Business Leadership Rocks Warsaw

I was delighted to travel to Warsaw to deliver a Leadership Programme in partnership with The Pure Sky Club, Bentley, Lafarge, Businessman Today, Legimi, AntyRadio and Quadrilion Art Gallery. Our agenda was:

The Music of Business – exploring parallel lessons between music and business.

Far from the madding crowd

Far from the madding crowd – with Paul Cowen, Agnieszka Kupczynski, Filip Sobiecki and Brian McBride

Personal Transformation – delivered by Federico Tonetti, Director General, Lafarge. Lafarge is well known as a manufacturer of cement products but even its business model has been rocked to the foundations by disruptive forces. Federico presented a compelling vision of transformation and explained how it could be translated into a corporate context.

In my Madonna hed gear - at the Pure Sky Club - photos by Piotr Myzskowski

In my Madonna head gear – at the Pure Sky Club – photos by Piotr Myzskowski

The Mathematics of Trust – delivered by Sebastian Kotow, Quadrilion Art Gallery. Sebastian is a business psychologist with specific interests in management decision making and bias.

Punk Rock People Management – a look at the strategic and practical management of people through the medium of punk rock – shorter, simpler and more authentic business and HR.

The madding crowd at the aftershow at Pure Sky Club

The madding crowd at the aftershow at Pure Sky Club

The Virgin Way – a look at the Culture and Leadership practices of the Virgin group, informed by the work I’ve done for Virgin in the last year or so.

Plus an exclusive gala dinner at The Pure Sky Club hosted by Paul Cowen, a panel session hosted by Brian Allan and an after party featuring the best Polish rock bands in the capital.

Here’s one of the slide decks from the event and a video from the warm up event at Quadrilion:

I’m most grateful to Brian Allan, Malgorzata Krukowska, Filp Sobieki, Sebastian Kotow and Paul Cowen for arranging everything.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of eight books on leadership and creativity as it applies to business. His latest offerings “Punk Rock People Management” – 2nd Edition and a NEW edition of “The Music of Business” may be ordered now.

Connect with us on our Linkedin Company Page and join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music.

A new book from a dirty old town

DIY

I’m delighted to have been asked to host the book launch event of “Do It Yourself – A History of Music in Medway” by Stephe Morris next Thursday April 23rd at The Barge in Gillingham, a well known music venue in the area.

Medway, Mersey and Mississippi share a river and mud but perhaps that’s where the comparisons must end, although the river Medway did produce Chicory Tip, Billy Childish, Judge Dread, Wreckless Eric, Tracy Emin, Zandra Rhodes, Charles Dickens and Kelly Brook. It also produced David Frost, who attended the same school as I did but who escaped the towns as quickly as possible to the more cultured Cambridge.

gq awards inside arrivals 090909

They could not get Kelly Brook to host the launch so they got me instead – sincere apologies

Romanticism? Perhaps. Yet, as one reviewer points out there are little record shops in Texas that have a Medway section, and big ones in Hollywood that have one too, yet none have sections from the “twin rock towns” of Little Milton (Oxon), Milton Keynes and Horsted Keynes.

On the evening we’ll be receiving several readings from Stephe, I will be explaining how I replaced one of our drummers with a spin drier and there will be performances from several of the acts that feature in the book, including the great Nick Hughes, who fronted punk band Gash and who I performed with in glam pop art combo Cenét Rox. I will be performing a post punk sonic performance painting called “Beyond These Towns The Sweetest Dreams” in support of the book launch and selling copies of Punk Rock People Management and the new edition of The Music of Business if it is available. Robert Peston, the BBC’s Economics Editor is the latest person to receive a copy of Punk Rock HR last night when we took him to see The Godfather of Funk, Mr George Clinton.

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From Spin Driers, to The Cowpokers, Music and Business – with Nick Hughes

So, come on down to The Barge, Layfield Street, Gillingham ME7 2QY next Thursday 23rd April at 8 pm for a cabaret of spoken word, music and mayhem. Bring your spin drier. We finish with some post punk prattling from the Pogues:

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Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business from Music.

Come to our next showcase event June 9th with The Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange.

Punk Rock HR – A Manifesto for Better HR Strategy and Practice

I was asked by Steve Browne for a post that summed up my thoughts on how HR can get better.  Steve is Executive Director at La Rosa’s Pizza in the US and is a massive HR and rock music radical.  So here is my post with some background as to why I feel able to comment on such matters for my US cousins.

Having spent many years running the Kent Branch of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK, acting as a board member of their Council, working in HR for a Pharmaceutical Company and teaching Strategic HRM at MBA level, I had an extended period to study HR strategy and practice from the viewpoints of my original careers as a scientist and innovation leader. As a result, I wrote a manifesto for HR transformation in a book called “Punk Rock People Management”.  In case you are wondering if this requires HR pros to pogo whilst doing staff appraisals, relax! The “Punk Rock” aspect of the title simply refers to three underlying principles of the punk rock phenomenon that apply to good HR strategy and practice:

SimplicitySimplification in punk was about three chords or even less.  Lou Reed once claimed that anything more than three chords is jazz.  Likewise, good HR and great leaders make the complex compellingly simple. If HR is overly complex it’s no surprise if managers reach for their own versions of policies and procedures.

Keep it simple

BrevityBrevity in punk was exactly what it said on the tin. The Ramones managed to get their message across in just over two minutes and some of Wire’s early recordings coming in at under one minute, compared with the neo classical 20 minute overtures that characterised Prog Rock (Make no mistake, I’m a big Prog Rock fan as well, but we’re not here to discuss musical tastes).  To misquote Albert Einstein good HR keeps things as short as they need to be but no shorter …

Keep it short

AuthenticityAt punk’s core was the idea of telling it like it is. Good HR also keeps things real.  In practice the great HR professional speaks in the language of the business they serve rather than hiding behind HR jargon.  Jargon is a natural feature of all professions, but when it excludes rather than engages it has lost its purpose as a kind of ‘shorthand’.

Keep it real

Authenticity Lou Reed Annie Lennox

I was speaking with Ron Thomas, CEO of Great Place to Work, in the Gulf just recently. We discussed some other qualities that characterise great HR, amongst them:

Understand the business – Good HR professionals align the HR strategy and tactics with the long-term business imperatives.  It’s what I call the “HR Six Pack”:

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The HR Six Pack – not modelled here by Iggy Pop …

Understand the numbers – Business starts with the financials rather than the appraisal process etc. A grip on the numbers gives you the context to make better HR decisions by fact rather than guesswork. HR professionals also need to be data savvy rather than leaving that to the IT or finance professionals.

Understand the context – You’ve got all your HR / Business qualifications right? So why isn’t the CEO wanting to implement the 9 box model, 360 degree appraisals and so on?  Business schools offer an idealized view of how things should be at work, but work rarely works like that. Successful HR professionals understand context and adopt a “best fit” approach, seizing opportunities to make their workplaces great and understanding the nuance of time and timing. This is usually superior than attempting to plug in “best practice” elements without considering the context, rather akin to attempting a kidney transplant without considering the recipient.

For more on subjects such as recruitment, induction, engagement, rewards, appraisal, promotion, innovation, training, conflict, exit and so on pick up a copy of “Punk Rock People Management” or attend one of our Music and Business keynotes or masterclasses.

FINAL COVER

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. Connect with us on our Linkedin Company Page and join our group The Music of Business where we discuss parallel lessons from Business and Music.

Contact him via peter@humdyn.co.uk

Talking with the taxman about economics

I met Billy Bragg the other week. What a great pleasure, having seen him perform many times over the years. Lest we forget, here’s one of his most beautiful love songs:

Billy was talking about the idea of Power and Responsibility at the RSA and I managed to pick a copy of his book “The Progressive Patriot” up whilst swapping it for a copy my book Punk Rock People Management along with a badge and plectrum ( I realise this probably sounds like an “Alan Partridge Tie and Blazer combination pack” as I write the sentence :-)  Bragg turns up in the chapter on Unions and he seemed pleased to receive a book about a snappier and more authentic approach to HR and business.

progressive_patriot

Check out Bragg’s catalogue of work by clicking the picture

Here’s some of the stand-out takeaways for me:

  • We need much better ways to engage people with decisions that affect them
  • Current ways of voting cause a large proportion of the population to disengage with politics and politicians on all sides
  • The gap between rich and poor has increased exponentially since 1979, independent of which Government has been in power
  • The only thing the 1% fear is the 99% getting organised
  • Social media offers a way to increase meaningful participation in society, but it also presents significant barriers

Here’s the full lecture below, including the question from yours truly.  In private conversation with Billy we discussed the idea that it’s possible to get much greater levels of engagement by posting a cat picture on Facebook than it is a discussion about economics etc. !

Cool for Cats on Facebook

Cool for Cats on Facebook

Bragg’s book The Progressive Patriot is a superb read.  We leave with another piece of his music and my own contribution to the poetry of economics via the video for my song “Fiscal Cliff”:

A great read whichever side you are on ..

A great read whichever side you are on .. Click on the picture to find out more

Disruptive Innovation : 3 Lessons from Punk Rock

On Thursday May 16th we take to the high seas in the same way as the Sex Pistols did on their Jubilee boat trip in 1977:

Friggin' in the Riggin'  - The Sex Pistols on board in 1977

Friggin’ in the Riggin’ – The Sex Pistols on board in 1977

Our trip takes us back to a point in history when the steady state of music was disrupted by Punk Rock.  Punk grabbed Prog Rock and Glam by their crown jewels and reduced them to a quivering mass.  As a self confessed lover of Genesis, Pink Floyd, T.REX, Bowie etc. I also loved the energy that punk brought back into music and its ability to wake up the establishment.  Given that there is much talk of disruptive innovation in today’s management landscape, can we learn anything from the realm of punk rock?  This is a theme I’m taking up with 250 Senior Public Sector HR Leaders and CEO’s this Friday, so wish me luck.  I’m expecting to be about as popular as Johnny Rotten on the Bill Grundy Show! :-)  Lest we forget – bad language warning!

Here are 3 transferable lessons for business innovation from punk rock:

  1. Punk was all about simplicity and brevity.  Businesses must aspire to the same qualities when dealing with their end users, even if their technologies and processes are complex.  In a busy world, simplicity and brevity are watchwords of success.
  2. Punk destroyed itself in the blink of an eye.  This is NOT a transferable lesson.  Successful businesses are sustainable rather than one hit wonders.
  3. People talk of the need for disruptive innovation, yet punk was too disruptive for some and this led to its destruction by the establishment.  The corollary of this is that, if a product or service is perceived as too ‘dissonant’ with existing products or services, it may not be adopted.
IMAG0321

There ain’t half been some clever bastards – The Blockheads from Left to Right : Mick Gallagher, Peter Cook, Chaz Jankel, John Turnbull, Derek Hussey

I had the good fortune to interview “The Blockheads” of Ian Dury fame for a TV programme last week.  It was a rare pleasure to interview Mick Gallagher, who has worked with Ian Dury and The Clash, plus Sir Paul Mc Cartney, Robbie Williams, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart.  Clearly Mick managed to adapt from punk to the mainstream and this probably accounts for his durability as a musician.  The parallel lessons are clear for businesses:

  • Adapt or die
  • Be Nimble
  • Be Quick

We have some innovation events coming up soon.  The first of these, aptly titled “Innovation, Business and Punk Rock” is on a historic lightship on May 16th in Kent.  The event is sponsored by The University of Kent and in collaboration with The Chartered Management Institute, The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply and The Open University Business School.  Details below:

p.s. If you are attending the Public Sector leadership conference on April 19, you have been warned! :-)

Indecent Proposals

Desperate times make people do desperate things and this week I’ve produced a roundup of strange and bizarre business practices that stand out head and shoulders below the water line for business ethics.

Indecent proposals occur when there is dishonesty in a contract

Indecent proposals occur when there is dishonesty in a contract

Starting with Kent County Council, who are normally held to be good employers with decent standards and so on.  They seem to have lost the plot on this occasion, having sent a tender out for some services which a colleague applied for.  An extremely long tender document was sent with explicit and transparent criteria for selecting the winning bid:

  • Proven track record in leading successful change management projects
  • Experience of working with a range of statutory and independent organisations
  • Knowledge of mental health and knowledge of substance misuse issues

After spending considerable time preparing the proposal, a letter was then received, telling my colleague that they had lost the bid due to a ‘hidden’ fourth criterion:

The real criterion for selection

The real criterion for selection

Somewhat frustrating for an organisation that prides itself on transparency and so on.  There was no feedback on whether my colleague had met the other criteria, thus there was very little they could learn from the time they had spent on this “indecent proposal”.  What a waste:

Staying with local government, I heard that Medway Council are about to put their workforce on ‘zero hours contracts’ – this broadly means that staff will have no job security.  I am self employed and have therefore signed up to the idea of being hired and used for time limited projects – that’s what I do and my security derives from being able to have a variety of clients and so on.  However, many people in employment join an organisation partly for some sense of security re paying the mortgage and so on.  HR people talk of engagement and getting ‘discretionary effort’ from people.  In my long experience, taking away their ‘Maslow’ security needs is one surefire way of doing the opposite.  Talking to a friend who is a dinner lady, she reported bitterly:

As part of Medway’s ‘Better For Less’ programme, we have had our hours cut, but are expected to cook the same amount of food in that time.  They sent ‘potato consultants’ in to tell me that I could peel the potatoes in 8.5 minutes instead of the 10 that I take.  I used to stay extra hours to get things done.  That’s all stopping.  So there will be ‘less’ but it will not be ‘better’.

