Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sold out - I’ve become an Amazon affiliate.

I think there is another reason I’ve been blogging a lot which I didn’t mention in the last entry. I’ve told you before I’m now a Product Manager, actually I’m a the product manager for my companies support portal, where customers can log issues, track them, download information on the product etc. This is a web based product and has not only increased my interest in just how the internet is working these days but also how you can get the most from it.

Sometimes the best way to learn about something is to be there. I’ve had a website for years, and sometimes I even get a lot of visitors but things have changed on the web. Some are emerging trends (e.g, social networking sites like LinkedIn, some are new ways of doing things (like RSS) and some have just got stronger (like Google and Blogging.)

So now I Blog I understand it more. I now see the blog and my website as complementary, and I feel I need to make more of my home on the web. For this reason I’ve decided to become an Amazon affiliate and let people buy books via my website.

There are other reasons too. I don’t expect to make a lot (if any!) money from this but I’m interested to see how it works and if it works. And, picking up my theme of feedback, I’m interested in this as a form of feedback.

I’m not really proud that I’m affiliated to Amazon. They aren’t my favourite website or internet retailer but they are the one I do most business with. Perhaps 80% of everything I buy on the web is through Amazon.

I don’t like them because I don’t approve of their employment practices (anti-union), and I’ve never really gotten over their scam where they used cookies to charged existing customers more than new customers - so much for loyalty! And I guess, like a lot of people I want to stick up for the under-dog a bit.

So, I would actually prefer to do business with Blackwells. When I lived in the USA I used to use Powells. Both of these are good wholesome book retailers. So why don’t I use them?

I don’t use Powells because I don’t live in the US any more.

I don’t use Blackwells because their website isn’t actually very good: they don’t have wish lists, they don’t have multiple addresses available and you can’t check the status of your order so well. On the other hand, I can spend hours browsing in Blackwells shop on Charing Cross Road - unfortunately I don't have the time to do this as often as I would like.

But most of all Amazon is cheaper. I’m prepared to pay a bit more to support the under dog but I’m not prepared to pay more and receive poor services.

And if I’m not prepared to shop elsewhere myself why should I ask people referred from my website to put up with it?

So that’s why.

My intention is to add books to my recommended list when I think they are good. Some of these I’ve already read so I’ll build up the back catalogue and as I read new ones I’ll add them if I think they deserve it.

For a while now I’ve been a fan of the book recommendations of GBN - this is another good place to find books. For those of you who don’t know about GBN they are an interesting company, although I know them more by reputation than by direct experience - maybe I’ll meet them one day.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Why blog so much? - the importance feed back

I seems to have been blogging a lot more in the last couple of weeks than I was to start off with. I’m not completely sure why I blog at all, I have some ideas and one day I’ll write more about “why” but for now I can answer the easier question: Why have I blogged so much lately?

Well partly its because I have things I want to say and when I think them through they make sense as a small piece of writing. As anyone who knows me will know I usually do have things to say, but the second part, about actually writing it down as a short piece is new, its a skill I’m getting better at now I’ve started doing it more regularly.

That’s the first part of the answer: because I can.

The second part goes back to something I mentioned a couple of weeks ago: the importance of feedback. A couple of things have happened lately to give me feedback on my blog.

First, I (finally) got around to getting myself an RSS reader (Mozilla Thunderbird - damn good mail client and RSS reader, highly recommended) so I’ve been exploring all that jazz. Its great, I now see just how important RSS is, this may be a small simple thing but it is really important. I can remember when PointCast first started doing push news and everyone thought this was big. Now we’ve reduced it to a commodity - and an Open Source one at that.

Second, a couple of people I know actually told me they where reading my blog! Shock horror, someone actually pays attention to something I write. That makes me feel good, they wouldn’t read it, let alone tell me they read it, if I was writing complete rubbish.

So there you go. Two feedback mechanisms that are reinforcing what I’m doing, makes me feel good about it, tells me I’m on the right path.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Holidays – take one, get one free

Monday is a public holiday in Britain, not sure why but it is and I’m glad. We all need a break from time to time and the odd extra day off is well worth it.

