Philip Whiteley's Blog

August 26, 2014

Evidence is not enough

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 3:35 pm

We supposedly live in a scientific age; the continual complaint from many spokespeople in the scientific community is that religious belief holds us back from being thoroughly rational and modern.

But how rational are we? By ‘we’, I mean people, generally in society; and more pertinently, decision-makers in government, business and non-profit institutions. In the course of the past 15 years I’ve been writing articles and books on management and business; last winter I researched and advised on a major book on an occupational illness. In all of these inquiries – even when it involved industrial chemistry – I have discovered that absolute proof leading to an incontrovertible conclusion is a vanishingly rare phenomenon. Cognitive biases and cultural influences shape the way in which we prioritize, discuss matters and make decisions.

Ah but, the rationalists counter: by emphasising evidence and reason, at the very least we can minimize the corrosive influence of prejudice and superstition. Well, in practice, not necessarily so; indeed, even the reverse. This ‘rational’ approach is often accompanied by the conceit that we can avoid belief. Refusing to acknowledge tacit beliefs can result in excessive emphasis upon tenuous evidence, and complete refusal to acknowledge the existence of a rival body of knowledge.

In business management, there is now around 75 years of convincing evidence that employee engagement is important. But it has yet to have commensurate influence upon the analysis, reporting and decision-making within businesses, or have any influence at all upon the way in which employment legislation is drafted and debated. This is because of cultural beliefs, which are particularly fervently held by those who pride themselves on a rational devotion to maximizing returns for business.

One of the beliefs, on which I have written at length, (see also this blog) is that the wage cost is the sole or dominant part of the employment cost. In reality, it is dwarfed by the gains and losses of having the right skills, engagement and the best customer experience. This false belief is held on the left and right of politics, and results in wages being very much lower than they can or should be. It led to the absurd decision by a restaurant in the USA recently to put a 35 cent surcharge on bills after the state increased the statutory minimum wage.

So, if you want to be as rational as you can be, best first to understand those unspoken cultural beliefs that we all carry around with us, and look for evidence in unconventional places that might challenge or qualify them. Physician, heal thyself, as Jesus Christ once said. Sorry.

  • I will be involved in the launch of one of the most impressive recent books on enlightened leadership in business, called The Management Shift. The author Professor Vlatka Hlupic brings together all elements: Values, Evidence and Practice, in a comprehensive demonstration that all value ultimately resides in people and the way in which they are led. There is a holding website here – due for development in the next few weeks: www.themanagementshift.com

July 1, 2014

Architect of Cool Britannia

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 8:48 am

With fans all over the world, some of whom adore his work from decades ago, we are truly honoured to welcome Brian Clemens, legendary screen-writer, creator of The Avengers and The Professionals, at the Ampthill Literary Festival. He will appear in conversation with screenplay writer and fan Simon Michael, co-chair of the festival, this Saturday afternoon at the Parkside Hall.

Second only to The Beatles as THE style icon of Sixties Britain, The Avengers brought wit, intelligence and sexiness to TV thrillers. Fifty years on, it retains a vibrant fan base, especially in the USA. Click here for a reminder of how cool it was and still is.

For Brian Clemens’ The Professionals in the late 70s, Gordon Jackson shed his butler’s uniform for the suits of CI5, British Intelligence, supervising agents Bodie and Doyle . Click on this You Tube link to see them at their dynamic best.

Of course, Brian Clemens’ credits extend much further than these two series, in an illustrious and award-winning career. His writing has a global reach and has stood the test of time.There are only a few tickets left, so if you want to listen to his fascinating anecdotes and insights, click here to buy.

June 27, 2014

First Ghost

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 10:39 am

Those with the means, who are struggling to complete their cherished book, typically turn to Andrew Crofts for help. He is probably the UK’s leading ghostwriter, and is a speaker and panellist at the inaugural Ampthill Literary Festival, appearing on Saturday 5 July. Although many of his ghostwriting clients remain anonymous beneath strict confidentiality agreements, there’s no secret about how the process works, as you can read on Andrew’s website.

