Posts Tagged ‘change’

change is all around, so do something useful with it

September 8, 2014 1 comment

I often write here about change; it’s a constant that we embrace and resist in almost equal measure and whilst we can’t turn the clocks back we do effectively do that by often re-inventing something. Read more…

more musings on changing with the times

January 27, 2014 1 comment

The frequent topic of change caught up with me a bit last week when my reaction to a news item stirred me into starting to write something to post on one of my other blogs. Read more…

further musings on the need to change with the times

The grey mist swirled as I strode out beyond the line of buildings. No challenge rang out, and nor did any sentry’s rifle fire. I stopped and looked around, and with every right to be where I was, for it was around 20 years ago that this piece of England ceased to be off limits to the likes of civilians like me. Read more…

technology should push us as well as pull us

If you’ve followed my Tweets over the last few days you’ll know that I have changed my mobile (cell) ‘phone last week. This was part of a long overdue strategic issue for me; overdue because I had been procrastinating about making the change from something that I used for calls, and the odd text, to something that made sense as an integrated office tool for the itinerant way of working that is my life. Read more…

when it comes to change, would you rather be a follower or a leader?

Continuing the theme of change, last week I wrote about how change is all around us all of the time and I described myself as a change junkie. I’ve been challenged on that, so want to explore my motivations a little more.

I am an enthusiast for change; I like new things, the way technology brings us opportunities to live and work differently and the possibilities to make our lives better. Advances in science and medicine take away some of the fears of illness and its consequences; as a child tales of polio, iron lungs and the like were the stuff of nightmares and it is good to know that many of these things have been pretty much eradicated from our lives. Read more…

The times they are a changin’

Change is with us all of the time; before I finish the first draft of these words the sun will almost have set on Wiltshire as another day spins to a close. The world has moved on and tomorrow will bring another day.

We don’t all take kindly to change though, for it brings new things and takes away those that we are familiar and comfortable with. That new day tomorrow could bring all sorts of things; some will excite and delight us, some will challenge or scare us and we never quite k now what is around that next corner.

It is easy to see why we often have a natural resistance to change because most of us like the familiar and comfortable and it is only when we get bored with that that we want to change. Then we get that buzz of something exciting as we plan redecorating the room, moving house, buying a new car or whatever. These are changes that we enjoy.

Other change is less welcome, especially that which is forced upon us, but change will happen whether or not we like it and so we have to learn to deal with it. Life isn’t fair and never will be, no matter how much we try to make it so, because we know from the world around us that it is those that can adapt best to change that survive and thrive; seen a Pterodactyl around lately, or maybe a Dodo?

As the big 60 looms for me there are times when I feel I would be happier back in the 1960’s, but why? When I really think about it what was so attractive about that decade that took me from 8 to 17? It isn’t so much the comforts of not having responsibilities and carefree youth; no, it’s about how exiting those times were for someone of my age, and the reason for all that excitement was that there was so much changing all around me and within me. My fondness for those times comes from memories of all of that excitement and change.

Maybe that is why I became such an enthusiast for change, although I was in my forties before I realised that I was an incurable change junkie. But it was that I had become able to make change happen that cemented the package for gradually I had got into positions at work where I could do things and that was due to people working on me and putting their faith in me.

One of the standard things that we do when developing people is to take them out of their comfort zone. Done well that can be a powerful tool to help bring on the next generation of leaders and we need to have people who can embrace and thrive on change if we are to take business and society forward. I was lucky to find myself with people who helped me, saw that there was some spark, provided the fuel and fanned until the flame burst into life.

One of my projects is a procurement transformation where I am working in a team that includes people the same age of one of my grandchildren. It is a fantastic stimulus to be able to bounce ideas around and spark off each other because, even at my age, there is still so much to learn and do. The baton is passing on to new generations, but that is how it has to be, to quote a line from my own youth, The times they are a changin’. They always will.


Facilities Managers must become more businesslike

I wrote a while back about the need for us to see more business acumen amongst the specialist disciplines like purchasing and facilities management, so I was delighted to read my fellow FM World columnist (and fellow consultant) Lionel Prodgers’ article last week talking along similar lines.

When I wrote about this last time my own thoughts on this topic had been prompted by a conversation I’d had with Steve Gladwin as we drove between site visits whilst judging in the BIFM awards. The general thrust was that, if we wanted to advance the FM profession into the boardroom, then FM people needed to understand that corporate jungle and its language.

