Up The Organization

by James La Trobe-Bateman on June 21, 2019

When I was about 20, I was at Guernsey airport waiting for a flight to England to resume studies at Cambridge University.  A small paperback book on the twirly book rack caught my eye. It was called “Up The Organization” and written by Robert Townsend who had been the CEO of Avis when the “We’re Second, We Try Harder” slogan started. It describes ways to lead a corporation to make it more fun for the people who work there.  I bought it.

Up The Organization by Robert Townsend

Here’s what’s odd about this. Apart from some vacation jobs with a couple of large companies, I had no real experience of the corporate world.  I certainly didn’t have any deep-rooted sense that anything was ‘wrong’ with them.  Despite this I bought a book with the theme of improving organizations.  More specifically, “a way to humanize business” as it says on the dust cover.  Strange to be attracted to something so outside my experience.  And yet I read it cover to cover and re-read it.  It seemed to resonate to an inner sense of purpose that I was unaware of.

I went on to complete my studies and became an engineer.  Building things, not organizations. Not distracted at all by any goings-on at head office. “Up the Organization” stayed on the bookshelf.

Nevertheless, decades later, the seed germinated. And here I am with this phrase as the underlying purpose for our consultancy: to make organizations more productive whilst making them more fit for human habitation.

Robert Townsend wrote his book in 1970.  Sadly, everything he says in it is truer now than then.  It’s time we did something about it.

Big Changes Can Happen Overnight

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 29, 2019

Do you worry that the world needs some big changes, fast (like action on global warming)? It seems to be a big challenge to get everyone to move overnight.

When you think about it, there really are some changes that affect everyone that happen really fast, overnight even.  Here’s an example.

On February 15th, 1971 the UK switched from a pounds, shillings and pence money system to a pounds and pence system.  Those ‘12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound’ manipulations were an unnecessary complication for the computerization of banks. Other countries had long before decimalized. The merits of doing so were proven and obvious. Why not the UK?  And so the UK government decided to change. 

And we all did. Without much of a fight.

So what was it like to live through it?

Decimal conversion
First Bank Statement

I had just left home to start my first job and opened a bank account to look after the money.  You can see my first bank statement.  I also needed somewhere to stay and boarded with Mrs Gould. You can see that I was paying her 6 pounds 2 shillings and 6 pence for my board and lodgings. Then came decimalization.  After that, I was paying 6 pounds 13 pence or was it 6 pounds 12 pence?  2 shillings and sixpence converted to 12 ½ new pence. But, you couldn’t write a cheque for a ½ penny, so it had to be one or the other.  The ‘official’ conversion was 12.

This was about the biggest ‘grief’ that the change caused.  “How can 2 shillings and 4 pence, 2 shillings and 5 pence and 2 shillings and 6 pence all convert to 12 new pence?” she asked.  A valid question but ultimately not too difficult to understand.

It looks like I ended up paying her 6 pounds and 12 pence per week.  I guess over the 6 months I stayed there, she was short-changed 26 x ½ = 13 pence.  I’m sorry, Mrs Gould!

Ideas as Pinball Machines

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 20, 2019
pinball impact

Funny how games are often a mirror of life in some way.

I’ve been thinking about the arcade game where you launch a ball up. It hits bumpers and other gadgets that bounce it around, each bounce increasing your score.  Then the ball drops towards the flippers.  Now it’s your chance to hit the ball back up and it bounces around again.  Until, the ball drops between the flippers and there’s no saving it. End of game. Unless you scored enough to get a replay.

Think of the ball as an idea, or your contribution to the world. What does it impact? How valuable is that impact? What other impacts happen as a result of that first impact?  How valuable are they? Where does the idea come back to you so that you can put it back into play?  And have further impact?

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to work at this and become a ‘Pinball Wizard’?

