Saturday, 23 October 2010

Reflections on the Chartered Management Institute's Annual Conference #li #cmiconf

Last week I attended the annual CMI conference at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

In a format like last year we were treated to an impressive range of speakers across various leadership topics.  The seemingly mandatory photographer was there to intrude on events by taking repeated flash photographs of the speakers while they were presenting.  It seems that this is a requirement for any significant CMI event and I have to say I've never understood why.  I was hugely amused though when we were showed a video created for the CMI reflecting on events of the past 12 months and it included a warning that there was some flashing images in it - but no mention of the photographer who had been snapping away for some while in the room !!

I was a bit puzzled by the title of the conference "From Mediocrity to Excellence" which, though I'm sure it wasn't intended as such, did seem like a bit of a downer on the leadership capabilities of the attendees and at the same time a "slight" overselling of what results might be achieved by attending.

As had been the case last year we had a late change to the programme due to a planned speaker not being available and so missed out on hearing Karen Brady talk which was a pity - especially as I had stayed up the night before to make sure I had watched a recording of that week's Apprentice to see what she said in case she referred to it in her talk :-(

So here are some thoughts that I jotted down from the day - most of the presentations are up on slideshare  ....

First up was Ruth Spellman Chief Executive of the CMI.  She talked about the progress the CMI is making both in terms of membership (now over 90,000) and in terms of brand recognition (now appears in the Superbrand survey top 500 - some 35 places above the CIPD).  Talked about the importance of management qualifications and showed a video about work Serco has done at Doncaster prison using CMI training to increase the capabilities of their leadership team with great results.  Right at the end of her talk was an interesting idea - keeping a weekly "Learning Log" to capture what you've learned each week and from whom.  I thought this sounded like an interesting way of triggering reflections on the week gone by and capturing thoughts from it - may give it a go.

Next we had Mike Southon, a political and business columnist for the Financial Times.  He talked about a range of topics, two things in particular caught my attention.  He introduced the idea of 7 stages in life.

  • 21-28 - try as many things as possible
  • 28-35 - serious attempt at something
  • 35-42 - maybe decide to try something different
  • 42-49 - at the peak of your powers
  • 49-56 - maturing self awareness
  • 56-63 - start to worry about your legacy
  • 63-70 - elder statesperson
Interesting to note from the political sphere that Clegg, Cameron, Milliband and Obama all fit in the 42-49 bracket.

He also spoke about "Talent dynamics" and the importance of creating teams that balance the skills of the members.  Again from the political sphere he spoke about the Labour team of Blair (star), Mandelson (deal maker), Brown (accumulator - eye on the money) and Campbell (mechanic - making things happen).

On the topic of money vs wealth he suggested that money is what you have in the bank and wealth is what you have left if the money all goes - ie reputation, trust, respect etc

After a break for coffee (and some rather lovely cake) we reconvened to hear Rob Law (he of Trunki fame - sit on suitcase famously broken by Theo on Dragons' Den).  He talked about the history of his company, challenges faced and how they overcame them.  Importance of picking the right people and and making sure they were engaged with the company was highlighted and he spoke about some of the things they do.  Their new office space was deliberately fitted out in a vibrant and wacky way consistent with the company values.  Interested to hear how they had an education fund of £1000 per employee which enabled them to grow new skills - intriguingly they can now see a reduction in consultancy costs as the staff they have gain broader capabilities.  Also touched on how important it is to make events memorable - highlighted a Christmas dinner that they had one year which was run at a cookery school so the staff actually had to cook their own meal.  Years later it is still remembered fondly.

The last slot before lunch was taken by Jo Salter who was the UK's first fast jet pilot in the RAF.  Lots of interesting background on how she progressed through the RAF to take that role and the challenges associated with being the first women to do so.  Four keys to success that she offered....

  • Be open to opportunities that present themselves 
  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and fill you with energy and maintain a "glass half full" mentality
  • Take responsibility for our actions - how we choose to behave drives what we do
  • Enjoy the journey - have goals but rather than just focus on meeting it then setting another make sure you enjoy the ride along the way as well.

