Friday, September 6, 2013

Working Smart

Another good article (despite the title which I fear may send people down the wrong mental path)

Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are - Meredith Fineman - Harvard Business Review


The main message; that there is a distinction between working hard versus smart, is spot on.. But there's more depth to be had in this article than than a glib statement of the obvious.

I'll paraphrase, but one of the best observations Meredith makes is that she used to be a swot and that she used to diligently grind through all the detail:

One of my greatest lessons as a businessperson has been to throw out that skill set. This isn't to say you shouldn't be diligent or that you should half-heartedly execute, but rather, that it's crucial to know what you have to do as opposed to everything you could do. It's about being strategic.

Work smarter - not harder is about unlearning some of the skills and habits that made us successful, that got us so far, but will actually hold us back if we don't adapt.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Have I got your Time and Attention?

Four Areas Where Senior Leaders Should Focus Their Attention - Peter Bregman - Harvard Business Review

When you bring a senior leadership group together in a room, it's a massive commitment of resources. The hotel and food are the least of it. Even the consultant, if you're using one, is a negligible cost compared to the investment of monopolizing the focus of seven or eight highly compensated, time-starved leaders.
I was talking with an ex colleague of mine about ‘Leadership Away days'.  We both used to attend some pretty heavy all day ‘strategy meetings’ that were mostly a total waste of this commitment of resources.  I really wish this article had been written back then,  I’d have happily placed it on the agenda , firmly under the ‘undiscussable’ section and had the hard conversation.
With all that brainpower around the table, the focus of a senior meeting needs to be conversation, controversy, even conflict — not updates. Leaders should never sit and read together. They should be engaging and struggling with the organization's most critical and difficult-to-solve issues.
We wasted a LOT of time discussing the decisions that didn’t move the needle. This frustrated me immensely and is, in my opinion, one of the internal mental barriers that senior executives have intrinsically to ‘executive strategy meetings’. We’ve all sat in those meetings where you spend hour and hour discussing mid-level financials, operational performance, credit performance etc. Those of us that were any good, we knew this stuff inside out and backwards. It just wasted our time – or exposed those of us within the executive team that *didn’t** know their stuff… And that was even more frustrating.  These bad experiences have scared some people away from 'strategy meetings', at a real cost to the health of the business.
Every single thing you do as a leader needs to have an impact. Your job is to think big.
Love the idea of filtering discussion topics by the number of zeros involved. I’d personally add a ‘how many years’ involved filter. Dealing with "this year or next" should be dealt with in control meetings. Setting the course of the business over the next three, five, ten years. That’s the “big arrow” - that's thinking 'BIG'.

In conclusion.  Well run strategy meetings are essential and this article gives you some excellent pointers.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Don’t Overpromise on Your New Job
If you promise too much and fall short, you risk undermining your credibility
The term I like to use of OPUD (pronounced ‘Op Udd’) for those that Over Promise and Under Deliver.
Usage examples :

  • Yeah, they totally OPUD that project, didn’t they.
  • I feel totally and uterrly OPUD'd

How to Turn Notes and Mind Maps into Actionable Steps

Highly recommend this post. Excellent article
how to turn notes into actionable steps that you can implement.
As the author states, originally written about hwo to turn mindmaps into actions this apprach can be easily tasked to dealing with email, written documents, letters etc.

Impress your boss in 60 seconds :: Men's Health
Maybe a little too full on. But the simply asking for more time in relation to a work related objective is effective.

How to Help Someone Vent

Is it just me? I got a little stuck on the authors use of ‘she’ in this article. Other than that, seems like solid advice and added to me reference material.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mind Blown!!

Two things recently have just blown my mind!

  1. Firstly this review from Federico Viticci. What a review. 5 Stars
  2. And then the app he's referring to... Mind blowingly amazing!! Can't gush enough about it.


A quick highlight from an amazing review and software:

Editorial supports TextExpander snippets but it also allows you to set up snippets created with its proprietary syntax and tokens. In the “Snippets & Abbreviations” screen of the Settings, you’ll see options to ignore case when typing snippets, enable or disable TextExpander integration, and suggest TextExpander snippets. Similar to Pythonista’s code completion, Editorial can display small “bubbles” above the keyboard that suggest a matching snippet showing the abbreviation (with letters you’ve already typed highlighted in blue) and a preview of the full snippet.