We had one of these games in my college. I watched people who were good at playing it.  They seemed to get engrossed.  They would get hold of the whole machine and shake and nudge at all the right moments to boost their score.  There was no apparent logic to it, they just ‘felt’ their way to do the best thing. Do they really “play by intuition” as The Who famously sang? Totally in tune with the action and grooving with it.

It all starts with the first pull on the pinball.  The power of that first burst Is important, but not as important as what follows.  And you have no way of predicting what is going to happen. You might score nothing: so that idea is a dud. 

Or, you might have a small idea that you stay with, follow wherever it goes, watch it morph along the way…and score a record score.

Why Is Change Sometimes So Easy?

by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 17, 2019
Difficult change

We expend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to help people to change their minds. It seems so difficult.

Let’s look at the ‘mountain’ from the other side. How is it that some changes happen so easily, with just about everybody?

Think about Smartphones. In only a decade from the first iPhone the majority of people own one. More than that, those people have changed a whole range of habits: we text more than we call, we look at our phone for information instead our computer or even the local library, we spend our time at the dinner table looking at the screen instead of talking to those next to us. Not all the new habits are necessarily good, but there is no doubt we changed them.

And it wasn’t a struggle, like giving up smoking or kicking some other ‘bad habit’.

You bought the Smartphone because you wanted to make phone calls and because you wanted to be able to communicate the same way as your friends. You ended up texting more and watching YouTube videos. And there’s another thing: you are probably paying more for your phone than you used to pay for a landline. But you changed anyway.

There’s another reason you bought the Smartphone. All your friends and family were buying them. They were the latest cool gadget.

So if it was so easy for us with the Smartphone, why can’t we find similar easy ways to make some other ‘difficult’ changes in life?


by James La Trobe-Bateman on May 8, 2019

Sometimes you have to read a book for just one insight.

The critics might be divided on whether it is a good book, but that one insight makes it gold in your eyes. I wouldn’t have read ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, but for a good friend who recommended it. Then a few weeks later my brother gave me his copy and so I read it.

This was the insight.

Harari says that Homo Sapiens lived for many millennia alongside Neanderthals without immediately dominating them. So why did Sapiens become dominant? There seemed to be a number of environmental reasons. But what finally did it, he says, was Sapiens’ ability to co-operate with groups of people they did not know personally. If your influence is only with those you know, you are limited to about 150 people. When you co-operate with more, then your influence is far greater and your impact is far greater.

Sapiens succeeded over the Neanderthals because of their ability to spread common thinking beyond the immediate group. When you think the same, you act the same and so behave as a much larger cohesive and more powerful force. Who is more likely to prevail: 10 groups of 150 people who look superior but don’t have much in common with each other, or…1500 people who look inferior but think, talk and act in unison? We all know that power.

So how is this relevant to corporate life?

Well, how about ‘Standards’? There are formal ones, like ISO 9001. Or unspoken conventions, like cars having a steering wheel, the right hand pedal being for the fuel, the left hand pedal being for the brake. Imagine a world, where Fords had tiller steering, GM had a side joystick and the accelerator was on the dashboard? There is no question that the market in cars would not be as healthy as it is. Transport those standards to other countries, then you can sell your cars there. Plus you can find suppliers who can make components that will work for you better and cheaper. Everyone involved wins.

Co-operation with people you don’t know makes everyone’s life better. The impact of your ideas is far greater. In the case of Home Sapiens, it has led to dominance over the World.

Impact is Hot, Productivity is Not

by James La Trobe-Bateman on April 10, 2019
Impact ripples

Let’s face it: ‘productivity’ is a boring word.

I’m also wondering if it is even the ‘right’ word today.

You mostly hear about it as ‘personal productivity’, which tends to be about time management. You might also see in government reports about ‘Productivity Trends’, where one thing, e.g. output, is divided by another ‘input’.  Or perhaps expressed as ‘Revenue per Employee’ in a corporate context.

There seems to be a declining interest in the word.

Isn’t this odd?

My experience in the Productivity Improvement business led me to believe that it is the central measure for increasing the wealth of the world.

