If you don’t have a dream…

I recently completed a refresh job on a Rich Picture first drawn in 2016. Since then the client organisation have successfully moved into the "what does good look like?" space in the original picture that seemed like a pipe dream at the time.

If you don’t have a dream…

It was seven years ago when I first had the opportunity to work with this client. I can’t name them but it doesn’t take a genius to guess who they might be. Back then they were in the shadow of a rival team who were much better at winning. They got the consultancy firm Spitfire in to set them off on a rigorous Continuous Improvement programme. Spitfire chose me to help with the Rich Picture side of things. I’d worked with them several times before so they knew my work.

High Cost was not an obstacle

High Cost was not an obstacle

At that time the client was under no cost constraints (that has since changed) though there was a headcount limit. The meta-metaphor was a running track with hurdles and relay batons, based on a comment picked up the consultancy in their initial meetings to the effect of “we are great at sprinting but we trip up over hurdles and drop the baton too often”. This small idea was the piece of grit we built the pearl around. Success for them was about getting complicated bits of engineering though a series of processes in as short a period of time as possible in order to be able to fit them onto their racing machines to outperform their rivals. The start of the metaphorical running race, before the point that Continuous Improvement kicked in, was a chaos of crossing lanes, stumbling hurdlers and dropped batons. After CI things ran more smoothly, with hurdles aligned and reduced in height, handovers controlled and barriers removed where possible. A sort of “air-traffic control system” to monitor every item at every stage in the production process was implemented and the benefit was a smoother flow, the removal of bottlenecks and more time for the designers in the drawing office to perfect their drawings before sending them to the manufacturing shop. It also reduced the amount of wasted effort and parts that ended up in “The Million Dollar Skip”. A win-win situation that stood them in good stead when the cost cap was introduced to help the less wealthy teams get amongst the points.

My Rich Pictures are on permanent display around the offices and workshops of the client organisation and are referred to on a daily basis. They are positioned in large format prints on acrylic near the water coolers and meetings are held alongside them so they can make sure they are sticking to the plan. Department heads keep them in view and keep them in mind. I’m not claiming any magical properties but they function almost like corporate cave-paintings. A representation of positive thinking that leads to positive outcomes.

True North

A Rich Picture can help fix a direction.

Rich Pictures often have a “sunlit uplands” part of the picture, usually top right, the promised land where we are heading if we follow the path in the picture. This was depicted by the Champagne on ice on the podium with “first placed reserved”. At the time is struck me very wishful thinking, bordering on chutzpah, such was the dominance of their rivals, but in the intervening years they have succeeded to they extent that they have been in first place in every race this season, smashing records and making history along the way. Of course I’m not claiming all the credit for this uptick in performance (!) but it does go to show how useful a Rich Picture can be in terms of recognising the current problems faced, creating a vision and plotting a path towards it. First place on the podium is now business as usual for this team so part of the refresh was to redefine the “sunlit uplands” part. Top right of the picture is now a huge season finale party with fireworks and many corks popping with the message “celebrating success”. Also the subject of a work/life balance made it into the picture, copied across from one of the later pictures, in recognition of the hard work and exceptional effort it has taken to reach the top.

Work/Life Balance

Work/Life Balance

In the intervening seven years I have returned and produced another five Rich Pictures for this client. The 2023 refresh cherry-picked some of the key messages of those and dropped them into this update. It could have easily looked a bit of a Frankentein’s monster but because I had kept building on the initial running track metaphor it was possible to stitch the sub-metaphors together into a cohesive whole. To paraphrase Eric Morecambe “you can’t see the joins!”. I wish I could share the picture with you in its entirety but, as ever, client confidentiality trumps my self-promotion.

The client organisation are cognisant of the fact that the sport’s governing body will be doing everything in its power to clip their wings when the regulations change again in 2026 and give some of the other teams a look in but until that time the entire workforce are enjoying their win-bonuses on a regular basis. Their slogan “One Team!” is more than just a corporate cliché. Oh, and they are going to need a considerably larger trophy cabinet!

Midway through this project the client organisation shut down for two weeks (those are the rules, no emails, no work calls). I needed some feedback from the project-lead on the last afternoon before the shutdown in order to move the artwork on and I apologised for making the late request when he was halfway out of the door and probably no longer in work-mode. “Not a problem…” he replied “This part of my work doesn’t feel like work!”.

Celebrating Success

Celebrating Success!

If you think your organisation could benefit from a Rich Picture to set it on the path to winning ways please drop me a line. To be the best takes a lot of hard work but creating a Rich Picture doesn’t have to feel like work!

Paul Shorrock