He received the ultimate accolade of having his guide to ghostwriting quoted at the start of every chapter of Robert Harris’ The Ghost, a brilliant political thriller turned into a movie starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan.

Andrew is also an established author of fiction and non-fiction in his own name. His 2013 novel, Secrets of the Italian Gardener, is a thriller set in the Arab Spring. Like the Robert Harris book, it describes the dilemmas facing the hired writer of a biography of a political leader, in this case featuring struggles of conscience as a desperate need for a better income for his family tempts him into deep and turbulent political waters – all the time haunted by a personal secret too painful to bear.

The title Confessions of a Ghostwriter, by Andrew Crofts, is published by Harper Collins in August. A chapter from Confessions will appear in the Festival Yearbook, to be published later this year.

If you want to hear Andrew and the other speakers – Gavin Esler, Nadine Dorries, Brian Clemens, Natasha Desborough, Amy Sparkes and Judi Sutherland, on Saturday 5th July, there are still a few tickets left. Click here to purchase.

June 25, 2014

A literary constituency

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 8:55 am

It was always going to be controversial to invite the well-known local MP Nadine Dorries to speak at the inaugural Ampthill Literary Festival. She’s appearing as a first-time author, of the Liverpool-based drama The Four Streets, not as a politician. The line between ‘literature’ and ‘politics’ is sometimes hazy, of course, especially as Nadine describes social problems in her book. But we’re confident we can keep the discussion to books and writing, and not stray into economic policy or the possibility of an EU referendum!

There’s no doubting the success of The Four Streets – it’s been a big seller, especially in its Kindle format. The tale is a family saga, containing some remarkably graphic descriptions of poverty among dock-workers’ families in Liverpool in the 1960s, and of child abuse. To say more runs the risk of giving spoilers to the action-filled plot – so to find out more, and to meet the author in person, come along to our event on Saturday 5th July. There are still some day tickets available.

For full details on the Festival, go to www.amplitfest.co.uk

June 9, 2014

Tales of world leaders come to Ampthill

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 12:52 pm

The most successful leaders in business and politics, you would think, have the best strategy and the most intelligent analysis. Well, they may be good at either, but what really causes them to stand out is their ability at story-telling. That is the conclusion of experienced author and BBC journalist Gavin Esler, headline speaker at the inaugural Ampthill Literary Festival, taking place on the afternoon of Saturday 5th July. He will be talking about his 2012 publication Lessons from the Top, as well as his works of fiction.

“During my years of travelling around the world, when I met Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter, prime ministers and presidents, even monarchs like Queen Elizabeth II and King Abdullah II of Jordan, people would always ask me the same question: what is he, or she, really like? Generally they would not be asking about policies or ideas. Instead, they wanted to hear stories that captured the ‘real’ leader; his or her ‘character’.”

He has found that the most effective leaders have a compelling story in answer to three core questions that is demanded of them: Who am I? Who are we? And Where will my leadership take us?

Quite disturbingly, he notes that the story does not have to be true; it just has to be convincing. We human beings are less sophisticated than we think! We cannot help but think in stories – it’s how we make sense of the world. I’ve come to the same conclusion in 15 years of writing about business and business leaders. Gavin Esler concludes:

“We are all storytellers, all followers, and often we are leaders in some way, or we aspire to lead.”

And he offers fascinating details of the little stories, as well as the big narratives, the most effective leaders tell. He tells us how, in one example, President Reagan made a point of going over to a relatively junior media employee, a cameraman, because he had heard that he also liked dogs. They bonded over their pets and the President handed over a signed photograph of his own. Now, you could be admiring of President Reagan’s personal touch, or you could be cynical, arguing that this gesture was made precisely so that it would create a positive story that would spread on the grapevine to boost a politician’s image. Gavin Esler makes the more fundamental point: President Reagan understood the power of the story.

