UPDATE The 4-minute Pesto for Project Managers

Bowl by corinnapyman.co.uk
Bowl by corinnapyman.co.uk

This is an update on my previous post. I have done as I suggest below and worked hard to reduce my personal best time by applying the principles of Lean Project Management. On January 6th, 2019 I finally broke the 4 minute mark. 

I have updated the post with the comments in Red to demonstrate how I reduced the time. 

Here is the perfect recipe for the keen project manager. I’ve applied Lean Project Management methodology to the recipe for Pesto to maximise customer value (it’s yummy) and minimise waste (especially time – homemade is so much better than store-bought, but seems a hassle to make – or does it ….?)

You can follow the text below, or just watch the video to see how it is done.

We’re eradicating as much waste as possible. And we are going to do it in an iterative way. So each time you make Pesto you aim to shave seconds off your Personal Best, and adapt the quantities to increase the flavour. In particular we are going to avoid these wastes:

Travel: pre-position your ingredients and tools, making sure your food processor is right next to your hob to minimise time travelling across the kitchen during the cooking process.

Gold plating: the goal is to maximise the yumminess of Pesto. You are the customer, so you are the judge of what’s worth doing.  I like my pine nuts toasted so this recipe allows for toasting.  If you don’t care about toasted nuts – forget it and save more time.  You can waste a lot of time taking leaves off the stems.  I only cut off the tough bottom bits. Fine measurement of ingredients is unnecessary. You can’t have too much Pesto – so instead of following a pernickety recipe specifying “50g of basil leaves” [how on earth are you supposed to measure 50g of basil leaves?!?] always make the same quantity.

Waiting: It saves time if you do as much as possible simultaneously, rather than following a series of consecutive processes. And because toasting the nuts takes the longest time, you aim to complete all the other steps by the time the nuts are browned.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The slideshow shows my iterative attempts to get my Pesto making time below 4 minutes.

OK – here we go.

Put a hand-full of Pine Nuts (about 125g if you really want to measure) in a frying pan and cook on low heatThis was a critical factor in getting my time below 4 minutes. I did a 04:13:81 pesto with a teflon frying pan on the biggest gas burner on my hob, and it took 4 minutes to toast the nuts on full heat. I feared the 4 minute Pesto might be impossible. And then the most scientific of my children, George, came up with a brainwave: find a pan that conducts heat more quickly than Teflon! So to do the 03:40:82 Pesto I used a cast iron Wok – which toasted the nuts incredibly fast [beware of burning them if you follow this approach].  And that was they key to bringing the time well down below 4 minutes. 

While they are toasting, take 2 big hands-full of Basil. If you are removing stems, keep the basil in the bags and cut off the bottom of the stems while still in the bag.  This opens the bag and keeps the basil together. (You can save more time by cutting all 2-3 bags together in one chop.) Using ready washed saves a lot of time. Chuck the Basil in the processor and, while you are blending, tip some olive oil on top with a pinch of salt and lots of pepper (I like pepper!). Use just enough oil to keep the leaves from sticking to the sides.

Toss the nuts around the frying pan to ensure they toast evenly. You want to judge your heat so they do not cook too quickly and you have time to complete all the other steps before they have browned to ease the flow of your manufacturing process.

Crush 2-4 cloves of garlic.  You can save time by putting raw garlic in your Pesto (in which case you need fewer cloves).  I prefer to take the edge off the garlic by giving them a quick cook.  You are the customer so do what is tastiest for you. If you buy a head of garlic with big cloves, you can save time by using fewer cloves: getting those skins off is a time-consuming, pesky task!  I did consider cooking the garlic with the pine nuts but worried that without oil in the pan, the garlic would burn and taste horrible, and I feared that the pine nuts would not toast well in oil.  The alternative (which I have not tried yet) was a suggestion from my wife’s book club to soften the garlic in boiling water. We have a tap that produces boiling water – so this is an option and would allow the garlic to soften while the pine nuts are toasting … is a 3-minute pesto possible?!

Squeeze juice from half a lemon into the food processor. Not strictly necessary, but I think lemon adds a lot of taste to everything (and so does my Mum): value to the customer. Lime is also delicious! 

Grate Parmesan or Grana Padana cheese using a pyramidal grater positioned on your cutting board.  This keeps the cheese in one place, saving waste and giving you a way of measuring it.  I grate until the cheese comes halfway up a 16cm high grater. You may want more or less according to taste – and you may have to adjust depending on the strength of the cheese you use. Once grated, slide the grater with cheese inside across the chopping board straight into the processor – no wastage. It is quicker if you use a new piece of Parmesan or Grana Padano.  Old cheese hardens and is much harder to grate.

