November, 2018

There are 4 Ds in Direction

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I enjoy working to support Noble Purpose Organisations get their best work done.  The collective focus of a group of people at all levels and in all roles can achieve so much.  This sense of purpose and priority provides the bedrock for the attitudes and accountability needed for the best progress in their important work.

However, building this alignment takes time.  And it is important to keep re-iterating it once agreed.

An organisation or team on the ‘front foot’ has the focus that a clear, collective direction provides.

But how to get that?  There is an approach to ‘scenario planning’ that I find helpful.  This is where the group explores and agrees the preferred direction.


Getting the team exploring and discussing the 4 Ds of ‘Direction’ helps:

What is the Default case.  What happens, if nothing happens?  What is ‘inevitable’ with no change to strategy or no improvement to how things are arranged?

The Disaster.  How might things go horribly wrong for the overall intention and organisation pursuing it?  How close to the default future is this disaster case?

The Dream.  What is the best case that can be achieved.  Not fantasy planning.  But realistic with the best organisation of effort.

The Different. Having warmed up with these three, what other ideas are there?


[For a deeper approach it can be worth considering these Ds at three different horizons:

1.  business as usual, managing risk and operational excellence over the next few months;

2. innovation and drive for growth over the medium term; and

3. more radical transformation and creating a new future that emerges over the longer term.]


Having had this discussion it becomes easier to talk about:

How to respond to what is driving or demanding some change.

What is likely to be the tipping point or moment that defines whether a positive or negative outcome occurs.

What to decide to do now and what to try out or explore some more.

The ways of working, skills, research and influence that will determine and be needed to achieve the best impact.


The insights from this process should be shared widely to help others understand the ideas, and as a reminder.  A visual summary in the form of a wall poster or table mat or digital file (and used as an ongoing ‘dialogue map’) can make things clear.  Using it participatively promotes the continuing conversation underpinning the timely action needed.  Leaders can keep referring to this agreement in the stories the tell and the questions they ask.  They ensure it is central to organisational life.


With these steps noble purpose groups can start to get and stay on the front foot.

Are you eFical? Something Scandi style might help

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Three business sectors have a massive impact on the sustainability of our world. There is a burgeoning demand for the products from all three, as the global economy grows and societies develop. They make our lives better.  But the choices made in servicing and using these three industries are massively responsible for the environmental and social footprint of our lives.

Fortunately, for me at least, all begin with F:

Food – how we ensure we are nourished for life.  And how we demonstrate out concerns and taste(s);
Furnishing – how we create a comfortable home.  And how far we work to keep up with the latest design and trends;
Fashion – how we clothe ourselves for warmth and shelter. How we signal our personality.

All three sectors are ripe for the improvements that come from innovating to support the 6Rs outlined in my last blog.

When hosting recent industry events I have been struck how colleagues are keen to learn from each other across the boundaries between these different worlds.

I am on the lookout for innovations that help. What do you see?

These might be in the industries themselves.

Or in the adjacent sectors, such as the application of leading edge coding to create services and support to inform more transparent and sustainable choices.

On in the way that people from these sectors relate: how they work and learn together.

Funkis, in Sweden, is an ambitious attempt to bring all three together in a creative, inspiring way. Have a look.

Are we Rrrrrreally trying?

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You might have noticed, I love alliteration. See the 3M in my last blog. And in my work, at my best, I manage to show up caring, curious and challenging.

You may be familiar with the 4Rs to that are promoted to help us Redesign the economy to be more sustainable and even ‘circular’. There are slightly different versions.

The ‘R’s I find most useful in the in my fashion and textiles work are:
Reduce how much is bought, maybe by renting or just getting less stuff in the first place
Repair before discard, either developing your own skills or commissioning others to help you
Reuse by passing on and repurposing items
Recycle into component parts, ready for the next round of production.

At a recent European conference I suggested two more. These are more upstream, to reduce the demand for unstainable practices in the first place. These were endorsed by those there at the event via the electronic opinion research system I was using, In a way these two deepen our thinking about how to reduce consumption in the first place.

First, ‘Resource well’. Only use well sourced products and raw materials. Make sure labour practices are fair. Ensure the supply chain you are tapping into has a positive reputation and has reduced the negative impact of its footprint. As we see greater traceability this will get easier. At industry events I notice increasing confidence in the coming information to help guide choices – from Blockchain to support sector colleagues choose well to apps to inform end consumers.

Second, stifle the urge to consume, by ‘Rejoicing’ in what you have got, dampening the momentum to get the next new thing. In line with some of the latest fashions in decluttering, only buying something that gives joy in the first place is a good place to start. Savouring the recent purchase for as long as possible. Sort of like really noticing that sip of wine or mouthful of food before reaching for the next. Hindering the drive to immediately satiate our urges.

So the 6Rs.

I hope these provide a helpful Reminder of those Really Reliable actions that can help us Reduce the Risks whilst Ratcheting up the opportunities of economic life.


mmm…living the life

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I enjoy coaching clients. I am doing more of it. I describe my role as being a bit of a sounding board.

It might be a GP looking to achieve personal goals in the context of a complex set of practice relationships. It might be a manager thinking how they can live a more balanced life. It might be a fashion specialist wanting to develop the skills to have greater impact. These ‘coachee’ clients are keen to stop and examine how far they are living the sort of life they want. Are they on the front foot?

Regularly we end up exploring the three main areas where improvement is possible. Are these useful prompts for you?

First, the ‘macro’. Are you doing the sort of work that you want? Are you playing to your strengths – and interests. There is a load of stuff online to help you examine your life purpose: your ‘why’. Have a look for Simon Sinek if you don’t know where to start.

How are you doing in achieving progress in the most important domains for you. Are you flourishing? Have you ever completed a ‘wheel of life’. How are you doing with maximising the size and smoothness of the circle? Do you need a career change? Or is some other big choice likely to help you?

Second, the ‘micro’. Are you in charge of your work or is it determining you and your choices? There are load of hacks and apps to help you manage the demands for your time, and we have contributed to the burgeoning resources for personal productivity. Many of the ideas are quite simple but do take some discipline. For example, blocking chunks of time in your diary or running a daily ‘to do’ list or keeping an empty inbox by rapidly triaging emails and building a ‘for action’ folder.

However, thirdly, is the ‘meso’, in the middle as the image below shows. I think this is particularly useful. The importance of developing a positive relationship with food and helpful exercise routines is well known. I promote some ideas for LADish drinking.

Despite recent coverage an area with huge potential for improvement at this meso level for most of us is sleep. I meet people who are working to become mindful through mediation but who are short cutting their sleep every night due to domestic pressures or Netflix box sets. There is a burgeoning research into the importance of a good nights sleep and many tips for the things we can do to achieve it. For me going to bed early is key so any period of wakefulness and restlessness doesn’t really matter. We literally don’t have to have our backs (of our minds) against the clock.

So, how is that? Macros, Meso, Micro. How can you edit your life so you are on the front foot?

So, you can you pause and say: “mmm…I am living the life I want”


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