The Lifestyle Country

The Lifestyle Country

Over many decades Australia basked in the glory of Donald Horne's metaphor of the "Lucky Country".

Published in the 60's it contextualized a country which had survived the war –had stable government- abundant natural resources and a lifestyle which was incomprehensible anywhere but here.

Since that time many "metaphors' have emerged The Quarry and the beach in the 70's – the Clever Country in the 80's more recently the Lucky Culture.
There are undoubtedly many more! However there is an image so ingrained in our national psyche that it is taken for granted – albeit –the Lucky Country – is the Lifestyle Country. A country, which chooses recreation above everything!

The Australian culture can be viewed through many lenses one of which is our Industrial relations system, which in its own right is an Institution (dare I say a cultural symbol).
The Union Movement –The Award system –The legislation -The Industrial Courts and the legal milieu – The debate about "Work Choices" – there is a whole Industry that has developed in and around this arena!

If one reviews the major Industrial relations debates of this country one factor stands out above all else – lifestyle - recreation – it seems as if all the major debates in the country have been about major recreational advances!

Year Milestone
1920 44 hour week
1941 Annual Leave One Week becomes standard
1945 Annual leave 2 weeks is introduced
1948 40 hour week is gained
1949 35 hour week and Long Service leave
1963 3 weeks leave become the standard
1973 4 weeks leave
1981 38 hours per week

In addition there have other advances in the recreational arena:

17.5 loading on holiday leave
Penalty Rates

While all of these Conditions are laudable in the end someone has to pay for them!

It may be that I am biased but please help me remember when Australia had a genuine debate on Wealth Creation (increasing the size of the pie) and / or productivity –the closest I can remember was the 1980's when their was some genuine effort to build an economy that was prepared for the 21st Century by increasing the "size of the pie."

It strikes me that the real issues in the Australia now get confused and hi jacked by passionate "interest' groups whoever they might be -whether they are Unions –Environmentalists, Welfare Lobbies etc.-and / or the media who choose to selectively profile some issues rather than others.

Australia is a country of enormous potential but in many ways we are too comfortable – our lifestyle has prevailed!

We have systems of Education, Health and Welfare, which are incredibly good (all of course could be better) we have a Government system and a Public sector while always under critique are working reasonably well -and we claim to be a country, which has an extensive record of Innovation!

So how is it that in recent years we have seen many of our Australian owned businesses being taken over by Foreign Companies – why do they see value that we are unable to realise?

Choose an Industry and you will find many of our Australian businesses are owned off shore fully or partially.

Not to mention that our Car Industry has not survived and the Government is to blame!

It is an interesting contrast to compare our development with Israel.

It appears their Economic development has been radical – from a start up Nation in 1948 –they lead the world in Irrigation systems for agriculture and have a technology sector, which is outstanding.

There is an argument that Australia is better prepared for the Globalised world than many others and we did survive the GFC in better shape than other countries.

But where is the future:

A story, which highlights our current position, was forwarded to me after the recent uproar about Toyota closing down.
Of course it was the fault of the Government!

Subject: Toyota
In November, 2013, Toyota President and CEO, Max Yasuda, was giving a luncheon address, to a business group, at the Toyota Altona Plant, in

"Last year in 2012, we were working so hard to create conditions, whereby we could stay in this wonderful country, and produce cars.
We had restructured the business, and despite acceding to recent union demands, for even better wages and conditions, we were seeing a dim light,
flickering at the end of the tunnel.
We were honest with our employees, and had explained the seriousness of the company's plight.
They had assured us of their cooperation, so we were determined to all pull together, in a desperate attempt, to keep the company viable."
There was an air of camaraderie. A feeling of hope!
It was Australia Day that week, and it fell on a Thursday.

On the Friday, out of our workforce of 2418:
757 workers called in sick
568 workers just didn't turn up
431 workers were on holidays
662 workers turned up for work
That's when I finally realized, we were stuffed."

It appears we are a country devoted to lifestyle!!

BenJKehoe 20th May 2014

The Purpose of Purpose

The Purpose of Purpose
Blog 16

It really doesn't matter who you read of the serious business thinkers and leaders they will say -The essence of business is the meeting of unmet needs in the market place at a fair value for a fair return.

