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After the Party was over

August 28, 2012

For completeness, I have added this final blog in my series on the London 2012  Olympics. It was originally published on http://www.tompeters.com.

Now that the first Olympic 2012 Party in London is over (Paralympics starts on 29th August!) we Brits are all asking ourselves whether we are going to get the legacy we had hoped for. It seems to me that there is a great deal too much focus on whether we can anticipate any profits from our investment. Here are just a few examples of what I think we will gain from the investment:

1. Looking at the tangibles we are inheriting, we have paid a high price for the regeneration of the area where the new Olympic park was built, but a superb job has been done. A previously derelict and neglected area has transformed with iconic venues, extensive parkland and accommodation that will become 2800 new homes for local people.

There is still debate about whether the athletics stadium will become a white elephant, as we are still arguing about who will take it over after the Games, but the velodrome and aquatic centre look likely to become fabulous resources for everyone to enjoy.
2. A second aspect of the legacy must be the image of the UK that the world got to see. Despite worries about whether we were ready for the Games, everything went to plan, finished early and kept within budget (albeit revised upwards!).

We did get a little edgy when members of our military were called in at the last minute to substitute for the shortfall of security recruits, but it turned out to be a real asset to have those guys around the park. They certainly made me feel more secure, that’s for sure!

Even the doom and gloom around traffic chaos came to nothing. Maybe we were nudged into lower expectations, or persuaded to behave differently, but the much-heralded gridlock never materialised.

3. The Opening and Closing Ceremonies were a chance to showcase the British character and talents. I’ve  seen them variously described as marvellous, ambitious and slightly bonkers but then, I can’t think of better words to describe our nation. I thought the most magical aspect was Thomas Heatherwick’s beautiful Olympic Flame with its 204 copper petals all coming together to form a united cauldron of light. What a brilliant combination of function and beauty it was, just like the best of British innovation over the years;)

4. And what of the people of the UK – how did we acquit ourselves? We got a sense of the latent enthusiasm that was about to explode across the country with the Torch Relay. This covered 8,000 miles across the UK over the 70 days before the Games started, involving 8,000 individuals as Torch Bearers, and an estimated audience of 13 million spectators. It was a magnificent welcome to London for the Games. By the time the various road races got going, the crowds had got into the swing of turning up and cheering, and how they cheered!
The 80,000 volunteers that were recruited as so called Games Makers have rightly received universal acclaim as representatives of this country. As exemplars of engagement and selfless service, they came to embody the spirit of the Games. How impressive is it that we are capable of rallying a crowd of keen and willing contributors when there is a cause that matters to them. There must be something more we can do with that latent energy in future.
5. Finally, the motto of the Games was Inspire A Generation, and it’s unimaginable to me that we won’t achieve this. There were stellar performances from so many dedicated Olympians; Michael Phelps in the swimming, Mo Farah in the long distance running, Usain Bolt in the sprinting, the list goes on and on. Across 26 completely different sports, athletes excelled themselves and showed what can be done by adding pure, hard graft to their talent. The team of athletes representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland outclassed themselves, and smashed their own medals target of 48, winning 65 in the end. I know we had the home advantage, but if that means we get a new generation with sporting ambitions ignited, that will indeed be a legacy to treasure.
So what of those that complain about the bottom line? It has cost a fortune, they say, and so far, no-one can make the financial case for the Games. In fact some say it has cost lost revenue. But for me that misses the point. We in TPC define Excellence as being a combination of systems plus passion, tangibles and intangibles. My money is on the intangibles having a massive impact on our country; confidence, ambition, community spirit and optimism may all be hard to measure, but we’ve shown we can use them to good effect to stage these Olympics. Let’s hang onto them and use them to build a stronger country for the future.

Going for Gold

August 1, 2012

The Olympics are a fantastic arena to observe what Excellence looks like, but just as importantly to remind ourselves about the price that has to be paid by anyone that aspires to achieve it.

Today, the GB team got their first team gold medal in the women’s rowing pairs with Helen Glover and Heather Stanning showing their cool confidence right from the off. Their partnership is remarkable, – Helen only took up rowing four years ago and they have been rowing together for merely two years. One story I heard was that they were paired up as the least successful members of the squad – an afterthought, perhaps, or clutching at straws? Well, today’s evidence proves it was an inspired decision. It just goes to show what the right combination of talents, with the right coaching of course, can achieve.