After a break for a very nice lunch we reconvened for the afternoon session which was kicked off by Stephen Howard - CEO of Business in the Community.  In an echo of comments made by Mike Southon in the morning he noted that we tend to spend the first half of our life chasing success and then decide to focus less on success and more on making  significance - making a difference.   Talked about his role and Business in the Community and came across as someone really thrilled by what he gets to do each day - lots of reference to things being "fun".  He recounted a story of meeting Mother Theresa on a plane in India.  She asked him what he did and then as he started to talk about his role (at that time a company CEO) she interrupted him to ask "no, what do you do that matters".  Seemingly the conversation had a profound effect and his encouragement to us was to think about how we can use our position and where we are to make a difference in the world.  "What can I do today that will make the most difference?"

Professor Lord Eatwell (CMI Chief Economic Adviser) spoke about the latest Economic Outlook published by the CMI based on survey of its members.  The news wasn't great with significant drops in business optimism since the last survey 6 months ago.  Whilst this was driven by a big decline in the optimism of those in the public sector (perhaps not surprisingly) there were also declines in the responses from both the not for profit and private sector as well.

As noted above Karen Brady was unable to attend the conference so we had a substitute speaker in the shape of James Cann.  In a wide ranging talk he touched on some of his own business successes and how he had got to where he is today as well as some thoughts relating to his role as a Dragon.  

To finish the day we had the rather amazing Chris Moon.  His website has a short video that talks about his background so I won't repeat it here.  Instead here are some thoughts I jotted down while he spoke...

  • Stick to your values - respect other people
  • When facing death you are haunted mostly by the things you haven't done and the people you could have helped.
  • Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's overcoming that and doing what we know we need to do
  • Do not assume the role of victim whatever happens
  • Be focussed on where you are now - make use of time you have
  • Never take things personally, listen to what people say and don't rush to judge
  • Never underestimate the power of belief - he talked about a pig he had seen that was tied with a piece of string to a wooden stake.  Clearly the pig had the strength to get the stake out of the ground by pulling on the string and hence get free but it didn't - why not.  As a piglet it was tied to the stake in the same way and tried to get free but eventually realised it couldn't.  Later when it was tied up in the same way it "knew" it couldn't get free so doesn't try.... ie it becomes constrained by it's belief that it can't get free.
Finally he left us with his philosophy - be realistic about the situation you face, choose a positive perspective and choose a positive attitude.   It is this philosophy that has enabled him to survive and achieve what he has.

All in all it was a good day.  Whilst I like hearing from the high profile speakers I do miss the smaller breakout sessions that used to be a feature of the CMI conferences.  These smaller scale presentations added a lot of value by covering a wider range of topics and providing a chance to make connections with the speakers.  Some years later I am still linked with a number of the people whose talks I attended -  either through subscription to their newsletters/blogs or in person.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A week of looking inside my head - physically and metaphorically

As I looked back at the last week it occurred to me that amongst the normal ebb and flow of the days 2 things stood out - and both concerned looking inside my head.

On Tuesday I met an ENT consultant to look at the results of an MRI scan that I had a couple of weeks ago.  (A few years ago I had a couple of operations to remove a cholesteatoma from inside my right ear.  Not unsurprisingly I have been left with a residual tinitus in the ear which isn't a big problem but did get worse earlier this year.   The MRI scan was mainly a precaution to check whether there was any sign of the cholesteatoma regrowing.)  I'm pleased to say that the results came back without any evidence of return.  It was fascinating to be able to see the scans of the inside of my head even if the orientation was a bit difficult.  The image showed nose at the top but right ear was on left of screen - ie you need to imaging that you are standing at you feet looking up at a cross section through you head.  Lots of detail of bones inside the ear, brain etc and, as he moved the computer mouse to pass through the images, an alarming sudden appearance of my eye balls in brilliant white on the screen !!  There was some white stuff on the image inside my ear which is probably swelling due to a previous cold or other similar infection and should hopefully just sort itself out over time.  Consultant said there were 2 options ... A) leave it alone and it should hopefully settle down by itself or B) open the ear up again to have a look around inside.....  pleased to say that we both felt option A was the best.

