Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Observing impact

I've been running an experiment looking at how mapping changes gameplay. I've taken 181 executives through a basic mapping course (i.e. you learn how to map, learn basic economic patterns, basic forms of gameplay) but before I do, I give them a scenario.

In the scenario they are members of the board of a company. They have financial information including P&L, competitor reports, market data, operational reports and a range of strategic options that are presented using SWOT diagrams to business model canvas. They usually work as a small team of 2-4 and are asked to prioritise the strategic options or add their own. Invariably they decide to build some form of digital cloud service, invest in efficiency, expand overseas and invest in product development.

I then teach them how to map and ask them to look at the scenario again. It's worth noting they are giving no additional information on the scenario other than the ability to map. There's a noticeable change in choice with a little more confusion over what to do. The confidence of previous choice is questioned.

I then teach them basic economic patterns and forms of gameplay. Again, they are asked to look at the scenario and no new information is provided to it. At this point a radical change seems to happen. Overwhelmingly after mapping and applying basic patterns then they want to invest in marketing to "pump up" the company in the eyes of outsiders, flog it quickly and rebuild a new company. They've gone from viewing the company as having a great future to viewing it as going over the cliff and hence they need to maximise return.  Their perception has fundamentally changed by simply mapping the environment. 

It's a small sample, 181 executives and we shall see how this develops. Details of the results are provided in the figure below.

What's interesting is they now start to question the basis of previous strategic choices. It's a particular delight to watch someone map something they've done and go "crap, we need to fix this". Makes it all worthwhile to see grizzled executives change.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

How Cloud Foundry will save the world from Yak Shaving

I'll make no bones about the fact that I'm a huge fan of Cloud Foundry. It's the right play, by the right people at the right time. Despite all the attempts to dilute the message over the last eleven years, Platform as a Service (or what was originally called Framework as a Service) is about write code, write data and consume services. All the other bits from containers to the management of such are red herrings. They maybe useful subsystems but they miss the point which is the necessity for constraint.

Constraint (i.e. the limitation of choice) enables innovation and the major problem we have with building at speed is almost always duplication or yak shaving. Not only do we repeat common tasks to deploy an application but most of our code is endlessly rewritten throughout the world. How many times in your coding life have you written a method to add a new user or to extract consumer data? How many times do you think others have done the same thing? How many times are not only functions but entire applications repeated endlessly between corporates or governments? The overwhelming majority of the stuff we write is yak shaving and I would be honestly surprised if more than 0.1% of what we write is actually unique. 

Now whilst Cloud Foundry has been doing an excellent job of getting rid of some of the yak shaving, in the same way that Amazon kicked off the removal of infrastructure yak shaving - for most of us, unboxing servers, racking them and wiring up networks is a thankfully an irrelevant thing of the past - there is much more to be done. There are some future steps that I believe that Cloud Foundry needs to take and fortunately the momentum is such behind it that I'm confident of talking about them here without giving a competitor any advantage.

First, it needs to create that competitive market of Cloud Foundry providers. Fortunately this is exactly what it is helping to do. That market must also be focused on differentiation by price and quality of service and not the dreaded differentiation by feature (a surefire way to create a collective prisoner dilemma and sink a project in a utility world). This is all happening and it's glorious.

Second, it needs to increasingly leave the past ideas of infrastructure behind and by that I mean containers as well. The focus needs to be server less i.e. you write code, you write data and you consume services. Everything else needs to be buried as a subsystem. I know analysts run around going "is it using docker?" but that's because many analysts are halfwits who like to gabble on about stuff that doesn't matter. It's irrelevant. That's not the same as saying Docker is not important, it has huge potential as an invisible subsystem.

Third, it needs to provide a mechanism of billing down to the function. One of the things we discovered with Zimki (the first PaaS) was that in a single application it was often discrete functions which generated most of the cost (Zimki had billing at the function level based upon Javascript operations, I/O and network). By having billing at the function, you cause a radical change in the way people write, refactor and refine code. There's nothing like seeing that 70% of your application running cost is being caused by one function to get you to evaluate that function. It also tends to help performance. The existing usage events in Cloud Foundry are fine but not enough. It needs to go deeper (hint to providers - that needs an asynchronous mechanism of logging, things like network taps, it worked a treat in 2005).

Fourth, and most importantly, it needs to tackle yak shaving at the coding level. The simplest way to do this is to provide a CPAN like repository which can include individual functions as well as entire applications (hint. Github probably isn't upto this). One of the biggest lies of object orientated design was code re-use. This never happened (or rarely did) because no communication mechanism existed to actually share code. CPAN (in the Perl world) helped (imperfectly) to solve that problem. Cloud Foundry needs exactly the same thing. When I'm writing a system, if I need a customer object, then ideally I should just be able to pull in the entire object and functions related to this from a CPAN like library because lets face it, how many times should I really have to write a postcode lookup function? 

But shouldn't things like postcode lookup be provided as a service? Yes! And that's the beauty. 

By monitoring a CPAN like library you can quickly discover (simply by examining meta data such as downloads, changes) as to what functions are commonly being used and have become stable. These are all candidates for standard services to be provided into Cloud Foundry and offered by the CF providers. Your CPAN environment is actually a sensing engine for future services and you can use an ILC like model to exploit this. The bigger the ecosystem is, the more powerful it will become.

I would be shocked if Amazon isn't already using Lambda and the API gateway to identify future "services" and Cloud Foundry shouldn't hesitate to press any advantage here. This process will also create a virtuous cycle as new things which people develop that are shared in the CPAN library will over time become stable, widespread and provided as services enabling other people to more quickly develop new things. This concept of sharing code and combing a collaborative effort of the entire ecosystem was a central part of the Zimki play and it's as relevant today as it was then. By the way, try doing that with containers. Hint, they are way too low level and your only hope is through constraint such as that provided in the manufacture of unikernels.

There is a battle here because if Cloud Foundry doesn't exploit the ecosystem and AWS plays its normal game then it could run away with the show.  The danger of this seems slight at the moment because of the momentum with Cloud Foundry and because of the people running the show. Get this right and we will live in a world where not only do I have portability between providers but when I come to code my novel idea for my next great something then I'll discover that 99% of the code has already been done by others. I'll mostly need to stitch all the right services and functions together and add a bit extra. 

Oh, but that's not possible is it? In 2006, Tom Inssam wrote for me and released live to the web a new style of wiki (with client side preview) in under an hour using Zimki. I wrote an internet mood map and basic trading application in a couple of days. Yes, this is very possible. I know, I experienced it and this isn't 2006, this is 2016!

Cloud Foundry (with a bit of luck) might finally release the world from the endless Yak shaving we have to endure in IT. It might make the lie of object re-use finally come true. The potential of the platform space is vastly more than most suspect and almost everything, and I do mean everything will be rewritten to run on it.

