Archive for the ‘Publications’ Category

Simplifying the alphabet soup of sustainability

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

How to add 4% to your profit

What is climate doing to you, and you to it? This is Sustainability Reporting.

This is Sustainability in the big picture of climate and humans on the planet.


Climate change raises a two-sided question. What impact does it have on the sustainability of your business (revenue, customers, supplies, risks)? And what impact does your business have on climate and thus the broader sustainability of our society and environment.


This distills down to one sustainability question.

Customers, regulators, and investors are asking, “What is your commitment?” They are referring to two major scenarios for the future.

To simplify them in business terms:

The Red Scenario. Are your business and your investment practices aligned to a future that will see global temperatures rise by 3˚C or more? This is the dire world of the planet burning and social collapse. Standard & Poor’s, a ratings agency, reports that 66% of companies are unknowingly operating this way, even those that have publicly committed to “going green.”

The Green Scenario. Are your business and your investment practices aligned to a future that is +1.5˚C or less? This is the desired world climate that has so far allowed human beings to flourish. This is the sustainable scenario that CEOs are increasingly being tasked to deliver.


Let’s drill into these two scenarios further.

The Red Scenario has two sub-types: Dire and Diabolical.


Dire is when our enterprise and business systems adjust to simply delivering a 3˚C+ world. This world has hundreds of millions displaced, stretched food systems and 100 year floods, fires and droughts happening every 20 years or so.


Dire is not good.


Diabolical is Dire on steroids. 100 year disasters-a-decade. This is the trajectory of current business practice which lead to a potential 5˚C+ world. Neither red sub-type is desirable.


Think about it like this. The lifestyle our businesses currently lead means we’ve got a bit (or more than a bit) overweight and out of shape. The doctors have pointed out that diabetes and cardiac arrest are imminent.


Step 1 is to stop adding the gunk into our system.

Step 2 is to clean up what we’ve already done to ourselves.

To achieve the Green Scenario, we must play a different game.

The clever thinkers

The green goal is to stop adding carbon to the atmosphere and then to remove it to promote a return to a climate that’s healthy for humans and other species—and, at the same time, to create highly valuable businesses and a thriving society. #Healthy&Wealthy


The Green Scenario for a business has three sub-types:

  1. Going net-zero: This is where a business adds carbon and offsets what they add. It’s the binge and exercise option.
  2. Going carbon-neutral: This is where a business shifts how it does business so that it’s using processes and products that do not create carbon. This is the option to maintain your weight and reduce health risks.
  3. Going regenerative: This is where a business decides to get healthier and fitter than ever before. It’s getting carbon-neutral and dropping those Kgs. It’s a distinct lifestyle change.


The clever thinkers are already looking at three additional elements.

  • Are your planning and processes creating a ‘just transition?’ This asks you to look at the social impact of your strategy and how you can make it socially fair on the poorer elements of society.
  • Are you aligned to ‘science-based targets’? Science-based targets look across the economic system that businesses align to so that we don’t inadvertently do damage somewhere else while we take action on any one dimension.
  • Are you simply addressing your own internal operations or are you looking at what it really takes to create value? This is referred to as ‘Scopes 1, 2, and 3’ – and are a subject for another primer.


Investors, regulators, and customers are asking for insight on sustainability and your climate risks. They look at how well you’ve refreshed your strategy to incorporate your climate goals. They’ll ask about your climate ambition—what scope you are committing to and what you are doing to achieve it.


It’s the business version of keeping up good relationships, not over-training and making sure your business ecology is sustainable.

For Businesses in Asia

Committing to the Green Scenario has direct economic value now. The EU is introducing a 4% levy on goods that are not produced in alignment with the EU taxonomy on Sustainability. They are doing this to create a level playing field so that imported goods pay an equivalent price to the cost of carbon in the EU. This carbon border levy is called the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).


On the basis that what gets measured gets done, there are a variety of initiatives to assist you in adapting to the Green Scenario.


There are policy initiatives. The EU’s New Green Deal is the driver behind CBAM. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals with 156 sub-elements that, while primarily designed for countries, can also provide insights for companies assessing where they have positive or negative impact. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) helps you understand and report impact across a range of issues such as climate change, human rights, and corruption.


There are also Investor initiatives. The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is the future facing version of investment where money is expected to do more than simply make money—it’s expected to create an impact too. Issue-focused initiatives are increasingly active; for example, Climate Action 100+ ensures that the world’s largest 100 corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change.

Science says we have a decade to get green. And then another decade to get greener so that we have headed off the worst of the red scenario. This is where the ‘by 2030’, ‘by 2040’, and ‘by 2050’ markers come into the discussion.


In summary, your climate ambition is your commitment to:

(a) net-zero, carbon neutral or regenerative

(b) your scope of ambition 1, 2 or 3 and

(c) your timeline for each element e.g. 2025, 2030, 2040 etc.

Your climate strategy is your plan to respond to external changes while delivering on this commitment along with your financial and other commitments.

In the absence of a stated climate ambition or strategy, continuing ‘as is’ also known as ‘business as usual’ (BAU), implying an enterprise is defaulting to a red scenario pathway (S&P July 7 2021).

If your enterprise does not know it’s impact on sustainability, there may be unknown, unquantified liabilities in the not-too-distant future – rendering your business unsustainable to stakeholders and the planet.


In the next article in this series, we will focus on what [un]Sustainability does to create and erode enterprise value.


I’m Joanne Flinn. I help CXOs win deep leading  transitions for a 1.5 degree world. My next book, Greensight the New Liability for Directors and Named Individuals is coming out soon.

#Greensight #Sustainability #BoardDirector

First Things First in Turbulence and Crisis

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Here are three things you need to do when things shift again

as I was coaching a senior executive, we got into the business side of
the corona virus. She asked me what I’d learned running businesses
during a large-scale crisis like SARS.

It became a conversation to
answer this question: what can and must we do as leaders to keep our
businesses alive during such times? If you are an entrepreneur or an
executive responsible for P&L, read on. This is for you.

Image credit: Brian McGovan

Step 1: Refocus the Fear

on fear is not the answer. Yes, it must be acknowledged. Yes, respect
it. Yes, follow recommended medical-hygiene practices—but then focus on
the opportunities inevitably sparked by a crisis.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen
relationships by helping your customers or suppliers through a tough
moment. Cash flow is going to be an issue, with cancellations and
delays. Your leadership role is to promote patience and solidarity.
Immediate results include loyalty and reciprocal support.

It’s an opportunity to
reassure your people that their roles (and thus their income) are
stable. Help them stay calm about that, so they can be present and

It’s an opportunity to do those important
things that your business has been too busy to pay attention to. It’s
time to look at those transformation projects and, while ordinary
operations might be in a lull, put the energy, bandwidth, and capacity
that is now available to good use.

Step 2: Find the Silver Lining

the new version of the corona virus started to rise and the first signs
of it showed up in Singapore, the city where I live, I put into play
what I’d learned running a practice with PwC.

I looked at my lines of business and put them into two buckets.

Bucket 1: Services likely to be affected because they rely on face-to-face interaction. Into this bucket went our Unicorning Workshops and keynote speeches. In the last two weeks, I’ve had 20% of this year’s bookings delayed or cancelled.

Bucket 2: Things that, happily, happen in another plane, such as our scaling and toolkit services, coaching, and virtual workshops. I put my energy and action into those three opportunities.

The result: an agreement with one client to
accelerate the development of a set of products that will enable her
business to scale to $100 million. We’ve worked out a pace for product
development and licensing and for a payment plan that makes sense, given
the realities of her client’s corona-influenced cash flow and the value
that these products will bring to them.

What could have looked like collapse is actually a multi-million-dollar opportunity.

Which brings me to the third concept my senior executive and I focused on.

Step 3: Keep The Lights On

truth is, it’s likely to be financially tough for a while. Once peak
SARS was past and the re-infection rate had dropped, it took over six
months for the animal spirits of business to recover. The leadership
challenge today is to manage both mind and money.

Manage mind first.

our mind is present and free of fear, we can find opportunities. These
create new data and contexts for the very practical decisions you’ll
need to make to keep the lights on.

Keeping the lights on (KTLO)
is as much about making sure your business mission in the world is
preserved as it is about cash. Cutting corners or acting in ways that
undermine your values is costly in the long run. The price you’ll pay
for hasty, bad decisions that don’t reflect who you are could outlast
this year’s corona virus by a long time.

Work through your budget, the cash flow forecasts, and the new opportunities that can be created. Make the changes you need to.

will pass. And in the meantime, keep the good you’ve done in finding
silver linings and refocusing fear. They are the investments that will
enrich and grow your business, your team, and your mission.

Joanne Flinn ~ The Business Growth Lady

If you are a mission-driven entrepreneur or executive with P&L responsibility, let’s connect on LinkedIn.

What Can You Do For the Climate Crisis?

Monday, September 30th, 2019

It was 1976. I’m looking out of the cockpit window of a plane as we fly past Mount Kilimanjaro. The snow caps shine brightly. The pilot hands me a certificate, congratulating me for flying over the Equator for the first time.

Things have change since then.

Passengers are no longer allowed upfront into the plane cockpit. Kilimanjaro is no longer snow covered all year. I’m no longer a child. 

If you are reading this on the internet, you probably aren’t either.

The child that was on that flight would have been out of school on Fridays. She’d have marched for the climate and the planet. I’m applauding Greta Thunberg.

The adult in me has asked myself, what responsibility can I take? What can I influence? How can I help you and other to too?

I can write, I can speak, I can do what good business mentors do – ask the questions that’s help the tough answers be found.

I can do what good leaders do, create better futures. As a board member I can. As a human being I can too.