So where am I wrong?

Here’s one observation. Productivity is output over input: something DIVIDED. 

What if we looked for an idea that expresses MULTIPLICATION?  We live in an abundant world, where things get better and better all the time (and they do – if you don’t believe it, take a look at some of Hans Rosling’s analysis of world data).  Things multiply, they do not have to be divided.  Shared, probably, but not divided.  If I invent software that works for the whole world, I can share it all, not carve it up into pieces..

So, how about ‘Impact’?

It’s not so much the efficiency with which you do something.  It’s more about the ripples that your actions have. For example, if you cook a meal for your family, it will immediately benefit them…and nobody else.  If you cook a meal, record the recipe and publish a book of recipes, then you will have impacted many more people.  Not just once, but over and over.  That task of cooking is the same, but its impact is different depending on what you do with it. You can even be inefficient at cooking, not very ‘productive’, but still create a larger impact.

So this is not about one complicated thing divided by another complicated thing.  It’s to do with how much our efforts are multiplied…not divided.

Feels much better to me. 

So what impact are you having?

James La Trobe-Bateman

“NO REGRETS Life”… Challenge 2019

by Lorrie on January 2, 2019

No Regrets Life

With ALL the “official” celebrations over to start this New Year… called 2019… Lets be sure we really do clear the slate to start 2019 fresh and brand new…  You are moving forward… keep looking and moving in that direction.

I will also start this New Year with a “2019 Challenge” for you to do just 1 thing…. ask yourself this question whenever feeling unsure or feeling flip-flop trying to decide about something… Here´s the question I have always asked and have lived every day with “no regrets”…..

“If I do not do this… xxx (whatever it is for you) will I regret it in the future or on my dying bed?”

If the answer is YES… then find a way to do it or make it happen and put all your focus on making that happen as soon as possible.

If the answer is NO… then park it, put it away, let it go, walk away from whatever it is and keep moving forward to other better things you really want to do in your life…

Sending GREAT Love and HUGE Hugs to you… and without a doubt know this is the most AMAZING year ahead… staying laser forward focused on all the POSITIVE and GOOD in life…

Cheers to you and to “NO REGRETS 2019”! 💜💛💫🌎

Lorrie A. MacGilvray

How to Escape Catch-22

by James La Trobe-Bateman on October 11, 2018

Are You Frightened Of Giving Up A Well Paid Job to Have a More Satisfying Life?

So, you’re a professional type working in a large corporation.  You are well qualified academically and have held jobs with increasing responsibilities.  Now you have a family, maybe kids at or about to go to college.  Plus you are paid well, good healthcare scheme, pension being funded well.  It all sounds very good: the envy of many, even. But…repeated downsizings, reorganisations and corporate ‘nonsense’ seem to be increasing demands on you whilst reducing your resources.  Do you want a promotion? But, do you really want to play the politics needed to get noticed? Are you really sure this job is what you are on this planet to do?

For many of you, the answers will be: ‘Maybe’, ‘No’ & ‘Probably not’.

But you’re stuck anyway.  Because the money every month is too good to let go.  Even if you are clear what your ‘dream life’ is. Even if you can see your dream life as eventually being more profitable in money terms. Plus, giving you freedom to do more of the things you don’t seem to have time for. Like, being with the family, teaching your kids to play football, taking long vacations.

It’s a Catch-22.  You’ve got to be crazy to leave such a job with all that it allows you to have.  But to stay means that you will find yourself under more pressure to do more.  In Joseph Heller’s book, ‘they’ kept raising the number of missions that bomber crews had to fly before they were sent home.  Sound familiar?

Catch-22 has got into our culture.  But most people are not aware that there is a way out. And the way out is not to do with the central character in the book, Yossarian.  Rather it is to do with his room mate, Orr.

