Monthly Archives: December 2015

Drown your puppies

no-dogs-allowedIf you’re familiar with the Boston Matrix (a marketing tool not a Hollywood blockbuster) you’ll also probably know the term ‘dogs’. These are activities that are not making money nor contributing to the mission of the organisation being assessed.

If you identify any ‘dogs’ in your organisation the advice is to drop this activity or, as some put it more provocatively, ‘drown your puppies’.

The beauty of this particular phrase is that it grabs the reader’s attention (whether or not you’re a puppy-lover) and it also encapsulates the truth that organisations often have pet projects that are kept alive, often by the people who created them, for emotional reasons. Blind to evidence that an activity has become a waste of time and money (it may always have been so) charities are probably more guilty than the average for-profit business of getting their head and heart balance wrong. Smaller charities are particularly good at ‘flogging dead horses’ (another brutal animal image!)

For social enterprises – businesses with a social purpose – success is often defined as achieving the ‘triple bottom line’ of social, financial and environmental objectives. This makes the identification of ‘dogs’ more difficult because the activity may be justified for non-financial reasons. At the Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead, where men aged 50+ come together to stay healthier and happier for longer through making, mending and learning, we’re dealing with ‘pet project issues’ of a different kind.

As readers of a recent blog may remember, the making part of Repair Shed members’ activity has to date largely involved using reclaimed timber to make products for homes and gardens. I think some of us have surprised ourselves with the quality of the work we’ve turned out – I know I have – pleased with the result and… reluctant to see it offered for sale.

Objectively, the Repair Shed should be trying to sell as many products as possible – to make money, create more storage space, and to save more timber from becoming waste. Subjectively however, perhaps we’re worried others might not be as proud to own the products as we were to make them. So there are mixed feelings when a project that people have been working on is sold – because making it again will never generate the same sense of achievement. The silver lining is that if your creation remains unsold, you can always take it home and show if off to friends and family who will appreciate it (or say they do).

It must be the same when starting out on any creative journey. In retirement, my friend Carl has taken up painting. This year he bravely submitted two pieces to our annual art exhibition and put a £60 price tag on each of them. Much to his surprise he sold one of them but, excited though he was, he couldn’t disguise his relief that the ‘right’ painting (ie the one in which he’d invested less time) had been bought.

It’s a tough lesson – if you want to succeed in a creative business you must be prepared to let go of your best work and risk it being under-valued.

A related blog – The paying customer is always right – is at https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/the-paying-customer-is-always-right

More on the Boston Matrix at http://www.oxlearn.com/arg_Marketing-Resources-The-Boston-Matrix_11_35

Advertisements

Something to sing about

concert posterThere has been much discussion recently about football managers, their relationships with the players and, by extension, their influence on match results. There are well-known studies of the effect a new manager taking charge of a failing team can have – achieving instant success (if only for a game or two).

On the same day in December 2015 that the Guardian newspaper published an article by Oliver Burkeman explaining why singing in a choir makes you happy, I discovered the benefit of having a new team manager (or Musical Director to be more accurate) in charge of our local choir – the Royston Choral Society.

I started singing in the choir in 2000. I missed the team-work associated with playing football and I felt that my physical fitness could do with a boost. I started running for fitness and joined the choir for the team-work. The running also helped when I was late for our weekly rehearsals…

And that’s been the case for the past 15 years with a Musical Director who lived music 24 hours a day and showcased the best the choir could manage for up to five concerts a year. I suppose I’d accepted that we’d achieved a creditable standard but didn’t have the potential to do much more.

But then poor health forced our incumbent Musical Director to step down and, in September of this year, we ‘signed’ a new manager. For me this was both scary and exciting having only sung under the leadership of the previous conductor.  After a comprehensive interview process there was agreement between choir members and the panel as to who was the best of the three candidates.

And we are now discovering how right we were with the appointment. When I joined I was told that singing in the choir was firstly about having fun and secondly about making a good sound. We’re now doing both by the bucket-load!

Our new Musical Director and conductor Andrew O’Brien has managed, in just three months, to convince us we can perform better, to sing with feeling (if that doesn’t sound too pretentious) and to sing at a higher standard than I could ever have imagined – all with largely the same group of (ageing) singers.

Our December Christmas concert was an amazing experience – for both choir and audience. Two concert-goers mouthed ‘wow’ after one of our pieces; I’ve never seen that happen before in my 15 years with the Royston Choral Society.

In football, the instant success of the new manager is often followed by a swift slide back to more familiar poor results. I refuse to believe our musical team will return to a lower division while our new manager Andy is in the dugout.

Oliver Burkeman’s article on the delights of singing in a choir is at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/dec/18/why-singing-makes-people-happy-oliver-burkeman