Leadership Blog

  • Paul Seabright on The Supply of Shirts

    If there were any single person in overall charge of the task of supplying shirts to the world’s population, the complexity of the challenge facing them would call to mind the predicament of a general fighting a war. One can imagine an incoming president of the United States being presented with a report entitled The World’s Need for Shirts, trembling at its contents, and immediately setting up a Presidential Task Force.

    The United Nations would hold conferences on ways to enhance international cooperation in shirt-making, and there would be arguments over whether the United Nations or the United States should take the lead. The pope and the archbishop of Canterbury would issue calls for everyone to pull together to ensure that the world’s needs were met, and committees of bishops and pop stars would periodically remind us that a shirt on one’s back is a human right.

    The humanitarian organization Couturiers sans Frontières would airlift supplies to sartorially challenged regions of the world. Experts would be commissioned to examine the wisdom of making collars in Brazil for shirts made in Malaysia for re-export to Brazil. More experts would suggest that by cutting back on the wasteful variety of frivolous styles it would be possible to make dramatic improvements in the total number of shirts produced. Factories which had achieved the most spectacular increases in their output would be given awards, and their directors would be interviewed respectfully on television.

    Activist groups would protest that “shirts” is a sexist and racist category and propose gender- and culture-neutral terms covering blouses, tunics, cholis, kurtas, barongs, and the myriad other items that the world’s citizens wear above the waist. The columns of newspapers would resound with arguments over priorities and needs. In the cacophony I wonder whether I would still have been able to buy my shirt.

    Paul Seabright – The Company of Strangers

    Paul Seabright on the Supply of Shirts…

    If there were any single person in overall charge of the task of supplying shirts to the world’s population, the complexity of the challenge facing them would call to mind the predicament of a general fighting a war. One can imagine an incoming president of the United States being presented with a report entitled The World’s Need for Shirts, trembling at its contents, and immediately setting up a Presidential Task Force. The United Nations would hold conferences on ways to enhance international cooperation in shirt-making, and there would be arguments over whether the United Nations or the United States should take the lead. The pope and the archbishop of Canterbury would issue calls for everyone to pull together to ensure that the world’s needs were met, and committees of bishops and pop stars would periodically remind us that a shirt on one’s back is a human right. The humanitarian organization Couturiers sans Frontières would airlift supplies to sartorially challenged regions of the world. Experts would be commissioned to examine the wisdom of making collars in Brazil for shirts made in Malaysia for re-export to Brazil. More experts would suggest that by cutting back on the wasteful variety of frivolous styles it would be possible to make dramatic improvements in the total number of shirts produced. Factories which had achieved the most spectacular increases in their output would be given awards, and their directors would be interviewed respectfully on television. Activist groups would protest that “shirts” is a sexist and racist category and propose gender- and culture-neutral terms covering blouses, tunics, cholis, kurtas, barongs, and the myriad other items that the world’s citizens wear above the waist. The columns of newspapers would resound with arguments over priorities and needs. In the cacophony I wonder whether I would still have been able to buy my shirt.

    Taken from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Company-Strangers-Natural-History-Economic/dp/0691146462

     

    Jack Welch on What Leaders Do

    Here is what the legendary Jack Welch, former Chairman & CEO of GE had to say about “What Leaders Do” in his book “Winning” .

    1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach and build self-confidence
    2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breathe it
    3. Leaders get into everyone’s skin exuding positive energy and optimism
    4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and credit
    5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls
    6. Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action
    7. Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example
    8. Leaders celebrate.

    Leadership – mass participation or elite sport?

    Leadership in Leeds

    How does a community get the leadership that it needs to thrive?

    Is it a question of finding an elite cadre of movers and shakers, networking them, hot-housing them and amplifying their power?

    Or is it about offering the opportunity for anyone to ‘lead’ on whatever matters most to them, their loved ones and their neighbours?

    Can we design leadership development processes that:

    • support and reward mass participation?
    • are inclusive rather than exclusive?
    • respect local starting conditions (values, cultures and issues)?

