Archive

Posts Tagged ‘management’

on projects and slippage


I started a series of projects on home and garden back in January and, when lockdown hit us, these became something of a primary focus for me. I said at that point that I would hit my overall objectives in terms of time and money, but, as so often happens in professional life, things have changed.

Taking my personal goals as a microcosm of business workings I have seen a familiar progression in that now, around seventy percent of the ay through my personal programme, the needs have changed and so what I had planned on in therms of certain specific objectives are no longer necessary.

Part of the problem has been in delays from external suppliers; the new shed is still not here and is now four weeks behind schedule and the new greenhouse is unlikely to arrive before next Spring. Both of these issues are primarily due to Covid-19 firstly because demand for garden products shot up during lockdown and then because the production facilities were not working at capacity having had to deal with the impact of lockdown, social distancing and the like. These things happen.

Then there were the things that were uncovered as work progressed; the bae for the new shed required digging out of some significant root systems and even the had to be raised about 10cm. Clearance of waste was affected by Covid-19 restrictions and instead of a daily trip to the tip I could not go for about a month and then was restricted to two trips a month.

If I were to be sitting with an employer discussing how well I had performed in terms of meeting the objectives set nine months ago I would not be doing too well I suspect, but therein lies another story and one that I have visited here before. The bottom line is that the world changes around us and we need to be able to recognise that.

Looking at where I am now against where I was in January the difference is huge and whilst I have not sone some of what I set out to, because of external forces, we are in a much better place than we were at the start of the year. My main aim of having the deck sorted out so that we could enjoy some of the Summer sitting out has gone because Summer is past. That is a shame, but the bulk of the hard work is done and come next Spring it will al be there for us to enjoy.

In business we often become so focussed on getting to an objective that we miss the fact that we do not need to get to that place any more. Time and money are expended on things that have become obsolete or for which the immediate need has passed. Plans should always be flexible because, to quote the old military adage, no plan survives past first contact with the enemy. Your strategy may still be current, but the tactics have to adapt to what is going on around you.

Hang loose and take advantage of what you can do as long as it helps you prgress

on the joys of shopping


I’m going to look at this from the customer perspective. All management should do this anyway, but many seem to ignore it beyond what they see from market research and I will come on to that too in a moment.

Why do we shop? To buy stuff is the obvious, and correct answer, but how many of us go shopping and come back with more than we went for? The Berkshire Belle and I once worked with a chap who was, fortunately, married to a like minded lady. They went shopping with a list and bough only what was win the list. Things around the house had to fail completely before they were replaced; we remember that their cooker was down to one working ring on the hob before they bought a new one.

Our friends were not common though and most folks are like the double B and I in that shopping is about browsing, about buying things on impulse regardless of whether you need them or have an immediate use for them. You see, you like, you buy is how it works and that process involves not just the eyes, but touch. I will walk along a rack of golf shirts, for example, running my fingers across the fabric. I buy more by what feels nice than the colour or brand. Cutlery, glassware and crockery have all been bought by how they feel in the hand rather than anything else (except maybe how they look).

These pleasures are, if sort of allowed, not practical or desirable at the moment so, like many, we are not doing it. There is no fun anyway in visiting a shopping centre or high street and having to queue at almost every shop that you want to visit. Touching products, other than to put them into your basket or cart, is not something that is a good idea and just wandering around looking at things is not encouraged, or acceptable, when others are queuing to get in. Shopping is becoming more about necessity than a source of pleasure.

This is the dilemma for those in the retail trade and many are fighting for survival. The writing has perhaps been on the wall for a while with the impact of internet shopping and the evolving habits of each new generation, but this current plague has brought matters to a head. How they will get through it I don’t know. It seems unlikely that we will return to a world where we can shop without masks, social distancing or fear any time soon so which businesses will survive that long?

Whilst this is a problem for government in that it impacts on the economy in so many ways it is not a problem that is in their gift to solve. Market research is too often flawed and there is a lot of nonsense out there in terms of customers surveys; just sigh up to do a few of these on-line and you will see what I mean. The questions are often nonsensical and there is no way that meaningful answers can be gleaned from it, certainly not in terms of allowing management to make realistic decisions.