I look forward to the day that most Yaks come pre-shaved. 

Friday, June 03, 2016

Recruiters and daisy chains

The only recruitment firm that I would ever consider using is Superstars. It's run by a dear friend of mine Steve Hutson who I've known for last fourteen years. Steve used to work in the mainstream recruitment industry but began to loathe it because of its practices. He decided to change the way he worked and how recruitment was done. In Superstars, there is no margin, no fees and people are treated as talent, as individuals rather than a commodity shunted about by "human traders" - as one particularly vile firm likes to refer to itself.

There's a lot to dislike about the recruitment industry, so it's good to see Steve succeed in building a new style of firm which changes those practices. One of the worst practices (which I've just caught sight of again, hence the post) is daisy chaining.

Daisy chaining is a based upon the obvious premise that once you find someone a new job then that leaves a hole to fill i.e. their previous job. You can therefore chain a long list of people together and get them to each jump into the next role. This practice is beloved by recruitment consultants as they earn fees on each person jumping, the bigger the chain the more the fee. It also creates a promotion ladder for those in the chain,

I suspect daisy chain is also partially responsible for why I hear large companies complain they can't find big data / IoT talent (when there's plenty out there) whilst real experts in big data / IoT complain they can't find jobs and keep on meeting muppet VPs of big data / IoT who don't understand the basics. The problem is the recruiters want to use the chain (i.e. it's more fees for them) and if you're not part of the chain then you're not very useful. To be part of the chain, you need to have a job so that the recruiter can fill that one to extend the chain and so on.

So basically, just in case it's not clear, the chain works as follows.

Recruiter gets wind (dinners with execs / golf course or whatever) that Company B requires an SVP. Recruiter says they've got the perfect candidate C1 who is currently VP with Company C and offers to make the arrangements, even offering to waive some of the fees because they are friends. Execs agree to meet.

Recruiter phones up C1 and tells them that Company B is desperate to meet with them. 

Recruiter immediately phones up Candidate D1 who is CTO for company D and tells them they have heard that Company C is going to be looking for a new VP. Lines up Candidate D1 for the role.

Recruiter immediately phones up Candidate E1 who is a Engineering Head for company E and tells them that they have heard that Company D is going to be looking for a new CTO. Lines up E1 for the role.

... and so on.

C1 accepts the job of SVP at Company B. The Company B thanks the recruiter for their help - "well, we're partners in this" says the recruiter. Since the recruiter is part of the process, they know roughly when candidate C1 has told their company C that they are leaving.

Recruiter immediately phones up a friendly exec at Company C (those dinners have purpose), chats about how they've heard C1 is leaving. Says they've actually got the ideal candidate D1 who they know is looking and is keen to work there - saves all the hassle of advertising etc. Hint, after laying it on thick about hard recruitment is, many execs are just pleased to hear that a possible replacement can be found quickly. Make introduction. 

 ... and so down the chain you go, every time clocking a % of salary as a finders fee. 

Of course, suppose there is the ideal candidate for one of those roles who is unemployed or not employed in a valuable role that can be easily replaced by another?  Well, they're unlikely to be offered the job because this breaks the chain. Hence if you bother to look, there's oodles of big data / IoT talent out there looking for roles along with companies looking for big data / IoT talent. The problem is your recruitment processes and the companies that you use are broken. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wardley's Doctrine

Whenever examining an industry then there is the landscape, the common economic patterns and the context specific forms of gameplay that need to be used to determine strategy. However, these are context specific and vary from industry to industry and player to player. This area of strategic play is the most fun part of leadership and where your true Machiavellian spirit can let rip. There are however some basic principles i.e. doctrine that are applicable to all industries regardless of context. These are universal.

I keep on getting asked by former employees and friends when I'm going to build a company again, so that they can come and work for me. First of all, that's a incredibly kind thing to say and I'm very touched by this. Second, I have no interest in leading again - I'm a reluctant leader only doing so when necessary. Lastly, I think some of those who worked for me have forgotten just how harsh I can be and are looking through rose tinted glasses. For example, I have commandments of operations regardless of what you are doing and from which I do not tolerate any deviation from.

However, in the hope that it might help others, I thought I'd scribble out my current list of commandments - yes, these refine and change with time and experience. NB, these have nothing to do with strategy nor even leadership, they are simply the universal doctrine that I apply everywhere.

Wardley's Doctrine.

In accordance with the wishes of the High Priest Thought Lord, the following commandments will be followed in all circumstances on pain of a most terrible punishment normally involving a good talking to (e.g. hair blower with choice expletives) and then a slice of cake or two in order to recover from the aforementioned terrible punishment.

Thou shalt ...

Focus on user needs. Any value we create is through meeting the needs of others. A mantra of "not sucking as much as the competitors" is not acceptable. We must be the best we can be.

Use a common language. Instead of using multiple different ways of explaining the same thing between different functions of the business, we use one - a map. If you can't map what you're doing then don't do it. Situational awareness is not optional.

Be transparent.  We don't hide our maps, we share them and allow others to challenge and question our assumptions. The act of sharing is essential because it helps us to learn. Transparency also requires us to remove all the noise, the pointless gibberish that gets in the way of learning. Anyone not willing to learn, will forgo the slice of cake and be helped to find a new job with a competitor. 

Remove bias and duplication. We not only share maps, we collate them in an effort to remove duplication (i.e. rebuilding the same thing) and bias (i.e. custom building that which is a commodity). This is not optional and no, your accounting system is not unique because of the colour of your invoices nor do you have a unique way of purchasing advertising space. We all have a duty to remove duplication and bias in the organisation. 

Challenge assumptions. It's a duty for everyone in the company to challenge assumptions. Where possible we use data collated from maps as the purpose of the maps is to expose the thinking. I don't care if it was my pet project, you will openly and honestly tell me why you think I'm wrong. Challenge requires transparency and trust. Any form of retribution or bias against someone for challenging is a deadly sin that will not be forgiven and you will be carted off to work for a competitor. For reference, as the CEO of Fotango, I made my CFO the XO back in 2004. One of his duties was to challenge me and agree / disagree with my choices.

Think fast, inexpensive, simple and tiny.  Ok, Dan Ward might say FIRE (and do go buy his book) but I'll stick with his original terms. You will move quickly with a bias towards action, you will use inexpensive components and be frugal wherever possible, you will simplify the problem as much as possible and you will build in small components ... otherwise you WILL not build.

Use appropriate methods. NB, anyone suggesting we should be all agile, all lean or all six sigma will get a right good talking to without the cake. Same with others suggesting one size fits all purchasing methods.