Like many of my age group I came in to FM from other disciplines; I had an IT and purchasing/supply chain background and, although I had spent two and a half years as a buyer managing that end of M&E contracts, it was only later in life, as Operations Director running a large logistics operation, that I moved from FM customer to FM Provider. Even then it was a small part of my empire and it had only come to me because the Accommodation Team, as they were known, had managed to close down my goods inwards function with an ill thought through project. By the end of that month they had been transferred from Personnel to my team and we got on fine thereafter.

It was only when I merged that operation with another business and did away with my own job that I made the move to FM as a full time interest with a portfolio over more than 30 sites to manage. But I didn’t ever see myself as a facilities manager; more as a businessman who ran a facilities management organisation, and I think that this is a crucial difference in approach.

As a younger man I worked for some years in the wholesale trade where it was important to be able to supply the retail clients with things that they could easily sell on and make their profits from. That requirement to think past the next link in the supply chain to the next one beyond stood me in good stead in FM; what did my clients need to help them run their business? Indeed, to understand what their business was, how it was developing, what their objectives were and so on was a foundation of my approach. If I could understand what their issues were then I could help deliver FM solutions that much better and could contribute to the way that their strategies evolved.

As FM became established as a profession through the 1990s it came together with a wealth of talent from all sorts of backgrounds and it was this that, in many ways, enabled it to establish its own identity. Quite rightly we have tried to get to a point where FM is a profession of choice for younger people and BIFM have done sterling work in evolving a professional qualification framework to enable them to qualify through. These things take time to work through, but it is doing what it was intended to do in bringing people on.

This approach is something that I carry through today into helping people studying for their FM qualifications because, whilst they obviously need to understand FM, as they become more senior they need to become more business minded. When I qualified as a buyer I had to study marketing, accounting and law amongst other subjects to pass out, and it is this breadth that we need to develop in our FM people.


why do wives put up with it?

Lately I have been back on the train a lot, and have been reminded of a phenomenon I had largely forgotten. One of those strange ritual behaviours between the female and the male of the species that puzzles, even troubles me. So let me set the scene:

Join me on platform one at Swindon as I await an early Paddington train. As an avid people watcher I have plenty of material to work with in such situations; travel provides a fascinating insight into one’s fellow humans. The platform regulars are instantly recognisable, as is their pecking order.

But, just beyond the tracks, is activity in the north car park that has reminded me of a, to me rather sexist, behaviour that really should have died out in these enlightened times. A car will sweep into the car park, pull up near the station entry and from the driver’s side will emerge Mr Businessman, suited and booted for his day at the office. From the passenger side will emerge, well, for the purpose of this story, let’s call her Mrs Businessman, and she is dressed for doing stuff around the house.

Mr B will take his briefcase from the back and depart for his train, and Mrs B drives the car back to the 4 bed, 2 rec, 3.75 bath or whatever.

Now there are variations on the level of human contact in these vignettes, but most are pretty perfunctory at best, but one stands out: The Volvo estate is brought to a stop with some authority. Mr B emerges, takes his briefcase and strides away without a glance at his companion. She walks round the front of the car, seeming to distance herself from him as much as she can, and departs with a decent touch of wheelspin. It is a shame that she had to pause to adjust the driver’s seat and that the car is front wheel drive. If she had been quicker and had had rear wheel drive she could have sprayed him with gravel such was the violence of her leaving the scene.

What domestic strife had preceded this journey? What was the atmosphere in the car along the way? These are the joys of people watching, speculating on events.

But I digress. The point here is that this ritual, something that I have seen for as long as I can remember, still goes on. OK, it is none of my business how other people live their lives, but this behaviour is so alien to me and seems so insulting to the ladies, although they seem quite happy to accept it.

I would never have dreamt of behaving like this with any of the ladies I have shared my life with since I flew the nest over 40 years ago. I know I’m not unique here as the guy who lives opposite is equally as happy to have his wife drive him as he is to drive her, but he and I do seem to be in a very small minority judging by my observations.

Maybe all of this is covered in the Handbook of Inter-Gender Relationships, I don’t know. Perhaps the ladies concerned are quite happy to have things this way. Maybe it means that they don’t have their driving criticised by some chauvinistic oaf. Possibly one of them might read this and enlighten me.

I hope that they do, because I would love to know. Whilst I’ll never find out what the story behind Mr & Mrs Volvo was, my natural curiosity is aroused and do I like to learn something new every day.

are meetings the bane of your life?

They certainly can be; the difference between a well run one and a poorly run one is like night and day, but what makes the difference?

The person chairing, or leading, the meeting is the key, but chairing the meeting is just one part of the whole deal. For me the issue is that so many people see the meeting as an entity in its own right rather than as an integral part of the process of making things happen.