There Is A Way Out of Catch 22

Wikipedia explains:

“Orr is a fictional character in the classic novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Orr is a World War II bomber pilot who shares a tent with his good friend, the protagonist of the novel, Yossarian. Described as “a warm-hearted, simple-minded gnome,” Orr is generally considered crazy. His most notable feature is repeatedly being shot down over water, but, until his final flight, always managing to survive along with his entire crew. On his final flight, perhaps two-thirds of the way through the novel, he is again shot down into the Mediterranean, and is lost at sea. Only in the last ten pages of the novel does Heller reveal that Orr’s crashes were part of an elaborate (and successful) plot to escape the war.

Orr is the only airman of the group to successfully get away by the end of the novel.”

So how do you ‘crash your plane safely’ in corporate life?

It’s about practicing something that your job does not ask you to do. It must be useful, actually vital, to take you to where you are going.  Orr practiced living in a survival dinghy, learning to fish and staying optimistic.  None of these were needed for his job, but were needed to get away safely.

So what might these things be for you?

Alcohol Makes You More Creative – says HBR

by James La Trobe-Bateman on September 11, 2018

The Next Big Leap in Productivity Improvement?

Was really intrigued by the article in the May-June 2018 Harvard Business Review describing the effect of a few drinks on people’s creativity.

I have long joked that the most creative marketing ideas come up in the bar after work.  But, it seems that there is some truth in this.

So why do I bring the matter up?

Well, it’s another thread in my hunch.  Which is that the next big leap in corporate productivity will not be a technology or organizational one, but rather a personal development one.

Now, before you get turned off by boring phrases like ‘corporate productivity’, ‘organisational’ or ‘personal development’, how about we call these ‘Shared Bonanza’, ‘People Going the Same Way’ and ‘Becoming More Aware’?  I’ll follow up about all these phrases later.  Meanwhile…

Creativity is the result of all this and creativity is what is desired.  The world constantly needs new things, new experiences and new ways of doing things.  These all have to be created.  It feels like the constraint to growth everywhere and yet is somehow doesn’t find its way on to the agenda at Strategic Reviews.  It’s either confined to the R&D folks or simply left to chance.

So having a few drinks may boost creativity.  I am not suggesting it as a panacea, but the thought gets you thinking.

P.s. The same HBR article mentions that ‘editing’ is best done sober, so this article wasn’t completed in one session!

Persistence, Patience & Belief…and Enjoy the Journey

by Lorrie on March 30, 2018

Every book, seminar and course on human potential or self-development tell you over and over the importance of having a goal to work towards. More importantly it must be the right goal. The right goal of course is one that YOU choose, not someone else and it is something YOU want to be, do or have. Something YOU can put your heart & soul into and have that burning desire to create and become reality.

Persistence, Patience & Belief in pursuing your goal are without question three of the most critical factors in achieving it. It is very important to remember that no one can tell you what the gestation period might be between the conception of the idea and the realisation of your goal.  Just know, if you stay true to yourself, your goals and your purpose, they will happen.

Thinking about some really big goals & dreams achieved, recently James and I visited the bell tower of Pisa-Italy that started construction in 1173 with completion in 1399.  That is 226 YEARS from start to completion, with nothing more than an idea, drawing plans, sheer determination and the will to do it.  Thinking about it even deeper.. that took several generations to complete and carried on someones idea who was no longer around.  A bit simpler sounding “idea”, the zipper, started as an idea in 1883.  Buttons were used to close a man’s trousers and to close a woman’s dress until 1913. What we see and use today and may seem like an easier achievement, still took 30 YEARS from idea to becoming a useful reality.

Always remember…Reaching your goal is important, though what is far more important is the personal growth you experience while pursuing your goal.   Have faith, believe in yourself, because everything you need is available to you and develop those all-important qualities of Persistence, Patience & Belief  which are essential in the realisation of your big, beautiful and most amazing goals & dreams.  One last important thing to remember is to always enjoy the journey along the way.

To YOUR Success..

Personal · Professional · Business

Lorrie A. MacGilvray, Co-Founder & Chairman – ReModel International

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