Business Leadership in the Climate Crisis

As a business leader, I can ask is my business CO2 neutral today? Congrats, Jeff Bezos for committing Amazon to this by 2030. Go further, commit to being climate positive across all the SDGs by 2030.

After all, CO2 is part of the climate equation. So is plastic, clean water and waste.

Big business is more than 60% of the global GDP. Leadership decisions here count. Kudos for GoldmanSach’s for their advocacy for proactive climate investments and BNPParibas for your action too.

As a CEO, I know that if we set KPIs and reward the behaviors, the business will find solutions. They’ll look for them. New services, products and solutions will be created. New businesses and economies will be created.

To be clear, I’m advocating designing the future not simply responding to it.

“Rather than being screwed, if we act quickly, a sustainable future could be cleaner, quieter, safer, more technologically advanced and more prosperous than the alternative”. Paul Romer, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics

Romer identifies the challenges to this are not primarily economic, nor are they primarily technological, they are institutional, cultural and organizational. This is the leadership space.

The challenges are leadership.

A climate positive business economic system even more prosperous than the current destructive system is possible. In the last GFC, four trillion dollars was pumped into the US economy, a few years later, it had resulted in a $34 trillion dollar expansion. Good ROI. #ClimateCrisis is as strong a reason for central bank action as the GFC.

As a stakeholder and shareholder and board member, vote and expect Boards to look at sustainability as more than business sustainability. Go for climate positive across the SDGs by 2030.

Some Boards are interpreting the Environmental, Societal and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements required of listed companies as business sustainability alone. I contributed expert input to Board Governance needs in Asia to the CPA Australia earlier this year. It’s clear that national legislations vary significantly.

Go further than the legislation. Ask yourself, do you plan on being alive in 10 years? Do you want to breathe? Do you want a business and a planet that’s dealing with the warfare that comes from a billion people being displaced from storm, floods and collapsed food systems?

As a human, it is frankly scary. I look back to that young girl in a plane looking out at the majesty of Mount Kilimanjaro and realize there is a lot I can do as a human.

Wisdom of the ages says we reap what we sow. I’d prefer to sow a prosperous human economic system with a sustainable green planet. 

I know it’s not over night.

Instead of saying it’s too hard or that it’s impossible. It’s about ‘do it’. The climate crisis is up there with nuclear war (negative) and man on the moon (positive). We avoid that bad. We got man there in under a decade. We gained that good.

Climate varies
Cold in some places

Getting Practical about Business Action for the Climate Crisis

As a business woman, I’m practical. I like visions and goals to have a road map and practical frameworks.

Here is a practical framework to measure progress to sustainability. It was developed for a client’s business and it’s shared with permission. May it spark your own business goals.

The columns represent goals, while the rows address key elements of their business success.

Business Goals for Climate Crisis

* SDG #5 highlights that economic equity between men and women is an accelerator of sustainability.

** Unicorns have a super agile adaptive mindset. Necessary for the pace of change that climate and IR4.0 have for business.

Do I know how their business will achieve this at this precise moment? No, but then no unicorn knows how it will achieve it’s goal when it starts.

Climate neutral is a good start. The foot needs to get off the polluting peddle. Kudos to L’Oreal for your work piloting this across your supply chain.

Climate positive is next. Stabilize what’s already out there currently creating damage. And then, to get to the deeper need to systematically operate our business and economic system on the basis of climate sustainability. 

It means clean up work.

Take Climate Action Personally

I’m looking at my life. I’ve a backlog of pollution, of CO2, of plastic and waste to consider.

I get how China can say to the West that you sunk masses of carbon into the system in the past. While much of the focus is about getting to climate neutral, it’s also about getting the past pollutants out of the system.

I was on that flight over Mount Kilimanjaro. Even though my parents were flying me back to see my grand parents, as an adult, I can say I was there. I can choose to offset and clean up on my past at the same time as I focus on my business being CO2 neutral now and being systemically climate positive by 2030.

On Sunday, in honor of that girl on the plane, in honor of the kids who march Fridays and in honor business leaders who are showing up, I did something practical. You can do this too.

I got out excel.

I worked out how many flights I’d taken in my life. I included the ones my parents had put me on when I went off to boarding school. I counted the ones I’ve taken for business.

Total so far: 980 flights.

This is 1960 takes offs and landings – where the most fuel is consumed.

I estimated the flying hours with short haul flights and long haul flights. It’s 7134 flying hours.

I’m committed to offsetting these and to do the same to new flights.

I put money where my mouth and words are and took action. To begin to offset this, I’ve invested in protecting fruit trees planted by a women’s society. 14974 days of protection. It’s a start. Thank you #B1G1 for making this possible. 

Unicorns begin small, and they work it out. 

I invite you to see your business as a climate unicorn. Imagine the change it can make, the billions that it can benefit, and yes, the value you will create in the process.

It includes prosperous people, successful business and a thriving planet. It’s possible.

Do you believe it’s possible? What’s your experience with going for the impossible and making it happen? Does your business get why it’s important to act today? What suggestions do you have for action in your business?



Where is 87% of your Capital Value?

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

There are three myths in the capital raising journey. The first is that it’s about “the capital”. The second is that it’s about “the deal”. And the third, is that it’s about “the one”.

In this article, I am going to re-frame how you look at the value of your company and capital raising.

This is from a keynote given to 300 CEOs, Founders and Executives from USA, Asia and Europe late 2018 at Anthony Robbin’s Wealth Mastery Program.


87% of your stock market value comes from 6 forms of value, yet traditional capital raising focuses on just 3 forms. These only make up 13% of stock market value*

Source: Unicorning™ Analytics, Standard & Poors, Additional Analytics

At Unicorning, when we analyzed at the stock market value of businesses that have been super successful over the last decade, we noticed that they have huge valuations in non-traditional forms of value. In fact, we found that non-traditional forms of capital make up 87% of the stock market value. This trend is only increasing.

We found the executives, founders and businesses that build great business are ones focusing on six non-traditional forms of value. They articulate, measure and grow each of these capitals.  

What does this mean for you?

The capital that is not on your balance sheet is your capital for success. This is true even if you are simply focusing on growing your business.

The capital that is not on your balance sheet is your capital for success

Joanne Flinn

Grow Your Business and Valuation With the Critical Six Capitals

Our analysis found that each of each of these capitals is an answer to an important business question. Here are the six non-traditional capitals to help you articulate, measure and grow your business.

They are framed as questions to spark your thinking.

1.    WHY Possibilities

What’s the greater value? What’s the greater vision? What are the possibilities for the world, if this actually can happen? What’s the change your business is making in the world? Example: Tesla sells the possibility of transportation (cars, rocket ships…) powered by renewable energy. People who buy Tesla cars are making a statement about the future of the planet as much as they are investing in bringing the vision to life. 

2.    WHEN Time

Are you making time an asset? Are you utilizing and managing it well? Getting services and products to market swifter has concrete value. Fast paced hyper growth businesses know this – a month of market is valued in the millions. This holds true for customers too in a super busy world. Example: Atlassian is a software company built around helping business teams use time super effectively so their clients get things done focused, faster and better.  

3.    WHAT Brand Promise

What will the business deliver? How will people see you? Example: BMW is a lifestyle car with superb engineering. The brand promises that you will be seen as part of the high-net worth elite. It works this promise through may levels of the car, the organization and your experience as a BMW owner.

4.    WHO Relationships and Networks

Are you who you know? Who do you know? Where is your influence? Example: Grab and Uber sell you access to a network of drivers while Oxford and Harvard give you access to an entirely different sort of network. In this increasingly social world, the networks are valued and valuable.

5.    HOW Technology and Processes

How are you creating opportunities to scale? Are you innovating how things are done? Is your technology helping customers lead better lives, have better experiences or take their business further. Are your processes smoother, more effective and secure? Example: R3, a blockchain company that works with banks, recently had one of the biggest series A funding rounds ever. 

6.    Intellectual Property

How do you scale your creativity? Which parts are so valuable people will pay for it? Example: LVMH owns many of the world’s luxury brands, its intellectual property is its key source of value, which we can tell by how diligently it tries to shut down fakes.

87% of the stock market value is above the line.

13% of the stock market value is below the line. This is the world of the traditional P&L and Balance Sheet.

7.    Contracts

Do you have a cashflow pipeline? Is there proof that people value what you are selling? Are the partners you depend on committed? Contracts have measurable value. 

8.    Cash

Do you have money in the bank? Do you have reserves to respond to emergencies? Do you have a means to invest forward? Can you manage your money? What’s in your P&L and Balance Sheet?

9.    Physical Property

Do you have assets that can be used to recoup losses? Have you made enough money to invest in physical assets? Do you have physical assets? In the tech start up world, physical capital is considered old fashioned and slow growth, yet, physical capital has value. Just ask WeWork’s CEO who has made millions leasing property to WeWork’s co-working business.

These three forms of capital are well measured, they’re in the P&L and the Balance Sheet – but if you are growing your business, looking for capital or wanting to increase the valuation of your business, pay attention to whats in that 87%.

Case Study: GRAB, the Unicorn

Have you ever taken an Uber or a Grab? What they did was they created a network where they were always available and relationships where we trust, now we get into a car with a complete stranger. And a complete stranger is happy to pick us up and take us somewhere. What they were able to do was create a who (4) and a how (5) combination that created value and service. Think about how much data they’ve got on us and where they can create new forms of value to us ‘the customer’ and thus to the investor. Grab, which is based out of Singapore, is worth a billion dollars. It’s a Unicorn. 

Reframing the capital-raising journey

This journey begins with you. As much as capital raising about the logic and the numbers, the truth is that you are absolutely critical to capital raising journey. You show up in two ways. Firstly, there is your heart, the passion for what you are creating and the belief that you and your team is able to do it. But there also a less talked about element of you: who do you want to be in the journey?