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Medway Council’s staff now have the worst of all worlds:  A single paymaster, but with zero job security and the possibility of instant dismissal without any employment rights.  Yet another “indecent proposal”.  I predict a riot:

Incidentally, I have just been sent this artist’s impression of a potato consultant:

Half Consultant, Half Potato - original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/raysto/5914581571/

Half Consultant, Half Potato – original photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/raysto/5914581571/

Finally, I recently did a project for boutique outsourcing Accountancy and HR consultancy RSM Tenon.  The 7th biggest accounting firm in the UK.  Again, a respected firm according to their own website.  The project was to mediate in a dispute and I was informed that my budget was £3000.  I had nearly completed the work when their consultant called up to tell me that they had changed their mind and only wanted to pay £2000!  I reminded them that “The Only Way is Ethics”.

RSM Tenon - The only way is Ethics

RSM Tenon – The only way is Ethics

After a bit of straight talk, things were grudgingly settled, although I ended up doing some of the work for free, in an attempt to stay close to their “revised” budget.  It turns out that RSM Tenon made £100M loss last year and now have a £94 M overdraft to help them continue in business.  No wonder they are keen to slash contracts after completion! :-)  Strange though for an accountancy firm to make a massive loss and not wish to pay their bills, as their main business is accountancy!  My attempts to help RSM Tenon stay within budget would prove later to be a “Big Mistake” in the words of Natalie Imbruglia

A couple of months later, I’d been asked to conduct some further work for RSM Tenon.  This required attendance at a tribunal hearing which I was told I must reserve the dates for and could not book alternative work.  These were then cancelled at very short notice and I was told that I would not be paid for the opportunity costs.  I complained and was informed that RSM Tenon’s lawyers would be brought in to handle things, a strategy presumably designed to batter me into submission.   Whatever happened to honour and gentlemen’s agreements?  Other disgruntled observers reported this in a financial magazine:

Bizzarely, they actually make a proportion of their fees from telling other people how to run their finances. Genius!  This is what happens when accountants try to run a relationship type business.  They’re like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it’s done, they’ve seen it done every day, but they’re unable to do it themselves.”

To quote The Beatles “I should have known better” from RSM Tenon’s previous form.  Oh well.  I now have to take these people to the small claims court, wasting everyone’s time.

What should we learn from all of this?

  • In desperate times, we need to be careful in taking contracts in case people default on their commitments.  Even from what we perceive to be honorable and large institutions.  How the mighty have fallen.
  • In desperate times, treating people desperately will lead to desperate behaviour in return.
  • In desperate times, smart people refuse to respond to desperate behaviour in kind.  They do something different.

Has anyone else experienced bad business ethics in challenging times?  My experience has been that there are plenty of them, although most people dare not speak of them or just assume that they are the only ones experiencing such things.  Please add your story to this blog.  For a further story on HM Revenue and Customs, check HMRC.

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk

To 2013 – 10 Business and Music tips

Punk Rock Leadership

Punk Rock Leadership

In this new year post, I’m counting down 10 business tips as seen through the eyes and ears of punk rock.   A kind of “Business Top of the Pops” but without the DJ.  No need to pogo whilst reading these unless you must.  Punk refers to brevity, simplicity and purity of thought in business.   For more on all this, ping me a note with PUNK in the title to claim your new year’s gift – a copy of my micro book – Punk Rock People Management.

# 10 – What do you want from life? – The Tubes

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – The Tubes’ revolting anthem on happiness in life and work, coming out of observations on their fans opulent lifestyle in San Francisco, points out that consumption per se does not lead to happiness.  So, rewards given without there being some basic desire for the reward are worthless.  We did not need The Tubes or the happiness movement to tell us this.  All we had to do was to look carefully at Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of Satisfiers and Dissatisfiers.  Somehow The Tubes’ message is more potent.  If you are not familiar with the song, listen to the rant at the end of this piece.  In more recent times, Radiohead did something similar with “Fitter Happier”.

# 9 – Blank Generation – Richard Hell and the Voidoids 


THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – This is perhaps the first and only time that Punk Rock and HR Guru Gary Hamel will find unity … Hamel recently said that “HR must help kill bureaucracy and encourage greater innovation within organistions“.  Why? That comes down to the ‘blank generation’, aka people who are actively disengaged from work.  We don’t need engagement taskforces to know this – it’s punk rock common sense.  Less obvious is how to achieve that innnovation in HR, which, after all, is usually part of the risk reduction part of the enterprise.  I spent a third of my life working on scientific innovation and quite a bit of time watching people wringing their hands about innovation on the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Council and frankly, I don’t see innovation as a core HR competence.