Konosuki Matsushita the founder of National Panasonic enunciated a set of principles in 1933. The first was:

Service to the Public:
To provide high quality goods and services at reasonable prices, thereby contributing to the well being and happiness of people throughout the world

Peter Drucker posits that:

The purpose a business was to get and keep a customer. He argued that profit was important – but not the reason for being in business – profit was like oxygen – absolutely critical for the business to survive and thrive.

So why is it that business leaders distort this view.

Over many years I have listened to many business leaders discuss this issue – why do we exist – what is our purpose? All variously trying to establish a "genuine" reason for being – for their business? Something beyond "putting" food on the table"- which is often the starting purpose.

There are a number of schools of thought:

Group One:
This group is fixated on money – and shareholder value or maximizing profit (private company) is the reason for existence as far as they are concerned. This leads to the statements such as the one below.

It's all about shareholder value. That is why we exist. We need to recognise that and importantly we need to deliver value. (To shareholders!!)
Sam Walsh
RioTinto CEO
Fin Review Friday the 15th February 2013 (Front Page)

This position is based on GREED – little else!

Group 2;

This group sees their reason for being as being the best or No 1 – it really gives them focus – but it can be limiting. So what happens after you are No 1? There is little evidence that Businesses can sustain high levels if performance over extended periods of time? This model is based on being competitive.
I believe GE under Jack Welsh used this model.

This position is based on Excellence (but egocentric)

Group 3:

This group few in number believe they can make a difference in the world – these are CAUSE driven businesses – The Body Shop – Ben and Jerry's started out this way. Lulu Lemon more recently! – The initial motivation for these businesses is something beyond money - a much bigger goal driven by a mission to "change the world"!

This position is based on social contribution –(it is intrinsically other centric)

Group 4:

This group is especially motivated by the possibility of making a difference in the life of customers. This group may be closely related to Group 3 – maybe not – it maybe as simple as providing a Service that people need – no great big Dream!

Each of these Businesses, the business leaders has a world view which dominates the thinking in and for the business –and this has a profound influence on everything and everyone in the business

At the very core -these groups can be grouped again into:
1. An Egocentric Focus – a focus on ME and
2. An Other centric focus – someone beyond ME

It is interesting to reflect on the nature of leadership in the business you lead and or work in?

What is the very Core Purpose of the Business?

BenJKehoe 17th May 2014

Social Media-And the Purpose of Business Is?

Social media - And the Purpose of Business Is?

Blogging – one of the key platforms in Social Media – and I have not mastered the weekly discipline. It's a challenge for me. I just avoid it!
My last Blog was 25th February. I must at least have one per month! Actually one per week is my goal!

In my February blog I addressed the issue of the "Journey behind the Journey."

It named some of the big questions and posited that answering these questions is a tough ask!
Business at its very essence is wonderfully challenging but over many decades the true reason for business has lost its meaning.

Stripped naked – what is the purpose of business?

At its very core, the reason for business is the provision of goods and services to customers (the community) that enable them to live "well".

Konosuki Matsushita the founder of National Panasonic enunciated a set of principles in 1933. These were:

Service to the Public:
to provide high quality goods and services at reasonable prices, thereby contributing to the well-being and happiness of people throughout the world

Fairness and Honesty:
to be fair and honest in all business dealings and personal conduct, always making balanced judgments free of preconceptions

Teamwork for the Common Cause:
to pool abilities and strength of resolution to accomplish shared objectives, in mutual trust and full recognition of individual autonomy

Untiring Effort for Improvement:
to strive constantly for improvement of corporate and personal performances, even in the worst of adversity, so as to fulfill the firm's mission to realize lasting peace and prosperity

Courtesy and Humility:
to always be cordial and modest and respect the rights and needs of others, thereby helping enrich the environment and maintain social order

Two more items were added in 1937:

Accord with Natural Laws:
to abide by the laws of nature and adjust thought and behaviour to ever-changing conditions, so as to bring about gradual but steady progress and successes in all endeavours

Gratitude for Blessings:
to forever be grateful for all the blessings and kindness received, so as to live with peace, joy and strength and overcome any obstacles encountered in the pursuit of true happiness.

Matsushita Leadership - Lessons from the 20th Century's Most remarkable Entrepreneur
Copyright John P. Kotter 1997
The Free press
Pgs 111-115

Business is the primary wealth creation unit in any society. Without a vibrant functioning business sector there is little wealth - little work – and many of the things we take for granted would not exist.