This is genius!! This alone is the single best implementation of snippets in iOS and should become MANDATORY on all applications. I use xx(something) a lot on iOS and sometimes forget.. Now I type xx and like magic my snippets appear above my keyboard!!! MIND BLOWN!!!!! GENIUS!!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

GTD conversation via IM

From a recent (ish) conversation I had with a colleague over IM:
so how do you apply GTD in a nutshell
12:21Timms, Howe (UK - London)
It's not a nutshell kind of explanation I'm afraid. But there are five steps:
1. Capture (Get it all out of your head and written down so your brain has space to think)
2. Process (Take that 'stuff' you've written down think about what it really is)
3. Organise (Now you know what it really is, put it where it belongs)
4. Review (This is the REALLY important bit. Review what and WHY you're spending time and attention on things)
5. Do (You've done all the hard stuff. Time to just do the widgets knowing that you're doing the most important thing to you at that moment)
It's Awesome
Yes.. I said it's awesome in real life.. Kill me now.
what if you have something you cant be sure what the benefits are till you've done it? for eg reading a journal that could be really important to your essay or not at all...
12:29Timms, Howe (UK - London)
How do you decide if spending the time on that journal is the best thing?
It's kind of simple:
What are you NOT doing if you're reading that journal? Will anything MORE important than that essay get broken? If the answer is no you could probably read that journal and if it's turning out to be dull, move on to another one
If you should be doing something more important - DON'T do anything to do with the essay and get that done
If it's free time. No critical etc. Why not answer the real question. Do I do enough general reading of journals so that I can be confident in having a wide perspective for this essay? (if not, why not?)
Could I get better at evaluating journals (Skim readin, speed reading etc)
Perhaps I take ages to read journals (Why? Could be all sorts of reasons) or I spend TOO much time reading journals (random ones because I love it - that's nice, but it doesn't help the essay etc)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Saw this and thought of COO

Keep People From Feeling Left Out

Social rejection is hard in any setting, including at the office. When people feel excluded, they can't be productive, innovative, or collaborative. As a manager you need to create a work environment that discourages rejection

Nice little post.Applies to both managers and leaders equally.



BBC News - 'Tipping point' for mobile health apps

"We are at a tipping point in computer science where the technology is getting so small... We can then have people monitor themselves without taking any effort," he said.

Professor Gill Rowlands, a GP and clinical senior lecturer at Kings College London, added a note of caution: "I would like to make sure that the applications people use have been quality tested."

.. And check for security risks


Sylvia Ann Hewlett

In short, sponsorship is about taking calculated risks. Why do it? Because the payoff is priceless.


In today's complex organizational matrix, no one person can maintain both breadth and depth of knowledge across fields and functions. But she can put together a posse whose expertise is a quick IM away. Some sponsees add value through their technical expertise or social media savvy. Others contribute fluency in another language or culture. Still others may help you advance the organization's goals through their ability to build teams from scratch and coach raw talent. Building a loyal cadre of effective performers can extend your reach, realize your vision, build your legacy, and burnish your reputation

Never underestimate the power of your network.. I had a very telling experience recently where I was able to help out an old colleague by contacting a very good relationship I had with a third party vendor



Why You Should Stop Keeping Score at Work

It’s beneficial, even productive, to make your accomplishments visible, instead of hiding away keeping mental score. Understanding what everyone is doing means that you’re not worried about percentages and brownie points but focusing on getting awesome things done together as a team and aligning the points between individual and collective progress and meaning.

I read this article with a particular person in mind...