Use standard components where appropriate. NB anyone suggesting we should build our own cloud service where a defacto service exists runs the risk of getting hauled up in front of company as the person trying to spend the entire cake budget on a vanity project. Unless you can clearly show you can out industrialise and make more of a commodity whatever exists, then use it.

Optimise flow. Whether it is with what we build or how, we are required to remove bottlenecks and improve throughput where possible. However, care must be taken not to make the ineffective more efficient rather than making the ineffective more effective - hence the importance of situational awareness. Anything which gets in the way of meeting user needs, being fast, transparency on relevant information will be treated ruthlessly and for the guillotine e.g. corporate expense processes. Hint, it's usually way more effective to just to give everyone company credit cards, say "spend in the interest of the company" and get accounts to sort through the credit card bills rather than having staff fill out expense forms.

Use small teams. Everything must be broken down into small teams. As a guide, when exploring the uncharted space a team of 3-5 seems appropriate. When building a product / service capability then two pizza (i.e. 12) seems more apt. When providing an industrialised component then a larger team can be argued for. Under no circumstances will that team size approach anything close to the Dunbar number. Anything larger than 40 should be considered as highly dubious and an immediate candidate for dividing into smaller teams based upon user needs.

Think aptitude and attitude. Each team may contain discrete skills (e.g. networks, marketing, engineering, finance) known as aptitudes. But each aptitude has an attitude i.e. the culture, methods and techniques for agile development of an entirely novel act are not the same as those for building a highly industrialised component. When determining composition of team, it is a duty to consider not only the aptitude but the attitude. The combination of both is what we call capability.

Provide purpose, autonomy and mastery. Each team shall be autonomous within the confines of what it is supposed to do (described by a fitness function). Each team will therefore own what it does. Each team shall be able to see how they fit into the whole (hence maps) and develop mastery in both aptitude and attitude.

Design for constant evolution. Whilst a team might become a semi permanent structure, the work it undertakes will evolve. It is therefore a duty to ensure that work evolves through the organisation e.g. a pioneering team discovers an uncharted space, a team of settlers take the work and productise it hence forcing the pioneers to move on. A team of town planners then industrialise the product when appropriate forcing the settlers to move on. 

Manage inertia. We all have it. It's caused by past success. You will realise that you have it. There are about sixteen different forms and you will learn how to recognise this. When you find yourself saying "but this is how we do it" or "but this has always worked in the past" or "don't fiddle with the machine as it ain't broke" then you will question why you are saying this. If someone is challenging what is being done then you will LISTEN and you will ask why you are responding in such a way.

Learn by playing the game. Common economic patterns and context specific forms of gameplay are discovered by playing the game. Hence strategic choices must be made by those who play the game and strategy developed internally and not externally. We must also share what we've learned (hence again, maps and the purpose of collating them). Hiring strategy consultants to write documents telling us what to do will get a another good yelling at and absolutely no cake whatsoever. Certainly use outsiders to learn context specific forms of gameplay but we're the ones playing the game.

Understand that strategy is iterative not linear.  This is for anyone thinking of writing long winded strategy documents, target operating models and step by step plans of how the future will be. Immediately book an appointment with HR. You are a valuable asset for the company particularly if we can deploy you within a competitor. HR will help you find a strategy position in a competitor and you will be given glowing references especially about how sad we are to lose you. We might even try to put up a "fight" to encourage the competitor to think you're an attractive acquisition. We will even pay you to join them. Instead of long winded plans, we will have direction towards a position and adapt as needed. We will "cross the river by feeling the stones".

A final note

The above is my list of universally applicable doctrine. Note, there are many context specific patterns that I use e.g. open source, open data that are not universal but suitable in specific contexts. They are hence not included as they are part of strategic play. For example, I'm not a fan of Open by default as a universal doctrine but rather Open by thinking i.e. the use of open in specific contexts.

These are also not "leadership". This is doctrine which is universal and hence operational. Leadership is more the act of setting the direction (i.e. where we are going) and using context specific play to change the environment in our favour.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stopping Self Harm in Corporate IT

If you've worked in any corporation for a time then you will have come to realise that it's not the Darwinian, survival of the fittest, lean and mean chess playing machine that exists in the fantasy land of Harvard Business Revenue (ed. sounds more apt than Review)

Your average organisation is full of

  • duplication. Examples of 100+ projects doing exactly the same thing in an organisation are not uncommon
  • bias.  Lots of custom building that which is already a commodity
  • miscommunication and alignment issues
  • strategies which are a tyranny of action (how, what and when) with little to no strategic reasoning (why here over there) but instead endless meme copying from others
  • constant restructuring to bolt on new capabilities followed by further restructuring to remove it
  • constant missed opportunities where obvious changes are not taken advantage of.

The list goes on and on. As one chief exec told me not so long ago, "We survive because the other guys suck more". It's not so much survival of the fittest (which gives a positive image) but instead survival of the least sucky.

In this post, I'll talk about one relatively simple method to stop the worst excesses of self harm through the use of spend control. This is not about gaining some advantage over others but to solve a particular problem highlighted by another executive - "I've a hundred CIOs running around spending millions. They're like new born infants out of control. My first problem is not they keep burning the cash but that I need to stop them causing self harm. In other words, how do I stop them from wiping their faces in shit?"

Wiping their faces in shit? Sounds a bit excessive. But lets look at the problem. You've a 100 CIOs each operating IT within a business unit. That means you've probably got at least 100 different ERP, CRM, Order processing, Account receivable, Payroll, Storage and other systems. I say at least because it's actually common for a single business unit to have multiple of these things on its own. 

As a naive youth, I used to think 380 customised ERP systems built by 380 different teams was a lot of duplication for a single company but in my more gnarled experience, I realise that a lot is when we get into the thousands. In my naive days of youth, I used to think that 80% of IT spending being wasteful was an outrageous and rare figure. These days, I assume that when I walk into a company that 95% of IT spend is being wasted on duplication, bias and no hope projects. 

When people talk to me about enterprise content management (ECM), I know that in all probability we've got 200 to 300 different ECMs spread among those 100 business units along with at least 2 or 3 global ECM efforts being built by teams who don't know the others exist or only discover each other by accident. The old "We're building a global single sign on solution" followed by the "Oh, but that's what we're doing" followed by the "really? Same here" is an not an uncommon conversation when IT folk from a single corporation get to meet at conferences.

Of course when we talk about popular topics like IoT or big data then there'll be a few hundred business unit efforts, many more hundred skunk works along with a dozen or more global efforts buried under the portfolios of executives looking to be in charge of the next big thing. In a topic like this, you can easily get many hundreds and in the worst cases thousands of people involved in rebuilding the wheel again and again. I know of one global corporate that has 170 different teams building the same cloud projects. 

