HM Customs need Exercise

Coming back from Poland the other week, I had the opportunity to compare slick and fantastic customer service in Poland with “GBH” (Great British Hindrance) at London Stansted Airport, now renamed London Standstill Airport. After a two hour flight from Warsaw, it took me a whole hour to clear the UK border due to massive queues at HM Revenue and Customs.

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Having missed an important meeting due to this I decided to track down the management and ask them some questions. I ventured up the stairs to ‘mission control’. The first thing that happened was that I was told I have stepped into a restricted area and asked to walk back down the stairs (there were no restrictions, so these must have been invisible to the common man or woman). Here’s how the conversation unfolded. I was polite but firm.

Me “So, what’s your excuse today then?”

HMRC Manager “What do you mean?”

Me “Well, it’s not like Tescos, there has not been an unpredictable ‘surge in sales of cheese and ham baguettes’ etc. You know exactly how many people are due to come through here at any moment, so what is your excuse for a one hour transit time through customs?”

HMRC Manager “It’s the passengers. We have a high volume of children”

Me “Quel Surprise. Who knew? Please try again”

HMRC Manager “It’s the Government cuts. We have no resources”

Me “I’m sorry, that’s a typical public sector response. It’s the job of management to secure sufficient resources to provide a reasonable service or organise the ones you have to make the service work. You have plenty of resources anyway – you are all sitting up in your office watching the work, whilst very few people actually do the work. Why not have more people doing the work rather than watching it? The machines you invested billions in are not working either. It is management’s job to sort such things out rather than pass the blame to Government”

HMRC Manager “And the staff are not adequately trained”

ME “No sorry, it’s not a training issue. It’s a staffing issue. Your staff are perfectly capable, they are just crumbling under the pressure of inadequate numbers, whilst there are plenty of staff overall, just not enough of them working”

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The queue stretched back almost to our arrival gate – disgraceful incompetence by UK Border Agency

HMRC Manager “Would you like to fill in a complaint form?”

ME “No, I don’t have time to fill in your pointless bureaucracy and that’s just a sop anyway. I’m telling you now so that you can do something about it. In any case I have already taken photos of the problem”

HMRC Manager “I cannot do anything without a complaint form. If you have taken photographs of the booths, we may have to seize your phone and delete the pictures as this is a restricted area”

ME “Is this Russia? I went there in the 1980’s and it wasn’t this bad …. In any case, once again, you are an hour ate. The pictures have already gone on Twitter and are already half way round the world. For anyone coming to the UK, this is a national disgrace. If Tescos operated to such levels of performance, they would be out of business”

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At that point I gave up, fearing that any further attempts to install a continuous improvement culture in HMRC would be met with a ‘rubber glove inspection’.  I am sure that some managers in public services do try, but I’ve yet to find one that does not respond to serious complaints with excuses such as:

It’s the customers’ fault

It’s the Government’s fault

It’s the staff’s fault

Management in public services needs to be much much better, yet there are no ‘carrots’ to do so. The result of improving efficiency is ultimately redundancies. Nor are there any ‘sticks’ for not making things better – it’s almost impossible to get the sack in public services. I was talking to my accountant the other day and he told me it has always been thus. He worked at the Inland Revenue many years ago and was given a verbal warning for ‘overperforming’. He was told “you will never get on here if you work that fast”. He agreed and left shortly after

So, that’s today’s ‘grumpy man’ post. I really do expect better than this and think we must look like a laughing stock to other nations. I don’t think the private sector is the answer to public problems, yet we are stuck with poor performance from many public services and this does not fit with a public that expect their taxes to be used efficiently. Call me a heretic if you will, but the point of travel is ‘motion’ rather than being ‘stationary’. Perhaps it is time for HM Customs to be Exorcised :-) Time for some music Standstill airport:


Peter Cook is author of “The Music of Business” and “Punk Rock People Management” which simplify business leadership, creativity and innovation, strategic thinking and people management for busy people. HM Customs and Exorcise clearly need a lot of help in this area!!

