Productivity is Human

Productivity is Human

I gave a short talk to the British Institute of Facilities Management yesterday and thought I’d share the words that I kinda used. There’s a lot of opinion and not a lot of data in this, you may agree or you may disagree with what I say, both are fine.

The presentation is all pretty pictures made with Haiku Deck, you can see it here

Productivity is Human

The world of work is changing, we are regularly reminded about how technology is going to disrupt and revolutionise the way we are productive beyond recognition. We will no longer need an office, we will no longer need a desk, we will no longer need to meet each other in real life. The robots will do our jobs better, faster, with fewer mistakes, no bias, no rests.

But to be honest this technological revolution has entirely failed to deliver any productivity gains by the financial measures folk use to track these things. At best we have flatlined over the last 5 years but really we have gone backwards. And yet we continue to focus our hopes on technology saving us, on finance as our main measure, on profit as our purpose.

Given the 3rd Industrial Revolution seems to have failed to make us more product will this 4th technological revolution give us the utopia we a seeking, unlimited leisure time, freedom from labour, time to connect, relax, to be!

Or will it be a dystopian future, with no work for humans, no pay for humans, no purpose for humans.

The future is already here, and the most disruptive and high profile new technologies are the ones replacing humans. Your next taxi ride might be in a driverless vehicle. Think it’s decades away? Uber is already testing driverless taxis in Pittsburg…Now, Today! No humans involved!

Want to valet park your car at Dusseldorf airport? Well a robot will come and pick up your car, actually pick up your car and place it on a parking shelf. No humans involved!

Want room service, fresh towels, a snack, on your next trip to LA, well “RELAY” the hotel robot may well be beeping at your door with your order!…No humans involved!

“Great” say some, we’ll be much more productive, get more done, be more profitable.

“Robots could increase global productivity by 50% by 2025!”

But at what cost to humans? Will there be any work for us?

Depending what you read or hear robots could take up to 50% of our jobs in 20 years. And we might be sitting here really smug, with a professional career, thinking “yeah, but that’s the manual jobs, the physical jobs, the repetitive jobs the boring jobs, the dirty jobs, not my job!”

Time to burst that bubble. Watson the IBM Artificial Intelligence can already take a patient’s history and provide an evidence based diagnosis, and 5 evidence based treatment plans all without having to consult a human doctor. And Watson is much better at doing that then the best human doctors. If Watson can get rid of the Doctor, it won’t be long before it can get rid of you too.

If Ray Kurzweil is right, in 2045 Artificial Intelligence will surpass human intelligence, and at that point computers will grow beyond our comprehension. At that point computers will be able to rebuild, reprogramme, remake themselves and we won’t be able understand what they are doing.

To give you an idea of how much computing power will be available if you spend the same money you spent on your Macbook Air, say £1000, on a computer in 20145 you new computer will be 1 billion times smarter than ALL the humans!!!

And when that happens if we are not careful we get Skynet and the Terminator films come to life!

So is this inevitable? Is it the only way?

I believe we need to make some pretty big decisions about the way we think of work, what its purpose is and how much we make it for humans.

If the purpose of work is purely for profit, (and I have a massive problem with Milton Friedman’s cheerful ditty about the purpose of business being to make shareholders profit.) But if we continue to believe that money and profit are productivity for productivity’s sake are our purpose, then the future really does look bleak for humans who want to work. Remember the machines are faster than us, stronger than us, make fewer mistakes than us, don’t come in late like us, don’t have hangovers like us, don’t take breaks like us, don’t join unions like us.

But work and business shouldn’t just be about stakeholder gain, profit and productivity measures. At the same time Milton Friedman was spouting his guff, Kenneth Mason, President of Quaker Oats, was talking about business in very different terms. His direct quote is food based, wouldn’t you know, but I love this derivation of it

“Profit is to business as oxygen is to life, getting enough is vital but it’s not why we are here”

So there is a different way we can think about work and the opportunities this technological revolution might give us. We can decide to keep the humans, to celebrate the humans and to embrace the humans. Yes there will be a cost, but there will be a cost whichever way we go.

Human organisations are the ones making a real dint in the world right now, they are challenging the traditional institutions and they are thriving. The WorldBlu principles of democratic organisations is a great description of what these organisations are like.