On top of all this, you'll get projects trying to create interfaces between all the other projects. If you've got 80 different ERP systems and you want inventory list then you'll probably have half a dozen different projects either building interfaces or data warehouses or some other mechanism trying to get all the data together, translated and transformed into a single view. I say half a dozen because why build one when we have such a glorious history of doing the same thing many times at the same time.

Into the mix some CIO will be planning to spend another $10M or so on a data lake, oblivious to the 10 or 20 other data lakes we already have and the further 5 under construction. Naturally, a highly expensive consultancy report being commissioned will probably recommend a lake of lakes - to be home built of course - and is doomed to fail because everyone argues that their lake is special.

This is what most corporate IT is like. If you don't recognise it then you're either very lucky or you need to open your eyes more. For most of you, take your annual IT budget - in the above case say $3 billion. Now double it to $6 billion because a lot of IT costs get buried in other budgets (including basics like power, buildings or contracted out projects). Now multiply by 10% i.e. $600M. This is what you probably should be aiming to spend in total if you're a typical company. In the process of saving huge pots of cash, you'll be making users a hell of a lot happier. Except, you won't actually save anything as you'll end up doing more stuff. This is really all about efficiency.

However, you won't make the efficiency savings. Not because it's impossible but because you lack transparency, challenge and any common mechanism of describing the problem space and removing waste.  Unfortunately, chances are you won't fix this problem. 

Instead you'll probably hire a consultancy firm which will recommend several floors of consultants (surprise, surprise) and a death star project which involves massive cost overruns and never fixes the problem. If you're lucky, a strong CEO or CIO will go "bugger this" and force the entire company down the route of single cloud services. All hell will break lose as business units (egged on by local IT) claim that using Google mail (for example) doesn't fit their needs or the regulators say we can't or it'll impact differentiation or God or some random bloke on the street or the aforementioned consultants (out of fear of not gaining another floor) said it was a really bad idea or isn't "Enterprise Ready" or legal says the contracts aren't "right" for them or "we want to but we don't have time to migrate as we have to sign the new 10 year extension tomorrow" ... blah, blah, blah, blah. Using the axe is a good thing at times like this. 

Anyhow, lets assume you want to fix this and I mean permanently going forward. Well, this has to be iterative and so you can't do a big bang approach.  You can't also just take the CIOs budget away from them. Instead what you want to do is encourage transparency and challenge. Spend control to the rescue!

First, create a spend control group staffed with a a dozen or so people from inside the organisation who have elements of engineering, business and architecture skills. The job of the group is simple - to create transparency and understanding about the IT landscape, to introduce challenge into the process of spending, to advise and support the CIOs on making better decisions and overtime to help the organisation learn and devise strategy. The latter parts are for another day, for the time being our only strategy is to "try and suck less".

The job of spend control is easy to explain. Before a CIO spends any sum of money above a specific limit (use $100K to begin with) then they need to submit a form to spend control, outlining the amount, who with, the user needs being met, the customer journey and a map. This is information the CIO should have and if they don't can be created in a day or so. The spend control group should help here by providing support on how to write a customer journey and a map.

A Wardley Map

Once spend control has this, they should look at the map and check does it focus on user needs? Focusing on user needs should be a core doctrine of the company and something that everyone does.

Now compare the map with other maps. To begin with, you start with no maps to compare or just a few but over time you have many and can create a profile of common components reappearing on different maps. What you're looking for is bias and duplication along with building a common lexicon and you can do this because the maps provide a common language and you have some transparency because people are sharing them.

Once you've identified duplication and bias in your map, you can challenge it.

Some of the components you'll have no other reference to in your other maps but you can still use a cheat sheet to challenge by looking at the properties.

You can also often find unmet needs i.e. those covered in other maps but should be in this one.

You can also look for more industrialised and common components that are suitable for shared services or cloud or common components (the green dots). Later on, you can use this to find new opportunities but that's not the focus of this post.

So, spend control, after a couple of hours work can go back to the CIO and say 


Thanks for the info. 

Around 80% of your project is currently being built by Team [XYZ]. By using those components you should be able to reduce your project cost from $10M to $2M.
The parking system you're thinking of building is likely to be available in the market as a product and doesn't have to be built from scratch. We've had a look and found this project [DEF] which might be suitable.
You're missing a bunch of user needs we think it might be useful for you to include [ABC].


The more maps you collect, the better your understanding of the entire landscape and the more you can challenge. This is an iterative process, you don't try to boil the ocean with floors of mega bucks consultants designing a death star but instead every time a system is designed or comes up for re-compete then it loops through spend control. Bit by bit you clean up the mess building common components as you go.

Now, sometimes spend control has to say No because a CIO wants to do something anyway. Hence it's important that spend control is involved early as some will try and railroad i.e. we have to sign this contract now or else .... blah, blah, blah. The key is, Spend Control doesn't take away the budget but instead introduces challenge and can (in the worst cases) force a CIO to find a better way.

Spend control fulfils the essential corporate roles of understanding the landscape, teaching others how to do this, introducing challenge to project and where necessary enforcing basic doctrine (focus on user needs etc).

Before someone says, we do this already - ask them how many ECMs they have in their organisation and how do they determine duplication and bias. In over 99% of cases, they don't.

Overtime, you can increase the doctrine i.e. you can ensure appropriate methods are applied ...

... or you ensure projects are broken down into sensible contract size and FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny) principles are applied.

... or you ensure a sane organisational structure is applied (use small teams).

... or you can ensure that the organisation is designed for constant evolution by considering attitude.

After quite a long time, once you're on the path to getting rid of much of the waste then you can start to look towards more strategic play and at this point then spend control grows into your strategic arm of the company. You can start learning about common economic patterns, start anticipating change in your market through weak signal detection, find opportunities through common services and discover context specific gameplay which you can then use in iterative strategies. However, that's way beyond this post. 

To begin with, we're focused on simply stopping self harm.

Oh and be warned ... lots of people don't like the idea of challenge or transparency especially vendors and consultancy firms. Keep a close eye on those who try and derail it. You're going to get some and whilst the overwhelming majority will simply be innocent inertia, I'm afraid there's a more seedy side. You might well find a few who are "influenced" by your own suppliers - conference events, jollies, gifts etc etc. The problem is that by reducing waste you'll be hitting the bonuses of others. The same approach can also be used in finance, marketing, operations and the business but I'll leave that to another day.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Strategy, Plans and World of Warcraft.

Your plan is your general direction of travel and what you intend to achieve. It describes the goal and your purpose for a mission whether you "plan to win the war" or "plan to take a building".

