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.

ima-12

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”

11393197_10153461173217754_8921094394816819432_n

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”

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 13.43.10

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’. Read the comments on this post. I am far from alone in my experience. 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 fewer jobs. 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.

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:

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 11.09.53

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 23.06.35

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 23.21.28

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 23.28.53

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 21.08.00

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 23.38.37

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 11.10.14

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 23.47.26

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 11.18.02

Anarchy in the UK

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 13.53.39I’m delighted to announce a groundbreaking once in a lifetime event that examines Punk Rock as a “disruptive innovation” and crosses this over to the world of work.

Come to our special event on Tuesday June 9th evening in Kent, where I will be speaking on punk rock and disruption and working alongside The Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange.  Richard has worked with Jack Nicholson, The Sex Pistols, Martin Scorsese, The Damned, Spandau Ballet, Sophia Loren, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithful, Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn, as well as appearing in Harry Potter, Batman, Mona Lisa, Men Behaving Badly, Robin Hood and Gangs of New York.  The event will feature keynotes, interviews, film and a cameo music performance of Richard’s work across 38 years from The Doctors of Madness and beyond.

I will be launching the 2nd edition of Punk Rock People Management – my anti-establishment book about the establishment at the event.  Expect some irreverent and possibly irrelevant ramblings about the crazy world of work, punctuated by a few punk rock riffs. I will perform some ambient music soundscapes from my basement and may also accompany Richard on a few numbers from his canon of work with The Doctors of Madness.

Tickets are just £10 and strictly limited in numbers via Punk Rock.  Get yourself a copy of the ludicrously short but succinct book Punk Rock People Management – A manifesto for faster and better humane relations via The Cultured Llama.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.44.09

Sex and Pay and Rock’n’Roll

Introducing Ian Davidson, a compensation and rewards specialist with a difference.  Ian worked on the MBA programme with me some years back and approached me recently for an interview for his own podcast.  This episode contains a number of fascinating insights on rewards and remuneration, which drive the UK’s economic position in the world:

  • Banking remuneration – Comments on the UK banking standards report
  • Executive Pay – discussion on the MM&K survey on Executive Pay
  • Strong Analytics – using and presenting reward data
  • Rewards in the Middle East
  • Oh, and a live interview with me ! 🙂

Here’s Ian’s podcast.  Click on the picture to listen in.

Sex, Reward and Rock'n'Roll

Sex, Reward and Rock’n’Roll – Click to listen

Ian is a commercially astute, passionate, MBA qualified Compensation & Benefits specialist.  With a sustained record of success within financial services over 15 years, Ian is a nationally recognised expert in reward.  He is currently looking for a role in a commercially driven organisation in London and or the South East.  Contact him if you have such a position by e-mail at administrator@mauritius.demon.co.uk

And whilst we’re on finance and reward, here’s the video from Fiscal Cliff, a hard rock anthem about hard times and the hard rock to recovery.  Feel free to share the video, comment on it and download the single, available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play etc..  It will be the first time a hard rock economics anthem has reached the charts !

Pomp, Circumstances, Kings, Queens and Punks

The kids are alright – at the Jubilee Concert – Picture by Baroness Ella Melitta

The Royal Jubilee celebrations afforded a rare moment of relaxation to reflect on the pomp and circumstance of such ceremonies.   However ‘punk and circumstances’ contrived to fill some of that time, after we were asked to do a last minute gig with Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.  In case you missed Carter, here’s The Only Living Boy In New Cross:

I had not really noticed Carter USM when they appeared on the indie punk music scene in 1988.   Razor sharp lyrics that reminded me of Jarvis Cocker and Richard Strange’s skills in this area.  Indeed it seems that Jim Bob is something of an admirer of Mr Strange.  In case you fancy catching up with Richard Strange’s work, you can catch him talking about the moment when the Sex Pistols asked to support The Doctors of Madness at ‘Punk Britannia’ on BBC 4 for a few weeks at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00s81jz/Punk_Britannia_PrePunk_19721976/

Watching the Jubilee river procession and its awe inspiring £32 Million bill made me think of the pomp and circumstance of Rock’s most expensive moments in the name of branding.  Let’s sample a few of them:

The moment when Michael Jackson floated a statue of himself down the River Thames – a cool bill of 50 Million dollars for the ‘HIStory’ album that went with it:

Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ video – just a ‘modest 5 Million Dollars’ in 1988 by comparison:

Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody video weighs in at a rock bottom price of £4500 in 1974 – that’s about £43 K in today’s terms:

So, here’s the tough question on enduring brand value.  Which of these do you consider will have the longest-term impact on society?

The Queen – £32 Million (2012)

The King of Pop – Michael Jackson – £50 Million (adjusted for 2012)

The Queen of Pop – Madonna – £7.2 Million (adjusted for 2012)

Queen – £43 K (adjusted for 2012)

If you are looking to spend a more modest sum for the Jubilee, M&S report that they have introduced a range of retro underwear (that’s in the sense of yesteryear, not pre-loved 🙂 )for the Jubilee.  For even less money you can get a free copy of Punk Rock People Management from me.  Simply click on one of the M&S women and get your copy for FREE.

Retro underwear from M&S for the Jubilee – hurry now to get yours before it rains again

A Rock’n’Roll Christmas – Part 1

Rockin' all over the world

This year I have been blessed to meet some fantastic people around the blogging universe.  They have kindly offered to send me a Christmas message, so here for your delight are some Rock’n’Roll life and business coaching tips taken from a magical mystery tour round the world:

We start out journey close to my home in London: Meet Doug Shaw, author of Stop Doing Dumb Things to Customers, who indulges me with a bit of punk rock.  “Joe Strummer taught me to be ‘anti-ignorance’ and for sharing ‘Without People You’re Nothing’

Doug also offered us the example of Neil Ellwood Peart from the supergroup Rush – for his ability to recover from personal tragedy and his endless thirst for improvement.  A class act.  Lest we forget:

We must rush on … to platform 9 and ¾ at Kings Cross to join The Flying Scotsman.  We are met in Edinburgh by Colin Millar, aka The Ranting Scotsman.  Colin cranks it up with a leadership lesson from classic rock:  Queen’s ‘One Vision, One Mission’.

Colin rants “The title and lyrics say it all and I think it’s a great message for business people – ‘One Vision’ is first and foremost about the ‘vision’ and extrapolating what that vision is and the unity vision creates, bringing people and cause together.  I also like the concept of ‘consensus in eden’ that runs through the song”.

From a big country we then take a passage to India, to hear from Sonia Jaspal, who focuses on the power of music to create and maintain emotions.  She says “I think without music, the world would lose the most beautiful power of expressive emotions. It touches the depth of our soul. I am still a person that when I listen to some of the softer numbers I have tears in my eyes. Yeah, I need a box of tissues while watching some movies.   Also, without music, one would lose most of the inspirations in life. When one listens to beautiful music it somewhere resonates deep within. It has the capacity to change emotions and thinking.

Sonia’s favorite song is from an Hindi movie titled Safar (Journey). The song is ‘Zindagi Ka Safar’ (Life’s journey) sung in Kishore Kumar.  It is portrayed via an actor suffering cancer.   He is singing the song:

Moving on to Canada, home of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion and Francois Guay, who leads the Attack Defend Disrupt blog.  His choice of music that offers us a lesson in life or business is ‘More than a Feeling’ by Boston:

Francois takes up the story “This song contains my favourite guitar riff ever.“ Editor’s note – I can sign up to that!  “Although most people see it as a man disappointed in a having lost someone he loved, the song to me is all about reaching your goal, i.e. When you achieve one of your key goals that is “more than a feeling” it’s sublime and must be reproduced again and again.”  Seems like a lot of people agree that music inspires us to focus on and reach our goals.

Back to Blightly to meet Alison Chisnell, HR Director of Informa and author of The HR Juggler.  Alison’s song with a message is Billy Joel’s ‘All About Soul’.  She takes up the story:  “The context is that as an idealistic 18 year old, I had just begun a six month stint working in a children’s home in Zimbabwe as part of my gap year and in the early days I felt isolated, homesick and terrified that I had made the wrong decision. This song resonated as a reminder to commit fully to the adventure I was experiencing, to bring my values and passion to the task at hand, to ‘man-up’ and become more resilient and to accept that standing up and being counted was and is a good thing. Bland is rarely, if ever, good….so don’t be afraid to be you and get stuck in! Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean that it won’t be hugely rewarding.”

Staying on the theme of soul, we finish with Sharon Howard, who offers us lessons in life and business from Bill Withers about the importance of delegation, support and asking for help. We all need the help of others in order to succeed and they need us too, we all need somebody to lean on 🙂 A truly inspirational piece:

Coming up, we have more stories from bloggers and cool people all round the world.

Hope you have a Rock’n’Roll Christmas! – if you have not yet treated yourself to a free copy of my new micro book ‘Punk Rock People Management’, get an electronic copy by mailing me at peter@humdyn.co.uk.  I look forward to hearing your comments on this blog, suggesting other songs that have meaning for you.

Have a great Punk Rock Christmas - Click on the picture for the free book - Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography http://lindsaywakelinphotography.com/

Breadline Britain: Vince Cable, Economics and Rock’n’Roll

I had the good fortune to meet The Rt. Hon. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills the other week, where we discussed economics (but no sex or Rock’n’Roll 🙂 )  The recent public sector strikes and the general mood of the nation reminded me of Jimmy Sommerville’s 1980’s classic “Breadline Britain”, hence the title of this blog:

During the meeting I discussed the thoughts of Evan Davis on the economy with Mr Cable.  I had met Evan a few weeks before, where he pointed out that the UK needs to create some new engines of growth in areas that other countries would (a) find hard to copy and (b) would give the UK export potential.  Vince broadly agreed with my suggestion that we don’t need a ‘nation of more tanning rooms and burger bars’, which largely consume wealth and have no export potential.  Of course, a shrinkage in the low value service sector and / or the public sector is deeply unpopular, but it does rather seem an inevitable consequence of some sound economic analysis.  We’ll see what happens now that we live in a rock’n’roll economy …

Cable but no Wireless - Vince Cable Rocks the Institute of Directors

We also discussed the slimming down of red tape in business.  I was delighted to present Vince with a copy of ‘Punk Rock People Management’, which I described as “perhaps the shortest white paper on simplifying business ever written”.  Being known for his unusually straightforward views, Vince was amused by the idea of being able to read a chapter in less time that it would take to pogo to a Sex Pistols song on Strictly Come Dancing.

So, it was a great meeting in the wonderful setting of Leeds Castle.  What an absolute coup for the Institute of Directors, who hosted the event.  All kudos to them for doing this.

What to finish this post with?  Well since a friend mixed Vince Cable up with Vince Clarke of Erasure, I guess we should go with one of their fine Essex based economical synth pop pieces – perhaps a call to some politicians who have lost Mr  Cable’s connection with ordinary people – “A Little Respect”:

To get your FREE copy of Punk Rock People Management or book a masterclass – either give Vince Cable a call or get in touch via the Punk Rock People Management webpage

Happy talk – Motivation unplugged

"Cos' I'm worth it" - A marketing executive from L'Oreal rocks out at the Marketing Directors Forum in Athens

I was reading the blog of Video Arts the other day on the issue of happiness at work.  It reminded me of the words of honorary punk rockers Rogers, Hammerstein and Captain Sensible, “Happy talk”.  Yes, it’s nice to be happy at work, but that’s only half the story.  We looked at the blues and motivation previously.  The Smiths’ classic “Heaven knows I’m miserable now” is the mantra for people stuck in jobs that don’t fit their skills, attitudes, inner or outer desires.  Let’s check out the dark side of the motivational equation:

What then are the reasons to be cheerful at work?  Certainly NOT because the 360 degree appraisal system has been put online in full colour,  because the team has won a set of fake plastic palm trees inscribed with the company mission statement, or when the HR department places a ‘People are our greatest asset’ plaque in every toilet cubicle.

It may be slightly quaint or even old fashioned to say this, but whatever happened to good old job design, as described by Hackman and Oldham?  They pointed out that people work well when they have well designed jobs.  These include some good old fashioned but not out of date factors:

  • Skill variety – using an appropriate variety of skills.
  • Task identity – being able to see the whole task.
  • Task significance – the extent to which people identify with the task and its importance to something wider.
  • Autonomy – giving some discretion over the way in which work is done.
  • Feedback – gaining an idea of how well people convert effort into performance.

In practical terms, many of the tried and tested methods of improving job design at work still have value.  For example:   vary work where possible to encourage skill variety;  assign work as a whole unit to enhance task significance;  delegate tasks to their lowest possible level to create autonomy and responsibility;   connect people to the impact of their work through feedback.  Some of the world’s best workplaces such as Prêt à Manger use these principles intuitively as they are common sense, although they are not commonly applied.  Others have made significant improvements by just following them as a conscious protocol, such as I have observed in work at The Royal College of Physicians.

My latest book Punk Rock People Management offers us three chords on motivation:

  • Design work according to Hackman and Oldham’s principles.
  • Eliminate pointless tasks from the daily grind that add no customer / stakeholder value.
  • Remember that reasons to be cheerful include: being listened to; doing things that count; understanding why they matter; being part of something; not having to do pointless tasks;  getting meaningful feedback on what you do and so on.

‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available for purchase of as a FREE download via the Punk Rock People Management webpage.  If you like this extract from the book, you will also LOVE my other book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’, acclaimed by Tom Peters, the daddy of them all.  Contact us to book your next conference keynote based on our heady mixture of business leadership and music.  Just back from Greece, and shortly appearing in Romania, South Africa and Slough – hardly a Rock’n’Roll schedule I admit! 🙂  Read a review by clicking on the picture:

Good companions

I leave not with Happy Talk by Captain Sensible, but with his rather more thoughtful anti-war / eco warrior song “Glad it’s all over” – The Captain ‘extinguished me’ with a fire hydrant at the Marquee during a Doctors of Madness gig, for which I am eternally grateful.

Pretty Vacant – 10 Punk Rock Business Management Tips

I kissed an HR girl and I liked it ...

We live in lean times.  Lean times call for lean thinking.  Punk Rock is all about brevity, simplicity and authenticity.   So, here for your viewing pleasure are 10 Punk Rock People Management tips (well, there may be more or less than 10!), from some self proclaimed HR Punk Rock gals and HR Rock Chicks, presented in a slideshare show:

PUNK ROCK BUSINESS WISDOM  – If you don’t use slideshare you can also find the slideshow at  I kissed an HR girl and I liked it

If you have not yet got your copy of Punk Rock People Management, now is a good time to do this.  The book recently overtook Dave Ulrich, Gary Hamel and the usual HR Gurus, having hit No 1 on Amazon Kindle in management and HR books.   There are a number of options:  Beautiful full colour print version,    Kindle version – UK,      Kindle Version – Worldwide.  The print version of the book makes an excellent and unique Christmas present.  Check this review out by the Open University Businsss School.  The contents page can be found here:

Lean People Management for Lean times

We’re off to deliver an HR keynote at the 7th international HR conference in Athens next week following on from Dave Ulrich and Lynda Gratton of London Business School.  To warm up for this, let’s finish with some classic punk – Pretty Vacant, a song which clearly predicted the current HR obsession with employee disengagement in its title! 🙂

Pictures courtesy of Lindsay Wakelin PhotographySue Cook and book design by PDS Hamiltons

Spirit in the sky – The circuitry of networking

It’s been a manic few weeks so I thought I’d write a blog about the gentle art of networking (and a little bit of luck!).  Check out the previous post in this area at A day in the life.  Our networking journey begins at an annual conference we delivered for the Institute of Circuit Technology, sponsored by Spirit Circuits.  That gives us our title.  Let’s travel back in time to the swinging 60’s, purely for some gratuitous psychedelic pop by Norman Greenbaum:

Spirit Circuits are an amazing printed circuit board manufacturing business.  The things that separate them from the crowd include a recognition of the word customer in everything they do and their ability as a smaller business to work globally.  An example of their exceptional customer service is their “Go Naked” offering.  This is a bespoke circuit board design service for small business entrepreneurs who cannot afford to manufacture circuit boards for new products.  Steve Driver, Spirit Circuits’ CEO offers this service on the basis that “small acorns sometimes grow into mighty oaks”.  In terms of their global footprint, Spirit Circuits have pioneered a number of innovative partnerships with China, rather than attempting to compete with this growing economy.  It’s perhaps a case of ‘being inside the tent p…..ing out, rather than outside the tent p…..ing in’.

Spirit Circuits asked me to deliver a keynote event for the Institute entitled ‘Myths and Riffs of Leadership’.  After the event, I found myself jamming into the night with Printed Circuit Board business owners as if I had known them for years.  Playing music really does beat social networking etc. as a means of establishing business bonds that last!  Here’s a clip of ‘Steve Driver and The Circuit Breakers’ performing “The PCB blues”:

Additionally, I was able to put Spirit Circuits in touch with a BBC journalist for the World Service who specialises in Chinese affairs.  Watch this space for developments in what Level 42 would call “The Chinese Way”.

It also occurred to me that there must have been a spirit in the sky the other day.  I had gone to Rochester Castle to meet a client for a coffee, when I bumped into David Sillito, the BBC’s arts correspondent, who was making a news item on a new BBC costume drama.  David had previously made a feature on a ‘School of Rock’ event for a Primary School, which the Headmistress said was pivotal in improving exam performance for the children.  Check out the feature from BBC Breakfast News:

David remembered the School of Rock event with some fondness.  As a result of our brief encounter, I gave him a copy of Punk Rock People Management with a view to developing a feature on simple, jargon free and authentic Human Relations.   Goodness knows, there’s a need for that in most companies I get invited into these days! 🙂

What do I get - Punk Rock HR - the contents page

Get your full colour print copy or Amazon Kindle version of Punk Rock People Management, which hit number 1 in the Amazon chart for management / HR books the other week, above books by Dave Ulrich and Sir John Whitmore.  Mail me for a free electronic version of the book.  Or come over to the 7th international HR conference in Athens on 19th October, where Demis Roussos with meet Gary Hamel and Johnny Rotten, metaphorically speaking…

I kissed an HR girl and I liked it - photo courtesy of http://www.lindsaywakelinphotography.com