In preparation for a workshop that I am attending later this month I had to complete a Hogan Test this week.  The test is designed to give some insights into my leadership strengths, risks around how I may behave under stress, my values etc.   I completed the lengthy questionaries and booked a 1 hour feedback session where the results would be explained to me.   I've done a number of these sorts of tests before and am always fascinated to see what the results come back as, and how what they say maps to my own self perception.  On Friday I had my call to discuss the results and was very fortunate to be assigned a lady who clearly had a lot of experience in administering and explaining the results of these tests.  We had a great discussion about what the results said about me and more broadly what sorts of things the survey can highlight.  I am going to be moving to a new role in IBM in October so this also gave an opportunity to think about how the profile identified by the test fitted with the likely needs of the new job.   I'm pleased to say that the fit between my profile and the new role look good - I thought it was a good fit when I accepted it but it's nice to see some validation of that choice in the data from the test.  Really looking forward to the workshop in a couple of weeks and learning more about the test and what it shows.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Downs Benefice Parish walk - Day 1 Minstead

Today was the first day of the Downs Benefice Walks - every 2 years the benefice runs a week long series of walks.  This year we have a series of 6 circular walks close(ish) to Winchester all with some literary theme.

Today's was an 11, or so, mile walk (at the end my pedometer said 27,158 steps which feel about right) starting and ending at Minstead.

We had a lovely day for the walk and at 9:30am an intrepid group of 16 walkers headed out from Minstead into the forest.
Morning Walkers

The walk was a lovely mix of tracks, road and open areas in the New Forest and we saw our fair share of ponies as well as some free roaming pigs. New Forest Pigs

After lunch we stopped in Brook at the Green Dragon pub for a quick beverage and to collect another group of people who would be joining us for the afternoon section of the walk.
Afternoon Walkers

Our numbers swelled we pressed on back through the forest to Minstead, stopping off at the village church to see Arthur Conan Doyle's grave and look round the lovely church.
Arthur Conan Doyle's grave
Minstead Church
Minstead Church

The day finished with an ice cream at the suddenly very busy village shop.

Few photos from the day in a set on flickr - here

Sunday, 1 August 2010

New Wine - Local churches changing nations

Our home for the week 
Looking down from our pitch on Brown 4
We spent last week at New Wine's Summer Conference "Unstoppable" which was held, as usual, at the Bath and West Showground in Shepton Mallet. This was our 9th year attending but the first time that we were the only people from our church who were camping. Christ Church Winchester had around 250 people camping and were happy for us to join them up on Brown 4.   Thank you Christ Church for the BBQ, Cheese and Wine evening, Hog Roast and afternoon Cream Tea - me thinks we may well look to camp with you again in the future ....

Each year we enjoy the worship, hear great teaching, and spend time with friends on the campsite. The girls enjoy the freedom of taking themselves off to their sessions and activities during the day (this year Alice was in "Boulder Gang" and Helen was in "Club One"). No matter how many times I go the scale of the event always impresses - for example Boulder Gang is for just for children aged 10 or 11 but they still have around 500 children attending !
Numbers for dinner swelled by day visitors

Though we were the only ones from our church camping for the week we did also have one person staying in a nearby B&B who joined us on site each day and were delighted to have friends visit for a day during the week.

Among the many highlights for me this year a few were ...
  • Simon Ponsonby's great teaching in the morning bible study sessions in Venue 1.  He was supposed to be looking at 5 parables from Matthew 13.  However after 3 insightful sessions he decided that the other 2 he'd prepared weren't as interesting so changed tack and instead gave us a session on love based around John 21v15 and a talk on Joshua 3 v5.
  • An interesting explanation of the famous "turn the other cheek" passage suggesting that, when taken in the context of the time it was written, this is actually an example of taking an effective non violent stand against injustice.
  • Mark Griffiths telling the story of the "The Happy Prince" at the All-Age Celebration, having a "reverse collection" (a bucket passed from person to person and rather than putting money in you take out a small gold coloured disc), and being challenged to perform an act of kindness over the next 4 weeks that costs us something, in time, emotion or money, but which has no chance of being repaid.
  • Hearing of the inspiring work of the Street Pastors - volunteers who spend time on the streets on Friday and Saturday nights (10pm - 4am) being with and helping the people who are out at that time - largely club//pub goers.
  • Browsing the marketplace and talking to people about the HoverAid charity and the work that it does reaching the otherwise unreachable in Madagascar 
  • Hearing Adrian Plass talk in the ToyBox Cafe - a wonderful mixture of the amusing and the serious.  Including why Joseph is the character in the bible who best understands inner wholeness, why having a note of the names of the mid 90's Sri Lankan cricket team tucked away inside your bible could prove useful, and the importance of not trying to navigate further than Milton Keynes before you are married, 
  • Mark Melluish (following Simon Ponsonby's lead) and abandoning his planned talk for the final evening and instead talking about Love.  Based around the story of Bartimaeus he talked about the importance of being interruptable, ready to stop, listen, pray and make room for others in our busy lives.
When we collected the car from the car park at the end of the week it was covered in dust - just what you want after a week's camping as it only happens if there was no rain to wash it off :-)   We've had wet weeks at New Wine in the past and dry weeks and I have to say that, whilst both are fun, the dry ones are better.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in running this year's conference and I pray that the people attending this week will be similarly blessed as were those there last week.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Weekend of dance

