Tuesday, 31 January 2017

#hrdsummit17 blog 4

I took myself a longer break after the Connecting HR Africa session to process what I'd heard, get myself a sugar boost and generally reflect. So far this has been a very good conference and quite different to previous years. Last year at three days felt too much and too spread about. This year has been back at two days, and more seems to have taken place on the Exhibition floor in the mini theatres, which has meant much less walking about. 

The next session was introduced by Mark Martin, CEO of Foundation Stones, talking about how we can get HR to the top table and keep it there. He outlined his perspective on how the world of work is changing and how that makes it more critical for organisations to win the hearts and minds of their employees. 

The next speaker from PwC highlighted some of the changes he is seeing, for example a move to cloud based technology for HR systems, and the challenge was whether HR teams are ready for this. A lot of this is how HR is seen by the business, which is an issue I've experienced both extremes of in my career. 

Amanda Williams from Quorn Foods took over at this point. She reiterated these points. The HR team need to understand the people in the business, and whether they are motivated for the future or any future change. She isn't sure that most HR teams do, and she feels they need to do this in order to be taken seriously by the business. 

Mark followed this up by asking about other people's perceptions of HR and asserted there were three things we could do to make change happen so that we are at the top table:

This was an interesting and important topic but none of the three speakers really had enough time to cover it in the depth it justified. All had useful thoughts to share but not enough opportunity to do so. 

I've then moved over to another session about building the digital employee Fiona Mullan from Facebook. This talk was packed out and promised quite a lot as it's a brand almost everyone is familiar with. 

Facebook are obviously a mobile first and digital first organisation, and Fiona said lots of people are surprised to learn they are even an employer of staff, such is the power of their customer facing brand. 

Fiona qualified a lot of what she said by pointing out that Facebook is still a very young company, only 13 years old, and are growing and evolving all the time. As a result though of being staffed mainly by Millenials, it has been digital since the outset, and comfortable with little or no rules and policies, and with viral change and news spreading informally. 

She also mentoined how frequent hackathons take place, and how idea implementation is encouraged without permission being sought. This is a very unique culture but a hint at what many organisations can expect as demographic change works its way through society and into most organisations. 

I recognise this works for Facebook and some other organisations. But how easy is it to change existing organisations to work digitally and informally like this, without simply letting the organisation evolve through demographic change? That could take a decade or more, but can organisations change faster without employee turnover?

What do you think?

Fiona made another good point that people's Facebook profiles are used almost like a kind of company intranet, and therefore everyone brings their whole self to work with no secrets and it helps build better relationships. I can see this working but a lot of companies would shy away from it. I myself would have shied away from it just 3-4 years ago. 

As Facebook grows though Fiona outlined some of the challenges they face in terms of taking on more staff and having to introduce things like career structures, so there are some tensions coming into the organisation. She encourages people to be honest, be themselves and be open to seeking and also receiving feedback. It's the concept of the Authentic Self. 

This was an interesting talk also and, whilst very company specific, it contained many lessons for all organisations to think about. 

And that's me almost done for today. I'm missing the keynote closing speeches for today because they are starting too late - a bugbear on this event annually - my train home is 5 minutes past every hour and Clive Woodward finishes at 6pm. I'd never make the 6.05 train at New Street so would have to get the 7.05 train and get home after 8pm and miss my youngest daughter go to bed. Can this event finish earlier in future years?

But I'll be back tomorrow. 

Till next time...


#hrdsummit17 blog 3

Resisting the temptation to grab the available lunch before my allotted lunch slot in half an hour, I'm now listening to the talk Being at our Best by Susan Yell, HRD at Warburtons. 

Susan was the first speaker I've seen for a long while work entirely from a detailed script. It had the feel of a presentation at a job interview. 

The slides she had were colourful but detailed and the font on some of them was way too small to be read from my position in the middle row. It did make following what she was presenting very difficult. From what I could see though, she had put in place a well structured people strategy and the Warburtons Wheel helps people to see their place in it and contribution to the business. 

