Why #Medium is not for me right now

I love the wide group of writers on Medium.

I love the writing experience.

I love the reading experience.

I hate the inflexibility of publishing. – No scheduling, no on-publish triggers to share on social media!

I hate the curation limitations  – collections that take months for someone to read something and decide to add it to their collection.

I hate the SEO-unfriendliness – what’s with the crazy urls that only machines can read. Friendlier names are easy enough to do, why are they missing on a ‘premium’ platform?

I hate that it is closed and unextendable – maybe this is in the pipeline and maybe simplicity is the goal, but still I want to do things with the platform that it doesn’t currently do and I feel frustrated that I have to wait on who-knows-who to build it.

For those reasons, I’m out.

What the Croods taught me about #Startups.

Know when to use a search party and when to form a kill circle.

There is a great scene in the movie The Croods where the following exchange took place between Grug — the father of the neandertal Croods family — and Guy — their homosapien travelling companion, as they are confronted by a huge maze of tunnels that lay between them and their destination.

Grug: Are you saying we should split up?

Guy: We can try more paths at once, it’s the fastest way through!

Grug: We stick together, your way isn’t safe!

The challenge selects the strategy

What has an animation got to do with startups?

Well, as I watched this movie a few times over — my kids made me do it — I really appreciated the lesson this scene was teaching me.

This maze was a new challenge — a search through a bunch of potential options for a sustainable route to their goal. Everything that had gone before was business as usual — avoiding falling rock and a menagerie of exotic beasts with really sharp teeth. For those challenges, the existing Croods family strategy of a ‘kill circle’ — where they form a circle and basically kill whatever threatens them — worked reasonably well.

But the new challenge of the maze requires a different strategy — something that was pretty foreign to what the Croods had experienced thus far.

To Guy it was clear — to get through this maze we need to spread out and ‘try more paths at once’.

This is just the same with startups. It is a maze with many tunnels — some are dead ends, but there are a few ways that lead you out of the maze to the goal. In the case of startups — the goal is product-market fit and repeatable/scalable business model.

For this maze you need a search party, not a kill circle.

Why is this important?

Knowing this can save your startup huge amounts of wasted time, effort and opportunity and can avoid prematurely forming set piece company structures.

Knowing and accepting this idea of what a startup is can help you focus and it guides where investment — what little there might be — is directed.

It also helps direct the energy of everyone to a single purpose — not building stuff or hiring specialists or getting fancy addresses and furniture — but doing whatever you need to do to search for product-market fit and repeatable business model.

Knowing this also makes the job of leadership in any startup much clearer and simpler — recognise the challenge and mobilise the strategy. Both these things clearly take a particular set of skills that startup founders would be well advised to develop — perhaps before they rush into product making!

Searching. Execution considered harmful

If you lost something really valuable in a field, how might you find it?

Consider if you could invite all your various specialist friends to come help you search for it, how might they do that. What special skills would the doctor bring? Or the plumber? Would it be out of place for your friend — who is a butcher — to set up shop selling sausages while you search for your missing treasure?

The point is when you are searching you need 3 things.

  1. Tactics and leads about where to search and how to conduct the search. Diversity is key here, how do you use the unique skills and talents of your team to devise tactics and leads? Do you even know what they unique skills and talents the individuals on your team have?
  2. People actually doing the search — the more the better — remember “we can try more paths at once”. Everyone should be involved in this — it doesn’t make much sense for them not to be.
  3. Finally you need an effective and, preferably inexpensive, way to keep the search coordinated and information flowing. In the Croods, Guy gives everyone a seashell which they must blow to attract attention if they find a way out or get stuck. Simple but effective.

If you are focusing on anything other than this — in my opinion — you are wasting time, money and opportunity.

I see so many startups with their engineers busy looking at building stuff, creating coding standards, scaling infrastructure and impressive, resilient frameworks and they delegate the search to their marketing person or growth hackers.

What does ‘searching’ look like in startups

The trouble with any metaphor is that it has its limits.

So the key message I learned from the Croods is that to explore a maze, split up to explore more paths and options faster and do it in a coordinated way.

