Wednesday 24 December 2003

More opportunities for irrelevance abound

Between retiring and having a new lease
I bought my apartment from a couple in their 70s who in turn were purchasing a comfortable retirement apartment in Arnhem by the Dutch Rhine. Four years earlier, they had come up to Amsterdam buying this apartment whilst it was still a drawing plan, having lived in Eindhoven for 25 years.
Not many people buy a new house in their 70s, one knows of none other who has done that twice in their 70s. More so, they could easily have retired in Eindhoven and lived out their lives there having lived there for 25 years already.
The couple might have been in their 70s, but they were young, youthful, young at adventure, given to opportunity for change and getting themselves a new lease of life when many of their peers were wasting away in idle retirement.
I want to be a 70 year old who has purpose, who is relevant and can still do things people half my age do and possibly do it all better.
Early retirement
In the last two decades middle managers arranged to take early retirement at around 55, however with an average life expectancy of 75, one wonders what the next 20 years would be spent doing. Golf and travel eventually take their toll on enthusiasm, a life of leisure does not equate to being relevant apart from being useful baby-sitting grand parents.
As we have all noted with the pensions crisis in Europe, we apparently cannot afford to retire before 70. Each individual now has 70 reasons to alter the course of their lives and careers to suit working until 70.
The fight against irrelevance has never been bloodier with youth, technology, globalisation, business practise and trends leaving the unprepared behind in the land of wasted dreams.
More so, it appears those in their 20s have at least 50 years of working life ahead of them, they had better be on the right train or as certain as taxes and death, irrelevance would overtake them and consign them to the scrapheap.
Strong reasons to be reasonable
Take account of your age and have a reason for each number of years to remain relevant.
At birth, you may have no reasons for anything, but even you have to draw sharp breaths to live, to cry and survive.
At 5, you might have 5 reasons why you want that present.
At 10, you might have 5 reasons why you want to stay in this school and 5 given to you about the need to go to another.
At 15, you possibly have 15 reasons to rebel against authority and do your own thing.
At 20, there are 20 reasons to realise you are becoming independent and are taking on some responsibilities.
At 25, there are 25 reasons to succeed and excel at all costs and possibly start a family.
At 30, there are 30 reasons to wonder if you are in the right career, if your dreams are getting fulfil and the weight of responsibility is easy or stressful.
At 35, there are 35 reasons for a life-audit and the same number for where you want to be at 40.
At 40 and beyond
At 40, there are 40 reasons why do you do not want to have a mid-life crises because of what you have done at 30.
At 45, there are 45 reasons why if you are beginning to feel out of place, you have to rethink some reasons you had at 35 before you reach 50.
At 50, there are 50 reasons to be at the pinnacle of your career and the beginning of a new one of mentoring to remain relevant.
At 55, there are 55 reasons to be a grandparent and the same not to be a young parent, with great concern if you are already a great-grandparent. However, there are still 15 years before retirement, how are you doing?
At 60, there are 60 reasons to earn all the accolades working a 2-day week for as much as you earned working a 12-day week in your 30s. You should be during really well and grooming a successor. Enjoy the next 10 years or else there would be 70 reasons why you did not have the reasons for every time you had the opportunity to reason.
One probably has 38 reasons for working on the changes to remain relevant.