My personal assistant, Bubble, “helping” me review some project plans.

Now there is a potential problem here.  My trusty personal assistant, Bubble, quite likes parmesan cheese and used to enjoy the wastage that would fall off the side of the cutting board during grating.  So you may want “accidentally” to generate a small amount of waste and allow a little bit of cheese to fall on the floor.  Good assistants are hard to come by!

By this point, you want to have judged the heat on your frying pan so that the nuts are toasted.  Each time you make Pesto you want to adjust the heat to make this possible.  After a few goes you will be able to time this perfectly.  Turn off the hob, and tip the toasted pine nuts into the processor. Immediately put a splash of olive oil in the frying pan and scrape in the chopped garlic.  There will be enough heat still in the pan to gently cook the garlic to take the edge off it.

Once the garlic has softened for a few minutes, scrape it in, blend and add olive oil until the Pesto looks right.  You are the judge – some like it runnier than others.

And there you have it! A tasty Pesto which should take you no longer than 10 5 minutes to make. My personal best is 7 mins, 26.81 seconds 3 minutes, 40.82 seconds. It will improve each time you make it as you refine your technique. And you will also have learnt a lot about Lean Project Management – and if you’re lucky, you will salivate the next time you are at work using Lean to manage your project!


This recipe is dedicated to the BBC Spark team who first introduced me to Lean Project Management with the most mouth-watering still of a lean rump steak!

 

Celebrating 2 Years in Business

As 2018 comes to an end – my second full year as a self-employed consultant, coach and trainer – I want to thank all of the people and organisations I have worked with.  It’s been a fascinating journey so far.  When I set out in 2016, I was hoping to:

  • Meet new challenges (tick);
  • See new countries (tick);
  • Enjoy the freedom and excitement of running my own business (tick).

My son gave me a map for Christmas where you can scratch off the countries you have visited. Here is that map showing all the fascinating countries I’ve worked in and the projects I’ve done so far.

SamWorldMap_20181228
Map from www.scratchmap.com; Conceived for Luckies by Xavier Unwin ©Luckies of London Ltd. 2013

 

Looking forward to an equally fun and challenging 2019 and to working with such lovely clients and partners as I did in 2017 and 2018.

 

 

 

The Gift to be Simple

The best expression of the key to high performance is – strange to say – in the film Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.  Sam and Donna are in a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea when Donna expresses words that provide the solution to life’s most challenging problems.

We live in a complex world. Much of what we face in our daily lives appears so difficult to understand, so complicated to explain and so hard to achieve. Yet, every day people do amazing things, often incredibly complex things.

mosaic

I was recently in Morocco admiring the beautiful, exquisitely ornate and symmetrical tiles. The craftsmanship to design and then execute such a complicated pattern is impressive. Outside one palace I saw a chap producing a similar series of tableaux, as intricate as any in the finest palace, as you can see from the photo. Despite the complexity of the design, it was clearly something he found relatively easy. And that got me thinking. There must be a simple process behind the bewilderingly complex design. There must be a way to reduce that complexity to a combination of regular patterns which, once you know them, would allow generations of Moroccan tilers to produce them with ease.

So I set out to establish how the ornate pattern worked, and I broke it down into a series of geometric shapes and angles.

Mosaic_CU

The squares that surround the six main patterns were easy to spot. And as you look harder you can see a square whose corners intersect with the midpoint of the original square’s sides. A third square appears a bit smaller and rotated 45 degrees. And you begin to see how the structure of the design works.

But there are strange angles. Eight white areas radiate around the central shape – but they don’t follow the diagonal splitting the corners of the square equally at 45 degrees.

Mosaic_Sketch1

Continue to look hard and suddenly the solution rises from the picture. It’s not the diagonals! It’s the lines between the intersections of the two internal squares – and there you have your strange angle. From there you can gradually build your lines up to create the full pattern.

And this is how the Moroccan tilers must do it.  No need for complicated measuring tools or protractors. You just need some squares and you can draw your guidelines and follow a simple logic to build up the complexity and beauty of the design.

Mosaic_Sketch2

I spend a lot of time doing this in my work: helping companies turn complicated projects into small, simple, achievable steps. That’s what struck me in Morocco: this is a metaphor for how to approach complex problems.

It’s what I did when confronted with the huge project to produce a training and piloting plan for 2,500 journalists moving into the BBC’s new London headquarters. The final plan was an exquisitely complex spreadsheet with over 50,000 cells. First I looked carefully at the shapes, and saw how they intersected. I then identified simple patterns which I could multiply to create the complex mosaic which was the launch plan.

