Monthly Archives: March 2009

Reacting to Change

Camouflage is one of nature’s basic techniques for ensuring the survival of species. Flatfish have the same colouring as the seabed where they dwell. Females of bird species which nest in vulnerable places tend to have less colourful plumage then their male counterparts, to conceal them from predators while they incubate their eggs. The pheasant is a good example of this. Stick insects resemble the foliage of the plants on which they live. There are hundreds, thousands of similar examples. Some animals and birds actually change colour depending on their surroundings. The Artic Fox is brown in summer and white in winter, to match the snow. The Ptarmigan, a type of grouse that inhabits the snowy arctic tundra, does the same. It is not only the famed Chameleon which changes colour to camouflage itself. To stand a chance of seeing a camouflaged creature, you have to look carefully, in the right places.

How is this reflected in the business world? Who uses camouflage techniques to conceal themselves? Many people at work put on their camouflaged ‘business face’. The face that nods agreement sometimes when they should really be shaking their head to disagree. The face that agrees with you when in the same room, but who spreads discontent, rumour and innuendo amongst friends and colleagues behind your back. The face that tells you what they think you want to hear.

This is especially true in times of change within the company. When processes are reviewed, waste of one form or another is almost always uncovered. This ‘waste’ will be all or part of some people’s daily roles within the company and they will become very uncomfortable if they think that their job is in jeopardy. When told of impending changes in their department they may smile and nod agreement with the proposals. Underneath, they may be very worried and can react in a number of ways:

  • They can decide that it is time they found a new job with a new company and so will start job hunting. The organisation may or may not wish to keep the employee and the follow up action will depend on this position. Ultimately, the employee’s actions will have a fairly ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • The employee may seek clarification from their line manager –’how will the changes affect me?’; ‘if my job goes, will I find another position within the company?’; ‘How much redundancy pay can I expect to get if my job goes?’, etc. If there is a likely to be a positive outcome and the employee finds a new position, this too will have a ‘passive’ effect on the proposed changes.
  • Alternatively, the employee may be a ‘blocker’, someone who reacts negatively to any change. They may start off with a camouflaged face but quickly come out in to the open. They may still nod in agreement in public, but will spread negative (and usually exaggerated) rumours about the implications of the changes amongst the other members of staff. These people have very ‘active’ (and negative) effect on the proposed changes and they can change the overall opinion of the workforce unless they are managed correctly and speedily.

The important point is to recognise that some people wear a disguise when at work. Understand this and its implications. Key to this is Communication, the topic covered in the next instalment of ‘Natural Processes’.


Sometimes, when I look at my children, I say to myself, ‘Lillian, you should have remained a virgin.’ 

– Lillian Carter (mother of Jimmy Carter) 

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: – ‘No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.’ 

– Eleanor Roosevelt   

The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible. 

– George Burns 

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year. 

– Victor Borge 

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. 

– Mark Twain 

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher. 

– Socrates 

I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury. 

– Groucho Marx 

My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe. 

– Jimmy Durante 

I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back. 

– Zsa Zsa Gabor 

Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat. 

– Alex Levine 

My luck is so bad that if I bought a cemetery, people would stop dying. 

– Rodney Dangerfield 

Money can’t buy you happiness .. But it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery. 

– Spike Milligan 


Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. If you would like to find out more, see or email:



Up close or far away?

We went on an organised walk on Brownsea Island recently. Situated in the middle or Poole Harbour, the island was the site of Baden-Powells’ first scout camp in 1908. Today it is owned by The National Trust and is a nature reserve. The Red Squirrel thrives here as the more aggressive Grey variety, which has killed off most of the UK’s Red Squirrel population, has not made the watery crossing from the mainland.

Brownsea Island is also a major bird reserve and thousands of migrant birds which live on the shoreline overwinter here. If you’re interested, you can view the lagoon through the webcam. Species that may be seen include Godwits, Redshank, Greenshank, Little Egrets and the striking black and white Avocet with its upturned bill. On the day that we visited, there was a flock of about 200 Avocets, quite a sight. Watching from the anonymity of a ‘hide’, several pairs of binoculars were trained on the feeding Avocets and the other waders enjoying the winter sun on the lagoon. Binoculars, of course, bring the subject up close by magnifying the image. Viewed from the other end, by comparison, the subject appears to be far away. Without binoculars, much of the interesting detail within the scene unfolding before us would have been missed.

Back in the real world, how often do you check the detail of your work? You’re not a detail person? Many of us like to take the overview and leave the details to others to worry about. It is sometimes illuminating to take the binoculars to a particular area of work to check that the details are being covered. You may head off some nasty surprises!


Local News:

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue , Boscombe, delighted the audience
with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each
week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she
recalled – ‘He’d always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the
crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt
out ‘Heil Hitler.”
( Bournemouth Evening Echo) 


Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects ands improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly in the areas of working with agencies and turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see or email:

Spring is coming around again

Spring is nearly here (in the Northern Hemisphere, at any rate – you guys in the South have had your turn for a few months…) and The New Forest is changing almost daily. I took Lucy for an early morning walk, just as the sun was rising. You can begin to feel the warmth in the sun at this time of year, a very pleasant harbinger of longer days and T Shirts and shorts. The most noticeable difference in the Forest is the increased level of birdsong. All around us, birds were singing. Finches sitting on top of the gorse bushes, Great Tits in the upper branches of the bare-limbed trees, Robins perched on top of the hedges, Thrushes in the distance. All singing at the tops of their voices and for a worthwhile cause – it is the start of the mating season, the annual ritual when birds look for a partner. In the background, somewhere deep in the forest, the ‘rat a tat, tat’ of woodpeckers boring holes in trees also signals that the nesting season is beginning.

