Business as usual

How to balance business transformation with business as usual

Future-facing projects need to be designed for speed and tolerant of failure, says corporate innovation specialist Chris Locke.

This year may well be remembered as the year of the retail apocalypse, with iconic brands including Thomas Cook and Mothercare succumbing. However, it’s not just the retail sector that’s felt the pinch. Across every business segment we are seeing giants of industry failing to respond quickly enough to market forces, leaving shareholders paying the ultimate price.

Herein lies the challenge for all established companies – how to manage these external changes when everything within the organisation is geared towards maintaining business-as-usual. As futurist Ray Kurzweil outlines: “we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — we’ll experience 20,000 years of progress.” Unfortunately, static business models don’t marry well with these exponential market dynamics.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in how firms approach their business transformation programmes. Of course, you can’t neglect the core business – the cash cows that feed today’s profit margins must be maintained and optimised – but there must also be a recognition that these cash cows will eventually be put out to pasture. We therefore need to be actively managing our portfolio to search and develop the next generation of business models to drive growth.

Read more here.

Release – Peter Copsey

Peter Copsey, flanked by his two proud brothers – Tony (Co Founder – 4D) and John (Financial Advisor – 4D)

It is with great sorrow and heavy hearts that we announce that Co Founder and Director of 4th Dimension, Peter Copsey, sadly passed away on Friday 17th January after a long battle with cancer.

Understandably the whole team at 4th Dimension are completely devastated. Peter was a driving force within the business and a huge factor in the growth and success of the company over the past decade, managing complex change projects across multiple industry sectors.

Peter, prior to 4th Dimension, had held senior operational roles at the highest levels of UK and European manufacturing for over 30 years.

The team at 4th Dimension pass on their deepest condolences to Peter’s family and friends. Our thoughts in particular are with his wife Kim, his daughters Victoria and Nicola and his brother Anthony (4th Dimenson Co Founder and Director). “He will be a huge loss, not only as a work colleague, but as a dear friend.”

As a company we are all determined to continue on the excellent work and restless pursuit of operational excellence that as our leader Peter has driven us to deliver in the past.

Peter’s Funeral will be on Monday the 10th February – for more details please contact Jenny Sjollema

We would like to thank everyone for all the kind messages and condolences following the announcement of Peter Copsey’s death. They have been greatly appreciated and a source of comfort for all the team at Fourth Dimension. Nicola Copsey – Peter’s daughter has set up a Just Giving page to raise fund for Cancer Research. If you knew Peter and would like to donate. Here is the link –

Union Jack

How Brexit will impact products that are ‘made in Britain’

Supply chain management is critical to successfully navigating the UK’s exit from the EU.

Much has been made of Brexit’s impact on British exports, but ‘Made in Britain’ relies heavily on our ability to import. Almost half of the UK’s £736bn imports are goods that make up part of a final product, and nearly half those so-called ‘intermediary goods’ come from the EU. 

This is already having an impact on supply chains. Mckinsey interviewed 50 UK executives whose companies make everything from face creams to fenders to fettuccine, and found deep concern about the near-term uncertainty and impact of Brexit.

Food manufacturers worry that their goods will spoil while being held up at borders, and almost everyone is grappling with the uncertainty of higher tax duties if the UK leaves the EU and reverts to most-favoured nation status under WTO rules. It’s not just UK and EU products that are affected, however, many intermediary products that come to the UK are from countries that have a free trade agreement with the EU.  

Read more here.


The business books leaders should be reading in summer 2019

Our list of upcoming or newly released titles explores letters on life, what it takes to build unrivalled teams and the world beyond globalisation.

There’s an art to ensuring that your sporadic customers come back for the long term, as Nicholaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch outline in Connected Strategy: Building Continuous Customer Relationships for Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Review Press)

In It’s the Manager (Gallup Press), Gallup chairman and CEO Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, its chief scientist, have compiled their research to highlight the importance of managers.   

Cracking Complexity: the Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast (Nicholas Brealey International) by David Komlos and David Benjamin shows how problems should be tackled quickly rather than being left to simmer. 

Another simmering issue is explored by David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College, in Not Working (Princeton University Press): he claims that the lack of decently waged, full-time employment has created despair and far-right populism. 

Carl Benedikt Frey shifts some of the blame on to how computers have mimicked the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution in The Technology Trap (Princeton University Press).

Philosopher Charles Handy turns his attention to the future in 21 Letters on Life and its Challenges(Penguin Books), musing on the opportunities the next generation faces. 

The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta gauges the “existential assault” facing advertising and marketing with Frenemies: the Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (HarperCollins).

Read more here.

How anger and worry can make you a better leader

Emotions and business historically didn’t mix, at any level. Workers were supposed to be unthinking cogs in a machine; leaders were supposed to be unfeeling hands at the tiller. Since the 1980s, thankfully, there’s been a vast body of research in neuroscience, psychology, biology and organisational behaviour, showing that emotions are actually central to the life of business.

How we feel affects everything from our ability to assess risks and make decisions to how well we co-operate and communicate, how freely we think and how hard we work. The 21st century is surely a good time to be emotional at work.

