Archive for November, 2007

Vettori’s words set up the next loss

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

The Black Caps got beaten on the last ball at Durban. Yes, a loss - and they were pipped in the Twenty20, but there’s been a significant turnaround from two innings defeats in the Test matches. Given the Test match results I’d have predicted they were toast. In all a huge improvement and South Africa were pushed hard.

So, if we go with the theory that explanatory style is an indicator of resilience and a predictor of future success then Vettori’s words are leading to more losses.

Remember the three factors; personal, permanent and pervasive. Here’s the report on what he said and some quotes:

“We mucked it up” - personal
“We missed chances in the field again” - permanent “again”
“We should have finished the game off and should have won it comfortably.” - personal
“But we’re still not winning, so we have to move forward and try to find a way of winning the next one.” - permanent and pervasive “try to find a way of winning”

Yes, it may be accurate and a “realistic” assessment but is it a winning one?

How about if he’d said, “You’d have to say we’ve bounced back from the Tests and apart from a couple of streaky overs and Nell getting lucky we’d have won, but that’s one-day cricket.”

That’s no less accurate and one that fits the explanatory style (PDF 160kB) of a winner.

A “plethora of policies” won’t fix hospital safety

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Today’s newspaper reports that changes to hospital safety are too slow. As we’ve noted here before, it’s a $1.8bn annual problem.

The Health and Disability Commissioner requested each DHB to review the case of death at Wellington Hospital in 2004 and “report to him on the safeguards that they have in place to prevent a similar case in their DHB”.

The responses were analysed and the report prepared by Dr. Mary Seddon (PDF 80kB) makes fascinating reading as she identifies three categories of approach to safety by DHBs (District Health Boards):

  • those that really understood what a safety culture was and demonstrated systems thinking
  • those that superficially used the language of safe & quality care but their action plans did not give confidence
  • those that have not really moved on from the individual blaming culture — they continue to believe that if doctors just concentrated harder, worked harder and were more careful, then medical errors would not occur

Apart from a difference of approach, a common factor was “the plethora of policies that almost all DHBs have produced.” The report concludes, “Many DHBs could stop writing policies tomorrow and not see a drop in the quality of care that they deliver.” Policy writing in our view is a classic example of treating the symptoms and not attacking the root cause.

The problem with “fixing the symptoms” is that the cure doesn’t really work and the side-effects become even more problematic. The classic effect is to make systems and processes even more complex and to provide ever more checks and balances to pick up failure - rather than preventing failure in the first place. The staff don’t use the policies? Then the policies or their implementation are flawed - and typically they become ever more prescriptive turning smart people into dummies (so the smart people just ignore them). Here’s our favourite quote again:

“Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex, intelligent behaviour. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple, stupid behaviour.”
- Dee Hock, former CEO of Visa International

Regular readers of this blog will know that we strongly advocate Root Cause Analysis as a powerful tool to deal with repetitive failure and we practice our version of this, the “Corrective Action Team System” (CATS).

“Some DHBs now have Sentinel Events Review panels (eg, Auckland DHB), and some mention Root Cause Analysis (RCA), though it is not clear how many staff in these DHBs have been trained in RCA, and how much is being done. Two DHBs (Capital & Coast DHB and Canterbury DHB) are now reviewing all deaths.”

Root cause analysis only works in a climate of “open disclosure” (also identified in the report). You will never get to the root cause in a blaming culture because a blaming culture rewards reticence, obfuscation, and passing of the buck. In such a culture truth, facts and information never see the light of day.

Congratulations to Dr. Mary Seddon for her forthright approach in preparing her report. Paradoxically, in our view, if you want to look for and find areas of improvement then don’t look for areas of improvement - look for areas of failure.

