Zombie identification for beginners

25 February 2016 by in Business and finance, Entertainment, Working With The Walking Dead

By now you should have had enough time to settle in to watching the rest of season 6 of The Walking Dead and you may have noticed a few parallels between the show and your work life. However, if you’re wondering what on earth we’re on about, then perhaps you need some help identifying the zombies of your office. It may surprise you to learn that the office joker is a walker underneath all the bravado and banter. And did you know that what you have for lunch can indicate whether you or your colleague are also walkers? It can be difficult to tell who is and who is not a zombie in large offices but here are some helpful tips to help you be on the lookout and hopefully help you avoid the pitfalls of becoming one yourself.

They’re followers. Watch a herd of walkers and you will note that they all move in the same direction at the same speed, only changing course in response to noise or movement. There’s no independent thinking, no courage or daring. Thus it is with the walkers in your workplace – they do the job as prescribed, and no more.

They arrive on the stroke of 9 and leave at exactly 5. They go to lunch at the same time every day, refuse to stray outside the bounds of the system (‘More than my job’s worth’) and are careful to avoid doing anything not in their job description. Their job is just something they have to do 35 hours a week in order that they can collect a pay cheque every month. It’s something to be got through and survived. They slow down projects by insisting they can only do the work within their fixed systems and schedules.

They’re the office joker. Office jokers may seem happy but this is just a way of getting through the day – it’s the only way they get meaning from being at work. They carve out a niche for themselves – everybody knows who they are – but they are never going to be taken seriously. Which means their career progress within a particular organization is going to be limited. They distract colleagues from their work and disrupt company culture.

Workplace zombiesThey resist change. Regardless of whether it’s moving the coffee machine, changing the invoicing system or a complete departmental restructure they don’t like it and it’s not going to work. In fact they’ll do all they can to ensure it doesn’t. You’ll never see the resistors put as much effort or creative energy into anything as they put into trying to keep things the way they’ve always been. Not all changes are good and some have huge implications for the business and the individuals working within it but these people haven’t thought deeply about the changes – they just dislike them because they are not what went before.

They’re always right but they’re never willing to put their money where their mouth is. This kind of workplace walker could spend the whole day telling colleagues why management is doing everything wrong, and will bore you for an entire lunch hour if you’re unlucky enough to encounter them in the canteen. They particularly love introducing new recruits to all the flaws of the department or organization – it gives them a sense of power. They create a bad atmosphere in a team, making their manager’s job a lot harder.

It’s not their fault. Zombies never own up to their mistakes, not even to themselves, which means they can never learn from them. With the workplace walker there’s always a reason for an error but it’s because of some failing in the system or a problem created by one of their co-workers: ‘I wasn’t given the figures from accounts in good time’, ‘I only did what the project manager told me’, ‘that’s the answer the system gave when I put the information in’. They can become aggressive if any suggestion is made that they could have done something to mitigate the situation and make more work for their manager and colleagues because somebody else has to sort out their errors.

They don’t stand out, or they stand out for the wrong reasons. A typical office zombie just won’t get noticed by management outside their department. If they do catch somebody’s eye it’s likely to be for the wrong reasons: ‘Oh yeah, the guy who’s always playing practical jokes’, ‘Is she the one that really kicked up a fuss when we moved the coffee machine?’ This is not the route to promotion.

They eat the same lunch every day. In 2015 research undertaken for butter manufacturer Lurpak into the eating habits of 2,000 office workers revealed that 32 per cent of UK workers eat exactly the same lunch each day – a cheese sandwich. The average worker has been doing this for almost four and a half years and despite the monotony, 40 per cent of respondents said that lunch is usually the highlight of their working day. That’s just depressing, and seems to be further evidence of a lack of care about work, that it is something routine, just to be got through. In order to work at your best you need to be in good health; nutritionists advise that to help achieve that goal we should eat a wide variety of foods; just one reason to shake up your lunch habits.

Just as the humans in the series all carry the virus and are capable of becoming walkers, we all have the facility to fall into workplace zombie habits. But now you know what to look out for you’ll be able to catch yourself if you ever seem to be behaving like a walker and pull yourself back onto the path to career success.