For example, let’s take a look at the mindset around capital raising. You’ve heard of the Dragons Den? It is a great image, it appeals to our inner knight-in-shining armor. Yet, when we see capital raising as going into the dragon’s den, what do we find? We find dragons and danger.

What happens if you shift this perspective? If we see capital raising as a journey into new territory with unknowns to discover and work out, what happens? You are now an explorer or adventurer.

One mindset is about defense while the other the explorer/adventurer keeps you in a growth mindset.

Reframing it this way, you will have a different relationship to the information that comes back to you when you put your proposition, pitch and product out there. You’ll see the information that comes back with a spirit of inquiry, with interest and you’ll have a greater capacity to respond. You will be able to adapt to what’s actually happening. Data from the markets, your customers, or your business partners becomes clues and sign post on your journey towards your business goals.

Unicorning this year

What are you doing to raise your value in 2019? Do you want to be a Unicorn? You and thse 9 forms of capital are behind every successful business.

Let’s converse about your capital raising priorities. 

When to pay attention to the background?

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

With the volatility of presidential announcements and a strong feeling of ‘what is the new world order?’ it’s very easy to ignore things going on in the background.

Why do I look at the background?

The background influences everything  going on right now. To become future ready, organisations and leaders need awareness of this broader picture, else the future arrives, it’s a surprise.

After all, we humans seem to be hard wired to pay attention to the brightly colored, fast moving object. It’s either dangerous or interesting. But the very slowly moving, adding up bit by bit changes, these are easy to ignore.

It’s the difference between a heart attack calling urgent attention or slow incremental weight gain. The later is dangerous if you want a long and healthy life.

Last week, I had both to consider.

A family member in hospital for a heart attack, while I was thinking about my contributions to the Oxford Futures Forum at the University of Oxford on Scenarios, Climate Futures and the role of Arts and the Humanities.

Oxford Futures Forums look at integrating professions to deal with complex trends playing out over 30+ years. It pulls things that add up little by little in the background, into the foreground.

As an individual, I hanker to live a long and healthy life. I wish the world I eventually leave to be happier, kinder and fairer than the world I was born into. The vision of happy people, happy planet seems a good thing to aim towards. It beats the alternative.

Yet, the most likely climate trajectory (science) is that in 70 years, the Arctic will be habitable for alligators.

If you, like me are over 40, it’s not likely that we’ll be alive. But we may be alive for a good amount of the next 70.

What does this say for future societies, the world’s financial and industrial system and the lives of our children and grand children? This is when futures scenarios are incredibly powerful.

As leaders, it’s also a place for us to influence for the better.

For a happy planet, the science is clear. It’s now about values, decisions and action — and influencing them. Ethically.

It’s not simply about a happy planet. Will there be happy people in a world with alligators in the Arctic?

So back to the opening question, when is a good time to look at the background?

Now is good. The incremental pieces that create the background continue to add up, compounding each day.

How to make a million from art assets

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Buying Art – for the financially rational minded

Above all, art is a personal choice. For those who want to know the best time to buy, this article answers the question:

How do you make $1,000,000 from art assets?

Million dollar artworks are no longer unusual*. But how do you make a million dollars buying & selling art? It’s the age old rule of any type of investment –

buy LOW and sell HIGH.

Damien_Hirst_Dots _ source Wikimedia_Commons

Damien and the million dollar dots

The problem with art is that you need to know about the artist before they become famous. That’s a little bit tricky. If you knew Modern Artist Damien Hurst and purchased his Dots work you could expect to sell them on the market today for $53,000 to $1.3 million.

As an investor, it’s about timing, so too for art investing. When an artist moves from one stage to the next, the value of the art asset appreciates. The best situation is to invest just prior to an artist’s move from proven and undiscovered to proven and discovered.

Art Asset AppreciationWhat’s Proven: an artist that exhibitions in multiple countries, and has been exhibited in top galleries or museums

Discovered: More and more people come across the artist and they buy. In economic terms, demand exceeds supply

So, when is a good time to buy?

Obviously when an artist is Unproven there is low investment value and the potential for art asset appreciation is nil. You might be waiting awhile for a good return.
Proven but Undiscovered is the best investment value because the potential for art asset appreciation is at it’s highest. The artist is climbing and just like with a stock, you want to buy on the way up. It’s like getting the pre-IPO price on a share.
Proven and Discovered is not as good of an investment because you’ve lost the timing and may be purchasing the art asset at Post IPO valuations.

 The Solution

 Booth Aster’s artworks have been exhibited and purchased in Germany, Spain, the USA and Singapore. They’ve been showcased at the Museum of Art and Design and the Art Sciences Museum. (PROVEN)

And now with July’s TEDxArtist-In-Residence out with the world’s attention, discovery is just around the corner.

Sounds like the right time to buy, doesn’t it?

As an investor, art is an under-represented asset class in most investment portfolios. According to Deloittes (2012) there is a growing recognition of art as an investment asset class by investors. And as we all know, art is an appreciating asset over time that can be enjoyed a lot longer than Chateau Laffite.

Three Affordable Art Assets currently available from Booth Aster

For those looking for investment grade art assets above $100,000, contact Booth Aster via email for a confidential discussion at booth[at]

Get Your Art Asset before Booth Aster is discovered and the assets price goes up.

*Here is a list of artists who regularly sell for well over a million in the UK. Three are women doing over a million a work which is encouraging.



Art to Lift the Soul – Why buy art?

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

People ask ‘why buy art?’ It’s simple. Does it speak to you inside?

For example:

My burnt out soul needed art for how it helped me feel.

I needed something to remind me of what passion, joy and love felt like. I needed something to remind me of who I could be if I put the fears and rationality aside. I needed something to show up each day for me when the distractions of life came by.

Art does this.

I buy art pieces that speak to me. Some I create specifically. I put them up where I can see them every day.

All of it is art to lift the soul.

I’m also asked ‘what art have you bought?’ Aka do I walk my talk? 🙂

These are three art pieces and what they’ve meant for me on my life’s journey. Do you related to the moments?

Anna Flinn_my_Donald Friend_BarFly The Bar Fly

I brought this sketch by Donald Friend, a very well established Australian Artist.

I loved its humor and lightness.

At the time it reminded me to invest in the life I wanted even if I could simply afford a sketch.

Pen on Paper, 10 cm x 15cm

Anna Flinn_my_Luke Wagner small From Where I am Standing

This oil painting is by Luke Wager, now an established Tasmanian Artist.

This totally describes how I felt, yearning for the space to fly.

It’s in my living room so I ‘live with’ this every day. It reminds me to keep believing particularly when I need it.

Oil on Canvas, 250 cm x 120 cm

VOS with Signature Cream.001 Voluptuousness of the Soul
by Booth Aster
This piece was created on request, ‘bespoke’ in art speak. The values and feelings wanted were richness, the sense of flowering and growing. The blue bra holding these wings is a touch of lightness as bras hold we girls up.Sculpture, 55 cm x 35cm x 15cm

What are you looking for in life? Is there part of you that wants to show up?

Who would you be if you could be anything?

These are the questions that got me started, these are the ones that lead me to Wings. This is we begin when I create art for you.

May you find the art that puts Wings on Your Soul.

~ Anna

7 things I learned about creativity, leadership and results as TEDxArtist-in-Residence

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

It began with a problem. Or as the Chinese would say, an opportunity.

Read on for the behind the scenes story, for the bullets, see the end.

Behind the scenes

It’s Thursday, 7:10pm and I receive an email. ‘We would like to invite you to be the TEDxAIR for TEDxPickering St at the Art Sciences Museum in Singapore.’

It’s in 8 weeks.

Side note: What’s a TEDxAIR? TED stands for Technology, Engineering and Design. The design side got a bit lost so 3 years ago the first Artist-in-Residence or AIR was created to link to the creative communities and to see how ideas are expressed in other mediums. Each TEDxAIR is unique. Todate there have been around 18 ranging from Mt Hood USA to the Courtauld Institute UK and now the PickeringSt at the Art Sciences Museum in Singapore.

In between saying ‘Oh, Yeh! Oh Fxxk! Oh, Yeh! Oh Fxxk!’ to myself, I read on. I am asked to create artwork and installations to inspire attendees at the TEDx event. The theme is ‘Quotients’ – as in intelligence quotient IQ or EQ the emotional intelligence quotient. They asked ‘What other important quotients are there?’

As an artist, I’m complimented. But 8 weeks is an extremely short time to do commissioned work. Understanding the essence of their need, developing the artistic concept, agreeing this, validating that it’s executable (do able), actually doing it and installing it is something that usually takes months even years.

And I’m due in Oxford the next week for a think tank. I don’t have 8 weeks!

We meet the next morning, the TEDx convener, Ri and I.

Our first conversation: We decide go for it. We know we have just met, we don’t know each other, we don’t know the budget. It turned out the previous artist who had to pull out had funding, but it attached to him.

In situations like this, it’s either step up for the ride and trust that we’ll do something amazing or run for the hills.

We decided we’d trust that we could work it out.

Delivering the promise

Over the next 8 weeks, we had to live this ‘trusting it will work out’.

Side notes: What does trusting it will work out actually look like? It’s not naivety. Lots went wrong if I used corporate standards of practice. Well, you could call it failures in that there were many hiccups. Or you could say ‘we failed forward’. Or you could see this as the real story of the creativity and innovation process. One that actually delivers.

The creative process used here is the same one I use with large companies doing white space transformation. There are more parallels between the creative process for art and for successfully executing on business transformation than is generally realized. Using an inappropriate program process is a significant contributor to the 93% failure rate seen in corporates.