Software development tends to be organized as projects with clear start and end dates – that’s not to say the end date doesn’t change but there is one. This is the thing about projects they do start and end, programmes on the other hand just go on and on. Many jobs are like that, they just go on and on, think of shop assistants or cleaners, these jobs just are.

But many modern jobs are organized as projects, you have one project, when that is done you do another, then another and so on. Its never a good time to take holiday, what every project your working on seems to be in danger of slipping.

Then when the project does finish – and quite often they finish late – you need a break. But timetabling your break when a project is near the end (or slipping) can be difficult.

And often when you do end the company aren’t ready to put you back into the trenches on another project. For one thing, they can’t start another project if the one before it is slipping, and do you want to divert people from one project to another before it starts?

So, for these reasons – and more – I’ve always thought it would be a good idea if companies encouraged people to take their holidays right after a project finishes. Of course companies try this but “encourage” often just means an e-mail saying “Please take your holiday...” why not put their money where their mouth is and offer you extra holiday?

Taking holiday after a project makes lots of sense: people get to unwind, they get to clear their mind of the last project, they get refreshed and ready to start again. For the company it means people start back fresh and they don’t have those days in between projects where they are coming into the office and trying to be busy.

Pick your ratio: take one get one free, or, one extra day for every three taken. This is real encouragement and presents a win-win.

But! - I hear you scream - The cost!

Well, companies carry the cost of holidays not taken on their books – its something they owe you, so your taking it actually improves profitability in the accounts.

Lost productivity? How productive are you really in the week after a major project finished? Usually not a lot, your going through the motions of coming into the office so the company won’t loose much.

And if you know you can get some extra holiday at the end maybe it will motivate you to meet the schedule. Maybe it will offset some of those late nights you pulled to get it done.

Now my question to you dear reader: does company you know actually do this? I love to hear of some examples.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is it ever right to create barriers to competition?

Ultimately any company is in business to satisfy some customer need. Sometimes we say we are in business to satisfy a customer want, this might be a game a semantics, “want” versus “need” – the same or different?

To my mind a “want” is something less than a “need” – I need a new pair of shoes, but I want a pair of Adidas trainers (sneakers to any American out there). Actually, for many people in modern society the concept of real need is rare, for example, I have several pairs of shoes, and I usually replace them long before they are unwearable so the concept of me needing a pair of shoes is subjective. But I digress... back to what I was saying.

Another way to phrase the ultimate business objective is: we are in business to solve some customer problem.

Whether we are solving a problem for a customer, or providing them with something they need we are able to charge money for the product or service. We have some ability that the customer lacks – either through choice or circumstance – and they are prepared to pay for us to solve it.

Now this leads me to ask: Is it ever right to create a barrier to competition?

I'm not talking about a moral question here, just a practical one.

If we are in business to solve a problem or satisfy a need then taking time out to create a barrier to the customer going elsewhere is a diversion. Surely we should concentrate on the matter in hand?

Yet we often hear talk about companies creating barriers to entry, barriers to switching, barriers to competition – these ideas are contained in books, business literature and taught in business school.

But do barriers create value?

At the moment I can only see them detracting value from the customer. They might create value for the supplier but we should remember to count the cost of creating the barrier. And that begs the question: could the same resources have been used better elsewhere? – improving the product say.

Lets turn the question around: if I’m a competitor and I come across a barrier constructed by my competitor should I spend time and money over coming this barrier? Perhaps, given my comments above the answer is obvious: No, don’t bother, find out what the customer actually wants, improve your product or service, you’ll better match their need – and as a side effect you’ll create a different kind of barrier to the other guy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Terminal 5 is Lean

wMy local airport is Heathrow. Fortunately I’m not so close that I hear the planes so its mostly upside benefit, on a good day I can leave my place, get the tube to the airport, check-in (or what passes for check-in in these days of online and self-service checking) and through security in under and hour – not bad.