Tuesday 23 December 2003

Opportunities for irrelevance abound

Your rank in the Army of Relevance, Sir!
One being a collector of quotations, it is easy to recite and regurgitate quotations without finding out more about the particular persons and circumstances that lead to those gems of human wisdom and intellect encapsulated in words.
In fact, a quotation is a phrase or sentence of relevance. Relevance is a beacon; it stands out from the other group of words that give it a context to exist.
One's reference to the army stems from the time one has spent thinking of Gen. Eric Shinseki's very notable quotation.
"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less"
One has paraphrased this to "They who hate change would hate irrelevance even more" - Every aspect of one's life has to experience a concept of evolution or irrelevance sets in - Irrelevance = Extinction. There is no time friend to be an endangered species; the endangerment was there when you ignored the trends of change.
The recruitment drills of entering the Army breaks down the individual and develops the team based on trust, enforced by authority, nurtured by respect, rewarded by promotion, reckoned by discharge and sanctioned by expulsion.
Discipline governs the ability to remain relevant in the Army and that lack of it brings sanctions that could lead to expulsion if there is no means of reprove that can convince authority of your further relevance to the Army.
Jesus identified that understanding of authority as the highest form of faith when the centurion in asking Jesus to heal his servant by speaking the words.
The Centurion reckoned himself a man who had authority by being answerable to his superiors, respectful of his peers and leading his subordinates. In that station, he was an example to all around him.
How to become irrelevant
What appears below may sound ironic; however, the full appreciation of the knowledge of anything is, knowing what it is and knowing what it is not.
Change what you cannot and leave what you can.
You read that right. There are we cannot change and things we can.
  • There are people younger and smarter than you are, you cannot change your age, but you can get smart.
  • These younger people will come up with the strangest and seemingly weird ideas, you may not be as radical, but your wealth of experience can help in making those ideas practical.
  • Your organisation may be changing to make your circumstances untenable, but you can change your circumstances for the better without having to rely on your organisation.
  • You may have been there long enough to have the delusion of being indispensable, however, if you keeled over now, after two weeks, someone better and smarter would replace you.
  • What you know in terms of experience may not be valuable, but understanding how to adapt that experience to trends is most invaluable.
Be persuasive in peace but invincible at war.
Another of General Shinseki's quotes
The theory of evolution has moved on, it is no more the survival of the fittest, but the ascendancy of the smartest. The species would not change into anything other than the humans - homo sapiens sapiens - that they are. There is no point having two heads, four hands, six legs and eight reproductive organs, that type of fitness is redundant.
The greatest resource available to man is their intellectual capital - ideas, dreams, vision turned into the reality that changes humankind for the better.
New and Improved is OUT - Radical and Groundbreaking is IN.
I do not want more of the same I want something different. Enough of the tremors in office politics, what we want are earthquakes.
Radically uproot it all and build it somewhere else. Only smart buildings survive earthquakes, not mammoth edifices.
Finally, whatever game is played in the quest to remain relevant, be principled, honest, trustworthy and reliable. Those unimpeachable qualities endure after the smoke has cleared up. Those were characteristics lacking in the leaderships of Enron, Andersen, WorldCom and many more failed organisations in their heyday.
Postscript references
Tom's 60 TIBs - It's a PowerPoint

