The Ambitious Blog




Insight, commentary and a positive critique on business, design, achievement and failure.

Where I can I outline what I think would be a better solution or approach – rather than simply complain about what I don’t like.

You can be the judge of how well I’ve succeeded!





Achieving Business Buy-in for Agile
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is the slides and materials from my hands-on workshop at Agile Cambridge 2015 on 2nd October 2015 on Achieving Business Buy-in for Agile: Overcoming Objections, Obstacles and Opposition.

Agile within an IT team only takes us so far, especially if the wider organisation uses waterfall processes for product/project management, traditional budgeting and siloed manager-heavy hierarchies.

During this hands-on session we’ll collaboratively explore 12 common objections and obstacles to growing Agile beyond IT teams.  Using the power of the group, we’ll uncover a range of practical ways to win hearts and minds, overcome opposition, transform non-technical understandings of Agile and get broad-based buy-in for change.



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Video: Cutting to the heart of Agile
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is the video of my talk from Radtac’s Evening Briefing on 12th May 2015 where I spoke on Cutting to the heart of Agile.

Cutting through methods to the heart of Agile: people, work and the nature of collaboration.

In this talk we get beyond the specifics of different methods, the narrow box of IT and cut to the heart of Agile. Through some examples we explore how it enables different approaches to valuing, motivating and investing in people, how it changes the management of work and how it drives the spread of collaboration and cooperation; moving competition outside the organisation where it most healthily belongs.


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Video: The secret of smooth Scrum sprints
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is the video of my talk from ACCU 2015 on 25th April 2015 where I spoke on Investing Upstream: The secret to smooth Scrum sprints

It’s great when teams reach delivery maturity with execution at speed and high quality.  It’s no surprise that there’s so much emphasis on doing Sprints well because that’s the heart of Scrum.

Paradoxically though, the secret to making it work well is actually investing time and effort upstream of Sprints to ensure that the Product Backlog is prioritised and broken-down into small items, that User Stories are well formed and that the Scrum team doesn’t meet items for the first time during Sprint Planning.

This ties in with solving the very difficult challenge of effective Product Ownership. Often the very people most valuable to the Scrum team are also the most valuable to the wider business, creating a conflict over their time. Many teams struggle with an absent Product Owner or one who is not sufficiently senior to make quick decisions.

The Scrum Guide says little about how to implement effective Product Ownership and how to get the Product Backlog into good shape. Most Scrum training focuses on the Sprints, so also misses this bigger picture.

Join us on our journey through a series of examples anchored in practical experience as we explore a range of tools and approaches to solve these problems. We’ll learn how to make Scrum function well in a way that meets both the Scrum team and Product Owner’s needs.


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Video: Challenging the Orthodoxy
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is the video of my talk from Service Design in Government 2015 on 20th March 2015 where I spoke on Challenging the Orthodoxy: How Cultural Change enables Citizen-Centric Services.

An exploration through examples of how implementing truly radical service redesign needs organisations to first undergo a cultural change and revolution in their thinking.

Budget cuts are forcing many of us to re-think how services are provided. Despite the pain, this challenge is also an opportunity to dramatically improve services for the modern world. The dash to digital in the UK has driven an IT-led service design culture that embraces modern agile practices, new technologies and open solutions. This is a welcome break from the past.

But to make really dramatic improvements, we need to go beyond technology and completely re-imagine how services are provided – and that’s first (and foremost) a people problem. We need to change cultures by breaking down silos between departments and bringing people together to deliver a consistent, coherent and human service. The front-line needs to deal with all the needs of each citizen in one place instead of a series of frustratingly splintered transactions.

Change should lie in the hands of those who face citizens; engaging their experience, creativity and insight into people’s needs. We need to deliver the same qualities of experience we all value in the modern world: speed, convenience, clarity, effectiveness and choice.

Join me for a tour of surprising and unorthodox alternatives as we explore how conventional thinking takes us down the wrong path and how people around the world have created innovative solutions for their public services. Guaranteed to be thought-provoking and suitable for anyone involved in service design.


