Monday 13 December 2004

A short misery of projects

Having just concluded a module on my MSc course pertaining to Project Management, I was given the opportunity to discuss one project that suffered seriously from the interference of politics.
I rose to the occasion with this tome.
The Facts
My ex-boss - Arthus Gratedane - pseudonym - was a rabid political dog, the day was not made if someone somewhere in the organisation had not received the political equivalent of a body slam.
Anyway, in this case we had at the head-quarters of a mainly European company constituted the Infrastructure Programme Management team at just one level below the CIO office and we had opportunities for innovation and improvement of services in the organisation.
We had only recently notched up a success with the implementation of a secure remote access solution which allowed users access to their data and standard applications from any internet connection if they had their secure token.
This created a launch pad to take on many more daring projects.
Then we started with Strauss which was a new desktop environment based on Windows XP, a new domain structure based on Windows 2000 Active Directory Services and Microsoft Exchange 2000 for email.
One particular trait Mr Gratedane had was a complete unwillingness for different teams to interact, especially if they were not teams he himself built. This for us was a kind of advantage, but in general made our work ever more difficult.
This meant our well-intentioned plans met with resistance with the local support teams around the Netherlands. Mr Gratedane solved that problem by advocating the centralisation of administrative services, thus making the core expertise of the regional teams redundant and retaining only box shifters.
We were to conduct an aggressive take-over of all that disparate infrastructure then recruit new staff and handover that infrastructure to the new staff within three weeks; which we did.
Then that gave us the opportunity to railroad the Strauss solution throughout the Netherlands without subjecting the solution to a decent pilot.
What should have been a resounding success was panned and criticised not because of the quality but because of how it was implemented through management aggression and the lack of consideration.
Managers in other departments just resisted anything that was in the interest of the company that came from any team managed by Mr Gratedane, but he had the ear of the executives in everything he did so people left rather than engage him.
When it came to rolling out Strauss to other European countries with Austria being the first, we encountered the fact that we could not sell Strauss to Austria, so the project was changed to the Hydra PC project.
The people in Austria were primed to act, any minor issue was a complete showstopper, it was so frustrating and nerve-racking.
Austria already had an advanced implementation that pre-existed Strauss by at least 6 months and the company could have used that solution quite easily all around Europe, but not on Mr Gratedane's watch.
We ended up implementing a parallel system in Austria with people logging into two environments for services and data, sometimes on two PCs.
Our implementation was a very poor alternative and received even less accolades, however, we, the team had to find ways of interacting with other teams without the knowledge of the boss to help facilitate issues and make things work.
The unfortunate political atmosphere in the company, which thrived on empire building, finger-pointing and atrocious escalations lead to unnecessary waste of resources, ideas, goodwill and productivity.
As an observer it looked like company had more competition between the departments than with their competitors. If that energy had been directed to more positive things, it could have yielded probably 10% to 20% company growth year on year.
The Figures
One must say that Mr Gratedane always got sponsorship for all his projects and all were fully implemented with varying degrees of success.
We probably had more project managers than project executors at one time.
The document churn rivalled that of a newspaper house with presentations about every little detail. [1]
The Failings
What created failing projects even though they were delivered as described and intended were the following
  • The stakeholder, sponsor and senior project manager were the same person
  • Project Managers were pen-pushing administrators [2] who were not allowed to model or method processes despite the fact that they were PRINCE 2 educated or at times certified – things were done on the whim of the sponsor – Mr Gratedane
  • Responsibility and opportunity was taken for everything that went right, no matter how trivial but blame was quickly averted for problems - A typical, its my baby isn't it beautiful? Its our baby smiling, but its your baby crying - syndrome.
  • The perception of risk was minimal except for where there were competing interests within the company, then the quest to excel and deliver at breakneck speed was tempered with a bit of reasoning
  • The executors were hardly part of the assessment, decision or specification process, they were talked down to never communicated with
  • The Human Resource element thrived on motivating staff by threatening their jobs and irrelevance, never by encouraging them to do their best
  • Solutions were always delivered but the expense of goodwill and acceptance
More so, I really felt for the project managers caught in the middle of the megalomania and the chaos. Since I left in July, Mr Gratedane has become the ex-boss of 7 other senior infrastructure personnel.
This is the least palatable face of company politics and I have only reviewed on of the many.
Project Victim Support archives – mine.
[1] Alexis' PowerPoints were her shoulder pads...
[2] The Pen Pushers Posse Pogrom

Monday 25 October 2004

Are you selling or shelved?