Further evidence that you need to celebrate personal and team successes. I'll stress that making your personal accomplishments visible is a crucial behaviour and essential for the 'aligning of points'. So stop keeping scores but make sure you celebrate when you score a goal!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Using the work planing process in your own life


Acronyms such as STP (Short Term Plan) and MTP (Medium Term Plan) exist within nearly every Financial Services company I have worked within.
STP is the short term outlook, usually 12 to 18 months at most. It is this plan than is usually the most relevant measure of 'success' in terms of your personal performance. For example:
  • Are you achieving the impairment targets by month for the FY13 (Full year 2013)
  • Are you achieving your utilisation etc
For years I diligently tracked my Work performance against these measures weekly, monthly and quarterly. Making sure I was on track, forecasting where I would land and making course corrections along the way as necessary. But not once did I ever do the obvious... Why not follow the same cycle for my *personal* objectives.
The relentless STP and MTP cycle within my work life is a mirror to the same process I should be going through in me personal life.
  1. Setting my strategic direction and choosing what makes sense to target in the short term and medium term
  2. Setting specific, measurable targets that can be tracked and forecasted
  3. Stress testing the plan (What happens if the scenarios change for the worse)
  4. Having a time once a year to go through this entire process bottom up
  5. Having time regularly to track performance and communicate to stakeholders about the risks and opportunities
  6. Having time once a year to formally look back and RATE the actual performance. What went well, what are the strengths or weaknesses. What areas need to be invested in to stay on track with the longer term objectives?
So now I do the obvious thing. As I go through this cycle in work - I go through it in parallel in my personal life

The Personal STP 

Setting my strategic direction and choosing what makes sense to target in the short term and medium term
In GTD terms this is a the yearly 40k feet view. What do I want to achieve (what is my personal strategic direction?) Basically - what will make me happy?
This list (Or 'Strategic Direction') is written down and analysed. 
(I would show you but it's deeply personal! :p)

Setting specific, measurable targets that can be tracked and forecasted

How can I ensure that on those cold, dark mornings when it's raining that I'm getting out of bed and making some progress towards those lofty 40k feet dreams? Is this gym session 42 of 60? Is this the day when I'm going to achieve a personal best for "Fran"? Is this the day when a significant other and I are going to move in together? Basically when I go to sleep at night how can I say to myself "yes, today I did indeed inch closer to objective X?"

Ironically I think this sort of measurement is SO much easier in work related situations. Did we achieve impairment target of YM? Yes - in fact we outperformed by 20%. Fantastic!! Big warm feeling. The trick is coming up with something similar in a personal context.

The real trick is this measurement, tracking and forecast is the PUSH and PULL to get me to stumble, at least mostly, in the 'right' direction - especially when I don't want to.

Stress testing the plan (What happens if the scenarios change for the worse

On those really, really dark days. Sometimes a win is a small as "Did I NOT get into a fight" or "Did I at least make it to the gym even if it was a rubbish session". Small steps count some days.

Planning in advance for 'Stress' is productive. This is along the lines of "What if this happens... What would I do?"

This helps with both the 'control' aspect and the 'is that really important to me if I'm totally honest aspect'.

I have some idea what I would do if I lost my job, if I needed to drop everything to look after that friend or if the zombie apocalypse happens.

But I can also honestly say - when it comes down to it, in the total extreme... Who or what is important to me.

If my life was burning to the ground, what would I go back into the flames to save? To me, those things and ONLY those things go into my MTP.

Having a time once a year to go through this entire process bottom up

Once a year. I delete my Omnifocus personal projects and start this process again. Its cathartic. If it's important my STP / MTP will end up in a similar state. If it's not important then then it's gone.

You don't care if a business strategy is dropped? Why should you care if a rubbish personal strategy is dropped? This is the time to really embrace that mindset.

Having time regularly to track performance and communicate to stakeholders about the risks and opportunities

In work we ALWAYS have to tell somebody on a VERY REGULAR basis how we're performing. When it;s going badly it sucks (I would imagine ;p)

The same discipline should carry into personal STP / MTP. You REPORT your progress. Good or bad. Probably to yourself but ideally to your significant other (I would imagine ;p). If you deserve a kicking, take the kicking and get better. If you're being a hero, bask in the glory.

If you don't measure and report your progress. You drift off course.

Having time once a year to formally look back and RATE the actual performance. What went well, what are the strengths or weaknesses. What areas need to be invested in to stay on track with the longer term objectives?

