The Business Doctor

'eradicating the Mad Management Virus'

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Guest Rant...

This is by The Squirrel...

I've never thought of myself as a tree-hugger. Never been the type. But since the local council slapped a Tree Preservation Order on the tree in my front garden, I must admit to feeling more than a little protective towards my sycamore. Possessive, even.

I've never really given it much thought before. I mean, it's just there. It was there when I moved in, it's pleasant enough, and apart from covering my car with sap every spring and autumn it's never done anything to make me wish it any harm.

But now the tree has taken on a whole new significance for me. 

It seems the council has singled out my tree for special treatment because "so many others in the city are being chopped down". Well, I've never entertained any thoughts of chopping down my tree - not even for a second. And not for any eco-warrior, defender-of-the-natural-world reason - to be honest it provides a nice, handy barrier which blocks me quite neatly from my neighbours' view. So I wouldn't want to go chopping it down. It does need a bit of pruning now and then, when the branches get precariously close to the roof - but from now on I'm even going to have to apply for permission to do that.

But even though I'm a little bit put out, shall we say, about this nanny-state intervention on behalf of my tree, what really makes me cross is the thought of just how much it has cost to put said order in place. I found out about its existence through (irony of ironies) a huge wad of documents which landed on the doormat. It details all the trees in the neighbourhood which have been identified as needing protection. And it details the hoops the council is now going to have to jump through to get the order passed in perpetuity. And that's before I (a) object or (b) apply for permission to lop, crop or do whatever else I might want to do to the tree, thereby creating a whole load of extra work for our council staff. I wonder how many of them are employed to look after our trees? Even ones like mine, which I'm quite capable of looking after by myself, thanks. And I don't demand any payment for doing it.

I just want to be left in peace with my tree. And if we could just find a way to do that, I think we could save a bit of taxpayers' cash while we're at it.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Social Innovation - AKA Complexity

It was Heraclitus who is credited with the saying that “it’s impossible to step into the same river twice” in he believed the universe is characterised by constant change. Well if he had been at ‘my’ Business School away-day today, he would have changed his mind instantly. Not only did we step into the same water, we swam about in it for seemly days on end! Parmenides denied the existence of time and took the opposite view that change is not possible. What exists now has always existed, and whilst I do not agree that in his rational approach to thinking change never happens, you only have to consider that I have according to the new Dean (okay she never said this directly) been doing ‘Social Innovation’, increasing Democracy, getting frontline workers empowered, oh er.. for about 10 years. So yep, spot on Parmenides! But you would never know if asking my School.

The message today, albeit a painful replay of the last 6 years, was that revolution is upon us and that ‘Management’ is dead….. 

The ability to influence change as it emerges is the most important aspect in todays modern world. Most people now understand that you cannot implement change to ‘get what you want’ but rather the start the ‘chaotic’ period and attempt to influence via, strong, core values. Values here meaning real lived values, which are seen through the passion of peoples action – NOT words in a statement. Social Innovation is seeing change through people, via this influence but never control! Something I am afraid was missed from today’s discussion. Most it seems, feel more comfortable in attempting to hunker-down in known theory or space, whilst the world around shakes, moves and changes beyond most academics recognition as they are still concerned in being the ‘expert’ in their field, even though the field in now a lake, awash with a million twitters, blogs and changes taking it all to a new unknowing level!

Order comes with disorder. The butterfly Effect is we know just a myth in terms of its social impact, but still there is truth that change will happen. The Human System will ensure this happens. One small change in one sector means changes in others, sooner or later. Thinking of ourselves as separate in terms of politics, or class, or economic or cultural will only delay the inevitable. Change!

We were urged today by one speaker to light fires, in the metaphorical sense of course, as these fires will light the landscape. Yet we already have lots of camp fires, with lots of people gathered around, muttering all-sorts. The problem is that we cannot see or hear what the other campfires are doing. The influence is only in the near or we fail to walk off into the dark seeking new fires, new conversations, new ways of doing things! And if anything like the past 6 years is to go by in the Business School, to wander into another tribes camp will be instant demise. 

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

I'm getting old - I know!

