Checklists Category

Are you FREe?

Checklists, Front foot, Improvement, Organisations, Reflect, Teams, Think, Values No Comments

Earlier this week I attended a concert at Kings College Chapel. As I sat there in the dark stillness a storm raged outside that rattled the ancient doors as a nearby college clock chimed the hour. I recalled how exactly 27 years before I had first been in that place.

I remembered I had been a little shocked to find myself in higher education – as a working class lad who struggled a fair bit at school. Yet in my mid 20s I had applied to study at tertiary level. When interviewed, some of the alternative angles I shared from my experience as a front line NHS worker, plus the insights from my union activism seemed to appeal to those who selected students.

Over the years I have found sitting in that building to be a powerful place for reflection during times of significant personal change.

So, I was thinking – but on this occasion about my work. My studies all those years ago were the start of my deeper interest in how organisations perform (or don’t). Over the last few months I have been crystallising what I now know about institutions – from larger networks to smaller teams, from commercial enterprises to noble purpose initiatives – based on my experience of working across sectors and continents. What makes an organisation worthy of commitment? What are the features that make them likely to succeed? And fail?

After a quarter of a century, I think there are just three things that are crucial. I summarise these with the word FREe (actually FRE, as you will see below).

Firstly, FOCUS. Is the purpose of the organisation shared? Is the strategy clear – is it understood? Has the governing group set out its intentions (and limitations) for the wider staff to work toward and within? Do individuals know how their particular role contributes – and do they realise where their personal motivations fit, and where they do not?

RESPONSIBILITY: are staff expected to use their initiative to sort out issues? Do they have freedom to act? Do governing boards avoid overstepping the mark and resist micro-managing the executive – and do line-leaders avoid constraining their staff with overly detailed instructions or the expectation of involvement in all decisions? How clearly are all staff held to account for how they have used their autonomy?

Crucially, EXAMPLE highlights the role of senior leaders in setting the cultural tone for an enterprise plus the part played of line managers in re-iterating this – and the importance of peers in reinforcing the ‘right’ behaviours. Most of us are not saints or sinners, rather we absorb the ways others work. This extends from basic ‘pro-social’ interactions to do with decency and civility through to the modelling of focus and responsibility and other important attributes like curiosity. ‘Example’ also concerns how the implied attitudes at the core of a business’s purpose are demonstrated by staff in their dealings with each other as much as with customers: be that caring in the case of health services, learning for an education provider or speed for a high street fashion brand, for example.

I am discovering how this simple framework is powerful in a range of settings.

It helps individuals: it is useful in ways from coaching leaders through to prompting those being interviewed for new jobs to ask useful (and interesting) questions.

With teams it is a checklist to test that the platform for achieving positive results is in place.

For organisations it highlights three important factors to work to get right in all places – to ensure well-served customers, content staff and a fulfilled mission.

Are you ready for FREe business?

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The Gift of Happiness? The Single Surefire Way To Be Happy: Give

Checklists, Front foot, Improvement No Comments

It is already early November. Despite the unseasonably warm weather in the UK, we are firmly moving toward the festive season; though I spotted the first Christmas merchandise in the stores by late summer.

The holidays and the associated greeting cards are increasingly branded as time for those of all faiths, and none: “Happy Holidays!”

However, there is a common denominator that unifies all traditions. From the biblical exhortation that ‘it is more blessed to give than receive’ to the eastern emphasis on developing and practising compassion. Even the self-help industry chimes in agreement. In the happiness movement we hear that giving to others (of your time, money, skills) is the surest way of living a joyful life.

If you look around there are lists and lists of things to give up to discover a more contented life. However, when considering the most respected checklists for happy living the emphasis on serving others jumps out. Paradoxically possibly, we are told that when we give up the sole focus on trying to make ourselves happy and consider on what we can do for others, then that is the moment that we are most likely to discover joy for ourselves.

Do you want inspiration and encouragement to help in this gift focused stance?

The story of ‘Join Me’ from Danny Wallace and the associated global movement for RAOK – Random Acts of Kindness are entertaining reads.

And in mid-January a bunch of musicians are getting together in Cambridge to do a few things:
1. Remember how important mental well-being is, and how hard that can be for some to achieve, especially in the dark of mid-winter, a few weeks after the fun (and disappointments) of the festive holidays.
2. Put the spotlight on a number of good causes – charities that are looking for support.
3. Bring together a load of different people for a good time – and also ask, what can you give, this year, right now?

Interested? You would be very welcome. Have a look here.


The mosquito and the meeting

Checklists, Personal productivity No Comments

The night before the start of an important 3 day meeting.

At 2am.