The Warburtons culture comes across as very inclusive and they seem to have a focus on employee engagement and their employer brand. But the presentation was hard to follow because of its pace, the level of detail being imparted and the small font size used. 

It's a real shame as Warburtons does come across as a great place to work and there were some important messages being delivered, but this talk seemed like one that originally been designed as a 45-50 minute talk for a small audience, and was now being delivered in 25 minutes to a larger audience without any alteration to the slides or delivery, hence being very very fast. 

I would like to hear more about the Warburtons approach and Susan comes across as a very knowledgeable person, but I think needs a different format to get her best ideas across (and she had lots of ideas that look to have worked very well from the brief detail I heard). 

Now it's lunchtime. Although that in itself was tricky as I had ten minutes to eat it before the next session started, one I dare not miss or be late for. 

It's #connectinghrafrica time

Ian Pettigrew, Kate Griffiths-Lambeth and Lisa Leighton presented their talk about what made them go to Africa along with several others, and what they achieved along with what else needs to be done. 

This story isn't really something you can blog about as it would be doing an injustice to the power of the words and stories they were using. Suffice to say, though, that they shared in a powerful experience and felt as if they made a major contribution to the welfare of children in Africa. 

I wanted to go live on Periscope for these stories but the acoustics wouldn't have helped. I had the headphones in so I could hear, but I couldn't have recorded it easily. Sorry. 

To hell with that. After I wrote that last paragraph I thought I'd go live on Periscope anyway as even if I could share some if it that was better than none. So there's a 7 minute Periscope video stream you can watch on my Twitter feed. 

Great session. Humbling to listen to and a good insight into how HR professionals can REALLY make a difference. 

Till next time...


#hrdsummit17 blog 2

After the break I'm in one of the little offshoot theatres from the main exhibition hall listening to David Done, CEO at RHP Innovation, talking about Putting people at the heart of your business strategy. 

I had wondered how the acoustics might work with such a level of background noise from the Exhibition, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they were giving out headphones that streamed the mic feed and cut out a lot of the background noise. As my talk tomorrow is in a similar location this removes one worry for me. 

RHP are a housing association in London who seem particularly successful. I spent 12 years in housing and am interested in their journey around transformational change. 

The transformation at RHP highlighted just how far they had come. And yet I don't think they are unique in housing, as the outcomes he was quoting I personally contributed to at another place and we knew we weren't unique either. 

But RHP have won so many awards, more than my previous organisation did. What's different about their journey?

David said it's about people. Many housing associations were lucky in the early 2000s in that they got to start again, as a brand new organisation. They had a clear mandate for change and improvement, and the platform (and funding) to do so. 

He also said they chose how to define their organisation carefully. They chose, consciously, to be a service provider, and not a landlord. They also wanted to be innovative and the very best, not just in the housing sector but wider. They focused initially, though, on going back to basics and getting these right as a basis for the later improvements, and spent 4-5 years working on this. 

Then they focused on their Red Lines. Things they would always do. Things they would never do. Their values. 

These are interesting concepts and I'd encourage people to think about their own Red Lines. It might surprise you. How often do you share and discuss them?

He then talked about bringing people in from outside the sector, something I tried very hard to do when working in housing. I find it very frustrating when anyone in an organisation asks a new starter "which (similar company in same sector) have you come from?" - why does that matter?

Here's the RHP key points about transforming an organisation through its people:

I can't argue with that at all and well done to RHP for their success, but I am still uncertain that they are unique in the housing sector for this type of approach. However there are many organisations outside the housing sector who need to look hard at this type of approach. 

I've then wandered across to another mini theatre to listen to Bridging the Digital Skills Gap with Mark O'Donoghue from Avado. His opening remarks talked about how hopeless we have traditionally been at predicting the pace of change of future developments. He gave us a run through of how technology is developing, both in terms of real things and some imagined things that you didn't really have to stretch your mind too far to imagine as real already. 