Anyway, I didn’t raise the subject of Heathrow to sing the praises of my house. The airport is in the middle of a major expansion with the construction of a fifth terminal – Terminal 5, this is due to increase the airports capacity by something close to 50%.

The project is massive, to give you some idea, the smaller of the two buildings is bigger than the existing Terminal 4, there are 13.5km of tunnels in the project and its going to cost about £4.2bn – or £4,200,000,000 – about $6.7bn.

For me there is something even more interesting about T5: the project is Lean. The team building the project have borrowed a lot of ideas and techniques from the lean production movement – also called Toyota Production System and best known for just-in-time production.

The owners of Heathrow are BAA (British Airports Authority as they used to be known) and they know Terminal 5 is risk, so risky it could sink the company. They also know their core-competence is running an airport. So, current management theory you would expect them to sub-contract this project to someone like Bechtel. But they didn’t, they took the attitude: this is so big a risk we have to manage it ourselves.

Because T5 is being built within the existing Heathrow perimeter space is at a premium. So stock is held offsite or brought direct from the supplier. There is only 24 hours of materials on site at any one time, if there is a delay it will be noticed quickly. Even if you had more space it might not be that useful, there is only one road in and out of the site.

When they came to raise the roof they took all the parts and sub-contractors to a large field and had a dry run. They then took it apart, took it to Heathrow and did it for real. now that’s real team building and training.

Then there is bonus payments: these are pooled, all sub-contractors share a bonus pool so there is an incentive to work together not waste time throw blame around. And if there is an unseen problem to solve, well that’s paid for out of the bonus pool too.

I could go one but I’ll leave you to read more yourself. There is a good piece in the Economist this week, and from last year’s Economist. Pieces crop up elsewhere, like the BBC’s In Business radio programme so keep your eyes and ears open.

What’s really interesting here is the way lean is breaking out of the production system. it came from car production, I know it in software and its gaining ground in the construction industry (check out Last Planner and the Lean Construction Institute.) For years people have pointed to the construction industry and said “they know how to plan and deliver” – thing is they don’t. How often is a construction project late and over budget? And unlike in software when you construction project goes wrong people get killed.

I used to think that the software industry took wrong turning somewhere about 1970. It decided to follow big Methodologies and project planning. I’m starting to wonder if the whole world took a wrong turn.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

More inspired by that book

Last time I promised to tell you where John Seely Brown and John Hagel’s book “The Only Sustainable Advantage” got it right. To put it simply: growing capabilities, growing people.

You might be able to get competitive advantage from low labour costs but how do you keep this advantage? It seems there is always someone out there who will work for less.

You might get a competitive advantage from some special resource, say a good location on the high street, or the world’s only green-kryptonite mine but what if the internet makes the high street obsolete? And what if someone finds a substitute for green-kryptonite?

But if your advantage is in growing your capabilities things are different. This is essentially the ability to renew yourself. This is saying: what ever we do well today we will do better tomorrow but more importantly, we will have improved ourselves. At its heart this is about improving your people, making people more capable, making them better learners, making them happy with change.

To my mind this is what managers should be doing, everyone is an HR manager, everyone is a teacher, everyone a coach. I hate it when I see managers in meetings discussing release schedules, or resource allocation, or quality. They shouldn’t be doing this, they should be creating an environment where this stuff just happens.

(OK, I’ve used that awful word: resource, they are not resources! They are people! And what of the Human Resource Department - what an awful description Human? Resources? What ever happened to Personnel departments, lets put the people back in business.)

Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff happens on the quiet. Managers need to spend time one-on-one with people, coaching them, listening to them, helping them develop. And they need to spend time with their teams, helping the teams reach common understandings, common purposes, helping the teams see how they can improve.

But maybe this stuff doesn’t look very productive to you. 3 hours spent in a team discussion? Doesn’t sound productive does it? Surely they should be reorganizing people, moving Fred from one team to another, reallocating resources, planning, making, strategising.

