Tuesday, 15 January 2019


John has been told by one of his team, Harry that Harry and the others spend 10 hours of their 40 hour week in meetings. John doesn’t know what is being discussed in the meetings or why they take so long.

John is curious: Do they say the same thing in every meeting (which suggest the team need someone to constantly repeat the same message before anything gets done.)

Or maybe they say a different thing in every meeting (which suggest that everything is changing all the time and people are confused and always debating and discussing the future rather than implementing it.)

What needs to change? Is the problem the meetings, attendance, agenda or participation?

Sam always circulates a report of key facts and figures, proposals, plans and price at least 3 days before any meeting so everyone has a chance to read and think about what needs to be discussed in the meeting. The agendas are clear and the minutes record only what was agreed and the key actions.

If someone wants to add something to the agenda they need to let Sam know in advance, otherwise it is rolled into the next meeting. The other thing Sam is careful to do is ensure at each meeting people have completed their tasks from the previous meeting. Sam is quick to thank people for doing good work, but not reluctant to say when someone has failed to do what was agreed.

Sam is also firm about the agenda and the time. If someone rambles on they simply cut it short, get them to explain their idea in writing and schedule it for discussion at a future meeting when the idea is clear and people have had the time to read and think about it.

Is the structure likely to make these meetings more or less productive?

I am a fan of short stories because they are easier to follow than theory and if it is too long you won’t read and won’t remember. If you would like to share your ideas or experience get in contact and I’ll buy you a coffee.

Tim Rogers


Charlie is tasked with improving the performance of his team and given a set of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as a guide to what must be improved. The problem is that Charlie doesn’t know the current score, how often they are assessed or what the target score should be.

The other problem is that his colleagues don’t know what these measures are or how their processes or behaviours effects the scores or their rewards and recognition at the end of the year.

Is Charlie likely to be a KPI – Key Person of Influence?

Sam has agreed the KPIs with his team who are all keen to show what they can do, month by month, in Jan, Feb, Mar to December to improve their scores. They have also agreed a really simple and objective way to measure what is important (and not waste time measuring things they cannot control or don’t matter). They publish these scores and take 15minutes each month to review what went well and what didn’t and what they might do for next month.

Is Sam likely to be able to learn from successes and failures, in Jan, Feb, Mar to Dec leading to overall improvement?

I am a fan of short stories because they are easier to follow than theory and if it is too long you won’t read and won’t remember. If you would like to share your ideas or experience get in contact and I’ll buy you a coffee.

Tim Rogers

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Building a Cathedral on Sand

I work for many clients on many projects for many years. Once I was engaged to do a project rescue. I asked an IT supplier to justify their bills or evidence for the work invoiced.

The reply from their CEO was “Don’t try building a Cathedral on Sand”. Their argument was that governance and paperwork was bureaucracy and not a good foundation for their solution.

I thought this was a brilliant title for a book, and told them so. Below are the headings for each Chapter. Do you think I should write the book?

1. We need something
2. Poor specification
3. Big promises
4. Loose contract
5. Weak Management
6. Vague deliverables
7. T&M but no deliverables
8. Inaccurate Reporting
9. Escalating invoices
10. Product Problems
11. Management Issues
12. Better tomorrow
13. A bit more time…and cash
14. Emperor’s New Clothes, or Boy who cried wolf
15. Brought to account
16. Recriminations
17. Reprisals

It’s an interesting admission: That your product is “a Cathedral on Sand”.

Anyone else had a similar experience?

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Six Questions which predict Team Success and set your agenda for 2019.

I have worked with a lot of clients in 2018, which has been great. I really value the short, interesting and productive engagements as much as the longer projects that deliver outputs, outcomes and overall improvements for people and the business.

One of the shorter but interesting facilitation engagements was to ask a team the following six questions and get their ideas for how to make the answer YES for each.

