Monday, July 28, 2008

What is the meaning of work?

Prompted by my friend Mark Foscoe in a recent comment the question is .... What is the meaning of work in 2008?

‘Work’ and ‘career path’ bear little resemblance with when I started at age 16 as a junior clerk in the National Health Service in 1969.

In those days it was a highly structured and predictable career path. One set out on that path and moved ‘up the ladder’ until eventually reaching the level of competence that one’s skills and experience merited. It was all very predictable.

Nowadays, it seems to me, nothing is predictable anymore and I think we have much more personal control of our destiny and our career direction.

I think it is a terrific time to be starting out on a career because individuals are far more likely to do the things they ‘want’ to do rather than follow a path that is mapped out for them based on history.

Each to their own of course and I’m pretty sure some may argue the lack of structure is a negative thing ….

I would be fascinated to get your take on this one and thanks again Mark for sowing the seed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What do we now mean by 'retire'

When I was a kid it seemed like anyone who was 50 years old was way past their 'sell by' date.

I just heard on Talksport Radio an interview with an 85 year old man who plays in the over 85’s world tennis championships.

On Monday this week I played golf with a 76 year old man who plays 18 holes twice a week most weeks. He looked amazingly fit.

Sir Alex Ferguson is 66 years old and still as passionate and ambitious as he ever was for his team (and mine) Manchester United.

I hope to be the player manager of a five-a-side football (soccer) team for men over the age of 100 when I reach that milestone in 2052.

How times have changed ….

As Tom Peters says 60 is the new 30. This surely has massive implications for the definition of ‘retirement’ from work. I hope to work until I am at least 75. My academic supervisor Professor George Giarchi still works at the University of Plymouth at age 77 and as far as I know George has no plans to finish work for few more years.

How do you see retirement nowadays and does it really matter about having an 'age' of retirment?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dispelling Myths - 'Nice guys' win too

How wonderful to see the genial Irishman Padraig Harrington win his second successive Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Click here to see BBC Report

Winning two successive Opens is very rare – Padraig becomes the first European to successfully defend the Open since James Braid in 1906. Clearly no individual gets to the very top in their profession without focus and dedication but the wonderful news is Padraig clearly overcomes the myth that nice guys don't win.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another original quote .....

I love the connections I’ve made through Blogging in the last three and a half years. I’m indebted today to yet another virtual friend, Peter Dawson from Canada who I’ve never met but occasionally communicated with via e mail and Blogging.

Thanks Peter for this marvellous quote:

“Simplicity is hard to build, easy to use, and hard to charge for. Complexity is easy to build, hard to use, and easy to charge for.”

This is where the original quote came from.

Cheers Peter – As we say in England - I owe you a pint!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

To Centralise or to Decentralise .. That is the question ...

Once upon a time when I worked as a manager in the National Health Service (NHS)we were doing some community development work in a rural area of Devon called Dartmoor.

We wanted to ask local people their experiences of local health services and also get their views about how services might be improved.

We decided to hold meetings with residents in the three biggest towns on Dartmoor and a couple of small villages to get what we thought were representative opinions from people living on Dartmoor.

We duly wrote the report of our findings and held a series of meetings to discuss those findings with local people. I remember very clearly going to a village hall in deepest, darkest Dartmoor in a very tiny village called Lustleigh to talk to the locals about our findings.

They asked me whether our research had included opinions from people living in Lustleigh – population about 150 people (plus a few sheep) I replied that we had drawn conclusions from meetings with a cross section of people who lived on Dartmoor, including some who lived in a larger village less than 3 miles away where we had held one of our metings with local residents. The ‘Lustleigh folks’ immediately became indignant and objected that the views of people living in a village 3 miles away should in any way be seen to represent of the views of people living in Lustleigh. They were right of course and we were wrong.

The point of this true story is to get your opinions about the merits of centralisation versus decentralisation - local or national - and what do we actually mean by all these terms.

We can also include in the discussion the relative merits of centralisation and decentralisation within management and organisations.

In the UK National Health Service there are genuine attempts to get decision making down to a more local level and there are still many critics who believe too much power is vested in central government.

This posting has been promoted by my friend David Wike and I would be fascinated to hear comments from readers with different experiences and opinions about preferred options of centralise or decentralise the power.

For instance; what, if anything, needs to remain central? Or alternatively – what just cannot be decentralised?

Thanks David – I hope we get some responses

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mistakes and Great Bosses

Many of you will know the story of the manager in IBM who made a catastrophic mistake that cost IBM $750,000 to correct.