He then moved into the implications for business decision making and it was mainly around having someone in charge of technology management deciding which new technology to switch to and implement and knowing when the right time is to do so. He showed an infographic that showed that many sectors aren't fully prepared for digital disruption. 


The obvious implication for skills is that the UK economy (and world economy) needs a massive influx of digital skills and he listed some of the roles you need to have in your organisation to facilitate digital transformation. Of these, I'd heard of maybe half. 

And I've actually seen none in any organisation I've worked with. 

Does that suggest those organisations need to change? Probably. It also suggests I need to broaden my digital horizons. 

He mentioned that to succeed digitally you need to be comfortable working with various iterations. Planning, learning, implementing, and repeating. So your product or service, digitally, will be version 3.0 or higher. Do your staff have the skills to wait for v3.0?

He summarised by saying digital disruption is coming and organisations need the leaders in place to assist this and who recognise that everyone and everything need to be digital and change the culture accordingly. 

Does this describe your organisation and its leaders and culture?

This has made me think quite a bit and I enjoyed the talk. 

Till next time...


#hrdsummit17 blog 1 - opening keynote speeches

So here I am at #hrdsummit17 again. It's my fifth year running at this event, and my second year running speaking at the event. Tomorrow I'm delivering a Lightning talk, a bit longer than but a similar concept to an Ignite talk, on the subject of Amazing Workplaces. If you've seen me do this before you'll know a bit about it but I've extended and revised it. Consider it the EP version. Get yourself there, 10:55 tomorrow. I promise you won't be disappointed.

I'm also blogging from the event again this year, this time officially on behalf of the organisers, but I'd have blogged anyway because blogging helps me make sense of what I'm hearing and seeing, and helps me get my thoughts in order to review at a later date. 

Jabber Sardar opened up the event and introduced Lynda Gratton and Tammy Erikson. Lynda started off by talking about how the world is adapting to the increased prevalence of technology. She gave some excellent examples, and talked about how what she calls medium skill occupatoins like sales, admin, production etc are slowly disappearing through automation and being performed by robots. But she also mentioned how even higher skilled jobs are starting to slow down in terms of increase and may tip into decrease in the coming years. 

Lynda said we would be surprised how much technology runs most jobs, and we would be very surprised what technological developments  are in the pipeline that will automate even the most skilled of jobs, for example carers. 

And yet she said there are some things that aren't yet automated. She gave examples of making a bed, or walking up stairs. I'm very surprised at that, because I'd have thought both of those things would be very easy for a robot to do? Maybe I don't know enough. 

She handed over to Tammy, who built on these ideas. Tammy outlined how the way we get things done is changing through technological advances, and gave an example of people arranging to meet up at some future date - now it's all done via technology. Technology allows us to make choices in organisations about how to do things, and meant that companies could get smaller through outsourcing lots of activities to other organisations who could automate it. 

Tammy took this further by saying organisations will get smaller still. She said you will obviously spin off real estate, but you'll also spin off people and use less employees. Or rather smaller numbers of actual employees, but larger numbers of associates who will work as and when for companies. 

If this does end up being the case, then organisations main focus of work will be projects, and each team will be a project team, working in a different way. People will manage and contribute to multiple projects. This changes the way you'll need to reward employees, and that will increasingly be on a project basis, not via hours worked. 

Lynda then took over again and talked about the Age of Longevity, and how 50% of people born in the last decade will reach age 100 and may need to work well into their 70s in order to finance that. Unless you save 25% of your income, you won't be able to retire at age 65. 

She said this means the traditional model of the three stage life (education, work, retirement) breaks up and becomes more fluid. She made an interesting point that this doesnt mean being older for longer, it can mean being younger for longer but this depends on lifestyle and other choices.

She then said that intangible assets like productivity, vitality and transformation become more important than things like savings, property and a pension. 

Tammy took the stage again and talked about the decreasing importance of things like College degrees and the increasing relevance of transferable badges that represent an individuals accumulated skills. This, to me, sounded very much like the approach taken by groups like the Brownies and the Scouts, but adapted to the workplace, and as long as we can agree what the badges represent and their value then I think it could work. What do you think?

