Category Monthly summary

Blog posts for April 2022

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In April, Cherry and I got slammed by COVID.  We were down for a couple of weeks each. Not fun.  Especially when Cherry is absolutely flat out with work, and we were getting ready to go to Vietnam for two months. I’m writing this in HaNoi.  We managed, and now we are back to full strength.  It was good timing to get COVID over with before we traveled.  Look for the up-side.

Our big news for April was the S&T Happens book was published, just in time for Ramadan, Passover, Easter, or your festivity of choice. Happy reading! Please give feedback. S&T Happens: Surviving and Thriving in a VUCA World is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback in English.  It will be out in Vietnamese in 2022.

In other posts:

It’s not what we do, it’s why

It’s not about the action, it’s the attitude. It’s not what we do, it’s why.
It’s about the relationship between us.

Changing governance

We are passionate about how adaptability isn’t so much about changing how we work, as about changing how we manage that work to allow it. And managers won’t really change until directed and monitored differently by governors.

Money for nothing: consulting without answers.

Working as an advisory consultant, we must be disciplined in not offering answers, or even thinking of them, if we can.

Organisational Change Management

I had an Organisational Change Manager insist I had to tell him the target operating model for two years out for an IT department undergoing DevOps surgery in response to a spectacular disaster.

Blog posts for March 2022

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March has been busy with the extraordinary work that Dr Vu is doing remotely in Vietnam, and in finishing our latest book, S&T Happens: Surviving and Thriving in a VUCA World. I still managed to get  a few blog posts out in English, and I starting to do some in Vietnamese.  No I don’t speak Tiếng Việt. I copy Cherry’s best Facebook posts.  Here is one: COVID SAU 2 NĂM NHÌN LẠI…  Meanwhile, in English:

Read More

Blog posts for February 2022

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I was  little more active in February, and some really interesting ideas came up.

One post was so short that it is all here:

Ethos:  There is a word I knew but always forgot to use: “ethos”. I will use it more. It’s a great word for what we stand for. Every organisation should have a clear ethos.


Other posts were politically outspoken, and/or advocating humanistic workplaces:


The paradox of tolerance
Popper’s paradox of tolerance is that to create a tolerant society we must be intolerant of some views. This creates a dilemma of when do we restrict freedom of speech and action in order to defend freedom of belief. I believe the resolution is to focus on safety.

Don’t stay silent
Most work cultures say keep politics out. It’s just business. Politics has no place in the workplace. Hang your beliefs st the door.  This must change.

Advancing values in the workplace
Social idealism – quite rightly – funded early renewable energy efforts, but it is economics that will save the planet. See the link in comments for an example. The only road to macro social change – other than bloodshed – is profitability. Whatever we engineer needs to make people better off financially as well as environmentally.

Make the workplace fertile
Make the workplace fertile. Create a work system where people can thrive, flourish, and blossom.

Hap! hap! happy!!!
I dislike the word “happy”. To me, happiness is a transitory emotion triggered by short term changes in conditions. Contentment, positivity, or optimism are more stable states.

Stealth remote working
A mobile home park in small-town New Zealand.
I’m outside our tiny battered old caravan, towed by an aging Toyota. I don’t recall when I last washed them.
I haven’t washed my hair either for days. I’m in decaying loafers, combat style pants, and a shapeless outdoors jacket, topped by a cheap straw hat.
Talking to the neighbour, I’m always excited to share our amazing lifestyle.
“My wife is inside. She is working right now. We are international management consultants. She is coaching and training the top executives of one of Vietnam’s biggest banks.”
He looks me up and down.
”Riiiight… ” and changes the subject.This scene has played out several times.


And some news that was exciting for us:

We finally hold our book<
Hands on our book at last.
It has been out for months.
Do you have a copy (Kindle or paperback)?

Blog posts for January 2022

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Only three posts in January

Decyphering Dr Vu

One of my resolutions for 2022 is to help the English speaking world (including me) better understand what Dr. Cherry Vu is doing in Vietnam, because it clearly works. 

Bring on the Roaring Twenties

2022 is here. Enough gloom. It’s time we all rise up from the past few years, and kick off the Roaring Twenties. With some optimism, some economic resurgence, a swing to the left, and lots of vaccination, let’s hope the rest of the decade can go off. [Boy, that post didn’t age well, thanks to Putin.]

Carrot and stick

Treat people right and you don’t need carrots or sticks to get quality work.

Blog posts for November and December 2021

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Somehow, time slipped by with no monthly updates.  Here are two month’s worth:


On the workplace culture

Viva la Resignation

There is no doubt that the movement characterised as the Great Resignation will settle back into the corporate yoke of work as life. But how much we backslide is up to us.

Don’t call it Agile

The word Agile with a capital A is being mis-applied beyond its intended purpose to build software.

Multiple mistakes mean incompetence?

No they don’t.

It’s not all about greed

Have you ever noticed how many e.g LinkedIn articles are about attracting more customers, increasing profits, and growing the business? As if that’s all anybody cares about, as if it’s all that matters.

People shortage? What people shortage ?

Let’s talk about why it is hard to fill job positions .


Having trouble “finding the right people”? This stuff isn’t hard.

How to find good people

I wrote a post about why it is hard to find staff. The corollary is what we should do to make it easy to find people. Logically, we just invert my earlier post.

Coming first depends on luck

Who said “success and failure happen in the same way”? No I don’t know either. But it is a profound insight. Combine it with survivor bias, and we have a formula for false expectations.

Work teams aren’t sports superstars

The analogy of elite sports competition is damaging in the workplace.

It’s not women who should be adapting

HBR wrote about how women need to be more confident and assertive to get equal treatment  It’s what women have to do, not what they should have to do.

On how work is different now

Big bets are bad ideas… mostly.

I boggled at the risk taken in launching the James Webb Space Telescope today, Christmas Day. But, on reflection, the launch is only one small piece of the gamble.

Change work gradually

To succeed at changing how you work, it must be done iteratively, incrementally, experimentally, in many smaller lower-risk changes.

Simple work is anything but

Work exists on a spectrum from familiar to exploratory. I wrote a book, Standard+Case, about it.  In recent years, I’ve absorbed the principles of complexity, and I’m rewriting that book.<

Do your head in

There are ideas that, when we first meet them, they “do our head in”: they mess with our head, they are a mindfuck.

Crazy goals

Set crazy goals.

Never judge a decision by its outcome

We need to defend how we came to a decision, not what the decision was.

Two thirds

Whenever we break down work, here’s my rule of thumb for measuring success; for each iteration, half is OK, two thirds is good, three quarters is great.

Pay the team

How should we best distribute the rewards for the production of value in order to maximize future value output?

Where is Teal being done?

No idealised model is ever “being done” anywhere.

On the year 2021

An article about Rob and Cherry’s work in Vietnam

We wrote an article about Cherry’s work in Vietnam in the Business Agility institute’s journal, Emergence.

Work-life balance

I was asked about our work-life balance at Teal Unicorn. I’m not sure we do keep a healthy balance, but for us it is fine. Work is life for Dr. Cherry Vu and I.

Reflections on 2021

Looking back, I can say 2021 was an excellent year. Business boomed, health was great, family was peaceful and prospering. Didn’t expect that reflection, did you?


Merry Christmas* and a Happy New Year

to all our friends, followers, supporters, partners, and clients.

In the season of seasons greetings I offer you seasons greetings from Teal Unicorn.

Blog posts for October 2021

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Teal Unicorn are very busy, so again October was only a few big posts on the blog


The limits on serving

As I said, at Teal Unicorn, we are flat out. It seems that successful consultants always are. The bottleneck is we sell our own minds. It’s not scalable.

Changing paradigms

The software estimation debate illuminates a much deeper paradigm shift in how we make business decisions.

It’s not optional

In the past you could run a successful organisation by plodding along with conventional Command and control management. Extracts productivity by force from the unwilling, making wild bets on the future, but it worked. Not any more.

Don’t overdo defining values

Putting too much effort into defining an organisation’s values is a waste of time.

Video on planning in uncertainty

Here is a conversation with my virtual friend, Johann Botha of South Africa, where I got to talk about some of my favourite subjects.

Video on Managing Agile Teams

The Access Agile event is a wonderful format for sharing. This was my humble contribution. You may find this interesting, talking about the better ways of management which we encourage.

