Use Less Energy; Less Climate Change?

With the great and the good in Paris thrashing out a deal to prevent climate change, is it perhaps time to think about using less energy? I understand that an authority in the field suggests that many of the proposed solutions to climate change like alternative and renewable energy sources might not be as green as we think. The trouble is that the production of wind turbines and solar panels all generate CO2. Indeed it is suggested that making them contributes more to CO2 emissions than they save during their operational lives. If this is true... Oops!

All of which brings me to using less energy. Surely the starting point, even in developing countries, should be how to use the very minimum of energy rather than to repeat the bad habits of the developed world? One only has to look at any modern city at night to see how much energy is wasted lighting skyscraper office blocks with no one in them. Satellite images show just how much energy is being used to light urban areas at night. Is that really necessary?

Lean thinking has long provided a method for reducing waste in manufacturing, services and the public sector. The 2002 report Lean Profit Potential from the Lean Enterprise Research Centre at Cardiff University yielded some staggering information. Whether in manufacturing or what the report called information industries, approximately half of all activity was found to be waste. Yes, you read that correctly, HALF!

So on the face of it by working leaner enables huge energy savings to be a significant benefit from the world working leaner. That doesn't take into account what could be further achieved by applying lean thinking to both energy production and the efficiency with which it is consumed. Surely a low energy revolution technical wave as great as we are seeing with internet must be possible. Indeed the internet of things is already here to help.

So tell me about why developing countries like China, for example, (sorry guys) want to increase coal-based electricity generation by 25%? Why not be innovators at the forefront of low-energy technology?

And we can start tomorrow! Just by turning off those office lights, perhaps?

Will you take a moment to remember?

Today is Battle of Britain Day. It is a chance to remember the bravery and sacrifice of those young airmen, "The Few" as Churchill called them, who went into battle 75 years ago today.

There were many others who they relied upon to be able to do their job. There were those who designed and ran the integrated air defence system that put the pilots in contact with the enemy. There were the ground crews who serviced and re-armed their aircraft. There were the thousands who had designed and built their Spitifres and Hurricanes and the Air Transport Auxilliaries who flew in repaired or replacement aircraft. There were many, many more including the families and friends of the pilots who contributed.

Today there are young men and women making great contribution to a different world, though still one, sadly, where there is war. Are we giving all young people the opportunity to make a great contribution? Too many do not have jobs here in the UK or the opportunity to contribute in some way. Too many of today's politicians, business owners and managers in organisations of every type have failed to give respect to and create opportunities for more of our young people can shine. Surely we should not need war to see them giving of their best?

Can Bullying Build Trust?

Or in the case of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust is it destroying the Trust? The recent report from The Good Governance Institute (GGI) on this NHS Trust concluded:

  • The Dignity at Work Policy is not fit for purpose
  • There are inconsistent and confusing approaches within the trust in regard to managing concerns raised by staff
  • The trust has divergent views among different teams as to what constitutes bullying and harassment
  • The trust needs to take stock of how its leadership and management culture operates


However the GGI tried to present their conclusions, it doesn’t matter to me how they are prettied-up. It sounds as if there is far too much bullying. Any bullying is far too much. This is a failure of leadership and management. When the entire team of five A&E consultants resigned from Redditch Hospital in February 2015 amid claims of a “bullying culture” and breakdown of trust in management something is very, very wrong.

The word trust that figures prominently in this case is the key. No amount of policy re-writing and issuing will change the situation if the management behave in a way that does not build trust. That surely starts with actually respecting people. If you cannot respect others you need to be asking yourself some very searching questions and perhaps you should reconsider managing people at all until you can respect them.

Community and Cooperation

Funny old world. As I do 'organisation-watching' on the latest episodes in the UK Labour Party leadership election I am struck by how dysfunctional not only they are but how all the UK political parties are. There seems to be no shared sense of community and collaboration even within each party.

This thought was triggered by a clearly partisan piece by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. Toynbee has every right to support whoever she wants. The thought struck me that the piece was more a rail against (Jeremy Corbyn) than a piece in support of her favoured candidate. It didn't sound like the aim was to contribute to bringing the Labour community closer together or to foster collaboration. It's as if it's OK to criticise but not to say that there is good and bad in everything and how can we build on collective strengths.

Oops! I've used a word collective that could provoke a 'He's of the far left' jibe - which I am not! Yet ultimately having a sense of community and cooperation is vital for our complex society work to be able to together for the benefit of all. As I say, this applies to the whole of society and it also applies to the individual organisations within society.