But how does that apply, in practice, to startups?

That will be the subject of my next blog post on the subject.


The still from The Croods is copyright of Dreamworks Animation 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Pretend you didn't know me, how would you respond?

If this arrived in your inbox in response to a ‘job’ ad, how would you respond – if you even bothered to?

Hi

I’m Mike and I was exploring the interwebs and found a job you posted on [oops] – which sucks because it doesn’t say when you posted the job – so I don’t know whether you still have the need.

Anyway, I’d like to talk to a real life human about what you need and how I might help. From your ad, you say ‘CTO’ and I hear ‘partner to change how the passionate people find passionate work…and who can code’ – and that excites me.

I don’t generally do CVs. But you can check me out at
twitter: @mhsutton
linkedIn: http://es.linkedin.com/in/mikesutton/
my blog: http://mhsutton.me

Over the last 20 years as a maker of things, I’ve…
… led the building of this: Some cool site (and [another cool app])
… helped rescue and scale this: [Awesome service]
… (and oh yeah, I used to build defence software too – so hush hush).

Right now, I’m building this: [Something I’m working on now]
and I recently mothballed this: [something I used to work on]

When I’m not doing this: [My current thing]
I dabble on these: [a dabble] and [another dabble] (it’s a little slow – there’s a lot of data crunching going on).

I’ve made things with many languages – some which are technically extinct now. But I currently mostly play with web things and craft in Ruby, Node.js. Though I use what I need to make what I want.

I play nicely with others and help others do the same.

If this sounds like something you want to hear more about – then lets get a conversation started and you can tell your story, I can tell you mine and we can explore how we might tell a new story. I’m free anytime next week to explore.

ps. If I hear nothing by Monday, I’ll assume any/all of the following
a) you’re too busy to care
b) totally uninterested in our future awesomeness
c) or battling a tummy bug so bad you can’t type a reply.
… In any case, I’ll thank you for reading, wish you well and move on. No worries.

Thanks
Mike


I have recently been experimenting with self-selective content that is designed to appeal to exactly the kind of people I want to work and collaborate with.
Would be interested in whether you think this does that.

Thanks for reading.


Featured Image By: Pedro Ribeiro SimõesCC BY 2.0

The best kept secret for finding top talent

Recently I have been exploring doing some remote Ruby development work, specifically with startups and specifically with startups that interest me.

I find it humorous that everyone wants only the best. The best Rails developer, who is passionate about learning and speaks at conferences and eats and sleeps code and tests and works well with others and …

You get the picture.

Ninjas and Jedi

To make things even more ridiculous, employers try and appeal to ego by calling the roles they want filled particular dumb names like ‘ninja’, ‘guru’, ‘samurai’ and ‘jedi’. Statistically most startups fail — so pipe down, you’re likely building some almost-ran thing, not saving the Universe from some evil Emperor.

But here is the thing. There are not that many ‘bests’ about — and almost none of them call themselves ninjas and jedi.

And of few ‘best’ that are around, even fewer want to work their asses off and burn their passion for money you cannot afford to pay them.

So what is the best kept secret for businesses to attract top talent?

Stop trying to attract top talent and start growing it!

After working with over 100 teams, hundreds of people over 20+ years, hiring and helping hire dozens of people and being hired by dozens more, I think I have happened on the best kept secret for getting awesome people to share your work and life with.

The trouble with the ‘attracting talent’ approach is that you have to keep working to retain it. If you’ve ever dated someone on false pretences, you’ll know that sooner or later they will see the real you and then what?

Fundamentally the relationship ends. In the world of dating, you break up.

In the world of work it is less clear cut. People stay ‘together’ because for the employee ; their — paying bills — are met; for the employer — they get someone who is not agitating for change and is happy to follow orders.

But as far as trust and passion go, you can forget about those.

The secret is simple. Grow them.

That’s it. Stop trying to attract people that have preconceived ideas and hard to untangle bad habits, whose loyalties are based on how much you are prepared to pay them or who are really only working for you until something better paying shows up. Instead focus on attracting raw talent and, through collaboration and shared values, create the container for production together.

What is stopping you?