Monday 22 December 2003

Corporate inversion to produce excellence

Losing that Corporate umbrella
Having worked in a number of organisations, conglomerates and enterprises, one has seen the tyranny of pointless political battles, internal markets, Russian-doll-empires and departmental rivalries that beset all good intentions of the board of directors.
The Organisational Chart
The Organisational Chart, possibly created in that dreaded PowerPoint or this time Microsoft Visio (See earlier blog on PowerPoint), creates the fertile ground for the at times credible generalisations that:
  • Working for the same organisation does not mean you gel as an organisation.
  • Each departmental function is an unchallenged monopoly in that organisation.
  • Collective responsibility of corporate goals is dispersed amongst departmental heads who work a double agenda of both trying to be efficient and the desire to succeed the incumbent corporate officers.
  • Responsibility is aggressively acquired from other units for successes and promptly evaded and blamed on other units for failures.
  • Employee value and talent is lost in the bean counting of cost-centre accountancy.
One is saying that the comfort of working under the umbrella of ABC Corporation is failing the corporation and stopping the corporation from evolving fast enough to respond to the change necessary for its profitability and survival.
The logic of proper outsourcing
Imagine your organisation being changed into something completely from what it is now. It now just consists of a board of directors with the ideas and capital for a particular venture.
  • The facilities department becomes a facilities management firm competing in tenders to provide a block of offices and run all the facilities necessary for a corporate headquarters and the satellite offices.
  • The legal department becomes a law firm providing legal advice to the company and any other companies needing that expertise for a fee.
  • The personnel management department becomes combined talent resourcing and payroll management firm managing all Human Resourcing needs for a market that includes your organisation and the departments that have become firms.
  • The finance department becomes a corporate finance advisory firm and facilitator for managing the board's capital interests in this venture.
  • The IT department becomes a service provider of end-to-end IT services to the organisation and all the firms employed by the board for the organisation. The IT firm also competes on the open market.
  • The marketing, sales and publicity departments become a PR firm with professional research and marketing facilities, holding a respectable PR budget.
This is the same organisation with a centralised core of the board with a clear set of goals, requirements and principles. Now, each firm competing on the open market to fulfil the requirements is faced with tougher choices to either perform or face extinction from competition.
The Organisational Chart is no more a hierarchy but a star with one reporting line between the office of the board of directors (the customer) and the firms that provide customer service. The complete inversion of corporate government.
The Board Expects
 For the fee the office of the board pays for each service they have acquired they should expect the following:
  • Clearly set contract service levels and penalties for default.
  • Professional customer service with performance metrics, which include bonuses for exceeding expectations.
  • Well planned and organised project deliveries that cut the muster of competitive market scrutiny.
  • Firm managements that can negotiate realistic timelines, costs, requirements and deliverables.
  • Considerable improvements if the service contracted is provided or the option to renegotiate or fire the service company if they under perform.
The Firm
The firms face the continual test of if their service is worth paying for; they have to cost and value every negotiated settlement balancing the provision of service with staying competitive.
 This would do wonders for the erstwhile department in these ways:
  • All resources that have survived for so long under the corporate setting but brought no value to the company would be exposed and offered severance terms.
  • Projects properly researched before any negotiations begin and only within the resources available to service that project.
  • Poor management within the firm would be under pressure to perform or depart.
  • The level of service required or the firm would require skilled personnel on better remuneration to fulfil contracts signed.
  • Market forces would compel the firms to adapt to trends more quickly.
  • The organisational issues which plagued the larger organisation and were buried the weight of internal rivalries would have a smaller field of play, but its impact would be immediately felt and dealt with.
The individual
How this affects all the individuals involved depends if you are on the board to demand or in the firm to provide a service.
If on the board your question would be - If I had to pay for this kind of service from an external firm, what should I demand and expect?
If in the service firm, your question would be - Would one get away with giving this level of service if someone had to pay for it?
The Utopian Organisation
The mindset of the organisational entity is completely changed and that is outsourcing in Utopia, if only the world were a perfect place.

Friday 19 December 2003

When to close your year