The battle (whether military or in business) will occur in a landscape. You can choose to consider that landscape or ignore it. The effects of this can be best seen in an online game such as World of Warcraft in the battlegrounds. Often you'll have two teams - one consisting of newbies who run around the landscape because they are lost and uncoordinated and one which isn't. The result ... well, it's a bit one sided with the newbies often blaming the equipment of the other players and each other rather than their lack of competence as a team.

In business, you tend to have multiple companies that don't understand the landscape instead relying on story telling, meme copying, magic thinking and the odd "hero" character that wins the battle. But let's assume that you do decide to understand the landscape.

You now have to decide how to play the game. One of the benefits of mapping a landscape is it not only provides you a mechanism to communicate strategy and challenge assumptions but also to learn from past engagements. We can use our past experiences to determine context specific play i.e. how to deal with the game in hand. In this case, we'll go for a ground assault with some element of suppression fire.

Of course, that's the strategy (i.e. part of our plan) and we now have to implement this i.e. put it into effect. This is the operation itself and for this we'll normally apply common forms of universal doctrine. In the above case, breaking into two small autonomous teams is apt.

So now we act, we're into the game itself. Ideally the speed at which we move from the general plan (take the building) to understanding the landscape to the strategy to operation should be lightning fast. In an online game like World of Warcraft then such choices should be made in seconds which is why you need a well trained, co-ordinated group. In business then the pace is a lot slower, so you can afford to give yourself a day or two. Unfortunately most take many months by which time the landscape and game has changed and yet they still continue to pursue the original strategy. For many that works because you're competing against others who are equally slow and have equally poor understanding of the landscape i.e. it's ok to suck as long as everyone else does - ask newbies, they only start moaning when they come up against a well trained group and get spanked.

Of course, as soon as we play the game then we can experience climatic changes i.e. changes to the environment because of economic effects or competitor actions. In the case of our "take the building" plan then we suddenly find ourselves under fire. 

At this point, doctrine again should kick in which is why we do so much training. There isn't time to immediately create a new strategy, you need to be able to react to the situation. In our case, one group returns fire, the other seeks safety.

Now, our plan of taking the building hasn't changed but our landscape needs to be updated with the presence of a sniper. A new strategy is quickly formed, we organise around it and move. The maps are used to communicate to everyone the play at hand.

This is what strategy should be, a constantly iterating process of observing the landscape, orientating around it and acting. The plan is not some checkbox list but a general direction with fluid strategy and movement. It's an adaptive cycle.

But most companies (and I do mean most as in the overwhelming majority) have no understanding of their landscape. They have no mechanism of communicating strategic play, no mechanism of learning and no way of determining context specific techniques from doctrine. The overwhelming majority are like the newbies charging into the battlefield of a World of Warcraft game. They have a purpose and a plan (what they call the why) as in "Win the game" and then vague hand waving aspirations of how to do this. Sometimes they get lucky.

Of course when they lose, it's all about the "equipment" or other excuses i.e. their people, their culture, the lack of execution or how the plan was wrong but the strategy was right etc. It's almost never about the fact that they had no strategy or anything worthy of the name. Alas, if you don't understand the landscape then you can never learn climatic patterns or doctrine, you're simply jumping from purpose to hand waving and statements like "it's all about the Why".

I've seen billions wasted by companies cluelessly charging into battles that they have no hope of winning because they do not understand the landscape. I've seen endless SWOT diagrams, stories and other magic thinking used to justify such actions. I've seen companies tear apart industries with a modicum of situational awareness.

I'm now a great believer that all executives (with a non military background) should spend three months playing World of Warcraft before being given a position of responsibility in order to learn about team play, situational awareness, adaptive responses and so forth. If you can't learn the basics in such an environment then you shouldn't be let lose on a company with real people.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why most businesses aren't playing chess and aren't generals.

When you start playing chess, you quickly discover there's a lot of learning to be done from the rules, to the gameplay to even your competitors behaviour. What is absolutely central to this learning is the board itself.

When you look at a board, it has five basic characteristics which enable learning :-

1) It is visual. Though with play you tend to create a mental model and don't need to see the board
2) It is context specific i.e. the game in hand which enables us to learn from one game to another
3) It has an anchor which is the board itself which enables consistency
4) You have the position of pieces relative to the anchor i.e. position on the board
5) You can visualise movement.

Now with these characteristics, you can even determine the rules of game by simply just playing it. However imagine an alternative view such as a box and wire diagram.

The diagram is certainly visual and context specific. It has a form of position (i.e. connectedness between pieces) though no anchor and no way of visualising movement. You cannot use such a diagram to effectively learn the rules of the game or even gameplay.

If two players met using these different forms then, well it should be obvious who will tend to win especially over time.

Now think of a military map. Again the same characteristics appear. It's visual, it's context specific (the battle at hand), it has position relative to an anchor (the compass) and you can visualise movement.

It's easy to navigate with the above and correct where the map is wrong i.e. head NW from Athens for a distance of 90 miles and you'll find Thebes is actually further west. You can improve the map and share with others.

The characteristics of the map also help us to learn forms of battle e.g. flanking movement, pincer, the use of landscape and force multipliers to name but a few. You could of course represent the environment in a different form e.g.

The above is certainly visual, it is context specific, it has movement but without a meaningful and consistent anchor then we have no real position. It's difficult to work out how to go from Athens to Thebes in the above diagram other than "move from slightly rocky to further from the coast and more agricultural". That could be in any direction and so we don't really understand the relationship between things.

Imagine two generals fighting a war with these two different visualisations. It should be fairly obvious who is going to have the upper hand and who is going to have troops wandering around  the countryside going "where are we?"

In both the chess and military map example, the difference between the two visualisations is the quality of situational awareness (i.e. our ability to understand the landscape, our competitors and anticipate change).

If you can visualise a context specific environment with both position and movement then you will have a higher quality of situational awareness than someone who cannot. You will be able to more effectively communicate and determine strategy, it will enable greater co-ordination and alignment but most importantly you will be able to learn context specific gameplay, universally applicable doctrine and the rules of the game more effectively. 

When fighting those using a vastly lower quality of situational awareness then you will thrash opponents over and over. They'll spend most of their time trying to get their troops walking in the same direction assuming they can even work out what direction they should be heading.

If you look at an organisation, it's a melting point of people, activities, practices and data and to understand it you will need a visualisation that is context specific (not all organisations and markets are the same) with both position and movement. 

You can use such a map to co-ordinate, to align, to organise, from operations to capability and even determine and communicate strategy in much the same way you can use any map to do this. You can also use Wardley maps to learn context specific gameplay, doctrine and the rules of the game.