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90% of Organisational Change is about People, not Process
Published on by Tom Sedge

90% of the change work I do in organisations is about people, not process or tools. It’s navigating the politics, building relationships, overcoming barriers and helping people work together to solve common problems.

I know from when I arrive in an organisation that the people working in it are the experts on what they do. They already have the answers they need between them but the fragmented and siloed system in which they work makes accessing those answers impossible.


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Video: Investing in Upstream Flow
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is the video of my talk from KCE London on 8th January 2015 where I spoke on how to invest in upstream flow by landscaping a smooth river from idea to execution.

It’s great when teams reach delivery maturity with execution at speed and high quality. It’s no surprise that there’s so much emphasis on this because there are still so many people struggling. But it’s important that we don’t just learn how to do the wrong things well.

Organisations need a smoothly functioning upstream system that can take in good ideas from anywhere, triage and decide which get investment. Then safely shepherd and grow them through to adolescence until they are ready to be implemented. This is key to doing the right things well. Together with some examples, we explore a range of tools and overall approaches that can build this upstream flow and open the session out to leverage the experiences and ideas of the group.


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My KCE talk on 8th January: Investing in Upstream Flow
Published on by Tom Sedge

I’m speaking on Thursday 8th January at the London Kanban Coaching Exchange on Investing in Upstream Flow: Landscaping a smooth river from idea to execution

It’s great when teams reach delivery maturity with execution at speed and high quality. It’s no surprise that there’s so much emphasis on this because there are still so many people struggling. But it’s important that we don’t just learn how to do the wrong things well.

Organisations need a smoothly functioning upstream system that can take in good ideas from anywhere, triage and decide which get investment. Then safely shepherd and grow them through to adolescence until they are ready to be implemented. This is key to doing the right things well.


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User Stories Explained: Who, when, where, what and why?
Published on by Tom Sedge

An exploration of Agile User Stories: what are they, why do we have them, when and where do we use them?

We’ll examine several different formats and examples and look at how they differ from traditional requirements.



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Video: AgileMK – The Agile Organisation and People
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is a talk and interactive session that I ran with Dan Rough at Agile:MK on 1st September 2014.

We speak about The Agile Organisation and its effects – the effects on people, how work is managed and on organisational culture.

We follow up with a practical exercise in small groups – asking participants to list the people and organisational challenges that they have with Agile in their organisations and then to work together to design a time-boxed experiment that they can run to start solving the problem.



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Video: From Boss to Servant – My struggle to reclaim the workplace
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is a version of my talk from Create Brighton on 13th August 2014 where I spoke about Servant Leadership.

I explain why we need a new form of leadership, what’s wrong with the old one, how Servant Leadership works and – with the help of many examples and anecdotes – how to apply it in your workplace.



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Video: TDD for Business Strategies – Developing Business Strategies Test-First
Published on by Tom Sedge

This is the video of my talk from Agile on the Beach 2014 where I spoke on how to apply agile test-first principles to the development of business strategy.

Many businesses struggle with the strategy chasm between their business goals and product pipelines – what should we do? how should we approach it? what strategies will work?

Through case studies and examples, I show how the power of a meaningful mission, clear vision and measurable goals can be combined with a test-first approach to business strategy to create better strategies that deliver more quickly with lower risks – and with far less political and opinion-driven pressure.



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I’m speaking tonight at Agile:MK with Dan Rough on The Agile Organisation
Published on by Tom Sedge

I’m speaking tonight at Agile:MK Agile User Group with Dan Rough on The Agile Organisation: Transforming approaches to people, management and change.

We’ll be at the Jurys Inn, Midsummer Boulevard in Milton Keynes tonight, all details on Meetup.



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I’m speaking at Create Brighton 7: From Boss to Servant – My struggle to reclaim the workplace
Published on by Tom Sedge

I’m speaking at Create Brighton #7 Wednesday 13th August on From Boss to Servant: My struggle to reclaim the workplace.



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In defence of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
Published on by Tom Sedge

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) has come in for a lot of criticism recently. SAFe is rising in popularity and succeeding in the marketplace. But are the critics justified?

I explore the main arguments over SAFe and draw my own conclusions on the usefulness of this approach.