Over twenty years ago the late W Edwards Deming said,

"Everyone must understand the danger and loss to the whole organisation from a team that seeks to become a selfish, independent, profit centre.”

This idea applies to all organisations whether they are businesses, not-for-profits, political parties or the national government. The question for all organisations and especially political parties, in what I regard as a highly dysfunctional political system, is "What is it you are doing to promote a spirit of community and cooperation in the UK?" Selfishness seems to be the rule and encouraged. So how about it? Are you promoting and contributing to a spirit of community and cooperation in your organisation?



Corbyn, Customers and Competitors

The rise in popularity of Jeremy Corbyn in the summer of 2015 during the Labour Party Leadership Election campaign has many lessons for business and indeed all organisations. The first of which is of course that the end consumers, in this case the UK electorate are the ones that matter. That is, the ones with a ‘vote’ on what represents quality to them. Labour MPs thought they were the customers as did the other leadership candidates.

Oops! What a mistake to make under this particular election system.

Apart from moving away from what Labour voters wanted the party to represent, might it have been the failure of Labour to differentiate themselves from the other parties that led to General Election defeats in 2010 and 2015? Was Labour too busy looking inwards or only as far as the competition?

In the chart above any point outside the red dotted decision lines shows a significant move away from the stable performance of the system. In this case the system is the UK General Election turnout. The 2001 turnout is a significant low that called for action. Without getting into a lot more detail at the very least the ‘CEO’ seeing this should have been trying to understand what had happened, including looking at other data.

What the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon and the turnout chart show, I suggest, is among other things that there were many people who could have been attracted to vote for Labour had it been addressing their issues. Might that have been an early warning of UKIP growth in popularity? Whether Labour had the leader and the policies to win the lost elections we will never know for sure.

Now just suppose this represented the customers, service users or consumers of your business or organisation. Would you have sailed blithely on through the clear early warning signal that something had changed? Would you have only been looking only as far as your competition when the market had moved on? Remember how Nokia and Blackberry once dominated their markets? Would you have allowed any of what Dee W. Hock called the four beasts - Ego, Envy, Avarice and Ambition – to have lulled you into a false sense of security? Numbers, used properly do not replace intuition they balance it, with luck helping to avoid trouble - like losing elections!

One Thing Leading to Another?

Whilst reading about the closure of Kids Company I was struck once more by how everything in the world is connected. This is to a greater or lesser extent to be sure. Think of the world as being like the Sudoku above. Each square in the grid is dependent on the others.

Everything in UK society is connected, to a greater or lesser extent. So when the external economic environment changed in 2008 as a result of the bursting of the property bubble and the recession that followed, this affected the economy. This led to bailouts for banks, job losses, etc. Ultimately, whatever the domestic political situation and a whole load more causes and effects, it seems to have led to the UK Government’s austerity programme. I mused that if there were more demand by children needing help as a result of austerity did or should have Kids Company tried to meet that demand? And more importantly instead of everyone blaming everybody else, what can be learned and what action is actually taken to get the children out of poverty or troubled homes?

Because one thing leads to another, that is, there are always consequences or any action, we should not be surprised when things go wrong sometimes. However, that is not a reason for taking actions blindly or carrying on regardless.

So whether it is a personal, business or government decision it helps to take what is called a systemic view, which means looking at the whole situation. A S.W.O.T. and or P.E.S.T.L.E. analysis help to provide a view of the ‘bigger picture’ and so possible consequences. Indeed the field of what has come to be called risk analysis has grown significantly in recent times, which looks at the likelihood and impact of an occurrence. It might be something that all politicians could learn about, not just business people, managers and engineers.

Targets and the Perversity Principle

One of my favourite writers and speakers over the years has been Dr Myron Tribus. His "Perversity Principle" states:

"If you try to improve the performance of a system of people, machines, and procedures by setting numerical goals for the improvement of individual parts of the system, the system will defeat your efforts and you will pay a price where you least expect it."

And he is so right. There is a serious point here for all organisations that is routinely flouted. As a result the unintended consequences that Tribus is referring are occurring all the time.

There are countless examples including the trader in City of London who ran up billions of pounds sterling of losses in order to protect his bonus and the PPI mis-selling scandal. Standard practice for these bonus systems is a numerical target. Individual incentives evoke the wrong mental processes, which are close to those in fight or flight.

The better alternative is profit sharing and everyone in the organisation focused on delivering value to customers.