 We do our first site visit. The space is huge and tiny. Both at the same time. The stage art installation is in a specific location, we’ve 4m by 2.4 m to work with. The foyer is 40 meters by 5 stories. It’s huge.

I put a concept forward, then I’m off to Oxford.

I get back and do another site visit to confirm sizes and spaces.

It’s 6 weeks out, a 3rd site visit. The head videographer (he who record the fabulous TED talks) doesn’t like the initial concept. Nor does he like its color.

Back to the drawing board.

At 3 am, I’m dealing with ‘what is the purpose of the artist?’ inner question and realize, ‘the concept, it’s the butterfly of Chaos Theory.’ You recall the one that flaps their wings over the Amazon and creates huge changes else where in the world?

TED is about ‘ideas worth sharing’. As the artist in residence, I wanted to express this in the art installation that acts as the stage backdrop.

Ideas worth sharing are butterflies that change the world

The concept is refined over caffeine the next day with Ri in our second critical conversation.

We’ll use parchment paper for the translucency. Ideas are intangible. Concept of wings flying to link to sharing. Later on we added a second layer, the gestation of ideas, like a caterpillar that eats, cocoons then morphs into the butterfly.

As this develops, one layer would be modern western pop art inspired by Roy Lichtenstein, the second, we’d use the Cutout and Shadow Technique inspired by traditional Asian paper cuts from China and the Indonesian paper shadow puppets. This is fitting for Pickering St. This TEDx is named after the first officer in the British Colonial Service who spoke both English and Chinese.

We’d laser cut the story of ideas to be modern. Given the scale which when we finally calculated what it would take 800 cm of paper, folded like a curtain, there was no way we could do it by hand. The laser cutting of the pattern would create the texture so the story would be visible. Backlight for depth.

The final concept: Ideas are Butterflies, it’s 4 meters x 2.35 meters, made from paper, space and light.

This is about as intangible and ephemeral as you could get.


The video guys oked the demo version.

Side Bar: In the creative white space of exploration and development, insights comes from unexpected quarters. Even feelings are all important elements that create a powerful concept that can be validated. Ideas develop into the vision, the thing that we say ‘this is the thing we are going for’. There is a distinct yet intangible sense ‘ah, this is it!’  

Moving into the next stage of creativity is the actual execution on the core elements of the vision. Note, in the first stage, ‘how’ is not a big element, it was simply a validation point thanks to the timeline. It was not a constraint.

Into the next hurdle

In parallel, I’m also creating a TED talk. Actually, it feels like the TED talk – they ask if you had one idea to share, the idea of a lifetime, what would it be? Which feels pretty high stakes for me. Then it is finding the courage to share what really feels important. In real life, there is always more than one thing going on.

Back to art in action. This is strategy in action. Art is a concept delivered. Art is strategy executed.

Sidebar: This is a big challenge that a lot of companies face. The great idea may exist but executing those ideas is a problem. That’s why so many million dollar ideas don’t see the light of day. Sound familiar? Underneath this, we used a structured process to hone the most appropriate idea for our goal, and then a second structured process that integrates artistic creativity with program management to deliver results.

How do we actually convert the concept into reality?

It is only impossible until you do it

We, by this stage, Ri is firmly part of the creative team, we put a call for help out as more detailed work on the concept continues. Art is a team process.

The concept is sketched and tested – about version 8 or was it 15? – it feels right.

I spend 12 hrs hand folding paper to experiment to see which technique works best.

Lasers, at the scale we need, are huge and expensive. It turns out the one that could have done it, has been decommissioned.

The guys at the Fab Café at the Art Sciences Museum test out part of the concept so we know how it will behave when we laser.

The files we need to instruct the laser are infinitely more complex than we’d thought. There is no spray can dot creating tool in AI. Every dot is by hand. On an 8 meter file.

One graphic designer collapses working till 3:20 am.

We are now 3 weeks out.

Ri is discovering skills she didn’t know she had. We break files limits, we work around things. We adjust files so that the layers cooperate together.

We are now 2 weeks out.

We find a laser. The guy is wonderful. ‘Come in with the file. I’ll cut. I need it in dmx format.’

What’s dmx? We discover. We also find out that converting our file to this does stuff. More fixing (failure = recover in action).

It’s a week out.

The laser dude, he’s never cut paper. He’s on the adventure too.

Lasers are hot. Paper burns. He’s doing it layer by layer.

We have 10 different panels to burn. We need a spare in case one tears. 20 panels. It is 3 days out.

I get the call saying ‘don’t worry, it will be fine’

It’s all be so crazy, I actually do. Not worry, this is.

Friday am it’s ready to be picked up. The event starts Saturday at 12 noon.

The sheets are 2.4 meters long and 80 cm wide. I’ve got to work out how to carry them.

It’s raining. Parchment and rain is not a good look.

We were meant to be doing set up Friday am. Someone else is using the space Friday. We can’t start till 7pm.

I get there with everything I’ll need – I’ve this artwork ‘Ideas are Butterflies’, plus ‘Gaia’s Wings’, an 8m by 4.5 m installation for the foyer and another 6 pieces for the installation at the entrance of the Art Sciences Museum. It’s 9 pm.

My security pass is only valid from midnight.

I get in, there are some amazing volunteers who help put together the parchment. We lay out the pieces – there are 10 sheets of parchment, 80 cm x 2.4 m each. We have to work out which fits with which. It’s an 8 meter across puzzle.

Carefully we connect the 10 panels. Thank God the room next to the stage is huge.

Even more carefully, we fold the huge fragile artwork so it’s like a curtain.

We create loops so it can hang.

We get it on the rod, and carefully, carefully carry it to the next room, to the stage to hang it. To tweak the folds so it really looks like a curtain. I finally leave at 4:30 am Saturday.

A few hours later, at 10:30 am in the morning when I get back in, the lights appear, thanks to the video guys… we light up… it’s a sunrising light with the caterpillar of an idea being born as a butterfly.

It’s noon. TEDx begins. Ideas worth sharing.

Take Aways from Doing the Impossible aka TEDxAIR in 8 weeks

  1. Create Magic. You can create magic and the insanely impossible if you believe you can.
  2. Trust in each other. This can exist even if you haven’t ever worked together before. We trusted that each of us were doing our best. We knew we were not perfect and that we were on new territory. Conversation was critical to our success.
  3. Disciplined Creativity for Delivery. Underneath this story is a structured creative process integrated with the discipline of adaptive project management.
  4. Continuous prototyping. We validated continuously. This took time and resources. There was wastage – which was required as we didn’t have time for ‘do agains’
  5. Future Focused. Things went ‘wrong’ all the time. The closer it got to the date, this moved from once a week, to every day. At times it felt on the hour. To succeed in this type of environment, we had to live from trust. Practically this meant that each time things went off, we’d both go ‘ok, back to the big picture, so how?’ We were solution finding, future focused. At no time were we blame or past focused.
  6. Collective leadership. I lead the creative vision, Ri was instrumental in the execution. It’s a team effort, we each added different parts. At least 13 people contributed to this. Some of whom I didn’t even see, but they are there and are appreciated.
  7. Challenge is Stretch. Creativity and innovation will get No’s. The video guys were still unsure of the final work when they started doing recording tests at 11:30am. They wanted to take it down. But they kept it up for my TED talk as the first speaker. Then they left it till the break, and finally the whole event. They’d found that the art did work for them.

If they hadn’t said no initially, I’d not have stretched the creativity. Ideas would not be butterflies that change the world. Their challenge added hugely. They stretched me as an artist. And yes, they got stretched too. We both expanded.

If you are having challenges with creativity, time frames or getting results, it is an issue with the creative process-in-action.

Scale it: do you need ideas to deliver? Is your time frame short? Establish what each week gained would mean to your clients, organization and staff.

For example: a concept that is potentially $2.5 million per year in 2 years is worth $48,000 a week. $25 million pa is $480,000/week. Your measurement may be people helped as an NGO. In both cases, the more swiftly and brilliantly the idea becomes come real, the more valuable it is.

Getting creativity right is more that reducing risk and preventing loss, it is about making the impact and getting the results you really want.

Put these 7 points into action. You will see creativity, innovation and leadership delivering at a higher level. You will see results.

If creativity, time frames, strategy or results are high on your list of priorities, connect with me for an exploratory conversation on the situation, to give you initial insights and see if we both are a fit for each other.

Project Wings Pte Ltd (c) 2017

7 Meta-Trends Defining Your Business in 2017

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

How many are you dealing with?

Death and taxes are highly certain. The meta-trends redefining our world are certain, the rest is uncertain. Can we drop the false certainty from data and work with what’s really around us?

Global statistics show only about 10 % of businesses will be. A microscopic number will be around in 30 years. Yet while our business might not be here, we individually probably will be. We might as well create the future we prefer.

It’s those with commitment who change the world. Gandhi and Mandala did. Obama, Winfrey Gates and Jobs have. A powerful vision can do much.

7 meta trends will influence our businesses and lives for the next 30 years whether we are Millennial, Gen XY or Baby Boomer.

These trends will impact how we live, work and play. The choices we consciously make today will define this world. But if we don’t admit that these meta trends are out there or if we only focus on a couple and ignore the rest, we will be blindsided.

The 7 Meta-Trends

Meta Trend 1. The New Age of Wealth and Life

Nutshell: More silver consumers, late wealth for Millennials, assets hollowed out, Gen XY are zombied.

Business opportunities will shift as more and more people enter the silver 70s. Gen XY are caught in the middle with post global financial crisis careers and finances while the millennial see life about life over wealth creation, thanks in part to seeing ‘zombied’ parents. While silver is the new gold, our joint future is post-millennial.

The basis for wealth creation, retirement and finances will re-define success for business and life.

Implication: What will wealth become? When will we really retire? What is ‘living well? For that matter, what is dying well? What is the well lived life?

Meta Trend 2. Supply Chains: Feeding & Watering the World

Nutshell: Stressed supply chains and more resources consumed with population growth and desired lifestyle

It’s simply food and water. The average human will die within 10 days without food or water.

Critical parts of the human lifeline (aka the global supply chain) are under increasing stress. Interconnected logistics that moves food, fashion and consumables swiftly around the world only needs minor knocks to break down. Supply chains have been deconstructed, distributed and dependent on multiple sub-contractors spread across the world shipping things globally.

With increasing populations globally, fresh water systems are under pressure from farming and urban demand for water. The FAO reports a third of the worlds food production goes to waste while people starve. At the other end of the supply chain, waste disposal is putting increasing pressure on other environmental systems.

People, companies, industries, economic systems, environmental systems and countries grow ever more entwined even as political debate may suggest other wise.

Implication: Can we be fully transparent about our supply chains and its fragility? Can we the hidden costs and impacts of our current practices? What could create trust and sustainability in this entwined world?

Meta Trend 3. The Human-Urban

Nutshell: It is no longer simply the human being

These days 80% of people live in cities. This density of living has it’s own economic and environmental consequences. Telecoms and technology are helping billions of people are coming online. Data is public. Privacy is a future luxury. If it can be automated, it will.

With robotics and artificial intelligence coming out of the background, what it means to be human, to work and to be valued will change. This may be our generations equivalent to Copernicus discovering the earth revolved around the sun combined with the printing press on steroids.

Implication: What is society, rights and values in this post urban world? What is it to be human when the best becomes an AI robot? More personally, who do you wish to be as the nature of work changes? How will we value humans?

Meta Trend 4. Tech – TechTech, FinTech and MedTech

Nutshell: Electrical self-driving cars, eMoney, re-grown organs are now

Tech in its multitude of forms will keep playing out. Forty years ago, no internet. Now it’s the internet of everything. Money is now electrons. Medicine keeps pushing forward. All making for a better life, each with dark un-discussed sides of pollution, cyber-fraud and medical ethics. Security was once about muscles, now it’s about who controls what electrons in the world of cyber security.

Implication: With the conveniences of tech, this is about having the courage to not simply take it on face value. What becomes valuable when we don’t need people to produce? What becomes important when electrons rule the world? What is ‘work’ when it’s ai?

Meta Trend 5. New Social Values + Social Dis-Connectivity

Nutshell: Human relationships – virtual or real?

In a world where money is electrons, and credit creation is the driver of GDP growth, wealth is something other than simply money and assets. Science tells us hugs are valuable, meditation is worth while.

Who we are with each other is changing. Time is the new luxury. Ownership is about sharing. Relationships are virtual and face time is now an app. Yet cafes and places to connect and be with others show that the need for real world connection is still here.

Implication: What will we value? What values are you using to prioritize your life, time and relationships to live authentically?

Meta Trend 6. Gaia and the Limited Unlimited

Nutshell: When the rising middle class wants a global lifestyle, can we continue to ignore the full cost of production with climate change?

With Chinese, Indian and Indonesian middle class wanting to live in western affluence and see the world, production impact of the world lifestyle will increase. 2 billion more people will enter the middle class in the next 20 years. Understandably, they’ll want the affluent lifestyle.

There are two ways to see nature and the planet – on TV or get out there into nature. Either way, the current global production practices say we’d need 4.1 planets if everyone lived the full Western lifestyle, suggesting plenty of opportunity for breakthroughs that use the unlimited resources (eg sun) versus limited resources. Clearly the extent to which real costs are factored into corporate cost structures will influence actions.

Look at this in context of climate change. It’s only a few more degrees for the world to have alligators in the Artic. The tropics would be more than hot. Letting climate wait and see is watching an egg dropping to the ground and saying it’s fine – simply as it has not hit the ground yet. 30 years is not long in climate terms.

Implication: How is the real cost of production recognized by accounts? Where will new industries be and which current ones will go the way of the dinosaur? What tech will help this? What’s the politics of wealth and power in this? 

Meta Trend 7. Capacity to impact, help and benefit

Nutshell: The post capitalist life – wealth in the new world order

In all this expanded capacity to see what is happening, to connect, to automate and use technology, and when money is electrons, who really knows what will be in 10, 20 or 30 years?

Trend 7 is about choice, this is neither positive or negative. It’s personal: it is possible to see the future as a time of turmoil, constraint and scarcity. It’s equally a time of opportunity, of connection and contribution.

This is also about courage. The courage to ask big questions and to do something.

Wealth and value is intangible. It’s about what we value. It’s our values in action. We’ve gone from a world where capital was land, to one where economic growth is about credit. The new capital is trust. Values are increasingly driving value.

To build trust, we actually need to be clear about what we value. With the transparency of Social Media, our truths show up swiftly and globally.

Implication: What economic and financial system will come out of these changes? What are the real values that we live by? What big questions are we willing to answer? Will our answers and actions be consistent with our value(s)?

What courage do you need for the choices you wish to lead?

So what’s possible?

With so much in flux, one choice is to simply say, “it’s all too much”, or to simply watch and continue ‘business as usual’. This, however, is a dangerous longer term option.

Another is to see a world of infinite possibilities, and that we can deliberately and consciously create a world that we prefer.

As a leader, consider these questions:

  • What world would you like to create?
  • Which of these trends do you want to influence for the better?
  • What would your business, organization, customers and employees need to believe about your vision for it to be real?

Overnight success really takes a decade. Big things can happen over 10 years.

I’m curious about what’s going on within these trends, so I will be interviewing other leaders in these areas. Who would you like me to interview? Drop me a note on LinkedIn message.

This is the introductory article to a 7 part series. It is a contribution to the 2017 Oxford Future Forum on Scenarios, Climate Change and the Arts.

FINTECH: the Art of Money

Friday, October 21st, 2016

The link between money and art is obvious in Italy. Money is an artwork.

Stay with me for a moment. This is a human not a technical question. Take that million of gold. It’s factually gold. A metal. We’ve put value on it.

Back in the day, money was gold. Gold was used for exchange. Gold was rare, beautiful and useful.

Officially, as an economist, the idea is that to create money you can either make things or provide services that others value.

Or today, you can use a keyboard, a computer and be an approved authority and create it. Now it is FINTECH.

A government borrows from a central bank and puts money out in the markets. What actually happens today is something is typed into a computer. It is “Ones and Zeros”.

The funds then go to the regular banking system that most businesses and people use.

The banks can then lend with leverage. One dollar becomes 10. The 10 becomes 100. At least this is the idea. The banks may not lend or only lend to a selected few.

It’s what the Quantitative Easing was about.

It gets interesting when money is electrons.

It’s all electrons.

Which is pretty creative. As there is no limit to electrons. So there is no limit to money. I’ll save inflation and governance for another day.

If money is now infinite, what is it really as humans? as a social system?

FinTech is accelerating money as electrons with new ways to use information technology around finance, exchanges, payments along with anti-money laundering, tracking terrorists and undesirables and control.

The art of money is now about electrons, trust and confidence. It’s about exchange.

I create XXX, provide service YYY or send you ZZZ, and you send me ‘N’ electrons.

Money is artwork.

In art, a masterwork is a work that lifts and expands those engaged with it.

The dark side of a master work is to create something that looks like a master work, sold as a master work but it’s actually a fraud, debased and destructive of trust.

This is the challenge for FinTech and the Modern Money System.

Is it to be a masterwork or will it simply be a fraudulent block of gold – gold on the outside and lead on the inside?

With FINTECH Festival celebrating finance and technology, perhaps we might also talk about the human side of money in the days of electrons?

What does money really mean now? What is its value now money is infinite?

The Money Thing

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

The million triggered something. What is money and meaning in the well lived life?

A million dollars can be…

  • A book sized block of gold or meals for a decade or 20 weddings or 4 degrees from a top university
  • A fraction of a CEO’s annual salary or 241 rice farmers and their family working all year
  • Research into the biggest disease, malaria or 83,333 rural family in Kenya having access to income

It could be as simple as million dollar health insurance policy. Peace of mind for a minor illness… actually, is it really about being healthy?

A million is a pretty amazing thing. It’s big enough to do something with and it’s small enough to have meaning.

At the other end of the money scale: there is an estimated 1.2 quadrillion dollars in the financial markets. Mind boggling. If a million dollars is a square millimeter, it’s 1.6 football fields.

The million is a useful measuring stick.

But the interesting thing is what is it that we want to measure?

In life, is it the millions? Or is it something else?

As a career focused A type personality in banking and technology, millions can easily become the thing. It’s a job hazard. It’s easy to loose sight of the meaning.

We saw this in the Financial markets in the last decade, where decisions showed ethics had lost meaning.

There is value in meaning. Even in the financial space. Particularly in the financial space.

If the money thing was not there, what would you measure your life by? What give it significance? What gives your life meaning?

How to Buy Right-For-You Art

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Art is about Feelings.

‘When will you marry’, Gauguin asks as he paints.

An investor paid $300 million for these Tahitian beauties in 2015. He cared alot.

What it takes to buy art? How do I make sure I get something that is meaningful for me?

And pay fair value?

There are 5 steps to this.

What is art in the first place?

It’s the expression of human creativity and dreams (ok, also nightmares, but this is human to). It’s our spirit in action. Art goes way back to our cave-man days. We are creative. Painting, sculpture, performance, installation.

It’s pleasure. It’s style. It’s investment. It’s status.

Which leads to the next question:

Why would I want to buy it? How much should I pay for it?


Step 1: Work out why you would like art.

