Friday, 30 March 2012

Say “cheese”! Or “queijo”! Or “formaggio”! - March's Inspiration Monthly Event

A crowd of people are stood listening intently. Some of them nod in agreement. Some are even jumping up and down in excitement. They shift around and jostle with each to get a better view of the whiteboard the presenter, Prof Eddie Obeng, is pointing at – despite being thousands of miles apart.

This is Inspiration Monthly, a regular event hosted by Pentacle on QUBE. Users anywhere in the world can log on to QUBE and participate fully with others as if they were actually there through their personal avatar (we call them Qubots). This month participants from the UK, Ireland, France, Italy and Brazil got together to chat and learn.

The theme this month was innovation in a risk averse culture. Try this question that Eddie asked in the session: would you rather toss a coin and get £1 million for heads and £0.5 million for tails, or toss a coin and get £20 million for heads and nothing for tails? Your answer? Well, if you chose the first one then it shows that you're risk averse; if you picked the second option then you're risk loving. Eddie then talked about the two reasons we fear taking risks, and everyone present discussed how they could overcome these fears.

Alex Higgins from Red Bee Media said that he found QUBE “really interesting”, and Leonardo Teixeira from Cata Vento said it was a “great learning environment”. One participant even said it was “almost impossible to describe. Experience is everything.”

At the end there was just time to take a virtual group photo of everyone present, which you can see above. The only tricky part was deciding what language to say “cheese” in.

If you want to take part in the next Inspiration Monthly event, which will be held on QUBE on Thursday 19 April, go to

Friday, 23 March 2012

Atkins Goes Around the World in Foggy Times

WS Atkins is certainly no stranger to delivering on the international stage – this year millions of people around the world will watch Olympic events in venues designed by the engineering consultancy. But nevertheless they're working on further developing themselves as a truly global company, one who can carry out projects crossing global boundaries without breaking into a sweat.

Prof Eddie Obeng contributed to a one-week programme (Orchestrating Exceptional Performance) for 13 project managers from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, India, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Eddie discussed how to run programmes even as the world changes around them – he compared it to trying to run on a treadmill that's constantly speeding up. The programme and project managers explored how to overcome their fears of, and discovered the joy of, uncertainty. In particular they liked the idea of “foggy change”: not giving up even when the next step is unclear. Hopefully Atkins will span the globe in spite of the fog of change.

Helping B&Q to be More Helpful

Picture: Renjith Krishnan
In a tough, challenging world, we could all do with a little help. And just as there's always a bit more DIY you can do around the house, B&Q, who already serve 3 million people every week, are going to do more to give us that help. They've decided that they want to be “the most helpful home improvement retailer in the UK”, improving the friendliness and utility of their staff.

The NEC in Birmingham was the venue for Prof Eddie Obeng, introduced by Martyn Phillips, CEO of B&Q, to select helpful champions in a drive to improve service. Eddie showed the participants how to engage more people, and therefore be more helpful. It was a rollercoaster event, covering the IDQBTM method of communication (Issue, Data, Question, Build) and Stepping Forward to Lead – which ended in everyone stepping forward to dance.

It just goes to show: when helpful people need help becoming more helpful, they turn to Pentacle.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bringing Project Managers Out of Their Shell

Shell's project managers have a lot to deal with. Not just in the scale of the major projects, but also in the abundance of incertitude that they face. Nowadays not only do they have to tackle huge tasks like developing oil fields in difficult places and the alchemy of turning gas into liquids, they must also cope with the uncertainty and ambiguity of geopolitics and local issues. The excellent Shell Project Academy in Rijswijk, the Netherlands, invited Prof Eddie Obeng to join the Managing Complex Projects course. The course, run in collaboration with Cranfield and accredited by the Association for Project Management (of which Eddie is a Fellow), is designed to transform highly competent and very experienced project managers into leaders of complex foggy programmes of multiple competing stakeholders set in a world of confusion

Eddie introduced them to the World After Midnight, and took them on a journey to make complexity more simple by engaging shareholders early and being suspicious of certainty and painting by numbers. They explored how to not only feel comfortable being ‘lost in the Fog’ but to be suspicious if it all looks too straight forward. For the participants who have a track record of delivering in certainty, this should help them come out of their Shell.