When we think about useful emotions, of course, we tend to think of the cute, fluffy ones – happiness, enthusiasm, trust, courage, kindness and the like. But in so doing, are we overlooking the merits of their more venomous cousins – anger, anxiety, even hate?

‘Any highly intense emotion, whether it’s extreme enthusiasm, rage or hate, isn’t typically productive in work environments because it completely hijacks your system,’ says Michael Parke, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School.  ‘But the more common negative emotions – anxiety, stress, frustration, anger – are very good at signalling and prioritising problems.’

Read more here.

£34,000 penalty after racking at cash and carry not inspected for 30 years

A food wholesale business in Wolverhampton has been fined £16,000 for placing the health and safety of staff and customers at risk with racking that was at risk of collapse after not having been inspected for more than 30 years.

The prosecution was brought by City of Wolverhampton Council which first became aware of conditions at STB Foods on Ettingshall Road in July 2017.

Council enforcement officers first made a food safety inspection at the premises, which supplies local food outlets, then returned to undertake a thorough review of the racking. 

According to the council, it found food storage racks holding heavy goods that were “bent, split, not fixed to flooring and at a risk of collapse”.

The council served a prohibition notice and also brought charges against STB Foods for failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees, and for exposing members of the public to risk.

Read more here.


What Aristotle can teach you about leadership

2000 years ago, Aristotle, the world’s greatest philosopher, statesman and writer made a profound observation about Successful leaders.

As per Aristotle, all successful people have loads of something called koine aisthesis or sensus communis.

He describes this quality as the higher-order perception that humans uniquely possess but used properly only by a few. This acts as a kind of guide for the others, organising them as well as mobilising them in one connected perceptual apparatus.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defines this quality as a “master” virtue and a must for achieving success in life. He also terms this quality as phronesis, a term which combines ethics and action.

Phronesis has been interpreted in different ways, “prudence” is the most common one. But the definition that I like best is “practical wisdom.” Or “common sense”.

Let us see what Aristotle has to tell about practical wisdom-:

· Practical wisdom combines action, accompanied by reason and ethics required to prevail over a difficult situation.

· It does not depend on knowledge of the person. Rather it depends on a particular situation and a particular situation requires specific action.

· Practical wisdom is critical for decisions promoting Eudaimonia (Happiness or Leading a good life).

In a nutshell, Deliberation, Reasoning, and Action. This is the stuff of practical wisdom.

Aristotle considers this as the master virtue because this is the only virtue which keeps the other virtues in “check” or in other words, in perfect balance.

For example, too much “courage” in an impossible situation is foolishness. Similarly, Loyalty can degrade into “blind obedience” if done without thinking rationally. Likewise, too much of “self-confidence” can harden into a stubborn ego and so on.

Thus Practical wisdom “is the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.”

And In Book 6 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle lays out the skills and attributes a leader needs to develop in order to become practically wise.

Know your objective

Businesses form teams to achieve an objective that improves the quality of a service or product, reduces waste, or removes inefficiencies in a process. Successful teams have a strong leader who can guide the group toward the objective or goal.

The goals of the leader must align with the objective of the project and lead the team toward its mission.

Always remember a leader who does not understand his objective can never attain practical wisdom in it.

Understand the Perception.

Once in a while, businesses will encounter emergency situations that often need quick action. These moments are understandably challenging, as their outcomes largely depend on the leading capabilities of the leader in charge.

And this is precisely what Aristotle meant when he tells us that practical wisdom depends on a particular situation and a particular situation requires specific action.

To know how to act in a particular situation, we need to deftly perceive and understand the circumstances before us. What are the facts in this case? What’s the history here? How do others feel about it?

Successful leaders tailor their responses accordingly to the situation in hand and turn the tables deftly.

Seek the Truth

Great leaders are truth seekers. It enables them to deal with facts and act in the best interest of their business and their people.

And Aristotle believed that an understanding of absolute truth was necessary in order to be practically wise. Absolute truths act as boundaries for us while we exercise practical wisdom.

Understanding absolutes require an informed intellect. This gives us the necessary data to slice and dice and come up with a meaningful decision which ultimately brings Eudaimonia to all.

Learn from Experience

In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “practical wisdom is also of particulars, which come to be known as a result of experience, but a young person is inexperienced: a long period of time creates experience.

Aristotle firmly believed that practical wisdom could only be gained through experience. He often likened practical wisdom to a skill like carpentry or masonry. You can’t just read a book about carpentry and expect to become a master carpenter.

You become more and more practically wise, the more situations you face. And with every situation you face, you gain more experience, either good or bad. And this cumulative experience is the key to success.

You learn from your experiences and make informed right decisions.

Play the Devil’s advocate and then act on it.

According to Aristotle, “the person skilled in identifying multiple options would in general also be practically wise.” The heart of practical wisdom is deliberation.

Practical wisdom requires that we deliberate with ourselves the best course of action to take in a given situation. It’s a skill that we become more adept at through experience.