I have talked informally about this topic with many people — from executives to janitors — and I’ve distilled the reasons why people aren’t finding talent this way.

It seems the main things stopping people from ‘growing your own’ is a combination of time and timing, skills and appreciation of value.

Time & Timing

If you are in a loving relationship — how long did it take you to get there? In days gone by, people used the term ‘courtship’. How long did you court the person you love? And when you finally got together — how long did it take to be comfortable with each other’s edges?

Finding people who are passionate about anything takes time and investment.

Time to help them discover their passions even as they — themselves – are unsure what they are. It might mean funding and participating in community gatherings, working out of Universities and helping undergraduates deal with the everyday. Be creative.

It also takes investment — not really of money though. More of time, genuine care and active interest.

Timing is also critical. The earlier the better. Many companies grasp the idea of starting early — for example with university recruitment — but fundamentally suck at it because they don’t get passion and they really don’t care about it. They distil everything down to money.

The sooner you start and the more open heartedly you participate in helping people find their talents, the easier it is to have the conversations that they should combine their fate with yours to build something beautiful — the things that passionate people build are always beautiful.

Skills

Growing talent cannot be relegated to HR or to management — even if management instigates. Helping people grow to ascend a ladder from which a fall is not only emotionally catastrophic, it is also a very unhealthy way to grow talent.

It takes under exercised skills that most people have to help others grow. It takes the ability to trust deeply, be open and love genuinely coupled with empathy and a desire to collaborate as equals. This is the secret sauce of the best kept secret. You can buy it in, but ultimately you need to nurture it.

Appreciate the value

I expect there will be some who will read this and will say ‘show me the studies’ or ‘show me the numbers’.

If you are one of them — thanks for reading, now please go away — I don’t have the energy to waste convincing you of the benefits of people doing passionate work without the hierarchy, the ego massaging and the bullshit games of most companies.

However, if you are not averse to the possibility that people – whose basic needs are met and who are supported to find and explore their passions – will do amazing things with others of a similar disposition and will remain deeply loyal to their partnership, then you are part way to appreciating the value of growing your own talent.

It takes seeing passionate people do beautiful work to decide never to knowingly work any other way. It doesn’t matter what they make and it doesn’t matter what challenges they face — they will always be awesome.

Startups are perfect to grow your own

Ask any gardener at what point they have the most straightforward work to do and the most chance to create the most amazing garden and they will tell you it is when they are starting from scratch. Hope and opportunity are at their maximum. There are no established plants to work round, no constraints to their dreams.

Startups are like that — at least with regards to people. You get to start from as close from scratch as possible. Both with a team and with an idea. Conditions that make for beautiful experiences — if you know how to make it so.

Many startups tend to think of themselves as mini businesses — they are not. They are search engines and prospectors — trying to find the thing of value and a repeatable way of realising that value. When they find both, they become a business.

Getting to that point is rich with the fertiliser that aides ‘growing your own’. Very few other points in the evolution of a business afford that same richness of talent growth.

Why you haven’t heard about this

Quite simply. Money.

The recruitment business is worth billions of dollars a year.
The fixing of crappy companies that forsake organic growth rakes in billions more.
The process merchants and MBA industry that bellow the mantra of efficiency to the world of human work make billions.
The software peddlers who offer things to incentivise, gamify, maximise, track and otherwise aid in the management of human as a resource contribute huge sums to the industry that has emerged around the mechanisation of work — and more recently, creative and knowledge work.

Although there is now a growing movement of people and companies that are helping to change this, compared to the mainstream they are pretty insignificant. For every maverick book of a company choosing flatter more organic structures there are hundreds more that espouse established practices and promote people as cogs.

What to do with this information

I hope it changes you. If you shrug in disbelief and forget it, I will have failed.

If you do nothing and simply stay troubled — internally agitated that there is possibly another way, then I will have succeeded — a little.

If you read this and share it, get to work and simply float the question “What would happen if we focused on growing the talent we need” and refused to take dumb responses as an answer — then I would have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

I invite you to ask me for sources, examples and further reading. I am unwilling to make that further investment without you meeting me halfway.