The elephant in the living room

Monday, November 19th, 2007

It’s sitting there - but we’d prefer it wasn’t and others deny it’s existence - some say we can live with it. So here is some data about the elephant:

  • 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution.
  • The seas have absorbed about half of that - slowing global warming (if it had stayed in the atmosphere).
  • The acidity of ocean surface water has increased by 30% as a result of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • As the seas become more acidic, they will be less able to absorb carbon dioxide, causing more of it to stay in the atmosphere to speed up global warming.
  • Eleven of the last 12 years rank among the 12 warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature.
  • Emissions of all the “greenhouse gas” pollutants that cause global warming increased 70 per cent between 1970 and 2004.
  • Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now “exceed by far” anything that the Earth has experienced in the past 650,000 years.

Seems we have about 7 years to deal with the elephant or it turns into a mammoth.

Using scanR to make records of meetings

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Had a big planning session last week and filled up and cleaned off the whiteboard a number of times. Took a photo of each board with the digital camera and then emailed the lot to scanR and it cleaned them all up and I was able to email them off to participants pronto.

Here’s a sample of what it does:



Does a great job. As you can see, better to highlight items using green or red. The difference between the blue and black isn’t very obvious.

It it could make my handwriting legible to others I’d pay for the service but in the meantime, try it, it’s free.

Explanatory style points to success or (repetitive) failure

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Yelling at the TV while watching the netball on Saturday night didn’t make much difference to the final result. In the back of my mind, I was recalling the article that had predicted that the Silver Ferns wouldn’t win the world championship.


What is a meeting?

Friday, November 16th, 2007

A meeting is:
an assembly of people for the purpose of discussion where discussion is the holding of a conversation about something.

A conversation is:
the exchange of ideas with spoken words.

Exchange is:
to give and receive.

An idea is:
a thing conceived in the mind or something to be aimed at, created or discovered.

But must a meeting be formally convened and held in a special room?


What you say doesn’t matter, it’s how you say it?

Monday, November 12th, 2007

It’s amazing the kind of advice that you can get on how to run a better meeting.

Take this, for example, “7 percent of communication is what we say” and the other 93% comes from pitch, volume, rhythm, body language, facial expression and eye movement - therefore focus on these elements.

In your next meeting, have everyone not worry about what they are saying but ensuring their pitch, rhythm, body language and facial expressions are fully expressive. At most you’ll lose 7% of the communication and you’ll have way more fun. Your meetings are like that already?

Or - you could use a robust process that has addressed the reasons meetings fail. No mumbo jumbo or hodge-podge of tips (bring food, stand up, create drama, pass a stick, have a timekeeper…) - just a simple, straightforward process that works.

Distributing whiteboard images made easy

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

scanR have made it really easy to clean up, store and distribute images from your whiteboard.

The Action Meetings process is very whiteboard dependent. Why? A core principle of Action Meetings is transparency - everyone can see exactly what is going on all the time and all critical recordings are made onto the whiteboard. (For small meetings, we have an Action Meetings pad that means we have transparency and meeting minutes ready as soon as the meeting ends.)

In the past we always used a copying whiteboard (or we’d attach a Mimio to a plain whiteboard). Nowadays we usually photograph the whiteboard with a digital camera and transcribe it ourselves.

With scanR (a FREE service) you email them the photo of your whiteboard (at an angle and with some background items in the frame) and they email you back a link to the image cropped, straightened and enhanced with the option of downloading as PDF or jpeg. Want to send it on to your meeting participants? Just put in their email addresses and click the button.

(Tried out the document service too - text output was 99% correct - missed some superscript and odd/indistinct characters - OCR online - impressive.)

The second verse of ‘God Save The Queen’ is commonly omitted.

Friday, November 9th, 2007

“O Lord our God, arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks;
On thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.”

I think I can see why. Full anthem here.

Patsy questions: value for money?

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Seems that much can be read into who actually delivers the patsy question in Parliament. A more detailed description of the matter exposes this charade and at the same time treats this as though it’s business as usual. I’m left wondering about the mentality of our elected representatives and just what they really think about when supposedly governing and providing leadership.

Forget about the rules of who has to ask the question - the issue is - what real value does the patsy question deliver to you and me who are the paying customers?