Executive coaches use the same process to help a client bamboozled by a catalogue of confusing challenges.  The technique is called “chunking down”, where you get them to break the challenge down into its constituent parts to identify the real location of the problem. And suddenly it’s much easier to solve. You identify a series of simple small challenges, aggregate them up to create a comprehensive solution: A simple way to maximise performance.

And you can even use the process when confronting one of human life’s most confusing challenges: Love. Which brings us back to Donna and Sam floating in their boat in Mamma Mia 2. Donna is trying to persuade Sam to drop everything to live with her on her Greek island.

“Nothing is that simple,” says Sam.

Everything is that simple,” replies Donna, “when you break it down.”

Sadly for Donna, Sam didn’t break it down and left her on the island.

Happily for ABBA fans, Donna did.

Lessons from the creators of India’s original mobile-first content

In the 10th to 14th Century C.E., and before the advent of paper, Indian artists painted on long narrow strips of palm leaves. These works of art were meant to be held in the hand, and so were designed to help people enjoy them when viewing from a close distance, just like the content we are now designing for mobiles: also hand-held and seen close-up. There are some exquisite examples of this art-form in Mumbai’s Archaeology Museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.

Folio from manuscript of Prajnaparmita, Palm Leaf, 12th Century C.E. displayed in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, India

As you can see (you may need to expand the images on modern devices: they were designed for the eyes alone!) as important as the text undoubtedly was, they paid much more attention to creating stunning visuals that conveyed the meaning of that text, caught the viewers’ attention and entertained them.  It’s an important lesson to those of us working on mobile-first strategies from what could have been the creators of the world’s first ever mobile-first content.

Pesto for Project Managers (in under 8 minutes)

Bowl by corinnapyman.co.uk
Bowl by corinnapyman.co.uk

Here is the perfect recipe for the keen project manager. I’ve applied Lean Project Management methodology to the recipe for Pesto to maximise customer value (it’s yummy) and minimise waste (especially time – homemade is so much better than store-bought, but seems a hassle to make – or does it ….?)

You can follow the text below, or just watch the video to see how it is done.

We’re eradicating as much waste as possible. And we are going to do it in an iterative way. So each time you make Pesto you aim to shave seconds off your Personal Best, and adapt the quantities to increase the flavour. In particular we are going to avoid these wastes:

Travel: pre-position your ingredients and tools, making sure your food processor is right next to your hob to minimise time travelling across the kitchen during the cooking process.

Gold plating: the goal is to maximise the yumminess of Pesto. You are the customer, so you are the judge of what’s worth doing.  I like my pine nuts toasted so this recipe allows for toasting.  If you don’t care about toasted nuts – forget it and save more time.  You can waste a lot of time taking leaves off the stems.  I only cut off the tough bottom bits. Fine measurement of ingredients is unnecessary. You can’t have too much Pesto – so instead of following a pernickety recipe specifying “50g of basil leaves” [how on earth are you supposed to measure 50g of basil leaves?!?] always make the same quantity.

Waiting: It saves time if you do as much as possible simultaneously, rather than following a series of consecutive processes. And because toasting the nuts takes the longest time, you aim to complete all the other steps by the time the nuts are browned.

OK – here we go.

Put a hand-full of Pine Nuts (about 125g if you really want to measure) in a frying pan and cook on low heat.

While they are toasting, take 2 big hands-full of Basil. If you are removing stems, keep the basil in the bags and cut off the bottom of the stems while still in the bag.  This opens the bag and keeps the basil together. (You can save more time by cutting all 2-3 bags together in one chop.) Using ready washed saves a lot of time. Chuck the Basil in the processor and, while you are blending, tip some olive oil on top with a pinch of salt and lots of pepper (I like pepper!). Use just enough oil to keep the leaves from sticking to the sides.

Toss the nuts around the frying pan to ensure they toast evenly. You want to judge your heat so they do not cook too quickly and you have time to complete all the other steps before they have browned to ease the flow of your manufacturing process.

Crush 2-4 cloves of garlic.  You can save time by putting raw garlic in your Pesto (in which case you need fewer cloves).  I prefer to take the edge off the garlic by giving them a quick cook.  You are the customer so do what is tastiest for you.

Squeeze juice from half a lemon into the food processor. Not strictly necessary, but I think lemon adds a lot of taste to everything (and so does my Mum): value to the customer.

Grate Parmesan or Grana Padana cheese using a pyramidal grater positioned on your cutting board.  This keeps the cheese in one place, saving waste and giving you a way of measuring it.  I grate until the cheese comes halfway up a 16cm high grater. You may want more or less according to taste – and you may have to adjust depending on the strength of the cheese you use. Once grated, slide the grater with cheese inside across the chopping board straight into the processor – no wastage.