Recently, I was touted as someone who knows a bit about making CVs do what they are supposed to do. Create interest and get an interview.
So, in the end, I did receive a number of CVs and ended up writing this commentary which I believe would help towards ensuring that you are represented to the standard you do want to be recognised when your material lands on a recruiter’s desk.
Some of the commentary is directed and personalised, but no less relevant to any CV you read or write.
I read your CVs with interest and decided it might be better to share a few thoughts about what I believe makes CVs do the talking before they really, really want to meet the persona behind the data.
I have a number of analogies which I think would help reframe a lot of the detail of what in your CVs to bring out the qualities that really sell.
At first, I view a CV as marketing literature, it is your brochure that says, when I sent you my resume, I saw myself as the best person you could recruit for that role. How do you get your CV to do that.
First Analogy:
This is quite morbid but contains some interesting facts of life. When I visit a cemetery, I first look round the first few tombstones to give me an idea of the time frame in which people were buried in this cemetery after which I go looking for the mausoleums or grand edifices that tell you about the persons, persons and families buried therein.
Then I hear a famous person is also buried there and go looking for their headstone usually expecting to see something grand. If the stone is grand, fine, however, if it is ordinary, I am a bit underwhelmed.
What is the point here? Many CVs are tombstones, ordinary, plain and simple, nothing of note apart from gleaning an idea of what is about. The CVs that stand out have professional formatting, straight to the point and clearly engage the interest of the reader - these are the mausoleums.
Always give your CV a different look.
Second Analogy:
Culled, edited, personalised and updated from an article about the Perfect CV.
This chap comes round and says, "I've got a gun", in some cases he would instil fear, if well known, he is probably trying to show off and his friends say "so what?" Any one can get a gun.
That is the Feature - many CVs are full of features and lists. The reader has to figure out how each feature might apply to his recruitment situation or rather discard the CV and pick another up.
Maybe, the chap was caught mid-sentence and he says, "I've got a gun and I shot someone". That is an Achievement, of sorts, but it could also be murder and everyone is appalled and horrified, he is about to be shopped to the police.
And so, many CVs are full of achievements, but who are the achievements for and why?
Then he really gets to complete his sentence, "I've got a gun and I shot someone with it and because I did that, we won the war". Everyone exclaims, "You won the war?" He is feted, honoured, respected and the feature or achievement pale in significance because he used those two to gain a Benefit.
Anyone who reads that benefit through from the feature has his imagination excited about who this person is and that is what your CV should do.
Anything you have done that cannot be quantified as a benefit to the firm you work in is of no great significance.
There is not though that the order you bring into the chaos of change management saves money, time, resources and increases productivity and so on.
People who can clearly illustrate that they have brought benefits to any environment in which they have worked are seen as people who have something to bring to the party even if they are initially not considered qualified for the job.
Work to be done!
Your profiles should be a brief about you which should cover 3 essential things - who you are, what you bring and your pledge to fit in. Eliminate jargon and profession letters from that profile.
Each aspect of your work experience should concentrate on how your contribution helped and benefited, then you can list or analyse how you used the tools to get there.
Use statistical stuff like you halved waiting times, increased success results by a percentage, got people involved in some scheme.
One of my jobs was tough to explain and this is how I put it down "Three teams were combined into one; my role was to make them work as one." - Then I talked about how we got about it.
How do you get promoted at interview? Your CV raised expectations, your presence exceeded expectations.
Only put in the jargon where it helps shed more light on what you have done.
The area where you did temping jobs, you were useful to whoever employed you and achieved and benefited those organisations, spruce that up.
If you travelled, give a general idea of what you did - white-water rafting, crocodile baiting or lion-riding.
Recruiters like unusual, weird, crazy but collected people; they have a great outlook on life. - Statement from Tom Peters the uber-guru.
Close your CV with an idea of where you think you are going career wise and what general skills you have that do not fit in the body of the CV per se.
Do not waste space on old jobs except if they do contribute positively to the whole picture.
Have fun!

