Plan Category

Fitzbillies – a metaphor – from Woe to Wow

Plan, Reflect No Comments

The restaurants are full in London (we see that in our travels, and are told so by taxi drivers too).  And even out of London, in January, town is busy.  In 2007 I recall cycling through the same streets, first week of January – deserted.

Blue Monday whether you believe in it or not, is looming.  However, some don’t seem to need many reasons to be cheerful at this time of woe it seems.

In a separate catering story, Cambridge has a much loved cake shop, Fitzbillies, that closed a year ago – it failed financially.  Now after a slight rejig to its offer of drinks and cakes (though not by making it cheaper!!), it is vibey and popular again. 

What does this tell us in these interesting economic times?

In consulting it is clearly the case that not everyone or every company is equally affected by the European recession in the same way.  And some sectors and locations, even in the UK, are booming.

Can you think of some small and/or significant changes to help you make 2012 a ‘wow’ for your business/organisation/career?

How can you change your offer – in subtle ways (eg how you run the cake shop) or significant ways (eg getting into the top end restaurant business in our capital city!)?

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– good film?

Plan No Comments

What is a ‘good film’?

A feature or fact?

Positive or challenging?

Some can cover all bases….this one links nicely to my concern for developing counties, the role of women and carbon (despite the flights involved).

Will be a great film when they have finished it and it is released next year.

I would like to see more high quality documentaries next year – resolution #1 J

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The Need to Diversify

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When the Eden Project opened there was a massive local boom. Evidently now, in recessionary times, many have decided they only need to visit just once.  The impact on the local community is seen in decreasing house prices and less tourists.


An annual admission is the same as a single visit price.

They are diversifying…

– With music events (including heavy dance artist)

– Education – for adults as well as children

– And with health activities – such as tutored walks for those with heart and breathing difficulties.

Do you need to diversity?  What could you do?

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The wheel of (good?) fortune

Facillitation, Plan No Comments

We have a range of assessments that we do in advance of a development workshop – or on arrival. This one exploring team or organisational culture has been used with well over 1000 people since we started using it 5 years ago. We have results from teams in commerce and education, health and charities, in the UK and abroad.

There are some familiar patterns when reviewing the results from all the assessments. First, many groups rate themselves highly on their sociability or drive to get things done. However:

1) The quality of meetings regularly comes out low.

2) Living and reinforcing the values is often a challenge too.

These are two dimensions that get to the deeper levels of relationship and performance – beyond the fire fighting culture and the desire to get on with each other that many people report.

There are a couple of things we offer to help better meetings from DIY effort to developmental help .

And our values in practice paper continues to be popular .


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Advanced Team Training?

Personal productivity, Plan No Comments

As someone who travels by nearly all modes of transport and who has benefited from advanced driver lessons, I am taken by the potential for advanced cyclist training when I see some very scary bike work each day!

A small number of cyclists give the rest in Cambridge or London a bad name and generate less leeway for others from rageful drivers.

The same maybe true in teams.  A few bits of bad behaviour undermine the efforts of the many.

I did three fun game based training sessions yesterday.  These were to explore and emphasise the behaviours needed for great group work – ways of working that would help underpin that organisations stated values (nb they do indeed use their values in their recruitment and appraisal processes – so they are right up there at level 5 of our values model – but that is another story).

Anyhow this work got me thinking of about Advanced Team Training and how rarely that happens in a planned way.

What would you put in the curriculum?

I would include;

  • Bill Isaacs dialogue skills, dilemma resolution and negotiation for handling conflict with lightness and tact
  • John Heron’s six ways of intervening
  • Myers Briggs understanding of strengths and difference

…amongst many others to develop the disciplines for great team work and experience.

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Choosing what to nudge

Plan No Comments

paracetamol_smallAustralia is an interesting place with its phrases to encourage personal responsibly (eg “Slip Slap Slop”, “Stop Revive and Survive” and “Get Down Low – Go, Go, GO”) and some regulation (eg cycle helmets).

And then on certain things, the UK has the legal lead. For over a decade it hasn’t been possible to buy Paracetamol in 100 tablet boxes (to reduce inadvertent liver damage from para-suicide…there’s a story around the plot line in TV’s Casualty series if you’re interested).

In Australia, these large-size boxes are still available. Perhaps the different characters of our nations (and the campaigns that have shaped them) are subtly revealed through everyday things like cycling and headaches.

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The paradox of propulsion – or the workshop dilemma

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robert fritz model

Robert Fritz, the US management author, comments on the mechanics of the creative process. His model of the tension between the actual and desired is probably his most well-known (see image).

We find a version of this is alive in many of our workshops.  We regularly start with exploring a group’s hopes for the future. The understanding this gives is then deepened by immersing ourselves in the perspectives on the present, informed by a survey and whole group discussion.

The insights from this process can sometimes be accompanied by confusion and guilt too, for example around the habits and obstacles that the group is experiencing or some of the things that had been hoped for in the past but not achieved.

The resulting tension can be fascinating, but also for some too much to bear at moments.  However, it is the resolution of this that creates the momentum to propel the group forward to planning action. 

So the tension generates the energy to go on.

Too long spent seeing deeply and sensing what is needed can lead to frustration. Too little and there is insufficient insight or commitment.  This dilemma is one that needs careful attention – and is increasingly one we mention at the start before it comes to a head at around the half way point (when the shift from divergence to convergence in the ‘diamond dynamic’ happens).

decision diamond

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DIY scenario planning

Plan No Comments

Phil and Ross first worked together using scenario planning techniques in the mid-90s.

In the mid-noughties, they wrote a piece using the Mont Fleur scenarios from South Africa as a metaphor for approaches to improving the NHS.

Now they are doing a couple of scenario-esque  projects where the overall framework from the Mont Fleur project is being used to help groups tease out their fears and hopes – and what might determine those paths.

The template below can be blown up and tried with a group you know. Think of ‘yes/no’ questions around what might happen to the critical external trends or uncertainties in the environment you’re in and then see if you can map the responses to the appropriate Mont Fleur metaphors for where the future may end up.

scenario mont fleur template

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University is not a business – discuss

Plan No Comments

university protest


Most charities, hospitals and university departments have a ‘business plan’ and ‘business cases’ these days.

Yes, we know that in many ‘noble purpose organisations’ these trappings of commerce can be disliked and quite a few would agree with the sentiments of the pictured Cambridge academic.

However, what it takes to be ‘business like’ is important if you think things like customer focus, efficiency, rigour, accountability, etc matter in public and charity organisations with finite budgets.

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Hope syncronicity

Plan No Comments

Having just written two emails and one event design note that all majored on hope, it was great to see the front cover of the Health Service Journal leading on a piece by Helen Bevan on the very same thing. 

It is clear that  ‘hope’ is needed in the NHS and Bevan shows how a conscious choice of that stance is possible (despite countervailing pressures) and how useful it is.

In our role as team coaches, we often start client events with ‘what is encouraging you?’ or ‘what gives you hope from the pre-event survey?’. 

Only then do we go on to explore what might be holding a group back – and what new habits are needed (another version of 3Hs, to go with humility, honesty, humour and head, heart, hands).

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