Over the centuries from the "hunter gatherer" days to the Big Data and Social Media days, the entrepreneurial spirit of humanity has driven major evolutions (revolutions) in society. Gradually, work within families and communities has been outsourced and we have a whole range of Businesses and Industries which were unimaginable a 100 years ago yet alone a 1000 years ago.

So what's this got to do with my blogging? These Blogs are my struggle to reflect on my work and my life. What am I learning and how can I articulate it in a way that is worth documenting? It is a journey I have avoided for many years - long before Social Media. I have always thought that there are many others who say it better, write it better and publish it better. I suspect I am not the only one who struggles with these issues. In a world that is so image (& marketing) driven, the concept of "flying below the radar" – is more attractive to me than "building a personal brand" and yet that is what I have done. Articulating that brand is an overdue next step. Not an easy step for me!

At a superficial level this is the journey – over 40 years I have been a law clerk, a research officer, a staff development officer, an organization development officer, a senior consultant and Director of Consulting – then self employed as a management consultant –business advisor – mentor – coach! And more recently a Board member.

During those early times I had multiple Part Time jobs – the CMF (Army Reserve), census collector, forestry labourer, sideshow alley worker.
Over the time I had a number of employers – The Public Service, A major consulting firm, and as a self employed person – over one hundred and fifty different businesses.

Ultimately a major discovery is that Business is "the most exciting game in town" and I wanted to make a difference in that arena.

It was the potential of business as a means of making a difference, which appealed to me – and the possibility of living on the leading edge of the changes occurring in society. For a business to survive beyond a generation requires a great deal of tenacity, patience, luck and a capacity to learn and adapt. This has been my work – the creation of Businesses that can learn!

It has been my privilege over the last 35 years to work on projects involving:

Major Changes – Downsizing, Commercialisation
Strategic Repositioning
The Management of High Growth
Major Turnaround's – Restructuring

In all these projects the role has involved a 'confrontation with the reality' of the situation – not always comfortable – always a struggle – mostly rewarding – and always a learning opportunity

And so this Blog is all of the above!

Ben Kehoe – 9th April 2014

Social Media -The Journey beyond the Journey

The journey beyond the journey!

I was chatting recently to a colleague about my social media journey and specifically about Blogging. Naturally he asked me who was my target audience – I indicated that it was younger business leaders – in the 30 to 50 age group – who were working to build businesses!

His response was interesting – and his message was clear - in his experience there were many young business leaders who were searching – lost – looking for something more than business direction -  more than strategy assistance and solving business problems. They were looking for assistance with much bigger questions?

He recommended that with my experience I should start to write about the fundamental life issues that confront us all.

The journey beyond the journey!

He went on to say again in his experience there was also a great need for the many who were coming to end of their working lives – there was a sense of loss of meaning and direction – relevance?

No surprise really when we have a system that "worships" the rational – the material and the finite!

What was a surprise was that a colleague should suggest I write about it!!

AS recently as yesterday I was speaking with a group of business leaders about Work/Life balance and as one part of the discussion I named four domains as areas for development:


One member of the group said quite candidly that when looking at the spiritual domain –he had no idea what it means!

Here is a young business leader who at one level is able to be honest about something he does not know or understand.  Maybe it needs to be a part of all business education?

Why is it we don't know about this stuff – surely it is at the very core of being human?

Most of my working life I have devoted to being; a change agent; a management consultant; a Board member and being a business adviser. In each of these roles my contribution has been as more as "process consultant" than as a content expert. The area I have focused on has been Strategy.
It has challenged me to explore learning at a different level – the study of Management as Drucker once said was the study of human kind so understanding the Human Journey as it unfolds is a "mystery" of huge proportions. Inevitably it ends in the study of Spirituality.

This for me has been a fascinating part of my work. It has not been the prime focus – but it is really difficult to lead "Change projects" and or Strategic Repositioning exercises with little understanding of the human experience.

In this area of Strategy where I have spent much of my working life - it has always been of interest to me that the most fundamental strategic questions for a business are the same questions every human being asks for the whole of their life!

Who am I? (Identity)

What is my purpose (why do I exist)?