What would Rick do? Ten career-boosting tips from The Walking Dead

15 February 2016 by in Business and finance, Working With The Walking Dead

The most talked about show on TV, The Walking Dead, returns to British screens this evening. Adrenaline-infused, gory and at times heartbreaking, the show has garnered a huge fan-base over the last six years and is promising to ramp up the action still further this spring. But as well as high-octane human drama, the hit series is the source of some surprisingly good advice for anybody interested in boosting their career, claims a new book published this month. Working With The Walking Dead uses incidents, themes and characters from the show to demonstrate how readers can avoid becoming one of the walker herd at work. Included are these ten tips:

  1. Work out your mission: without a goal, work can become mindless toil; witness Abraham’s energy when Eugene tells him he has an important mission for him – and his distress when he discovers it has all been a sham.
  2. Pick the right organization: it is much easier to work in a place that shares your approach to career building. Rick’s group is like a family in which everybody is invested, while Joe’s Claimers all aim for individual self-advancement – which doesn’t suit Daryl.
  3. Speak up: follow the rules, stick to your job description and don’t ask questions and pretty soon you’ll find you are one of the walker herd. To get noticed you need to take every opportunity you can to show you are thinking creatively and wholly engaged with pushing the business forward.
  4. Respect others: Deanna’s inclusive style of leadership makes everybody feel valued. She listens, considers and aims for consensus rather than forcing her views on others, and Alexandria is (OK, was) a peaceful and well-ordered town as a result.
  5. Take a break: Rick never allowed himself to stop for a moment. It eventually took its toll on him as he began to hallucinate dead members of his group, including his wife. A lesson for us all on the importance of rest. Rick Grimes, ten career strategies from The Walking Dead
  6. Love your mistakes: most are not career-fatal. As Deanna says, ‘Some day this pain will be useful to you’, so treat mistakes as learning opportunities. Just make sure you don’t repeat them.
  7. Be adaptable: one crucial difference between the show’s survivors and those who failed to make it past the first season is the ability to take changing circumstances in their stride – even benefit from them. Embracing change is the only way to avoid getting left behind in business.
  8. Don’t be a bastard: the demise of The Governor, Dawn and the residents of Terminus demonstrates that nasty guys do not finish first. Ambition does not mean destroying everybody in your path: Daryl’s competent, tough, nice – and still around.
  9. Dare to be different: don’t think there is only one way to get to the top. Just as, in the safety of Alexandria, Rick yearned for the danger of the outside world, some people are simply not cut out for corporate life. Setting out on your own may be a less sure route to success but that’s all part of the thrill.
  10. Walkers aren’t the main problem: our gang’s survival would be easy if all they had to worry about were the undead; it’s the other people who create danger. Careers don’t happen in isolation, so keep an eye on what your ambitious colleagues are doing.

By presenting simple business concepts in an entertaining way the book aims to encourage people who may never have picked up a business book before to engage with their careers.


The best business card you’ll ever have is about 200 pages long

12 February 2016 by in Book publishing, Business and finance, Publishing for business

This week’s prestigious Chartered Management Institute Management Book of the Year award has underlined, once again, the value of ideas to business. The winner, Frugal Innovation: How to do more with less by Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu, demonstrates how businesses can grow quickly on limited resources. Management makes things happen. Anyone who doubts this should consider Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove’s short article in Harvard Business Review. Crainer, co-founder of Thinkers50, the world’s most prestigious management guru ranking, points out that the ‘best business books are acted upon, they change the way leaders lead and how managers manage. This is not an idle ambition. The most impressive and successful leaders tend to be voracious readers. They want to know about the latest research and ideas. This is especially true in emerging markets. CEOs like Zhang Ruimin at Haier have used business books as an education in business best practice. There is nothing so practical as a great idea.’

published books make great business cardsAnd, something that is frequently overlooked, there’s nothing so rewarding as being the originator of a great idea. The world’s most sought-after cross-cultural management expert, Fons Trompenaars, has claimed that since publishing influential books like Riding the Whirlwind, The Global M&A Tango and 100+ Management Models his speaking engagements and fees have doubled, his profile tripled and his clients quadrupled. ‘I highly recommend you to get your ideas on paper, particularly if they are unique,’ he says. Trompenaars is quite right to say that if you’ve got interesting ideas you need to record them, but you also need to distribute them, and there is simply no better way to do it than in a book. Why? Because people don’t throw books away. Getting a publisher to commit to your book idea isn’t easy (unless you’re already a well-known author), but self-publishing gives you a product that has far less impact. As, Barry Gibbons, former global CEO of Burger King and author of six books in including If You Want to Make God Really Laugh Show Him Your Business Plan, says, ‘A published book (accent on ‘published’) can bring a string of powerful indirect benefits. It can boost a CV. It can take the place of a business card, with 1000 times the impact. It can open up lucrative speaking or consulting opportunities. It can enhance an author’s reputation in a defined target market.’ Gibbons is a prolific and entertaining speaker who addresses huge conferences from Las Vegas to Bangkok, and there’s no doubt that his books have helped him get to where he is. In fact if you want to be on the speaking circuit and you haven’t got a book published you have a huge hurdle to overcome. Brendan Barns, formerly CEO of Speakers for Business and founder of London Business Forum, insists that having a business book published can give instant credibility to an author, especially if it’s in partnership with a major publisher. ‘This can,’ he says ‘open the door to a lucrative speaking career, especially if the author has some charisma.’