Tuesday 5 October 2004

Half of a quarter full of an eighth empty

The psychology of charlatans
The false psychology that informs interviewers in interviews has unfortunately misrepresented interviewees, if not done them an unfair disservice bearing on the result of probably not getting recruited.
Two such questions in interviews belie that fact that the intention never really gets the intended answer or the interviewee gets wrong-footed on a subjective assessment that has no objective bearing on suitability for the job.
a) What do you see yourself doing in five years time?
b) Is the glass half-full or half empty
Five Years Time
In answering one has been a victim of the crass unprofessionalism and subjectivity that accompanies giving the right answer to this question.
One would suppose this question seeks to appreciate career goals within the company with adequate training, promotion, prospects and advancements. Probably in five years time you would have attained the post of your interviewer and your interviewer should have moved higher in the organisation.
Unfortunately, the person who asks the question does not at first consider the relative basis of having advanced five years within the company before considering the new recruitment, so laying out a plan could in effect create the impression that the interviewee is out to unseat the interviewer.
It could also flag the fact that the company has bad career development policies and the mentoring factors in the company are very poor.
At which point the interviewee could already be judged as ambitious, over-rated and unsuitable for the team, no fault of the interviewee, rather a sitting failure of Human Resource processes within the company.
Having put this question to my colleagues, one suggestion was to reply by asking if there was the scope for the advancement that would allow you to have career prospects, developments and promotions and how this was managed in the company.
On ascertaining if the company does have its employee’s interests and developments at heart, you can then frame your answer within that context. You have in effect debunked the psychology and infused a sense of objectivity into a rather unpalatable situation.
It however, does not take away from the fact that the question is unnecessary and it does turn the focus on what the company is prepared to do for career progression and how it can accommodate the well-intentioned aspirations of the new entrant.
A glass of half truths
What is really missing from this question is the context. Why at any time would a glass be half-full or half-empty? One would paint a number of scenarios to debunk the false psychology of optimism and pessimism that this question is purported to reveal in an individual.
Any glass on a table
If you approached a table which had a glass of some liquid content in it observable before you touch the glass but without you knowing who put it there.
If you were a cleaner you would probably take the glass away and pour the contents down the drain, if you were anyone else, it would not matter what was in it, curiosity however, might make you take a whiff to find out if it is alcoholic or some other concoction.
That the glass if half-full or half-empty would be of no significance.
If you knew who placed the glass on the table and you were at a party, you would probably pick up the drink and take it to the owner of drink, who would have the view of emptying the glass rather than filling it.
So the optimistic import of this would be that to enjoy a drink you have to empty the glass and then fill it again to empty the contents by drinking and ingestion.
A glass of wine or some alcoholic beverage
In the setting of a bar, you will be served with a filled glass of beer or lager which you would systematically empty by drinking in a social setting.
Once you have drunk a bit, the glass of half-full, I am not aware of people filling their glasses whilst it still contains beer except in a case where the beer is being served from a bottle. The intent would be to empty the glass and obtain a new glass of beer at the bar.
In the case of wine, the glass is full for white wine and champagne and half filled for red wine, during the course of drinking the glasses can be refilled to their appropriate levels.
For a glass to be refilled the observer who would be one of the party or a sommelier would notice that the glass is half-empty as the impetus to refill, because if the glass is half-full, there would be no case for refilling.
Context of glass and contents
It appears that this issue is taken completely out of context if not represented in the continuum of why a glass is full and why a glass is empty.
The reason for filling a glass is to empty it by drinking and as you empty the glass it gets half-empty as would be the case of the person drinking and the glass becomes half-full when it is being filled either as a service or by the drinker or observer.
To capture a moment in time and without the characteristics and events surrounding the moment delivers a wrong interpretation of the event.
It goes without saying that a glass becomes half-empty from the pleasure of drinking and it becomes half-full in order to experience or continue the experience of the pleasure of drinking.
Whilst we would all want our glasses full before we start drinking, the reasons a glass would be left half-full or half-empty would revolve around the person having had enough to drink, the person not enjoying the drink or some other circumstance that has allowed the person to abandon the drink.
A glass half-full or half-empty without a person to manage its contents is useless.
Hence, there is no psychological value in asking a person to answer this question and no psychologist worth his salt would use this question as a basis for judging character.
In fact, the simple think is we should stop pretending to be good judges of people's character at an interview with such silly questions.
The real purpose of the interview is to ascertain qualification, suitability, flexibility and ability to contribute to the team in which they would be working; we should stick to those things and avoid veering off to areas where we are no experts or proficient enough to assess character with trick questions.

