Category Archives: Efficiency

The Business Face

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 many 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’.

====================================================================

Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and in helping the commercial side of businesses to review processes and implement new IT Applications. If you would like to find out more, see www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk If you’re looking for a new job – advice here: www.mynextrole.co.uk


Advertisements

Planning to win

Stonechat

Stonechat

July in The New Forest and walking in the open forest is what summer evenings were made for. The sun is shining and the forest looks very different than it did six weeks ago, let alone six months ago. It’s a sea of green with bracken growing up to six feet high intermingled with gorse bushes. As Lucy (the dog) and I walk along, a strong twittering and chirping attracts our attention. The source of the agitated chirruping soon becomes apparent. Standing on the highest branch of a nearby gorse bush, a male Stonechat guards his nest. His equally agitated mate sits in a tree nearby, noisily encouraging us to move away. We move on and leave the birds to their solitude.

In the winter, it’s possible to walk anywhere in the open forest, apart from the boggy areas. In the summer, the ponies and visitors follow pre-defined paths through the bracken. You can still walk anywhere but it’s much more difficult to force your way through the bracken. It can be dangerous too as you can’t see where you’re walking – you wouldn’t want to tread on an adder!

We follow the well worn paths through the forest in same way that we follow the well worn plans that help us to manage our projects. How often so we stop and think about other ways of approaching our work? Just because it was done this way last time and the time before doesn’t make it right. Did we involve the right people – the people at the sharp end? Did we check the results of last year’s project? Was an evaluation of last year’s project ever written?

Take time to think about your plans and see if there might be a better way or at least a different way to reach the end goal. There almost certainly will be. Don’t make the mistake that just about every politician makes with depressing regularity – don’t fight the battles in this war with the strategy from the last war. Time moves on and the environment changes – ask the Polish Cavalry!

So think about looking for a new path but watch out for any adders along the way.

====================================================================

Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and 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 www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk If you’re looking for a new job – advice here: www.mynextrole.co.uk

Change in the Workplace

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’.

=========================================================================================================

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 http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk

Nipping it in the bud

Today I have been spraying weeds with weedkiller. Nettles, Docks, Buttercups, Thistles and Ragwort grow rapidly at this time of the year and if they aren’t kept under control, they will be covering the fields and there’ll soon be no grass left for the horses to eat. We have a backpack which holds 20 litres of diluted weedkiller – 20 litres of liquid is quite heavy when you have to lift it up behind you and strap it to your back! It’s a horrible job and one that I’ve been putting off for several weeks. The result of this prevarication is that some of the weeds are huge and they will require more than one dose of weedkiller to finish them off. So I’ve made the job harder and longer than it should have been.

The parallels in the workplace are obvious. When issues and problems arise, how often do we wait and see if they will resolve themselves? How often do we leave them and hope that they will be insignificant in the overall scheme of things? Do we avoid confrontation, which would resolve the matter, in favour of short term harmony?

In almost every instance that you can think of, it is better to deal with the problem early before it develops into something much worse. This is particularly true when managing projects and underlines the importance of both having an Issue Log, of some description and of aggressively managing the issues raised on it. Don’t assume that everyone is a diligent as you, so proactively ask your people to tell you their top three issues at any point in time. This should ensure that you are continually on top of the current issues within your project and you can head off any potential crises before they escalate.

Don’t leave it until you need to apply the weedkiller for the second time!

=========================================================================================================

Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and 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 www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: info@ef-ef.co.uk If you’re looking for a new job – advice here: www.mynextrole.co.uk

Wolfram Alpha is launched

Wolfram Alpha, the new search engine, launched this week. Unlike Google, Wolfram Alpha gives the user an answer to a query, rather than links to other sources.

Try it here:http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=london

Looking for a new job? Lots of help here: www.mynextrole.co.uk

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 http://www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk

Woodpeckers in the workplace

 

Lucy

Lucy

When I take Lucy (the dog) for a walk in The New Forest I see many different species of birds. I could make a list of those that I expect to see every time – Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Rooks, Jackdaws, Buzzards and Canada Geese would top the list. I’d expect to see 9 out of 10 of these in 9 out of 10 visits. I wouldn’t be far out.

I also come across other species, of course, but these are less common in the forest and so I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see them every time. Or indeed, ever.

A couple of weeks ago I saw Goldcrests on two consecutive days – these will be the subject of a later post. This morning, I was walking along beside some gorse bushes when a Green Woodpecker flew up from the ground into a nearby tree. These woodpeckers are reasonably common in the forest but they are usually heard but not seen – their machine gun like hammering on tree trunks alerts us to their whereabouts ‘somewhere over there.’ Today I was much luckier. The Green Woodpecker flew up into the tree and settled within view. As I watched, I realised that he (or she) was not alone. A second woodpecker hopped into view further up the tree. I have never seen two woodpeckers together so it was a memorable sight.

The point of this story is this. If the first woodpecker hadn’t caught the corner of my eye as I walked past it, I would never have known that it was there. I would never have seen one woodpecker, let alone two. I would have walked on by, completely oblivious to their existence.

In the workplace, how often do we make assumptions about what we expect to do, what issues we expect to encounter, what risks we’re prepared to take and then blithely carry on thinking that we’ve covered all of our bases. Sometimes, we’re blind to those unexpected issues that occur until it’s too late. If we don’t look for them, we often don’t recognise them as issues at all. Sometimes that may not matter. Other times, it matters a lot!

Always expect the unexpected. One project, or piece of work, is unlikely to be exactly the same as the last. You will always have your list of expected risks and issues but please look out for the unexpected. If you remain alert to the chance of something unusual occurring you will spot it early and deal with it. This may prevent a disaster. On the other hand, it may turn out to be something beneficial, like my woodpeckers. Ignorance, in this case, is definitely NOT bliss!

===============================================

REPORTS IN BRITISH NEWSPAPERS:

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas
bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, ‘We agree it was rather high
for the time of year. It’s possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the
gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.’
(The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami
in her underwear. When asked why, she said it was because she was
missing her Italian boyfriend.
(The Manchester  Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because
they cannot issue a description. It’s a Special Branch vehicle and they
don’t want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was
rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman
commented, ‘This sort of thing is all too common’.
(The Times)

================================================

 

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 in the areas of working with agencies and turning prospects into customers. If you would like to find out more, see www.ef-ef.co.uk or email: rob@ef-ef.co.uk