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Video: Cultivating Culture Change with Tom Sedge
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this video, we take an example-led practical tour of Cultivating Culture Change within organisations using the metaphor of gardening. This draws on my experience to include a range of techniques and tools that you can use in your organisation. We explore what a workplace can look like when it has undergone a cultural transformation and where to get started.

Traditionally people approach culture change as an engineering problem or by telling their people what to be. But it just doesn’t work like that. Culture is different: it’s an emergent property and that requires a different approach.



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Lean Product Development: Sleepwalking to Electric Sheep
Published on by Tom Sedge

The original book behind Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was set in 1992.

When it comes to modern change approaches – particularly those that come from IT, like this reference from ThoughtWorks – then I believe in 2014 we’re not only dreaming about electric sheep, we’re designing and building them.

It’s time to wake up and realise that change is first and foremost about people and the work they do. And so we need to fully involve them in shaping that work and changes to it. Technology is essential to delivering change but isn’t a good way to lead that change.


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Experiences from Prioritisation with Cost of Delay
Published on by Tom Sedge

Cost-of-Delay (CoD) is an important tool for prioritising work. But it is no silver bullet and just like any other tool it can be misused. This is a brief discussion how I’ve found CoD works in practice.

All too frequently, traditional measures such as Return-on-Investment (ROI) or Net-Present-Value (NPV) don’t take into account delay effects. They wrongly assume that timing has no bearing on value, leading to poor prioritisation decisions that destroy value and render calculations irrelevant.



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Video: Kanban Coaching Exchange: The People Path with Bob Marshall
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this video, Bob Marshall talks about The People Path, an alternative to traditional approaches of Leadership, Management and Process, why it is needed, some of its tools (including Non-Violent Communication) and how to get started.



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Demystifying Change: Agile, Lean, TOC, Systems Thinking & 6-Sigma (Part II)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this short series we’re demystifying the differences between common change methodologies including Traditional Change Management, Agile, Lean, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking and 6-Sigma.

In Part I we looked at the big picture and highlighted 16 different aspects. In this article we’ll introduce the six methodologies in more depth, explore their key facets and compare their different objectives.



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You Can’t Engineer Culture Change!
Published on by Tom Sedge

Sometimes people approach everything as an engineering problem.

While this can work very well, not everything can be engineered, some things are emergent – they are a property of the system. This means you can’t engineer them directly, you need to instead create the conditions that encourage the properties you want.

That’s how organisational culture works and I wish more people knew it.



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Why Agile Isn’t Automatically Creative
Published on by Tom Sedge

In a current discussion on LinkedIn the question is posed: “Do Agile Methods Create Creativity and Innovation?”.

The answer might sound obvious and at one time I’d have said “Yes, of course” without hesitation. But what the questioner was getting at was how a focus on maximising production on short cycles can leave little or no time to stand back and think outside the box (this was their experience of Scrum – as run in their organisation).

I also thought of explicit creativity exercises and their apparent lack in many Agile approaches (though of course they don’t forbid them).

So let’s resist a quick answer and explore the topic in a little more detail.



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Example Conflict Resolution with TOC Evaporating Clouds (Part II)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In Part I we explored the nature of conflict and how Theory of Constraints Evaporating Clouds work.

Now we’ll bring the technique more to life with a concrete example using Acme Insurance, an online insurance provider whose CTO and COO are in conflict.



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Make Resolving Conflicts Fun with TOC Evaporating Clouds (Part I)
Published on by Tom Sedge

Conflict in the workplace can be debilitating, destabilising and far from enjoyable. However, there is a useful technique from Theory of Constraints that can make resolving conflicts far easier and, if practiced, even an enjoyable non-threatening activity.

Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a change methodology based on the principle of progressively identifying the biggest constraint in a system, working to first improve the system to better serve that constraint and then to eliminate it entirely, then moving onto the next constraint.

TOC includes a technique called Evaporating Cloud that is ideal for resolving conflicts. In this article we’ll explore how it works.



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Demystifying Change: Agile, Lean, TOC, Systems Thinking & 6-Sigma (Part I)
Published on by Tom Sedge

There’s a world of different change methodologies out there and it’s easy to be overwhelmed and unable to choose. For each one there’s an army of consultants ready to tell you theirs is the best.

