Welcome to suburbia

I've finally plucked up the courage to set-up an online blog. I'm going to endeavour to blog as often as possible to share my thoughts, to share some articles and news i find interesting, and also use it for my private reflections (you guys won't get to see that!). Also i hope people will read and comment on some of my posts.

The spur for deciding to set-up a blog has been my studies through the Open University. They encourage learning and reflection, and collaborating with others.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

My DARE13 experience

I recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend in Antwerp, at the hands of Happy Melly and their DARE13 conference. The conference was designed to bring an eclectic blend of Lean, Kanban, Agile, Scrum, Improvement, happiness theorists and anarchists together in a refurbished shipping hangar on the Western Scheldt. I was pleased to be able to present my experiences from this conference at the Connecting Improvers community monthly call (a community that I created for fellow improvers at OpenText), the slides of which can be viewed at the bottom of this post.

It’s fair to say that I was not a typical delegate. Not being a software guy, nor an Agile coach, nor did I work for an SME or a web startup. I also have no grand ambitions to change the world, unlike Happy Melly found Jurgen Appelo (@jurgenappelo) who, in the absence of Jim Benson due to plane trouble, kicked off the conference with his manifesto for creating tribal businesses. It was a good way to start and really set-up the rest of the conference by being energetic, purposeful and slightly goofy. I was struck by his observation that “we don’t learn from mistakes or from best practice, but from engaging in experiments”, this is pretty controversial seeing as the old business maxim of “best practice” still holds sway, and also the vast number of articles released recently encouraging people to fail fast etc. Business, management and Leadership in its current form is still too much of an art, for it to become a science it would do well to borrow scientific tools like hypothesis testing, building experiments and the like. This chimed quite neatly with another speaker (Paul Klipp) who said: “Organisations don’t teach non-scientists to conduct experiments”

The rest of the conference can be summarized through a helpful 4 box grid I composed. 

Scrum’ers, Kanbanista’s, the cult of Seddon and the free spirits. These titles aren’t meant to be derogatory, merely illustrative. Before attending the conference I was unaware of the schism in the software world between Scrum advocates and Kanban supporters, suffice to say I am not the best person to outline their respective philosophies. But I will echo the words of Dean Leffingwell, who is an avowed Scrum’er, when he explained to those that mock developers using waterfall techniques, that “without it we wouldn’t be here today”. Both methodologies seek to reduce the batch sizes of features or bugs that can be resolved during a certain period, hey just disagree over what the size and the time period should be. What did I learn from this? Well my company uses a customized version of Agile, and I can see the difficulties we have in mastering this skill at an enterprise level, which makes me think Agile isn’t scalable (many other presenters would disagree). What I definitely heard loud and clear was that the world had moved on to exploring Kanban, and that whichever method I chose there were plenty of companies that could sell me software programmes to make it easier to use.

I’ve been exposed to John Seddon before (not in person, sadly) but via YouTube and the systems thinking study during my MBA. And it is core, it makes sense to me; you can’t affect change on anyone part of the system, you need to step back and assess the system in its entirety. I don’t particularly enjoy his criticisms of Lean Six Sigma (hey it’s how I make my living!), but I like people and ideas to challenge my thinking to make sure it doesn’t become fixed. Richard Moir’s presentation was by far and away my favorite. It was simple, practical (looking at Aviva’s IT department’s issues to completing features) and had me reflecting on some of my current projects and whether I was- “Solving the right problem”. I wasn’t by the way, but I struggled to see how you could balance making essential small improvements without killing them off by saying you have to investigate the whole system.

The Free Spirits infuriated me a bit. I think it was the juxtaposition with such detailed and technical material that didn’t compute for my overloaded brain. I like innovative thought, I like to be provoked by unusual and innovative ideas, but I also need to be convinced. Most of the ideas spouted by the free spirits were untested, and so the evidence of practical application producing a positive result was missing. However in the spirit of the DARE to try something motto of the conference there were a couple of ideas I liked, and may even try. I urge you to run out and read Jurgen Appelo’s book “How to change the world”, it is essentially a packaging of all the change management stuff you’ve ever heard, but with all the bits that don’t work removed. Although I was put off by the new age core of Peter Moreno’s talk but was able to accept his message around understanding and controlling emotional reactions at work (deep breathing helps), and I will adopt Laurence Vanhee’s tactic of solving sticky issues in a maximum of 3 meetings.