It is up to you.

#Startups, do you have a solution looking for a problem?

I’m having a wonderful time being helpful on SoHelpful.me.

So many different people – with amazing stories – reaching out to and trusting a complete stranger to help them via experience, learning and a diverse perspective.

Recently I met with Greg – a super smart engineer with a really interesting invention who sought to understand how to turn customer interviews into an investment pitch. After a few minutes of conversation and hearing about where he is at with his startup work, I concluded that he has a different and more pressing problem.

He has a solution looking for a problem.

If you use Lean Startup or Steve Blank’s Customer Development approach, you’ll probably be doing it the other way round.

With Customer Development , we find and validate a problem that people have and try and solve it for them. It is a very successful strategy that delivers learning, risk reduction and human connection in a neat little package. But that is not the only way to build a startup. Sometimes – especially if you are a maker – you go ahead and make something and then try and figure out who might use it.

Solutions are always from a problem

I can’t think of anything that is devised as a solution that wasn’t problem driven. It might be a problem you have or one that is well publicised that many people have. It might be real or imagined. The problem might exist today or might be a logical future result of how things are evolving in the present. But solutions mostly always stem from a problem.

What we do in Lean Startup and Customer Development is – through experiments – tests the assumptions we make about the problems.

Work backwards, look for assumptions

As the conversation progressed with Greg, it was clear to both of us that he had built something for his own very specific problem and was now trying to sell it to the wider world. Almost all of the interviews he had were about markets and how to access them. Almost none were about a problem someone had. Even in established markets where you think you have a Unique Selling Point – USP – you are better off validating that your USP is both unique and a selling point – with actual people.

So to help Greg understand his situation better, I asked him to tell me how he thought his product might be used. This is a great technique – tell a story of who uses and how they might use it.

Well, the person that uses this might have a need for this much output and they may want to use that much storage and my product gives them that flexibility

Stop. Rewind.  We just found three assumptions.

  1. “They might need this much output”,
  2. “They might need that much storage” and
  3. They value the flexibility.

This gives Greg something to start better customer development – he can take a few steps back and design experiments to test those assumptions.

As he designs his experiment, he can explore where to find people who use similar products or are trying to address the problem but with similar products. Once he’s found them, he can start conversations with them – not about his product – but about his understanding of the problem. Those conversations will inevitably lead to other learning and new assumptions and we continue doing experiments until we have enough validated information to do the next thing.

The moral of the story is…

The fact that you have a product does not mean it is marketable. It means you got over enthusiastic and built something that was scratching your own itch – nothing wrong with that – or you simply wanted to do something fun and interesting – definitely nothing wrong with that!

But reality check yourself. Sure it was fun and it probably was perfect for your problem but unless you establish product-market fit, it is almost certainly not marketable as it stands.

A really straightforward way to determine product-market fit is to turn it into a problem-solution question. Once you positively answer this question with actual data, then the next thing is to determine whether the problem is perceived enough to have people pay money for the solution. Then you have a marketable product. Then you can go try and seek investment and all the other things the cool kids do.

Are you stuck with your startup? Do you have a product that you are struggling to find market fit for? I don’t have any answers, just a difference set of experiences and perspectives through which we might together find answers in. Check me out on http://sohelpful.me/mikesutton and lets get a conversation started.

 


Featured Image By: Eva CristescuCC BY 2.0

Fab.com: It is a fucking startup and…

I read the post that Fab.com’s CEO – Jason Goldberg – published on his Tumblr site and I sought and failed to find a way to comment directly on the post. From what I could tell, people can only repost – not comment – on posts on Tumblr?

Anyway, as I read what seemed to be a very open and honest update on where the CEO of Fab.com thinks their restructuring is at right now, I have very mixed feelings about a lot of what Jason says and how he says it. Given I have no inside info on how Fab works internally, I can only surmise from the CEO’s words.

Here is what I would have said and some of the questions I would have asked had I been able to comment on the tumblr post:

Yes – you are a fucking startup, again! At some point you had it all going for you – the billion dollar valuation, the love and adoration of the media – everything. Do you have all the perspectives of what went wrong? What lessons did you learn? How do you apply that learning. If you are restricting your learning to your management team – I can almost guarantee this will not be the last time you taste the humbling effect of demotion to a startup from thriving business.