A mosquito arrives.

Buzzing my ears.

I tried some things suggested by colleagues (catching it with the light off, looking for it with the light on, putting a light on in another room to attract it…). None of them seemed to work – but maybe there was more than one mozzie! The next night I would be fine – with an anti-mosquito machine to plug in and infuse the room with smelly vapour.

But on this night…? Before a crucial meeting? An event was already on my mind…

I decided to ignore it – and even sort of welcome it and the warm night it was part of. I drifted back to sleep – a buzzy, dozy sort of sleep.

The lesson? When we have a problem, do pool the ideas for solving it. Meetings can help that.

But sometimes we have to draw a line and move on. A meeting might work but groups of people can get stuck and demotivate individual action and movement, if not very carefully handled.

Caution: meeting, handle with care.


A recent blog about formal meetings from Roy Lilley.

And a tweet of one way of thinking about meetings.


And a method for getting to sleep from my psychologist colleague Steve Bagi:

Work through this when you have finished all you need to do. It is an exercise which helps to clear the thought congestion of so many things in our minds.

While in bed in the dark…

1…identify three-four things that you can hear e.g fan, clock

2…identify three-four things that you can see e.g. some street light, shadow

3…identify three-four things that you can physically feel e.g blanket on me, pillow

Then ask yourself the question “what do I want to do now” with the answer “I want to go to sleep”.

This should clear some of the congestion.  Repeat as many times as needed.

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Learning in team, in time

Checklists, Teams No Comments

Over the last few weeks I have been working with a few teams to help them establish on-going ways to review their work together – blending the spirit of the after action review, with action learning, with group supervision…

I am happy to share more.

This checklist is from work in 2006 and still useful for the overview of the possible range of ‘Knowledge Management’ techniques, (read this book ) for more on some of these .

This checklist can help a group get to the east and south of this model – the real ‘prize’ as per this blog from last year.


Max Mix Mobs for Meaningful Meetings

Checklists, Improvement No Comments

Following our last blog on planning perfect events, how far do you use a design team to help shape important sessions? We find them invaluable, especially when they represent a diversity of perspectives: senior, junior, different functions, enthusiasts…and also cynics. Their role is to work in the space between what is ‘pre-ordained’ by the sponsoring leader and make the best recommendations or decisions to improve the experience of the group that will meet in the venue (or online space) that has been chosen.

A great way to start the planning process with this sort of ‘max mix’ group is to ask: what are the best meetings we have ever been to and why; if this meeting goes well what will happen; if it fails miserably why might that be? If you are planning an event for a group that has regular meetings, it is worth reviewing the last or previous meetings with the After Action Review or the six thinking hats (page 15 here). Then you can carry on working through the 13Ps…


The importance of layout (and seating!)

Checklists No Comments

This interesting piece on symbolism and impact of the different training room layouts in a number of GP practices got me thinking about the range of set ups I like in the events I run:

1. Flexible theatre – that can be moved to allow for small groups, standing tasks

2. Circle of chairs only – that emphasises vulnerability but is often not popular as “there is nowhere to put stuff”

3. Herringbone or fan with square tables

4. Café – a small version of the ubiquitous cabaret

5. Open U – I am coming back to this (with a gap in the middle often)

6. etc.

But do you know what, in all, the quality of the seat matters more than ever normally considered. There are 101 things to do with a room, (any room), so it is functional for the task (and fresh in some way too), but good chairs are much harder to change at the last minute. How often do you choose a meeting space based on chair quality?

When thinking of a fresh, functional format maybe this venue checklist from 2007 will help.

Curiouser and curiouser?

Checklists No Comments

You know of our love of checklists – and curiosity

We like this set of prompts from a tweet: “5 a day for 2013 1) Connect 2) Be active: move 3) Be aware: of others and yourself 4) Be curious: keep learning 5. Be generous: give.”

And as we continue to review the idenk website (did you notice the new design, what did you think?), and continue to share our ideas through this blog and twitter….we are reminded of this helpful set of prompts for using social media.

Happy, Curious, New Year….


Leaning it up

Checklists No Comments

On the theme of checklists, we like the challenge of ‘Lean’ processes in all sorts of business settings from school processes to charity management. The focus on end to end customer value/experience, doing things simply, eliminating waste is very helpful…there is a 10 point checklist in this resource.


Leadership checklist

Checklists No Comments

And another checklist…for leaders.



Complaint handling checklist

Checklists No Comments

You will know how much we like checklists to guide professionals as reminders to do what is known – be they surgeons, pilots or engineers or facilitators!

This checklist gives some useful pointers to anyone in any industry facing a complaint.

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