Archive for November, 2012

Do the same thing as last year ? Flux that.

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Generation X, Generation Y, the Millennials, Gen YNot.  All useful and descriptive phrases.  ( If everyone in the meeting is clear on what they mean that is. ) The next generation that will change everything however is not purely defined by age and demographic but by attitude and action.  It is Generation Flux.

The pace of change in business is accelerating.  Sometimes this feels chaotic.  Some powerful people in our industry seek to hold back from changing things too fast.  I am often reminded not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (as if I would).

FastCompany magazine is convinced that the way to ride the chaos is extreme flexibility through every part of your organisation.  They write “What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates–and even enjoys–recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions”.  Not everyone will join GenFlux.  But any organisation that lacks the ability to embrace the climate of change will be at a disadvantage.  To do well you need a collection of skills, but it is more key whatever your skill base to be open minded and of course flexible.  Part of the current climate is that no-one can predict which element of change will be most successful.  But curiosity for change and a hunger to test and learn new ways is essential for people and organisations that want to have a good year in 2013 and beyond.

Campaign magazine asked this week if “media buying briefs kept up with the changing lifestyles of the 40-plus demographic ?” That’s a good question to ask but the real question is around the looming divide between GenFlux and everyone else.  Are media briefs delivering against the same kpis as last year in the same ways or are they looking for change? What signals are senior managers giving their teams – are you being asked for stability and consistency or to challenge everything?   It’s time that bathwater got stirred up a lot more in my opinion. Hold that baby for me would you, it’s time to pull the plug.








Which is better : man marking or zonal defence ?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Source : ESPN

Which would you prefer in your organisation: a management structure where – when something goes wrong – you know whose fault it is?

Or a management structure where it’s less clear whose fault it is when things go wrong, but where there is a greater chance of success?
In other words, would you give up a little accountability if it meant a chance of more success?

Accountability is a good thing right?  You only have to look at the Newsnight mess to understand the need for clear and structured accountability.  The Telegraph says “An official report into the programme, by the BBC’s Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie, found there was confusion about who had the ultimate responsibility for “final editorial sign-off” on the story which falsely linked Lord McAlpine to a paedophile ring.”

We like to know what the clear areas of responsibility are in organisations and we like to be able to point the finger of blame at the perpetrators of mistakes.  We like to do it, but it is not the way to solve the problems which may well be endemic or cultural instead (with the exception of problems caused by new rogue players).

This is like the preference for man marking in English football teams versus zonal defence.  Man marking is simpler to control.  If opposing player X scores a goal then it is team player Y’s fault and they must do everything and anything to stop it happening.

What could possibly go wrong with that? What goes wrong is that teams playing that system still routinely give away corners.  When they do concede a corner then every player who wasn’t responsible for man marking the scorer from the opposing team breathes a sigh of relief that it wasn’t their fault.  You can sometimes see them pointing the finger at the defender who screwed up.  This is no way to deliver a winning team spirit.

Zonal defence requires more effort to work as a team and it requires anticipation.  It is not the most simple way to instruct people.  It requires skill and perspective and brave leadership.  But without collective responsibility and cultural alignment against a purposeful goal then the team will lose, the match, the cup, the season and eventual be relegated to a lesser league.

Organisations that wish to be world class need to bear in mind that pointing the finger is the least best way to drive true winning accountability.



A quiet man of honour.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012


This blog is dedicated to Geoff de Burca.  In fact he paid for it.  Let me explain.

One week after the amazing Channel 4 Stand up to Cancer night, MediaCom ran its own version in the bar in Holborn.

Compered for the evening by the inimitable Jem Lloyd-Williams (McIntyre eat your heart out) the evening comprised entertainment from a selection of MediaCom comedians (you can do your own jokes here but the stand ups included COO Josh, joint strategy head Steve, head of press Adam and joint head of trading Phil and also featured global head of art, Sam’s “dark satanic interpretation of a popular quiz show”).  Proceeds from the bar obviously went to CRUK but there was also an auction of services and that’s where this blog comes in.  For one night and one night only the content of this blog was for sale and went to the highest bidder.  Step forward Geoff who acquired the blog after a tough tussle with our head of Create and our head of Finance EMEA.

I’ve known Geoff now for a couple of years.  He works as a director in our CiD team (that’s the Challenge and Innovation team here at MediaCom.)  He would describe himself as a generalist.  I would describe him as one of the most curious and interested strategists I’ve met.  In fact he’s so known across the planning floor for his almost obsessive search for knowledge and experiences that they call him “one step ahead of Google”.

He’s one of life’s natural explorers both intellectually and literally – he uses every day off to go somewhere – in the last 12 months he’s been to Vietnam, Barcelona, France, Malta and Porto, and his next trip is to Iceland.  On recently acquiring a Kindle, he has downloaded all the classics and is working his way through all of them.

One of the most obvious things about Geoff as you come to know him is his sense of honour.  He will never give anything or anyone less attention than they require.  He will always treat people and projects with respect and empathy.  And he will always give the right and proper advice (even if that means tough love sometimes).

Recently Geoff and I worked on a pitch together.  His skill at the dark art of behavioural economics is second to none, and it was on the basis of this that we effectively tore up the expected response to the brief and sold in a startlingly innovative and yet pragmatic suggestion. This took guts and conviction.  Not just to sell the idea internally but to sell it to the potential client.   Not only was the pitch successful but you should see the evidence of the thinking creating impact and real change as the ideas in the pitch become real before the year turns.

I’m glad Geoff bought this blog, because it gives me the chance to tell him how his colleagues feel about him.  Geoff is one of those people with whom it is a privilege to share an office.  He and his work continue to grow.  The best is yet to come.