The birds sing for two reasons. Firstly, the males sing to attract a mate. This is why they choose a prominent position, where they can be seen and their voices carry. ‘Look at me’, they sing, ‘Choose me. I’m big and strong and just the father for your chicks’. Males also sing to mark out their territories and to defend them against rivals. Each species has its own recognised song and the effect of the medley of different tunes, repeated over and over again, is magical. It’s part of Spring, like the daffodils, the clocks going forward and the sound of lawnmowers being used for the first time since last Autumn.

This is the start of a process which is repeated every year. It’s similar to many annual projects that we find ourselves carrying out in the workplace. The birds, though, will start afresh with a new plan. Many species find a new mate every year, most build new nests and many build these nests in new territories. They don’t expect to come out of the winter and pick up ‘business as usual’. They have to sing (advertise) for a new mate, find a suitable nesting site and start the process of bringing up their new family.

In the workplace, how much time to do we invest in planning for annual projects, the ones that we did last year and will do again next year and the year after? Very often, we expect everything to carry on much as usual. We’ve done it before and it worked, so we’ll do it again the same way.

Whilst this approach is fine, do remember the birds singing in the trees. They are thinking about how they will do it this season, who they’ll do it with and where they’ll do it. Do take some time to review what happened during your projects last year and make any necessary changes this time around. Think about the project plan – does it need to be updated? Were the right people involved at the right time last year, or did you have some last minute panics? Was everything in the right place at the right time? What has changed since last year?

Time spent up front planning your project is always time well spent, as the birds singing to attract this year’s mate will testify!


It’s a funny thing:

– Moles are always smaller than you imagine.

 – You’ve never quite sure whether its ok to eat green crisps.

 – Everyone who grew up in the 80’s has entered the digits 55378008 into a

 – You’re never quite sure whether its against the law or not to have a  fire
in your back garden.

 – Nobody ever dares make cup a soup in a bowl.

 – You never know where to look when eating an apple.

 – It’s impossible to describe the smell of a wet cat.

 – Prodding a fire with a stick makes you feel manly.

 – Rummaging in an overgrown garden will always turn up a bouncy ball.

 – Everyone always remembers the day a dog ran into your school.


Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of your emarketing, particularly aimed at marketing managers who use digital agencies. If you would like to find out more, see or email:

New Facebook group

Nothing to do with natural processes, just important……   A new group has been set up on Facebook, to tell the media to stop spreading more fear and panic.  Join today and add your voice!

If you are looking for a new job, loads of information here:

All quiet in The New Forest

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the numbers of birds that I would expect to see on my walks in The New Forest. This morning I took Lucy (the dog) to the part of the forest where we usually go to get some exercise. We strolled along many of the same paths as usual, looked across at the same clearings as usual and jumped across the same ditches as usual. But today was different. The forest was eerily quiet and hardly any wildlife stirred. The only sounds disturbing the tranquillity came from the hum of the commuter traffic on the M27 and a ‘plane coming in to land at Southampton airport.

What had happened to change the picture so radically from a few days ago? Snow had happened! Unexpectedly (at least to us humans) the rain which had been forecast had turned to snow and the forest was covered in a white slushy blanket. Lucy loved it and chased around like a puppy. She was going back to a warm house- the wildlife living in the forest had all ‘hunkered down’ until the weather improved (which it did – by 2pm the sun was shining).

The birds and animals that live in the forest were all still there this morning, but all were quiet and out of sight.

When you manage a project, do you have phases when all is quiet and you assume all is well? That may be true, but equally, it may not. Something might be going badly wrong but people have buried their heads in the sand, hoping that the problem will go away. Unless you ask questions, you may not find out about the badly deteriorating situation until it’s too late. Or at least until the problem is worse than it might have been.

When all is quiet in your project team, don’t assume that all is well. Ask the pertinent questions. The Risks and Issues don’t go away but, like the wildlife in the snow, they may not surface for a while.



It’s a funny thing:

– You never ever run out of salt.

– Old ladies can eat more than you think.

– There’s no panic like the panic you momentarily feel when you you’ve
gotten your hand or head stuck in something.

– No one knows the origins of their metal coat hangers.

– Despite constant warning you have never met anybody who has their arm
broken by a swan.

– The most painful household incident is wearing socks and stepping on an
upturned plug.

– People who don’t drive slam car doors too hard

– You’ve turned into your dad the day you put aside a thin piece of wood
to specifically stir paint with.

– Everyone had an uncle who tried to steal their nose.

– In every plate of chips there is a bad chip.

– Triangle sandwiches taste better than square ones.

– Beneath every floating balloon is a tearful child.


Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes, manage projects and improve individual and team working efficiencies. This also includes improving the effectiveness of emarketing, particularly aimed at marketing managers who use digital agencies. If you would like to find out more, see or email: