Discipline makes Daring possible.

To Do

To Do

What is a to do list, really?

Sometimes, they are steps in a process.

More often though, they are a cross section through a set of processes you are running in parallel.

That means that prioritising to dos is easier if you can see which processes will move forwards as a result.

Turning processes into to do lists has the opposite effect.

Knowing and doing

Knowing and doing

Some books tell you something you didn’t know.   I enjoy those books.   I like feeling new connections form in my brain, even if it occasionally hurts.

Some books tell you something you already knew, in such a clear and simple way that they uplift mere ‘knowing’ into ‘know how to do’, so you actually have a go.

I really enjoy these books too.  They don’t just change me, they enable me to change the world around me too.

A couple worth reading:

One thing both of these have in common: an explanatory diagram that makes things super-simple to see.

The kind of book I plan to write next.



Maintenance.  None of us want to do it.  Most of us don’t even want to know it’s being done.  We hide it.  We put it off, and off, and off again, even though we know that ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’.

Why is that I wonder?   Animals and birds seem to do maintenance instinctively.   Birds pop food in one end of their nestlings, then tug poop out of the other.   Nests and dens are rebuilt or cleared out regularly.  How have we humans lost this?

Maintenance of all kinds is what keeps our systems and ecosystems going, but we don’t value it.  We don’t even want to see that it’s being done.   We hide it in basements and cupboards, offsite, even offshore.   And we certainly don’t value the people who do it, we turn them into quasi-servants, invisible, ‘low-skill’, and therefore deserving only low wages.

Until something breaks.  Then we love them, applaud them, can’t thank them enough.  5 minutes later, we’re ignoring them again.

Maintenance isn’t sexy, but it is essential.  It’s high time we got better at it.

As a start, perhaps we should all do more of it ourselves?

I’m off to clean the oven.



We like to remind ourselves of what we have ‘to do’.   But we all too easily forget the why behind them.   It’s easy to get derailed by happenstance and other people’s agendas.    This isn’t helped by systems that focus on tasks rather than outcomes.

True productivity (adding value) is driven by focusing on the why.   What if you built a system that constantly reminds people of that?

Given the why, they can probably work out the best thing to do next.

“It ain’t what you don’t know…

“It ain’t what you don’t know…

… that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”  Mark Twain

Imagine reading something that turns everything you ‘know’ about how the world works upside-down, simply by ignoring centuries-old dogma and observing what actually happens from a different perspective.  Copernicus, Darwin, Wegener.

Imagine then finding out that the model you’re reading about wasn’t new, but had actually been around for decades, even centuries, already?

We humans don’t like changing our minds that much.   We actually try to avoid seeing things that might do it for us.

But, occasionally, we can’t help it.   Something we read, see or hear changes how we look at the world forever.

This weekend’s reading did it for me:

Which book changed the way you see the world?

Watching other people work

Watching other people work

I must confess to having a bit of a thing about phone answering services.   Not because I dislike them, but because I think they are one of those things that can really enhance the customer experience when done well.

You can always tell when someone is using an answering service, because you get asked more questions that you often would, and you can tell there’s a process going on.  That’s a good thing, something more businesses that answer their own phones should learn to do.   It would save a lot of miscommunication.

When someone providing this service does it really well, I have a genuine conversation.   I am allowed to ramble a little about why I’m calling (the person I want to speak to knows I’m due to call and why), but they still get from me (not necessarily by asking me) the information they need to pass on the message – my name (including how to spell it), my business name, why I’m calling and who I want to speak to, and finally how they can get hold of me.

I can even have a separate conversation about the fact that they provide the service, which is how I found out who they were.

Its a pleasure to participate in someone doing their job with commitment intelligence and humanity.   Its an enjoyable experience for me as customer, prospect or supplier as well as for the person doing it.

That’s why your Customer Experience ScoreTM needs to cover everything.


PS the company was Take My Calls.   When my current credit runs out, I’ll be switching to them.

Playing A Role

Playing A Role

I’d heard of ‘The Method’ – a way of acting designed to help actors deliver more ‘authentic’ performances by mining their own emotions – “to plumb past trauma, joy, grief, euphoria, and relive those feeling states each night on the stage.”

Until yesterday, when I read this article  by William Justice Bruehl, I hadn’t heard of the person who originally came up with it – Constantin Stanislavski – and certainly hadn’t heard that he revised his ideas in later life.

His new idea was much less emotionally draining for actors.   Simply put, the idea is to “study the text and articulate what their character struggles to achieve – the character’s ‘objective’ – throughout the whole play, in every scene, and then to simply note what the character should feel along the way.”  In other words, to put yourself in the character’s shoes, and follow the logic of the story they are telling themselves.  Different interpretations of the character’s underlying objective will lead to different interpretations in performance – even though the words stay the same.

This seems to me to be a useful and doable approach for non-actors playing a customer-facing role too.   A combination of discipline (the text) and freedom (to divine the ‘objective’ of the person in front of me right now), that makes for a more fulfilling experience for both sides.

You need a text though, otherwise nobody makes sense.

PS I recommend Psyche as a source of interesting things to read.



This was last weekend’s reading.

Strangely enough, they are related.  I recommend reading them together.

One percent

One percent

The very best question I know for improving your process for making and keeping promises is this one:

“How can we make this 1% better today?”

1% seems like a pathetic target for improvement until you realise it compounds.

Compounding works in any direction of course, so it helps to frame the question in the direction you want without tying down the ‘how’.   This takes some thinking about, but is well the effort.

Hiut Denim (who gave me the idea) has this one, for example:

“How can we reduce the environmental impact of our jeans today?”

Tiny, daily, incremental improvement are easy to start, easy to keep going as a habit, and add up sooner than you think to a ‘better’ that’s far bigger than you could ever have dreamt of.

What would your question be?

Which, What and How

Which, What and How

You’d think that Keeping your Promise is easy to do.   That’s true when everything is going to plan, but when times are hard, or the unexpected happens, it may not be so easy.  It may even be impossible.

It’s at these times that questions can help you hold yourself to account for what you do and the way you do it:

  • Which parts of my Promise of Value are sacrosanct?

If you have more than one set of stakeholders (and it seems to me you’ll always have at least 5 – customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, your community), then you can also ask:

  • What’s the unbreakable promise you make to these people?  (In this podcast, Brian Chesky talks to Eric Ries about making 2 or 3 unbreakable promises to each set of stakeholders)

When you know the answers to these questions, you can ask further, practically useful ones:

  • Which part(s) of my Promise does this activity demonstrate and uphold?
  • Which part(s) of my Promise does this activity contradict or undermine?    If it does, how can I bring it into line?  Could I do something different?   Could I do it differently?

If everyone in your business is in the habit of asking these questions in the good times, you’ll be well able to do the right things, the right way, when things are bad.