Check out the books at Cultured Llama.

Never Mind The Credit Card

Virgin Money

In a classic piece of disruptive innovation in branding, Virgin Money just introduced a credit card based on the iconic logos of the Sex Pistols’ designs for “Anarchy in the UK” and “Never Mind the Boll….cks, Here’s The Sex Pistols”. Virgin Money’s CEO and Marketing Director were talking with me about the card and you can read all about Virgin’s latest move at Never Mind The Bankers.

“We want to get rid of the bollocks in banking and to be simple, open, transparent and fair”

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Virgin Money’s CEO

As is Sir Richard Branson’s way, Virgin challenges norms, having disrupted British Airway’s cosy relationship with the British Government in the 1980’s when they launched Virgin Atlantic. I’ve been chatting about the credit card concept to people from several walks of life to find out how they see the strategy. It becomes clear that Virgin have succeeded in polarising views from different segments of society:

Some of my “arty” friends are “appalled at the theft of punk’s pure clothes for the purposes of banking”. I guess this is the punk rock version of “Angry of Camden”:

Some of my banking friends are “outraged at the use of street culture to demean the upper class world of banking”. I guess this will soon appear in a letter to the Financial Times from a man or a woman in a bowler hat living in Surbiton:

 

The point of the matter is that Sir Richard Branson has succeeded on every level, gaining publicity through disruptive thinking.

I answer my arty friends thus:

“All good disruption eventually becomes part of the mainstream. Check out the punk fashion in Claire’s Accessories if you don’t believe me”

I answer my banking friends thus:

“It’s about time banking woke up to customers, mainly in terms of substance e.g. convenience, simplicity, but a bit of style would also do no harm”

So, I think this is an incredibly shrewd and clever move on the part of Virgin to cast a shadow on the battleship grey industry that is banking. It’s a marvellous piece of market segmentation that gains publicity and viral value through controversy. Let’s see the masters of controversy in action:

The Virgin Battleship Building – Not Grey

Come to our next masterclass event in Warsaw on 23/24 June, where we’ll be discussing Punk Rock, Disruptive Innovation and The Virgin Way amongst many other things in a day of inspired intelligence and fun. Grab your ticket here.
Peter Cook is author of “The Music of Business” and “Punk Rock People Management” which simplify business leadership, creativity and innovation, strategic thinking and people management for busy people.

Check out the books at Cultured Llama.

Leadership in Poland

We are delighted to be heading to Warsaw on June 23/24 to lead a masterclass event on business leadership mixed with parallel lessons from music.  We are also delivering the keynote address and co-hosting a rock music after party following an exclusive dinner on June 23 at the prestigious Pure Sky Club – Warsaw’s premier business club. Head over to the event website to find all the details.

The event, masterminded by Brian Allan, Malgorzata Krukowska, Filip Sobiecki and Paul Cowen, is to include keynotes, workshops, panel sessions and live music sessions to engage minds, bodies and souls. The dinner reception on the previous evening is an exclusive affair. You are strongly advised to book now if you wish to gain a seat at the Captain’s Table, to network with some of Poland’s greatest business leaders. Sponsorship opportunities are also available at the website.

Purple is my favourite colour and it features strongly at the Pure Sky Club – Pictured Brian, Malgorzata and Paul, owner of the business venue

The Polish Economy is one of the fastest growing in Europe, predicted to grow at between 3-4% over the next few years. Speaking personally I love Poland and the Polish people, having visited several times. I was also blessed to have worked with one of the greatest marketing people on the planet from Poland a few years back, in the form of Magdalena Rotsztejn.

Book now for the exclusive dinner and networking event and the masterclass itself at Leadership in Poland. I’m also available for 1:1 coaching sessions or just for informal discussions on Friday 25th June before I return to UK.

Pure Sky – Pure Leadership – Pure Rock’n’Roll

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Order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business and Music. Or grab a copy of Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll in Polish!

Oh Bondage Up Yours … Punk Rock CEO’s

I had my attention drawn to an article about Tim Eades, a “Punk Rock CEO” in Los Angeles recently – see Tim’s article at Punk Rock Leadership.  Tim started life as a punk in London and more recently took up the role of CEO at vArmour, an LA based security firm. There are some resonances in Tim’s article with my own writings in Punk Rock People Management and it’s even feasible that I may have met Tim, since he seemed to follow punk bands like The Damned. Here’s some parallels we have noted between punk rock and business leadership done as a series of pithy quotes from the artists themselves:

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Come along to our launch party tomorrow June 09 in Kent, featuring The Godfather of Punk, Richard Strange. Richard led proto-punk band The Doctors of Madness and has appeared in Batman, Harry Potter and Robin Hood alongside performances with Tom Waits, Peter Capaldi, Spandau Ballet et al. It will be a great night. Get your tickets at Punk Rock.

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50 Shades of Leadership

A while back, I designed a seminar called “50 Shades of Leadership” for some HR and CIPD people. Before anyone drifts off into the realms of fantasy, the event was about leadership style and not Business Dilemmas, Strategy and Management aka BDSM !! I gather there has been some recent hullabaloo about a film with a similar title to my post so I thought I might as well add to the general level of distraction to the serious business of work at the weekend. But, enough of this frivolity and let’s get it on with some Leadership thinking:

It may be trendy to think that leadership is all about empowerment, but this is just one of the seven styles proposed by Tannenbaum and Schmidt in their Leadership Continuum, ranging from autocratic to empowered leadership. What can we learn from Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s model?

7 Shades of Leadership

1. Leaders need ideally to be adept at using all the styles on the continuum.

2. If they have a deficit in some areas, the next best thing is to hire someone who can deliver the required approach. Better than trying to “fake it”.

3. There are occasions where a “tell” style is appropriate, even if it is not “trendy” in an era where the expectation is to operate towards the right hand side of the continuum. Here’s Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s model as a reminder of the options you have as a leader in any situation.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt's model of Leadership style

Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s model of Leadership style

4. There are other occasions when “empowerment” is either ineffective or downright dangerous. Empowering staff who either don’t know what to do or have no experience of improvisation does not always work when the stakes are high. Paradoxically, empowerment requires strong leadership in terms of creating a shared direction of travel.

5. If you find it hard not to interfere when trying to empower staff, just make sure you are not physically around! Book yourself a holiday or do anything to make it physically difficult to interfere. That does not mean you should not check in occasionally to see how things are going and offer encouragement and coaching if required.

6. If you are trying to use high involvement strategies, remember some people are happy to engage direct, but others may prefer to use remote “nominal” communication mechanisms such as anonymous inputs. Ensure that you enable both means of making suggestions.

7. Do not mix the styles up. For example do not abdicate when you mean to tell people something. Inauthenticity is a killer of leadership credibility.

Just remember that Leadership comes in 50 varieties – well there’s actually only 7 in the model! Use the style that best-fits the situation rather than what’s trendy.

Come along to our Punk Rock Business Event on June 09 in the South East. All kinds of decadent thoughts about leadership, art, business and punk rock will be discussed, but without the use of whips, clips and chains …

Come to our event on disruptive leadership - June 09 - £10 - click on the picture to get yours now - Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography

Come to our event on disruptive leadership – June 09 – £10 click on the picture to get yours now – Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography

50 Shades of HR – Click to hook up with The Cultured Llama

The Music of Business Volume II

I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new edition of “The Music of Business”. Signed copies are available direct – simply mail me at peter@humdyn.co.uk You can also order via Cultured Llama Publishers and all the usual places, or join us at the book launch event – details below. The book fuses MBA level lessons on strategy, creativity, innovation, leadership and change with parallel insights from the world of music. Here’s six themes from the book:

1. What can you learn from life in a rock band that is not taught on an MBA programme? I met with Metro Bank and Innocent Drinks last week and both of them pointed out that they hire for attitude above anything else, in common with Sir Richard Branson and Virgin. Generally speaking MBA programmes are a knowledge factory and don’t work on attitude. I’ve taught MBA programmes for nearly 20 years and worked with bands for longer than that so I’m well qualified to make this statement. The blend of MBA + Attitude is an almost unique combination, Professor Adrian Furnham, author of some 80 books on business psychology had this to say on the fusion:

2. How can you be truly adaptive? People talk of adaptive business and learning organisations but how can you truly develop a business that has chameleon like characteristics without losing the benefits of having a longer term posture? Despite my personal dislike for the Sat Nav in my Prius, Toyota remain an excellent company in terms of innovation and adaptability.

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3. What can we learn from Brian Eno, David Bowie, Jeff Beck and jazz virtuosos about strategies for creativity? Creativity is identified as one of the most important skills for individuals and companies in the 21st century by the IBM study. Simplicity is just one of the hallmarks of what makes for creativity that turns into innovation. Simply stated:

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4. What can we learn about the psychological concept of flow from music? Here’s a snippet from our masterclass on effortless mastery which is available in your company featuring the cello playing of Silvia Impellizzeri.

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From Sicily - Silvia Impellizzeri - City Headhuntress, NLP Master, Cello Player

From Sicily – Silvia Impellizzeri – City Headhuntress, NLP Master, Cello Player

5. When innovating, how can you learn from musical concepts such as dissonance and consonance to help you design products and services better? We explore these and many other concepts in an engaging way without all the business jargon which makes the average business book dull. Larry Eliot at The Guardian and Perry Timms at the CIPD agree:

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6. What can you learn about peak performance and other matters from Prince? I’ve been privileged to meet George Clinton and Sheila E this year, both major influences on Prince and outstanding performers in their own right. Prince seems to have an illuminated view on the theory of constraints.

Prince on improvisation

Image by corporate illustrator Simon Heath @simonheath1


Come to our launch party on the evening of Tuesday June 9th – featuring Richard Strange, Leader of underground proto-punk band The Doctors of Madness, an actor who has appeared in Harry Potter, Batman, Robin Hood and who has performed with Tom Waits, Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who etc.), Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), Marianne Faithful et al. Tickets available only from Book Launch Event, priced £10.

So, get hold of your copies of The Music of Business alongside it’s sister volume Punk Rock People Management. Or book us for a masterclass in your company with a celebrity guest, to make your event unforgettable.

Death Eaters

June 9th AOR

I have the extraordinary pleasure of bringing Richard Strange to Kent on Tuesday June 9th to present an evening of film, music and spoken word at the Sun Pier Arts Centre.  Tickets available at Death Eaters. Here is the former “Doctor of Madness” with “Doctor Who” aka Peter Capaldi and Sarah Jane Morris of The Communards fame and much more. And a rare clip of The Doctors of Madness performing.

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner's Executioner

Richard Strange, Death Eater, Writer, Musician and Kevin Costner’s Executioner

My personal memories of Richard’s wonderful work include regularly missing the last train home and having to sleep on the stairs of Charing Cross Station after Doctors of Madness gigs at The Marquee. At one gig I was hosed down with a fire extinguisher by Captain Sensible of The Damned. An amazing solo gig at Hastings Caves and bizarre evenings at Richard’s Avant Garde Club Cabaret Futura, with Soft Cell, Keith Allen, Blancmange, all guarded by an 11 foot long python which coiled itself at the door to the club.

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

The Marquee in Wardour Street, breeding ground for the underground

What Do I Get?

For just £10 you will be getting:

  • A mildly hilarious set of observations on the parallels between punk rock and business, punctuated by some punk rock riffs and storytelling
  • A rare performance of some of my solo material set in the “retro-futuristic punk ambient” style
  • An interview with Richard Strange plus Q&A opportunities
  • Richard Strange’s one man show, which includes film, music and spoken word
  • A possible appearance by Sarah Jane Morris, solo artist and performer with The Communards
  • An opportunity to meet a Death Eater

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Peter Cook launches “Punk Rock People Management” and a brand new version of “The Music of Business” at the event with Richard Strange.   Get your ticket for Punk Rock Biz.

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