I see this in software development organizations. Managers have to be seen to be doing something. So, I see Joe get promoted to Team Leader, at first he still wants to spend time cutting-code – after all you can do this team leading in the afternoons can’t you? Sometimes Joe doesn’t want to give up coding really, or Joe doesn’t know what to do, or Joe thinks spending time in meetings is a waste, so Joe just keeps on coding – they shy away from really leading the team.

Or Joe starts managing: goes to lots of meeting with product managers, spends time talking to other managers about “process” and “quality” and “new products” so he doesn’t have much time to team lead either but he is “managing” because he spends so much time with other managers. And when one project starts to fall behind schedule Joe moves Fred from one that is ahead onto the one that is behind. He’s managing.

But, what can the team do now that it couldn’t before Joe was promoted? How is it better off?

What I say is: Joe should be concentrating on his team, building the teams shared-vision, shared-values and responsibilities. Helping the individuals on the team learn and improve.

Joe (and his fellow managers) could produce a quality guide, a coding standard, and even a project plan. But who’s are these? These belong to the managers, they are imposed on others. Yet if Joe spends his time helping his team devise these they will believe these ideals and they will be capable of doing more themselves.

That’s capability building.

And yes, in the long run I think JSB and Hagel are right, it is the only real competitive advantage.

There is a catch though. Its a good catch, perhaps the best there is. To do this you need to do it personally, you need to have a good attitude, personal confidence, empathy with your people and time, lots of time. That’s hard. Its relatively easy for me (or you) to see the problem, agree the solution, but to actually do it? That’s hard.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Books, learning & JSB

I finished the last entry recommending some books. Books are good. Books give you ideas. Books tell you what other do. Books contain analysis.

Books reading a book isn’t learning. Only if you act on the information in the book have you learnt anything, otherwise, well, you may have memorised a fact or two, or maybe it was just a hypothesis, or someone’s opinion. So, all those books I recommended last time on change, well, unless you internalise what they say and change yourself there is no real difference.

And the problem with books is, its too easy to read and read and read and not do. I’m guilty of this too... if I just read one more book I’ll know the answer.... if I just read that book everything will be explained.... and so on, yes I’ve done it. I’ve read when I should have been acting. Conversely, I’ve also acted when I should have read first.

(That is one of the things to remember if you ever think about doing an MBA. There is no “secret information” that an MBA will teach you. Of course, lots of people like to tell you that if you have a Harvard MBA, or a Kellogg MBA, or even a Nottingham MBA, then you will have the “secret information” which automatically entitles you to membership of the McKinsey club, or the CFO club – or what ever club it is you want to join.)

The book I’m reading at the moment is co-authored by one of my favourite business writers: John Seely Brown (or JSB for short). I mentioned this book the other week after I read the FT review of it, it is: “The Only Sustainable Advantage” by JSB and John Hagel.

Yes, I took a diversion between the review and this book to read another JSB book but that was my accident, I found it while I was trying to buy this one. The two books demonstrate something I’ve noticed with JSB’s work, he’s a bit inconsistent. Most of his stuff is really good and well worth reading, but then, once in a while, he produces something that is just not up to the same standard.

“Only Sustainable Advantage” is one of his lesser works. It has some good ideas, and some good research, and I couldn’t agree more with his main argument but in other places I find inconsistency or faulty assumptions.

If you want the good news, hang on, I’ll tell you in the next blog entry. For now I want to talk about something I think he’s got wrong. In chapter 3vthey argue that firms must choose to specialise, they must choose to be either: an Infrastructure management business, or Product innovation and commercialization company, or a customer relationship business.

OK, I can see some logic here, this sounds reasonable. And it you remember that other parts of the book talk about outsourcing and offshoring (more on that another day) then it fits in with the argument.

But hang on: what business ever survived without customers? Surely every business needs to specialise in customer relationships? Yes, some might be better at selling than other, some may even specialise in things like market research, but every (good) business needs to have a strong customer relationship function.

Later in the same chapter they site the example of American OEM (original equipment manufacturers) computer manufactures. These are the guys who badge equipment made by others. They got to be “badge engineers” because the outsourced their manufacturing to EMS (electronic manufacturing services) companies.