Monday 4 October 2004

The first law of holes

A memoir in the making
This would be a gloat if it were not so serious as to warrant a scrutiny, yea a commentary in fact.
The proximity of experience coupled with a memory of recent events allows for one to state contemporary issues as facts without need for serious analysis or revision. Documenting these facts makes for history, that it is so recent is a memoir in the making.
Having left my old company, I have acquired another completed chapter which consists of a successful job, a rotten ex-boss and various opportunities for perspective management.
Were it not for this age of civility, my parting with my ex-boss would have been completed at high noon after 10 paces. There is no doubt that my slug would have hit the target even if I was limp-wristed, like Big Ben the master of the tower that now bears the name, he is as tall as he is round.
News reaches one that the incompetence and mismanagement that followed the handling of my departure has not abated, rather complications have mounted to the point of farce, one is wont to feel sympathy, but one is better occupied in other events.
Fortunately, once again, he has fudged, budged, nudged and dodged his way out of the developing crisis, you have to give it to him. But then, even Teflon eventually gives.
My role at the time I left was in charge of making software available to users in a managed, recorded, assured and reliable fashion.
At my leaving there was no one to handle those tasks with any appreciable level of competence, time and again, one was commended for the successes of our deployments of critical business applications, basically, the system worked and was working on the day I left.
The people who were asked to step into my shoes were typical of being asked to go mountaineering in flip-flops – go figure.
It transpires that so recently, there was a major upgrade to their business process software and no one could use that infrastructure to manage deployment, so they resorted to techniques that were obviated probably 5 years ago.
What is missing from such a method is assured and managed deployments, statistical proof of success and managed use of the network. A case of substituting a kayak for a flight in a trans-Atlantic journey – it is crass and beggars belief.
It goes without saying that one offered to return to help out at no cost, but the offer of deftly refused.
Back to the law of holes, the ex-boss has an incredible schizophrenic persona of being best employee to his bosses and worst boss to his employees, he is successfully working through becoming ex-boss to many of his able and competent staff, one presumes 6 since August.
Those would summit the Everest need to climb to down to tell the tale, this man, I fear would summit but wherefore the tales?
Having dissembled and plied many issues with falsehoods, revisions and at times blatant lies without impunity, this is the man, the man without integrity, whose word is nothing, it would be no wonder if all these precipitates of inexactitudes begin to unravel as a Tom Clancy plot.
The law of holes
The first law of holes is to stop digging, stop the rut, stop the abuse, stop the wrongs, and stop the lies.
The second law of holes is cover up, fill it in, and keep it from becoming a hazard.
The third law of holes is scrub it; I’ll explain, any holes dug up cannot be properly concealed, and where they have been concealed, the detectives would first go digging there and not fresh ground.
Just imagine what gets dug up. You have to eliminate detections because you don’t go digging holes if you have nothing to keep from view.
My ex-boss has mastered the second law of holes without any recognition of the first, since he is digging faster than he can fill it all in, he cannot use the third law of holes.
Where the 3 laws are out of sync you end up with the paradox of holes, fossils, bones and bodies, it would be forensics long before the dinosaur chasers have a field day.
Meanwhile, news does have a way of getting here all the time. Keep you posted.

Monday 19 January 2004

Ineptitude unparalleled

A manager for the project-ile
You would be forgiven for thinking one has something against project managers. In fact, one does love project managers. Ones that know what a project is and then manage the project properly.
However, one has had a run of unkind fortune with a crop of the sort that defy commonsense in the face of reality and whose balls are too microscopic for observation with a microscope.
Nevertheless, there is a particularly nice person who happens to be yoked to the labour of project management, whose surname would remind you of that man-eating alligator you saw on National Geographic the other day.
His manager is of the view that he has a record of accomplishment of consistently delivering on projects in his care.
The track to ignominy or less
Indeed, he has a track record of delivering because many of the critical ends to his delivery end up on one's desk.
Being one whose personality of extroversion is too intertwined with one's job and professionalism as to be considered unhealthy, these things are done.
One cannot afford to be besmirched by the glowing incompetence of an individual ready to stitch you up for any of his failings.
You have to that one is only a fraction of the majority that cannot stand to countenance the alligator in a professional capacity – or the lack of it.
My civility tested
On more than one occasion, some emails, which might eventually feature as classics of professional put-downs, are cast as pearls to swine to our dear friend without impact; apart from highlighting his tomfoolery.
"This represents that worst set of data one has ever received in relation to data, please sort it out". Said one.
Another said, "We have to work to avoid situations where brinkmanship rules over procedural and methodical processes".
Yet again, "To now foist that error of judgment on me is completely disingenuous. Please reflect and reconsider your purpose and actions".
In a darts competition that would have been maximum points, considering this was circulated to a readership that would have cringed at the bluntness of expression.
Our friend is so thick-skinned he would have prevented the sinking of the Titanic.
I will tell you what is unacceptable
A number of instances have arisen where tin-pot little managers of no importance than heading departments in persistent vegetative state for the lack of creativity and innovative thinking.
Departments populated by a gene pool so diverse from the people who live down your street, it could give credence to evolution – God forbid!
After debunking some flawed and inadequate planning, the reply arrives – "It is unacceptable … Blah! Blah! Blah!
I will tell you what is unacceptable – It is unacceptable that
  • You commit to customers without knowing the availability of your deliverables
  • You leave out core elements of your project resources and then expect a last minute redress to sort out your mess
  • You escalate issues to solve your problems when you should have communicated effectively well before it became an emergency
  • You think you can demand goodwill having used up all political capital in pursuit of unachievable goals
  • You remain immune to knowledge
Immune to knowledge
Some people are beyond teaching or just cannot learn, when put in charge of projects in which one has deliverables, one falls a victim of unparalleled ineptitude.
Time to see the company shrink – I am stressed!

Friday 16 January 2004

Report Card - 2003

Excellent with room for improvement
The delivery
The Performance Review day arrived without much event apart from the fact that the initial hours provided scope for anger and resentment, but with a few long deep breaths, one relaxed.
For some reason evident to the boss, he had planned this for 09:00hrs knowing that I am not the best for early starts though I do hours well beyond the call of duty.
The hard feelings exacerbated on arriving just in time to find that he was a bit tardy, sometimes making a statement of principle requires inherent principles for starters.
Beyond all the carping and vituperation directed at the boss and his cronies over the last few blogs, he could at times be quite charming; you would be charmed out of your shoes, just as he could downright nasty.
One gave a general overview of objectives met and achieved with very good results; there was no need to spruce up any of the statements.
Then for some off-sheet accounts, a report of all the activities, achievements and successes for 2003 and then the goals and aspirations for 2004.
The Assessment
So far, the boss was quite impressed with one's performance and said so without noticeable restraint.
However, such assessments are rather two-edged, with proclamation come declamation and one had better to ready for that. It is standard practise to have room for improvement.
Well, nobody is perfect, neither is one, though one tries.
The Proclamations
A great asset to the team who applies meticulous discipline to all activities in which one has influence or input. Having a good grasp of how one's work fits into the organisation. Modesty is a virtue one would covet at this moment.
The Declamations
One does try to make it to work on time and have been on time most of the time. However, there has been occasion when one's presence has been needed earlier in the day and one was yet expected.
Somehow, some team members had turned that into a running joke implying one gets in after 11:00AM. That had precipitated into an assumed reality.
The work one does requires a lot of interaction between core skill personnel in our CIO team. Much of that is done by visiting the personnel at their desks rather than formalising meetings by booking time and rooms.
Apparently, one particular colleague with whom one has no day-to-day interaction had for a while taken a dislike to one's social interactions of which a majority is work-related.
In addition, some others had cited one's visits as impediments to their deliverables. Anyway, that is one area needing a radical character shift.
Finally, one's realism in the execution of projects unfortunately declines to antagonism by people who prefer to execute without weighing the risks. Whilst one is not utterly risk-averse, one only allows risk for the things within one's control.
One will not use other parties' assessment as a basis for taking risk knowing that failure never really accounts for the input of the third party.
True to type
Amongst other aspects, which need improvement, having the personality analysis introduced the boss to a new feature pf personality profiling and the scientific study of the individual as an individual of unique abilities and failures.
What made the most interesting reading was the career report based on the results of the Temperament Sorter analysis.
In producing the report below, one acknowledges the professional expertise of the Advisor Team in producing researched and detailed analysis based on responses to questionnaires that characterise character and temperament traits.
Under the topic of "Choosing the Best Occupation" read, ruminate and laugh – even the boss could not have imagined anyone would be well prepared to debate the declamations.
One would work on improving but not at the cost of personality aversion. That said, these assessments are the best independent analysis of who one is and in most cases rings true.
The Report
Artisan-Performer (ESFP)
Your motto is, "Let me entertain you. Let me make you smile." Bringing playfulness to any situation is your greatest contribution. In your ideal job, you have the opportunity to apply your talent for perfuming-improvising communications so that they appeal to the individuals or groups of people in you environment. You are very expressive and feel stifled in reserved and formal environments. When you are stuck in such environments, you may entertain yourself by playing the "class clown."
Your Ideal Job:
  1. Makes use of your charm and your kindness.
  2. Lets you make a "splash."
  3. Takes place in an expressive, personal setting.
  4. Lets you and the people around you have fun.
  5. Exposes you to a lot of people.
  6. Provides variety in projects, tasks and experiences.
  7. Provides a little bit of drama everyday.
Things you're good at:
  1. You make your workplace more enjoyable for everyone.
  2. You are good at the social aspects of work: interviewing, service, relationship building.
  3. Others recognize and appreciate your kindness.
  4. You can be powerfully persuasive.
  5. You enjoy interviewing, public speaking and other opportunities to represent yourself and your company.
  6. You probably get along with everyone you come in come in contact with.
  7. You are extremely resourceful in times of crisis.
Things to be aware of:
  1. In some arenas, you may not be taken seriously.
  2. You become restless when you have to work alone, with no one to interact with.
  3. Your expressiveness may be perceived as disruptive or "inappropriate."
  4. You have a tendency to play "class clown."
  5. You tend to avoid tedious work.
  6. Socialising at work and your social life outside of work may be sources of distraction.
  7. You may rely too heavily on information you get from people and fail to do your own research or make your own judgments.