Yes, you had experienced huge layoffs and are battered and bruised from it – but how did you grieve? How did your colleagues grieve? As ‘leader’ how did you facilitate the support of others? Loss is a huge driver of behaviour and we all think we know how it works because, hell, it is part of life. Even now as you rally troops – do you know how the loss of colleagues and a dream affects those whom you rally?

Yes – you are a fucking startup and startups are hard, so why are you making it harder by still ‘assembling and managing the right people’. Of all the times to grasp a different way of leadership – this is it. You alone don’t have all the answers, not even the ‘right’ people you might have hired. Yet you are lucky to have a lot of good – yes bruised and battered – people and you all together have more of the answers. The question is how do you have the conversations that you need to have and how will you help harness and unleash their awesomeness on your turnaround?

Yes, you are a fucking startup and you are ready for war. You say this is ‘wartime’. People die in war and almost all who escape death are left with wounds that never heal. People also kill in war. Who or what are your enemies? Is that really the analogy you want? If you choose to stick with ‘war’ then remember that the skills to win a war are not the skills to thrive in peace. Ask countless guerilla leaders from Alexander the Great to Robert Mugabe. Do you have the skills to recognise and lead in ‘peace’ – whatever that means in your context? Finally remember that most great guerilla leaders tend to turn peace into war in order for them to ‘manage’ effectively.

Yes, you are a startup – or at least you want something from that culture. From what I can surmise, you want the ‘right’ people to be committed and to work tirelessly, remaining focused. How do you intend to help them do that? Can you have the benefits of that culture without having the challenges from which that culture emerges? Can you have the challenges in a ‘turnaround’?

Yes, you are a fucking startup and no, brutal honesty is not part of my experience of a startup. Honesty without the brutality is. Is a company where honesty is violent really what you want? Where is the violence in your organisation, how can you find it and neutralise it or- better still – channel it into something positive. I can guarantee you do not need the violence that words like ‘brutal’ encourage in your re-imagined company.

Yes, you are a fucking startup – and in every single startup I have seen and met, there is uncertainty and fear. There is also Joy – some times pure and unbounded Joy. Of making and being with other dreamers, the Joy of making a ‘ding’ in the world. Or simply the Joy of Whatever. Where is the Joy in Fab.com and how do you hope to nurture it, how do you find it, amplify and make it the single reason for being. The thing that makes all challenges seem achievable.

Finally, yes – you are a fucking startup. But actually wait, no, you are not.
You are a deeply broken business company. A startup is not 750 people or even 300 – it is small, it is nimble and it pivots without mass nausea. A startup is not valued at $1 billion while raising $150 million. That is a business, not a startup. A startup is people being pretty equal and pretty fluid – doing what needs to be done. More importantly, a startup is searching for its model. Fab.com is not. You had a model – probably one that is still viable.

I think you are searching for your soul and that needs a different set of skills to find. Do you have them? How can you find them and how can you spread them to everyone still left in your company?

Jason – I work with broken companies and I can help with yours. You seem a pretty decent dude, who has peeked into the abyss and is doing something to find and retrieve the soul of his company back from the darkness. I would be happy to help. Email, tweet or call me and let’s have the conversation.

Hey #Startups, the Investment Microsteps in customer development are really important

If you are using Lean Startup to build your startup, you’ll know the importance of validating the problem you are trying to solve with people who actually have that problem. Steve Blank calls this customer development or getting out of the building.

Recently I have been helping other startup founders out with what I am learning so far on the very awesome platform – that is a startup itself – SoHelpful.me

Earlier this week a really interesting guy called Peter booked a session to chat about his startup and his customer development questions.

I’m no pro – I’m learning this stuff as well and have my own particular weaknesses but over the last year I have forced myself to love customer development and it has been worth it – it gets me out, talking to real people about real problems. Effective customer development is the number one problem I think startups have.