  1. Purpose and Vision
  2. Transparency
  3. Dialogue + Listening
  4. Fairness + Dignity
  5. Accountability
  6. Individual + Collective
  7. Choice
  8. Integrity
  9. Decentralization
  10. Reflection + Evaluation

There are organisations that are doing this already:


Buurtzorg are a dutch primary care organisation who have grown to over 7000 (mainly nursing) staff. They have around 600 teams that are self managed and there are NO MANAGERS. There is a back office and there are coaches helping the teams but the teams make the decisions about how they work and how care is delivered. They trust their staff to do their job. They are a non-profit organisation with an 8% profit rate, 3% sickness absence and 8% overhead costs.


Yes, WD-40. Gary Ridge the CEO talks about the purpose of WD-40 being “Leaving positive lasting memories”. The staff are ‘tribe members’, they have rituals and ceremonies and they expect every tribe member to have and use their voice. Their leadership programme is open to every member of staff irrespective of role because everyone is expected to be a leader. In their last annual report they note an increase in sales of 24%.


DaVita say they are a community first and a company second. They take the organisation’s culture so seriously that they give staff a probationary period before they cross the bridge and join DaVita…and they actually cross a real bridge to join. DaVita are a fortune 500 company.

Alternative University Romania

“Helping people find happiness through liberty of choice”.

An alternative university founded around students and by students. Challenging the traditional models of education and building a community of learning The Alternative University believe that there are young people with the potential to become agents of change in Romanian society. Students discover and follow passions, create their own projects and innovative programs, and build an ecosystem of alternative learning.

These are organisations paying attention to the humans, this is what human productivity is like, this is what work with real purpose is like.

There are three elements that I think all of these organisations exhibit that are fundamental to being a human organisation.

They are social, communities, societies, tribes for connecting, collaborating, talking and working with others, they harness the distributed intelligence of all through human connections.

They accept vulnerability, the vulnerability of their leaders, who are human, who don’t know everything. The vulnerability of their staff who try things that don’t always work, who have bad days as well as good days. These human organisations allow us to be vulnerable humans, they give us the space to be vulnerable humans and they encourage us to be brilliant by accepting that we might not always be.

More than anything these organisations trust. They trust the people that are part of their organisations and teams to do thier job, to make decisions, to make good choices to try, to fail and learn, to grow, to deliver. They see the strengths of their teams first and trust they will be used and know that that is enough.

So what I believe is that we need to rethink what we mean by being productive, whichever route we go has a cost, if we build work that is productive measured in mainly financial terms the robots win, and the humans lose, If we build more human work ten there will be a financial cost. We have a choice, and if we decide we want a more human productivity we will need more human organisations to be productive in.

We know the alternative, it’s Skynet and the Terminator.

A Wellcome Space

Reading Room Wellcome Collection

I spent the afternoon at The Wellcome Collection with the Leadership Impact group I am supporting (an impact group is a bit like an action learning set). It’s the first time I’ve visited the collection and I highly recommend you give it a try. One of the reflections of the group was how the space and environment we are in changes how we do work and it’s something we don’t pay enough attention to. The Wellcome Collection is a really interesting space with lots to stimulate, provoke and to get you thinking.

Ann Veronica Janssens’ installation was a particularly bonkers experience, walking around inside in dense pink fog definitely challenged my perception and conciousness.

The Tibetan Buddhist yogic and meditational practice exhibition was absolutely brill too with real relevance to healthcare and compassionate leadership. This quote was popular amongst my gang.

To realise the essence of conciousness…

  • Approach what you find repulsive
  • Help whoever you think you cannot
  • Let go of anything you are attached to
  • Go to places that scare
    you, such as cemeteries
  • Be mindful
  • Discover the Buddha within

Bias and Bond!!

I have taken the Harvard Implicit Bias tests a number of times and I’m still not entirely sure what the results are telling me. Having grown up in a society awash with gender stereotypes the ability to connect femaleness with family and maleness with career (this is what the gender test measures) isn’t surprising, the media bombard us with the connections endlessly so the ability to more quickly connect those on the test doesn’t come as a shock. Does that demonstrate a bias? At one level I am sure it does but at another level I really don’t know. It does demonstrates that I have noticed the guff the media feed us all and those neural connections are easily accessible to me. But will this necessarily influence my behaviour and lead to prejudice?

I guess what it does highlight is the fact that we are fighting against something much bigger than ourselves. These stereotypes and cultural norms surround us and set the benchmark and the expectations of society as a whole. Examples abound, how much female sport is on regular TV? How many famous women have a statue in Manchester (Answer, one, and they are just this week talking about adding a second).

