Monday, 9 February 2009

The Shepherd and the Porsche

At a CIO event in London at the moment for the public sector - lots of people from the NHS, Local Government, the Met Office, Schools and Colleges etc. Always like these events - nice to get out of the Education sector for a while.

Evening started very well with a presentation from the CIO from Transport for London. And yes, somebody did mention the buses stopping last week! He has a varied job - from running the tube system, the buses and every traffic light in London, to the technology behind the Oyster card and the congestion charge. Over 1 billion people use the Tube each year - talk about a customer base! Fascinating talk, and so much of what he said could be applied to our own organisation. He had some good quotes - from a German book on project management - "if at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried". And one of my favourite stories about management consultants which some of you will have heard before but it merits repeating:

"Once upon a time there was a shepherd looking after his sheep on the side of a deserted road. Suddenly a brand new Porsche screeches to a halt. The driver, dressed in an Armani suit, gets out and asks the shepherd:“If I can tell you how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?” The shepherd looks at the young man, and then looks at the large flock of grazing sheep and replies "OK".

The young man parks the car, connects his laptop to the mobile-fax, enters a NASA Webster, scans the ground using his GPS, opens a database and 60 Excel tables filled withl ogarithms and pivot tables, then prints out a 10 page report on his high-tech mini-printer. He turns to the shepherd and says, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep here.”

The shepherd agrees and says that the man can have his sheep. The young man makes his pick and puts it in the back of his Porsche.

The shepherd looks at him and asks "If I guess your profession can I have my animal back. and the young man says, “Yes, why not”.

The shepherd says, "You're a Management consultant".How did you know?” asks the surprised young man.

“Very simple,” answers the shepherd. "First you came here without being asked, and then you charged me a fee to tell me something I already know. You also know nothing about the business. Now, can I have my dog back".

He has made tremendous changes in the organisation, and his main message was that change comes from good leadership, and by focusing on the people, not the technology.

Now, I have to go to bed as my first session starts at 8.30 tomorrow morning.

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