The reality is very different: every methodology has its strengths and weakness. They each have different goals and suitability for different environments. The ideal solution is almost always a combination of approaches, but you can’t know which combination unless you understand how they work.

So if you want to raise your understanding and be able to make better choices and keep those consultants on their toes, please read on.



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Exploring Servant Leadership: Comparing the old world and the new (Part III)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this mini-series we’re exploring Servant Leadership and contrasting it with the traditional Boss Leadership alternative.

In Part I we examined the problems and consequences of Boss Leadership. In Part II we explored how Servant Leadership works.

In this final article we’ll complete the picture by looking at the consequences of Servant Leadership and directly comparing and contrasting it with Boss Leadership.



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True Motivation: A marriage of meaning and money (Part III)
Published on by Tom Sedge

There’s a lot of debate on what motivates people to work: is it money, is it autonomy, purpose, mastery, or is it something else?

In Part I we explored the issue and common opposing views. In Part II we dove into a deeper model of motivation and used it to explain how these views are actually compatible.

In this, Part III we’ll cover practical strategies that use this model of motivation to improve motivation in your business.



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Exploring Servant Leadership: Learning to Inspire and Inform (Part II)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In Part I we examined the problems with Boss Leadership and some of the undesirable consequences that follow.

In this article, we’ll explore an alternative, Servant Leadership. We learn what’s different about it and some of its benefits.

In Part III we’ll look at the consequences of Servant Leadership and directly compare and contrast it with Boss Leadership.



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Exploring Servant Leadership: What’s wrong with having a “boss”? (Part I)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In Explored: Management in Networks by Harold Jarche we looked at how management is changing in the 21st century and the possible intersections along the road to change.

One aspect we briefly touched on was Servant Leadership. This mini-series explains what Servant Leadership is and how it differs from the traditional alternative, which we shall call Boss Leadership.



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AOTB: Developing Agile Business Strategies using Test-First
Published on by Tom Sedge

I’m presenting at Agile On The Beach (Thursday 4th – Friday 5th September) on TFDD for Business Strategy: Developing Agile Business Strategies using Test-First.

This will be a practical example-led exploration of how to rapidly develop strategies that work.



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For the last time, iOS 7 isn’t flat! It’s all about depth
Published on by Tom Sedge

I’m getting a little sick and tired of everyone calling iOS 7 “flat”.

People seem to think it is “flat” just because that’s what a lot of the media say. It’s as if no-one is really using it or no-one ever listened to Jony Ive’s explanations. To my knowledge he’s never, ever said iOS 7 is “flat” – quite the opposite.



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True Motivation: A marriage of meaning and money (Part II)
Published on by Tom Sedge

There’s a lot of debate on what motivates people to work: is it money, is it autonomy, purpose, mastery, or is it something else?

In Part I we explored the issue and common opposing views. In this, Part II, we’ll dive into a deeper model of motivation and use it to explain how these views are actually compatible.



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True Motivation: A marriage of meaning and money (Part I)
Published on by Tom Sedge

There’s a lot of debate on what motivates people to work: is it money, is it autonomy, purpose, mastery, or is it something else?

My answer is – all of the above. Let’s explore how it works and then we’ll explore how you can take advantage of this in your workplace.

Can we reconcile two different views?


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What do I need to change? Instant Interactive Insights on Urgent Issues
Published on by Tom Sedge

You might think everything’s fine. You might think there are a few problems but basically everything’s fine. You might think “ok, there are issues, but it isn’t clear what they are or what I can do about them”.

Don’t think any longer – find out.

With the launch of a new free interactive tool, The Ambitious Manager allows you to instantly survey your staff and interactively explore the important issues in your business.

That way you don’t think, you know.

That way you know what needs fixing and you know where the focus needs to be.

That way you get some hard data to help you make the case for change.


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It’s time for properly scalable websites – like this one
Published on by Tom Sedge

The world of websites today is a mess. Many are frustrating to use, slow to load and just don’t work properly on phones or tablets. That’s because of a fashion for fudges rather than fixing the real problems.