Counting the years
One has had the advantage of being able to close ones working year, the weekend either before ones birthday or just at ones birthday. When one was self-employed, one had no problems making that decision and sticking to it. One used to have the luxury of 10 weeks holiday a year and still declare it a good and profitable year.
However, last year, ones work status changed and one became a salaried permanent employee with a fixed number of holidays amounting to five, each bean-counted on pink or green cards through out the year.
In these circumstances, one becomes rather more perceptive at selecting what holidays to take off allowing enough days to close the year as one is accustomed to doing. Having no particular allowance for time off in lieu of extra hours, days or weeks worked, five weeks does not amount to much a year.
In Europe, we do place more premiums on holidays than the Americans. Though they seem to have had this unassailable improvement in productivity over the last few decades, one's candid, view is "They who do not know how to work can never know how to play".
The point of high productivity without ample time off amounts to just two weeks a year is absurd. One would think the whole purpose of high productivity is to have more time off to be leisurely having achieved whatever goals, aims, purposes or plans.
Anyway, looking at the working year of 2003 - we started in a flux of change, managing infrastructure we had aggressively taken over the previous November and handing over to the new team brought in to ensure that the future became just as we had mapped it out.
One can refer to some issues that became highlights of the year.
  • The remnant after the November retrenchment were systematically deprived of privileges to perform functions they were once managers of and they did not help issue with their bickering about rights - a failure of their management to inform them of their drastically changed circumstances.
  • The major deployment and upgrade of our backend and front-end CRM solution - this was an uphill task of educating the backend teams of full-cycle deployment; the logic being, what you roll out on the server is not complete till the end-user confirms that it all works. Broadening the horizons of such personnel to the realities that the user is the linchpin makes all the difference.
  • The client operating system upgrade to Microsoft Windows XP - a classic tale of how not to run a project. One must state here that in conversation with one of the project managers involved; the project did run as planned, only that the whole system was short-circuited by irrational management targets that preferred immediate implementation to reasoned and ordered assessments leading to working solutions at the point of presentation.
    We never learnt the lessons throughout the whole year.
  • Knowledge unravelling the effectiveness of our solutions integrators, when we repackaged all their applications for the new operating system. The sharp practices of shoddy coding that went unnoticed when deployed to Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 were laid bare in Microsoft Windows XP. Polish up your act, you are failing dreadfully, still.
  • Are you trying to absolve yourself from thanks for a job well done? One of the many questions or rather classic statements one made in the year. This after a successful client deployment even the local staff could not bring themselves to acknowledge that success.
  • A number of projects that required weekend work also brought to light some of the inconsiderate practises that involved petty purveyors of power mortgaging our weekends without due consultation. In all the cases we were involved, where no one had the courtesy to seek our consent and availability, we successfully rescheduled for our convenience. The morale being, nothing is set in stone, even if the milestones are in the project plan.
  • Project managers came up with ingenious ideas that made technical prerequisites obsolete in favour of pressing issues, which eventually would lead to dealing with those prerequisites. All doom for the department was forecast if we flunked the deadlines. Eventually, reality got the better of the whole situation we had two rescheduled deadlines within a week. One could never bring oneself to say, "I told you so", nay, never said I.
  • We delivered time and time again, albeit with regular but temporary setbacks driven by the quest to PowerPoint [Sorry for using this as a verb] all activity. We had to be like them, the only difference being we did our jobs and so covered our arses, they just covered their arses and gave us grief - customer demands, uncertainty, bungling, accusation, problems and at times unprofessionalism - NEVER!
We had a good year, full of work, new experiences and many lessons, hopefully properly learnt for the New Year.
Take time to count the cost, survey the availability of resources and set your target dates with achievable realism.
One is ashamed that in many cases we could not deliver on promised time because we were driven by unrealistic projections with no bearing to existing volume of work and priorities.
The hopes and fears of all the years* which are met at Christmas, should give rise to new purposes to do better in the year 2004. It has been great working with all my colleagues whom I respect, even those who flinch at being called gentlemen and deserted me at lunchtime. One acknowledges your apologies, but you had to get a mention.
* O! Little town of Bethlehem