A busy weekend draws to a close. Friday saw us heading up to Durham for my mum's birthday party on Saturday. It was great to catch up with family at the party and over the weekend. She had booked a band for the evening and we had a great time doing lots of English Folk dances and watching the Irish Set Dancers in our midst perform some figures - now we just need the time to process the videos in iMovie.

This morning we headed back down south - thankfully we had a clear run with no real holdups along the way so we made it back to Winchester in time for Platform School of Dance's annual show.

Alice did a Rock & Roll number and a Mambo with her Saturday Latin class and I did a Jive with the rest of the Tuesday evening adult Latin group - more videos in need of attention. This was quite possibly my first time dancing on stage - only time will tell if it will also be the last..... I have a sneaking suspicion that having got us to do one this year the pressure will be on to do so again in next year's show.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


Over almost 12 years in a range of Management roles at IBM I have taken part in a lot of annual appraisal meetings, interviews, 1-1s, career discussions etc in which I have heard people talk about what they have done.

I'd noticed of course that some people seemed to be better at communicating what they had been up to than others. People's reputations also varied hugely, and not always in line with what I thought I could see of their work.

In a chance conversation with one of my US colleagues over coffee one day he recommended I read Peggy Klaus' book "Brag! The art of tooting your own horn without blowing it."

I did and found it to be a very interesting and thought provoking read that gave me an insight into what I had observed in all those meetings.

Today I got to give a talk at work based on some of the ideas from the book plus some thoughts of mine relating to our particular work environment.

I get a real buzz out of doing presentations like this on topics that interest me and where there are often no clear right or wrong answers. My audience obliged with lots of questions and discussion and the materials that I had prepared proved to be a good fit for the allotted time.

If you are looking for ideas and advice on how to ensure that you are effectively communicating your achievements and desires for the future then I really recommend Peggy's book to you.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Feeding my CV into Wordle

As a way of seeing what my CV says about me I thought it might be interesting to feed it into Wordle ( and see what happened. Well here's the result....


After nearly 22 years in software development it's no surprise that they come through.  I do like the way that some of the words have fallen to create things like "responsible technical manager" and "worldwide career".  Leadership and innovation don't seem to quite have the prominence I would have expected so perhaps I need to go tweak the CV a bit in those areas.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Gadget Show Live

Last week the girls and I went up to the NEC to attend Gadget Show Live. We had a great time. We arrived late morning, spent a few hours looking round the exhibits and finished up by attending the 4pm Live Show.

There was so much to see - for us a few highlights were ...

3D - masses of technology around this space. We tried on different sorts of glasses some projecting images in front of our eyes and some used in conjunction with a screen. Our favorite was the 3D TV, viewed normally it was a fuzzy looking image but put the supplied glasses on and WOW the image really came to life. Rugby ball appearing to fly out of the screen certainly made people jump :-)

Old tech - lots of chance to play with some tech from the 70's and up to current day. Great to be able to show the girls some of the early games machines and just how blocky the early games were.

The live show was good fun - chance to see the presenters "in the flesh" and also a range of other items. We especially liked the flying penguins, Titan the robot and the amazing dance/light routine. To get a flavour of it here's a video someone recorded of the dancers and from there you can navigate to their videos of Titan and then the Penguins. At the start of the live show the presenter said words to the effect of..... "you will have noticed that your tickets say no photography or recording of the show..... how crazy is that, this is the gadget show.... record, photograph, post it, live stream it to the internet - we don't care" :-)

After the live show it was time to head back to the car in the depths of the N5 car park and drive home.