To me this one is mostly negatives. I rate my end of year performance. What did I do well - great, why didn't you do more. What did you do badly, no excuses but why is that acceptable? What is holding you back (or who?) - why didn't you drop them.

It's not a pleasant process. But I think it's necessary... This is why I sync it to business review periods. It works well for me in terms of reminding me I need to do it AND it usually gives me a kick up the backside to draw a line in the sand, to stop procrastinating and to make the hard decisions.

And then the cycle repeats again and again... Grinding out results

Thursday, July 25, 2013

File Naming

A quick post on File Naming

Based in part upon a much better post by macsparky this is a quick post about filenaming and version control if you work in a professional environment with other people.

Use YYYY-MM-DD at the start

I recommend using a combination of YYYY-MM-DD something else.extension or YYYY-MM something.extension. The date always goes first. Always

The date in the document should be meaningful to you. In many cases this is simply the creation date (don't assume the creation date will always be preserved, especially when working on documents in a work capacity)

* The four digit year and month eliminators make it easy to sort the files
* When searching for files you probably have some idea of the year and month you created the file

Use a version control at the end. But don't use V.X

I'm a big fan of a suffexing files with [A-Z]###. What does that mean?

  • 2017-04 Monthly report A001.xls (April 2017 terrible exciting and important monthly report. The first one I create)
  • 2017-04 Monthly report A002.xls (A change I made to this report to make it even more insightful. I shipped this copy to my boss)
  • 2017-04 Monthly report B001.xls (The copy of the report after making the changes my boss asked for p.s. It's less exciting now)
  • 2017-04 Monthly report C001.xls (A copy of the report that shipped that Finance asked to be simplified)
  • 2017-04 Monthly report C002.xls (After feedback from Finance they asked for my proposed report to be made even simpler. Accountants eh)

The principle is that you start your versions at A001.

Then. Every small iteration thereafter increases the version by one. Therefore A002 is more up to date than A001. If there is only A's in your directory the highest A version is the current version.
You change letters every time something 'interesting' happens. In my example above B001 was interesting because this was after changes my boss and I agreed to version A002. Why didn't I call this A003? Because in my head A002 was 'Gold'. But because some fundamental changes were required before I could ship it I upped the version to B001. In the FUTURE if I come back I can see very quickly by comparing them that A002 and B001 are 'significantly' different (whilst A002 and A001 were incrementally different)
Same story for C001. Although this began as the Monthly Report, what Finance wanted was so crazily different it got it's only version.


  • Easy to spot incremental and fundamental changes (Using v1.x to v2.x etc feels like 2.x is always better than 1.x In the system I propose A , B etc. are just key milestones. C is probably incremental to B but could also be a niche pet project)
  • Works nicely when you sort ascending by file name (using v1.x does sort.. Until you get to v10)
  • Disc space is practically infinite. Save increments often and it gives you a feel for the number of iterations (Which is useful in future planning)
  • If you get to A999... Something is wrong with you!!! STOP! Think about what you're doing


Monday, June 17, 2013

Lions and Tigers and Bears...

Had the pleasure of seeing Ian Thomas recently.  As somebody who has sat through a LOT of motivational speakers Ian stands out as one of the best I've seen.

He adds a great perspective to a tired motivational topic. (How many times have you attended a speech on how to build teams and played management Bingo?  You won't with Ian' approach) 
I immediately found myself trying to tell other people about his ideas - failing miserably - but still seeing them have that 'oh yeah!' moment.

Finally - a fantastic speaker, learned a lot just watching his style.  Brilliant.

Link to his site is here.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Back Briefing

A good article on a technique that I'm trying to add to my repertoire

Back briefing because what you've heard is not always what was said. And vice versa.

Pay Day Lenders

OFT asked to suspend four pay day lenders..

Original article is here

A very hot topic within the industry.  I predict that in a year or two we (the credit risk community) will look back upon" Pay Day Lending" as a case study.  There will be some good from this (improvements in credit scoring, behavioural scoring, credit abuse, affordability) but the reputational damage of some of these companies will still be felt.