Thursday 18 December 2003

Behind the upfront deal lies a better offer

The Netherlands
The mobile phone operators market in the Netherlands has seen the influx of other European players; this both consolidates and introduces healthy competition in the market.
The customer ends up with a lot of choice, if they have any understanding about what to choose.
Moving to the Netherlands almost four years ago represented a seismic culture shock, which catches every career professional émigré by surprise. These were ones experiences; some have already changed for the better since then.
To be more specific that main thing to have in mind is that Amsterdam to the tourist is a lot different to Amsterdam for the new resident.
The Supermarkets
The supermarkets in the Netherlands were not of the quality seen in the UK. First the shelf arrangements; the only logic one could see was that things were in alphabetic order.
Antiseptics, Apples, Apricots; Tampons, Tomatoes, Towels; Salt, Sweets, Spoons. Apart from the fact that the names were a lot different - Tomato Beans (Baked Beans), SnelKookRijst (Long grain parboiled rice).
The till queues sometimes were so long and then some smart tiller decides to close a needed till anyhow; I just was not prepared for this, and a few times I just put things back on the shelves and walked out in disgust.
The Stores
Rarely do you get a complement, "This is the first time anyone has walked into this store prepared". May one generalise saying, the Dutch do not spend time researching what they require on a shopping trip.
Rather a shopping expedition is made a nightmare for other prepared people by customers who get the tillers to do all the research when they should be taking payments off customers who with goods in hands are about to sling them at that tiresome, undecided customer who might eventually not buy anything.
The compliment came from having researched what new phone one wanted, bringing in ones old mobile phone contract just in case any information needed to be transferred to the renewed contract.
The Queues
Do not even think of it. I once was the only one at a bus stop having just missed the previous bus. When the next one arrived, one could hardly find standing room.
However, once whilst returning from England, the same attitude became evident that I remonstrated. "We do queue in this country" to the surprise but eventual adherence of the miscreants.
Despair and be served
I used to say, the Netherlands is a lovely place to live in until you require service. One issue stands out when one phoned a service company and was kept waiting for 2 hours 20 minutes - by which time one could sing the whole on-hold music by heart.
Eventually, when the call was answered, I was put back in the queue for another 20 minutes because one could not speak Dutch.
The service company has improved considerably with the mission statement "Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do" I see myself served graciously and enthusiastically nowadays.
Estate agents
They made a large profit during the boom years up until the middle of 2001. Having the gall to charge deposits and commissions up to half the short-term lease of 6 months. If the opportunity arises, buy a house.
Europeans and resident permits - British Consulate view
Do I need a residence permit to live in the Netherlands?
We strongly recommend that you apply for a residence permit. As an EU citizen, you are legally exempt from the obligation to apply for a residence permit (verblijfsvergunning).
However, local practice is such that difficulties are likely to arise if you do not have one. For example, banks, health insurance companies and some employers may ask to see your residence document before entering into a contract with you. It is therefore advisable to apply for a residence permit from the Aliens Police Service (Vreemdelingenpolitie).
If one read that correctly, one can do without it, because one is legally exempt; however, it can be useful if one is entering into a contract where the contractor needs more assurance that one is here to stay.
I only wish someone included this in the study packs used for training immigration officers; I still get harassed for not having one anytime I fly into the country. One should intimate that one has obtained all privileges including a mortgage without having the absurd permit.
Road works
My view is the jobless statistics are low because every activity to do with road building, pavements and pedestrian areas is done six times. One does not need to prove this. Just check out any construction works over the period of 6 months and gaze in bewilderment why, they have come back again.
They all speak, surely not English
In general, the Dutch are basic polyglots. Polyglots in the sense that they speak at least two languages, usually three, apart of from the mother tongue, their command of English is rather rudimentary.
There are exceptional cases but it becomes obvious in the use of the following malapropisms.
Bring for bringing here and taking there.
They welcome in rather than welcome to or welcome aboard.
They borrow for borrowing and lending.
Formal email almost always includes hereby for herein or enclosed.
Double Dutch
My view is that the reason why Dutch is a difficult language is, you need to be word perfect for the Dutch to understand whatever you say. If you fall at that hurdle, they immediately switch to English without trying to help you out of the lingual rut.
Do not expect your acquaintances to help, the issue of teaching Dutch requires you go learn it out of sight and return a Dutch person. You learn Dutch through determination against and in spite of the odds, they are a proud people.
The Orange SPV E200 mobile phone
I was offered a deal to renew my mobile phone contract over the phone, but on further research I found, I could get a deal a lot better than the offer.
Therefore, on a new 2-year renewal, one got the Orange SPV E200 SmartPhone and a blue tooth headset all covered in the new contract.
Reviews later.

Wednesday 17 December 2003

You change to change the world

I have always been a collector of quotations; they are triggers to developing new thought processes and door ways into new perspectives.
Based on a paraphrase of a saying by General Shinseki (US Army Chief of Staff), I rant without particular purpose, hoping to make sense of it all.
"They who hate change would hate irrelevance even more"
Everyone has an opinion, but not everyone's opinion is sound, beclouded by sentiment, lacking in objectivity, not following logic and way off the commonsense scale.
Make a difference by changing yourself to become what you want the world to become, allow for failure to be able to appreciate success. Let the inner strength in you make you aware that there can never be anyone else who can live their lives the way you have lived yours.
Let that uniqueness take you out of the crowd to a point where you have your own crowd, follow the leaders with discretion, cut-away with conviction, always learn first before you teach. Extract yourself from the norm and become the norm, be crazy but reasonable, be mad but sensible, be creative and liberate others.
Do not take yourself too seriously, if you should; know that you are not indispensable, after two weeks of your absence someone else would come in to do it even better than you did.
If you should be an example, be exceptional and always remember no matter who you become, there is always someone greater than you even God.
It is all about change, if you have to react to change rather than be part of the change, you most probably have missed that wave of change. Keeping informed keeps you in the loop.

Tuesday 16 December 2003

R - E - S - P - E - C - T !

Can he pass the respect test?
Hired as an expert to offer solutions for the benefit of the organisation that employed you, when do you begin to realise that you are the valued asset or part of the corporate dunghill?
Treating RESPECT as an acronym, we put the boss through his paces.
If the boss has to recognise your worth and talent formally, then he has to consider ways of compensating you. Compensation is easy; however, the power to withhold compensation is even a greater intoxicating boost to the boss's ego.
This is the first aspect of respect where it is evident that you doing your job bring kudos to the boss, but the line is that you should grateful you have a job.
There are two sides to expectation; one to do with unachievable goals set by people who have not appreciation what it takes to get a job done and the other to do with you being challenged and mentored to produce your best and excel.
Maintaining the first expectation comes from the boss not engaging you in the process of decision-making though you are the expert. The second comes from the boss who recognises that bring out the best in his troops involves developing their potential even if they end up excelling beyond the boss.
Is your boss the one-man island of taking all the accolades or a team player that knows that the team with all its significant members and everyone in any one team is significant?
Where the boss recognises your contribution, you are significant and respected.
This depends on when you are called in to participate, if involved in the decision-making process your significance is recognised because it is expected that you have the ideas needed.
However, if you only participate when you receive orders to execute a task little account is taken of whom you are.
A boss who is in no fear of his position would encourage ideas to bring the best out of his team. In building the team, he would also encourage individuality to promote creativity, which brings the best results.
This boss respects his team and works hard to ensure that mentally, emotionally and professionally, his team are in top condition.
A boss who discourages by continually threatening his team with their jobs or disparaging their work would end up with clones and Yes-men.
He will not get good counsel and would miss the truth he needs to make the team create value.
A boss who thinks you are wedded to your job alone and deserve no time to a life outside work is inconsiderate. He mortgages your free time and weekend for his own ends with consultation.
Takes no time to communicate issues that affect you and freely plays your secrets out to others in guise of making others think they are part of the trusted inner-circle.
When you need your boss to back you up on any issue no matter the political fallout; he is there risking the consequences for the name and honour of the team.
He is someone you can trust and he can trust you.
Has your boss passed the respect test?
Soon we would find out if you have passed the respect test.

Monday 15 December 2003

When the customer needs you, you need help

The Visit
A regional director was pulled over the coals for the sluggish performance of his region. No manager wants to have to give excuses for not performing because of intransigent IT problems that recur and never seem to be solved.
In the technical Ivory Tower, ever customer problem is easily discounted with the simple credo... "The customer is always right, only when you are selling tomatoes".
This has served me well when on average many customers do not know if they have a problem, are probably confused, need education or are just a vexatious nuisance.
However, customers do have genuine problems, the context of which gets lost in the processing from the helpdesk - read "Helldesk", through second line support to any other level of tertiary support.
Poorly documented problems
If a problem is not properly logged capturing the necessary and essential detail and scenario, it gets stuck in a quagmire of clarifications of intention, detail, context and validity. By which time, there is an escalation and you have a priority without a purpose. Suddenly, it is at the highest priority and the clogged up communication channels open like floodgates. You get all the information you need because the intervention of some bigwig has put aside the absurd organisational practice that stops the techies speaking to the customer.
A resolution then materialises because the thinking man's thinking man has been able to think with the thinking but frustrated customer to find out what the problem is and sort it out. The resolution then has pride of place in the... wait for it... PowerPoint of the week.
Crisis Averted!
However, the solution really lies in employing properly educated and knowledgeable helpdesk personnel whose skills can overlap into second-line support. Logging intelligent calls that need little further clarification between teams would go a long way to providing resolutions without using the classic "Problem solving by escalation" - in a perfect world it should be "Problem solving by understanding, analysis and final resolution"
Furthermore, you wonder about the names that certain companies give their products that it becomes virtually impossible to search for decent support because of ambiguity.

Microsoft WINS
Windows Internet Naming Service
A method for identifying computers on a local network. Ask the techies, there is nothing winning about WINS apart from winning the battle that creates some of the biggest headaches.
AmDocs Clarify
This is possibly the most common CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool for managing customer related events and procedures. You cannot search the internet for Clarify and get anything that relates to this tool.
There are a number of modules within this tool as ClearSupport, ClearHelpdesk, and ClearQuality; however, one's view is we are missing the mostly important module in a customer support tool - ClearThought.
This is another CRM tool with its accompanying application called ASAP. One aims to get rid of such silly application acronyms ASAP.
Wise Solutions' Wise
A utility used to repackage an application for automated installation on computers. The wisdom in choosing this name escapes one. Other products that are probably as wise at doing the same job better.
Microsoft Windows
From the 13th Century until the beginning of the 20th Century, windows had only 6 meanings. With the explosion of knowledge in the last century, we had a few more meanings until 1990 when a growing company called Microsoft launched Microsoft Windows 3.0 - the rest is history.

So today, we challenged one absurd organisational practice and visited the customer to find out that they had real problems that require immediate solutions. The Regional Director must be relieved he would get Christmas pay for the problems have nothing to do with his management skills.
The visit came about because the Regional Director lodged a formal complaint with the CEO and we are now working on a resolution.
One needs a holiday.

Friday 12 December 2003

Timekeeping by bean counting ...

One, twee, trois, cuatro, funf ...
Imagine you had to keep time in seconds by counting beans out of a large sack with regular monotony. By the time, you have counted 3,600 beans an hour would have passed.
At 86,400 that would be a whole day and a leap year, one, which we are leaping into in 2004, would total 31,622,400. Multiply that, by the number of your years and you could be in the Guinness Book of Records for bean counting.
Well, I spent the whole morning bean counting each hour of work I had done for 49 weeks. The context of my emails in the Inbox and Sent Items is more or less a picture of my year at work.
Archive for review
I used to archive my emails every month until I realised that the world out there amongst the employees of the same firm is a fierce and vicious charade of people whose published ability is to stitch you up, you will have to be a multi-Houdini to come out unscathed.
The morale of being caught in that kind of setting is to document every concern you have no matter how trivial and call on it 4 months after when some smart chap tries to point evil fingers at you for what they should have done properly in the first place. Luckily, we have no limits on our mailboxes.
So, I bean-counted my 49 weeks and presented the results to the pen pushers who were going to extract the nutrients of my timesheets for the PowerPoint - the final PowerPoint of the year - see my previous blog about PowerPoints.
Toiling without reward
As for the nutrients, I know that in the summer months I averaged 6 weeks of work for each month and most especially in August when I was away for 2 weeks on holiday, I still ended up doing 4 weeks work. Therefore, accounting for all the time I had off sick and my leave, my extra hours has given me a balance of no time off this year.
Now one would think there is some compensatory value for all those extra hours of toil, and there is - my boss was not particularly interested in the number of hours I booked, rather, he was interested in the number of hours he could cross charge to other departments.
Obviously, creating opportunities for cross charging is a great benefit for the department but why recognise the dramatis personae involved in creating value, we are paid a salary, we should be grateful to the point of pouring in goodwill for more abuse. Masochism per excellence is supposed to be our core skill.
I might be able to count beans faster in Mandarin...

A major crisis averted
When your mobile is not handy you realise you can think fast.
Just afternoon, I noticed my phone clip did not have my mobile phone attached, so I went round the office enquiring about my phone and everyone suggested I call the phone and that would signal where it is.
Being the considerate citizen I am, I usually have my phone on vibrate mode, being discreet and responsible on the trains belies the fact that I expect others to behave likewise, but the Dutch society is built on everyone exercising their individual rights without recognition of the fact that it is everyone considering the other that makes society work.
What if we all littered the streets with our rubbish, deigned to clean up after using public facilities, let our mobile phones belch out those unfortunate tunes which should have the bearers certified, rushed at everything without order and so on?
We would have chaos beyond comprehension, but there is always someone who knows his or her rights but nothing about their responsibilities.
Where is that phone?
Therefore, every smart person at work suggested I call my mobile phone - Que! - It would have to be on some empty barrel to make enough noise for me to notice it.
Thinking, worry, desperation, panic sets in - if I have lost the phone, all those numbers are not stored anywhere else, I have to take out a new contract for the phone is not insured, the service provider would want to sign declarations with more gravitas than the UN Charter to retain my old number.
The police would offer to take a statement in 3 days (after the lucky pilferer has run up a mammoth bill calling Jupiter and holding a conference call with the aliens of the Andromeda galaxy) they might help more if your have the IMEI number [A unique manufacturer's code on your phone] with which they can flood the phone with messages as to make it unusable for anyone who perchance picks it up.
Calm down! Man ... you were charging up the phone at home last night and you might have put on the clip without picking up the phone. More so, you have not taken any calls today, so it might as well be at home. A life crisis might just be averted for me to get on with work.
Five hours later, the phone is fully charged - bliss!