So is it inevitable that just because I have been surrounded by a biased world I will be a biased person? I hope not, because if that is the case there is no hope for any of us brought up in Britain (or I guess any where else that I can think of).

In my concious world I continually battle against bias, it is something I talk about openly and often, particularly at home. My wife is a fiercely independent woman, I would never presume to set expectations about what she should or shouldn’t aspire to or achieve, I am hugely proud of her achievements and will applaud (and support) her aspirations whatever they are. My daughter is a feisty teenager and we have brilliant debates about how much she hates Bond films for their misogyny and portrayal of pathetic subservient female characters (btw how did they get to be spies if they are so pathetic?).

So I guess my reflection from taking these tests it that it will be important to keep a dialogue going in the conscious space that challenges the pervasive and unhelpful stereotypes and social norms that surround us and not allow them to set standards and expectations by default!

I am a faculty member of the NHS Leadership Academy and this post was written as part of my reflections of a Diversity and Inclusion programme that I am undertaking with them.

MY Health Data #hospitalfutures


Really short post from #HospitalFutures event today

I’ve not seen Prof Andy Miah talk before, but he is a bit ace (and should have had a bit more time on the platform today IMHO).

He had some really interesting points about the data that already exists that has utility for our health benefit and he highlighted this with the possible use of data that Spotify has on our mood (you tell it every time you pick one of those mood based playlists) and there are loads of other apps we give data and clues about our health to.

This all sounds really exciting but we are also heading for a big problem, the same problem you have when you want to move from Apple to Android…your data is locked in and you don’t own it. You are basically at the whim of Spotify if you want your health data and good luck if you want to get to it easily.

Our data might useful when it is looked after by the likes of Spotify, however it is potentially much more useful if it can be easily combined with data from Facebook, Google, the NHS etc. etc. and shared openly for the common good. We are a long way from being able to do that.

Live blogged from The Future of Hospitals

Photo reference Jergen Appelo

Democracy in Healthcare #HospitalFutures

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@dr_attila_vegh from University Hospital South Manchester is at the deep end of Healthcare change in the NHS

The point is not to predict the future but to prepare for it

He is a thoroughly fascinating speaker, a medically qualified NHS CEO who spent much of his time talking about meaning and wholeness. It makes a refreshing change focusing on the real purpose of healthcare and the opportunity the challenges we face and the technological changes we have access to can bring us.

We are living in a consumer society, expectations have changed and technology has changed the landscape for virtually all the services we access (except perhaps those in the public sector). Attila identified 3 things that will help the NHS catch up.

  • Wanting to change – a healthy sense of urgency
  • Transparency – uberisation of healthcare
  • Apps and gadgets – and the effect of Moore’s Law

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. George Bernard Shaw

The unreasonable radicals have changed our world already

  • The worlds largest taxi firm owns no cars
  • The worlds largest hotelier owns no hotels
  • The worlds largest shop has no shops

And this revolution is not that far away in healthcare:

  • Mayo consultants expect 30% of all consultations to be virtual (not sure by when)
  • The internet is filtering and structuring medical data in such a way that without specialist knowledge we can have a sophisticated understanding of our condition and (perhaps more importantly) the sort of treatment we should expect.
  • Cost of genome sequence has gone from 100,000,000 to less than $1000 in 15 years
  • Dermatology app that is more accurate than a dermatology consultant!!!
  • We can do full blood test with dongle attached to smart phone – what happens to pathology labs?

If Moore’s Law applies to all these, and why wouldn’t it, then we will all have access to these in no time at all.

And if this all happens then Doctors role will change:

  • They will work as teams rather than on their own
  • They will work in increasingly complex organisations working across health systems
  • They will want a life (radical on this one, but they should have the chance too)
  • Their patients will be smarter and better informed
  • Thy will use info tools constantly

This gives us the opportunity to completely re-invent health organisations. Currently our hospitals are designed like factories built solely to manage risk (and with factory based improvement attitudes eg Lean).

Wonderfully Attila hopes the hospitals of the future will be ‘temples for life’, reconnecting with the meaning of our work making a difference in our patients lives. If he wasn’t at Meaning Conference earlier this year he should have been (perhaps he should be on next years list). He referenced Fredrick Laloux and Jos de Blok and if half of what he talked about in terms of building democratic (my word not his) organisations and teams comes to pass I think he will be leading a brilliant revolution. The characteristics he wants to see are beautifully simple:

  • Self management
  • Wholeness
  • Evolutionary purpose

I think South Manchester is now a place to watch very closely.

democracy in health

Live blogged from #HospitalFutures

Culture is the Future of Hospitals

behaviours are key

Future of Hospitals

I’m at The Future of Hospitals conference today (thanks @stickythinker) listening to Raj Jain from @SalfordRoyalNHS.