A published book can also have some more subtle effects on the authors profile. Ken Langdon is the author of 20 practical business books (and ghost-writer of several more) and he points out that it massively enhances your search engine profile. A Google search on many business managers wouldn’t throw up much apart from a LinkedIn page which is, of course, their own writing. Google an author, however, and you get their Amazon page along with the publisher’s potted history of the author. (The author may also have written this but it doesn’t look like that.) If you want to see the effect for yourself just type ‘Ken Langdon’ into Google.

The Process Approach – everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler

26 January 2016 by in Business and finance, Implementing ISO 9001:2015

Paul Simpson, co-author of Implementing ISO 9001:2015 looks into how applying the Process Approach can make reregistering for ISO 9001:2015 easier than you think.

It’s highly likely that many of us seeking improvement in effectiveness and efficiency of the way our work functions see process analysis and mapping done well as part of the solution. However, when done badly they can get in the way.

We’ve probably all seen the extremes – on the one hand perhaps a wall full of mind-sapping detail, on the other a series of banal boxes neither helping staff and leaders.  So this quote,Everything should be made simple as possible, but no simpler‘ attributed to Albert Einstein, is a useful stimulus in thinking about making process analysis useful, and to help ISO 9001:2015 registration.

Einstein The Process ApproachThe point of analysing our processes is to ensure we understand how each process works and what we need to do as individuals, leaders and organisations to ensure the process operates efficiently and delivers effectively. So that’s it – simple! We sit down flowchart the process step back and say ‘Abracadabra’ and we’ve stepped into a state of Nirvana through the Process Approach. If only it were so.

Let’s take a step back from the quote and do some digging:


  • The published quote from Einstein that comes closest to ‘our’ subtitle is: ‘It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.’Now apart from being a lot less easy to read and understand this more complex quote covers a lot more ground and options that we will address later.
  • How this came to be attributed to Einstein is through an article in the New York Times by the composer Roger Sessions where he says: ‘I also remember a remark of Albert Einstein, which certainly applies to music. He said, in effect, that everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler!’

So please forgive me as I translate the Einstein quote into a summary we can apply to our process analysis as we look to make transition to ISO 9001:2015 certification:

We have to break each process down into as few simple steps as possible based on our experience of how they work in real life. And we must ensure that we understand their relationships and contribution to the other processes in the overall system in generating outputs for the customer.

So for each process step, we need a more profound understanding of the activity than just to type a simple flowchart box description.

Taking an everyday example: most manufacturing processes and many service deliveries have a final flowchart box: ‘Deliver goods / Drive to service delivery point’ – Abracadabra again!

Again, if only it were that simple. Most blog readers have real world experience of driving. In the UK where I drive most, it is notoriously unpredictable and the same applies for every national capital and many trunk roads in most countries around the globe. If we are to truly understand the process approach we need to spend time and effort on that one box on our flowchart ‘Deliver goods’.

Here is a short list I came up with that frame the activity:

  • Delivery instructions
  • Available vehicle
  • Loading arrangements
  • Distance to customer
  • Available driver
  • Traffic situation
  • Accidents
  • Weather conditions
  • Customer security procedures
  • Unloading arrangements

The process approach says you have a good understanding of each activity element and can control them to satisfy your customer.

Drilling down into a couple then:

Available driver

  • Licence to drive vehicle class?
  • Competent to act as your organisation representative out on the road?
  • Current clean licence?
  • Time on tachograph to complete planned job?

Contingency for:

  • Peaks in demand?
  • Holiday / sickness absence?
  • Traffic situation
    • At departure time?
    • At planned return time?
    • Roadworks on the primary route?
    • Alternative routes in the event of a disruption?
    • Major events (sporting / social) along planned route(s)?
    • Unusual expected traffic pattern (holiday periods)?

