Saturday 18 May 2013

“Unless to thought is added will, Apollo is an imbecile.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

When a Japanese businessman was asked why he was happy to talk freely about his company’s quality management system, I took a note of his reply,

“By the time the competition figures it out, we will have moved our commercial advantage on.  You see, many western companies see planning as an isolated activity and only share with those impacted when they communicate the action plan.  They lose the opportunity to gain fresh perspective and buy-in.   This results in misunderstanding, discord and rejection.  They are, of course, then very good at hero management; correcting a problem they are the architects of.  This saps a team’s energy and confidence.  

Our planning culture is inclusive.  We gather input from everyone.  We deal with beliefs, assumptions, concerns and aspirations early on.  Acceptance is gained before action starts, leading to greater role clarity and a shared desire to achieve objectives. 

In your cultures you leap to action without including others in your planning activity.  The planner assumes, wrongly, that everyone will implement tasks the same way, whereas each individual’s experience determines how they interpret information and choose to behave.  To align thinking and action, you need to achieve buy-in while you plan, not just when you implement.

It will take Western companies too long to learn this lesson and adopt inclusive communication throughout their planning process.”

Over the intervening years I have seen this prophecy cause many to stumble.   This is why we introduce “Future Conference” as an energising event to quickly gain buy-in from board members, management, staff, customers and suppliers.  It saves time and money by avoiding costly mistakes.  Apollo would be glad to know that this also heals. 


Thursday 7 February 2013

The Power of Love and LinkedIn

Experience of a personal marketing campaign – the sequel
… 41% response rate from my LinkedIn network in January…

Of these, 72% have contributed positively with names of individuals, companies or ideas on different channels to navigate. 
Here are the three positives so far:

1.       The feedback from past colleagues, clients and suppliers is affirming.
2.       Positive conversations generate personal energy.
3.       Maintaining a prospects database & action plan is critical.
It is a marketing campaign, except the product is “me”. 

Here are the three issues I am having to work around:
1.       The Executive Search market is, of course, largely client and sector focused.
2.       The value of multi-sector experience is discounted by recruiters.
3.       Consultant to corporate is a tough sell, even with a great turnaround MD record.
What are the next steps?

1.       Analyse the feedback & generate a prioritised list of 10-20 companies.
2.       Make calls to research these businesses.
3.       Identify the “hook” and call the CEO.
To align to my skill-set, what will these companies have in common?
1.       The need to grow revenue, market share or EBITDA.
2.       Those involved perceive that the business is under performing.
3.       There is an immediate market challenge that translates internally into a strategy-staff issue.
The owners of these businesses are typically looking for a leader to:

1.       Energise a business, site or division to increase their ROI.
2.       Positively influence strategic implementation, staff morale and customer satisfaction.
3.       Keen to win new business, enter new markets and compete successfully.
If you are in the middle of your own search then I hope this helps.

It is all about creating great communication, action and results in a competitive world.
Does this describe a business you love?

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Who is winning the bidding war?

The Prime-Minister’s office released a statement rejecting Richard Branson request for a review of the decision to award the West Coast rail network franchise to FirstGroup.  Virgin have now forced a delay by requesting a judicial review? 

Branson’s reaction does not come as a surprise to anyone with experience of large project bidding.  He claims that FirstGroup cannot create enough new seats to generate the extra revenue.  The deal seems to include higher payments to the government in the final years of the contract and Branson implies that they will hand back the franchise before these fall due.  Tim O’Toole states that their bid is deliverable and FirstGroup point to Virgin’s service record, implying that they will do better. 

Here are three reasons why the Government may be missing a golden opportunity to:

1. Demonstrate that they are wily business men and women. 

The real question in the public mind is - should any contract licence be awarded to the “highest bidder” without a full examination and public explanation of the winning bidder’s business model? 

The same public review should apply to large government sponsored projects that are awarded to the “lowest bidder”.  Perhaps this should apply to any deal where success can only be measured after the tenure of the incumbent government.  Here is a true story that highlights why a process needs to be more than just “fair and robust”.

A competitor won a bid with an 8-figure price that was 20% below most of the other experienced bidders.  Bids were sealed and opened publicly to avoid any concern of impropriety.  We were keen to understand how, with a very fixed specification, the winning bid was so much cheaper than everyone else.