Raj outlined the problem:

  • Too much variation
  • Too many decision makers
  • Command and control
  • Fragmented providers

Ant then he came to the solution:

What was really interesting to me wasn’t the whizzy tech, data and analytics based stuff he presented (that included amazing predictive analytic model that give more than a glimpse into the future allowing hospitals time to react to ebbs and flows.) As Raj himself said this stuff isn’t rocket science, the technology exists and the analytics exist, Salford’s innovation is to put it into practice as the whole system scale.

No, what was interesting was something Raj said at the end of his presentation – I’ll paraphrase (because I can’t recall his exact words)

If you don’t have the culture right it doesn’t matter what IT/data systems you have in place.

What he said must be in place for transformation at scale are ‘Purpose’, ‘Mindset’ and ‘Behaviour’. And Just look at the size of the ‘behaviour’ bubble on his slide above.

I think we often find a tech or process solution and try to apply it without paying anything like enough attention to the cultural aspects.

It’s an old adage, but I think it applies

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Our attention might be drawn to the fancy whizzy tech solution with its alluring promise of more insight and more effective use of capacity but if we don’t focus on the human stuff, how we have real conversations together, how we collaborate together, how we build the culture around us, if we don’t pay attention to that then digital systems won’t really make a difference.

Leap Day

Josh showing what leaping really is

The wonderful Doug Shaw asked me about the impact of the early iteration of his Art for Works sake workshop that I experienced 3 and a bit years ago (was it that long), on Leap Day 2012. This is my v. quick response

“How did it make you feel? In what way (if any) does it resonate with you currently?”

Leapday had a big impact on me, it came at an important crossroads in my life/career and marked a watershed in how I thought about my work future. I wasn’t sure if I was even going to go in to the cafe to begin with (and walked past the door at least twice). I’m glad I did cross the threshold though becuase the opprtunity to spend some time with people talking, drawing and painting had a massive impact. Practically it gave me an opportunity to explore the new road ahead (although at the time I’m not sure I knew that was what I was doing) it connected me beautifully with a group who I only vaguely knew and gave me a safe space and a whole new vocabulary to learn about myself and the people I was spending time with.

It absolutely resonates today for me. It reminds me constantly that in the work that I do the experience that people have and their chance to explore that experience in conversation with others is more important than content. It was the start of some great friendships that have endured and have helped me to think about things in a very different way. It’s fair to say it came at the right time for me, but it was also the right thing to do to help me think deeply about where I wanted to be.

It is still an event that I think about frequently and more importantly Leap Further was conceived on that day.

Thanks Doug

Written with StackEdit.


Bad value

Don’t waste your time energy and money working on products and services nobody wants.

I was asked if I had any thoughts on evaluation this evening, well I guess they wanted to know if I had thoughts on evaluation at any time, it’s just that they asked me this evening, anyway it turns out I didn’t. It’s not that I don’t have any thoughts at all on the subject, it’s just that I can’t pull anything insightful straight off the top of my head at 8pm on a Monday evening.

I decided to give that twitter place a try and see if I could find some inspiration there and you know what, it certainly got me thinking.

First challenge was to define what was I actually asking about – I clarified slightly that I was talking about evaluation of programmes and interventions like leadership/management development programmes or OD interventions.

Top bloke Ian Pettigrew pointed me towards Kirkpatrick’s model. My simple understanding of it is:

  • Reaction
  • Learning
  • Behaviour
  • Results

He also pointed to one of his own blogs about mapping ROI in this case for social media, but applicable widely – good quick read, thx Ian.

His final offering really got me thinking – how could I use one of my favourite frameworks, Alex Osterwalder’s Value Proposition thinking to support evaluation.

This approach would mean evaluation was driven by the customer (learner) and the value they have derived (or perceived to derive) from the learning experience.

At the other end of the spectrum Julie Drybrough reminded me that even big brains struggle with this stuff, pointing out that someone has produced a 104 page evaluation of a Google Leadership Programme that doesn’t mention the learner experience at all.