The best thing about the DARE13 conference wasn't the lunch, or the incredible barista crafted coffee’s, or the time we had for breaks, or the BBQ on the second day. It was the Lean coffee sessions. These are pretty simple to run and ensure that the participants share their experiences and solve problems in a collaborative way. The session starts with a Kanban board (with columns labeled- Prioritized, In progress, Completed) and post-it notes with ideas for discussion. Each person gets to put up their ideas and they get 3 votes to use how they chose to indicate priority. Once prioritized the group takes the top topic and agrees to talk for 8 minutes, at the buzzer there is a simple thumbs up, down neutral to indicate if the conversation should continue or whether the group wants to move onto the next discussion. It was a simple and effective networking, problem solving and sharing device that was an excellent way of regulating discussion and get the most value for the participants.

On a final note, like with many conferences, some of the speakers “didn’t do what it said on the tin”, in that the title and blurb for their talk bared little resemblance to what they actually spoke about. This is a conference peeve for me, especially when I have turned down a choice of two other talks that might do what they say. Also, and this is timeless advice to any presenter- walk the room you’ll be in. It wasn’t until the second day that presenters realized that the stage set-up meant they were walking in front of the projector, also don’t be awed or inspired by having access to conference technology…. Keep your presentations simple and ensure that you can still get your message across in the event of a power cut.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Luxembourg Film festival: a review

Some of you eagle eyed twitter fiends will have seen that I recently had the opportunity to take in (for free!) the DiscoveryZone film festival, which is still a very young festival being only in its third year. Luxembourg, being a small country, reveled in the opportunity to place local films alongside festival staples borrowed from the schedules of Sundance, Toronto and other European events. Despite being a new festival the organization was good, publicity seemed to reach a wide audience and the overall experience was warm; as on many occasions you recognized fellow cinema-goers from other films in the festival. The crowning glory of the festival was its choice of venues, aside from the obvious choice of the multiplex for the set-piece events of the festival (opening night and the awards night), they made the excellent choice to take over half of Utopia (Utopolis’ smaller cousin) and the Cinematheque. Both of these small venues sustained the intimate feel the organisers we’re aiming for. The Cinematheque being a real treat, the oldest cinema (I believe) in Luxembourg, having retained its 1940’s glamour and style, and on the balcony the seating too (ouch!).
If I was to label any criticism at the festival it would be language. I love world cinema and I love independent films, but sadly the local Luxembourgish offerings were restricted to native speakers. Sadly that meant my film choices were limited to a select few American or Canadian options. I totally understand that the festival is designed to be in a mixture of languages, evidenced by the film introductions being conducted in the applicable language of the film. But if the festival was designed to give a platform for the local film industry, then they missed a trick.

So what of the films? Well here is my rundown from 7 through to 1 (most enjoyable) of my festival views.

Spring Breakers

The first film of my festival, and the most disappointing. I had high hopes for the concept; a group of girls need to find the money to go on Spring Break in Miami, but run into all sorts of trouble and the decidedly shady character that James Franco plays. The film’s style was up close, wobbly cam shots and plenty of flesh on display. However seriously the first half of the film took itself, it unraveled into panto and farce in the second half. The point I lost faith in this film was when gangsta Franco sat down at his piano next to his swimming pool to sing Britney Spears’ “everytime”, whilst three girl wearing pink my little pony balaclava’s danced whilst wielding semi-automatic machine guns. Just read that last sentence again. Yeah that’s what I thought too?! Deeply implausible farcical concept that seemed to be for the amusement of the Director and Franco.

Call Girl (Swedish)

I can’t begin to say how let down I was by this film. The trailer makes this look like a fast paced, 70’s stylisesd thriller, focusing on the daring do of a Call Girl madam who provides entertainment for senior government officials in the run up to an election year. This is a true story, which has caused much consternation in it’s native Sweden for implying that Olaf Palme was also implicated in the scandal. The film has an excellent soundtrack, borrowing heavily from synth inspired Kraftwerk beats, the soundtrack to the action is significantly enhanced by taking nearly two hours before an ABBA track is clumsily inserted to remind us this is Sweden. A lot of the commentary about this film surrounds that excellent attention to period detail (I agree) and the juxtaposition of the election campaign’s key issue of women’s rights against the unglamorous depiction of senior government officials engaging in illicit sex. The second point is almost obscured by none of the characters talking about this hypocrisy (this could be wrong as there were no English subtitles) and because the story jumps between the stories of two girls decent into the sex trade and that of the lone wolf police officer investigating the corruption of officials. This film would’ve been better (and shorter) for focusing on one of those stories, my suggestion being to tell the story of the girls’ gradual detachment from society and the complex relationship they have with their madam (the final 30 minutes a great example of the Stockholm syndrome- no pun intended).

