Map of South West England Organic Farms

Map of South West England Organic Farms

My map of cool places to WWOOf in the UK… I’ll let you know more after the summer.



Well I can’t think of any other concept so misunderstood in today’s world than leadership. We seem to fall back on a idea on leadership as military concept… the ability to “lead the guys over the top” for king and country and maybe to certain death… I certainly this is appropriate in some situations.  But increasingly the kind of leadership we need in today’s world is something quite different.  Well there are a couple of things I have learned.  Firstly we need to be ‘authentic’ which means our leadership is congruent with our deepest values and getting in touch with these through self-awareness practices is key. There is a great network: “ALIA creates powerful incubators for learning and growth. At ALIA programs you will learn how to cultivate and empower everyone’s leadership, including your own. You will discover new ways of seeing and solving complex problems, and you will develop lasting connections with pioneering leaders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators.” More I will tell you. And the other breakthrough concept for me is that leadership is about the ability to harness collective intelligence and no-one does that better than the Art of Hosting: “Hosting is an emerging set of practices for facilitating group conversations of all sizes, supported by principles that: maximize collective intelligence; welcome and listen to diverse viewpoints; maximize participation and civility; and transform conflict into creative cooperation.” WOW. ALIA and the Art of Hosting are beautiful gems in a human world that so often misses the heartfelt, collective and authentic.

May and westward bound..

Well, its been a while since I lasted posted anything and I think it will take some time to get into the groove and really figure out what I want to say. But certainly sustainability, leadership, horticulture, presence and a rather dry humor will no doubt feature heavily.

I am recently spent a year in Sweden studying Sustainability Leadership and found my passion kept coming back to sustainable food production. I’m therefore planning on doing some further education in sustainable horticulture in late 2012 but in the meantime I really want to pitch in and get my hand dirty with some practical experience. I guess I have a dream of at least having a smallholding one day even if its not an commercial proposition. I have some horticultural experience having worked on various organic community allotments over the years including in Devon, Schumacher College and Embercombe, and most notably I spent six months as a gardener living in the Findhorn Foundation Community earlier this year.

Next step is I am walking from Dorset along the South West Coast Path once the rain eases so.. I’ll post along the way .. then WOOFING over the summer.

Hoki Koki, Pip, from my iPad

Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy.

As a graduate of a Masters programme entitled Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability I was initially impressed by the combination of some of the sexiest power words in the English language. Having taken these words apart and tried to but them back together again I have now concluded they are some of the most over-used, abused and unhelpful words, and almost certain to come up in any game of “bullshit bingo”.

Let’s look at some of the popular ways that strategic is used as a euphemism for something much more prosaic.

Number 1: Strategy is often used simply to mean decisions made by senior officials. Everyone wants to have ‘strategic role’ after all! I think this must go back to its military origin: to make strategic decisions suggest powerful, deep-thinking and cunning  stratagems concocted by men in badly lit backrooms filled with cigar smoke  and frowns.

Number 2: Big. A few years ago I was implementing a project portfolio management capability for a leading ethical bank. i.e. a process for objectively evaluating £200m, 100+ business change investments so they could kill of the poorly performing ones and govern the spend more smartly. Now in order to be able to compare apples and oranges we sliced and diced the projects into several types like ‘cost-saving’ vs ‘maintenance’ vs ‘ ‘revenue generating’. But most significant was the delineation between ‘strategic’ and ‘tactical’ investments’. And how was this defined? Well basically long-term, high spend programmes with often the highest risk profile and the most intangible benefits were considered strategic. Whereas those shorter term projects that often delivered in-year benefits were considered tactical. So Strategic = Big! Furthermore all investments were rated on a scale on 1 to 5 by the strategy teams on how ‘strategically aligned’ they were: presumably benchmarked against their 400 slide powerpoint of cryptic diagrams of service models and organisation structure which no-one outside (or inside?) the strategy department could make any sense of. But even here the process was flawed: the ‘strategy’ was actually the vision, the end-game, not a strategy for how to get there.

So here comes my biggest gripe on the use of the strategy word: most of the time it is used to articulate a vision, a goal “Our strategy is to be the best blah blah blah…” Strategy is NOT a goal or even a ‘big-picture’ overall direction, and it certainly isn’t as ambition. A strategy is a cohesive set of actions, an approach to addressing a challenge. It is HOW to achieve the goal, not the goal itself. A strategy should articulate how an organisation will move forward toward its ‘strategic goals’ with a plan of action. Divorced from implementation plan a strategy is just so much hot-air. As Richard Rumelt states in his excellent book “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy’ “The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing ways of co-ordinating and focusing action to deal with those factors.” I can’t recommend this book highly enough: he identifies four hallmarks of bad strategy:
1) Fluff  ‘a form of gibberish masquerading as strategic concepts and arguments. Here is a quote from a major retail banks internal strategy memo: e.g. “Our fundamental strategy is one of customer-centric intermediation”.. err i.e. we are a bank.
2) Failure to face the challenge. Diagnosis of the problem defines the core nature of issue, and simplifying the often overwhelming complexity of reality is a core element of any successful strategy and one we’ll be looking at in more detail in later posts. I can’t tell you how important this skill is becoming in an exponentially increasingly complex world.
3) Mistaking goals for strategy. As stated, the scourge of so called strategic thinking.
4) Bad strategic objectives. i.e. the wrong direction even if you have great strategy to get there

The last one is all about choice and decision making, something we’ll be chewing on in my next post.

It its messy world so we need to hold it lightly, accept paradoxes and ambiguity, use ALL our senses to make sense, and not take ourselves too seriously.

Pip 드림