Speaking with Peter about his idea, he shared that he had interviewed about 150 people to hear their biggest problems with the area he was focused on. I thought this was awesome – to actually get out of his house and find 150 people, talk to them and record their responses is pretty impressive. So I had to ask:

Why do you need to speak with me?

He had these responses, but wasn’t sure the next steps were to use them effectively. I asked if he had anyway to contact the same people again and he said he had asked for and received email addresses for about 50% of the people he interviewed. Brilliant!

Of course – like in the classic tale of the beautiful girl at the bar that the guy has been hitting on all night – some of those email addresses might well be fake, but I think there are still a good number that would be genuine. Peter’s idea solves a real problem.

This is where the insight into investment microsteps come in.

Investments 101: Investments, currency and return.

An investment is something you have that you put towards something you want. It can be an asset (incl money) , time , effort or a combination of all three – these are called the currency. The valuable thing you get back is called the return.  You invest some currency to make a return – usually something that is greater in value to you than the currency you invested.

How well the investment does is called the ‘Return On Investment’ – usually a ratio or percentage.

Sometimes investments are straightforward.
You invest $100 in a stock and over a year you make $50 on top of your $100. So your ROI is 50%.
Or you spend 15 minutes a day working out and in the summer you have the body that everyone drools over at the beach. The ROI on that is much harder – though not impossible – to calculate. I like to think, like Mastercard, it is priceless.

What are “Investment Microsteps”?

So in customer development, our ultimate goal is to learn and validate the problems that people have and that we – the promising startup – are hoping to solve for them.

We are also trying to validate that they will pay for us solving that problem for them because you can fix problems for lots of people and that is awesome. What is even more awesome is that someone is willing to pay you something to solve that problem for them. This is the monetisation challenge.
Is the solution valuable enough for your customer for them to invest in it? Without this or another source of recurring revenue, your startup is not a business.

Whilst getting clear feedback that people would pay you to solve the problem is the holy grail of customer validation – I notice that we tend to undervalue what I call the microsteps to get there.

When someone agrees to invest some of their currency, they are making an investment decision and expect  – at some level – a return on that investment. And in customer development when you have confirmed they are willing to pay you for the problem you validated – that is a major investment.
The smaller investments they make until then – the meetings, the coffees, the 5 minutes here and there, the emails they read, the surveys they take, the email addresses they volunteer are all little investments they make in you and your idea.

I call these the investment microsteps.

Let’s look at an example through this viewpoint:

Imagine you go out to find 10 people to interview about what they find frustrating about ordering pizza.

The firm ‘No’

You approach 50 people , asking each if they would be willing to spare 5 minutes to help you with this research. 30 people each – for whatever reason – say ‘no’.
Those are 30 people who were unwilling at that time to invest 5 minutes of time – a currency – to get any kind of return from you. There is some learning here too – why did they say ‘No’. How might you get them to say ‘Yes’?

The early ‘No’

The remaining 20 people stop and invest the 5 minutes, but when you then request a further investment – would they be willing to give you their email address or telephone number so that you can keep them updated with the progress – 10 say ‘No’. They did not get the return they valued enough from the previous investment to further investment. This could be for a bunch of reasons – understanding what they are is important but a topic for another post.

The More Committed Investors

The final 10 do volunteer their email addresses – they are willing to make the further investment. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will ultimately pay for whatever solution you devise to their problems, but – for now- they are willing to help you as long as you help them. And simply – how you help them is by giving them a return on their investment.

Every Investment Deserves a (Early) Return

How many startup founders who actively do customer development appreciate what just happened? Do you?

Every investment deserves a return – even if that return is an email a week later to say:

Hey thanks for agreeing to get updates, the research is going well and I will have some specific questions for you next week to help me under ….

If you leave it too late – they struggle to remember who you are and maybe even the return that they visualised when they made the investment.
When I get an email from a business I met 2 years ago who now just decided to do something with their email list, I shake my head and giggle  – as I click the unsubscribe button. Even when the new approach is made with an offer – say a discount – I still am rarely interested.