It’s time to move on and usher in a new era of properly scalable modern websites. Like this one.

It is 2014.

The first web page appeared in 1991. That’s 23 years ago. A lifetime in technology.

So why the heck aren’t today’s websites easy to use, scalable, consistent across all devices (from phones to desktops), fast to load and fast to use?

It’s largely because of a fashion for fudges: special “mobile” or “tablet” layouts, retina graphics, misguided use of Javascript to “enhance” navigation and the use of ads as a substitute for a proper business model (e.g. compelling content in quality over quantity).

The good news is that it’s easy to move beyond the fudges.


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Delivering Great Services: Merge the best of people and technology (Part I)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In the last few decades of service design we’ve gone from one extreme (people serving people without computers – *engaged tone*), through an intermediate stage (people serving people with computers – “Sorry, the system’s down at the moment”) to another extreme (computers serving people without people – “Error. Invalid service request.” or the exasperated frustration of millions in front of their computer screens).

This is often hailed as progress – yet services today are just as frustrating to deal with and customer satisfaction is poor. Everyone has their own computerised service nightmare story.

Why is this? It’s because in our haste to believe that technology would solve all our problems, we’ve misunderstood how services work and jumped straight to the wrong solution.



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Bringing the Citizen back into Digital Service Design
Published on by Tom Sedge

Today’s narrow focus on digital risks elevating it to become the purpose of services instead of the real purpose: serving citizens

Digital services are in vogue and the UK government has been changing both how they are implemented (using agile techniques) and how they are procured (smaller suppliers, G-Cloud and other frameworks).

With the creation of the Government Digital Service (GDS), “digital” is now at the heart of the Cabinet Office. With the creation of “Digital by Default” it is now impossible to ignore technology when delivering services.

Much of this is a welcome break from poor past practices and there is much to be admired. But there remains something missing and a potentially dangerous risk.



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Measure Outcomes, not People
Published on by Tom Sedge

I recently had an exchange with Jurgen Appelo on Twitter about measuring people’s performance. During the conversation, he said it was impossible to fit the dozen or so recommendations he had into a single tweet.

It all just sounded too complex (complicated? :-) ) to me and why bother with measuring individual performance when there are more useful ways to improve outcomes? So this blog post is to present my own perspective.



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What are the most common Organisational Problems?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand what are the most common organisational problems.

I discuss the common problem of siloed functional hierarchies and the role they play in subverting the purpose of organisations and disruption to collaboration and communication. Local optimisation is at the heart of a lot of well-meaning but destructive change.

Through the example of delivering a new service, we discuss how to structure people in a different way to create highly effective collaborations that focus on end-to-end delivery. Key is the role that these collaborations play in identifying waste and enabling big improvement leaps.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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Pure Kanban: Clearing the fog surrounding a simple and highly practical approach
Published on by Tom Sedge

What is Kanban? You’d think the answer would be simple but there’s a fog of definitions out there, many of which confuse and mix-up useful techniques from Agile, Lean and Systems Thinking with Kanban itself.

The result is confusion with people asking themselves: Am I doing Kanban right? If you’re asking that then you’re misinformed on what Kanban is and how to best harness its power. It’s really very very simple.

You’ll find many definitions of Kanban out there, Joseph Hurtado provides a useful summary of alternatives, David Anderson has his own unique definition and there are many other attempts to define it, some solid and others still evolving.

I don’t like many of them much because they tend to overlook theory and jump straight to defining a cobbled-together set of activities, each one somewhat different to the others. They ignore the fact that these activities are just a small subset of many possible activities, practices, techniques that can naturally follow if you understand the simple theory behind Kanban.

Understanding the theory frees you to create your own activities, practices and techniques that may be better suited to your environment than any “standard” ones you are “supposed” to follow because they are some consultant’s or trainer’s preference. That freedom is what Kanban is really about.

Read on for freedom.


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Explored: Management in Networks by Harold Jarche
Published on by Tom Sedge

I recently came across an excellent thought-provoking article by Harold Jarche titled Management in Networks. The ideas within are well worth expanding on and spreading more widely, hence this post.

Jarche’s central point is that within a network structure (peer-to-peer), cooperation is more important than traditional ideas of common objectives and managed collaboration. As organisations become flatter, people connect directly to others to pursue new objectives. In this world, success is founded on a high degree of knowledge sharing and exploration of areas outside core objectives that traditionally would not be permitted.


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How to avoid screwing up Vision & Mission (Part IV)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In the final part of this four-part mini-series, we continue on from Strategies & Goals, Tactics, Vision & Mission and now look at a simple recipe to put everything together. Finally, we round off with how to avoid common pitfalls when defining a Vision and Mission.

First an appeal: Please do your best not to get it wrong. The world doesn’t need any more bad visions or missions. Better not to have any at all than do it in a half-hearted way.



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Why Vision and Mission matter and what makes for good ones (Part III)
Published on by Tom Sedge

Continuing on from Strategies and Tactics, in Part III we look at the importance of Vision and Mission. In Part IV we’ll look at the common ways people get Vision and Mission wrong and bring all concepts together with Goals in a simple, clear structure.

This was also prompted by a Twitter conversation where a poster told me in response to Part I that Goals and Mission were all the same and what mattered was how you used whatever you called it.

I’d love to agree but I can’t. That’s because I’ve found time and time again that these concepts do matter, are separate and handled properly can make a real difference. So this is to explain why and how.


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Don’t Confuse Strategies with Goals and Tactics (Part II)
Published on by Tom Sedge

In Part I, we examined what triggered this blog post, how people often confuse Goals with Strategies and why this matters so much.

Next let’s look at tactics.

A tactic is a reusable method that can support execution of a strategy. They are reusable because the same tactic may support multiple strategies.

Tactics require knowledge of real work on the ground; a closeness to customers, employees and the market

Tactics are not complete strategies themselves – where strategy is big picture, tactic is down in the detail. Tactics require knowledge of real work on the ground; a closeness to customers, employees and the market.

To achieve any big goals it is essential to have a clear strategy and rapidly get to specific tactics. This is what will guide the whole business in achieving the goals and making them real.


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Don’t Confuse Strategies with Goals and Tactics (Part I)
Published on by Tom Sedge

I’ve just been reading The Difference between Strategy and Tactics by Jeremiah Owyang which repeats the same mistake that people often make: confusion over what a “strategy” is and how it differs from goals and tactics.

First, let’s go back to the definition of strategy, from Merriam-Webster:

Strat-e-gy (noun)

: a careful planar method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time

: the skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal

So a strategy is a path to a goal, not the goal itself.


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What’s the problem with Engagement?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand what the problem is with engagement in the workplace and what can be done about it.

I discuss how recent surveys have shown only 13% of people are engaged in their work and the tragedy that is the lost ambition of so many people in work. I speak about my optimism on the potential improvement that can be made and about the huge difference this makes to people’s lives.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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What is Transparent Accountability?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand what Transparent Accountability is and how it works.

I discuss how transparency and accountability go hand-in-hand and how one can drive the other in a healthy way. How ownership then follows and how this works to bring quiet contributors into the change process.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you handle Supply Chain Management?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to handle supply chain management within a service organisation.

I discuss the importance of effective supplier management and how key it is to understand what should be outsourced by properly understanding an organisation’s core competencies.

Through the example of a call centre operation, we explore the risks of badly-managed outsourcing, how to implement a better, more productive approach that is learning-driven and sourcing complete teams from suppliers. Finally, I discuss further symptoms of badly-managed procurement and outsourcing.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you approach Working with Large Organisations?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how I approach working with large organisations and how this differs to smaller ones.

I discuss the importance of understanding local needs, responding to them and fitting them into a global strategy. We explore how focusing on outcomes rather than methods can transform performance by enabling greater freedoms in different geographical and service areas.

We cover how I up-skill people within an organisation and leverage their skills to handle bigger changes. I mention the dangers of building a dependency on a large consultancy team and how I can bring in other specialists when needed.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you Deal with People Reluctant to Change?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to learn how to deal with people who are reluctant to embrace change and who can be obstacle to progress.

I discuss the importance of understanding why people oppose change and practical techniques to illuminate objections, move past them and deal with stubborn naysayers.