  • Tickets are still available for the main session at the Ampthill Literary Festival, which takes place 13.00-17.00 on Saturday 5th July. They can be purchased via this link.
    Gavin Esler will be speaking approximately between 15.30 and 16.15 (see schedule below).
  • Blogs highlighting the work of other speakers: Nadine Dorries, Andrew Crofts and Brian Clemens, will be featured between now and the event.
  • For those who live in or near central Bedfordshire, tickets can also be purchased at the Waitrose store, Bedford Street. I will be giving a talk at the first ‘Beer and Books’ free event at The Albion pub, Dunstable Street, 8pm on Thursday 12th June.

 

13.00 – 13.10 Opening remarks by Philip Whiteley

13.10 – 13.15 Literary Festival formally opened by Nadine Dorries

13.15 – 13.45 Nadine reads from and speaks about her first novel The Four Streets, a tale of growing up in a Catholic family in post-war Liverpool.

13.45 – 14.30 Andrew Crofts – Reads from his political thriller Secrets of the Italian Gardener, and his forthcoming Confessions of a Ghostwriter

14.30 – 14,45 Tea/coffee break

14.45 – 15.30 Brian Clemens, writer of the world-famous Avengers and Professionals series in conversation. Brian talks about his life as a screen writer.

15.30 – 16.15 Gavin Esler – BBC news-reader reads from his non-fiction works and political thrillers.

16.15 – 17.00 Panel Discussion

Gavin Esler, Andrew Crofts, Nadine Dorries and Judi Sutherland

May 7, 2014

The web encourages literature

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 2:14 pm

On Saturday 5 July I will be chairing the main event at the inaugural Ampthill Literary Festival. It’s been quite a few months’ dedicated effort by a fantastic committee to get us this far, and we’re delighted to have a top line-up in the first year, with Gavin Esler, Nadine Dorries and Brian Clemens all appearing.

With the rise of social media, many doomsters predict declining social interactions that are face-to-face, and fewer people reading proper books. I take an optimistic, alternative view. I think that the web puts people with similar interests in touch with one another, encourages the reading and publication of books, and means that more people are writing than ever before. Online interactions are a supplement to social activity and live events, not a replacement. There are certainly more music festivals in the UK compared with when I was young, and probably more book clubs and book festivals too.

Publicising our event has been easier through the web than it would have been otherwise, and ticket sales can be automated!

We have judged the children’s writing competition and there are some excellent entries in different categories, especially poetry. The love of literature is alive and flourishing.

  • There is a limited number of tickets available for the Ampthill Literary Festival. To be sure of your place, go to this link: http://amplitfest.wordpress.com/

April 23, 2014

Appeal: looking for trainers as partners

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 11:47 am

Over the past few years, I have written or co-written several books on the theme of management. They address different aspects, but there is a unifying theme.

The theme is: the stories we tell ourselves – about management, about leadership, about corporations and their role in the economy and society. It is a theme that has been neglected, almost overlooked, in the MBA and other conventional approaches to business education. It amounts to a very different way of understanding business, and our role as managers, and one that holds much commercial potential as well as scope for personal development. I’ve held events and piloted training linked to these ideas, with some very positive feedback, indicating that this approach can be empowering for individuals as well as improving our understanding of how businesses work in the real world.

I am now looking to partner with a training provider or events organiser to bring some of these pioneering ideas to market. The three books I’m looking to feature – and for which I’ve piloted events and/or held talks – are: New Normal, Radical Shift; Meet the New Boss, and The Global You. A short description of each follows:

 

New Normal Radical Shift (Gower, 2013)

Summary: Has economics been far too dominant in shaping business education, and in turn is economics too biased towards data, rather than an understanding of human dynamics? New Normal Radical Shift, published by Gower Publishing in 2013, demonstrates that low wages don’t maximize profits, and that sustainability is good for business.

Launch event: London May 2013, attended by business leaders. Feedback available upon request.

Talk: May 2013, London. Human Potential Accounting. Video via this link.