By now  – if you are using lean startup – you probably realise that authenticity goes a long way. If you engage regularly with people who made an investment in you, then you should do so personally or as personable as possible. That is part of the return value. An example of personable in the case of email is greeting with their first name and mentioning something specific about your interaction

Putting it all together

Recognising that people make microsteps of investment helps you approach the design of your customer development better. You can think ahead about how you might be able to make a valuable return to every investment that is made. Even down to how you appreciate the refusal to make an investment.

I believe – although I have no evidence to back this up – that the more that a person is prepared to invest in your customer development activities the more they care about the problem and the higher the likelihood that they will pay for the solution for their problem. I also believe that whether or not you sign them up as a paying customer , you will end up with a great member of a loyal group of followers that you can come back to – so long as you recognise, respect and return on their investments.

How are you doing customer development?

Do you recognise this insight in your customer development work?

I’d love to learn and share. Please comment below or hit me up on Twitter. Please consider sharing this post – it could help someone you love.

If you would like my help with anything you are puzzled about on your startup, company improvement or software process – hook up with me on soHelpful.me and let’s get a conversation started!

 


Featured Image By: Simon CunninghamCC BY 2.0

What I learnt from learning to manage depression.

A few years ago I had cause to seek help to address chronic depression.

I met with my GP and he offered referrals to either an NHS psychiatrist or a new service that was being run out from their surgery –  a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.

Knowing that I didn’t really favour a route that involved medication for any prolonged period, I tried the CBT route.

And I learned something fundamental –  the journey through something is greater than the reaching a destination.

During my CB therapy I learnt techniques to help me tackle many kinds of thoughts and behaviours and I developed an inner voice that is my objective and more rational counsel when I feel overwhelmed. If I had gone down the psychiatry route, I fear I would have never developed this super power. I overcame my depression but didn’t cure it and I now have awesome tools to prevent and manage it when it happens again.

When I look at the world around I see achievements are hugely celebrated – from winning gold at the Olympics to selling a startup for a few billion dollars. What is hardly ever mentioned is how you are changed by the journey to the achievement. How the athlete has been changed  – both physically and otherwise – by what she had to endure to win the gold. Changes that make it more likely that she will win another gold and changes that mean that if she never won another gold – she would have developed the qualities to be OK with that.

Those are changes that come from the journey, not the destination.

You can reach the same place from different roads but not all teach the same things.

I always dreamed of winning the lottery. Of waking one morning to find that my ticket was the 100 Million Jackpot winner. So I would arrive at wealth but without the qualities to create wealth, nor the humility to appreciate it. What is more valuable in the end?

As I ponder life, sitting on my Spanish terrace dealing with the hopes, fears and dreams of now, I wonder less about my destination and more about what journey I am on, what journey I should be on. Perhaps there is a way to choose the journey by choosing the destination. Perhaps by saying that I shall have acquired certain qualities  and experiences, I would auto select the journeys.

What do you feel when you read this?

What journeys are you on?

What qualities are you learning from them?

I’d love to hear and share. Please consider sharing this, leaving a comment or tweeting to @mhsutton


Featured Image By: Jon RawlinsonCC BY 2.0

How does your company address its organisational history? I'm doing research and would like to learn from you. Pls Share

Hey, I need help!

I’m researching how companies address their organisational history?  Specifically I want to understand:

  1. How important do companies consider organisational history to be?
  2. What aspects do companies consider least to most valuable?
  3. What problems do companies repeatedly experience?
  4. How do companies practically address organisational history?
  5. What might a company learn from its organisational?
  6. How rich does a company’s organisation history have to be to be valuable?

Rather than a survey I would like to conduct short – < 30 minute – interviews with interested C-level management via Skype, Hangouts or phone.

If you can help with my research I would really appreciate your time. Please drop me a note via the contact form and I’ll get in touch to set something up.

Open Source Learning

Everything that I learn from this research will be freely available to help both the participants in the research and the wider world of work.

Please share this wide and far. Thanks


Featured Image By: Kathleen Tyler ConklinCC BY 2.0

What Happens Next: Introducing The Improvement Partnership

Following my successful and very insightful 6-week free remote coaching experiment, I am delighted to introduce a new service that is primarily designed for passionate companies who are committed to getting incrementally better – whatever better means for them – and who have tired of the buzzword bingo that is costly and generally ineffectively applied.

