Leadership Training

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.


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.


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.



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.)



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

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.


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