In a recent survey, 68% of employee’s think that their managers speak jargon and “At the end of the day” they may very well be correct. For I find “Best practice” for most managers is to “Drill-down” and have loads of “Facetime” or indeed have “Space” to become “World-Class”. These managers most insist that the only way forward is “Joined up Thinking” to “Takeaway” mainly to “Close the Loop” or ensure that great things are “brought to the table” for real structural “Social Innovation”. Otherwise we must get the “Heads up” on “Directional Issues”. Failing all that we can simply “Performance Manage”……

Ok…enough-already I hear you scream!

But you get my point. We in the business world or is it business academe make up these words, jargon at a rate that would make Jenson Button head spin. No longer are we doing Strategy every semester or is term now(?), or Corporate Social Responsibility, or Sustainability we are now onto Social Innovation….. look I had no idea what the fuss was with Strategy, so I’m completely lost with Social Innovation!!!

Its okay though as my Business School is having an away-day in a posh hotel, hopefully with a posh lunch, and the copious posh coffee, which is vital for “Blue sky thinking”, oops sorry, couldn’t help myself. So I should after several hours be completely ‘into’ our new 'modern', strategic intent.

So what do the above mean…
At the end of the day – look we are all fed-up so just get on with it and stop answering back
Drill Down – you haven’t thought through this, have you?
Facetime – I know talking to the plebs is rough, but that’s what you get paid for… talk to staff now and find out what colour t-shirts they want
Space – okay, I’ve really had enough of you now, please leave
Best Practice – well this has to be better than worse practice
Takeaway – mmmmm food….mmmmm (thats just me, I know!)
Close the Loop – You still haven’t thought through this, have you?
Social Innovation – I’ll complete this when I’m Social next week at the Posh Hotel..
Heads up – Look out, some real shite is coming our way, and if you’re not looking you can’t blame the staff…
Directional issues – Strategy! What strategy…. The blue file… thought the blue file was our Best Practice file, dam that’s an issue!
Performance Manage – you failed to think it though after repeated warnings and so now I’m going to have to draw out a list….

If you can do better, brain-dumpI’m all ears, ready to think outside the box, so crack-on 

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

A Lovely Day!

I started today by visiting my most recent project 'Monwel Signs & Services' Factory in Ebbw Vale, Wales, UK. It is a sheltered employment organisation, which has been struggling for reasons best left until later. However, the staff there, are simply brilliant... well most of the 30-odd staff are, some are just what you would expect after 30 years of being treated like, well, children. 

However, this is not my story today! After my normal early morning visit to this factory, I had to visit my Dentist. Again not the main reason why I'm writing this short blog. Nevertheless, instead of being there, waiting hours as you do in Dentists, a few minutes I was out, scaled, polished and booked in for another visit, as they know I will simple go out, drink coffee, eat chocolate and generally stain my teeth all over again. I’m such a scary guy. Therefore, given this short period 2 hours of freedom in my schedule, I go and visit some of my old staff.

Not many people know, but my first real ‘Managers’ job was in Aberfan Sports & Community Centre in 1988! Yep had the job when I was just 9 years old….well okay may be a little older, but it's my blog and I’m not telling. People from the UK and are over 30 will know the terrible tragedy of Aberfan in 1966. It was one of the first major ‘corporation’ disasters in Wales for sure. The then National Coal Board (NCB) mined the coal out of the valleys and the communities around grew as a result. The problem was that from the coal came waste products ‘slag and coal dust. This was just dumped around the areas and simply turned the green valleys and hills black, and large to say the least from the ‘slag-tips’. To cut a long story short, in Aberfan & Merthyr Vale, it rained heavily and coupled with the fact that the slag tip was dumped over a natural stream, on the morning of October 21 1966, the slag tip turned into a thick sludge and poured down onto the School and Streets below killing 144 people, of which 116 were children.

This event was, without question heart breaking, and if you visit Aberfan, the feeling of this loss and knowing a whole generation was wiped out, and a parents left to moan the incredible hurt that only comes from out living a son or daughter still hangs in the air.

So as you can imagine going to manage a facility which was built for the children left, and in memory of the children lost was firstly an honor, but extremely scary as a 21 year old…dam gave my age away.