The consistent story behind all the medal winners is their dedication to the development of their talents.  As neuroscientist Daniel Levitan has researched, “it comes down to that in order to be a world-class expert in anything, be it audiology, drama, music, art, gymnastics, whatever, one needs to have a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice.” This of course explains why it is that nations which identify and then hot-house promising youngsters do so well. I’m thinking here of the Chinese divers that our UK medal-hopeful, Tom Daley, finds such formidable competition; whilst he is fitting in his school studies with his four hours a day training, the impression is that his Chinese opponents simply practice diving all day.

But surely it’s not just down to natural aptitude and hard work? In TPC our formula for producing Excellence is that it takes a combination of Systems plus Passion. The training and coaching fits on the Systems side of this equation, but the energy to keep going definitely fits on the Passion side! For every winner there are many losers who have to find the will to get back on the treadmill in search of their moment of glory. The vast majority will never make it and the ones that do are able to remain undaunted by ‘failure‘ on the way. They say that success breeds success, but what about failure? Is this resilience a quality that can be learned and developed, or is it something you are born with?

Good luck to all the Olympic athletes, successful or otherwise. We wish you the fortitude to stick with your search for Excellence. It’s inspiring to us all.

Lessons in Excellence from the Olympics

July 24, 2012

Just over 3 days left now until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. The last rehearsal for the ceremony took place last night, and by all accounts went well, with all who attended (60,000 folks!) being sworn to secrecy. One chap who posted a photo onto Twitter obviously thought better of this breach of trust and took it down pretty quickly. One blogger  (@JillLawless) describes it as “splendidly British and magnificently bonkers“, whilst another (@petehendrick) declares “If you’ve got plans Friday night, cancel them. Opening Ceremony out of this world.” So there you have it! I shall be watching, how about you?

Since this is a Future Shape of the Winner blog, I will be thinking about which of the features of our model we can see in action during the course of the Olympics and whether there is any learning for the rest of us mere mortals!

TALENT

To start at the very beginning, the most obvious analogy is the pure Talent that is on show at the Games. Every single Olympian or Paralympian athlete  is a textbook example of the core element of an Excellent organisation – an individual who is determined to be a master at their own craft. (By the way,that’s our definition of Talent) It seems so tough that there can only be one winner in every competition, which inevitably means there will be far more ‘losers’ than ‘winners’. But having the chance of glory is clearly a really powerful incentive to thousands of would-be gold medal winners.

The drive to achieve Personal Best Performance that matters so much in sporting circles gives those of us in business something to reflect on about our own capabilities. Do we each know what our own current Personal Best is or are we stuck in a rut of sameness or mediocrity? And if we do have a sense of our current best, have we got a plan to better it?

As leaders, how do we manage to set up a situation at work where people will want to strive to be as good as they can be? What is our equivalent of setting Olympic Goals?

PERFORMANCE

Whenever there is a big prize to be won, there is always the chance that less scrupulous characters will find ways to create advantage for themselves.  I think that sport has done a pretty good job of making the disincentives for the use of performance enhancing drugs outweigh the benefits and have put in place some really reliable processes that check that people are complying. Doubtless there will be folks that are still trying to circumvent these rules, but it is harder and harder to make it pay! In FSW, this is an example of  Performance characteristic 17 in our Excellence Audit; Our measures drive truly professional behaviors in our team and the right partnership behaviors with clients, customers, and suppliers.

When you examine some of the greedy and selfish behaviour amongst our business people and politicians that we’ve seen in the last few years I do question the balance of measures that we find in so many organisations. Maybe we can learn some lessons about the surveillance and punishment we see in sport for ethical misdemeanours?

TRAFFIC UPDATE!

I’m not much enjoying the rearrangements that are being made in London to facilitate the movement of traffic during the Olympics. Unfortunately, I have three rehearsals this week at the BBC in Maida Vale (NW of the city) and my journey from the east normally takes me through the centre. Not this week, I can assure you! On my last two trips, I had to allow 2.5 hours and 1.75 hours for a journey that is a mere 25 miles. Oh dear;-(  Then again, it is just for 3 weeks!