My personal assistant, Bubble, “helping” me review some project plans.

Now there is a potential problem here.  My trusty personal assistant, Bubble, quite likes parmesan cheese and used to enjoy the wastage that would fall off the side of the cutting board during grating.  So you may want “accidentally” to generate a small amount of waste and allow a little bit of cheese to fall on the floor.  Good assistants are hard to come by!

By this point, you want to have judged the heat on your frying pan so that the nuts are toasted.  Each time you make Pesto you want to adjust the heat to make this possible.  After a few goes you will be able to time this perfectly.  Turn off the hob, and tip the toasted pine nuts into the processor. Immediately put a splash of olive oil in the frying pan and scrape in the chopped garlic.  There will be enough heat still in the pan to gently cook the garlic to take the edge off it.

Once the garlic has softened for a few minutes, scrape it in, blend and add olive oil until the Pesto looks right.  You are the judge – some like it runnier than others.

And there you have it! A tasty Pesto which should take you no longer than 10 minutes to make. My personal best is 7 mins, 26.81 seconds. It will improve each time you make it as you refine your technique. And you will also have learnt a lot about Lean Project Management – and if you’re lucky, you will salivate the next time you are at work using Lean to manage your project!


This recipe is dedicated to the BBC Spark team who first introduced me to Lean Project Management with the most mouth-watering still of a lean rump steak!

 

Childish ways to maximise happiness

img_7492The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that humans were born with perfect knowledge, but somehow forgot it all at birth. So acquiring knowledge later in life is actually recollecting things we already knew.
I remember thinking this was absurd when I first read it (at school where I appeared to be learning all sorts of things that seemed to be totally new). But, as time goes by, I increasingly think that he has a point.
I am currently working with an Indian media company. In the newsroom I saw a notebook with these words on the outside:

The creative adult is the child who survived.

This got me thinking. The amazing thing about the people who work in that newsroom is how incredibly hard they work. They are a business channel covering the ruckus of the Bombay Stock Exchange in a roller coaster of live output with flashing tickers, graphics and logos. Every moment there is a breaking “flash” as another company releases its results, or a stock price “tanks” or “spikes”. But despite working very long hours and under great pressure, they seem happy – childishly happy –  not that they are in any way childish themselves (they are utterly seasoned professionals). They are childishly happy in the way that a child is happy when totally engrossed in his or her play: demonstrating utter concentration and dedication, and a sense of fun and enjoyment. It’s wonderful to see.

So this article in Time 4 Ways to Live a Happier Life caught my eye when it popped up on my Twitter feed the same week. The author, Eric Barker, quotes the philosopher Nietzsche, echoing Plato’s theme:

A person’s maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child at play.

The article advocates smiling, laughing, touching and teasing as its 4 routes to happiness. These should all be easy to do, “child’s play” as the saying goes, because they are all things that kids do naturally. The article concludes, if you want to be happy:

resolve to approach life like a big kid.

When you think about it, it’s obvious: we instinctively know that it is correct …. and yet somehow we stressed-out adults have managed to forget that simple truth. Perhaps Plato was right after all.

Sporty ways to maximise performance

If you like sports and you’re interested in performance and leadership, here are my favourite 5 books.

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Matthew Syed shows that no one is born brilliant. We all have the capacity to be the best if we work at it. It will make you think differently about failure: If you have a growth mindset, failure is not something that saps energy and vitality, but provides “an opportunity to learn, develop and adapt.”

 

 

41hvww7xz3l-_sx323_bo1204203200_Ed Smith’s book is the perfect companion of Bounce. However hard we work, shit happens and we have no control over it. But  bad luck can turn to good luck if we adapt to it.   “Successful people, by being open to opportunity and exposing themselves to chance, take new directions that prove more fruitful than anyone could have predicted.” For a vidid demonstration of the effect Luck can have on your life, read his beautiful final chapter.

the_inner_game_of_tennis

Timothy Gallwey’s revolutionary programme to conquer self-doubt and lack of confidence in sport. It taught me to increase my enjoyment in playing tennis, with the inescapable result that I now play it better: an essential lesson in improving performance.

 

9781472103536_z

How do the All Blacks manage to stay so focussed throughout a gruelling rugby match that they are able to win by the narrowest of margins in the final seconds of a game? The answers are all here. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Karen O’Brien for giving me this one.)