# 8 – Oh bondage, up yours – X-Ray Spex

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – Poly Styrene’s point was really all about female empowerment or girl power.  This applies just as much to the guys.  As Poly says “Bind me tie me, Chain me to the wall, I wanna be a slave to you all, Oh bondage up yours“. Simply put, if you want to get extra performance out of people, stop controlling every last detail of people’s performance through lengthy job descriptions, KPI’s, SMART goals for everything, yada, yada …

# 7 – Public Image – Public Image Ltd

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – “You never listen to a word that I said, you only see me for the clothes that I wear” Do we look past people’s appearance towards their knowledge, skills and attitudes in interviews, appraisals etc?  After all, it’s those things we desperately want rather than an illusion.  In an age where virtually everything is choreographed at work, remember that Steve Jobs would probably have failed an interview at Apple.

# 6 – What do I get? – The Buzzcocks


THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – We know well enough from Frederick Herzberg and The Buzzcocks that pay is a ‘dissatisifier’.  In other words, if you double people’s pay, they won’t work twice as hard for twice as long.  Take away their pay and you know all about it if it is perceived as being out of balance with the effort as Starbucks are just about to discover.  Pay people well enough, but don’t just focus on pay as the reward for work.  This reinforces the conversation about ‘What do I get?’ After all RNR stands for Reward AND Recognition, not just Rock’n’Roll.

# 5 – Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – The Bard of Barking, Billy Bragg, may not have been an employment lawyer, but he may have contributed more to our understanding of collective bargaining than all the employment law authors in the world if they were laid end to end, via his song ‘There is power in a union’.  Frankie goes to Hollywood also reminded us of the classic pluralist assumption within classical thinking on unions in their 80’s anthem “Two Tribes”.  OK, Frankie are not punks I know, but they conveyed the spirit of punk rock through their music.

Punk Rock HR offers us three chords on unions:

  • See unions as an advantage in a pluralist workplace due to the money and time they can save you if you get the relationship right.
  • Focus on interests rather than positions if you are to do collective bargaining well.
  • See negotiations from all viewpoints so that you can be most effective in reaching a solution.  It is what pre-punk Scandinavians Abba would have called “Knowing me, knowing you”.

# 4 – Happy House – Siouxsie and the Banshees

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – Siouxsie Sioux’s deeply ironic lyric flags up the problem with the ‘happiness movement’.  She commented that “Happy House” contrasts the illusion of family bliss, where everyone smiles, has blond hair, has all-day sunshine, eats butter without fat, with the realities of life – depression, wife beating and so on.  Grim stuff for a pop song!  The happiness movement also seems to operate under the illusion that we are all becoming more self-actualised and self-driven, when the data seems to suggest that people are less happy than they were 50 years ago, even though we are considerably richer.  Since work is a huge part of life, the implication is that we should design jobs and work which are fulfilling.

# 3 – Smash it up – The Damned

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – Disruptive innovation inside companies takes considerable effort.  Sometimes it’s necessary to destroy the status quo to make way for new practices.  Smashing up existing organisational structures and cultures may look like vandalism, but given the permanence of cultures, sometimes it is the only way to make space for the new.

# 2 – What a Waste – Ian Dury

 

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – “What a waste”, like “Sex and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll”, was a song about being in a job that makes you happy.  Perhaps all that is needed to create a high performance workplace is to develop the HR habit of finding out what turns people on and ensuring that the work gives them these outcomes.

In some cases, as Dury points out, this does not have to be Chief Executive or Vice President of HR, it could simply involve becoming “the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station”.

# 1 – Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

THE PUNK BUSINESS POINT – When I asked Professor Adrian Furnham earlier this year to identify out some factors that make for an agile innovative company, his first point was to ensure that youth has a voice in the affairs of the company.  Youth brings ideas that are untrammelled by experience, as long as people feel able to voice those ideas.  The smart HR person gives a voice to youthful and other naïve inputs to company strategy.

Send your suggestions for other punk rock songs with a business message by commenting on this blog.  Order your copy of Punk Rock People Management by mailing me with PUNK in the title.  Also available on Amazon Kindle and as a hard copy full colour book.  Coming very soon now, the new book – The Music of Business  – Here’s a quote:  This book is a great tool for people in business.  Harvey Goldsmith CBE

Punk Rock People Management - Disruptive Innovation in HR

– Punk Rock People Management – Disruptive Innovation in Business

Punk Rocker Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography

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About the Blogger:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk