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!

Check out our new website .
Feel free to comment via the form on our home page.  

Thanks, in advance, and enjoy the Olympics! 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Free event facilitation for one registered charity operating in the UK and the Commonwealth.

Salmon Heaton & Kimmins Ltd has teamed up again with Pyramid ODI.  On this occasion, we are offering to facilitate a strategic event for a UK and Commonwealth registered charity without charging our normal fee.

We will offer one charity a facilitated two-day event and post-event report.  If successfully selected, all you need to do is agree a date before December 31st 2012, invite the participants and provide the venue.  

We know from our experience of running events for charities in the USA and in Asia that this engaging process has a powerful and immediate impact.   Similar exercises normally cost in excess of £5000 in fees alone. 

We simply want to do something special to recognise the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and effectively give our two June “bank holidays” back to the selected charity.       

How will we chose the successful charity?

We want to make this as administratively simple as possible.  It may not be very scientific, but we plan to put the names of the first 10 charities to register their interest by emailing their answer to the three simple questions listed below into a hat. 

We will meet with the charity whose name is the first “out of the hat” and agree the details of the event.  If, based on these discussions and for any reason at all, the charity decides not to proceed with the event before October 31st 2012 then we will return to “the hat” for another name. 

To register, please send to  your answers to three simple questions:

What makes your charity special?

What do you hope to gain or achieve from this event and report?

What could affect the success of your charity in the next three years?

The person sending the email must be a senior officer of the charity or chair of the Trustee Board. 

Please title your email “2012 Facilitated Event - Strictly Confidential” and provide your charity’s registration and contact details.

Why are we doing this?

The special four-day Bank Holiday weekend at the beginning of June recognised the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We want to recognise a wonderful lifetime of service and the commitment of her family to supporting charitable causes. We want to give back our two day holiday, as our way of saying “thank you”.  We also know that this event normally has immediate impact.

A little bit more on what the event looks like to help you decide?

You invite a group of colleagues, trustees and key external stakeholders to this two day event. 

We provide the event facilitation and subsequent report free of our normal fee. 

You will need to provide and cover the cost of a suitable venue.

We agree on the date and agenda. Typically, this includes a dynamic process of assessing:

- The world as it impacts your charity today and into the future.

- Your organisation’s strengths and how it needs to address new challenges going forward.

- How you will re-energise and re-focus everyone on the future success of your organisation.

We are donating the equivalent of our two Jubilee Bank Holidays as long as the event is held before the end of the year and you agree to pay any additional expenses.  

We will complete the process by presenting our summarised report to your senior management and board of Trustees before the end of the year.

In Summary

We believe that what we do can make a significant difference, so please pass this on to the Chair of the Trustees Board or the CEO of your favourite charity.  They have nothing to lose and everything to gain from getting their charity’s name “in the hat”.  Remember, only a maximum of 10 names will go into the hat. 

We wish you every success. 

For more information about Salmon Heaton & Kimmins Ltd.
Please visit our website

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Good Recruitment, Bad Selection: Comparing the BBC's “The Voice” to Business

Are there comparisons between the selection process on the BBC’s “The Voice” and in employment?

Round 1- the “blind” recruitment of a team of 10 by each coach: The CV is the voice. The panel cannot see the singer before deciding who they want.

Round 2 – a competitive duel between singers paired off by each coach from their original 10. Five songs, so each coach can then decide which 5 singers will continue in the competition- the interviewed short-list.

I found the selection decisions in round 2 to be a little odd. Experienced singers and better performances seemed to be rejected in favour of younger, raw talent; the incomplete article preferred to the finished package.

There seems to be some process weaknesses also:
- The coaching seemed limited to persuading the participants that they were in a knock-out round, while singing a collaborative duet.  At least each coach now knows how their remaining team members handle ambiguity.
- The resulting choices seemed to be based on “gut instinct” rather than consistent criteria. The momentum gathered pace, but seemed rushed on the second day.
- Tom Jones even selected a man with dark curly hair. If Scott were alive today, he would be so proud to see his concern that people select in their own likeness validated on national television.

Round 3 - to be aired next week, is an assessment centred on live performances. The coaches will appear in a better light if they develop the rawer talent rather than take on the threat of managing those who already know what they are doing? Getting good professionals to excel may have tested their coaching skills, but the finale would be of a higher standard.

If this show is competing for ratings then its competitors should now be less worried. They have dropped some real high-flyers and immediate performers. Perhaps the BBC will now produce a spin-off show for those rejected. They could call it “These Britain’s already have Talent”… Well perhaps not :-)

This show does not compare to recruitment in the real world…

“The Voice” on the BBC

Walter Dill Scott on Personnel Management

Tuesday, 17 April 2012



“Non-Executive Directors should question organisational structures.

