Tag Archives: management training

Agile London at Thomas Cook

Agile London - worth attending if you work in software development
Agile London – worth attending if you work in software development

This evening I went to the latest Agile London event, hosted at Thomas Cook, at a supremely convenient location about quarter of a mile away from the Endava office.

Our host for the evening was Jesus Fernandez, the Development Manager at Thomas Cook. In a concise introduction he described how Thomas Cook has been consolidation pretty much everything – from its management team to the brands it was selling, to its technology platforms.

Thomas Cook is an £8bn ($13bn) public company which has recently gone through a Digital Transformation programme. Continue reading Agile London at Thomas Cook

Two great leadership quotes from Eisenhower

I heard a great speech today about leadership where a two quotes from Eisenhower were cited and worth repeating here:

“Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Internet World


I spent today at Internet World. In the morning I met a number of vendors who we currently work with (such as Sitecore and Telligent) and ex-colleagues from my IMG days (such as Ismail at Webcredible). In the afternoon I went to a number of presentations from Blue State Digital, Attensity, Hilton and Dixons.

The presentations were far more information than previous years. All the presenters seemed more willing than previous years to impart key information – such as uptime statistics, very specific keyword analysis on social media listening (which included some negative publicity on a key client) and so on. This isn’t a complaint whatsoever – its a welcome observation.

Key points from the presentations:

Blue State Digital

  • BSD (owned by WPP, and they work with one of our clients) ran Obama’s digital campaign (13m subscribers, raised $600m donations from 3.2m donors, generated 1 million User Generated Photos of which many were used in campaign videos). 
  • A lot of thought about “seizing key moments” e.g. when Sarah Palin attacked Obama in speeches they sent plain emails responding immediately to her comments. BH: Sounds great – but how do you stop crying wolf for everything that might happen to a brand?
  • Every piece of content needs to drive a next step action (for example share, submit, click for the next step, comment) and as a proof of practising what they preached, I noticed that even the PowerPoint had questions not bullets
  • BSD recommend to their client not to mass newsletters. Instead, personalise them and target them
  • The key takeaway was on a ladder of participation, was to create one and measure it for clients. E.g. What’s the total number of consumers a brand reaches? What is the web traffic? How many email sends are there? How many emails are opened? How many Facebook fans on their page? How many people contribute in the on portal community?, and so on.


  • Key take away was their methodology: Listen, Analyse, Relate, Act
  • Conversations happen over multiple channels, not just social media and not just web. For instance they have a travel client and they “listen” to Travelocity and Hotels.com. To put this into context, most social media listening tools focus on Twitter, Facebook and some blog networks.


  • Surinder Phuller was excellent. Social media is about being open and transparent, and she got this more than most of the other social media speakers and other social experts that I’ve met in the last few months.
  • Her presentation was about using video content on social networks to improve sales
  • Their themes/ “targetted methodology” (you had to see it to understand) was to brand content, destinations, and specific hotels
  • It is an opportunity to sell ancillary services such as the spa or restaurant which historically has been very difficult within some hotel locations.
  • They sent Flip video cameras to all the hotels and asked local hotel staff to shoot them and upload them – not professional production teams
  • At first they sent the Flip cameras out and got poor quality videos back, e.g. “Here’s my ballroom, isn’t it lovely?”
  • She then worked on content plans with the hotels, training local staff with 12 month content plans with the above themes, such as asking staff at the Hilton Park Lane on their opinion of the Royal wedding
  • After the content plan the content improved to information about the local area and personal thoughts from staff members
  • The general aim was to get the hotel staff and their personalities into the videos, so you know that when you’re going to stay at a particular Hilton, you know the individual staff before you get there


  • Excellent presentation from Chris Howell, their IT Director
  • The presentation was all about customer experience – measuring it; acting on it; not hiding from the facts when the site has poor performance
  • Chris learned at Tesco what it means to be customer focussed, and his presentation was all about taking that to other companies
  • Chris raised an excellent point which is that the quote “Jack of all trades, master at none” is actually only half the quote. The full quote is “Jack of all trades, master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one“. Definitely the topic of a future blog post!