And Of course, all the reasoning and deliberation would be a waste of time if we do not Act on it. Over and over again in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that “practical wisdom is bound up with action.”

It’s not enough to know what the correct thing to do is, you must actually do it.

Why is Common Sense So Important?

As organisations have become more complex, specialised, and bureaucratic, the opportunity to exercise practical wisdom has increasingly been replaced with reliance on rules, regulations, and incentives to achieve our goals. But rules don’t always work as intended.

However, Successful leaders always ensure that while rules and processes should be powerful enough to command discipline and commitment, but at the same time, they should be flexible and nimble to act effectively in unforeseen or unusual circumstances.

And this Flexibility to adapt comes from common sense. Common sense thus is a form of practical decision-making and the ability to imagine the consequences of something you do. It stops us from making irrational mistakes and makes it easier to make choices on what to do.

And we aren’t born with common sense, we develop it over time and with repeated practice.

As Aristotle has rightly said:

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.

Original story can be found here.

Growing Business

How to hire outside your expertise

Recruiting for new roles is doubly tricky when they’re so technical that you don’t actually know what good looks like, as Attest’s Jeremy King discovered.

If you’re a seasoned marketer, it shouldn’t be too tough to hire another marketer. But what if you’re looking to hire a software programmer for the first time, or a management accountant? This is a challenge many growing businesses face, especially when it regards highly technical expertise beyond the management team’s ken.

Jeremy King founded intelligence platform Attest after a career as a McKinsey strategy consultant. Despite having very limited exposure to technical engineering or sales, he knew he’d have to find the right people with the right skills if his high growth technology business was to thrive.

“When it came to hiring for Attest, the gaps in my own experience made it tricky to know even how to approach hiring some of these highly technical roles. For example, your very first tech hires materially impact the future of your company, because the choices these people make can take you down many different paths – but you don’t or can’t even know what the ‘right’ choices look like.

“I tried to talk to people who’d made similar decisions before, to understand the trade-offs they considered at the time and the real consequences that followed. Find people who have a clear hypothesis of what the right answer is. Even if you think they’re completely wrong, you can uncover consistent themes and wild concepts that can help you make the right choice.

“We chose hiring processes that were more lengthy and deliberate than most. This actively slowed us down, particularly with engineering hires where we chose people (and therefore technical architectures) that build for maximum scale, rather than taking the easy routes or rushing into production.

“Because of those decisions we made two years ago, we’re now able to do amazing things. For example, it takes minutes to add a new language to our customer intelligence platform, even Arabic which reads from right to left – a potentially major issue unless you built the platform to have flexibility.

“Think about every aspect of the hire and the role, from the core skills needed, to how they fit into your current culture. See the whole tree of implied choices, not just the immediately visible branches.

“If you create the opportunity for candidates to show what they’d actually do, and teach you what it implies, and they’re already helping you conquer the aspects and opportunities that you didn’t understand, that’s probably a positive signal that the person is the right the hire for you.”

Original story from Management Today.

Home Bargains Lorry

£50k fine for Home Bargains but design fault accepted as cause of fatal crush

The company that operates 400 stores under the name of Home Bargains, has been fined £50,000 after pleading guilty to failing to provide a full risk assessment for lorry deliveries at its Dudley store, where one of its drivers was fatally crushed. 

However, the company’s guilty plea was made on the basis that its failings were not responsible for the death of Gary Pickering in September 2013. 

The company also agreed to pay prosecution costs of £150,000. 

Pickering, from Swinton, Manchester, was making a night time delivery on his own to the Home Bargains store in Churchill Precinct, Dudley, west Midlands. 

In the store’s delivery area, he was in the process of moving the tail lift of the lorry into position at the loading platform at the shop. 

However, the tail lift closed onto his neck and head, trapping him between the mechanism and the back of the lorry.

“The company’s guilty plea was made on the basis that its failings were not responsible for the death of Gary Pickering in September 2013”

His body was discovered approximately two hours after the accident by a security guard conducting patrols at the centre.
Dudley Council brought the prosecution against T J Morris, which was heard at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Original story from Health & Safety At Work.

What Britain’s bosses really think about Brexit

Departing the EU is not the only issue keeping CEOs up at night.

With a few notable exceptions, the leaders of Britain’s biggest businesses have generally been reticent to nail their personal colours to the mast when it comes to Brexit – at least in public.

After all, unless you’re actively trying to lobby one way or the other, why take the risk of alienating voters (i.e. customers and colleagues) on either side of the divide?

It can be hard to tell, therefore, what they’re really thinking. That’s why, as part of our annual Britain’s Most Admired Companies survey, Echo Research asked 56 chairs and CEOs representing a variety of FTSE 250 businesses what keeps them up at night, on the proviso that we’d keep it anonymous.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit – in particular the UK’s lack of preparation ahead of the March 29 deadline – is the primary cause of C-suite insomnia, with 37 per cent listing it. A further 19 per cent said that political uncertainty and instability was leaving them restless (though in the context of recent events, that’s arguably the same thing).

Read more here.