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.

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

Simple ways to minimise stress

Photo by "impure_with_memory" on Morguefile
“Three little birds … singing sweet song” [Photo by “impure_with_memory” on Morguefile]
Every project causes stress. It’s part of the challenge. But it’s easy to become obsessed about the small details, the milestones, the timeline and forget about the people.  If your team is too stressed, they won’t perform at their best, and your project will be at risk.

Need a simple solution?  Try this one, in a message I sent to the Victoria Derbyshire programme launch team on Happiness Day 2015, two weeks before launch, with tension rising …….


20 March 2015

SUBJECT: Happy Happiness Day

I’ve seen a lot of tired faces over the last week, and heard a lot of people saying “I’m really worried about ….”, “….. has been keeping me awake at night”, “I am so stressed about ….”

These last two weeks before launch will be tough and they will be scary because there are a lot of things still to do, and some things will go wrong. And that is exactly what we want because we will be pushing the boundaries because we want to know where the boundaries are.  And this is how every programme that was ever launched has been – the last few weeks are incredibly full-on.

So it’s really important that you all look after yourselves.  Make sure that, when you are not at work, you manage to relax.  Make sure you get enough sleep. Don’t worry about things you have no control over. And if (when!) the stress starts to get the better of you, recognise it (we are all human) and I recommend doing four things (you too Louisa and Barry!!):

  1. Stop and walk away.
  2. Smile at yourself in the mirror (trust me – it works).
  3. Breathe deeply, slowly and rhythmically for at least 2 minutes (scientifically proven to reduce stress – if you’re interested watch this TED talk by Dr Alan Watkins).
  4. Listen to whatever music will help you relax or release a wave of positive emotions. I usually find Bob Marley ensures I don’t worry.  [If music is not your thing try chocolate or something utterly delicious, exercise, lavender scent, etc. etc.]

What we really need is calm hearts and cool minds. Trust me, everything will be alright on the morning:  We’ve got the most amazing galaxy of talent all pulling together.

We will only launch this great programme once, so make sure you really enjoy it.

(Uncle) Sam

Sam Whipple
, BBC News Change Coordinator