Over time OEMs also decided to outsource their equipment design – this time to ODMs (original design manufacturers.) Now at this point we have the 3-way split they described: OEMs look at customers, while ODMs focus on product and EMS manufacture them. But...

The authors go on to tell how ODMs flourished because they combined design with manufacture. So some of them are now doing product and manufacturing?

One of the examples cited in BenQ a Taiwanese firm that until a few weeks ago wasn’t very well know. It was an ODM, and later an EMS too. The reason you may have heard of them recently is that they bought Siemens mobile handset division. They’ve added OEM to their range. Surely, if we believe JSB & Hagel they are doing the opposite of what they should be doing.

So, why did BenQ buy Siemens? I don’t know, I’d have to ask BenQ executives but I can make some guesses: they want to get closer to customers, they wanted to own the brand, they wanted to take more of the total profit.

The brand owner is in a position to squeeze their suppliers and steal their profits because they own the customer relationship. And because they are close to the customer they know (or at least should know) what it is the customer wants.

Where does this leave the 3-way split described by JSB and Hagel? Well, I think it could work, for some companies, at some times it may make sense. But business is dynamic so while this formula may work for a while it won’t work forever.

The other use of the 3-way split is as a model to compare yourself to. What if your organization was to concentrate on one of these three? What would it look like? What would you change? How would it improve profitability?

Next time I promise to write on what JSB has got right in this book, and I may even fill you in on their thoughts on offshoring – they raise some interesting points.

Anyway, it must be a good book, it made me think!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More change

I’ve had my first comment on my Blog - bit of a thrill, it means someone is reading me! (Actually, this is not my first comment, my old friend Dave made a comment earlier-on of the “here you are kind” but this is my first serious comment.)

Over the years I’ve had comments from time about my writing in Overload and before that I used to get actual letters about my contributions to BBC Telesoftware, each time it says “your doing something right - somebody noticed it.”

And here in lies another important lesson for anyone involved in change. Tell people! Give them feedback, let them know there on the right road. When you try and do something new for the first time - or even the second - your not sure what your doing. You have doubts - “am I doing it right?” you think, “is it good enough?” and other such similar comments. How do you know unless someone tells you?

So, when your introducing new ideas and change remember to tell people when they are getting it right, and when they are not... that’s more difficult, you need to let them know without activating their defences.

Now I should point out that I’m not an expert in change. Sure I’ve introduced some change into organizations, and I’ve even helped one or two people change, and I may have read a lot about it but that doesn’t make me an expert.

In fact, I’m not sure who is an expert.

An academic might consider himself or herself an expert in the theory of change but what about the practice?

A management consultant may think of himself or herself as an expert, they go from company to company introducing change. But true change is change that sticks, how often do consultants leave and things go back to the way they where? Or even worse, the consultants go and things fall apart. Consultants don’t live with their changes so they don’t know the full story.

I don’t know who the experts are but I know that anyone with some responsibility needs to know a bit about change. So, I thought I’d recommend some reading.

First is the book always recommend when this subject comes up; “Fearless Change” (Manns and Rising, 2004). This is a book of short pattern for introducing change.

Second is a favourite of mine, “The Fifth Discipline: the art and practice of a learning organization” (Senge, 1990). OK, so there is no change in the title but it is about learning and as I’ve said before true learning requires change and vice versa.

Third, well this is a cheat, I keep running across the Satir change model - type that into Google and take your pick of the references. Its a cheat because I’ve not actually read a book dedicated to this subject but I should.

Finally, “Making Sense of Change Management” (Cameron and Green, 2005). This book is a bit dry, a bit an academic textbook but it will get you familiar with several of the “change models” and alert you to some of the issues involved.

But in a way, all these books are theoretical. Unless you live the change, unless you are there acting with it you don’t understand it. Models are just that, a model, an abstraction, they don’t tell you what to do. At the end of the day you have to find your own solution.