For example: you may want… art can do all of these:

  • statement of your future and vision – symbol
  • color on the wall or to fill in a space – decoration
  • uplifts you, gets conversations started – inspiration
  • remind you of a holiday or a lovely experience – memory
  • look good, the glamor and status of having ‘art’ – image
  • make money – a financial investment

Step 2: Work out where you can get it

For example: you can get art from…

  • your family (maybe!)
  • shows/exhibitions/events
  • interior design
  • art galleries
  • artists

Go to galleries. Take a friend and explore. Find an opening and join in. Wear comfortable shoes. As a bonus, this is great exercise. You’ll get your 10,000 steps for the day done.

Online art galleries are now global. If you are interested in a piece, look at a large high resolution file. The thumb nail is not the same as the original. Just like a photo of your beloved is not the same as having them there with you. Online is a great way of finding the right piece that is not  in your  location.

Contact an artist you like directly. You can get a piece from their existing art or discuss ‘bespoke art’. This is art created by an artist with a particular person or organisation in mind.

Step 3: Research aka go take a look

At this stage, you are looking for:

Step 3a: what you like

Step 3b: where you can find it. + do you like the source

Step 3c: what it will take financially

This can be and is fun. Explore. Go to new places. Take a friend and have fun discussion what you see. Art is personal. So you’ll like some and hate others. It’s cool. Be social.

Art is sold in three ways. Most people invest in art through one of these:

  1. Artist  you get to see and hear about what’s behind the work, what else they have going on, what it takes to create that piece. You know it is genuine work.
  2. Gallery who represents the artist selling you directly. Convenient if you don’t know artists that you enjoy and value.
  3. Broker who buys art to sell when the price goes up. Some galleries operate this way.

Step 4:  Work out your budget/investment

Art is both an investment (it can be resold) and something you use through enjoyment. Art prices ranges hugely. From a tens of dollars to millions of dollars.

So why does the price range so much?

Many factors go into ‘why it costs what it does’. Here are the main elements:

  • The materials used
  • The time it takes to create
  • If it is unique – the concept
  •  If it is scarce – ie is there only 1 like this or are there 10? Or 500? Or can there be an unlimited number of copies of this?
  • It may be part of a series or standalone – a full set of a series has extra value
  • Is the artist established – works in galleries, shown internationally, in collections or museums?
  • If you are looking at it for you – that it speaks to you.
  • If you are looking at a financial investment: what the demand is? Will other people buy it – ie is there a market for it?

Some people care about technique – back in the day Gauguin painted on burlap in a rough style that was considered unfinished. These days, one of these is worth $300 million.

I bought a sketch from a well known artist for $2000 years ago. It’s worth $5000 more now. Art appreciates.

Step 5: Do it… get your art!

Pick the piece… it may be small, it may be huge. Pick the piece that gets you started. Where you feel. Oh, wow, I’m here with something that has meaning, magic and mystery.  This is what art is.

Have it packed for safe delivery

Step 6: Put it up on your wall, in your foyer etc and ENJOY

Prepare to have folk over and share your art.

Have your story ready… people always have their opinions… and they usually ask ‘What is it about’, ‘why do you like it’? Why did you pick these piece? What was happening in your life? What do you want from life beyond the artwork?

They’ll give you their opinion. They may even ask what you paid.

When I invest in art, I invest both emotionally in the meaning and story I have about it, and financially.  I recognise my own story about it. I share my story about the artwork like this:

  • This piece speaks to me because – may be it is the story of the painting/sculpture.It could be that it’s a brilliant reminder of a holiday.
  • When see it, it does xxx… eg makes me happy, reminds me to be courageous.
  • Then I ask them… what do they see… as we each see something different.

Do this and you’ll be a brilliant conversationalist, host and art appreciator!

Enjoy Art and your Investment,

Booth Aster © 2016

New Eyes: The Human Side of Change Leadership

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

New Eyes offers leading edge thinking about leadership and change.

The ideas are fresh, challenging and grounded in reality.


Speaking at the New Eyes Book Launch at Saïd Business School, Oxford, UK, September 24, 2013.








Amazon Most Helpful Customer Reviews

New Eyes for an old problem
By Walt McFarland on November 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
Organizational change guru Daryl Conner has recently blogged about “The Dirty Little Secret.” The secret is that some 75% of organizational change attempts fail. I think a big reason they fail may involve looking at Change with old eyes. Eyes that see change too narrowly–as a linear, sequential process. Our experiences as people living in organizations demonstrate that organizational change is neither linear or sequential. This book suggests that to master change, we need to see it with new eyes. The authors contributing to New Eyes approach change in a unique and holistic way, surrounding change with new mufti-disciplinary perspectives and suggest that organizational change can be more knowable, more manageable–when looked upon with New Eyes. If you are a change consultant or manager trying to cope with change, buy this book. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on positive deviance, big data, and performance–but they are all worth a look.


New thoughts on Change
By Lisa Francis-Jennings on December 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book, obviously written by knowledgeable Change Managers, is filled with the wisdom we find in experience and reminds me, once again of the importance of community. Whether giving steps to improve an Organizational Change implementation or sharing an anecdote about how OCM is evolving, this group of people have shared their rich experiences and perceptive insights in a thoughtful and thorough manner. Much like a conversation with a trusted mentor, this book reads well for veteran and new Change Agents alike. Whether you are wrestling with challenges from the people or the technical side of change, New Eyes provides new insight and a renewed understanding of the critical elements for success in this field.


Buy this at amazon at Paperback $39.95, Kindle $14.78

Published in MIS Asia – Failing to assess the costs of failure

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

MIS Asia Featured Blog:  Failing to assess the costs of failure

Projects are investments, yet are they assessed as such? A single project is either performing or not. It adds value to the portfolio or not. The failure to assess the costs of failure represents a major opportunity for business improvement.  

I’ve spoken with Alex Budzier of Oxford University whose research is published in Sept ’11 Harvard Business Review. He showed that one in six IT projects cost two to four times what is expected, and that nearly 50 percent of such projects were underfunded.

Under appreciated, these facts show a downward spiral. One project underperforms, taking funds and energy from the next project. Performance declines.

A single failing project costs time, money, people and opportunity. If the project is big, it can wipe out the benefits of hundreds of smaller successful projects. It’s the maths of portfolio return on investments.

As a financially inclined person, I calculated the project portfolio return with a yield formula using several project portfolios as a benchmark.

The numbers were shocking. 27.5 percent written off.

I asked a CPA friend to check it. He said: “Yes, that’s the data, that’s the result. Correct.” As a human and a business owner/executive, it is worrying.

Let’s keep it simple: these benchmarks are predictive: a $1,000,000 project is very likey to have a budget overrun of $275,000.  This likely budget overrun (aka ‘incremental budget’) gets proportionally bigger as projects get bigger. This changes a business case. If a project does not have what it needs to deliver, it’s even more likely to fail.

It’s predictable. Twenty years of data.

Here are the key points on business case, projects and investment:

  • – Business cases need to consider this risk profile; two to four times over budget is materially dangerous for big ticket projects in most businesses
  • – Success or failure is predictable upfront
  • – Early warning systems can identify what projects (and budget) are at risk, and what to do.

Looks like it’s time for a check-up of projects, upfront.

Published in CIO Asia – Enter the Dragon: The year of project success

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

In these first weeks of the Chinese New Year (western New Year has past, Thai and the rest of the Mekong will celebrate theirs in April), I decided to look at the top insights from the Science and Art of projects, change and innovation.

In keeping with the Eight-fold Path to Success, my top eight are:

  1. Intent is Clear: Burning Platforms for change are about commitment to change (it’s not worth going back), not about creating a fear of change, says Daryl Conner the man behind the burning platform metaphor.
  2. Projects Support Strategy: False assumptions are dangerous. Assuming all things are equal (between projects) is a prime source of project failure. The ground that each project needs to cover in the business varies from project to project.
  3. Motivation is Aligned: Neuroscience shows that we respond to fear five times more easily than things that are attractive to us…. People perform worse when they fear. This affects project teams, underpins ‘resistance’ and reduces innovation and growth. Check out the Neuroleadership Institute at
  • Balance is Dynamic Change: Growth strategies require different leadership teams than transformation strategies – team profile is a leading indicator of strategic (and project) success or failure, finds Professor Peter Robertson.
  • Operational Policies Affect Results: One in six IT projects fail costing 200-400 percent more than expected. Measuring variation to cost and schedule is not enough. Budgets are chronically under-estimated, according to Alex Budzier at Oxford (see also Harvard Business Review Sept 2011).
  • Business Cases are Robust: Value is created by a portfolio of projects, not by a project on its own. At the portfolio (or business investment) level, systemic write-off from project failure may cost Asian businesses over US$2 billion in 2012. Manage the portfolio for value against business key performance indicators, not simply project variations on time and cost.
  • Results Delivery Process is Reliable: Best practices project management differentiates between simple, complex, messy and wicked projects as they require different methodologies (and have different risk profiles and levels of investment).
  • Flow Supports Change: Communication across languages is one of the big challenges of Asia. Poor communication leads to poor relationships and connections. It’s obvious yet few organisations consciously invest in language skills as part of their project teams. Chinpass ( has developed a 72-hour programme to learn Chinese and has received awards from the French government for their work.

Read more at CIO Asia

The Asian Banker- Preventing IT projects from failing requires the courage to make hard decisions

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

The Asian Banker June 2011 (print edition), June 14 (online edition)…

Joanne Flinn, author of “The Success Healthcheck for IT Projects”, feels that the cost of failure of new IT projects is too much for banks to continue delaying much-needed triage.

There is a private club in banking in Asia which costs $200 million to join. It’s the club for business transformation projects that fail. It’s tragic it exists. Membership i…

For more, log into … the Asian Banker June 2011

Published in MIS Asia – Was it good for you, honey?