Blog: http://radical-shift.net

 

Meet the New Boss (self-published, 2010 as e-book and 2013 in paperback)

Summary: Since the dawn of Western literature, work has received a bad press. Genesis 1:17 relates how man was banished from paradise and sentenced to labour in the fields. The theme recurs in books, songs and situation comedy. Have the subliminal but powerful archetypes about the mean boss made our offices and factories very much worse than they could and should be? Powerful, original insight from a book shortlisted for the 2010/11 CMI Management Book of the Year Award.

Event: Ampthill, Bedfordshire, September 2013: feedback available upon request.

Scheduled talk: The CEDEP executive group at INSEAD, Paris, 19 May 2014. (note: will feature themes from Global You and New Normal Radical Shift also).

 

The Global You (Marshall Cavendish 2011)

Summary: Anglo-Saxon culture has been dominant in shaping business education, but in our multi-polar world this bias ought to be challenged. The Global You, by Philip Whiteley and Sue Bloch, encourages managers to understand different world views. It is rich in stories from real businesses, and includes simple daily disciplines to help develop a global orientation.

Event: Pilot training course, April 2012. Feedback available upon request.

Online training materials available.

 

Discussion points/possible themes for talks & training sessions

  •  Stories we grow up with: archetypes, cultural myths. What do we understand by the terms ‘the boss’, ‘the company’, ‘the economy’? – etc.
  • How we make decisions.
  • The course of action you decided not to follow – at least 50% of leadership is un-measurable.
  • Key life decisions; role models. The life we might have had, and the major influences that shaped our career decisions.
  • Different world views: getting away from stereotypes and misunderstandings.
  • How the richness and complexity of a human community like a business enterprise is hidden in much strategic planning and reporting of results.

 

About you

I am looking for a training or events provider – could be mature or young – whose expertise is in delivery; ideally an individual or company who already ‘gets’ the fact that management education has been conceptually flawed in the past and needs re-orientating around the reality that the enterprise consists of people, not ‘resources’. You may be linked to a higher education institute, and you are probably specialising in management or organizational development, but these are not essential features.

 

About the events/courses

I am very experienced in organizing and delivering events; my main needs are around marketing, logistics and building a web presence. The events could be any of the following:

  • One- or two-day facilitated training events,
  • Breakfast seminars,
  • Evening events, possibly with entertainment (for example, when the theme is Meet the New Boss),
  • A session within an existing training programme.

They could be based around just one of the three book titles, or more than one. They could be a one-off, a short series, or you may be interested in building a business around them. You are probably based near London-Paris-Brussels, but I’m interested in working with partners from anywhere in the world. I am a Spanish speaker (escríbame en castellano si prefiera Vd).

 

What I offer

  • Three professionally written and published, ground-breaking management books, rich in detail, backed by evidence and illustrated with case studies.
  • Genuinely original, ground-breaking, thought-provoking ideas.
  • Piloted concepts, with strong feedback.
  • Experience in delivering training and talks.
  • I will offer you at least 50% share of profits, potentially more for someone with a fantastic marketing operation and global reach.

 

About me

I am a pioneering author and journalist, specialising in the working environment and business performance.

I am a member of the Society of Authors, and a Subject Matter Expert for the Chartered Management Institute. I am a fluent Spanish speaker, with a Diploma Letter of Credit from the Institute of Linguists. I have been named co-author for the 2014 All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management, report due July 2014. In addition, I will be chairing the inaugural Ampthill Literary Festival, Bedfordshire UK, on 5th July 2014.

Blogs: Radical Shift: http://radical-shift.net. Also: https://felipewh.wordpress.com.

There is more information about me at www.whiteleywords.com and on Linked-in.