How quickly are your international thoroughbreds heading towards the knackers yard and what are your NEDS doing about it?”

“Good Facilitation.

You know it when you see it and you definitely feel it when it is missing.”

“Is The Quality of HR Senior Leadership in Decline?

The function has not been seen to address governance issues in high profile corporate failures.”


“Process excellence includes keeping your competitors guessing and your board aware.”

This blog continues to attract new readers


I recently completed the latest of three consecutive assignments for Pyramid ODI in an American owned multinational - three different European countries, three very different projects and three very different outcomes.

My pro-bono mentoring work continues in the background, with a major development for one of my clients – congrats, but still some way to go.

My second term as chair of the governance and nominations committee on the International Alumni Council at London Business School has ended. It was a real privilege to transition this body from a partially elected board to a fully nominated Council.


A business development trip to Belgium and a Business networking event at CPFC,,10323,00.html ,

LBS reunion weekend & Global Leadership Summit to look forward to

and my next assignment, of course.

I hope your business and life are going well and you feel as positive as I do about the future.

Best wishes,


Mobile: +44 (0) 7768 391 000 Salmon Heaton & Kimmins Ltd, in association with Pyramid ODI
You have received a copy of this monthly newsletter as a valued contact, but if you do not wish to receive future updates then please send an email titled "unsubscribe" to

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Non-Executive Directors should question organisational structures.

This is not meddling with executive responsibility. Structures that give managers too wide a span of control create risk and this falls under a NED’s governance responsibility. Remuneration Committees need to ensure that they are not paying more to fewer executives, within flawed structures that are bound for future failure.

How quickly are your international thoroughbreds heading towards the knackers yard and what are your NEDS doing about it?

As costs rise and margins fall, many multinationals are cutting the number of mid-level executives; removing general managers and replacing them with remote, functionally-based organisations - matrix structures without local oversight. The remaining executives inherit a growing number of direct and indirect reports, increasing their supervisory workload regardless of time-zone and culture. Knowledge and complexity of diverse markets and technologies do not seem to matter. Performance is increasingly measured through automated dashboards and brief update calls.

Can you imagine what it is like for someone with 16 direct reports spread across the globe? More importantly, can you imagine what it is like for the 16 subordinates? Yes, they are all experienced professionals who enjoy considerable “freedom to act”, but at what point does supervisory support and governance responsibility start to suffer?

In organisational design and Hay job evaluation, 5 to 8 reports used to be the norm. The number tended to be lower when there was real functional diversity and higher when the roles were significantly similar. The “span of control” was higher for a General Manager than a Regional Sales Director, so it was not unusual for the latter to have more direct reports.

When results are exceeding expectations and delegation is running smoothly then all is well, but in recession and difficult markets, performance can be hard to sustain over the long term. The pressure builds as results fail to meet targets. Executives should now be monitoring their team more closely, but they do not have the bandwidth.

Both parties “buy time” with international calls in the middle of the night – broadcasting information rather than sharing critical factors for success. Over time, this supersedes vital coaching, mentoring and sharing of experience.

NEDs should ask their remuneration and audit committees to question the human and financial risks associated with these international matrix structures.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Good Facilitation

You know it when you see it and you definitely feel it when it is missing.

I recently attended an event that used an external facilitator. The group are still “reeling” from the effects. His contribution lacked… The meeting lacked … The outcomes lacked… Please let me know if you have had a similar experience in your organisation?

A good facilitator helps a group create an innovative and collaborative experience with clear outcomes. How is this achieved?


- Ensure the event chair understands what your role is and is not, relative to their role.
- Agree the agenda, structure and participants well in advance.
- Know the roles, characters and experience of the participants.


- Open well and close on a high – with clear agreement on next steps.
- Handle conflict and emotion constructively; acknowledge open or contentious issues.
- Know when to step in, to manage time effectively.


- Engage with everyone; use your skill to ensure full participation.
- Maintain a high energy level throughout; use techniques and tools wisely.
- Release your personality; use your experience to avoid being an expert.

You don’t want your next event or meeting to lack effective outcomes or energy. You don’t want to ask a colleague to facilitate and then wonder why it all went wrong. Do you?

Call me now. I am happy to give you some tips on selecting the right person.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

REMPLOY – The future for the disabled and disadvantaged in work

Liz Sayce’s report has given the green light to the UK Government to remove its subsidy to REMPLOY. It has been reported that this will result in the closure of 36 of 54 factories and put 1500 disabled persons out of work.

The subsidy of £25,000 per person per year could be better targeted to schemes encouraging disabled and disadvantaged workers into mainstream employment. Those involved could be better off in the long term. This change could break down prejudice. However, history is not on Liz’s side. It is reported that many of those made redundant when the last government reduced its support are, four years later, still unemployed.

With UK unemployment at more than 2.67m and many businesses facing an uncertain economic future, is this the time to experiment on recruiters?

Did I wake up this morning to a new world of benevolent shareholders who might sacrifice a fraction of a penny of their dividend to ensure workplace adjustments? Will HR officers be pushing at an open door as managers seek to hire ex-REMPLOY staff? Will colleagues support the transition of the disabled into the mainstream market?

There is no perfect time to make any change, but surely Liz Sayce’s new world should be given a chance if the Government helps to keep the factories open until everyone has been re-deployed.

UK Department of Work and Pensions March 2012 report,”Disability employment support: fulfilling potential”

“It is unacceptable that while many disabled people want to work, too few achieve this ambition, and that the life outcomes of young disabled people and those with special educational needs (SEN) are disproportionately poor.”

Liz Sayce’s Review to Government in June 2011, “Getting in, staying in and getting on”

“developing more equitable ways to:
– ‘get in’ – more disabled people doing apprenticeships, work experience, work placements, and on-the-job learning;
– ‘stay in’ – better promotion of Access to Work for retention; and
– ‘get on’ – whether setting up your own business or mutual, or gaining skills for career development.”

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Is The Quality of HR Senior Leadership in Decline?

Neil Roden, ex-RBS, suggests in a PM article that the quality of HR senior leadership is declining. Apart from the factors mentioned in the article, there are several other reasons to support this perception:

HR’s influence on strategy has weakened during the recession. Lay-offs undermine trust and confidence. The function has not been seen to address governance issues in high profile corporate failures. The inability to say “No”, to hold a position under pressure or manage the politics of the boardroom seems diminished.

The media supports this theme. Extra cash for guaranteed attendance during the London 2012 Olympics is interpreted as a failure to plan ahead and negotiate wisely. Inadequate staff numbers in the NHS and education reflects poor HR policy implementation.

Perception is not necessarily reality.

Some HR leaders have a significant impact on the future success of their businesses. They have CEOs who trust their judgement and back their actions especially on “difficult” issues. They demonstrate courage, have superb influencing skills and are visible even during tough times. Critically, they all have corporate OD responsibility.

Perhaps Roden should not be too surprised. Shareholders want board members to demonstrate good governance across the whole business rather than just offering individual functional insight.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


I have just finished my latest assignment and have been working for Pyramid ODI in four very different countries and cultures during the last year. Three special traits stand out in the memory.

Passionate lawyers – not a combo we would normally expect, but in this charity, helping a minority group, their dedication was infectious.

Knowing to say “No” – learning to reject bad business. An engineering order book that is full of nasty surprises; throwing away customers and profit. Can they learn fast enough?

Know what you do not know – a guy with the self-awareness and humility to recognise that the strategic change project had grown way beyond his current skill set. Willing to learn; he will succeed.

What is “extra-ordinary” at your company?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Most of us enjoy a good joke. And, of course, the secret of good comedy is timing. Every weekend, you will also hear at least one sports commentator say that someone “showed perfect timing” or “makes time” when they achieved something out of the ordinary. Do we recognise that the same is true in business?

I recently sat in on a three-day Kaizen event. The objective was to identify areas of potential improvement by firstly mapping their key process – usually a fantastic technique.

The timing of the event, relative to the organization’s urgent need to deliver some high-value orders to key customers, appeared odd. Other actions, to mitigate risk and improve gross margin, were also put on hold.

In closing the event, the sponsor signalled that it may take two years to complete the process redesign, but left no guidance as to how this should happen. Chaos may ensue. Customers may continue to complain. Orders will be late. Is a perfectly good business, with hard working employees and a strong brand, being put at risk?

Did this experienced leader get it wrong? He was new to this business. His portfolio included many other plants serving other markets. He only spent a few days visiting before making an intuitive decision - what worked elsewhere should work here.

Before his “part-time” appointment to the role, his superiors invested little time in assessing the situation or the needs of the individuals involved. Collectively, they failed to complete an honest “Root Cause Analysis” of the issues.

This is a specific example, but I fear it is not unique. Executives must be seen to act decisively. If they are remote from the action, they simply do not know what they do not know. They must “make time” for old fashioned problem analysis if they want to achieve the extra-ordinary.

Was the executive’s intuition correct? Time will tell, but what do you think? Was the timing of the initiative poor? Is process improvement always more urgent than satisfying customers and delivering current commitments on time?