Blog posts for September 2021

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Last month we wrote about a few big topics. Not many posts but chunky ones:


You can’t fix overburden while you’re overburdened

When workers complain of burnout a pet answer is work smarter not harder. It is true that we can  increase throughput to reduce overburden. What is not true is that we can increase throughput while we are in a state of overburden.


The world is always a complex adaptive system

The real world is always always VUCA. We create tight boundary conditions to at times force it to behave in ways that are other than complex but that is an unstable temporary arrangement.


The next major incident won’t look like the last one

This is not the Black Swan. The next incident is not necessarily unimaginable, you might quite likely be able to conceive the scenario.



I often say “Blame the system”, with the intention of redirecting the sentiment onto something inanimate. The next step is to learn not to blame anything, to mature to more positive emotions. I can redirect blame away from individuals in seconds. To learn not to blame takes years.


Knowledge management is an activity not a tool

Knowledge only actually exists in people’s heads. What is called knowledge management is just an attempt to capture a snapshot. KM should be facilitating people talking to each other.

Blog posts for August 2021

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Oops, September is nearly over and here is the summary of posts for August:



What are the odds?

Imagine that you have bought a ticket as a space tourist. You ask what are the odds of survival and they tell you “Astronauts have a 97% chance of survival” (true). Then you ask “yes but what are *my* chances of surviving *my* trip?”.  Nobody knows.
This post is really interesting. So many people are incapable of accepting the fact that the future is unknowable. I spoke about it on this podcast


VUCA hype

Seen on social media: “don’t fall for the VUCA hype”. Let’s examine the situation…


Share the rewards

At Teal Unicorn, we coach our clients to share bonuses.

When people don’t flourish

You can’t measure a knowledge worker but we can assess someone as a person, not a machine.   The team knows who is not pulling their weight.  If we have good relationships they may know why too, and sometimes be able to help.


There are interesting parallels between parenting and management. Cherry and Rob recently wrote a book on parenting in Vietnamese in conjunction with our son David. This is how we view raising teens. Look at how similar this is to the ideas of better ways of managing.


What is a consultant?

What is a consultant? We use the term carefully.

Predatory consulting

£3m for 8 weeks of consultancywork: McKinsey given contract to adviseUK.govon tech project business cases”Seventy five thousand pounds a day.

Anybody who believes an outside agent can swan in and deliver that kind of change in 8 weeks is smoking something.


And a moan…

Audio and video vs text

I almost never consume podcasts or videos. Text is better.

Blog posts for July 2021

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Every month we summarise our blog posts, to tempt you to read a few.


Good managers play golf

Or whatever pastime…

People are not a cost

Until employers cease to see workers as an expense, and start to see them as humans beings, there will never be peace in the workplace.

Responsibility for failure

We take responsibility for our mistakes and learn how not to do that again. But more importantly we share that learning or better still play a role in a bigger learning exercise, so that nobody else has to make that mistake again.

Managers are victims too

Management are victims of the work systems as much as anyone else. Don’t blame the person, (help them) fix the system.

Estimates are not a commitment

There is much debate about estimates. I can see the necessity. What matters is the culture around them.

Blog posts for June 2021

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Continuing our series summarising our Teal Unicorn blog posts by month, here are the posts for June 2021:


Opinion pieces:

Agility can be scaled Can a big organisation be agile too, can we scale agility? I say clearly yes, such organisations exist.

Numbers are an indicator that the manager should act. By all means have KPIs and other metrics but don’t manage by them. use them only as indicators, it’s in the name.

Let the buyer be accountable The stories of grotesque consulting fees are legion. It seems to me there is only one way to stop this pillaging. Put some accountability on those engaging them.

Deming’s 94% Deming is misleadingly misquoted about “94% system, 6% people”

Judging colleagues If anybody gets to judge their colleagues, it should be someone as close as possible to that person. In other words, their teammates.

This month’s news:

Our great results Teal Unicorn get some amazing results with our clients. Check these out.

Our Four or More training offering: your own private course from Teal Unicorn Get together between 4 and 10 people for Teal Unicorn training or coaching for the fixed price of US$400 per hour. Not per head: per hour for the group!

The agile Manager book in Vietnamese The Vietnamese version of The agile Manager (small a) by Dr Vu is published!!