What we get over the next twelve months or so is going to come from innovative thinking, from people who have a vision that they can translate into actions that work and that will generate income for their businesses. As always the ones that can take advantage of the changing environment will be the survivors.

I don’t think that we will see the world that we had sic months ago again. What we emerge into will look and feel different. I don’t know that I will like it, but I will have to lump it if that is all I have.

on the fail fast principle


For most of us we have become used to the fail safe way of working. I am old enough to remember a time when air brakes failed off leaving you with the best way of stopping being to find something soft to drive into. We don’t allow that these days.

Failures are things to be avoided and we work hard on our processes to find ways of doing it right first time, every time. If you are failing your KPIs it is career threatening, a thing of shame. No wonder that so many people are afraid of failure.

Yet we all know that we learn more from our failures and something that I adopt is based on a way of thinking that is called fail fast. The principle is to have something monitoring the system that warns of potential failure somewhere and puts things into a safe mode. It is similar to the Limp Mode that you may have found on your car. Some engineers are using it to push for failures, to encourage them to enable their eradication and this type of thinking is used in high pressure areas like Grand Prix motor sport to find and eliminate potential weak spots in any system or component.

Forty years or so ago we were doing something like this with software testing. The classic test was to take historic data and run that through the program to check that it was doing its sums correctly, but we mixed in erroneous inputs to see what happened. We would also overload the software beyond its specified capacities again to see what it would take, or otherwise.

With more manual processes this approach can also be tried and it will tend to show where the flow starts to fail. Critical Path Analysis is a good companion tool here and using the two can show how the CP can change user different circumstances.

These things can start as desktop exercises, but there is no substitute for doing them in real time because the the working environment will often through up things that would otherwise be missed; the story of my old boss and his M1 traffic jam has been told here before, but it was a classic case of the real world making a bugger’s muddle of what looked like a great plan.

The key message here is to always look at what other people in unrelated industries are doing. It is time rarely wasted because everyone has a need to make things happen as efficiently as possible. How they do it and the way that they think about their problems can often through up an idea that you can adopt or adapt. Take time to look around; you never know what you might find.

on other ways of making things happen


I mentioned recently the EFQM model, another tool that, when used well, can serve a useful purpose. For me the great benefit that I got from it was understanding the linkages between ideas and results, the enablers. I have been reading a succession of political biographies and commentaries of late and there are many instances where promises made at the hustings have not been delivered. There are many reasons for this and, in general, it is not because the politician is telling lies. Certainly sometimes they do relying on the fact that we are too gullible to see the truth, but there are three other key barriers.

Read more…

on times when thinking is a bad idea


Sounds daft to propose that there are times when thinking is not too clever, but I firmly believe it to be true. I would not advocate it as a blanket strategy, but there are times when being able to block certain thoughts will pay dividends. Read more…

on implementation


Almost anything that you change can be a project, so from simple things within the office to nationwide rollouts I have seen a lot. Some I have been on the receiving end for, in others I have been part of the roll out team and for some I have been the sponsor. Not all have gone well, so let us have a look at why. Read more…

the lockdown log 3


Whilst the lock down is not having a huge impact on life for the Berkshire Belle and I there is a danger that elements of the basic skill set can get atrophied during any period of disuse so the trick is to find ways of using them in this strange world. Read more…

on motivation for leaders


The ability to motivate is one of those traits that we expect in a leader; keeping the team positive, productive and, for at least short bursts, galvanised should be bread and butter to a good leader as should the ability to keep the team’s collective heads up when things are not going too well. Read more…

on waste


Here I am not thinking about green issues or recycling in particular, although these are important and do form part of my thinking on this subject, but the overall issue is of wasting anything. Taking offence has become an international pastime, but we choose whether or not to be offended and my preference is not to take umbrage at almost everything, why, because it is a waste of my time and emotions and the one thing that does offend me is waste. Read more…

on the EFQM model


Back in the early nineteen nineties I was introduced to the EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) model and, like many of my peers, I struggled with the company-wide desire to implement it, but one aspect of being taught to use it stuck with me and made an important addition to my management tool box. Read more…