Monthnotes – January 2021

Monthnotes – January 2021

It’s a wet and windy Sunday evening in Kent as I look back over the past month at work and at home.

The first working day of the month, just four weeks ago, seems like a distant memory. The pace of work after the Christmas break pretty much hit full speed again in the first week back and hasn’t dropped since.

At The Panoply it was great to be able to release a positive trading update earlier in the month. Strong performance aside, it was also good to be able to reflect on the impact of some of my work during 2020 and the difference it made to the group’s overall performance so far.

Earlier in the month I facilitated a remote planning workshop, looking at 90 day goal setting for The Panoply team. It’s been a while since I ran this kind of session and I enjoyed the experience. We did some ruthless prioritisation to make sure we were focussing on what really mattered and that’s set us up for a good quarter of getting things done.

I also put into practice a few of the lessons our teams have learnt from running hundreds of client workshops over video conference over the past 11 months. What would normally have been a half day session was split into a couple of two hour sessions, recognising that keeping engagement levels high among a virtual group for much longer than that is unnecessarily hard.

One of the things that’s been reinforced to me this month has been the importance of pace and focus in moving the organisation forward. It’s not a new lesson, but the workshop was a timely reminder of how we can maximise our chances of succeeding in our mission.

The simple pattern of identifying opportunities or issues, properly understanding them, choosing the right things to put our energy into and then getting the right steps in place to move forward is at the heart of this. If we can do this consistently and at pace, that’s when any organisation or team is at its most effective.

I think often this simplicity gets lost as organisations grow and I’m determined to not fall into that trap. The creeping webs of complexity that can stifle larger organisations distract from simple pattern of getting the right things done well consistently. It’s been interesting to explore how we can design an operating model that enables growth yet fights inherently against unnecessary complexity.

I was lucky enough to move house a couple of months ago, which now means my weekends are mostly spent on home projects as part of the refurbishment of an 1870s agricultural building. It’s good to have some mental and physical challenges away from the screen to get my head around. It’s also been a good reminder for me about the difference between complicated and complex.

In my day job I deal with a lot of complex issues. They are the norm and require a particular set of techniques to gain insight, however incomplete or imperfect that might be, and then make the best possible decision in those circumstances. Yet my home refurbishment efforts this month have mostly been in the complicated space.

A lot of evenings were spent studying a wired burglar alarm system that was installed in the 1980s – not a particular area of expertise for me.

Tracing wires and testing with my multimeter helped me understand what had been done. I was then able to research a replacement modern hybrid wired/wireless alarm and install it successfully. There was a fair number of problems to solve along the way, but ultimately it was a complicated project but with entirely predictable outcomes, as long as I worked methodically and systematically.

One casualty of a busy work life and time consuming home projects has been fitness and wellbeing this month. I’ve gone three or four days sometimes without getting outside, which I know isn’t good for me in many ways.

But from tomorrow at The Panoply we’re taking part in the Zevo Fittest Workplace 2021 competition – we have a number of cross-company teams within the group and will be competing against other businesses to be the most active over the next two weeks. It’s been great to see the galvanising effect of a bit of internal competition so far and I’m hoping that’ll be the push I need to take more exercise this month and get outdoors more, whatever the weather.


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I created the B3 framework® for scaling technology businesses and I write a newsletter called Build for leaders who are building brilliant companies.