The guilty manager went to the office of the Chief Executive with his letter of resignation in his hand. He asked the CEO to just accept the letter and not give him a verbal rocket. He explained that he knew he had made this almighty mistake and just wanted to go quietly.

The CEO handed him back the letter and said;

‘Why the hell would I want to sack someone I just spent $750,000 training’

I’m not sure if that story is factually correct but it is a great story that tells us a lot about boss/worker relationships.

I never made a mistake in my career that cost that much money – as far as I know. I have made many mistakes in my career – hopefully I have learned from them as this IBM manager certainly would have done.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was losing the key to the safe in the hospital that I worked in. We kept large amounts of cash in the safe as well as other valuables. I was one of two key holders and it took me a week to pluck up the courage to tell my boss (the other key holder) that I’d lost the key. I was only 21 at the time and I had convinced myself I would be sacked for such negligence on my part.

I finally plucked up the courage to tell my boss, he was just fantastic. He said it was not a problem. We would get a new key cut and trust that my key had not fallen into criminal hands. I never did find the original key and sure enough the safe was never raided so it had obviously not been stolen which was always my fear – I had obviously just lost it.

The week I spent thinking about telling my boss was one of the worst weeks of my life … and yet all my fears were so unnecessary. I realise now – 30 plus years later - I should have told the boss immediately and not allowed it to create all sorts of catastrophic consequences in my head that never happened in reality.

I would love to hear your stories of a mistake you are prepared to admit publicly and the way it was handled well (or not) by your boss.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Who was the greatest?

In a 'comment conversation' with my friend from the US John O’Leary we considered the question who is the greatest The Beatles or Elvis Presley?

I would be fascinated by your opinions.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Couldn't Resist!

Annual Conference 2008
Directions to the venue for pedestrians:

Walk straight ahead for 139.53 metres and then turn left. Walk for another 73.86 metres and turn right. On your left you will notice a three story building with an overall cubic measurement of 2137 square metres, not to be mistaken for the building next door which as you will appreciate is only 2135 square meters. Walk past these two buildings for 63.87 metres and you will see facing you the Main Entrance to the Conference Centre. All regular Complexity Conference attenders will immediately notice the right hand door of the double door entrance is hung at 89.832 degrees upright rather than 90 degrees – forgive us for that. You may rest assured the carpenter will not be awarded further contracts with us.

You have now reached the venue.

For registration purposes please bring with you three forms of identity, one of which must be your 1000 Page Corporate Complexity Manual entitled ‘How to Boil an Egg' which as you know is one of the 79 Corporate Complexity Manuals you received as part of your induction pack when you joined us.

Do enjoy this year’s conference and please take four hours at the end of the conference to complete the 75 page evaluation form. This will ensure we plan future conferences with equal complexity.

Annual Conference 2008
Directions to the venue for pedestrains:

Follow arrows please

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

In Record Time!

Earlier this evening at Coombe Abbey, Annie completed the 5k Race for Life in her fastest time in four attempts. She completed the course in 31 minutes 40 seconds which beat her previous best time by about 90 seconds

It poured with rain for the entire race!

Annie finished in the top 100 or so in a field of 2500 women

Well done darling – I’m very proud of you!

Two dogs and a man - Good to be back!!

Supporter Number One - Bertie - The Ahhhh factor dog!

Supporter Number Two - Rusty - known by his friends as 'The Boss!'

Annie - The star of tonights Race!

After what has been probably the busiest three weeks of my career it is wonderful to be relaxing at home today with my fabulous wife Annie.

At last I’m able to start to catch up on Simplicity Blogging. Apologies for infrequent postings in the last three weeks – I’ve missed the discussions - but I’m back and raring to go!

As I write this on an overcast wet Wednesday morning (England is still wonderful in spite of the weather) in Shakespeare’s County, there is about 8 hours to go before Annie runs the 5k ‘Race for Life’ for the fourth consecutive year

No pressure of course but it’s not too late to sponsor Annie’s fund raising efforts for Cancer by clicking here.

Our two dogs Rusty and Bertie and me will be providing moral support this evening (complete with umbrella) at Coombe Abbey near Coventry ....

So best of luck darling – hope the sun shines!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Smoking Ban Works!

Generally speaking I am not a fan of governments telling us what to do. Quite the opposite in fact, I am a great believer in citizens determining their own future through community development and ‘bottom up’ planning.

However there are times when direction from above is very effective and this week we’ve seen a great example.

The smoking ban in public places is one year old this week and it is reported that 400,000 smokers have quit since the ban was introduced.

That is fantastic news.

I think we should celebrate it and thank the government for the positive leadership. It’s not a party political point scoring thing on my part – just a statement of fact.

Sometimes we just have to be told what is good for us.