She asserted that if this proves true, then individuals will only be motivated to perform for tasks that allow them to share ideas and work together, and provide extraordinary service. We should realise we can't order people to do this, but we need to create conditions where they will want to do so. She touched on many things that organisations need to do in order to create this place. 

And this has echoes of my own talk tomorrow where I'll cover many of the same things. 

I enjoyed this talk and it set a good context for the rest of the conference. 

The next talk was from Jens Hofma from Pizza Hut. Jens took over as CEO at Pizza Hut over a decade ago when the brand was on its knees, and had ideas about how to revitalise the brand. 

His main thrust was to create the very best employee experience and he asserted an idea that his customers should never be happier than his employees, a great concept and one which has turned around the brand. 

He spent time working on the shop floor to get to know the issues the staff were facing, and understand the motivations of the staff. 

He discovered that the staff don't care about the mission statement, the values or anything that leaders assume they should care about. Instead they care about paying their mortgage or rent, having fun at work and other things that don't necessarily fit with traditional HR and OD work. 

He and his team created a roadmap to re energise the business, and he gave some statistics that highlighted how well he has done and yet he is not satisfied and thinks things could still improve. His point was that we operate in a society that still operates with values from the 1980s, at least in a business sense, and this leads to a lack of trust in the elite. 

He felt that the HR profession has a key role to play. They shouldn't be the mouthpiece of the CEO, or the values police, but instead should be the champion of employees, listening to and engaging with front line employees and focusing on encouraging business to be human. 

He shared some values that he feels encourage people at Pizza Hut to be human which you can see below. 

He finished by asking us to build more effective relationships in organisations and by doing so, to be more human and therefore more successful. 

I think this is a good point. In my own career, and especially in the last year or so, I've realised that my own effectiveness and, by extension, my teams and my organisations, is built upon effective relationships. 

I sometimes say it's not what you know, it's who you know. 

Well, it's not quite. It's about who you know but also how you treat them. 

Food for thought as we had for the break. 

Till next time...


Sunday, 29 January 2017

We Belong

This is the second in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers. Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website. 

We decided I'd write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what's happened in organisations I've worked in and with - whether the source of motivation Bee's blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what's worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what's not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people? 

Here's Bee's blog post on the subject of belonging.  In it, she says that the desire to belong and fit in is a powerful motivator in both society and in particular in the workplace, and offers some thoughts based on anthropology and social neuroscience and her own experience. She says in the workplace, we need to push at the open door that is an employees desire to fit in and contribute to a group in order to unlock their motivation. 

I agree with the concept of belonging but have seen it manifest in different ways. In my Amazing Workplace rhyme I make a comment about someone wanting to fit in being influenced by the attitudes of the people around them, in that the feeling of belonging can be enhanced by things other people do. So thus far, this tallies with Bee's thoughts. As does the sense of danger I feel about groupthink and stifling diversity, which is echoed by Bee. 

In some of my other blogs I've written about things that help the concept of engagement, particularly for new employees when the need to fit in is at it's greatest. In The New Boy I talked about the specific practical things that heighten the sense of belonging in new starters. In The Spark I talked about how you can spot when an employee no longer has that feeling of fitting in. And in Swipe Left, Swipe Right I likened the employment relationship to actual relationships and I believe all humans have a desire to feel loved and needed, which manifests itself in both actual and working relationships alike. 

I have belonged to lots of sports clubs and teams over the years and have often felt both a sense of belonging and a sense of isolation. I've reflected on what made the difference between these two extremes, and it is most definitely the attitude of my team mates that had the greatest effect. When I've had a leadership role in these teams I've gone out of my way to ensure that new members of the teams feel like they are wanted, that their contributions are recognised and that they fit in with the team. And mostly, it's worked too. 