If you have some time on Wednesday, it’s worth popping down to Earls Court Two and hopefully the presentations will be as insightful as Tuesday’s. Please let me know what you thought of the exhibition via the comments below or on Twitter (@bradbox).

Book Review: When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead


Actually, the full title of the book is “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man” by Jerry Weintraub.

I confess that I’d never heard of Jerry Weintraub before. The thing that jumped out at me on the back cover (written by George Clooney) was that he produced the films (if you don’t know what a film producer does, this book will explain) Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen.

He’s done a lot more than that in his colourful life, from playing tennis with both George Bushes (together), taking Elvis and Sinatra on tour (separately), managed George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, as well as learnt how to deal with the mafia (tell the truth and keep the law). Not bad for a child from the Bronx 70 years ago.

He happily divulges his secrets – he doesn’t think he’s particularly clever, just persistent and excellent at sales. And he demonstrates the same sales process time and time again. One of my favourites was selling the LP sleeve of a John Denver album before Xmas (sending it top of the charts), without the record inside! Because Denver was late finishing the record, and Weintraub sold everyone the concept that you’ll get the record later. Hilarious, ridiculous, and gutsy.

He also did a thousand other things which most of us would love to do, each in it’s own entertaining way.

The book is really easy to read. I found myself hiding in corners of the house on the weekend trying to read it quicker. I had a bath on Saturday evening (which I only normally do when I have a bad cold) for an hour while I read it. And I must confess it was I who blocked the escalator from the Northern Line at Bank station this morning because I was midway through the chapter on Dancing with the Rebbe.

OK, there’s a liberal dose of American-yeehar-I’m-so-successful in there, however you can see that he tries tempering this with the love for his family (parents, brother and children) and friends. His thoughts on death and religion were like having a conversation with a close friend.

And that’s the book’s style – it’s like he’s there next to you telling you lots of interesting stories. I still don’t know what his voice is like, but I feel like he’s been talking to me all weekend!

Thanks to Alex for lending me the book. Alex asked me to pass the book on to the next person. Just remember I spent an hour in the bath with it on Saturday.

Change: the enemy of stability, sometimes


I’m a great fan of change at work.

Sometimes I like change for the necessity of just changing something. As a small example, at work I recommend people keep moving desks a couple of times a year, to sit next to different people (for many reasons – spread knowledge, establish a good, deeper relationship with different people, get a different perspective, and so on). 

The one element of change at work that I don’t like is system changes. When I speak to friends outside of work, they are amazed at why organisations need such large IT organisations, or even why a website needs so many technical resources.

Changing a system always brings a level of risk. Always. No matter how much everyone thinks “nothing can go wrong” – and yes, I hear this from experienced people as much as junior people – it can always come back and bite.

Unfortunately, the only way that you can assess risks of change appropriately is to be burnt (aka “get it wrong”). And after being burnt, its important to act almost scared of it happening again.

Several years ago we made a small modification to a website on a Friday afternoon. You can tell what happened next – there was a problem, and we all ended up working late into the weekend. Since then, we have a blanket rule of no live rollouts after Friday lunchtime.

I spoke to a senior manager at Endava about this recently, and he said that whenever his Managed Services division engage with a new client having stability issues, the first thing they improve or implement if it doesn’t already exist is a full Change Request procedure. This immediately requires people to stop fire fighting and think about any changes. And it always reaps rapid improvements. 

Another example is that retail banks have a code freeze during the last quarter of the year, to prevent anything impacting Xmas sales. On some of our sports websites at work, Xmas can be the busiest period (e.g. football). However we insist on a system wide freeze well before the Xmas period, and this creates the highest level of stability of the year. Let me repeat – the busiest time of the year in the most stable!

People adapt to change well. Even if it requires some help during the initial change ‘shock’. However systems rarely respond to change well.

Patrol Leader Training

I was provided with some training material a few weeks ago for our Scout Group and thought the content was just as relevant to professional business teams as it was to Scouts – see the slides above for my ever-so-brief-summary.

It was written in quite an old fashioned, quirky way, but the points are still useful.

Here are some of the key points. I’m happy to email you full A4 sized scans of the full 10-12 pages if you want – just contact me.