 

51k-aykeyil-_sx325_bo1204203200_

If you agree with me that cricket is the perfect metaphor for human life, and you want to know how to be a successful leader in either game, then read this book by the best captain England ever had. How do you motivate mavericks like Ian Botham or Geoffrey Boycott?  (Probably only for the real cricket enthusiast!)

How to put a smile on your face

file000502394427
Photo by Spike on morguefile.com

We know that smiling into a mirror kicks off chemical reactions that make us feel happy. But listening to happy music is more powerful and much more fun. So in honour of #WorldSmileDay, here are my top 5 tunes to make you happy:

 

  1. My post on simple ways to minimise stress recommended Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. So Bob goes straight in at number one.
  2. As Bobby McFerrin wisely says, “In every life, we have some trouble. When you worry, you make it double. Don’t Worry. Be Happy!” Whistle along!
  3. Or actually Sing A Song, particularly one with a base line like this one. “Smile, smile, smile and believe. Sing a song. It’ll make your day.”
  4. OK, While My Guitar Gently Weeps may not sound like the happiest song. But the pure genius of Prince (guitar solo at 3’28) sends shivers up my spine and makes me smile with delight. And the way he chucks his guitar away at the very end is hilariously brilliant. Trust me!
  5. Now we need some dancing too and no happy list would be complete without James Brown’s I Feel Good. If you can match his footwork, you’ll be smiling all day. (With a bonus intro from Ed Sullivan.)

Happy World Smile Day.  [Sorry Pharrell – you’d make the top 10 for sure!]

Magical ways to maximise performance: How Harry Potter can help you conquer your fear

Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling
Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling

When your goal is to achieve confident leadership, so the saying goes, there’s no magic wand. You cannot suddenly become a great leader and remain one forever. It’s a journey not a destination. And even if you do have a magic wand, it’s still a challenge. There are no super spells that Harry Potter and his friends can cast to solve their confidence issues. (The books would be pretty dull and short if they did!) But JK Rowling provides them with useful ways to confont their deepest fears. And they provide us muggles with powerful images: magical ways we can use to maximise our performance.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Remus Lupin introduces his defence against the dark arts class to the Boggart. Here is the scene in the excellent film produced by Warner Bros. Entertainment.

A Boggart is a magical creature that works out what your greatest fear is and mimics it.  Professor Lupin sends each student up to face their fear and to learn to conquer it. “The charm that repels a Boggart is simple,” Lupin explains, “yet it requires force of mind.  You see, the thing that really finishes a Boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing.”

So the young wizards are trained to use the Riddikulus charm which (no surprise) makes the Boggart ridiculous and causes them to burst into laughter. And once you laugh at a Boggart –  once you laugh in the face of fear – it’s no longer frightening. So the wizards are trained to follow a very simple two-step process:

  1. Know your Boggart. They identify what their greatest fear is. For Neville Longbottam, it’s Professor Snape.  For Ron Weasley, it’s a giant spider.
  2. Make it ridiculous. They think how to make their greatest fear laughable, and, if they concentrate on that, the Riddikulus charm will make it happen. So Neville’s Snape ends up wearing Neville’s granny’s clothes, and looking extremely funny. Ron’s spider has roller skates on each of its legs and skids around hilariously. Once they’ve laughed at it, the Boggart is no longer scary. Their fear is gone.

Most of this is not magic: Laughter is the best medicine because it releases feel-good chemicals which ease our anxiety and stop our fear – that’s how our physiology works.  So try the same process:

Continue reading “Magical ways to maximise performance: How Harry Potter can help you conquer your fear”

Launching my new business

I am pleased to announce the launch of my new business.

I provide Change Management, Leadership Training and Executive Coaching to help businesses and individuals find simple ways to maximise their performance.

Change Management is my specialism. I manage complex projects involving new technology, new ways of working or programme launches. I delivered the most ambitious training and piloting plan in BBC News history ensuring over 2,000 staff arrived in its newly redeveloped headquarters on time, on budget and with improved output.

I supply Leadership Training to help you get the best from yourself and your teams so they can thrive in a rapidly changing world.

And I provide Executive Coaching to increase your confidence, adapt your thinking and behaviour to the challenges you face, and improve your effectiveness.

Why work with Sam Whipple?

“Sam is the most reassuring person I have ever worked with.” Louisa Compton, Editor, Victoria Derbyshire Programme.

“Sam made sure the project was so smooth … without him I can confidently say it would not have been possible.” Liz Corbin, BBC Singapore Bureau Chief.

“Thanks to Sam’s utterly meticulous planning … the training and piloting plan was faultless.” Jenny Baxter, BBC Controller of Production 2009-13.

I look forward to working with you.

Sam