from @macker I recently watched a recording of a TED talk by Ken Robinson where he suggests that Schools kill creativity. As a parent of 2 school age children and a school governor I was interested to hear what he had to say.

It is only 20 minutes long or so and well worth the time to have a watch and listen to his message.

Basically he makes the point that the children starting school this year will expect to retire in 2069 - we have no real clue what the world will be like in 5-10 years so what are we doing to prepare them for the future. He argues that creativity will be a key attribute for success and asserts that our education system tends to educate creativity out of us rather than growing it. The foundations for education systems that we have were laid many years ago when the world was a very different place.

Children are artists when they are young and prepared to take a chance, if they don't know something they'll have a go anyway. Progressively most will lose this as they grow up.

It would seem to me to be wrong to lose the importance placed on numeracy and literacy but I do wonder what more I could be doing as a parent to ensure my children retain their creativity at the same time.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Twitter Power by Joel Comm

I recently read Joel Comm's book "Twitter Power" and got to hear him speak on a short webinar

Having used twitter since November 2006 ( I already had a good deal of experience using it and so was interested to see whether the book had anything new to add for me. The quick summary is that yes it did. My use of Twitter has been very much as a social networking tool to keep in touch with people I know and also a convenient way of updating status and having it echo through to my facebook profile. What I took from Joel's book was a very different perspective that helped me to see other ways that Twitter could be effectively used. For me I think the main thing I took away was a set of thoughts around how I could be more intentional with my use of Twitter.

His book also includes some thoughts on steps you can take to increase your following. One of the suggestions being to engage in conversations through twitter. If someone replies to you then that will appear in their Twitter stream and some of their followers may then go see who you are and follow you. I can vouch for the validity of this approach having sent a tweet to Joel after the webinar, got a reply from him and then saw my follwer list rise by 15 people over the course of the next day.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Photo challenge

I decided to set myself a photography challenge for 2009. I have seen other people post photos of numbers so inspired by that I am aiming to take 101 photos to cover the numbers 0 - 100. Photo above for example is of a street light and was taken at the seaside in Bray (co Wicklow).

Clearly I could just walk down a road and photograph the house numbers so the additional twist to the challenge is that the photos need to be relevant in some way to my life and experiences in 2009.

1/3rd of the way through the year and so far I have 14 photos (0,1,2,7,9,10,12,16,17,30,42,57,73 & 87) so a little behind where I need to be but hopefully with the better weather I'll be out and about a bit move over the coming weeks.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

"Prosper with a clear conscience" - Just10 Winchester

Last night I went along to Winchester Cathedral to the third talk in the Just 10 series. These evenings centre around a set of 10 talks delivered by J John looking at the 10 commandments. Rather than focus on the commandments as a simple list of dos and don'ts they are turned round into a discussion of how they can guide our lives. Last night we were treated to the 7th commandment and how to "Proser with a clear conscience" rather than a simplistic "do not steal".

Delivered in a humorous and engaging way the talk had lots of thought provoking content and challenge to us all to reflect on some of the less obvious ways that we may have been "stealing".

The evening ended with a challenge to the audience to use the coming week to return any items they had stolen and if that wasn't possible to bring them along next week to place them in "Amnesty Bins". On previous occassions these bins seem to have attracted a wide range of items from wads of cash to a good supply of hotel bathrobes/towels.

Based on my experiences last night I will definitely be back in future weeks to hear more of these talks. If you are around Winchester on a Wednesday evening I'd recommend you get along.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Making a start

They say that the longest journey starts with the first step so here we go with the first post into this blog.

I have blogged behind the IBM firewall for a few years and thought it was time to have an external blog as well so here it is.