Tuesday 13 January 2004

The Pen Pushers Posse Pogrom

The equines of time
Pressure at work emanates from a disconnect between what needs to be done and who can achieve it within the strictures defined outside one's control.
Usually, project managers, the harbingers of the technician's heartache, heartburn and consequent heart attack control the parameters of time that have one as bellows in a accordion.
The compression and extension producing melodious music to the ears of kamikaze management promising what they cannot deliver on the blood of their underlings drowns the cries of pain, as the music is the accompaniment to a frenzied foxtrot.
Beaten at their rotten game with integrity
It ought not to be so, just as brinksmanship is used to force the impossible into reality, a master equestrian can arrest the megalomania of micro-project objectives that titillate the Project Manager and redefine in terms that lay bare the achievable over the downright absurd within your timescales.
Except if 12 hours can be wrung out of eight normal working hours, additional resourcing is required the absence of which simply introduces a temporary setback allowing an opportunity to deliver late based on technical reality rather than project idealisms.
I am no hamster
One being at a point of being pressured unduly by escalations of multiple priorities drawing on one's reserves, the flustered man obtained an open cheque to estimate times to delivery.
So one did, liberally and sensibly, to their chagrin. The equestrian's mastery is in understanding the horse so that it does the bidding of the rider without hesitation, in the manner, one played for time and gained the reprieve that put the blood pressure within the confines of health young man.
One would deliver when one can, if needed faster, the Project Manager would have to shop for a hamster in a wheel.

Saturday 10 January 2004

Pirates of the mintrels' art

One is getting rather bored
Lately, the recording and film industry have bored us with the incessant rant about piracy, illegal downloads and falling profits.
There might have been a time when one could almost sympathise and understand their plight; however, they are victims of their inactions, evident in the fact that elephants are not nimble animals.
Just as people do not try to consider the roots and causes of terrorism, the roots and causes of piracy are ignored in favour of attacking the symptoms.
By analogy depending on the species of tree, cutting the leaves, stems or branches might stop growth or kill the tree, but it is uprooting the tree that would ensure the death of that tree.
In the creative wilderness
What is needed by the recording industry is some creative thinking on how to harness the new technologies for the survival of their businesses.
Creative thinking however is something that has been lacking in the industry for a long time. Examples abound of where they have refused genuine artistic license to artistes who do have creative genius for the supposed understanding of what the customer wants.
George Michael suffered a stifling of this creativity when Sony failed to market appreciably his Listen Without Prejudice album, which by all account enjoys critical acclaim.
The reality talent shows like Fame Academy and Pop Idol would make more sense if some of the judges were people with talent who could nurture talent better than thinking of how to deliver the most obnoxious put-down.
It is good to see that some of the manufactured bands are splitting up and the real talent is shining through with solo contracts where the artiste has more control over their material and how it is presented.
Video kills the radio star
It is no secret that the record companies abuse their positions when the transition from vinyl to CD allowed them to charge above the odds for their material. It is interesting to note that piracy was not that rife with the advent of recording devices like the cassette player.
However, the MP3 is a complete shake down of the industry, this made music digitally portable and Napster – a data-sharing software and service – allowed the MP3s to be shared amongst enthusiasts at no cost.
The recording industry went after Napster and close-down the company, but it provided the forum for more Napster-like services which are well within the commonsense limits of a data-sharing service dependent on what the individual wants to share.
A test case brought in Europe came to nought because the judge contended that if a customer has bought their music, they are within their rights to do whatever they want with what is principally their property.
Reckless gambling
Now, the argument for piracy destroying the finding new talent does not hold any water. If the talent were real rather than manufactured, it would show through.
Companies should also properly reward artistes based on their sales and stop front-loading contracts with outrageous sums that amount to reckless gambling.
Maria Carey and Michael Jackson are cases of where companies invested millions on a potential that did not materialise.
Music for all tastes
The focus of industry should also move on from just serving the musical tastes or rather tastelessness of the teenager generation, we need music that is good for listening, good to dance to, rhythmic and sensible.
It is unfortunate that part of this poor music culture fuels drug usage because nominally no one in their clear minds can dance to music played at 130 beats per minute.
Additionally, all this mixing business does not necessarily enhance the quality of the music for the dance floor; there is no good recognition factor for music that has been adulterated with other sounds, which were not part of the creative purpose of the artiste.
Technological advancements
It is clear that technological advancements would lead the curve when it comes to the music industry and it is time for the music industry elephant to re-invent itself.
The common saying is "If you are green you grow, if you are ripe you rot" the rotting smell of denial and lack of visionary drive to capture the technologies for enhancement is pervading the air and suffocating everyone.
Piracy is here to stay
  1. Piracy would not go away, until the industry provides just and sensible reward for the artiste, not every artiste has to be a millionaire and have a wanton and lascivious lifestyle. They are supposed to be people like you and I.
  2. It would not go away until the customer sees music formats as affordable.
  3. It would not go away if the quality of published and produced music were not distinctly better than the Napster-like downloads.
  4. It would not go away if the music produced is so ephemeral and has no enduring quality, which is why a contemporary's greatest hits album is only valuable within five years of their marketability.
Compared to the classics of the 60s, 70s and early 80s, the dash for market share and cash of the 90s has done much damage to the fabric of creative talent.
More people are switching to other non-popular or classical forms of music for entertainment, relaxation and inspiration.