If you are interested, please email me: phil@whiteleywords.com or call +44 1525 406746, Skype: felipew50

March 26, 2014

People don’t hate change. People hate stupidity

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 12:36 pm

I’ve nothing against accountants and finance directors, really I haven’t. I just challenge the idea that they should be the only ones in charge. The extent to which accountancy still dominates the way in which businesses are reported on, analysed and managed is absurd. We don’t travel to work via horse and cart or boats propelled by galley slaves, so why do we still use the quarterly report of the financial accounts – a 15th Century invention – to hold companies to account and analyse costs for the purposes of business planning?
It goes like this. You have an underperforming business. Profits are under pressure. Ah, the bean-counters say, some salaries are high and we have a lot of office space. If we reduce costs, we’ll restore margins! So they freeze or cut salaries and posts, and move to open-plan offices, hot-desking and the like. People will resist this, naturally. But people hate change! They tell themselves. So they impose change upon resistant people, and see if it works. If it fails, of course, they’ll blame the resistance, not the plan.
What such plans fail to incorporate is an understanding that an organization is a human community, not a set of resources with costs. And this community behaves in unpredictable ways. If you tot up the costs as they appear on the balance sheet you appear to have aggregate costs, but you don’t, because most of the bigger costs don’t appear, and they can go wildly up or down depending on how these complex sentient beings called humans respond to change. So if a wage freeze prompts people to start leaving in droves, costs shoot up, because high turnover is expensive (and routinely not measured). Very probably customers depart also. If an open-plan office is inappropriate for the business, because a lot of confidential conversations are necessary (I’ve heard this comment twice in the past few weeks from people protesting at stupid change), then a lot of time is wasted looking for meeting rooms.
The idea that people hate change is nonsense. It’s the most obviously wrong theory spouted by the MBA brigade (and there is fierce competition for that accolade). Human beings are the most restless, curious species there is. We are easily bored. We love change. That’s why we’re always looking at our smartphones and gossiping over a coffee. We want to find out what’s new and we’re disappointed if it’s nothing major.
What people hate is not change; it’s poorly thought-through accountancy-based reorganizations that damage the organization as well as our careers. We don’t hate change, we hate stupidity. Unfortunately, there is rather a lot of it.

February 26, 2014

Radio silence in aerospace

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 3:56 pm

Since publishing my ‘whistle-blowing’ dossier on apparent serious breaches of medical ethics and health and safety legislation in airlines, I expected a barrage of commentary and criticism from people in the aviation sector. Instead, I have experienced an eerie silence. A few former pilots and one current flight attendant have gotten in touch to express their thanks and share their experiences, but from the aviation industry and governmental transport institutes a policy of radio silence is intact.

I may not be an expert on aviation, but I am very experienced in spin. I know when an organization is hiding something, and refusal to answer direct, reasonable questions is an obvious sign. This extends, in the case of the aerotoxic scandal, to a refusal to acknowledge the existence of evidence that does not support their position, or in other cases to explain why they did not accept it. So a typical exchange of information between me and an aviation body goes something like this:

Them: ‘There is no evidence aerotoxic syndrome exists’.

Me: ‘But you were presented with evidence of toxic injury from fume events by eminent scientists and doctors on this date.’

Them: ‘Ah, but we did not accept that this evidence was credible.’

Me: ‘Interesting. What was the scientific basis for rejecting that evidence?’

Them: ‘We refuse to answer that question.’

Even if you want to support the industry on this issue, it’s not terribly convincing.

In response to my dossier, however, I have received emails sent directly to me from two very senior figures in the British establishment, who are in a position to make very big waves roll, and who informed me that they are investigating the issues that I raised. I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic about what will happen next, but some significant developments are at least possible in the next few weeks.

All I can do is stay on the case.

February 12, 2014

Credit to Boeing

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 6:09 pm

Since my post on Monday, which caused quite a stir on some social media discussions, a couple of people have pointed out to me that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has a ‘no-bleed’ system for providing cabin air, which eliminates the most obvious risk of a ‘fume event’. This was something I was aware of, but perhaps I could have put it in the piece. In 2007, in evidence to the House of Lords in the UK, the company stated:

“The Boeing 787 will have a no-bleed architecture for the outside air supply to the cabin. This architecture eliminates the risk of engine oil decomposition products from being introduced in the cabin supply air in the rare event of a failed engine compressor seal. In addition, this architecture improves fuel efficiency, thus reducing fuel burn and associated engine emissions.”

To the best of my knowledge, it has not referred to this aspect of the no-bleed architecture in a public statement since.

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