So often the meeting becomes just an event that gets put in the diary and you get on with life in between the last one and the next one with no real connection. The agenda will turn up, maybe with some additional material, a few days before the meeting date and then you all turn up and go through the motions. More than a few will be ill prepared, not have read the papers or reports before the meeting, and those present will stagger through as best as they can. Where things haven’t gone right or deadlines have been missed there will be a few apocryphal stories trotted out, and everyone will want to chuck in their own version and, if the chair isn’t fully in control, there might be a bit of finger pointing to deflect blame. At best there might be an action to have got it done by the next meeting, but no-one will remember that until the agenda and minutes are circulated just before the next meeting, so it won’t be too much of a problem if people just ignore the whole thing. So you dispose of the coffee and biscuits and vanish until the next one comes round.

I’m being harsh maybe, and certainly cynical, but I’m pretty sure that some of you will recognise roughly that scenario. It is a composite of many that I have had to go through over the years. And they still continue, often even at board level, so goodness knows what meetings at those companies are like lower down the chain.

One factor that causes this problem is that people often don’t know how to make decisions. You may say that that is a daft thing to say, but it is true nonetheless; the ability to make decisions, or at least decent decisions, is sadly lacking in many organisations.

One of the worst excesses I have come across is the monthly review meeting. Everyone submits their departmental report, so all those at the meeting should have read it and be aware of how the others are doing. If there are any problems then they should be prepared to bring them up, but what happens? Everyone goes through their report at the meeting regardless and nothing really gets moved forward.

Meetings are part of moving things along, so they need to be treated as a point where the key people involved come together to resolve issues, so the first thing to be doing is making sure that the meeting is about the issues. What needs to be done, by whom and by when and what resource is needed to accomplish it. If people are armed with facts and not anecdotes they will be able to assess these points, agree on the risks of failure (so that the priorities can be understood) and make an appropriate decision. Job done; next issue, and do the same there.

At a project meeting last week we came prepared. Papers circulated had been read, the issues were discussed and we were agreed on who was doing what and by when and done in 30 minutes.

what will people remember you for?

January 31, 2011 1 comment

“At least you sorted the drains out”. Will that be my epitaph?

The comment came during a chance meeting with someone who worked for me twenty odd years ago, but whom I’ve not seen for five or six years. It refers to an incident at a site that I had taken over running the operations at and where there had been a perennial problem with flooding. I had been standing in the car park in the aftermath of the first big summer storm following a project to fix the problems admiring the gently steaming tarmac when my boss squared walked quietly up behind me and said, “There may be doubts as to whether or not Mussolini made the trains run on time, but at least you’ll be able to claim that you made the drains work as your legacy to mankind”.

To set out to leave some form of legacy by which you will be remembered may not be a bad thing, but it does require elements of conceit and vanity (both of which I plead guilty of from time to time). The danger comes when those vices get in the way of what you are trying to deliver and the end result becomes more about you than those who might otherwise benefit, and I’ve seen that blight often enough to be wary of it in anything that I set out to achieve these days.

As a young man I can remember being told of the bucket of water test. You plunge in both hands and swirl for all you are worth, but so quickly after you take your hands out do those waters become still again leaving no trace of your efforts. Along the same lines I am minded of an old Scots lament:

“Mony’s the ane for him makes mane, But nane sall ken whar he is gane.

Ower his white bones, when they are bare, The wind sall blaw for evermair”.

Very few people do something that leaves a long term mark, and often those that do are those who had the fortune to have circumstances collide with need rather than any plans for greatness coming to fruition. Cometh the hour, cometh the man sort of thing.

Maybe it is more the little things that you do that will make a difference. I sorted the drains by getting a CCTV survey done rather that spending a 5 figure sum every year on jet blasting as my predecessors had done. That meant that I could invest money in the two or three areas where there was a major problem and get them fixed properly. It worked and a significant irritant for the 1300 or so people who worked on the site went away.

That is classic facilities management stuff; making life better for the workers helps productivity and better productivity means more profitable business, more satisfied customers and all of those fine things. Facilities management people fix stuff. As Dara O’Briain said when he provided the entertainment at the BIFM Awards dinner a few years ago, we are like the fairies at the bottom of the garden, doing things un-noticed.

So we have a lesson in humility maybe? It isn’t about the individual so much as the part that the individual plays in their environment and the contribution that they make.

But the other lesson here is a leadership one. Recognition is a powerful reward: I got a nice glow from someone remembering and saying so. Why not thank someone today, and maybe your legacy will be to be remembered as a nice person. I’d settle for that.