  1.  I know what is expected of me at work
  2.  I have the materials and equipment I need to do my job right
  3.  I have the opportunity to do what I do best every-day
  4.  In the last 7 days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
  5.  Someone at work encourages my development
  6.  At work, my opinions count
The key themes (in this example, which may not be representative for other organisations) included...
  • People understand the role of management in co-ordination, communication and collaboration but don't value micro-management of tasks.
  • People don't like chaos. There is a strong preference for predictable environments, managed workflow, consistent decisions and priorities and time to focus and get things right.
  • People don't mind being measured (eg timesheets, objectives, KPIs, successes) if they are clear about the objective, benefits and have the freedom to decide "how" they do their work.
  • People often know the best free tools, techniques and methods to do their job faster, cheaper and better. A lot of time, money, effort is wasted with indecision and interruption which compromise the outcomes.
  • People value being valued and that isn't always about remuneration. Sometimes it is thanks, appreciation, training, or simply being recognised as having achieved objectives, KPIs, successes etc.

What is so great is that people want the answer to be YES and given the freedom to suggest ideas will work hard to come up with solutions that make the work place a better, more fun and productive place to work.

My book for the year has been The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win6 Feb 2018
by Gene Kim and Kevin Behr

I loved this book because the story was so real to so many projects that I have managed. The people, problems, technologies are typical as are the outputs, outcomes and frustrations. What has been great is realising that these are real-life issues with practical real-life solutions that can be applied.

As a troubleshooter often involved in project rescue it is always great to have insights from other people's experience that you can apply to your own circumstances.

I like this book so much that I am prepared to buy a copy for anyone who works with me and whats to understand what we can achieve together.

What book would you recommend to me?

The books that might help you in 2019, and your recommendations?


At the end of 2017 I stopped competitive sport and sought a new outlet. Having pushed my body to its limits I am now stretching my mind and am very grateful to a few good people who have suggested some wonderful books.

This blog is part an acknowledgement and thank you to the people who have really made an impact on me either directly or for the recommendations they have made.

I am therefore sharing a list of what I've read and why, just in case people have similar interests and would like to read the same books. It is also a great opportunity to canvas recommendations.

It is true that my physical fitness is not what is was when I was 30 or even 40, but there is no reason that my mind shouldn't go from strength to strength and I am grateful for any ideas that may improve me or my business in 2019.


This is a small subset, I think I may have read 50 books. I have attempted to put them in the order I would recommend with the best at the top of each list. I greatly value people's recommendations in the comments.


The Phoenix Project, A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win 5th Anniversary Edition, By: Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

The Goal, A Process of Ongoing Improvement - 30th Anniversary Edition, By: Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox

Critical Chain,Project Management and the Theory of Constraints By: Eliyahu M. Goldratt

The DevOps Handbook, How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations

The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership, Achieving and Sustaining Excellence Through Leadership Development

Thinking in Systems A Primer By: Donella H. Meadows


The Cold War, A World History, By: Odd Arne Westad

The Great Economists, How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today,By: Linda Yueh

Misbehaving, The Making of Behavioral Economics, By: Richard Thaler

Red Notice, By: Bill Browder

A History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev, By: Mark Steinberg, The Great Courses

Willful Blindness, Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, By: Margaret Heffernan

The Secret Barrister By: The Secret Barrister

Inside Story: Politics, Intrigue and Treachery from Thatcher to Brexit


The 12 Week Year, Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months, By: Brian P. Moran, Michael Lennington

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life By: Mark Manson

Key Person of Influence, The Five-Step Method to Become One of the Most Highly Valued and Highly Paid People in Your Industry

Summary of Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths By: Instaread


Bad Blood By: John Carreyrou

Conspiracy, Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, By: Ryan Holiday

Hitch-22, A Memoir, By: Christopher Hitchens

Sapiens and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Humankind and A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari


I would like to thank Tom Hacquoil for a number of books: Zappos, The New New, When Breath Becomes Air, and a bundle of books on cryptocurrency

I would like to thank Jane Frankland for her book INsecurity

I am also mighty impressed by my Commonwealth Games Team Manager, Gary Jones who has published Evidence Based School Leadership and Management. Although written for schools the idea of doing anything based on data is a good idea!