So, here's the rub. The overwhelming majority of companies have no maps of their business or competitive environment. They have lots of things they call maps (i.e. box and wire diagrams) but whilst they might be visual and somewhat context specific (if you're lucky), they invariably do not have position and movement. On the rare occasion they have some form of position, they generally don't have a consistent anchor.

As a result if you walk into a businesses you can normally discover symptoms of this such as concerns over lack of alignment, communication problems, difficulty in determining strategy (which as a consequence deteriorates to simple meme copying, gut feel and highest paid person's opinion) and almost without exception there is no mechanism of learning.  

In the worst examples when these companies are under pressure, the symptoms turn into desperate wishful thinking and almost praying to memes to save them i.e. "if we [fix the culture / fix the structure / build an ecosystem /  go agile / go digital etc etc] then we'll be alright"

Fortunately for them, many of these companies survive because this situation often occurs across entire industries. It's ok to suck as long as your competitors do. As a result a small company like Adallom can use a bit of actual situational awareness to just walk into the security industry and help itself to a $300M+ exit or a company like Canonical (i.e. Ubuntu) can just help itself to the cloud industry without barely a shot fired by past giants. You should have no fear of large companies in most industries though there are the obvious ones to avoid (e.g. Amazon).

"But I have a map" I often here people cry and then show me a strategy map or a business process map or a trend map or a value stream map or a 2x2 such as a SWOT. No, you have a nice diagram which has very niche uses and can be extremely useful in those niches.  However without position and movement then whilst it's better than nothing it's certainly not what I'd be using for strategic play, co-ordination, communication, learning and organisation.

Examples of things which are often called maps but are not what I would consider optimal for strategic play and learning (including reasons) :-

Business Process Maps

I happen to like business process maps. Often the anchors can be very wobbly but because they lack movement they aren't very useful for strategy, organisation or communicating direction. However, very good for understanding the "as is" and extremely helpful in building maps.

Strategy Maps

Very useful for thinking about elements involved but without movement then not very helpful in terms of strategy and learning. Quite good at exposing what the company "thinks" is important and sometimes useful in exposing user needs.

Value Stream Mapping

Excellent for flow and one of my favourite (NB, you can determine flow in Wardley maps). Still, I like value stream maps but you have to be really careful not to go around making the ineffective more efficient. Also not much use for strategy or learning context specific play because there is no movement. However, good at what they do i.e. improving flow.

Tube maps, Trend Maps etc.

Lots of different variations on these. Perfectly fine for discussing opinions on future trends but from a strategy, operational, organisation and communication point of view then next to useless. Usually a random categorisation of things without context, position or movement. Can be helpful in getting people to agree on a taxonomy and usually provides a useful list of things to think about

I'm afraid, despite the pretence ... most businesses aren't playing anything like a game of chess and most are acting like generals who think that understanding the environment is not important and that the key to success is to copy what 67% of other generals are doing.  Look! They're bombing hills. Go find a hill so we can bomb it! They've got a Chief Bombing Hill Officer, quick, lets employ a CBHO!

Just go find someone from the military and ask "Do you think situational awareness is important and are maps useful?"

Gosh, Wardley Maps sound so perfect! (added in response to comment),

As I've said numerous times before, my maps are Babylonian Clay tablets. They are imperfect, primitive and will be replaced by something better by someone else. This was the point of making the mapping technique creative commons share alike - to show an unencumbered path free from constraints and demands by authors, consultants etc.  I do have a bias towards them because I've been using them for over a decade and so yes, much of what is embodied in a map has become intuitive to me. On that part, the comment is perfectly reasonable.

The maps are fundamentally a communication tool, the only people who can map are yourselves (don't hire consultants) and I'm afraid, it's one of those things you're just going to have to dive in and learn. The only book that I'm aware of that is dedicated to mapping is this one which is provided by the group. It is based upon various of my posts, it is creative commons and no, I'm not involved with them.

However, that said ... yes, the subject matter is complex. There's a lot to learn, in the same way that chess isn't intuitive to the newbie. You can't just sit down and play chess. It takes an awful lot of practice just to get to grips with the game. If you want to embark on this journey, a set of useful posts can be found here.

But let me be clear, there's an awful lot of people out there claiming they have the perfect map whether it's strategy maps or customer journey maps or value stream maps. Most of them don't even come close to having concepts of position and movement. Many of them expect you to pay for this. Sod that. Start with user needs, understand your value chain and then understand how evolved the components are. It costs you nothing but a bit of time and if you can find a better way - make it creative commons.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On Europe

In the near future, I have to vote on whether I wish the UK to remain within the European Union.

I love Europe but then I'm biased because I’m European. I’m British and always will be. But this is not a question of identity but of Union. It’s also the first time, being 48 years old, that I’ve ever been asked the question. For most of my life, I’ve been within the European Union, I’ve voted for MEPs but I’ve never chosen whether I wanted to be.

I’ve heard plenty of arguments from both sides - the leaves and the remains - and the question has vexed me. I’ve been told about immigration threats but immigration isn’t a threat, it’s a benefit. I know the lazy use it as an excuse to hide mismanagement of housing, social and service policies but that’s all it is  - something to blame for other failings. I live a land with low population densities in the countryside, a growing economy and plenty of room if people choose to make that happen.

I’ve heard the arguments of cost but whilst we’re talking of billions in payment, we have billions in rebates. There are many benefits from the Union - the freedom of movement, co-operation on science to workers' rights. We’re stronger as a larger union and there’s no solid reason to believe that any “savings” won’t be flittered away on tax breaks.

I’ve heard the arguments on security, we may tighten our borders but we also co-operate with others. I can’t see that co-operation changing much either way. I can’t see a convincing case we’d be safer.

I’ve heard the arguments on trade both with our European partners and potential future hypotheticals. I can’t see we’d actually stop trade with Europe if we left, the UK is an important destination but we also lack trade negotiators and what guarantee do we have that such future trade arrangements might happen? I would suspect there’d be some fall-out especially if the threats of consequences - also known as vengeance politics - happened.

I know that EU is subject to extensive lobbying by corporate interests, we’ve seen this first hand with the decision by the EC to suddenly declare open standards as FRAND. It’s a minor  and trivial point for most but one which could have profound impacts on open source software.  It’s also one we fought against lobbyists in the UK only to find it snuck in via the “European Union route.” 

But then, how many times has our own Government introduced legislation via "Europe" and then declared back home that they are forced to take this legislation because "Europe" says so.  Whilst, the UK has a good record on transparency it is not uniform and it is lazy to think that backroom deals and hushed secrets on international trade agreements (TTIP) are a Union problem and somehow distant from us.

I know Obama has urged us to stay but then that surely is in the self interest of the US, its Gov, its multinationals and its military. I was of course dismayed by the ridiculous, trifling and offensive arguments by Boris, rambling on about Churchill’s statue and Kenyan heritage. But then offensive is not an uncommon word when listening to some of the views of those who want to exit and the nationalist propaganda they peddle. 