In the workplace, I've felt a strong sense of belonging in just two organisations I've worked for. These experiences were years apart and at different stages of my career. In both cases though it was linked to: a) working for a manager who I respected and got on with; b) having opportunities to socialise with colleagues and being encouraged to do so, whether I ended up doing so or not; and c) feeling like the organisation actually wanted me there and needed me to do something, and that they respected my skills to do so. 

Strangely in both cases I was the first person to do the particular role I was employed in. There was no history or culture to fight against. There was no expectation of me doing what my predecessor had done. And no perceptions of my role to work against me. 

I've seen other examples of employees who instantly belong in a new job. My wife moved organisations last summer and after three days in her new job said she felt like she fitted in and had been there years. Looking back at her experience last summer, it replicated my own thoughts above. She belonged. In a past organisation we took on a graduate employee who within hours of starting seemed like they had been there years, and when they left after about a year it felt like they left a huge hole in the organisation. 

And yet I've also seen examples of employees who, despite the best efforts of the organisation and its people, simply did not belong. I recruited a middle manager who had had a strong affinity to a previous employer and couldn't shake it. She started, like many new managers do, by comparing us to her previous employer and referring to us as "you" and her previous place as "we". In a first month, that's ok. But she was still doing it nearly 18 months later and she had had all the opportunities I mentioned in the above paragraph to encourage her to fit in. But she didn't. We were still "you" and her previous employer was still "we". In this case, nothing that our organisation did managed to get her to fit in. And yet something that her previous employer did had worked SO well that she still felt she belonged there after having left. 

And that, I suppose, is the point I am making. 

That there are things that make someone feel belong in an organisation and these can work very very well, but there comes a point where the employee becomes indoctrinated in that organisations way of doing things and has echoes of brainwashing, so much that it is difficult to undo and affects an employees ability to fit in with any subsequent organisation, despite any efforts made by that organisation. 

Strangely, I've had it myself. 

I've moved to organisations where I've not felt a sense of belonging and yet other employees who have started at the same time as me have clearly and visibly fitted in quicker and more noticeably. Whose fault is it that I haven't felt any belonging? It's hard to tell. 

So what can organisations do? 

I'd recommend asking each employee what would help them settle in and feel that sense of belonging. It might be a daft question at first, and it might take a few attempts to get a useful answer, but what harm can it do? 

It might help that employee to reach optimum performance level and optimum engagement level quicker, and avoids the chance that these levels won't be reached at all. 

So, what would make you feel a sense of belonging? 

Till next time… 


PS in other news, we've now got a quote for all our home improvements and need to decide whether to do them, which will be cheaper than the alternative, which is moving to a new home that has everything already done, but that has some attractions too…

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Professionals

In recent months the CIPD has been developing its new Principles. Considering these has made me wonder about the whole concept of professionalism in the HR community.  In this blog I'll discuss some of this, perhaps somewhat controversially.

I was first alerted to the principles during #CIPDACE16 where there were some focus groups going on. Engaging with some of these on social media, I retweeted something about professionalism in HR by saying that I thought that the CIPD qualification ought to be a criteria for entry into the profession, and that the CIPD should regulate the profession in a similar way to how the legal and accountancy (amongst others) professions and professional bodies operate.

I got no reaction until some hours later when Doug Shaw retweeted my views, asking for comments.

And we got a lot of comments then. Almost all of them disagreed with my view, stating that it was narrow minded and restrictive to think that the CIPD qualification was the definition of professional status, and that many good people and ideas are operating in HR without having joined the CIPD or done its qualification and so restricting entry to the profession would prevent many talented people being part of the HR community.

I was taken aback by the strength of the views, and realised my own views were not the conclusion of my own thinking but perhaps an opening salvo, and needed to be developed through discussion and research.

I immediately followed all the people who had disagreed with me, and there were more than a few. Only one followed me back though.

I've not finished developing my views, either, and this blog is part of that development process so I'm hoping your reactions will help me.