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

How do we really measure customer satisfaction? ~ on IT projects!

Clearly not, I deduced as this particular person marched off. The waiter stood there looking perplexed. It was a busy day, hot and crowded.

I turned to my companion to hear how he was satisfied.

Ahhh, honey! He said, that was an experience…

It was the perfect shave, he practically soliquised in rhapsody. I wondered – isn’t a shave a shave?

Clearly not – a shave can be an experience. At the Art of Shaving, it’s an aromatherapy facial, hot towels, a freshly stropped blade and the personal service of a fetching attendant. A shave of the manly chin, I was told, is more than a Mach III blade in action.

I asked him to focus on our discussion: were projects products or services? Were they about deliverables – things? Or were projects also a service?

And if they were a service, how would we rate them?

Projects are a product

Yes, we decided, projects were about a product. Projects are about delivering something tangible – like a shave.

Yet getting to success is more than being OTOBOS (on time, on budget, on scope).

OTOBOS, even with a 10% variation is simply good hygiene. It’s like a C grade.

Yes, it takes focus, discipline and team work to get there, but OTOBOS is not a wow factor.

Consider, was it good for you honey? OTOBOS is scarcely even a smile factor.

Projects are a service experience

Project are also about intangibles – the experience. Many an executive has said to me, ‘We aim to survive our projects’.

Side bar comment: What would happen if we explicitly agreed the service experience as part of our project definition? For example:

–       Would you like an food court experience or a fine dining experience?

–       Would you like to be in the action or be a bystander? (Ride the river or watch the video)

–       How would you like this to feel? Like a Lexus experience or a bullock cart ride?

–       And the crucial business questions:

  • What are you prepared to pay?
  • What would it take to do this?

Else it might be “Fine dining at hawker center prices – with aircon” on one side while the other is thinking that they will organize a picnic where we each bring a dish.

In IT project terms, the experience might be something as novel:

  • Zero operational issues on day one (in contrast to 3 months of no order shipments)
  • Maintaining service standards in the business as the project continues (not needing to apologies to customers for erroneous statements or down time!)
  • Customer service is un-interrupted at cut-over.

(It’s almost embarrassing to admit this standard of service is not just common practice in our industry – even the great organizations slip-up.)

More satisfyingly, we could learn from the likes of Disney (an experience we are in) or Circus de Soleil (an experience we watch). Creating the intended customer experience is a professional capacity in customer relationship management.

It’s reported that 50% of an experience is emotional. If we recognize this factor in ‘was it good for you’ (or me for that matter!) then for an IT project, qualities like:

  • Respected and enabled
  • Fun and rewarding

Would influence both our design, how we choose to implement a system, our internal project processes and our resourcing.

This difference in product/service is measurable: Executives report projects as 15-20% as less successful. They have the same data on deliverables, on OTOBOS. Executives are flagging something more: their perception of the project from their experience. They reflect on the pain they’ve born that’s seen as ‘outside the project’ as it is not a physical deliverable – but it is a result.

This affects the value that executives attribute to a project.

As more businesses focus on creating a great customer’s experience, executives and other staff  will expect this of IT projects – whether they state it or not.

Project managers and teams can develop a great reputation by considering service in their project approach. Projects earn it when they deliver to the agreed service standard.

Guidelines for Service Goals:

  1. State your service goals explicitly. Develop an explicit customer experience intent.
  2. Define what you will need from the business for this to be achieved (data clean up, staffing back fill, additional testing, training, culture change, funds). Define what you need to do yourself.
  3. Specifically identify and manage the risks to the service related results, in addition to the regular deliverables results
  4. When you deliver, get a reference from the business for a great job
  5. Attach a results based bonus to specific goals.

If it was good for you honey, then share in the good.

Yes, I can hear those who say ‘don’t to this, it makes it too hard to reach agreement’. Let’s be blunt here – if the business doesn’t value the service goal then they won’t invest in it – and they then own the choice.

Each of the ‘experience’ goals listed above has a multi-million dollar down side if not delivered. That’s worthy of investment – and of due credit.

Published in MIS Asia – What is the body count?

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

We count cost to life and limb on a building project yet strangely not on IT projects

I was walking past the Marina Sands site in Singapore on the phone to a friend. At several billion dollars in design, man hours, fine art and no doubt many interesting stories, this project is amazing. I saw a sign reporting safety with a tagline of ‘everyone home without harm, every day’. Ie no deaths, no injuries. A back of the envelope calcuation told me just how amazing a feat this was – over several hundred man-years have gone into this construction.

‘I’m having heart palpitations’ my friend said. My attention returned to the call. ‘One of my male Korean colleagues has just burst into tears, and the new American guy has just done the hairy foreigner’. (‘doing the hairy foreigner’ is a term meaning to lose one’s temper at staff in Asia – very un-cool).

“Just a moment! Hasn’t your transformation program just kicked off?’ I asked…

The writing is on the wall

Those few seconds re-defined the project in my mind. From one that looked well set up, there were now warning signs for failure. Three of the senior team leading the transformation were showing signs of major stress and after the last year, most of the people in the business were likely to be stressed (coping with recession, family members loosing jobs, having your savings depleted supporting them, worrying about your own job will do this even for the lucky folk with a job).

Stress on both sides. Next step, heart attacks or long term leave for people. For the business, project results and organizational productivity at risk.

Often, these risks are considered once an executive has a heart attack. Other people step up to carry the team – more stress, a negative cycle begun. It becomes normal. For most of us in project land, we are used to the adrenaline of overdrive.

Pollution Costs

Just what will this cost the organization? Project delay becomes likely as replacements are found. Key relationships are broken as people depart (either from resignation or from death). Results are delayed as people and the business focus on recovery and repair. This is before the long term consequences of the way the project would introduce change are considered. It is obvious that a project is about introducing change. The question is… are the intended consequences palatable?

Consider for a moment, France Télécom and 20 suicides (that’s death) attributed to the way a major transformation was managed. Death from suicide or heart attacks is major. More subtle is the psychological and social impact of change on the people in the organization – and their families.

This dimension is rarely taken into account.

It’s pollution. Intended or not, it’s a cost that someone else bears.

In the world of IT projects and business transformation, it might be a decision that saves project effort and leaves a work-around for the business. It might be a process change that puts more responsibility onto another department without their informed agreement. It might literally be body count or injury.

The construction industry actually measures this. They are held accountable for health and safety of those on the site. They even need to keep their environment clean (the wheels of trucks leaving a site are hosed down to remove dirt so streets aren’t polluted in Singapore).

For a business seeing itself as an integrated system, one whose performance is driven by people, processes and technology, a change process that succeeds on the technological front but fails on the people front is a failure.

Certainly, long term business results from transformation are jeopardized. Few executives would like to be under the investigation at France Télécom. Likewise, few people like to be on the receiving end of ‘pathogenic’ restructuring.

Will this project succeed or fail?

The business case stacks up, the intended goals are clear, risks to results are considered. The project looks great. Yet, what is the body count? What injuries are considered ‘acceptable to health and safety’ in the workplace? Where is the project likely to create pollution in the business?

Has the project considered these? Does the organizational change charter pay adequate attention to managing these risks to results? To people? To performance?

An Organisational Change Charter defines the project’s approach to introducing change into the business from the perspective of people and processes. It dovetails with the IT Program Charter which defines expectations of the IT side of the business transformation.

Executives leading successful projects focus on people.

Rules of Engagement

It’s about respect. In all relationships. Define how people are to be respected thru-out the course of the project. This applies equally to executives, the team, partners and to people affected by the project in the organizations.

What is good (enough) for one is for all.

[A byline comment… Big projects require partners. It is a rare organization that knows so much or has spare capacity that they can run their business and transform at the same time without support. Respect operates here too. Results are a team effort. Partners are part of the team.]

Four questions to ask about Body Count and Pollution:


  • Has the project stated explicit goals (accountability) for its impact on people both in the project and the business in the Organisational Change Charter for the project?
  • Have the relevant interested parties (stakeholders) signed off on these goals?
  • Is the project plan and budget funded to do what is needed adequately?
  • Has the Results Risk Management plan documented key risks arising from high stress levels in the project team or in the organization?

Validate the responses to see that the project is prepared to recognize reality. Body count is real. Injury is real. Pollution is real.

Next consider where risks to results lie in the project team and in the business. Move the Organisational Change Charter into an effective Organizational Change Strategy.

Returning to my call as I walked past Marina Sands… ‘Have the executives sponsoring the project realized where the team is right now? And the business implications of current reality?…’

Published in MIS Asia – ‘You don’t want it to work’ he said

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

‘I don’t know why I bother’, she said. It sounded like the relationship was deteriorating

‘The sponsor didn’t really intend projects to succeed, he had other goals’, said one disenchanted IT executive to me last week.

I overheard the couple as I met with a group of IT executives. Of the IT executive, I asked ‘What did the sponsor intend? What happened?’ The story unfolded. Others pitched in their stories.

What is success?

Success is achieving what we set out to do. This can range from getting to a meeting on time to longer term and more complex goals like a life-long marriage, an IT project, to transforming the way rice is grown and affecting the lives of three billion people.

One of the disenchanted told me of how he’d led projects in a company where the CFO would launch a project and announce it to the market to lift stock prices, but he didn’t seem to care if the project delivered. The CIO and team knew the project was doomed, but the ‘edict was…’.

Another of the disenchanted told me of how the company executive had decided not to outsource to India for a variety of reasons. Each year, the CEO went to a conference of his peers and heard each of them was outsourcing. After the third year, he returned and appearing to change his mind said ‘we must outsource.’ The IT teams felt it was purely to say ‘yes, we do’ as the business reasons that had blocked this decision previously still remained.