Its the 19th of Feb
Very interested to see what the OFT decide to do

See this link for details

Friday, February 8, 2013

New Job : Diary Management

Imagine you were starting a new job.  Here is a quick tip about how to manage your diary.

New job? Congratulations.  Well done.  Here's a tip to ensure you give yourself the best start possible:
"Invest time is making sure your diary is properly planned"

Why?  Because if you can't get your diary right.  You're doomed.  You need to completely and utterly trust your diary.  Your diary is your life! (In later posts I'll talk more about diary, productivity and GTD)

First things first.  Explore the hard landscape.

Speak to your new Boss. "Hi, nice to meet you.  Very excited about this role etc etc"
Here's what you're asking them:

  • What are the major meetings that you are expected to attend?
  • How often do these meetings occur?
  • What is my role within this meeting? Chair? Diligent attendee? 
  • Where are these meetings?  Do I dial in every time? Do I need to travel to them occasionally?

This gets you a feel for what your boss expects you to be doing.  So what to do with this information

  • Put these meetings into your diary (duh!)
  • Decide what time you need to put into your diary that is COMPULSORY to support them.  Do you have to travel to the meeting?  Maybe you only travel once a quarter?  So put this time into your diary.
  • Do you need to prepare for this meeting? Writing reports?  Reviewing decks?  Put this time into your diary?
  • Do you need to do something after this meeting?  Write up actions or minutes? Put this time into your diary.

For a gold star you could (and should) ask your Boss to brief you about these meetings e.g. Where are we? What are the major issues? How well are these meetings working?

You're not done yet.

Now you need to speak to yourself.  What are the MUST DO's you have to put into your diary to manage your personal productive?
For me this might be:
  • Weekly project review
  • Expenses *
  • Team meetings with my direct reports
  • Performance meetings with my direct reports
  • Catch up meetings with key SMEs (Networking / relationship meetings)

Again same questions about the additional commitments of pre and post meeting time.

That's your hard landscape.  Scary isn't it. 

You're STILL not done yet.

You need to review it.  Really REALLY explore it:
  • Is that really a true reflection of what you have to do?  Cut things that are faff.  Add things you've forgotten
  • Is there enough time to actually do real work?!?  If not - what can you do? Cut things? Plead with your new Boss? Delegate? 
  • Ummm.  How are you dealing with lunch?  (You forgot to put that on there didn't you)

Now you're done.  

Congratulations.  Now USE it.
  • Wake up - look at your diary.
  • Get into work - look at your diary.
  • People ask you to do something - look at your diary.
Putting the effort into setting your diary up gives you control.  Starting a new job is the perfect opportunity to do it

* [Sigh] If it's not in my diary I don't do it - No matter how good I am at other GTD practices so it has to be an hour in my diary once a week.  I still hate doing it but now I have a chance of actually filing some expenses

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Not saying I'm great...  But I recognised a lot in here from my past.

On Strategy

I really like this article about setting strategy from HBS
Don't Let Strategy Become Planning

I would add:

  • Strategy should help make the planning process simple
  • Strategy is about making choices about how to move your business forward
  • Strategy should come first (then initiatives, then budget etc) 

Yes, yes.  You need to have an eye on the budget etc. But setting an appropriate strategy can challenge (or enable) new discussion about initiative and budget.

If you don't have a strategy.  You're doomed.

Eye Watering

Barclays Increases PPI claims

That's gotta hurt

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reality Check

Saw this

He's 40??! Thought that can't be right....  Then realised how old I am.

Reality Check (Mate)

Star Wars

Star Wars

I'm actually quite optimistic about this

Friday, February 1, 2013

Basel Committee Publication

Principles for Effective Risk Data Aggregation and Risk Reporting

The latest version of the PRDAR regulations have been published:

I personally think the clarification on how to 'independently asses compliance' is interesting - separating from audit work to ensure distinction between lines of defence and using staff with specific IT, data and reporting expertise sounds nice...  I just wonder what than results in if you're using internal teams (Can reporting 'experts' in different functional areas play nice?)

Holding my judgment on the the 'expert judgment' sections too

Still.  Quite an enjoyable read IMO