There are some folk who take evaluation, and it’s cousin Evidence Based Practice very seriously. Thanks to Siobhan for pointing me towards the Center for Evidence-Based Management and the amazing (and slightly intimidating) amount of resource they have available.

Con Sotidis went a stage further and found me a free webinar of the actual Kitkpatricks, presumably talking about the Kirkpatrick model. – Loads of other great stuff there too – Makes you wonder why we bother trying to put anything together ourselves?

Con also mentioned the #OzLearn twitter chat 10 am GMT Tuesday 10th Nov which is in Evaluation. I’m busy unfortunately but Con assures me a Storify will appear on their LinkedIn page

And as the twitter folk headed to bed Siobhan found me a great article on the evidence for Leadership from Karen Lynas

I did do a bit of searching for myself (not much to be fair – will add more later)

I also had a look at The LnDConnect LinkedIn page to see what was there, and found a couple of interesting storifies of #LDInsight chats that were related.

Ken Fee also came up trumps and shared some great resources from Training Zone, which has introduced me to the Success Case Method and Robert O Brinkerhoff. He notes that we often make the mistake of evaluating learning in isolation as one off events, which is like testing the success of a marriage by evaluating the wedding.

My thinking

No deep thinking yet, just a couple of reflections.

  • Evaluation at the end is too late, it has to be an ongoing and iteritive process. What’s the use of a happy sheet at the end of a one day workshop? Really!
  • Evaluation should be based on what the learner thinks is valuable and how the learning experience helped them. They are grown ups for gods sakes, who generally know more about their job than you. We should trust them to judge if the learning they have experienced has helped them.
  • There is a huge amount of resource out there if you know where to look. This can make evaluation seem big and scary…I think when evaluation is big and scary it is probably taking up too much space in the world.

#CIPD15 – curated

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All the stuff in one place – well, not quite, but a collection of the things I may want to revisit and find again.

I spent 2 days at #CIPD15 tweeting and blogging with the CIPD #blogsquad. It was quite an intense experience, one which I haven’t yet fully reflected on. There has been loads of content produced so I’m going to try and capture the bits I’m interested in returning to here, mainly for my own convenience, and perhaps for your too.

My Blogs

I managed to write nine posts in the two days, mainly live during sessions, whilst tweeting a bit too. Live blogging forced me to focus on record things rather than analysing things, to such an extent that I couldn’t actually remember what I’d heard or written after the first 2 sessions. It became easier over the 2 days and the blogs are definitely a useful record and reminder to go back to, just don’t expect any wonderful insight…yet.

Other stuff

All the presentations – well all the ones where presenters were happy to share their presentations with CIPD anyway. I’ve no idea how long CIPD will keep this page live so download now whilst you can.

Tim Scott had a play with Periscope this year, really effective.

All the #blogsquad stuff

Ian Pettigrew curated a great storify containing all the blogsquads whittering. There is loads.

#CIPD15 Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader

Streal like an artist

I’m running out of blogging energy, so this may be short.

Herminia Ibarra
starts off with “What got you here, won’t get you there” and some personal stories about the challenge of the well intended “Can I give you a little feedback”

The advice she got to win over the MBA students

Make the pit your own, Be a dog, Mark your territory, Do your business in each corner of the room. Touch them, but don’t make hay. Make it clear no-one is out of your reach. If your hungry and they’ve got food, take it.

It was not comfortable but it had a huge impact. Increase outsight (the opposite of introspection) external knowledge and experiences change what we thing, what we value, what we are capable of!

The key point is

“Change what you do to change what you think

We often know what we need to do differently but we cant change the behaviour.

1, Redefine your job

How do you spend your time – doing stuff yourself, getting others to do for you, strategising, developing people/coaching. We spend most time doing and not enough strategising.

Competency trap – we get so good at something that then defines (and limits) us. Cost of developing a new skill it is high

2, Hubs and bridges

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pic credit Lesley Louise

3, Network

We are narsassistic and lazy and so are our networks. So how can we get the spread we need?

Find strength in your weak ties.
People who are on twitter have more innovative ideas but the twitter ninjas are the ones who follow people who don’t follow each other.

Diversify your networks

4, Be more playful with yourself

Transitioning into a leadership role can make you feel very inauthentic.

Can authenticity be “being what I will become” not just what I am today

Steal like an artist

Live blogged at the end of 2 days live blogging at #cipd15, I’d be suprised if this makes any sense at all. Sorry.

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