Sure these books might give you a few new options but you have to be able to act on them. That is a very human thing and what works for someone else may not work for you.

As for me, well, I’ll keep writing my blog and living my changes so I’ll keep commenting on them. And in so doing I’ll be telling you stories, I hope you find them interesting and maybe even useful.

Cameron, E. and Green, M. 2005 Making Sense of Change Management, Kogan Page, London.

Manns, M. K. and Rising, L. 2004 Fear Less - And Other Patterns for Introducing New Ideas into Organizations, Addison-Wesley,,

Senge, P. 1990 The Fifth Discipline, Random House Books.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Patterns and story telling

As I said last time I’ve been flying a lot, and that’s given me time to read. The book that I’ve been reading most is “Story Telling in Organizations: Why Storytelling is transforming 21st century organizations and management” by Larry Prusak, John Seely Brown, Stephen Denning and Katalina Groh.

Prusak is best know for his work on Knowledge Management and this is how he came to story telling. I’ve been reading John Seely Brown for a few years now and I highly recommend any of his writing. Stephen Denning I came across a couple of years ago in his “The Springboard” which is also about story telling in organizations. Katalina Groh is a film market who is new to me.

So, picking up from where I left off last time, according to Larry Prusak, story telling is what Louis Gerstner did when he took over IBM, Prusak goes on to suggests that this is what many leader actually do. They tells stories: how the company has failed, how they are going to fix it, what the new company will look like.

Go back to what I said last time about moving house and the need to take uncertainty out of the future. We don’t really want to move house, we like it where we are, only when we can see the story of our new lives, in our new house does the future look less scary. Only then can we start to think about letting go of our past.

Groh makes this point, how we need to let go of our past, let go of control so we can experience the future. Its something I’ve written about before (see the Need to Unlearn) but Groh weaves it in with story telling.

Now to pick up one of my regular themes: Patterns.

I think there is a link between Patterns (Alexander, Coplien, Vlissides, PLoPs, etc.) and stories. I’ve been pointing this out to anyone who will listen for a while now, and I’ve been basing this on what Denning wrote in “The Springboard” but having read “Storytelling in Organizations” I’m more convinced than every.

I intend to write more about his in future - probably in the prelude to some pattern paper, most likely for EuroPLoP 2006 but I’ll preview my reasoning here.

Patterns are really stories. If you look at the work of Alexander, Rising and even my own recent stuff you find that the patterns start with a short example - actually a story. This serves to set the scene. Prepares the reader. Then the pattern goes on to explore this subject more completely, analysing it, extracting the forces and context, describing the problem and how it was solved. Then they describe what happened afterward, maybe by revisiting the story or by telling some more.

My patterns still have an explicit formalism. As much as I’d like you to be able to read them without the section signposts I’m not a good enough writer. Also, I like the way the section heading tell you what the pattern is doing. Alexander, Rising and others are more experienced writers who write in a more prose like style.
If you read the work of Dick Gabriel he talks of patterns and poetry - poetry is just special form of story telling.

Both Patterns and Stories are about communicating knowledge. They communicate not just information but the context in which it was used and the action that took place around it. Anyone familiar with my writings and presentations knows I think knowledge must involve action. In the case of stories and patterns there is action embedded. Neither of them is happy to say “75% of successful companies segment their market” but both of them would say “By segmenting their market SuperShopper was able to better serve their cost conscious customers and quality conscious customers” - and both add that research shows this is common for 75% of all firms as an after thought.

Both Patterns and Stories are about change. Patterns show how forces are resolved and brought into balance, stories show how a problem was overcome

In both mediums less is more, there is a value to brevity. This allows the message to be communicated quickly and for the reader to see themselves in the story. OK, for patterns I’m going out on a limb a bit by saying this. Many people want patterns to include all the relevant information but I increasingly think brevity is an asset.
Good patterns and good stories pull the reader in, the reader can imagine themselves there. That’s why good patterns aren’t news, they name and explore something you already know.