This still is not my point. My point here is that in 1988 as a ‘boy’ I was placed in charge of staff a lot older, wiser and with special connection to the place they worked. I also had to deal with the ‘Trustees’ of the facilities. Each with their own ‘difficult’ memory and loss on that day in 1966. One such gentleman is Bryn Carpetenter. He is a gentleman, and that’s whom I met whilst I was surprising my  ‘super-woman’, former Receptionist June Foulkes today. Bryn, around 87 years old now, recogised me, after June had told him who I was, well I have put on weight. I had a feeling of pride, knowing that in my time at Aberfan I had supported his dream of the centre, respected their wishes, and above all, never allowed business, rules, Council Policies to get in the way of their/his desires for the centre as manager. I came away, sad at not being there in Aberfan, but with a strange sense, that I had got something right in my life, something small I know, but I had ‘touched’ others and left a good impression, even after all these years.

I also have to say that I have never come across a worker of such honesty, pride, passion and human empathy as June. Even today, she calls me Mr Thomas, and at the time, all those years ago I kept turning around to look for my father, only to realize she was addressing me.

I wish I could have studied her in my research, captured her essence as a person, employee and Receptionist bottled it and I know now I could have made a fortune changing others.
I have led a really luck life, and its people that make it special 

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Its been a Good Year... I Think!

Its that time of year when I begin looking back at my achievements, and despite the lack of support, constant battles with ‘bureaucrats’, half-wits, and Managers ;-), its been a pretty good year.
Three major organisations changed successfully, and are now sustainable without ‘management’ damaging the democracy and passion of the frontline service producers. 
I have witnessed productivity improvements of 300% in one, savings in the region of £400k in another; sickness decreases by 10% and above all happy people going to work. This is not to say the saving of one manufacturer from disappearing. So all in all a good academic year!
So why do I feel sad! Is it that not all this change, whilst proved is happening quickly enough? Is that despite working 14 hour days (not that I’m complaining) my organization fails to understand what I do or what I stand for? Alternatively, is it that I am just ‘bloody fed up’ and that’s life?
I do know that in 2009, we saw the sad management trait of making people redundant and this has continued into 2010. However, one company Air New Zealand, announced it would “disestablish up to 100 long-haul cabin crew positions”, awww that’s so much better I’m sure for the poor old cabin crew than being made redundant, especially when their managers, CEO everywhere received even great pay awards throughout 2009/10, most greater than third world debt!
I’m not bitter, honest, but quite recently our new ‘Blunt’ Minister Leighton Andrews, brought home what I think I knew but was too frightened to say. Universities in Wales are, well, poorly led…. There I’ve said it….and what a surprise I am still alive, not struck down in a bolt of lightening…well not yet anyhow.
Speaking at Cardiff University, he saw “too much institutional behaviour and not enough leadership”, note here he never mentioned the word ‘Management’…but he goes on to say that 52% of funding goes on support administration and ‘managers’ salary. In my world, I’ve seen that increase to 60% of costs, and yet Lecturers, Researchers and Research Units are being Indeed “disestablished” without any thought to the real costs and consequences. Yet, one VC shouted that her/his salary was not that large compared to industry. Indeed CEO’s of large companies would think VC’s salaries to be peanuts. Yet, when you think that Universities are public sector, small by comparison and with less financial risk, their salaries seem rather large, or is that just me! However, this is not the point. “There are times when there is a need to dig deep and find another gear – while never losing sight of the bigger picture.” This three-way mixed management metaphor so confuses me, I’m saying it here to avoid saying anything just incase…
I have also been at hundreds of speaker events, business networks and after dinner talks all for the glory of my wonderfully led Business School and I met one person who placed on her business card: “Life Coach,  Storyteller, Experience Architect, Thought Creator.” Just 2 years ago she would not have been able to get away with this, even as a Consultant, yet something tells me she will be busy in 2011 and retired rich in 2012! Oh dear perhaps that’s it, my values just don’t get me noticed, or rich!! Nope, I don’t think this is it…..
I do know one most irritating thing this year is this growing sign-off’s on e-mails with, “Hope that helps”, to HTH, a nasty little abbreviation, and “bw” for Best Wishes, against which “rgds” starts to look merciful. Yes it that’s it, the text world seeping into our academic and business standards, well that could partly be it…LOL! Or lmao….
Finally the elephant in the room for me, (In newspapers and journals alone, last year 3,700 elephants were reported as being in rooms) as an academic pushing the envelope, getting people to think outside the box and thought shower is can I survive being disestablished. Simply because 60% of my job should be management and administration, not putting academia firmly into helping the economy? 
Here's to another year as a 'Life Coaching, Storytelling, Thought Creator' ;-)