Category Archives: The New Forest

Planning to win



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 or email: If you’re looking for a new job – advice here:


Eight Jays

Spring has definitely arrived in The New Forest. Two days a go I heard the first cuckoo of the year (two, actually). Today I saw the first swallow. One swallow may not make a summer but if definitely points in the right direction.

This morning I took Lucy for an early morning walk up to Stagbury Hill, in The New Forest. Stagbury is surrounded by gorse covered open countryside dotted with trees and even though it has a trig point at the top, it is not terribly high. It is, though, high enough to look down on to the tops of the trees. As I looked out across the sea of yellow flowered gorse I noticed a pair of Jays fly in front and below me, landing in a nearby tree. Then a saw another flying to the same tree from a different direction, then another and another. In all, eight Jays flew to the same tree. Jays are very distinctive birds and are easily recognisable. Seen from above, they are very distinguishable by a white lower back which is not normally seen when in flight as the watcher is normally looking up at the flying bird, not down.

Seeing eight Jays together is quite a sight. Seeing them from above was very unusual and made me think about the way we view other aspects of our lives.

At work, how often do we get lost in the detail of what we’re doing and don’t take the time to stand outside of the project and view it from a more objective viewpoint? How would a third party observe our work? What would they see in ten seconds that we’ve missed, because we’re too close to it? (both figuratively and actually).

Do you take the time to take the ‘helicopter view’ of your work or are you continually fighting to hit the next deadline? Do you review your work from the standpoint of anything other than ‘did it meet its objectives?’ You may well have hit your objectives (or not … ) but was it the right piece of work to be doing in the first place? Could your time have been better spent elsewhere?

Make an effort to stand back and look at your work (and your home life) from a different angle – you might be surprised what you see!


Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses with part time project management, review and map processes and improve individual and team working efficiencies. If you would like to find out more, see or email:


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:

Woodpeckers in the workplace




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!



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 or email:

When processes need to change

Early yesterday morning, I walked with Lucy (the dog) up to the top of Stagbury Hill in The New Forest. Not a huge feat as Stagbury, despite having a trig point at the top, is not very high! High enough, though, to be able to see the surrounding countryside in all its winter glory. Leafless Oak and Ash trees in one direction, green deciduous Pines in another. Red flowered heather tangled with the dead leaves of last summer’s bracken. New Forest ponies foraging optimistically for food amongst the grass and gorse. Rather a barren landscape and a typical winter scene in this part of the world.

If we came back again in the middle of summer, all would look completely different. What appears brown and barren now will look green and fertile. Butterflies and other insects will join the bees in drawing nectar from the many scented flowers on bushes and plants. Snakes will sunbathe on rocks and birds and frogs will compete to catch the insects. New Forest Pony foals will gambol next to their long-suffering mothers and the resident deer, foxes and badgers will all be defending their offspring against nature’s predators.

Nature’s annual processes will play out here as they have for the past thousand years and will continue to do so, in all probability, for thousands of years to come. But the processes are not ‘set in stone’. They frequently adapt, to meet prevailing conditions. A great example of this happened in the spring of 2006. April of that year was particularly cold with several days of frost. The buds and blossom that would normally appear during April remained dormant, to protect the delicate leaves and flowers against the frost. The plants adapted their usual ‘budding’ process to counter the abnormally cold weather. The result? Blossom appeared on trees and bushes four weeks later than normal. But when they came, the flowers were spectacular! The best display of spring blossom in living memory. This was almost certainly due to more of the plants’ energies going in to forming the blossom, over a longer period, than would normally be the case.

What is the significance of this in business you may be asking?

We always manage projects to deadlines. Usually, these are fixed dates which must be met. Quite often, though, the date is arbitrary – the beginning of the financial year, for example. If your project is behind schedule and you can move the end date, then gain agreement to do that. Don’t assume that the end date is set in stone – it may not be. Ask the question! Rather then rush the project and deliver a sub standard product, move the end date, if you can and deliver a brilliant product!

Take a lesson from nature and complete the task when the time is right. Not always possible to delay the delivery date, of course, but when it is, do it. If you wait until the right time rather than trying to hit an artificially imposed deadline, the final result will be far superior!


An elderly Jewish man lay dying in his bed. While suffering the agonies of impending death, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favourite  matzo balls wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength, and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort, gripping the railing with both hands, he crawled down stairs. With laboured breath, he leaned against the doorframe gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven, for there, spread out upon waxed paper on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favourite matzo balls. 

Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted Rivka of sixty years, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man? Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself towards the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture. His parched lips parted, the wondrous taste of the matzo balls was already in his mouth, seemingly bringing him back to life. 

The aged and withered hand trembled on its way to a ball at the edge of the table, when suddenly it was smacked with a spatula by his wife…… 

“Get off you old fool” she said, “they’re for the  funeral”. 

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Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses to review and map processes and manage projects. If you would like to find out more about documenting processes or project management, see or email: