Discipline makes Daring possible.

Communication, not control

Communication, not control

Yesterday evening I watched ‘the very long and very beautiful history of technical drawing’ on the #Railnatter podcast.

Boulton and Watt’s industry disrupting atmospheric engines were the size of a house.  They couldn’t be factory built and transported, there was no railway then.

Instead, the firm sent technical drawings to the customer so that local engineers could build the engine on site.

The same technical drawings enabled later, different engineers to maintain, repair, relocate and upgrade these engines.  Or, back at Boulton and Watt, to design new, better engines – on paper, cheaply.

Even later, they’ve enabled modern engineers to recreate these engines for our edification and delight.

Technical drawings aren’t even only for techies.  They were often used to explain complex ideas and processes to clients, funders and the wider public.

In other words, technical drawings, like musical scores, building plans and other tools we use to collaborate around are about communication, not control.  The kind of communication across space and time that allows a business to scale across space and time.

How about your business?  What would your technical drawings look like?  Do you have them, or are they only in your (or someone else’s) head?

What is a musical score?

What is a musical score?

What is a musical score?

It’s the music the composer(s) can hear in their head(s) captured in a way that enables other musicians to play it.    It allows the composer to delegate the responsibility for producing the music to others across space and time.

You could think of it as ‘management without the managers’.   I have thought of it like that.

But I’ve changed my mind.  I think that just like building plans, screenplays and a Customer Experience Score, it’s more like ‘leadership without the leaders’.

A musical score doesn’t say “Do this task, then this one, and this one next”.  It says “Here’s where we’re going, here’s the notes we have to hit, find your own best way to hit them, together.”



What do you think?



There’s a very interesting article by Alistair Barlow on AccountingWeb today, about timesheets.

Not as a tool for calculating prices, but as a tool for measuring performance.

As I discovered a couple of years ago, ‘time spent’* is a pretty accurate proxy for all costs.

That means that a relatively easy way to get an accurate picture of how much a process is costing to run, is to measure how much time is spent on running it.  And this can be measured straightforwardly, by simple observation.

Timesheets are one way to observe how much a process is costing to run.  But they are a pain to fill in, cost time to complete, and feel intrusive.

Much better to let each process tell you as a side-effect.

I’m working on that.

*”Duration-Based Costing: Utilizing Time in Assigning Costs” Anne-Marie Lelkes, Ph.D., CPA, Management Accounting Quarterly, Summer 2017.

Let’s make the world a different place.

Let’s make the world a different place.

‘Better’ is a tweak; a change, a slight adjustment.

‘Better’ focuses on detail and ignores the bigger picture.

‘Better’ says ‘mental health is a problem, let’s sell mental health first aid‘.

‘Better’ says ‘plastic is a problem, let’s make people pay for plastic bags’.

‘Better’ is a tranquiliser ad captioned: “You can’t change her life, but you can change her mood.”

‘Better’ says ‘here’s another app/product/brand to add to the dozens, hundreds even, already in that category’.

‘Better’ says ‘we can keep doing what we’re doing only greener’.

‘Better’ accepts the status quo.  Supports it.   Allows us to feel good about ourselves, without actually changing anything.

The world doesn’t need us to make it a better place.

It needs us to make it different.

Jumping off a cliff

Jumping off a cliff

“An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.” Reed Hoffman.

What if there was a basic outline of that airplane you could have in your back pocket before you jumped?   An outline you could customise on the way down instead of starting from scratch?  Not the corporate model you don’t want to be, but something light, flexible, adaptable yet also reliable?   That you can flesh out around your Promise of Value as you discover it?


There is, and it looks like this:




Not so much an airplane, as a parachute perhaps.

The Emperor’s new clothes

The Emperor’s new clothes

When is a market not a market?

When the companies behind every ‘brand’, turn out to be the same one, two or few.

Prepare to feel the cold.

Joining the dots

Joining the dots

Before the European invasion, the only use the people of the Americas had for wheels, was for pull-along toys.   They used headstraps and pack-animals for carrying things, and made their clay pots by hand-building.   Messages were carried by runners.

Perhaps because there were no suitable native draught animals, or because the terrain was too difficult, the possibilities of the wheel were seen, but never applied, except in play.    Until of course, the Spanish introduced horses and cattle.

We tend to think of innovation as the creation of new things by a single individual.   Actually, much innovation arises from joining the dots.   And that only happens once the dots are in place.

Where are the dots being created in your industry?   Could you join them to create something new?

Cattus Economicus

Cattus Economicus

I love my cat.   She doesn’t love me back.

All she’s really interested in is food and sleep.  And every now and then, a bit of attention – on her terms, when and where she wants it, never when I do.    She’s lazy, greedy and selfish.  She is ‘Cattus Economicus’.

She can’t help it, cats, like most mammals, have evolved that way.

But not us humans.   Somewhere in our distant past, we evolved new instincts of collaboration, co-operation, altruism.  Because we needed those traits to survive.

‘Homo Economicus’ is a convenient fiction, that tells us more about the economists and politicians who use it than the people they like to apply it to.  In their eyes, you and I and most of the people we know are less than human, to be treated is if all we care about is food and sleep.

We know better.  We know that we collaborate, co-operate and help each other out all the time.   We know that we need to exercise these pro-social instincts more than ever if we are to solve the pressing problems our species faces.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead.

We’re no pussycats.



This is my 700th blog post. The idea of writing it was a little daunting, I have to say, although … Read More “700”