Both are rooted in practice. John Seely-Brown and Stephen Denning make this point and it is critical to pattern writing where the “rule of three examples” is used a test. As such both are less concerned with original ideas and more concerned with what people do.

Good stories should stimulate your own thought processes and stories. In this way the story and the pattern are part of a gift culture. This is obvious to anyone who has ever taken part in a PLoP conference.

Something else which is less obvious. Patterns are of the greatest benefit to the writer. I’ve only come to realise this recently but my friend Klaus Marquardt tells me he’s been arguing this for a while so I’ve probably picked it up from him.

How does this fit with stories? Several of the writers in this book make the point that the most effective stories are the ones which connect with the listener. The listener can associate with the story and see themselves there; perhaps the story connects with something that happened to them or their family, perhaps the story tells them about something they would like to happy, perhaphs it describes their house, their software or their company.

This is why less is more. Too much detail in a story - or a pattern - makes it too specific. It ceases to be a story or a pattern and instead becomes a description of something that happened. Put it another way: it becomes just information “We went there, took a left, went there, drove a few miles” and in so doing looses the capacity to communicate actions.

Now one place where maybe the story and the pattern parallel fails is the element of story telling. Stephen Denning makes the point that it is the telling of the story that makes it powerful, not the content. I’ve yet to work out where this fits in with patterns but one explanation is that patterns are too focused on the story not the telling. And that might be why so few people actually read and use patterns.

As I say, don’t take that as truth, I’m still thinking that one through.

Bottom line: I'm increasingly conviced patterns are a form of story telling, the authors of this new books would learn a lot from getting to know the patterns community.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Travelling, houses and Change

In this weeks blog: business travel, selling and buying houses and insights into change. So on with the show...

No blog entry for a little while because I’ve been travelling - business travelling, not in business class you understand (although thank you British Airways for the upgrades to Economy+) but travelling for business. Now I don’t want to turn into one of those people who is always talking about frequent flyer miles, and comparing airports - heaven forbid I start to sound like Tyler Brule (FT columnist and Wallpaper editor) but I thought I would explain the absence of a blog.

Actually, one of the nice things about flying (or other travelling) is that you do get some time to catch up on reading and even writing - albeit at the expense of sleep. So, this is the first blog entry I’ve ever written while sitting in the back of an Airbus.

Unfortunately this travelling has all happened at a bad time. I’ve been saying for years that I would like to do a little bit more business travel but I expected the fun would ware off very quickly. Well, I’ve been proved right, this is my fourth flight in 8 days (including two across the Atlantic) and there are another three in the next two days. The fun has gone very quickly.

Its come at a bad time for another reason too. We’re in the process of trying to move house. Suddenly, the time I should be spending looking at houses and discussing financial options has gone. Which all adds to the stress of selling my flat and finding a house.

Selling my flat is a pretty sad emotional process. I’ve had it over 8 years now and my girlfriend has been living there with me for nearly 2 years. I don’t want to leave. I love the place, I’ve made it my own, made it my home. She’s pretty attached to the place too.

Knowing we needed somewhere bigger was part of the story. Knowing our future life together demanded somewhere else was part too. But trying to just give up something we both love was hard.

Then we started to look at other places. And as it happened we liked the first place we saw. I think we’ll buy it but don’t count your chickens yet. Now we’ve seen a few places, and we’ve talked about how we would make them our attitude has changed.

Selling my place is still sad, and its still a wrench, but now we have a future. We have something to look forward to. Something to pull us.

So here is the insight into change - whether it be personal or corporate...

Change mean giving things up. This is hard, if you like something, if you are familiar with something it is hard to imagine life without it, it is hard to imagine a new life. And of course, there is a whole load of uncertainty - what does the future hold? You know what is what before the change, what will it be like afterward? Is this as good as it gets? Is everything else inferior?

But, when you have a future to look forward to, when some of the uncertainty is removed, when you can start to imagine a better life, well, everything becomes easier.

Its not enough to ask people to give something up, you need to offer them a better future. That is my insight for the week.

How do you offer someone a better future? Well, you can start by telling stories. More on that next time.