The answer was not hard to find.  Engineer’s time and salaries represented a major part of this 10 year project.  Their engineering costs were one-fifth of the rest of us.  Essentially, they were gambling their profit and reputation on a number of factors occurring during the delivery of the project: 

-          they planned to use local, less experienced workers to do more of the work than we felt appropriate (no I’m not talking about G4S);

-          they would load the inevitable contract variations (that normally did not go back out to open tender) with higher than required engineering and material mark-ups to add back profit, and increase the bill to the tax-payer (no I am not talking about the Channel Tunnel);

-          they could sacrifice quality because it would be more than 10 years before anyone could start to measure their work from a reliability or performance basis. 

I am not complaining.  You could say that Virgin have also been out-smarted by a wily competitor.  Once the numbers are that large, it is a war and “nothing is fair”.  You could argue business ethics and reputation are more important in the long run, but which set of shareholders do you think will be happier in the short-term?

2. This is another industry at risk of dominant player behaviour.  I worry about the “largest UK operator” winning this contract.  So much for the competition we were promised when the rail network was privatised.

The reality is that customers and employees are impacted by higher-than-inflation price increases across almost all the privatised industries.  This extends to situations were a dominant player controls the supply chain and transfer pricing. 

Over 150,000 customers have signed the petition, so I am delighted that pen and paper will be left dry today. 

If FirstGroup’s business model is sound (and I have no reason to suppose that it is not) then they should not object to levelling out the repayments to the Government over the life of the contract, placing sums in escrow or including a substantial penalty payments clause in the contract for any early return of the licence. 

3. Demonstrate to the public that the outcome of their bidding process is correct.  "As far as the prime minister was concerned, there was a fair and robust process and the right decision has been made," Prime Minister David Cameron's spokeswoman told Reuters.

 It is often easy for a leader to ask the wrong question of those who need to justify a decision.  Of course, everyone will confirm to him that the right decision has been made… but do 150,000 people believe it?  History suggests that the decision-makers of long-term contracts are seldom around when the tax-payer or customer has to pick up the bill.
The Government should choose a different path for this and any other major contract.  They should buy themselves a little time on this one to prove to the British Public that this decision is correct rather than appear to rush it through during the holiday season.  

Wednesday 1 August 2012

An Executive View Newsletter

Welcome to this Quarterly Edition of An Executive View Newsletter


For help with a current performance, turnaround or interim resource issue call us on +44 (0) 207 193 8323 or +44 (0)7768 391 000.

Three most recent Blogs summarised

“Is change in business just like any other professional sport?  To be successful, communications need to be targeted to those involved, watching and non-attendees”

“Top Influences: thoughts, role models, organisations and books.  What have been the major influences in your life? Here are some of mine:” 

Strategy event facilitation for one registered charity operating in the UK and the Commonwealth.  This engaging process has a powerful and immediate impact on commercial and “not for profit” organisations.”

Most Popular Blog Revisited

“Process excellence includes keeping your competitors guessing and your Board aware.”  This blog continues to attract new readers

What’s New

An evening at the Slovak Republics Embassy in London, hosted by the Ambassador and visiting President of this beautiful country.  

Our partner Pyramid ODI agrees an initial Matchday Sponsorship deal with Crystal Palace Football Club.

What’s Next

Our new website is here www.shkltd.comWe would appreciate your comments via the contact us or home page forms.

Our facilitation of a strategic planning event for a charity in the UK or the Commonwealth is open for application.

There are two new places available for our successful leadership mentoring programme - call us on +44 (0) 207 193 8323 or +44 (0)7768 391 000.

And we will be attending the next business networking event at CPFC

Good luck to all those performing at the Olympics and Paralympics

Best wishes for an enjoyable summer. 


Mobile: +44 (0) 7768 391 000 Salmon Heaton & Kimmins Ltd, in association with Pyramid ODI

You have received a copy of this newsletter as a valued contact, but if you do not wish

to receive future updates then please click Unsubscribe and send the email

Monday 23 July 2012

Is change in business just like any other professional sport?

What do all professional sports have in common?   Any sporting occasion will have:

-          Participants:  Competitors, referees, and support staff. 

-          Spectators: fans of either the competitors or the sport, & those who would rather be somewhere else. 

-          Non-attendees:  those who are affected by the result & those with no obvious involvement.
Performance and passion will vary.  Events will be recalled and reported differently; “the facts” recorded.

Change in business is no different.  There are those involved in the change, those watching with their own agenda and those with no obvious interest.  Each will behave differently - their motivations initially unclear.  Their level of investment may vary.  How they interpret what they hear and read will depend on their very personal experience. 
Leaders of successful change recognise the existence and potential of each group, whether they are involved, watching or apparently disinterested.  A segmented “group” may be large, such as a local community, or small representing a key individual.  Each group will have different or potentially conflicting needs, beliefs and objectives – the underlying motivations and causes need to be understood.
Separate communication plans for each group need to reflect these differences.  Different content, media and timing will be deployed to create awareness and then acceptance.  Messages need to be consistent and feedback appropriate. 

These segmented communications need to influence all the other tasks and actions in the project plan, including the deployment of technical solutions. 
Segmented communication plans also need to be part of any “change control”, contingency and risk assessment process, because people react in different ways, events change outcomes and stress impacts performance. 

Finally, I would like to wish every athlete and spectator at the Olympic or Paralympic Games a successful, enjoyable and safe visit to the UK.

[From the series “Changing Leading Performing” by Salmon Heaton & Kimmins Ltd]

Thursday 19 July 2012

London Business School Alumni Service Award 2012

Michael Salmon receiving the London Business School Alumni Service Award 2012 from the Dean,
Sir Andrew Likierman.
"Michael has been a member of the International Alumni Board and subsequently the International Alumni Council (IAC) since 2003 and took additional responsibilities as Chair of the Governance and Nominations Committee and member of the Executive Committee in 2006.  As Chair of the Governance and Nominations Committee Michael led the project to change the Board’s Terms of Reference to move from a majority elected Board to a wholly nominated Council.  Michael worked tirelessly to make this transition a great success, demonstrating great  leadership, commitment and wisdom.  Thanks to him, the IAC is now well positioned for even greater success and more accurately represents the diverse alumni community it serves.

In addition to his work on the IAC Michael has been an all-round champion of  Executive Education alumni, helping the Alumni Relations team develop the engagement opportunities for this special group of alumni.  Celebrating his 10-year Reunion this year, Michael has been a committed Class Representative, helped host focus groups to better understand the Executive Education alumni needs and has been heavily involved in motivating both his classmates and Executive Education alumni to attend Reunion this year.

We are delighted to honour Michael with the Alumni Service Award."

Interviewed by Alumni eNews @ LBS Michael said, “It was important to create an IAC which was representative of all programmes, geographies and age groups and the different generations of alumni. An elected system was never going to give us this so we moved to a fully nominated model which has proved very successful.”. 

Michael’s commitment to the School stems from his days on the Senior Executive Programme, a period he describes as 'life-changing'.  "The Senior Executive programme blew me away, " he recalls, "With exceptional lectures and fantastic professors.  Exchanging views with senior executives from other walks of life was equally valuable.  You learn so much from one another."
And that is exactly what Michael has continued to enjoy as an alumnus: “I regularly meet alumni
and attend LBS events in London, Europe and North America. I always come away reinvigorated and inspired by the fellow alumni I have met and the discussions and conversations we’ve engaged in. I’d really encourage all alumni to get involved”.

Ten years after his SEP, he admits he was speechless for a few moments when he took the call f
rom the Dean informing him of his award. “It was a great honour,” he says. “It never crossed my mind that I would receive such an award. I am very passionate about the School and to be honoured in this way is a wonderful thing and I’m very grateful.”

Previously at London Business School:

Presenting two Student awards at London Business School at Congregation 2010.  Michael is pictured here with Sir John Ritblat, Chairman of the Governing Body and the Dean, Sir Andrew Likierman.

Top Influences: thoughts, role models, organisations and books

What have been the major influences in your life?  Here are some of mine:

Thoughts into action:
Costas Markides – competing strategy; "Disrupting the Disrupter"
Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones  “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You”; Rob's a West Ham fan
Billy R. Bennett – organisational design; engaging “Future Conferences”

As role models:
Rowland C. Behn – leadership & hexadecimal maths can be fun; my first boss

Michael Storey – clear & concise; gave me my first managing director role

Michael Whale – influencing others; my first football captain

Crystal Palace Football Club – never give up, never surrender; "Glad all over" to be a life-long fan

Kepner Tregoe - "The Rational Manager"; every problem has a solution
Situational Leadership - “willing & able”; readiness for the task


Harold Wilson’s “Memoires” - always in a conservative overcoat
Bob Garratt’s, “The Fish Rots from the Head” - how true; banking today & insurance tomorrow

A C Clarke, “Rendezvous with RAMA” - whatever next!

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Feel free to comment via the form on our home page.  

Thanks, in advance, and enjoy the Olympics!