So ... did we leave the show laden with tech? Well I bought a Winkku mirror for my bike. Alice tried to buy a Vectron Wave from Air Hogs but sadly they aren't for sale in the UK until July :-(
Helen used the show as a chance to check out the wide range of remote control helicopters on sale and will probably get one of those after a bit more online research. Taking out a trial subscription to T3 magazine also got me a small speaker to go with my iPod.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Photo challenge finished in style

Well I managed to complete my photo challenge in style.  For Helen's birthday party we took some of her friends bowling and on my last go of my last game I had a high scoring round (completely against the run of play) and when I looked at the scoreboard I realised I had scored 83 which was my last number ! 83 - Bowling score at H's party

For this year I think I will change tack and build a set of photos of doors/entrances that have some significance - for example places that we visit during the year.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Last few photos needed for challenge

It's nearly a year since I started my photo challenge of taking shots of all the numbers between 0 and 100.  It's been great fun to spot the numbers and the whole family has got involved.   The resulting set on flickr is a great summary of the last year, all I need to do over the next fortnight is find the following... 74, 76, 78 and 83 to complete the set.  The subject should be relevant somehow to my year or places I have been - bright ideas and suggestions gratefully received on subjects or events I should get along to.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Conference for Secondary School Governors in Hampshire 2010

In my role as a parent governor at Henry Beaufort school I spent today at the Marwell Hotel listening to talks and discussing issues related to "Stronger governance - improving pupil outcomes".

This was the first such conference that I had attended so I didn't really know what to expect - I have to say I was very pleased with the day and will certainly be looking to attend in future years.

There were some great talks and a fantastic opportunity to meet and talk with governors from other schools across Hampshire.

Sue Hackman was the first speaker of the day.  She is the Chief adviser on School Standards at the Department of Children Schools and Families and used the"Your child, your school, our future" whitepaper as a framework to talk to us about a whole range of issues mainly related to analysing performance.  This could have been a very dry subject but she did a fantastic job of articulating the importance and meaning of various metrics available to schools.  In particular she spent some time looking at the kind of reports that the RAISE online system can generate.  These can, for example, help a secondary school to identify whether pupils are achieving the results that their performance in primary school suggests they could.  There was also quite a bit of discussion around "the middle rump", those pupils who aren't in the top or bottom groups.   It is easy to focus on helping those at the bottom and working to stretch those at the top - both good things to do - and end up making some of those in the middle group feel resentful that they don't warrant any special attention.  Whilst you could argue the whole system is set up for them they may, all the same, not be feeling it.

After a break for coffee, and the chance for a chat with a governor from another Winchester School,  we had 2 workshops.  The first "Setting Targets in Secondary Schools" followed on nicely from Sue's presentation and looked in a bit more detail at some of the figures for Hampshire and what sort of progress is expected as you move through from Key stage 2 - 4.   As part of this we also looked in some more detail at the area of the comparative attainment levels of Children in Care and some of the work being done in Hampshire in this area.

The second workshop looked at School Improvement Plans and in particular what some of the barriers/challenges faced by governing bodies are as they seek to be supportive of the school and a "critical friend".

After lunch we turned to look at Local Children's Partnerships.  John Clarke took us through an overview of the idea - basically setting up a partnership between all the schools/colleges in an area and other bodies such as district councils, local NHS, police, social care etc.  This partnership would take responsibility for all of the children on its patch and work to improve their outcomes.  As part of his presentation he mentioned a book called "The Spirit Level" by Wilkinson and Pickett which he said drew a conclusion that increasing inequality of wealth in a country correlated with a decrease in an "index of health and social problems".  I need to add that to my "must read some day" list to see what's behind the claim - the graph certainly raised a few questions in my mind - always a bit suspicious of charts whose scale is marked "low"...."high", where the data aligns neatly on the plot and which rely on an "index" whose constituent elements don't all seem to be independent (I would have thought for example that including obesity and life expectancy might end up double counting).

Moving on from the conceptual idea we then heard about the East Hampshire Education Improvement Partnership and the impressive real life examples of what they have been doing.  No measures of success presented, I suspect because it's early days yet, but very encouraging to see the levels of cooperation they have created and what that has enabled them to do.

The conference was drawn to a close and, once we had completed our survey forms, we were allowed to head home.

I felt it was a day well spent - tasty apple crumble and custard for lunch certainly helped :-)    

Certainly feel better equipped to take part in the discussion on RAISE Online and FFT data we have lined up on tomorrow night's Full Governing Body meeting.

Plus I got to meet some new people - including Fiona Grindey who, following today's event, has set up the "Hampshire Governors" facebook group.