I do still believe that there ought to be a professional entry requirement in order to practice in HR. But the reactions of people the other month, I thought, said more about their views of the current CIPD professional qualification rather than the general point of having a professional entry requirement and regulation. It's clear that a great many people don't view the CIPD professional qualification as effective in instilling professionalism or assessing professionalism amongst the HR community.

A fair point. But that doesn't mean it couldn't in future.

So should it? And if we ripped it all up and started again, would we end up with the same CIPD qualification we have today?

After all, I don't think we can really call ourselves a profession if we don't have some kind of entry requirement and, especially, no widely agreed definition of professionalism?

So how would YOU define professionalism?

I think it has to be assessed as a standard, and upheld throughout ones career. It has to embody more than just knowledge and skills, but a set of values or principles. It is about ascribing to a set of behaviours that represent a way of life for the said professional.

That's how it is for those in the legal profession. And chartered accountants (my wife is one and I supported her through her qualification). And other professions too.

And yet in some professions, the concept of a professional means nothing more than someone who is paid for their work, to distinguish them from amateurs.

So we can't agree what professionalism means. Is this why the CIPD have launched their principles?

I think they come close to establishing something like professionalism for our HR community. Amongst the principles are the following points on professionalism:

  • An ethical duty to use the profession’s unique knowledge of people and organisations to champion better work and working lives; 
  • Striving to create situations where work benefits everyone – whether workers, organisations or the societies they are part of; 
  • Being an ambassador for the profession and an advocate of good HR, acting with integrity, and using expertise responsibly, for the public good 
And I think this is spot on. It captures everything I think professionalism means.

But does the current CIPD qualification assess this? I'm not sure it does, so I can understand people's anger when I suggest using that qualification to bar entry to our profession.
But could it? Yes, it could. But it needs rebooting perhaps.

Plenty of people become CIPD members via different routes and that's fine by me as long as their professionalism is assessed somehow, and that professionalism is regularly (?) revisited to ensure their practice remains professional.

But what about those people who choose, for lots of valid reasons, not to take the CIPD qualification and become CIPD members? Should they be allowed to call themselves HR professionals.


They shouldn't.

That's not to say they shouldn't work in HR, or that the HR community is not enriched by their presence and ideas. It is, and we should embrace all ideas and people. But the notion of professional status should be restricted, in my view, to those who have been assessed as reaching a certain set of standards.

I don't think the current CIPD qualification is completely fit for purpose. But it could be, and right now it's as good a starting point as any. And the new CIPD Principles are an excellent step forward too.

I'd like to work in a future profession that encompasses all aspects of good people work, not just traditional HR, and where telling people you're an HR professional garners the same glance of recognition that telling someone you're a solicitor or a doctor does.  I'm keen for HR and the CIPD to champion the future of work and to create amazing workplaces, driven by talented professionals.

Am I wrong?

I'm still thinking about it. I'm prepared to accept that I am wrong, and I'm particularly keen to hear from you if you have views on this.

How does HR move forward as a profession?

Do the CIPD Principles help and do they mean anything to you?

Should professional status be both assessed and regulated, and thus controlled completely, by our professional body?

Let me know what you think, your views are very welcome.

Till next time…


PS in other news, I passed my Level 2 Fitness Instructing qualification and found out a couple of weeks ago. I'm now moving onto the Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification and hope to complete this by summer. It looks hard but I'm looking forward to it and may need people to help with case studies!

Saturday, 7 January 2017


This is the first in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers.  Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website.

We decided I'd write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what's happened in organisations I've worked in and with - whether the source of motivation Bee's blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what's worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what's not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people?