What do I stand for? (Values)

Where do I fit? (Position)

Where am I going? (Direction)

How will I get there? (Strategy)

How will I know I am there?(Vision)

How will I measure progress?(Milestones or objectives)

It is no surprise that business finds these questions difficult – because they

Writing this Blog is another step in my journey and as I tentatively move forward – I look forward to the opportunities it brings.

Ben Kehoe, 25th February 2014

Another Learning Leap

Another learning leap - making a statement!

A strange thing happened to me "on the way" to writing this Blog!  I watched TV!  and listened to the radio!

The statements I heard were made by the Prime Minister in an interview post his Davos address and by Bettina Arndt on radio. The statements were relatively small in the scheme of things but I believe quite profound in their essence.

Tony Abbott actually said very simply and very clearly that a country had to create wealth before it could redistribute it!

Hardly a novel idea! I can remember 20 years ago during the debates around Award Restructuring and Restructuring the  Australian economy, it was clear that Australia "had to increase the size of the pie" for the benefit of all Australians - somewhere it slipped off the radar!

No system has ever changed out of a position of comfort! Maybe as a country we are too comfortable!

Bettina Arndt said that we know children are much better off and safer in stable secure families but researchers are afraid to publish this information for fear of it being too controversial! When did a conversation about the well being of families become controversial? Political correctness?

Business -Wealth Creation:
I cannot remember hearing a political leader actually saying that in recent years.  Maybe they have and it hasn't been reported but to actually hear it said by a political leader was refreshing. Built on his talk to the Davos leaders about Governments "getting out of the road" and encouraging a business led recovery it actually gives hope that the political debate might be changing. 
To frame an intelligent and informed debate that includes wealth creation and wealth redistribution is a critical element of the future of the country.

Stable Secure Families:
As a part of the conversation on the $200 voucher for Marriage Education, Bettina Arndt left me in no doubt that the research everywhere in the world was conclusive.  Children nurtured in stable secure families were much better off (in every respect?) That's not really a surprise! So why is it controversial?
If 30% of children are born into ex "stable and secure" families why are we not talking about it and why is it difficult to talk about it?
There is much evidence that young men without a strong father figure experience a whole range of consequences - none of them positive?

It is hard to believe that in a well educated socially advanced country, these  issues are not front and centre in our national psyche and the subject of debate every day.

It maybe argued that there are more important issues:

Climate change, Education,Health,Immigration and Industrial Relations are all important issues -  but at the basic level there are two social units which are the platform on which every society I can name are built:
1.        A Robust Business System which creates genuine wealth for the communities which it serves and:
2.        A Stable Secure Family System which nurtures and protects children until they can thrive on their own

It seems to me that much of our wealth redistribution efforts are directed at supporting the people and communities who "fall through the cracks" in two of the
platform institutions in our society.

In the thinking about strategy it is just as important to build support and capitalise on strengths as it is to eliminate weaknesses. Maybe in Australia we need to focus on the real strengths of our community and our nation?

In a paper I wrote on Australian business culture in 1990 I raised the question:

Would Australia be a model for other countries as a result of the Restructuring that was occurring at that time?

As it happened we are.  We can proudly say because of some things our leaders did both business and govermment, we have a robust economic system that has performed well during a time when many other systems faltered.

Will we be able to say the same when my grandchildren are entering the workforce?
The work of business and the work of families is absolutely critical to the future of Australia - the consequence of not making these two institutions front and centre in our cultural debate is both "debilitiating and demoralising."

The hope for our future is these two institutions working well! 

Ben Kehoe 9th February 2014 


Learning by Doing

Learning By Doing

I can remember the day -35 years ago when I was waxing lyrical about the history of the human potential movement when a colleague said "Ben - you should write a book!". At the time I was more than amazed - it was a "left field thought" and over the years it has come back to haunt me! - and I have continued to avoid it.
Thoughts like:
I have nothing original to say - everything I think has been written!
I am not very good at writing.
What actually would I write about?
No one would be interested!
The suggestion has been made many times over the years by clients and friends and  
one way or another I have avoided it till now!

Then social media emerged - and I decided I wanted to understand it - because it was changing the way the world worked! I was probably a little slow but I do get it!

So last February at the suggestion of my daughter I posted my first Twitter and in September my first Blog!

It really is a "learning experiment" and it is a challenge to me - not having seen myself as a writer of any talent or substance!