I am also grateful to Gailina Lieu for the work of the Jersey Policy Forum and some great books: The Road to Somehere and Utopia for Realists. This opened a really interesting trail which included Andrew Keene's book How to Fix the Future and another breath taking look into the future with Life 3.0.

FOR 2019

I greatly value people's recommendations in the comments and am curious if there is a book club in Jersey for either Business Topics or Social Change.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

The Planning Fallacy and the Innovator’s Dilemma

Scott D. Anthony

August 01, 2012

“You have to deliver $300 million in incremental growth by 2015,” the business unit head told the leader of his innovation team. “That’s less than 5 percent of our revenues, so that should be quite doable.”

While $300 million might sound like a ridiculously large number to small business owners or entrepreneurs, leaders in many global giants consider the amount a drop in the bucket. But anyone with near-term innovation targets with nine (or six or even four) digits in them should ensure they are familiar with the concept of “planning fallacy.”

The basic concept, first presented by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and his partner Amos Tversky in an influential 1979 paper, is that human beings are astonishingly bad at estimating how long it will take to complete tasks. As recounted in Kahneman’s recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, one study found that the typical homeowner expected their home improvement projects to cost about $19,000. The average actual cost? $39,000. Despite ample available information, 90 percent of high-speed railroad projects have missed budget and passenger estimates, with an average overestimation of passengers of about 100 percent and underestimation of budget of about 50 percent.

Entrepreneurs often underestimate how long it will take them to produce revenues, and wildly miss how much they will have to invest to commercialize their idea. As investor and pundit Guy Kawasaki notes, “As a rule of thumb, when I see a projection, I add one year to delivery time and multiply revenues by 0.1.”

The same challenge makes it difficult for companies to escape the innovator’s dilemma. To get through the corporate approval gauntlet you have to project big numbers. Then early results disappoint. Often projects or even divisions get shut down. And the company is staring at an even bigger growth gap. (Innosight cofounder Clayton Christensen memorably termed this the “growth-gap death spiral” in his 2003 book The Innovator’s Solution).

One way to avoid planning fallacy is to get — and use — data from comparable efforts. A simple starting point can be historical projects. Few companies look back to see how well past forecasts panned out, let alone seek to understand the markers that identify successful projects. Or consider looking at easily accessible public data. A few years ago I started a small database of disruptive companies, tracking revenue from day one. Consider the data for 10 of the fastest growing companies in recent history: Google, Netflix, eBay, Salesforce.com, Groupon, Zynga, LinkedIn, Facebook, Baidu, and Amazon.com. Remember, these are the best and fastest growing startups. (The number in parenthesis represents the number of companies in each year of the sample.)

How about new product introductions? There are certainly outliers. Apple’s iPad $10 billion in first-year revenue, for instance, would make it about the 250th biggest company in the United States, around the same size of Whole Foods, GameStop and Avon Products. But the basic pattern continues. Out of more than 11,000 consumer product launches in North America between 2008 and 2010, Nielsen found only 34 that were distinct, generated more than $25 million in first-year sales, maintained at least 90 percent of sales volume the next year, and had faster sales velocity than the category average. Only six of those 34 had two-year cumulative sales that exceeded $200 million. That’s only 0.055 percent of all launches.

If hitting your growth targets relies on a once in a lifetime success, it is at least worth considering the following three questions critically:

  1. Are we following best in class approaches to ensure that we identify and accelerate our best ideas?
  2. Do we need to increase the amount of resources (both human and financial) we are investing in growth?
  3. Do we need to increase focus on acquisition as a growth strategy, at least as a way to “buy time” for organic efforts to develop?

It does turn out that uninvolved outsiders often offer more realistic (if somewhat negatively biased) projections than involved experts, so consider having select outsiders help to answer these questions to help balance the unrealistic inside view.

For innovators, careful consideration early helps to avoid death spirals later.