Here's the first of Bee's blogs - on the subject of FLOW.  Flow is described as "the mental state of being completely absorbed in a task or activity, otherwise known as being 'in the zone'".  Bee suggests that most workplaces do a poor job of creating an environment that encourages flow, and suggests there are five things organisations can do to ensure flow happens:

1. Make sure goals are clear.
2. Give people access to immediate feedback
3. Balance people's strengths with the challenge of their activities
4. Create an environment that allows for deep concentration
5. Support people to be in the present and in control

I recognise the concept of Flow very well. In my sporting endeavours I've experienced Flow many many times. When you're in the zone, you tend to have no concept of the passing of time, and pretty much everything you try comes off. Although I have had it in my triathlons, I experience it more in my crown green bowls career - and that's not such a mental leap because the need for concentration and coordination of physical and mental activities is greater in that sport than any other I've taken part in.  But when I am in the zone in bowls, I am a different person. I feel alive, like I could win my game with my eyes shut and standing on my head, and in fact when I become conscious that I am in the zone I find it amusing and baffling in equal measure. I can't figure out how it started or what caused it, and there's no prompt for it finishing either (even, surprisingly, the act of becoming consciously in Flow doesn't make it suddenly stop). 

But this echoes my experience of Flow in the workplace. I've experienced it. I've seen others experience it. But can anyone pinpoint a cause for it or say how long Flow will last? I'm not so sure. 

I know Bee has said the five things help. And I can see that they would help anyone to feel more motivated, but would they create Flow?

Again, I'm not so sure. 

The best example of Flow I have experienced in the workplace is on my final day before a significant period of annual leave. On that day, because I know I'm not around for a week or more, I'm at my most productive. Work comes easy. I do some of my best work too. I waste no time, I am assertive, completely in control, and able to perform to the very best of my abilities without much effort. 

But, at the end of the day, I am tired and often I get a cold when I go on annual leave. Always did when the school holidays came around too. 

So what does that say about Flow?

That Flow must involve considerable adrenaline. The ultimate fight or flight reaction. 

That Flow, containing adrenaline, can only be sustained for short bursts but that in those short bursts it produces extraordinary results. 

That Flow, in short bursts, must end and when it does, the individual is vulnerable to a range of things that may stretch to illness but most commonly will be no more serious (?) than underperformance. 

So to return to Bee's questions to me - I think Flow is neglected as a source of motivation, but not necessarily because organisations don't want to, more because many don't know how to, and many don't want the consequences. 

But - have I seen instances where the five criteria Bee outlines have been present?

Yes. But I wouldn't call that Flow in the way Flow was earlier described. 

Would those things help performance though?

Yes. And I have worked in places where they've been present, but not for everyone. And not all the time. 

Some are brought about by good leaders. I worked for a fantastic Chief Executive who encouraged all of those five things for me, and I did some of my best work as a result. The whole organisation had some element of Flow as described by Bee, but without the adrenaline I'd associate with it. But when that Chief Executive departed, so did the sense of Flow for me and I suppose for much of the organisation. But even then not everyone performed, as there were some individuals for whom even the presence of the five factors made no difference. 

I call such people wrongens.

I've also worked for an organisation where, from looking at the five factors Bee mentions, I know I had 4 out of 5 regularly and on some occasions all 5 but not once did I feel in the zone in that organisation, not once did I feel motivated and in fact I felt completely demotivated.  Was I a wrongen?  Maybe I was.  My demotivation stemmed from some past event where I felt completely devalued having given my all for the organisation and had it thrown back in my face.  So no amount of the 5 factors would change that for me.

So Flow is not dependent on the 5 factors being present, but its doubtful it could be present unless the 5 factors were there.  I think what I'm saying is that there is probably a 6th factor, that differs for individuals, and is the key to unlocking motivation.

I guess all organisations can do is as Bee says - ensure the five factors are present, for as much as possible and for as many people as possible. 

Basically, as I've said before, create the conditions where people want to, and can, go the extra mile. 

Is that Flow? 

You tell me. 

Till next time...


PS in other news, Xmas was fantastic and I had a fortnight off work completely, something I've not done even for paternity leave, wedding or honeymoon or any holiday. I enjoyed the rest, and, much like in Julie Drybrough's recent post, I didn't actually rest at all, just took a complete break from professional life and threw myself into other things at home and in my training. Really really enjoyable and highly recommended.