The place beyond the pines

The daily mail gave this film a good review…. Nuff said? Nah let’s not be hasty. Starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, this is set in a typical small American town in upstate New York. Gosling’s character robs banks to provide for his estranged son and ex-fling. Cooper is the cop that inadvertently becomes involved and the story moves on focusing on him. The plot is effectively 3 short stories merged into one, I won’t ruin it by explaining this, as to describe it gives away the suspense. What the three stories lack is a thread between them to hold them together, and so the jump through each one feels slightly forced and each story requires a sort of 5 minutes series of explanation scenes/shots to bring the viewer up to speed. Having said that I enjoyed the stories and I though Cooper put in another good performance (following on from Silver Linings playbook) which hopefully will see him put those awful Hangover movies behind him. Gosling, was, well, eye candy. He is becoming typecast as the hunky silent youngish man with issues; which are never fully explained. Don’t get me wrong he is good at this (Drive, Blue Valentine, Gangster squad and now this). His range of facial expressions and his physical movements on screen make up for the lack of dialogue his characters are provided. In summary a decent watch but unconventional plot and direction.

Queen of Versailles
Having read Robert Frank’s two excellent books (Richistan and High Beta rich) on the pre-2008 crash rich and the follow-up on their fall from grace I already knew how this one went, as he profiles the couple at the centre of this drama. This documentary chronicles the life of Real Estate king David Siegel and his stereotypically rich trophy wife Jacqueline, from pre-crash to inevitable decline as they try (unsuccessfully) to build the largest private residence in the US modeled on the Palais de Versailles. The book really makes you not want to ever be rich, the documentary shows that the new rich are only billionaires on paper and that this is a precarious life to lead. The two central characters are superb, David; brought up poor and destitute has a much better understanding of the value of money, rants and raves at the excesses of his family (even before the fall), even imploring them to turn off the lights to save electricity. Jacqueline; a damaged former beauty queen with a big heart and sense of community, but tragically out of depth in the real world. The best scene in the film is when Jacqueline and some of her (8) kids fly economy to her old neighborhood, on arriving at the airport she goes to the rental car desk to hire a car, asking the poor guy at the desk “who is going to be my driver”… comic genius. This is a great documentary, which David tried to stop being shown. This puzzled me as the film paints him as committed to his business and his employees, doing everything he can to save his empire, the only unflattering scenes are when he is around is family; where he is understandably pretty annoyed at their continued excess whilst he is scrimping and saving to revive his business. Great documentary, catch it if you can


Another documentary about a Spanish kid that impersonates an Texan child that has been missing for three years, and goes to America to take his place in the family’s affections. Told by the protagonists, with dramatized aspects to make the story flow. This is how documentaries should be made, it works like a film building suspense up to an almighty crescendo, containing twists and turns to keep you deeply engaged in the participants. As a story this is pretty improbable, as the truth it is even more compelling. Wonderfully crafted, leaving more questions than answers, a really impressive documentary.

I couldn’t  separate my two favourite films; Lore and 7 boxes. They both have phenomenal performances from their leading actors, they both have engaging stories, they are both beautifully shot.

Lore is a film about the children of an SS officer, and their journey (without their parents) across Germany in the last throes of world war II, to get to the safety of their Grandmothers house. Again this is shot in close-up, and is imbued with a sense of nature being all around them as the make the trek north. I watched this film in German with French subtitles, despite this it maintained my interest and even without understanding every aspect you are still drawn to the characters. It is pretty stark and a challenging watch; they are hungry, their 18 month old brother is close to starvation, they find out their father was a leading proponent in the Holocaust, they have to challenge their values by teaming up with a Jewish kid to survive, the lead character is forced to come of age in a society that is falling apart at the seems. I found this thought provoking and moving, as well as showing the opposite viewpoint to the typical WWII movie.