A third told me that in his organisation the accepted way to get promoted or a good bonus was to announce a glamour project, do a successful pilot and then let the project die.

I can understand why the female IT project manager above was wondering why she bothered. In her world, none of these projects makes sense:

  • A project whose goal is not a functioning system, but whose purpose is to affect the share market.
  • Outsourcing so that an executive has bragging rights of ‘yes we do’ when he sees his peers.
  • Doing a pilot but not a project to get brownie points for bonuses and promotion.

In her IT worldview, these were project failures.

The disenchanted IT folk wanted to deliver a functioning, used, value adding project, do good work, get to use some interesting technology, be respected by their peers, get home, see their spouse and kids and generally enjoy their lives (as well as get bonuses and promoted).

So did the business executives.

They just had different ideas of what success looked like.

Is intent clear?

Business folk and the IT folk often have different viewpoints of what makes a project successful. In the cases above, the CFO, CEO and business executives who got promoted would have each seen their projects as successful.

The IT folk didn’t see the project as success and were disenchanted if not a little cynical. (I’ve heard similar comments from the business about ITs enchantment with cool toys and the latest technology, too.)

All these projects were a success in one perspective: they’d achieved what they set out to. They were failures in another. Writing off a project or increasing the levels of cynicism in an organisation is not value adding.

A multi-party challenge

The practical reality of IT projects is that there are many parties to a project: the sponsor, the team, the IT organisation that needs to operate the systems, the business departments that will use the system, customers who will be benefited or affected – this is before we even touch the executives and shareholders who may benefit in other ways.

Let’s use a non-mainstream example of an information technology project that has the following business characteristics:

  • Increased business profit by seven per cent
  • Investment cost of less than one per cent of profit
  • Reduced work effort by 10-30 per cent on a major time consuming task.

Its technical characteristics are:

  • Provides key data on a core input to the major product of the business.
  • Can be implemented in under a day.
  • Is robust and low maintenance.

Logically, we’d say this particular piece of technology should race through the particular business/industry globally in a short period.

A few more details:

  • Using the data, each business manager has to fundamentally change how he manages his key resource to produce his core product.
  • If the product fails, the business unit fails and all employees starve.
  • Globally, around 100,000,000 businesses unit managers who can benefit from this technology.

Now the project looks less easy, more complex and more likely to fail.

Yet the value stays the same.

The multi-party challenge is that for the business to get value, multiple parties need to align and act in concert. If the technology delivers, but the way resources are managed by these businesses does not change, then no value is achieved.

It’s the opposite problem to the cases mentioned earlier – in those cases, the business was fine with the result, IT wasn’t. In this case, IT would be fine with the technology, but the business might not be. Just because there is a brilliant business case, does not mean that the business is prepared to fundamentally change how it manages a key resource or risk a key product and the business.

I’ll share more — the business is the global rice business. The technology is a tool that helps rice farmers in irrigated rice paddies reduce the water they use to produce rice. Globally, rice is one of the largest users of water. A single bowl of rice represents about 500 litres of water. Major rice areas are water challenged as cities grow bigger and need more water. For many rice farmers (most earn less than $2,000 a year), this technology and the methods that come with it would allow for another child or two to go to school.

The methodology that allows the business to benefit from the data and technology requires rice farmers to let the rice paddy dry out for parts of its growth. This is counter to everything they know. For them, Rice = water = life, rice without water is impossible.

(Source: Dr Bouman and the International Rice Research Institute)

The mindset that affects uptake is often the challenge. The business case and technology are sound. The value is clear. The probability of success is not.

Trying ‘harder’ might not be the solution. Rice farmers work hard, they are simply not prepared to risk their rice crop. They are willing to improve profitability. Results and value are possible with the new technology if this project recognises that the risks to results are not about technology or the business case, but are about uptake.

Will this project succeed or fail?

It comes full circle. What is the value? That’s the first dimension. Is it clear? Does the statement of value consider the interests of the varied parties that are part of the solution?

Secondly, is the project likely to succeed? What are the risks to success?

Back to being an investor: what is the return and what are the risks? Is the trade-off of risk/return reasonable?

Map your projects on a Results Probability Matrix like so:

Results Probability Assessment

Executives leading successful projects initially focus on value.

Step 1: Four questions to ask about value:

  • Is the value based on dollars, building a strategic capacity or addressing regulatory requirements?
  • What are the short and long-term objectives of the project?
  • What are the needs or interests of the varied stakeholders?
  • How does this project affect time to market or business resilience and responsiveness?

Step 2: Validate the responses to see that the value equation stakes up.

Step 3:  Consider where the risks to results truly lie. Start exploring dimension 2, probability of success. Much of the technology we use in business is well-proven, yet, business may yet see the benefit or the reason for uptake. The record of delivery project may also suggest substantial risks lie in that area (see how-to-make-a-marriage-work).

It’s a multi-party challenge.

The couple’s discussion had continued. ‘You don’t tell me what you really want, I can’t read your mind’ she said. He’d sat back and considered. Then he started to talk. She explored what he said and asked how it would be if she did x or y. She said what she needed for it to work. They finished their coffee with a clear(er) aligned intent.

JA Flinn is a regular columnist at This article is based on Part 1: Productivity of her forthcoming book ‘The Success Healthcheck for IT Projects’ (Wiley 2010).

Published in MIS Asia – Will you marry me?…

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I asked as we finished our dinner. He’d cooked, I’d enjoyed. ‘Go for it’ I’d been encouraged, ‘but don’t be surprised if …’

The ultimate complex long-term personal project, marriage seems to have more success than business-IT projects: 15 per cent are in dire shape, 51 per cent are challenged. Few are real stars.

By the way, that’s business-IT projects! Depending on your definition of marriage, divorce and happiness, the figures for marriage aren’t so different. Still, I decided, that’s no reason not to try for success. There have to be ways of getting this right, I thought as I expressed my feeling to the Man-I-Love (MIL for short).

Posted as a contributing author at MIS Asia

Getting it right

Life is looking up in the bigger world. Business investment in IT is going up in Asia particularly in India and China. Those I talk with in MNCs say they are getting back into project land with a vigorous ‘let’s get things done’. It’s exciting and energising after a year when many projects were put on hold, even teams disbanded. Still, are we setting ourselves up for the same mistakes?

At the height of the last cycle, project write-offs were estimated to be US$333 billion. That’s practically a financial crisis of our own. It’s a huge capital cost – one that is unpalatable in good times is unacceptable in tighter times.

The cost of failure

Most of us know the Gartner and the Standish stats on project failure. Eighty per cent under-deliver, 33 per cent written off. It’s all out there. So when I came across Chris Sauer’s work on variations to expected project results (as measured by time, cost, scope), I couldn’t help myself. I was curious. I calculated the yield like I would any of my financial investments. I treated it like a portfolio.

With Sauer’s data from experienced project managers, the results initially look pretty good: just 9 per cent of projects were written off, 23 per cent delivered with a large variation in time/cost/scope, 60 per cent delivered within a 10 per cent margin and seven per cent exceeded expectations. These last two categories were considered ‘successful projects’. Most organisations would be proud to have projects delivering with this track record. (At least those who actually measure what they do are. Those that don’t, have no idea of what the cumulative impact of a little less than expected and a little late for a little more is to the business bottom line).

This is much better than the bad old days of the 1980s where Standish reported 33 per cent written off. Good experience project managers and advisors help reduce this cost.

If you are squeamish, skip the next few paragraphs.

Still, I thought, what is an investment worth without the functions expected? It would be like having a kitchen built and having things missing. I pressed the button (Excel did the work) and found: with the reported variations to time, cost and function, the actual business value effectively delivered was negative. Minus 27 per cent.


JA Flinn_chart


An investor expecting a return:

  • Probability of write-off or material variation in return is 33 per cent
  • Likelihood of a project being within 10 per cent of budget or time is 60 per cent
  • Overall, results as measured by a functional yield (i.e. adjusted for changes in scope) as minus 27 per cent

Do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation for your business/project:

  • What is the average project cost over-run?
  • What is the average project schedule over-run?
  • What is the average project functional shortfall?

Calculate the yield.

Would you invest based on the track record represented by your average?

A bit like marriage, a certain percentage of projects end in disappointment or more. Some are the stellar successes that I’ve seen and wish for.

The path to success

I went out and asked a group of business and IT executives what their experience and advice was. (To be open, it was fully vetted research done under the auspices of Oxford University UK and HEC, France involving executives in MNCs around the world – over 50 per cent were based in Asia or had worked in Asia). Distilled, they had six recommendations:

  1. Know your track record. Measure it and improve.
  2. Recognise that results are as much about the business as they are about IT. IT might produce a capacity, but the business chooses to use it.
  3. Proactively manage the risks to results.
  4. Invest in projects that are likely to succeed, deal with those that won’t.
  5. Have the right governance in place to make it happen.
  6. Success is a continuous process (that requires continuous attention).

On a personal front, I realise that these probably also apply to my relationship: see what works and do more of it, it takes two of us, letting issues lie just makes them harder to handle, so be aware and be proactive. In the dating stage – if it’s not right, it’s not. Lastly, have effective ways of coming to and upholding mutual agreements as well as dealing with issues. To modify a quotation, ‘a successful relationship is a journey not a station’.

As a foundation, MIL and I have trust, respect and an ability to communicate (and love) so we presume misunderstandings are innocent errors rather than intentional efforts to disrupt and annoy. It’s a good basis for business – IT project relationships too.

Hmm, I still want mine to succeed! While the executives had plenty of advice on that, it’s a topic for another time.

This article is based on Part 1: Productivity of her forthcoming book ‘The Success Health Check for IT Projects’ (Wiley 2010).