I know I’m being bombarded by fear and uncertainty. If we leave Europe then millions of jobs will be lost, we’ll lose international status, become a rogue state of little Englanders and bigots. That’s not the country I know but then I understand that one way to silence people is by “association” to undesirable characteristics and one way to coerce is through fear and uncertainty. I saw the same games played in Scotland.  We will probably lose some jobs, maybe some trade, maybe some status - I’m sure there will be downsides to leaving. But I’m weary of the old tales of doom and gloom - “if you stop non doms then your entire economy will collapse” or “If you introduce this legislation then all the banks will move to Hong Kong”

There’s is however, one thing I never weary of. Democracy

It is an ideal which though never truly reached, we should always strive for. We, the people, lend our members of parliament the power to make decisions over us. We do this through elections. It’s a power they have to give back and which we grant to new MPs. We are not constrained by policies and choices of the past, we have parliamentary sovereignty.  These powers, as Tony Benn once said, must be returned undiminished.

But this is the first time I am voting on the European Union. We have a body known as the European Commission that is not elected, that we (the people) do not grant authority and power to but instead it is appointed and has taken power signed in treaty after treaty. It governs many policies from agriculture to trade. It makes trade deals. It has close associations to industry to corporations and we have no recourse. We cannot vote it out.

Except this one time.

I will not willingly surrender power to unelected undemocratic institutions. If all the bodies of the EU, if the EC was elected then maybe things would be different but they’re not. As much as I want to see a strong Europe, I have been given a chance to change something that has ruled over me without permission and has taken power with no apparent intention to give it back.

So, I am faced with a choice. 

I could decide to continue to hand over power to bodies that include unelected undemocratic institutions in return for keeping the status quo, maybe a bit of wishful thinking that we can change it but lets be honest it would really be about that bit of extra security and keeping the economy ticking along. Who wants to upset the apple cart? But then I’m not the only one effected because this was done to me. My parents generation handed my power away cheaply to unelected officials such as the EC who now govern many aspects of my life.  

To vote to remain, I would be doing the same to my son that was done to me. What would I say when he was older - I took away your power and gave it, without your permission, without thought for your future to unelected bureaucrats for a bit of security, safety and better job prospects?

I would rather die. 

Democracy is not something to be given away, to be sold, it is something incredibly precious that we keep for future generations and it is worth fighting for. I don’t care what the impacts are, I don’t care if we all end up poor but I’m sure some of you might. For me, the only way forward with democracy is more democracy not less.

There are many reasons, many attractions and many comforts that urge me to vote to remain in the European Union. There are vile people voting against it for the most atrocious, bigoted and nationalistic reasons.

There is only one reasonable reason to vote against remaining in the European Union and that reason is democracy. However, that reason trumps everything else. So will I cower under fear and uncertainty, be concerned about what people might think through association or even hide in one box rather than tick another. No. 

I am not voting against Europe, I am voting against the undemocratic institutions, the executive of the European Union - the European Commission - and all the technocrats and structures (e.g. the EuroGroup) that have been forced on others.

I have been given a chance to take power back from the unelected, to increase democracy rather than diminish it for both myself and future generations. I will seize that chance. 

I will vote to leave the European Union.

I will still be a European.

Added 23rd April 2016

I was asked the questions :-

1) Do you think the UK might leave the EU?

Very unlikely. Nothing is impossible but this is in the realms of fantasy land. If this is keeping you up at night then stop worrying. It'll almost certainly be a landslide for remain based upon the betting odds and even if it isn't (unlikely) then there's a long road between ballot box and this actually happening.

I have to vote with my conscience and I cannot vote for less democracy, I have to vote for more. However people have many reasons for which they will vote and being a democracy you just have to accept that what matters to you will often not matter to most people. 

In all likelihood, the overwhelming majority will vote based upon shorter term concerns such as jobs, mortgages, trade and the economy and not questions of democracy. It might be of paramount importance to some but that doesn't make it universal. It also doesn't mean that others are wrong. People have different concerns and democracy itself is probably not going to be high up on that list. I wish it was but that's just life, that's democracy for you, suck it up.

If you're hoping that the UK will be some beach-head of change, a beacon of revolution then I suspect you're in for a rum night. We're a nation of shopkeepers, we like the peaceful life and a piping hot cup of tea. We're not marauding vikings. We see a queue and we stand in it whether we need to or not. There is nothing wrong with this, it is perfectly reasonable to vote to keep the status quo if that is what is most important to you. Mine is a vote on a principal (a principal of principles above all others), a vote of conscience on a very specific and important issue to me.

2) The EC and the EC President are democratic as they are elected by MEPs, it's no different from the civil service [or in some cases people will say 'cabinet'] in the UK!

The EC and the EC President are appointed. Yes, the European Parliament does get a veto (i.e. it has to approve) but neither the commissioners nor the EC president are elected representatives (by you and me). They are not even MEPs. The EC also initiates legislation in the EU.

In the UK, civil servants work for departments (e.g. health, justice, work & pensions) and those departments have a secretary of state (a minister responsible). The secretary of state is appointed by Government from MPs i.e. the convention is that each department has a head who is a named individual that has been elected by and is accountable to the people and then appointed by the Government of the day which itself has been elected by and is accountable to the people.

Those secretary or ministers of state can and do lose their position at elections. In the last election, we lost several ministers in charge of departments along with a few cabinet ministers e.g. Vince Cable and Danny Alexander. For reference the composition of the 95th cabinet can be found here. So if someone tells you that the EC is just as democratic as the UK Cabinet (which is often claimed) just ask them for a list of EC commissioners that have been removed from office by public elections. You'll be waiting for that list for a long time but [spoiler alert] the answer is ... none.

Also, for reference when you're told that MEPs vote on EC commissioners, people often forget to mention that it's on the entire team of commissioners and there's a lot of "compromise" that goes on.

It should also be noted that unlike the EC, civil servants don't initiate legislation. Whilst Civil Servants might draft legislation (such as statutory instruments or SIs), even SIs are "laid" before parliament on behalf of the minister. The EC and the Civil Service are not similar in terms of democratic accountability nor do they hold the same functions. Oh and no, I'm not particularly happy about quangos, chief execs and privatised departments either but then I'm not voting on those issues.

3) But the EC is accountable to MEPs!

Oh, what can I say? I know, I won't. I'll let someone else spell it out.

From New EU trade secrets law could jail whistleblowers

According to the transparency group Corporate Europe Observatory, a key group of MEPs from the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) party were persuaded to vote in favour of the new directive believing they had a firm commitment from the European Commission that new laws would be brought explicitly protecting whistleblowers.