Tuesday 6 January 2004

The bears are a-stirring

Back to work in 2004
Erratic sleeping patterns sometimes makes one consider vying for the helm of the Insomniacs Anonymous.
Where we can discuss all sorts of remedies for sleep or rather ways to occupy one's time once that horrid nightmare or physiological condition has jerked you awake for the fourth time in 3 hours of chicken coup head nodding slumber.
Having no screaming toddlers in the house, the annoying situation of sleep deprivation without external influence hardly prepares one or allows one to empathise in truth with regular parents who incessantly complain of sleepless nights brought on by restless sprogs in the teething stage of life, which lasts for 4 years and then another 14.
Self-medicated slumber
In years gone by in Africa, self-administering Valium as a soporific agent with aplomb raved only to arrive in the West and realise it was considered a social malady worthy of more therapy, sympathy and treatment as an addictive condition.
Sleep whilst it is good for restfulness and restoration has it dangers if one needs to escape from one's dreams. In a drug-induced state, one loses the motor functions to come out unscathed, suddenly sitting upright and breaking out in a sweat to rival Niagara on a wet morning.
Anyway, one was up at 03:00hrs by the captain's log and saw no more respite for the rest of the day. So, starts an early day when some outrageously rude ticket counter attendant tries to impose linguistic superiority on one as one asked for a monthly pass.
Modern Dutch
Dutch is hardly the language of oppression for this age, having given us the word apartheid; the proponents of the 'speak Dutch' campaign at times really expose their inability to speak English ignorance.
Bless their hearts, people need refuge where they are strong, but Amsterdam Centraal Station is hardly the Dutch outback, anyone employed at those counters should be multi-lingual or be sent to tend sheep in the far North.
Beginning the working day at 07:00hrs, two of the early-shifters were already at the call desk, and the chorus of Happy New Year greetings becomes the theme of the day, apart from recounting what one did over the holidays - at least the presentable and decent parts - too many unspeakable secrets in this life to shock the Puritans with.
Caffeine managed
By 10:00hrs, the results of a sleepless night were struggling to gain ascendancy over the awakening effects of caffeine. Caffeine advocacy by intravenous injection is becoming a marketable prospect.
Suppose each office had a Caffeine chair, very much like the chair of American expression - the Electric Chair - only this time one convulses to the influx of caffeine as it hits the heart and turns you into an a hyperactive misfit ready to wreak havoc on the day's duties - deal with the effects later.
Well, gladly the Pen Pushers Posse were not subjected to the caffeine chair, they were just coming out of hibernation, three questions in all with one email requesting information by accusing one of inaction.
Hey! Everyone wants an update, I have been away for two weeks and one is trying to catch-up with the dregs that should have died with the year just dead and gone.
Gladly, one was back home by 19:03 on the bus that detoured because, help me again, they are constructing something on that road that has seen more makeovers than a Dallas belle has.
The first working day of 2004, passed without much event, but I am glad it started with restraint.