    Certainly this kind of leadership development is possible.

    By giving people space to talk about what matters to them and encouraging them to think through what they can do about it and whether they want to move from words to actions we can find ‘leaders’.  But they rarely see themselves as such.  They don’t see their agenda as being ‘leadership’.  They may see it as developing a ‘local community website’, or ‘starting an urban gardening project’ or ‘finding opportunities for young people to learn and earn in our community’.  There are plenty of people looking to do plenty of good things and the truth is that what we usually describe as ‘Leadership Development’  is unlikely to help them in their work…

    Hans Rosling – Data King

    The Purpose of a City: economic development or something more?

    Why do we choose to live cities?  What are they for?

    Well, for many of us they are ‘Where the jobs are’.  We don’t choose to live in or near them.  We do so because that is how our economy is configured.  We are drawn into they city and ‘enslaved’ by it and the economy is exists to serve.  But many of us are, on the whole, happy slaves as the city fathers and their investor friends ensure we are regularly supplied with both  ‘bread and circuses’, superficial means of appeasement, from which they too can often make a handsome profit.

    And, on one level, this is a purpose of the city.

    To organise a modern population effectively and efficiently for the benefit of employers and those who bankroll and tax them.  They are above all else economic entities, where ‘culture’ and ‘community’ play secondary roles as part of the mechanisms for appeasement while the primary narrative is about the economy, productivity, profitability and gross domestic product.

    As Margaret Thatcher put it “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”

    But, we can look at a city differently.

    We could choose to believe that “Head, heart and soul are the method; the object is to change the economy”

    We can choose to see the city as a collection of people who have converged on a specific location because it offers them opportunities to do the things that they want to do, to be the person that they want to be and fulfil their potential.  In such a city the primary relationship would not be one of ‘enslavement’ to an economy but as a collaboration of powerful citizens in a participative democracy.  A city where citizens primary responsibility is to each other and to the future.  Where an economy is produced that serves people, both now and into the future.

    Such a city would almost certainly not depend primarily on the development of its physical infrastructure, (Supercasino anyone? Or perhaps a high-speed train or station entrance to inspire the business folk?) but on psychological infrastructure.  A network of relationships, support and encouragement that valued people, regardless of wealth or education, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or age.  A psychological infrastructure in which help could be asked for and offered. A city in which collaboration, association and innovation in the pursuit of progress was everyone’s business.

    Now THAT would be a city I would want to live in.

    Disrupting Poverty in Leeds – The Results Factory

    Leeds aspires to be The Best City in the UK.

    But to the 23% of Leeds’ children who live in poverty, rising to almost 50% in some communities, this must seem a very distant goal.

    What can we do about it?

    The Results Factory is about generating ideas and making them happen. In under 3 hours, we will come together, develop ideas and leave with action plans. Whether you need people to help get a project up and running, or whether you have time you want to use, we’ll find practical ways to start disrupting poverty in our city.

    Our aim is to leave with clear actions that will make a difference.  You don’t need to be a professional in the field or have particular expertise.  All we need from you is an open mind and a desire to change things.

    So, join us on Friday 27th April to help us to Disrupt Poverty in Leeds.

    http://dispov.eventbrite.co.uk/

    The Great Regeneration Resurgence…?

    One impact of ‘austerity’ is that the government is investing less in ‘regeneration’, that mysterious process that brings uPVC windows and doors and new kitchens and bathrooms to some of our most deprived communities and/or takes neighbourhoods where only the poor and desperate choose to remain and turns them into ‘aspirational addresses’.

    It seems to me that the former is usually led by a local authority in order to avoid the embarrassment and penalties that come with failing to provide ‘decent’ homes (better to provide no homes at all than homes that don’t meet the official standards).  The latter is usually led by the private sector and rests on the belief that we can smarten the neighbourhood up, displace the incumbent residents and replace them with brighter, shinier people.  With people who earn more money and pay more tax.  Who can afford larger mortgages and higher rents.   All sorts of ‘indicators’ move in the right direction (the neighbourhood is healthier, wealthier, greener, more beautiful) and we can claim progress as ‘jobs are created’ in the construction phase and the ‘community is regenerated’.  Profits are generated as houses are transferred from the poor to the rich with house prices and rents rising as we go.