In order to demonstrate they have ‘determined’ their processes (under the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 Clause 4.4.1) organisations need to answer all bullets above (and a lot more I haven’t thought of). Many answers won’t come from the same area the driver is in but may be carried out by individuals working in other processes: recruitment / licence checking (perhaps in HR), or traffic monitoring (in a central logistics function) for example. So our organisational complexity builds and we have a range of support processes influencing our ability to ‘Deliver’ – a single box in one order fulfilment process. Obviously, this is now a lot of work but it does have a purpose: By understanding our process better we are able to improve it and cope with eventualities as and when they happen.

When we have done this we will have taken our ISO 9001 quality management system from a ‘thin skim’ document to an efficient, resilient way of working and we will have satisfied quality management principle 4 – Process Approach: ‘Consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when activities are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system.’

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‘Leadership is often a duet rather than a solo’

21 January 2016 by in Business and finance

We’re used to seeing leaders exerting their charisma and putting forth their opinions, but we hardly see the collaborators, those who made the leader look so good. Being Number Two may not sound like a very attractive position to most aspiring entrepreneurs, but Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, authors of What we mean when we talk about leadership, show that it can be the person behind the spotlight who gets all the glory.

Do we have unrealistic expectations of our corporate and political leaders? This was one of the questions we asked Harvard Business School’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter when we spoke. Her answer was illuminating: ‘Yes. If the expectation is that a single leader can do it all then it is unrealistic. But it is also interesting how much a single leader can set in motion. In turnarounds it is quite striking how much fresh leadership can accomplish by unlocking talent and potential that was already there in the organization but which was stifled by rules, regulations and bureaucracy.’

So, individual leaders can be hugely influential and powerful. They can change things. But, and it is an awfully big but, leaders are nothing without followers. And some follow more closely than others. Look around at many great leaders and you will see a reliable accomplice at their side – think Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett, William Whitelaw and Margaret Thatcher, Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair and so on. Leadership is often a duet rather than a solo.

So, the John Wayne type of heroic leadership loner is history? We asked leadership guru Warren Bennis. ‘Yes, the Lone Ranger is dead,’ he replied:

Instead of the individual problem solver we have a new model for creative achievement. People like Steve Jobs or Walt Disney headed groups and found their own greatness in them. The new leader is a pragmatic dreamer, a person with an original but attainable vision. Ironically, the leader is able to realize his or her dream only if the others are free to do exceptional work. Typically, the leader is the one who recruits the others, by making the vision so palpable and seductive that they see it, too, and eagerly sign up.

Chris Gibson-Smith, chairman of the London Stock Exchange and a former BP executive, emphasized the teamwork element of business – and of leadership: ‘Business is a team-based enterprise; there are almost no exceptions. The combined brain is a bigger brain than the individual brain. There is almost no problem that is not better solved by engaging a group of the right sort of people with the right skills in the solution harmoniously.’

Richard Hytner, deputy chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, has studied leadership duos and champions the role of the much neglected number two. The reality, he points out, is that we can’t all be number ones – there aren’t enough number one roles in the first place and many of us would be ill-suited to them anyway. ‘The truth is we spend most of our careers, even as heads of functions, factories, geographies or service lines, serving at least one master, yet choose to shape our identity as early as we can as a number one, a supreme leader. Where, after all, is the glamour in shaping an identity as one who merely advises or assists?’ says Hytner.

What is needed is a new model of leadership for all leading players, one that assigns roles clearly and aspirationally, and one that encourages more people to discover, through choice, not just the well-trodden path to the top but the joys of leading from the shadows as a destination in its own right. By conflating all types of leader into just two: A – the ultimately Accountable – and C – the Consiglieri (there are usually more than one) who liberate, enlighten and deliver for the A, the role of the second is elevated to equal amongst firsts, circumventing the tyranny of the number one’s titular supremacy and the prevailing undercurrent of ‘second syndrome’.

The Godfather leadershipThe original consiglieri were the advisers to leaders of Italian mafia families, made famous by Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather. As Richard Hytner makes clear, consiglieri also operate in more legitimate fields.

They are the deputies, assistants and counselors who support, inform and advise the final decision-makers of organizations. Consiglieri – or Cs – are leader makers and leaders in their own right. While only a few go on to become ultimate A leaders, many more perform roles in which they make, shape, illuminate and enhance the success of the out-andout A leader and the organization. ‘The majority of consiglieri positively embrace their roles,’ says Hytner:

They have not settled gloomily for C after having their love for A spurned. They have learnt the joys of influencing As whom they admire and respect. They wish to be close to power across their organizations and to have autonomy to get their jobs done. They are insatiable learners, accruing new experience as if their life depends on it (which, as some consiglieri have discovered, it sometimes does). They have found their greatest and most consistent pleasure in helping others reach their full potential.