7 Boxes is the Paraguayan equivalent of a Hollywood action movie, in which cars are replaced with wheelbarrows. Fast-paced, thrilling, farcical (at times), fun and full of suspense. What’s in the boxes, why does everybody want the contents, why are the police so inept, etc etc. I loved it, the audience loved it so much that when the credits rolled it got a round of applause (the only movie I saw at the festival that got this response). Every South American film seems to be compared to City of God; this film has that same yellowy sun bleached look, but I would say where City of God is complex and dark, 7 boxes treats its subject matter as light entertainment. Great film, seriously suggest you check it out!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Stealth Innovation

The case for stealth innovation- Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

I often have a strong feeling of dread when the latest copy of the Harvard Business Review is found upon opening the letterbox. Not because it isn’t useful and informative (I should hope so considering the subscription costs!), but more because it’s like a trip to the dentist; you know you have to, and often it’s not that hard once you’re in there, but you dread the thought. Enough of dentist metaphors! This month’s Review contained a great article on stealth innovation.

Not all companies are in the same position as OpenText of having to innovate to remain market competitive; in fact some companies do a roaring trade in talking innovative whilst being anything but. Whilst old school dinosaur companies make a habit out of avoiding it until the last possible moment (I’m looking at you: banking industry).
I found this article interesting on two levels; the practical “how to” aspect of stealth innovation and the shock that some companies that should (perhaps even I just assumed would...) have innovation hard coded into their DNA also struggled with the same issues as mere mortal companies. The article opens on this premise, but doesn’t explore it in detail, with a short anecdote/case study on Pfizer. I mean, if there is one industry you hope would be innovative it would be big Pharma.

But pushing my shock to one side the advice for practically applying stealth innovation was really powerful:

A Leading cause of innovation death is early exposure- it’s sort of obvious, at the idea stage you don’t have the data, you don’t have the solution, you don’t have market research, you don’t know how long it will take and how long it will cost… And logic dictates your idea will be filed under B, for bin (or T for trash for my American readers)

Mandate from the middle- This is where the resources are appropriated, and where people are most likely to understand the implications of your idea. I love the authors’ comment on asking for advice rather than pitching the idea. How many times have you worked yourself up into a frenzy about an idea for someone with different energy levels shock absorb your passion? (Just me then?)

Stealth testing- The strength of this tip was the case study. Again I fell off my chair shocked that at MTV there was a concern that an innovative idea might be killed off. Many questions entered my head at this juncture; I was astonished anyway that someone thought Jersey Shore was a good idea, but now I’m puzzled that this went through a strenuous vetting procedure and still survived intact? In the example chosen by the authors the innovators took risks and were creative in their approach to conducting a test… however I couldn’t help but think most companies would not look so kindly on this type of behavior (with or without performance stats to back it up).

Couple of quick fire points on the rest of the article:

Resourcing- “just find some space in a budget and re-apportion it” I’ve seen this concept in many a textbook but never in any company I’ve worked in… I wonder if this is how academics imagine companies work?
Comparing stealth activity to illegal activity- this is felt came out of no-where and the use of Jerome “What’s a billion between friends?” Kerviel a confusing example… I didn’t see what he did as innovation but more like a massive fraud and attempted cover-up. I felt a better example here would be to have highlighted cases where stealth innovation resulted in compliance issues or minor legal infractions… but I guess that just isn’t glamorous.
Also on a related point, can we stop calling them “rogue traders” it makes them sound like a morally dubious character from the MadMen universe, and instead use the less common phrase “convicted criminal”

For curious types, here is the link to the original article- http://hbr.org/2013/03/the-case-for-stealth-innovation/ar/4   

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Deloitte: Technology, Media and Telecommunications predictions

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of battling snow and ice to get to Deloitte’s Luxembourg office out near the local airport. The presentation was ably led by Paul Lee, Global Director of TMT Research, and the man responsible for gathering the information that makes the predictions possible (80% success rate in the last two years!). I won’t go into the detail of how the predictions are sourced from Industry and then tested with in consumer markets for adoption, you can find out more about that on their dedicated internet site

Instead I’ll list some of his key predictions, and then riff off them below:

Bring your own computer- Very few additional companies will adopt a policy.
Why? Because it relies on companies providing a voucher or subsidy for the employee to buy a PC, hence this is very different to the BYOD trend. That subsidy is a taxable benefit and so it increases costs to the employer; as a result of these two factors only 5% of companies have a BYOC policy. Additionally there is an emerging requirement for BYO IT, as technical support is not easily provided to a range of non-standard operating systems and hardware. But perhaps the most significant barrier (in my humble opinion) is privacy; would you sign up to companies being able to delve into your personal files? But what about VPN I hear you cry? Sadly bandwidth required for high quality VPN is not universally available, and so this may erode the productivity gains that have been forecast for flexible working.