    Except of course the community has not been regenerated, but displaced.  The area may have been developed – but the community has been, in whole or in part, displaced and broken up.

    Look around and you will see these processes happening near you.

    As public investment in regeneration declines the pressure remains on local authorities to maintain momentum in the regeneration game – to ‘create jobs in construction’ to ‘stimulate economic development’ and to ‘provide new housing’.  And with less cash to put in the game they use other levers – more flexible approaches to planning (pdf – gaudy ‘enterprise friendly’ Planning Charter) and trying harder to attract inward investment so that we can keep ‘creating jobs’.  And there is talk of a ‘resurgence in regeneration’ as the private sector rides in to save the regeneration day, increasing profits and winning gongs and awards for ‘services to regeneration’.

    This activity looks like regeneration and smells like regeneration but to my eye it looks like displacement and economic cleansing.  Most of the regeneration industry is driven by this economic development imperative which provides the dominant narrative at conferences, in development feasibility reports and in election manifestos.  You would think that there is no other game in town.

    But there is.

    There is a form of economic and community development that starts where people are at, works with what they have got, and helps make progress on what matters to them – much to the chagrin of policy makers this is rarely losing weight, giving up the fags and sharpening up the CV through a ‘work programme’.  This approach, which is often described as ‘bottom up’ or responsive provides no quick fixes but rather steady progress based on:

    • the development of aspiration, skills and knowledge
    • association, cooperation and organisation around common causes, reciprocity, generosity and mutuality
    • thinking  creatively and collectively to act in pursuit of progress

    For me, ‘Bottom Up is the New Black’.

    But this is a different approach to regeneration. One in which the current incumbents make little or no profit.  One that does not provide quick fixes based on electoral cycles and 15 year visions. One that makes new demands on local authority staff, elected officers and their partners.  It is a very different game with very different rules and very different tactics based on a different set of values.  One that puts the economy in the hands of people, rather than people in the hands of the economy.

    But perhaps we should give it a go?

     

     

    The Spirit Level – dodgy science or not?

    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha

    Improving the NHS – the role of social media

    Nearly everyone I speak too recently has a horror story to share about their experiences with the NHS.  And nearly everyone has a fairy tale to tell as well.

    For several decades now I have been contracted by various parts of the NHS at different times to provide management development and leadership training, to run assessment and development centres, to develop standards for the board of NHS trusts, to turn HR teams into organisational development teams and so on.  And for just about all of that time the training has been done against a permanent backdrop of policy and structural changes that makes real learning almost impossible.

    So it was with some interest that I read about some work that the National Health Service Social Media Group had been doing to explore the potential of social media to transform healthcare. Recently this group have been talking about how the use of video cameras by patients could provide feedback to drive service development.

    I love the idea of social media being used to report on both the good practice and the bad.  To shine a spotlight on all that we love and hate about how healthcare is delivered.

    But, until we we build a culture where such data can be collected, analysed, reviewed and acted upon by experienced clinicians and managers with the time and resources to provide excellent management and leadership we run the risk of finding ourselves with ever more tearful and frustrated health professionals.

    And I suspect that it would be the failures and lapses that would get the attention and the resources.  A culture of name and shame is unlikely to work in the long run.  And what would it do to the relationship between patient and staff?  Do we really want patients to be policing their own healthcare experience?  They can recognise and film obvious lapses of protocol and procedures, but the more subtle stuff?  And, do we really want service providers to change what they do just because someone is pointing a camera at them?

    At its best great healthcare is delivered as a partnership between clinicians and patients.  I find it hard to see how this partnership can really thrive when when one party is busy filming the other.

    It may have a role in driving out bad practice – but I am not convinced that it can ever drive excellence.

    As Deming has shown us the road to excellence is reached by driving out fear, not by increasing it.

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