Please show some love for my service: The Improvement Partnership.

The Improvement Partnership is about creating partnerships amongst willing participants within companies and teams and with me, with the single purpose of helping them build incrementally better versions of themselves.

In this partnership model, people participate because they care, have been invited open-heartedly and are respected vs they are made to do it by their managers or pressured by their peers and reviewed by how well they do (or don’t).

What Problems Does The Improvement Partnership Address?

  1. Many businesses are clambering to do agile, Scrum etc. Unfortunately their mission becomes doing the thing versus solving their fundamental problems. This is further compounded by overhyped training offering misleading certifications. They spend the money, but remain unhelped.
  2. Coercion and violence in organisations that seek to improve themselves. Traditional management structures promote mandated processes and imposed help.
  3. High cost of hiring consultants to do the work that is both most appropriately and most sustainably done by employees – who are usually the ones who are feeling the pain.
  4. The broad brush implementations of frameworks that are peddled, regardless of what the actual problems are.
  5. The lack of accessible, experienced, empathic and independent help to support improvement work in many companies.
  6. Current alternatives are hugely disruptive and create even more pressure in an already pressurised system of tight deadlines and tension.

How it Works

Organisation as a Product

My newly designed framing metaphor is to imagine the Organisation as a Product.

We now know a huge amount about building software and products well and I want to apply that learning back to human systems. The metaphor is a good one and has limits  – as all metaphors do.

So I ask you:

If your company/team was a product, who would be its customers and users, what value does it generate for them? What are its current known ‘bugs’ and what are its capabilities/features.

What would its next and better version be like? What bugs would be fixed, what new/different value would it offer and what capabilities would it provide?

My Approach

I work with a 4 step approach to partnership – you can read more about it on the site, but briefly it is:

Make the Invitation – Version the Organisation, NOW and NEXT – Build towards NEXT – Review, Reflect and Adapt.

There is no magic to this, there is only passionate people working in partnership and overcoming anything , together. Maybe that is the magic.

Remote Partnering

Making the Invitation and Versioning the Organisation will be done face to face with clients and is achieved in the TIPStart workshop – a 2 day deep exploration onsite workshop that is held with everyone interested in participating.

It is here that the fundamentals of human collaboration will be established, where we set the shared purpose, explore shared values and create the strong relationships that will help down the line.

The TIPStart is the starting point for every client partnership and it where we emerge what work we need to build and assemble volunteer working groups to own the work.

Then we all go home and start collaborating remotely as partners, establishing optimal cadences to collaborate in working groups; and reviewing collectively as we work.

Fundamentally we work from the problems that people are experiencing and the capabilities they want to build. The solutions will emerge.

I help by bringing my passion , 20+ years of distilled learning, knowledge, experience and networks to help my partners find solutions that work for them. I help by facilitating, mentoring, coaching, pairing on research or code, training and anything else that offers value to my clients’ reaching the NEXT version. It may be agile or a something based on a combination of many different practices and techniques. It will almost never be the stock Scrum, Kanban or SAFe. (I say almost because of the theoretical possibility that it is never ‘never’!!).

Warning: What I Offer Is Not For Everyone

My aim in partnership is to help maximise Joy and Effectiveness for all participants and my client partners. My style supports that and is based on a fundamental belief in the equality of all humans regardless of rank or experience any other factor. Some individuals might not share that view. That is OK – I just won’t work with them.

There are many – I worked with 4 in my experiment – who will and I’m betting there are many more.

I Need Your Help

It would be hugely valuable to me if you would be willing to help me test my message on the site.

  • How does the site flow?
  • What do you understand the value to be?
  • How do you feel when you explore the site?
  • If you work in any of the roles in the ‘Who I Help’ section? How well does it resonate with you?
  • What do you think I need to focus more/less/none on?

Please send feedback via email: me[at]mhsutton.me

Finally, I would love if you would consider sharing The Improvement Partnership.
I really am as good as they say and you could be helping someone you care about out by tweeting about it, sharing via email or blogging about it.