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.