Olympic Torch Relay Day 65

July 22, 2012

On the Olympic Torch’s second day in the capital city, with only 5 days until the opening ceremony, it passed by the TPC office in Hornchurch. The torch has been travelling right round the British Isles since 19th May and will be carried by 8000 individuals who have been nominated by their communities as inspirational people. It really is a moment for each of them to shine (as the relay slogan declares). I’ve watched several of them run their leg and it was great to see them carry the torch with their own style. Some just walked, others sprinted, some danced, skipped, flipped, rode a bike or a horse. The zip wires and helicopter landings were left for the professionals to carry out. We were lucky that the weather was splendid for our leg of the relay, and the crowds came out to line the streets of the town centre. In a flash the relay passed through, but the parties started early and ran on for several hours.

Image

The excitement in the Capital is building up, and although we have the usual last minute panics (security) and hissy fits (border staff and train drivers), I think it is amazing how much has been achieved without any obvious fuss at all. The various new stadia that have been built at Stratford East London look stunning, and promise a great audience experience. The sand has been imported into Horseguards Parade for the Beach Volley Ball and the Olympic Traffic Lanes have all been marked up. Although getting around the capital will probably be difficult, that is nothing new for London commuters. We’ve just all got our fingers crossed that the torrential rain we have suffered over the past 3-4 months will hold off until the middle of August.

The opening ceremony is shrouded in secrecy, but is billed as being a celebration of things British. Danny Boyle, the producer famous for Slumdog Millionaire is in charge of the proceedings, so it will be thoughtfully done, I’m sure.

We’ll be reporting our reflections on the proceedings from time to time. Can’t promise it will be unbiased, I’m afraid, but it will be our point of view.

No one likes a Show-Off!!

July 6, 2012

The concept of ‘Brand You’ (BY) is yet another example of Tom Peters being way ahead of his time. The importance of individuals seeing themselves as a business-unit-of-one has been present in his writing since the book Liberation Management in 1992, but the first published reference to Brand You that I am aware of was in his 1997 Fast Company article entitled The Brand Called You. Two years later, the Brand You 50 List (1999) went much further, giving aspiring Michealangelos a comprehensive, if rather unstructured, set of guidelines for developing themselves and their reputation. More recently, The Little Big Things (2010) is full of ideas for budding Brand Yous. 

As ever with ideas that are fresh off the drawing board, Tom Peters Company’s (2001) Brand You workshop was attractive mostly to early adopters in the market. From the outset, BY has appealed to the individual, and I’ve seen a lot evidence of it being taken and applied energetically by people in all walks of life. Any number of people have told me that Tom’s work on BY encouraged them to follow their personal ambitions and for some it even changed their lives.

But companies have been altogether more resistant to the concept; why would a company encourage its people to develop distinctiveness and then go out and promote themselves to their network? Surely this simply makes it more likely that their best people will be snapped up by the competition?

That was then, but so much has changed in the meantime; technology, society, emerging markets, global recession etc. etc. The Feb 2012 edition of Fast Company included an article entitled “This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business” that brings the debate up-to-date. It seems that a new generation of employees is only too well aware of the need to develop and hone their skills to cope with the ever-changing world of work. So I was delighted that our South African partners, Business Results Group, managed to find a big company client for their first foray into their market with the TPC Brand You Workshop. The client is an internal business improvement function in a large multinational company that has had much success in the first few years of its existence. The boss is keen that they don’t rest on their laurels, and sees BY as a way to consolidate and to build on the new function’s reputation through the developing and promoting the expertise of their individual professionals.

Our latest version of the BY workshop has been brought up to date to acknowledge the many attitudinal, economic and technological changes that have come about in recent years. During last month’s workshop in South Africa, we found that participants saw that Brand You was a fabulous tool for them as professionals to build their personal reputation both inside and outside the company. They were also glad to have the chance to take more control of their careers and what is being said about them.

I’ve been mulling over what it takes for a company to see the benefit of its people embracing BY concepts and I’ve concluded what it boils down to is that fewer and fewer companies these days are offering their employees a job for life. Companies just can’t make that kind of promise to their people, because so little is certain. So the next best thing a company can do is to help to ensure that their people are employable for life. Ironically those companies that make this kind of commitment may well gain the loyalty of their people even however long their stay with the company.

Rock On!!

