Beneath the shade of an old walnut tree

Recently I have developed a bit of habit in the evenings… binge-watching cooking shows.

Now, those that know me, know I do enjoy a bit of cooking, especially making anything new (fresh mozzarella anyone… the latest project, although not quite sure how this will turn out!).

These shows are great for new ideas, as well as making me very hungry late at night… but it is not the only reason I find them fascinating.

The other reason is the compelling nature of watching chefs designing new creations and the process they use to do it.

A dash of inspiration, a bucket load of hard work, together with trial and error.

All of this got me thinking about the pursuit of excellence and similar themes I started to observe in many places.

Meraviglioso

A recent holiday in Italy was a case in point – the Amalfi coast and Capri. It was wonderful, but on taking a wrong turn, down the wrong street, and getting lost I happened upon the part of town that I do not normally go to… the expensive part.

It was a world full of art galleries, perfume shops, and manicured streets; perfect hotels with perfect swimming pools, empty sun loungers, and of course wonderful food… with a view.

What is there not to like?… I had my “Fraiser Crane” moment and drank the atmosphere in.

Then the realization dawned on me that high-quality, perfected processes really are a wonderful thing to behold… albeit rather an expensive thing to buy.

And, I thought this has relevance in the real world… back at home and in the office.

Sometimes this can be done without much thought, running the same process each day, on auto-pilot, just another thing to complete before the end of the day.

Many of us spend much of our working lives managing and operating processes.

Yes, we may say we want to achieve process excellence, but in the melee of day-to-day operations, it does not seem to happen.

The Chefs Table

Yet there are tips we can learn and use from the chef’s table right here too.

Excellence and perfection seem to be found in setting a clear single objective, then using the iterative process to tweak, test, and taste to constantly change and observe… only to then retry and retry again… hopefully getting better each day.

No doubt there are setbacks, and bad days… but the key appears to be watching and listening carefully to what works and what does not.

In the end, with dedication and practice, the process gets gradually perfected.

Yes, just running the process is important, without the basics it does not get done.

But, once we have the basics mastered, in reaching for excellence the difference between good and great, seems as much a state of mind and a great deal of practice, if anything else.

This was a source of great comfort. Excellence is something we can all achieve if we put our minds to it…

It is of course not only good news for process design and management but hopefully also for my future cheese-making endeavor too (I will let you know on this one mind you!).

Have a good week everyone.

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Times are a changing

News this week has of course been dominated by the Queen, sadly passing away, now succeeded by King Charles.

My first thoughts were, of course with the family, it is no doubt a difficult time for them.
My second thought was how to avoid the full force of the blizzard of news seemingly on every TV channel, newspaper, radio interview, and all across social media… in the UK it has been relentless.

For some, this coverage has been overwhelming, for others, perhaps reminding them of their own experiences of loss, difficult, whilst those remaining simply a poignant marker of a key point in history… it is though without doubt change and a change of an era.

For me, times like this also bring into stark contrast that, no matter who we are, our time on earth is limited and the wind of change is constant.

This is a fact I often find easier to avoid than confront. Sticking my head in the sand, and creating a routine that allows everything to appear unchanging is in fact incredibly comforting… until it changes, when it then can leave us even more unprepared.

And, if we look at the world around us over the last few years, change is afoot. Even looking at the week before all this happened it was the case.. a focus on the cost of energy, its economic impact and announcement of government support… potentially huge changes and impacts for many.

We may be distracted for now, but this change has still not gone away… and it is one we need to stay prepared for too… it will return.

So as the next 7-10 days roll by it is worth observing events closely, thinking what can we learn, maybe reflecting on the Queen’s life and the organization of final arrangements…

  • Playing a clear role with dedication… working towards a higher purpose
  • Making the most of the time we have… to get things done
  • Thinking ahead for future transition and change… having a plan
  • Practicing and preparing… making the plan happen

Certainly using this event as inspiration, sounds better than canceling everything just to watch it all unfold on TV…

… and having a solid plan, with actions, will hopefully leave us better prepared to handle the wind of change that is sure to return… and return again it will… too soon most likely.

My motto for the week… “don’t think like an Emu”…

Have a good week everyone…

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Back to school

This weekend is a key milestone for many of us… yes next week (in many places at least) it’s the Labour day weekend and the following week back to school.

It’s a sure sign of the end of summer, quieter days at the home office and for those without school aged kids, the start of cheaper airfares!

In hot water

Of course, this also means earlier sunsets and with the weather cooling the sinking prospect that I will at some point have to put the heating on.

Just this prospect of ‘putting the heating’ on seems to have put me, and what appears to be most of northern europe into a flat panic this week.

Running through the data on my own smart meter the electricity bill has already doubled and from the price cap communication last week it sounds like it may almost double again – all of this is before increased winter usage too.

We have talked of fuel poverty previously. It is gradually expanding to a larger and larger segment of society.

Yes, we can try to find ways to save energy, but the price is undoubtedly escalating faster than many can cut usage… a £4-5K energy bill is just unmanageable for most folks.

Also my business

But, what really concerned me were the viral images of electricity bills on twitter & here. We have all had our attention focused on consumer prices, but poor old businesses, who are not subject to the price cap, had already seen the dramatic rises in energy costs.

Cafes, stores with refrigeration, and delivery supply chains, let alone those with industrial use are already hurting. Some businesses have been closing with immediate effect.

Passing costs onto the customer will be inflationary (£12 for a cup of coffee anyone), and closing the business means loss of income for any (ex)employees… all adding to our affordability woes… the reality of what we could be really facing is starting to set in.

Hierarchy of needs and payment

It all feels like the problem is gradually moving up the hierarchy of needs and with food to eat being pretty much at the top there may not be much left for those down the payment hierarchy – and yes this includes us in the consumer finance industry…!

So, a couple of immediate thoughts about what to do.

  • Have a plan and a playbook, support measures, and forbearance plans at the ready
  • Embed flexibility into process design. This was a big learning from the pandemic remember, anything can change and change can happen fast
  • Find scaleable and digital ways to handle increased volumes. Volumes could easily double, get ready now
  • Support your employees.. they may need warmth, food and importantly a job… stay in business by running a good business
  • Use data to tailor customer support and journeys. Remember to look beyond what the data says about today to forecast about the future, combine data across time, look at trends to make more powerful predictions and remember it is always what the data says but sometimes what it does not say that is important… try to identify gaps in what you know as this is where surprises can come from
  • Lastly, try to do the right things for customers… once all of this is over brand loyalty is a fantastic asset… and if you don’t do this proactively, the regulator will force you to do it anyway (Consumer duty – remember first deadline is October!)

Of course we hope that there will be some support from the government… although hope strikes me as more of an excuse to do nothing rather than any meaningful strategy and we do really need a strategy.

This will all be a large part of the topics for conversation at the Credit Connect Lending Technology think tank event next week… it should be a good and timely conversation for sure.

It is after all a conversation that needs to be had with some urgency… and, after admittedly a somewhat lazy, but great summer, now is the time to prepare.

So apologies somewhat for the downbeat tone this week… To cheer myself up I am off to the shop and pub to help them stay in business I think…

Have a great weekend everyone… do sign up for the session next week 🙂

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