But that's not how things worked out: "By voting for the trade secrets directive, the S&D lose everything: after the debate, and contrary to their demands, the Commission said last night that the legal provisions on this issue in article 5 of the [trade secrets] directive are strong enough. In other words, no need for a directive to protect whistleblowers."

Yes, even your elected representative (i.e. elected by you, though often not directly but through proportional systems with a party choosing) such as MEPs get told "on your bike" in diplomatic terms by unelected (i.e. not elected by you but appointed) officials. There isn't even a convention for commissioners to be chosen from people you've elected (e.g. MEPs). Power to the people! Unfortunately for those poor MEPs, it's the unelected officials of the EC that get to initiate legislation, hence the MEPs can't do anything about it. Well, they can ask but from the above the EC has said "no" or more accurately "no need". Yes, your MEPs (voted by you) get told you don't need this by people not voted by you. Power to the People etc etc.

Just to be clear, there's a lot of MEPs trying to do a good job on our behalf. However, the use of procedure (e.g. "dirty political tricks") to the weak ability to initiate law (in general it is allowed to ask the EC to submit a proposal unless specific treaties give the parliament the right of self initiation) should cause concern.

4) Wouldn't getting rid of the House of Lords be more democratic?

Unfortunately, I have not been asked to vote in a referendum on the House of Lords. Of course, if I was asked then I would respond as I do now - more democracy, not less. I would be voting for an elected second chamber. 

Naturally, if this referendum was on the House of Lords instead of the EU then someone could argue "Well, the EC isn't elected by members of the public but instead appointed by your elected representatives and I don't see you trying to get rid of the EC, so why would you vote against the House of Lords" ... because I happen to believe in democracy, that power is given by the people and the measure of a democracy is the ease at which ordinary people can get rid of those in power. Whenever an opportunity is presented to give more power back to the people, I'm going to take it. I'm certainly not going to agree with an argument of the form "it's broken over there and so we should keep this broken thing over here".

5) Shouldn't you vote remain and help reform EU?

We will almost certainly vote to remain and I will at that point join DiEM25 and support the campaign for a more democratic Europe. However, I won't vote against my conscience because of some wishful hope of future change. I'm asked to vote on 'what is' and not 'what might be'. Whenever I'm given the opportunity, I will vote for more democracy over less democracy every single time. In my 48 years of life, this is the first opportunity I have had regarding the EU question. I won't squander it.

6) What is the right thing to vote for?

That is something that only you can decide for yourself. Regardless of how you vote, I would hope you take the time to find what is important to you and vote on that principle whether its democracy, freedom of movement, trade deals or even your own security. This is an incredibly important decision. There is no right or wrong or as Blair said "sensible choice", democracy isn't about that. You have the vote, it's your decision and you have been given this chance. Decide on what matters to you and vote.

7) Are you anti-Europe?

No, I'm pro Europe. However being pro-Europe, being a European does not mean I have to be pro a particular political institution such as the European Union and its related bodies (e.g. the EC). If I was voting on whether we should have a democratic federal Europe then I could easily find myself voting for it as long as it means more democracy, more accountability to the people, more transparency to the people. But I'm not voting on that.

8) Are you right wing?

No, I'm old labour.

9) If you're old Labour surely you want the European Union?

I'm fully aware that Conservative & UKIP MEPs tend to fail to block legislation far more often than Labour & Liberal MEPs e.g. 87% of the motions that Conservative MEPs were opposed to they failed to block, 95% for UKIP and about 36% for Liberal etc.

For me, I could go - "well, that's great because that's more inline with my political view than against it".  That might be my interest and I could make a pretty good argument that it's in the common interest across Europe (based upon my political views) and convince myself that it's ok because I'm getting more of what I want. But that's hardly democracy or an excuse for the deficit of democracy within the EC.  That's the really tough part of democracy - accepting that if you have it, you may actually get less of what you wanted.

I completely understand those who would argue that the EU has a tempering effect on the excesses of politics at home by allowing more socialist and work friendly policies. I also understand the hotbed of corporate lobbying that the EU / EC are. But as I said, this is a vote on a principal and I'm for more democracy, not less.

10) What is your view on free movement?

My view is rather simple and as I'm frequently told "idealistic" along with other choice words. One planet, one people i.e. universal, worldwide free movement. But this isn't a referendum on free movement, it's a referendum on a political institution and for me that means issues of democracy are paramount.  Yes, I'm fully aware of the benefit that the EU and free trade has made to free movement and this is wonderful, I would hope it would be maintained. Yes, I can make an argument for voting to remain purely on the basis of fear that leaving EU would mean less free movement especially given some of the comments by the Leave campaign. However, that still won't overturn why I'm voting the way I am.

On the issues of immigration and asylum (which is where this normally leads), I view immigration as a benefit and I'm saddened by our response to the current crisis. I am perfectly aware that not everyone shares this view, please don't feel the need to explain to me why I'm wrong.

11) Would anything change your view on voting Leave?

A commitment to more democracy would always change my vote. For example, a binding commitment from the EU for :-
1) Full and immediate transparency in ALL decision making, treaty negotiations and documents of all EU institutions, councils & groups.
2) Compulsory register for lobbyists, public record for all meetings with any official.
3) All commissioners to be elected by the public of that nation state by 2018 in free and open elections.
4) A constitutional assembly by 2018 with the absolute commitment to a Sovereign European parliament elected by the public by 2020 and a European constitution built on citizens rights, enacted by citizens.

Something like that would certainly swing my vote. However, as it stands (and promises don't cut mustard) then the more democratic option is to leave.

12) Are you against the European Convention on Human Rights?

Absolutely not. I'm a huge supporter of both the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council of Europe (CoE) which is a non law making body that is focused on democracy, rule of law and human rights and policies treaties in such areas.

We are not voting on the CoE or the ECHR. If we leave the EU that does not mean we leave the Council of Europe or the European Convention on Human Rights. The EU and the CoE are different institutions. There is a connection, as far as I remember, that a country has to be a signatory to the ECHR before joining the EU (I believe it is part of the Copenhagen criteria).

13) Isn't your objection really that EU uses a different form of democracy? 

An extremely good point and possibly to the nub of the matter. Yes, I'm strongly in favour of parliamentary sovereignty and yes, I realise this is not the ONLY way to do democracy. It may not be a coincidence that countries like UK, Netherlands, Finland and Sweden have all had issues with the EU / EC structure and that all these countries have a history of parliamentary sovereignty. There may certainly be a cultural element to this. It's an extremely good question and I do not have an answer but it certainly makes me think. The question of course now becomes, am I willing to accept a different form of democracy for the common interest? That I need to mull over.