We discuss the importance of organisations embracing failure as a learning mechanism and how this can transform culture and where to put focus for best productivity. I highlight the huge hidden costs that organisations can face when they don’t understand or know how to handle this and the role this plays in creating firefighting cultures where change becomes impossible because no-one has time.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you Build Trust and get Executive Sponsorship?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to build trust when implementing change and how to get executive sponsorship for bigger changes.

I discuss how trust can be built through a series of small successful steps and how significant changes can be implemented without jeopardising existing targets and performance standards.

Through the example of a new Customer Service System, we explore how to find out early what customers need and whether expensive new solutions will provide them. We finish up discussing how managers can get executive sponsorship for changes that they want to implement.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you Involve Customers in Improving Services?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to improve services by involving customers and building them into the development of the service.

I discuss how to bring customers in to the service design and development process, the importance of understanding variation and variability and why accommodating both in service design is so important. We cover the importance of testing out theories with real customers to find out if they work – not getting stuck in a “Theory Space”.

Through the example of Customer Segmentation we explore typical problems and their solutions including how to break down improvements into small discrete steps. I discuss the twin follies of thinking of process improvement as a process engineering problem and local optimisations – we cover how to put customers first and, how to re-organise internally to take big steps forward.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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What’s a Recent Example of what it’s like Working with You?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to hear about recent change work I’ve done and to learn more about how I work and what it is like working alongside me.

I discuss the initiation of a major change programme with a £50bn public sector loan provider working with the CEO, executive team and change team on the ground. I talk about the range of work I do and how my hands-on approach works.

We dig into more detail to discuss how I work day-to-day and how education and strategy are folded in and some of my key tools and techniques. We explore how the impact of my work can be measured to assess its value and both the hard and soft benefits that can be expected.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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When you leave a client, what Legacy do you leave behind?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand what’s typically left behind after I’ve finished working with a client.

I discuss how this legacy is a different attitude to change, a way to tell what matters and what doesn’t and simple principles that people go on to use throughout their careers.

I focus on creating a powerful demystifying simplicity without jargon and how to put things into simple plain English terms. I cover the key questions that people need to ask themselves to drive effective change and common symptoms of bad approaches.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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Why aren’t you Just Another Consultant?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand what makes me different and why I am not just another consultant.

I discuss what it is that makes me different to traditional management consultants and how my approach is far more practical. Sometimes this surprises people because there can be safety in commissioning ineffective reports and assessments that don’t deliver change.

We discuss my measure of success which is the lasting change that I make on the ground and how the way I work rapidly delivers hands-on change. We explore how quickly I can get results and the factors that influence the speed at which organisations can deliver change.

We finish up discussing the importance of understanding organisations and what makes them special and adapting change to fit and work.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you Create Ownership?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to create a much greater sense of ownership within an organisation.

I discuss the role that lack of ownership plays in undermining most change programmes and how my approach is different from conventional change processes.

Through the example of documentation, we explore how whole processes can disappear when people explore what is actually used. Joint ownership of the whole problem enables radical change.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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Why is Feedback so Important?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand why I believe feedback is so important to delivering effective change.

I discuss the importance of feedback and why it is so crucial to discriminate between fashionable theories and practical change.

Through the example of an HR department handling new starters, we explore how feedback can be used to drive improvement in an internal service. We discuss the critical importance of effective collaboration and direct contact between groups to force change and cut through bureaucracy.

Finally, we discuss the importance of embracing failure to create a learning culture in an organisation and how this can be made safe, healthy and low-risk by breaking down work and giving it high visibility.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you approach Education?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how I approach learning and education when working with clients.

I discuss the type of education I use and the principles behind it, focusing on on-the-job training and interventions.

Ann raises a concern about how long education takes and I explain how this is not a problem due to the practical nature of my approach. Through the example of prioritisation, we discuss my approach and how it works in detail.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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How do you Challenge and Change Attitudes?
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this Transformation Dialogues video, Ann Blythman interviews me to understand how to challenge and change people’s attitudes to change.

I discuss the importance of properly listening to and understanding people’s attitudes and what lies behind them. Examining evidence for attitudes is a productive route to change. Many organisations don’t do this.

