Discipline makes Daring possible.

Where energy goes

Where energy goes

As humans, we spend our energy and our creativity on the things that matter to us.   For you, as the boss, that’s your business.   For your team?  Well, they may prefer to grow perfect peppers.

So the challenge for a business owner is how to infect the people you work with (and indeed the people you seek to serve) with the same enthusiasm as you have.  Because that’s the only way they’ll agree to put in anything like the same energy and creativity.

Coercion doesn’t work.  Reminding them that they are dependent on you for survival doesn’t work either.  Money doesn’t work that well once people have enough, and giving them less than they need or what seems fair just dampens any enthusiasm.

So what does work?

Giving them the means to achieve what they really want as human beings in work as well as outside of it:

  • Agency – to make their own ‘me-shaped’ dent in the universe.
  • Mastery – to learn and master (even teach) new skills.
  • Autonomy – to be free to choose how they make their dent.
  • Purpose – to do this for something bigger than themselves, that has meaning beyond the sale.
  • Community – to do all this with ‘people like us’.
    • Status – to know (and for others to know) where we stand in our communities.

All the things you wanted when you set up your business then.

Make everyone a boss.  Blend yourself in.

What if it was never about the things?

What if it was never about the things?

First nation peoples and clever marketers have known for a long time that Sharing your Promise is never really about selling the thing.  It’s about how that thing affects our relationship with ourselves and with others.  So what you’re really selling is a change of relations.

Which means of course, that when it comes to Keeping your Promise, you’re not really delivering the thing.   You’re delivering the shift in relationships signified and caused by the thing.

Which means that’s what the Customer Experience should be all about.

Which means that’s what should be in your Customer Experience Score.

And why keeping it human matters.

Human Feedback 3 – suggestions

Human Feedback 3 – suggestions

If you make it easy for people to log ideas as they go, you’re more likely to get useful ideas for improvement, because its when they’re actually doing the job that people feel the friction.  This could be as simple as a shared google doc, or as fully functional as Slack or Trello.  Whatever works for you and your team.

Logging ideas is just the first step of course.   The next is to review them.   This is where its helpful to have dedicated time set aside.   Get everyone together to review, ponder the consequences and choose which ideas to incorporate next.

Then create a schedule for implementing these improvements, seeing how they affect things, and rolling them out or back as a consequence.

If this is starting to look a bit like software development, that’s because in a way it is.  Like software, your business is a system – for making and keeping promises.

We’ve learned a lot about how to improve software systems while customers are actually using them.  It makes sense to apply that know-how to your Promise System too.

It involves building in good habits of observation, selection and listening to feedback.   And like admin, it works best when it is as much as possible a side-effect of doing the job.

Discipline makes Daring possible.

Level 5 Leadership

Level 5 Leadership

One of the things I love about LHL Fridays is that I always learn something new.

Today Tim Bicknell told me about ‘Level 5 leadership’, so of course I had to google it.

And then I found this in the Harvard Business Review:

“When you look across the good-to-great transformations, they consistently display three forms of discipline: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls. When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great performance.”

Discipline makes Daring possible.

And you don’t have to wait to be corporate to apply it.

Just talk to me.

Can’t wait to find out more.



It’s easy to assume that having autonomy simply means being able to do what we want.

It’s probably more accurate to say that we get to make our own decisions about what we do.

With that autonomy comes responsibility:

  • To properly inform ourselves before we make a decision.
  • To live with with the consequences of our decision (until we make another that will change them).
  • To make sure that our decisions don’t impinge harmfully on anyone else’s autonomy.

Responsible autonomy is hard work in life and business.  Made easier and more joyful by collaborating with each other.

Well worth the effort though.  Just ask the women of Rojava.

The Mayfair Set

The Mayfair Set

I’ve been watching an old documentary series ‘The Mayfair Set’ on BBC iplayer.

It’s uncanny seeing things that happened during your childhood, and realising what was really going on.