The end of strong password security- The rise of multi-factor authentication.

Why? You can now crack a complex password (e.g. H@rvard567!) with equipment that can be bought for $10k. Also the hackers have moved towards obtaining the master password files from organisations with the intention of decrypting them. In fact Deloitte predict that more than 90% of “strong” passwords are at risk, and a recent study has shown that use of the 10,000 most popular passwords accounts for 98.1% of all in use. So how is this going to be tackled? Multi-factor authentication (not two step as Google et al have been introducing). Examples include a password sent to a register mobile, dongles, biometric etc.
I appreciate the irony, as whilst I was writing this my Yahoo! Account was hacked from Japan, Russia and Romania, and spam sent out to my contacts…. Apologies all!

Over 1 billion smartphones will be shipped this year.

This was interesting purely from a stat and usage perspective. There is a lot of buzz in industry at the moment about going mobile, and the increasing focus on producing mobile compatible interfaces. I’ll admit I struggle with practical application of some stuff in a mobile device; I personally feel more comfortable viewing emails on a tablet, but tend to respond to them on a Laptop… Anyway couple of key things Paul said about mobile;
  • There will be 1.9 billion smartphones in use by the end of 2013
  •  20% of those users may never (or less than once a week) connect their device to the internet through wifi or cellular network.
  • Hundreds of millions of users won’t have a data package!
  • 400 million smartphones’ usage will resemble that of a feature phone (makes calls, texts etc)

This is partly because of high charges for roaming and data usage (see next segment) but is also due to smartphones being handed down (or up, I’m not quite sure) to the older generation; effectively Grandparents will be given the gift of smartphones once their children or grandkids get bored of theirs. As an aside Paul pointed out that they will be used like feature phones also because…. No one is making feature phones anymore!
All you can app (AYCA)

Is a fixed monthly subscription to replace data plans and download limits. Put simply most punters (or consumers) can’t tell the difference (file size wise) between a 30 sec clip of video, music, or web browsing, and thus metered billing is toast! As once they realise how expensive it is to watch live sport (cost price is $10 per GB, but billed to consumers at less than $5 per unit) the market for it will evaporate! So the solution appears to be AYCA; typically bundling social networks together (a bit like cable TV does with channels) and movie services and/or spotify (or other music service providers) for a monthly fee. This is expected to be popular in local income economies with India’s Reliance telecom taking a lead. One of the most interesting case studies is that of Globe Telecom’s (Phillipines) partnership with Google; providing free access to Google services (search, Gmail etc) and the websites navigated too from a Google search… hmmm.

Enterprise Social Networks

This really piqued my interest, mainly (full disclosure) because OpenText has just launched its own ESN internally with the intention of delivering it to the Enterprise. Bullet point observations:

  •          90% of Fortune 500’s will have at least partially implemented an ESN
  •           Only 1/3 of users will read content once a week
  •      With only 40% posting at least once a month
  •           We’ve had intranets since the early nineties, and yet they have hardly garnered high usage stats
  •      On a related note the ratio of TV watching (western Europe) vs. times spent on Social networks is still 40:1

Reasons for these startling numbers are varied; time obviously ranks fairly high, struggling to keep up with another social network feed, and not knowing how to use it…. Hang on what?

Well as crazy as it may seem that last point is key. I’ve been in two companies that have launched ESN’s and both times they’ve suffered from the “why?” question. In a bank I worked in they launched an ESN to encourage collaboration; this really struggled early on as the majority of staff in a bank don’t need to collaborate, they need to follow policy and procedure (note: collaboration is what got the LIBOR traders into trouble… although I appreciate the tenuous cause and effect). Those that do need to collaborate… already do. They’ve not been sitting around scratching their heads wondering why their global project is struggling to get off the ground; they’ve probably been using email and voice conferencing.

There is also the Facebook LinkedIn paradox (not sure if that is the right term), is the ESN for sharing pictures of cats and weekend plans? Or is it to make connections and share business data or business value adding content? In both ESN implementations the answer to that question has been left up to the wisdom of crowds…. With predictable results; The bank ESN felt like entering a dangerous world where a wrong comment or observation could be met with swift retribution from HR, the opposite is true in software (600 communities? How can I navigate that!) where pretty much anything goes.     