During this same 12 months a number of other insights struck me:

1.        Watching the Acadamy awards last year it struck me that when they talk about                         actors - they talk about their "Body of Work" and it occurred to me that over 35 years that I had put together a substantial "Body of work" and just maybe there was something in all that, that was worth writing about BUT - how was I going to do it? and how could I document my "body of work".

2.        It also became clear that Social Media was here to stay and it was transforming many areas of business and life. If I wanted to understand the world in which my grandchildren were growing up - I had better get my act together.

As with most things it takes a while  - I needed to understand what Social Media involved and how I could get more involved. I actually enrolled in a Webinar and it provided a focus.

Writing a Blog became an obvious step - so now I am tweeting and blogging and this Blog and  my Twitters are really what may be described as Action Learning. 

To close the loop on my book project - at least I am now practicing writing!!

3.       More recently I have discovered through the twittersphere that the concept of a "body of work" as a representation of a working life is gaining traction.

More and more as the nature of the working relationship changes - more people will be working as self employed business people - some from home! 

Interestingly enough I having been living and working this way for over 25 years so in some respects there is something I can contribute to this conversation.

Working in this environment has been a wonderful experience and it is only now that I can look back on my career  - the projects I have done - the decisions I have made - the strategies I have used and see some real patterns. It truly looks like a "body of work" about which I can write! 

On reflection there have been a number of inspirational thoughts and phrases which have emerged at times - and have guided me positively:

They can because they think they can. Virgil

Life is a daring adventure or nothing. Helen Kellar

As I am now four or five months into this adventure  I have to say every day is another step - every blog is a major milestone.

in the light of the above thoughts - it is a daring adventure - which I know I can do!

Ben Kehoe 19th January 2014 - I turn 64 today!




Learning is Seductive

Learning is Seductive
Received an email from Vizify today! I have had a few in the past months. Vizify is a site which appears to aggregate  data on Twitter users! I knew this because it has done it for me before! Amazing really - all I have to do is keep twittering and these summaries  continue to appear.
This one was different though - not only does it do a summary - it creates a short Video story of my work on Twitter - simple but nevertheless a story - and almost without my knowledge - the story is posted on Twitter - absolutely fascinating! Another window on this extraordinary technology!
Obviously the data is not new to me - to have it packaged and represented with no effort on my part other than to keep doing what I am doing is more than useful:
The Data represented:
Top 3 Tweet topics
Top 3 Twitters I interact with 
Top 10 Tweets
One of the really interesting features of twitter is the "instant feedback" - on a day to day basis I can check - a summary of number of tweets - number of people I am following and the number of followers I have!
Every time something occurs in relation to my tweeting - I am notified - It is fascinating really - having ongoing feedback serves as reinforcement and increases the engagement with the technology.
 It is basic learning theory and I have no idea how it is going to effect - how learning is contructed - how work is designed - how children play with one another etc - but I am convinced it will shape our lives. When Arie de Geus wrote 20 years ago that the only competitive advantage any business may have is the rate at which they learn I find it hard to believe he had Twitter in mind!
This ACCESS to data and Information is occuring at an amazing rate!
Over the years - I have made a point of reading widely both inside an outside my areas of "debateable competence" - every day now the leaders of the fields I am interested in are Tweeting about - what they are reading - what they are writing - what they are thinking! Instead of waiting for the HBR - or searching the Web - or reading in a newspaper that a document has been published - this data is tweeted and I access it it daily.
I remember in the mid 1990's when I discovered computers!!( refer blog 1) - that it was access to the Web which "hooked"me - I actually went to a "course" and learnt about  "surfing the web". I was excited by the opportunities for learning it created - back then  you will remember you had to name the topic and 'surf" till you discovered something - many will remember Web Crawler - the search engine of the day! Now you put your name and the topics of interest in Twitter and data is presented - and you can choose to access it at your discretion.

It is seductive - as is most learning.
Two milestones in my learning journey with computer and technology were:
1. When I discovered Amazon - ordering books on line was just revolutionary and so convenient!
2. When  a colleague at a conference told me he had to go back to his room and get his fix -and he talked about surfing the web - I thought he was nuts -is it possible to do business without it?
Twitter is more exciting and makes it all more accessible

Ben Kehoe,6 January 2014. 

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