They called it ‘creative destruction’ but it was simply asset stripping.

Of course it’s all happened many times before, and it’s happening again.  Only now we call it private equity.

One thing’s for sure, capitalism it ain’t.

Just ask Adam Smith.

How to do big business with a tiny company

How to do big business with a tiny company

I loved this post from Jason Fried on company size.   In a nutshell, his company (37Signals) serves about the same number of clients as others in this space, at about a tenth of the workforce.

How can he do that?

Here are some ideas.

First, build a product and service that makes your users so awesome they tell all their friends and colleagues about it.  Then make it easy for them to tell their friends and colleagues.   Do this and you can ditch the marketing department.

Second, let your people manage themselves.   After all, they are able, enthusiastic humans who revel in taking responsibility.  Self-managed doesn’t mean unsupported though.  Like an orchestra, give your players a Score so they know what they are trying to achieve, a Conductor to give immediate feedback on their performance and Rehearsal Time to improve and innovate.   Do this and you can ditch the managers.

Next, get rid of ‘admin’.   Admin is simply about getting the right resources into the right place at the right time.  Build it in to what you do for clients, automate the boring bits that become drudgery for humans and you’ve made it a side effect of doing the job.   Do this and you can ditch the admin department.

Fourth, enable every player in your team to deliver the whole end-to-end service.  In essence make them a one-person instance of your business.   Do this, and every new person you add is a profit centre.

Finally, share the benefit of this new superproductive business with everyone in it.  Reward must follow responsibility.  Ownership must be real.  Do this and you’ve created a sustainable legacy to be proud of.

Discipline makes Daring possible.



Last week I attended a workshop on co-operatives. I learned two things that surprised me.

The first was that being a co-operative is separate from the legal structure of the business. You can be a limited company, a partnership, a community interest company etc, and also be a co-operative.

The second was the range of forms that co-operative membership can take. Membership can be restricted to workers or expanded to include customers, volunteers, the community (locally, or according to interest). It’s even possible to set up a co-operative consortium of companies.

The critical components are:

  • Voluntary and open membership

  • Democratic member control (one member one vote)

  • Member economic participation

  • Autonomy and independence.

Not at all suprising then that co-operatives often outperform and outlast traditional businesses.

But the most encouraging thing for me, was the realisation that transitioning a business to a co-operative model could be relatively straightforward – opening up some new and interesting options for exit, while at the same time ensuring a business continues as the founder’s legacy.



This week, I’ve been collecting feedback on a 7-week group Promise of Value workshop.   It’s been just as I would want it to be – thoughtful, constructive and positive, summed up by one comment:

“It’s probably going to turn out to be very useful.”

I’ll take that.

Your Promise of Value isn’t a magic wand.  It’s a living, breathing, foundation for long-term, sustainable growth.  It takes effort to make it work.

And thanks to those who took part, the next run of this workshop will be even better.

Starts 18th May if you’re interested.

Autumn Statement

Autumn Statement

Economics is not a science.   How could it be?   It works with and on and around human beings.

It’s an art.  That used to be called political economy.  Until economists with certain politics decided to change that, to make it sound more scientific.

Nevertheless, economics, unlike physics (whose laws will be true even when we are no longer around to observe them), remains a purely human construct.   Something we make up to explain how the world works.

That means it can be wrong.   There can be alternatives which explain things better, or produce different results.   It all depends on the politics and the assumptions that politics makes about human beings.

So, if you’re interested in alternative economic constructs, here are some books I recommend:

  • The Deficit Myth
  • Doughnut Economics
  • 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism
  • The Joy of Tax
  • The Production of Money
  • Poor Economics
  • The Value of Everything
  • Everything for Everyone
  • Capital in the 21st Century and it’s companion Capital and Ideology.
  • Principles of political economy and taxation
  • The Wealth of Nations
  • Capital

They’re all wrong of course.

But depending on what you’re trying to achieve they may be more helpful.

And at least you can make up your own mind.