November 18, 2011

Thursday 17th November was a big day for our clients, Virgin Money. By an astonishing quirk of fate, the opening of the first two of their new concept Lounges (Edinburgh and Norwich) coincided with the announcement by the chancellor, George Osborne, that the Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Money.

This is a huge milestone for VM and one towards which they have been working for several years. They are determined to cause a stir in the world of banking – even though some in the industry are still describing their status as a minnow. If being 10th largest bank with 4 million customers makes you a minnow, it gives you some idea of the stranglehold that the big banks have on the market. Mind you, being smaller has never bothered Virgin businesses in the past – when VM first launched their internet based PEPS business  back in 1995, existing players in their market saw them as irritants – mosquitoes if you like!! And we all know how much trouble mosquitoes can cause, don’t we?!

Over the past 6 months Tom Peters Company has been running events for all existing staff to help them to see their part in building the bank of the future. The commitment in time and money to run these events was extraordinary, given the manic level of activity that was going on in the business. But Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the Chief Executive, has always set great store by keeping everyone involved – the events are designed both to communicate but also to give everyone the chance to have a say.

Virgin Money Edinburgh Lounge, November 2011

And as for these lounges – what on earth are they about? The answer is that they are all about relationships and definitely not about transacting or selling. The return on investment may be very difficult to quantify, but the stir they are likely to create may well be just what’s required in these times of financial stalemate.

It’s going to be an exciting time for VM – wish them luck!!

 

 

2011 Update

November 16, 2011

As we approach the end of another year, it is a good chance to look back and reflect. Here are some of the highlights from the last year in TPC.

De-mystifying Excellence

Our Excellence Model, the Future Shape of the Winner (FSW), continues to be well received by clients and consultants alike. People really appreciate the simplicity of the model and the fact that it gives them a bird’s eye view of their progress on their Excellence agenda. It forces them to consider every angle – and to step up to challenges that they wouldn’t naturally take on. Here’s how one client summed up his reaction to the FSW model:

…by accepting our outdated IT systems as a barrier (which I had), I am effectively limiting the ability of this business to provide the best customer experience that we can, so your project has inspired me to demand our own IT system and stop our lack of high level decision making (to sell or not to sell the business) impact the customer experience for this business.

Your (FSW) project was a moment of divine intervention, which I sincerely thank you for.” Managing Director, UK based plc

You’ll get an idea of the style and approach if you take a look at our free Excellence Audit taster – the LITE version. Prices of a full audit begin at UK£250/US$400 for an individual audit.

21st Century Learning

Amongst this year’s headlines is the news is that I have finally graduated with a Masters Degree in Open and Distance Education from the Open University. It’s taken me several years, but on the back of this study, we’ve now had three serious sorties into the world of Distance Learning. Our 5-week FSW/Excellence Audit training programme has involved 21 consultants from literally all over the globe. “DL” is the learning medium that everyone is talking about, so expect to see more Distance Learning offerings from us in the future.

What’s your experience of Distance Learning? Have you got any requests for programmes in this format from TPC?

Spreading The Word!

After over 20 years of designing and delivering in-company development and training events in the US and Europe, TPC has decided the time is now right to move into new territories by licensing other “local” consultants to use our unique IP and workshop materials. The audience for Tom Peters’ ideas is truly global these days and we are getting more and more interest from people who want to access TPC services from far and wide.

We began during 2010-2011 by licensing consultants in the use of our Excellence Audit. In 2012 we are extending the licensing arrangements to include three of our best-loved training products, Brand You, WOW! Projects and Creating Value for Customers. Our partners are a well-established training company in South Africa, Business Results Group, who have had a successful track record of delivering licensed training products for over 15 years. Once we’ve got our head around how the deal will work for both parties, we’ll be looking for more partners based in markets that are new for us. All advice and contacts gratefully accepted!

Outlook

The clients who have continued to work with TPC over the past three difficult years increasingly have one characteristic in common. Sure, they have continued to invest in the aspects that they think make their business different and special, but increasingly the source of this distinctive difference lies the discretionary extra contributions that their people routinely bring to the business. When it comes to competing in ever more difficult markets, copying products and avoiding copyright legislation seems to be getting easier and easier. Copying the contributions special people make to special businesses is quite the reverse!

What are you doing to keep yourself ahead of the pack?

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