We also talk about how to identify and help people understand that there is a problem in the first place – there is often no urgency for change. Again, evidence can play a key role, if it is explored. Lack of awareness and knowledge is often the reason this is not done well.

I hope you enjoy this video and more that follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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Transformation Dialogues: The Ambitious Manager
Published on by Tom Sedge

In this, the first of the Transformation Dialogues series of short videos, Ann Blythman interviews me on The Ambitious Manager to find out what it is all about, why I created it, who it is for and to learn more about me and my approach.

I discuss the 4 key frustrations that lead me to create The Ambitious Manager: Attitude, Education, Ownership and Feedback, the challenge of creating transformative change in a digital, mobile, social media world, how ambitious you need to be to work with me and how often organisational ambitious falls sort of what it could be.

I hope you enjoy the video and many more follow soon in the Transformation Dialogues series.


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Organise people in cross-functional teams to dramatically increase productivity
Published on by Tom Sedge

The key to high productivity is “getting the right people in the room”. For a service that means an end-to-end slice of the key people involved in delivering and improving the service that sit next to each other every day. Traditional functional silos destroy productivity because they introduce big delays and buffers between groups, inhibit communication and make functions more important than the whole, putting personal agendas ahead of the business.

The most common problem I see in client organisations is functional specialisation of teams. The bureaucratic, siloed and slow-moving fragmented mess that often results feels a little bit like a war zone.

Who teaches this stuff? It is as if this is the “one true path” or only way to organise mandated by God. Nothing could be further from the truth.



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Prioritisation is key to getting everything that matters done
Published on by Tom Sedge

Many people struggle with an overwhelming workload because there is a lack of prioritisation of work at all levels; everything becomes “top priority” of the week. Strong prioritisation tackles the causes (workload) instead of ineffective traditional strategies that fight the symptoms (time management, training, staff performance management, targets).

“Ok, it’s Monday lunchtime. What’s this week’s crisis then?”

An environment beset with constant firefighting can have many causes, including under-resourcing. But it is amazing how often this situation is internally generated – through a basic lack of structured and sensible prioritisation.



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Kanban or Scrum? Know your constraints before you take the plunge
Published on by Tom Sedge

Many people think that the answer to their problems is to pick an agile approach and use it to deliver their services. In doing this they frequently put the needs of service development ahead of the wider organisation and risk overlooking well-known constraints and context that will trigger failure. Kanban, Scrum and XP each have several key implications which need to be properly understood before taking the plunge.

It is easy to get obsessed with a service development methodology, particularly when everyone’s talking about it. These days everyone is “agile”, or claims to be, and what could be better than a ready-made approach like Scrum or Kanban that is tried and tested and you can take off the shelf?

Whooah! Stop and hold that decision, just for a moment. Before you make a choice that might trap you.



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Leaders: Stop making decisions and start leading instead
Published on by Tom Sedge

Executives frequently misunderstand their role and act instead as managers: controlling work and making decisions. They forget that their job is to define the organisation’s direction and strategy and make it clear, compelling and simple enough that everyone – top to bottom – can safely make decisions in line with that strategy.

‘What do you mean “this is a decision that needs to be made by the executive”? Are they leaders or just managers pretending to lead?’

So many people seem to think that the function of an executive is to make decisions. I mean it is just obvious, right, that’s what you need an executive for isn’t it?

Wrong.



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Understanding demand is essential for delivering solutions that meet real customer needs
Published on by Tom Sedge

Improving existing services or creating new ones is only effective with a thorough end-to-end understanding of the demand from customers. This understanding must be anchored in empirical data on past, present and future demand and real customers.

You can’t fly blind. You might get lucky but more than likely won’t.

Taking a responsible approach to service design means demand first has to be understood. So many organisations forget to do this, or just make it someone’s job in the hope that they will do it well.



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Why I created The Ambitious Manager
Published on by Tom Sedge

I want things to change.  I can’t help it.

When I know there are simple solutions to common business problems it is so frustrating how often these solutions are unknown, ignored or sabotaged for temporary gain.

Something must be done.



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