The first question for leaders is whether they are prepared to recognize that leadership is not an activity performed by them in splendid isolation. The second is how they can best create and work with their own consiglieri.

Richard Hytner, Consiglieri (Profile, 2014).

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How can you make the book you’ve written work for your business?

11 January 2016 by in Book publishing, Business and finance, Publishing for business

Over the years Infinite Ideas has published dozens of books with businesses and the research we’ve done shows that a printed book is a unique promotional tool. We found that out of ten thousand consultants in the UK 72% of respondents claimed that as a result of being published recognition of their brand increased; nearly 60% claimed that they picked up more speaking events after being published and 65% stated that being published gained them more clients. That’s quite compelling, and it supports some of our own anecdotal evidence. One Infinite Ideas author gained a six figure consulting contract as a result of his book being bought at an airport bookshop; another ended up as a speaker at the World Economic Forum at Davos two years in succession.

business booksMany authors think that writing their book is hard work but soon find that writing is the easy part! There’s no point putting all those evening and weekend shifts in on your book if you then fail to work it to increase sales and brand awareness, and that requires a degree of diligence and innovation. Your publisher will (or should) work hard to secure presence in bookshops and generate media coverage but can do very little to access the constituency that has already bought into your brand – your clients, audiences and followers. So here are some tips for maximizing the impact of your book.

  1. Send a signed complimentary copy with a personal, handwritten letter to all your clients and prospects. Explain why you have written the book and how you think it will help them specifically. Individualize each letter as far as you can. Writing it by hand rather than typing strengthens the impression that you have taken the time to think about the person who is reading it and their business or professional needs. Nobody gets excited by a generic template.
  2. Send a copy to each of your media contacts with a note pointing out aspects of the book that you think are newsworthy. In a recent survey 32% of people said they bought a book because they were influenced by reviews in newspapers, magazines and online, so you can’t afford to ignore it. Once again, your publisher should be working the media but you will need to fill in the gaps. So find out what they are doing and work with their PR to generate maximum exposure. Journalists get hundreds of approaches a week so yours needs to stand out and there’s no better way of doing that than by personal contact. If you don’t have any media contacts ask friends and colleagues for theirs and use their names (with their permission) in the subject box of your emails.
  3. If you’re not already on the speaking circuit now’s the time to start. Speaking engagements are a priceless channel for selling your book. Ideally you should build a free copy for each delegate into the fee you get for the event. If that’s not possible take some books to sell (and make sure you have a facility for taking payment). At the very least you should have some fliers available that give your audience details of your latest book, preferably with a discount. If you have impressed your audience many will want a souvenir of the event and what could  firm up your relationship with these potential new clients better than a signed copy of your book.
  4. Social media is (are) vital. Start promoting your book a few months prior to publication on Facebook and Twitter and encourage as many people as possible to become fans and share your book in their networks. These are more fun social networks and designed to give instant gratification. To stay relevant create a hashtag that is unique to your brand and use it every time you post a tweet or an update. This should develop momentum and you will be able to monitor whether people are responding to your contributions. You should also explore Tumblr and Pinterest which are particularly good at being visually stimulating and easily shared. Make sure the pictures you associate with your brand and your book are relevant to the content, otherwise you may end up with the wrong types of followers, those who are not likely to benefit from reading your content. It’s good to link your posts to what is currently trending, but always link back to why that is relevant to your book.

    If your book is designed to promote your business you must engage fully with LinkedIn, which is an essential networking tool. Join groups on LinkedIn that relate to your business. It is an excellent space to share newsworthy items that can help with careers, and members are likely to respond if you write a blog post and share it (always with a link to your book at the end). Promote thoughtful content that gets people to engage with the ideas in your book and engages them in discussion. Reach out to people who you think could endorse your book, such as leaders in your particular field, or an author of a competing title. You don’t get any medals for wanting to do all of this alone.

There’s much more that you can do of course, and I’ll be returning to this subject with more techniques to market your work. Meanwhile we have written two books which are available free on www.infideas.com

Get published: A first-time writer’s guide to publishing 

Guerrilla tactics for marketing and selling your book

We love to talk to authors about their books. If you want to have an informal chat, feel free to email us at info@infideas.com to see how we can help you out.