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against ESNs. I think they are an evolving force for good. However as Deloitte point out, employees could do with a guide, there should be some loose principles, and it should be aligned if not embedded with existing business processes. If these things don’t happen then over time the tool will wither and die.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Nick Saban: Lean football coach?

Articles like this one delight and frustrate me in equal measure.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban – Lean Thinker?

Let’s start with the negative. Having the same lunch every day to save time in choosing, likewise having an automatic door, as examples of how far Saban will go to eliminate waste. Does a great deal of harm to what Lean Six Sigma process improvement is about. Yes Nick is removing variation, and that is alright for some.... but I doubt (even tenuously) that Nick's lunch order is a root cause of his team's consecutive national championships.

Secondly is this concept of standardisation. The author seems to be suggesting that standardisation is one of the key factors in winning. I agree with the author on the standardisation of the small stuff, however I think rather than talking about continuous improvement he would be wise to focus on the flexibility this affords the team in terms of its playing philosophy (explained in the next paragraph)

What I love about this article is the focus on process. Alabama have a process for preparing teams to win games, not a process for winning games like many other sports teams. The sports world is obsessed with developing a winning formula, the "one best way" if you will, that can conquer all teams in all scenarios. What Saban and Alabama do well is respond well to differing challenges. They've learnt how to adapt to meet the strengths and weaknesses of opponents and they have enough intellectual flexibility to know that sticking to one catch all philosophy is unlikely to work. This work he does with his team means they can flex their approach during games as well, something many struggle with.

The other thing I love about this article is at a detail level. Saban prioritises that which adds value. Coaching and interacting with his players is his number one priority. His team doesn't get better by him responding to emails faster, they don't get better by him spending time with the national and local press, they don't get better by him spending more time watching tape.... they get better because he prioritises time spent with his team; coaching, mentoring, adjusting, reinforcing.

What it also does is add to the volume of evidence that suggests Lean can be applied outside of manufacturing.

What do you think sports fans?

2013 in a word?

Here comes an obligatory welcome to 2013, goals, life changing resolutions, inspiring words from life coaches, articles on how to make the most out of it etc etc post.

The beginning of any new year has this sort of stuff flying off the online shelves. But perhaps with the ever increasing importance of the social web over the last year, this year’s kick off has seen an explosion in the amount of advice available to those unable to decide for themselves.

The only article to sustain my interest was “The most productive way to meet your company’s goals this year: one word” by Jon Gordon. Who, despite having an exceptional irony threshold by having the longest article title for a topic about one word, tapped into my love for keeping things simple. Essentially (for those so jaded by all of the other 2013 articles they’ve read) Jon says that companies that chose strategies that can be summed up in a word stand a much better chance of seeing them executed. He also pulled out a great example of how to get staff involved (for their personal as well as business goal/s) at Charlotte-based Hendrick BMW.

This bears some resemblance to an MBA concept I came across; Strategy as Simple rules (Eisenhardt and Sull, 2001). In this case the authors are advocating a short list of rules that determine how to respond to everyday decisions in a way that is consistent the agreed strategy.

Gets you thinking…. Doesn't it? What would my word be? Etc. I guess it struck such a chord because my other half and I, whilst driving too and from the UK for Christmas, were talking about what our first full year in Europe would look like. Having got through the transition year and the disruption that spending time apart brings; what would our new normal mean? Those that know me well will not be surprised that I picked F as a letter that would mean a lot to us in 2013, and of course they would know that one word would prove far too restrictive!

If I had to pick one word, it would be Fitness. Fitness in the physical as well as the mental sense. Obviously heading towards the big 3 0 means you have to start looking after yourself more/better. But also living in a new culture and country and environment, how could you ignore the opportunities to stay mentally fit; intellectually stretched and personally developed?

Anyway those goals in full; Fitness, French, Food, Friends, Finances, Family. Not in any order of course, all equally important, and resonate equally with the two of us.

Anyway another thing this whole end/begin period did was remind me of a great (and oft quoted) article by Clay Christensen; how will you measure your life. I won’t pontificate on what it means to me, but instead will just lay the theory out there;

Q. How can I be sure I’ll be happy in my career?
Q. How can my family relationships be happy?
Q. How can I stay out of jail?

Clay says the process is pretty simple; create a purpose (strategy) for your life and apply it everyday, allocate your resources to meeting that purpose, be able to communicate that purpose widely and win over those that are skeptical And for all those nursing the early failure of their resolutions, his advice is to avoid “the just this once… it is easier to hold your principles 100% than just 98% of the time”