Discipline makes Daring possible.



Lately, I’ve been creating and organising an archive of my blog posts, articles etc.  At the risk of sounding narcissistic, it’s been interesting to see how my thinking and my expression of that thinking has developed over the last 5 or 6 years.  Some things haven’t changed though, and I think you’ll enjoy this extract from 2018:

“What struck me this week was the idea explained in this video, of ‘sawubona‘, of really acknowledging each other as fellow humans when we meet, along with Seth’s discussion of how industrialism has squeezed out the opportunities for doing this in our modern lives and businesses.

Last Sunday I was wandering around the shoes in my local T K Maxx, when a gentleman asked me for help.

“Are these women’s sandals?”, he asked. Then he explained that he was buying for his father in India, who has had an operation and needs loose-fitting sandals to walk about in.

“Well, yes I’d say they are, but for what your father wants, they are probably OK.”

“I need a size 7 really, but I can’t find any in the men’s section, maybe these will have to do.”

10 minutes later, we’d found a men’s sandal in the right size style and colour, and I’d found out he was a bus driver with a degree in politics and economics.  I’d learned about corruption in the Indian health service, and we’d given each other a little hug.

Sawubona. We had seen each other.

I’m fascinated by systems and processes.  Not industrial ones, human ones.   That run like clockwork, but with space for Sawubona.

No – they run like clockwork to create space for Sawubona.

Just the other day, taking myself to a different Co-op for my weekly shop, and walking back the long way via several independents, I discovered that even in the time of Covid, Sawubona is possible and more precious than ever.

It’s certainly something I’d hate to lose when things get back to ‘normal’.

Thank you for taking the time to see me.


How to capture a business process: Step 4

How to capture a business process: Step 4

Now you have the story of your process written down, you can start to identify its components.

Read through the narrative, and pick out the names of things that get mentioned along the way.  These will become ‘Props’, like the theatrical term for “an object used on stage or screen by actors during a performance.

Props might be software e.g. “I enter the prospect’s details into the CRM System/Salesforce/Hubspot“; physical objects or their digital equivalents: “The prospect signs our non-disclosure agreement”, “I send an email to the client acknowledging receipt”.   Props can also be implied:  “I call the client” means there must be a telephone Prop of some kind.

One Prop in particular will stand out as being the thing that is being worked on by the process, the thing that is the point of the process.  The star of the process, if you like.   For example the key Prop in a process “File Annual Accounts”, is unsurprisingly, a thing called ‘Annual Accounts’.

This key Prop will help you identify the key Activities that make up the process, because it will be created, transformed and finalised through the process.  Each transformation of the Prop called ‘Annual Accounts’ is a separate Activity, with an outcome that is either true or false.  You have a set of Draft Accounts or you don’t, there is no halfway house.  Any other Props you’ve identified will find a home inside one or more of these Activities, which may themselves be a process.

As an illustration, in order to “File Annual Accounts”, you generally have to create a set of draft accounts (an Activity you might name “Draft Annual Accounts”), check that they make sense (“Verify Draft Annual Accounts”), send them to the client for approval (“Request Draft Annual Accounts Approval”), deal with any changes (“Amend Draft Annual Accounts”), finalise them (“Finalise Annual Accounts”) and finally, send them to Companies House (“File Accounts”).

In this way, following the lifecycle of the key Prop will help you define Activities and the rough order in which they must happen.

In the next post in this series, we’ll look at finessing that order to take account of exceptions.



“The trouble with the sunshine” laughed the shop assistant, “is that it shows up how dirty the windows are.”  “Tell me about it!   What’s your secret for cleaning them?” I replied.

“I bring in my own e-cloths from home.  I use one wet – just water- then the other to dry off.  Works perfectly every time.”

That was a great tip (I tried it, it does work perfectly), but the thing that really struck me was the “I bring my own e-cloths in from home.”

People want to take pride in their work.

If you think they don’t, you might be what’s stopping them.

Customer delight?

Customer delight?

What’s more annoying than your bus arriving late?

Your bus arriving early.

There seems to be a trend at the moment for deliveries to arrive sooner than expected.    I think this comes from an assumption that over-delivering on a promise is always good (something Royal Mail cleary don’t subscribe to).   But what if I need to prepare for delivery beforehand?  Arriving early messes up my schedule, makes my life more difficult.

Early delivery might be good – if you ask me first, and give me the option of sticking to the original plan.

Otherwise, it’s probably not my delight you’re seeking, but your convenience.

The System

The System

A quote from Seth Godin’s blog today on algorithms“…blaming the system isn’t going to help anyone. You are the system, we all are…”

I agree.  We are the system.

The question is are we shaping it, or merely feeding it?



I was tidying up my digital desktop today, and came across an old article by Umair Haque, written for HBR magaizine.

6 years after it was published, Haque’s message seems more important than ever.

If you want customers that come back to your business regularly, freely, joyfully, “focus on giving people what matters most to them — but what they feel cheated of, stymied from, and suffocated by at every turn. Improve their lives. Deliver lasting gains in their quality of life. Don’t just carrot-and-stick them into “loyalty.” Be loyal to them. Don’t win their attention  — give them your attention. And one tiny interaction at a time, help them live lives richer with meaning, happiness, and purpose.”

And always be asking this question: “How loyal can we be to our customers?”

Consciousness raising

Consciousness raising

Sometimes you can’t just do, you have to think about what you’re doing.

Sometimes you can’t just think, you have to think about what you’re thinking.

Sometimes you can’t just think about what you’re doing or thinking, you have to think about how you’re thinking or doing it.

Sometimes you can’t just think about how, you have to think about why.

It would be exhausting to operate like this all the time, but every now and then, it pays to take yourself up a level or two, perhaps with the help of other people, or a book, or a video, or a podcast or a tool.

Because once you are aware of what, how and why, you can repeat your best doing or thinking, on purpose.

Big questions for accountants

Big questions for accountants

I like to ask big questions of accountants in my podcast.

Professor Richard Murphy has some interesting answers.

This video of his proposes a new way of financial reporting for ‘public interest entities’ – the big corporates we all depend on for infrastructure, food supply etc., that looks at the interest of all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

I think reporting this way, even if you aren’t legally required to, could give a real advantage to some smaller, more forward-thinking businesses. 

If they dared to take it.

I’d love to know what you think, especially if you’re an accountant.

PS Professor Murphy has an even more interesting vision for audit.