Monday, November 26, 2007

The Essays 2: Death to Buzzwords

What I would Change?
Fantastic, an ideal opportunity to have a whinging rant at the world about any pet hates I have. Or for some blue sky thinking.

Oh I did it. I used a business buzzword. Which is what I really, really want to change.

I hate them. All of them. Ball park figure - I am English, What is a ball park anyway? Lowest hanging fruit – unless you work in an orchard this makes sense how? Thinking out of the box – I was not aware I was in one.

What is wrong with approximate figure rather than ball park figure? What is wrong with saying, easiest goal rather than lowest hanging fruit? Why not say – we need to try and be original.

Like any jargon or patois, management speak is a language design to include and exclude certain people. Should you not like using phrases such as ‘kicked into the long grass’ or ‘Elephant Traps’ then you are not a dynamic, go ahead, sharp and active person, capable of ‘pushing the envelope’ or developing ‘synergies across the corporate universe’. If you do one half of your organisation thinks you are the latter, the rest think you are either a) demented b) a toadying servile gimp c) both.

It has got so bad that people write books on it. There are competitions for Business Word bingo, and even British Airways has a feature in its in-flight magazine with the latest business words and what they mean.

Clichéd, hackneyed and tired they are used by Management and management wannabes to sound like they know what they are doing. And before you know it they are everywhere. Even ministers and politicians are using them.

So instead of using language to communicate, clearly conveying thoughts and ideas, it becomes a tool to divide and to be obstructive.

Is there anything more disheartening than sitting through a senior management briefing as they reel of a series of these phrases, occasionally linked together with the odd ‘we need to’ or ‘we must use’? By about the third phrase you are already beginning to nod off or are drawing fantastically complicated doodles on the note pad in front of you.

Because that is the real point. These phrases do not work. A simile is only good if cogent, relevant to the parties hearing it and usually fairly original. ‘Lowest hanging fruit’ sounds great to a bunch of fruit farmers when talking about getting the easiest thing done first. To people working on helping the homeless it does not really work.

They also, over time, the get baggage as saying them reminds people of other times they were used. Lowest hanging fruit often means going for the quick and easy, in a hurry, so we can all walk away from the project pretending it worked, rather than it actually achieving what it was meant to do.

Similarly, efficiency. We hear that world and we all think;- job cuts, pay cuts no Christmas party, no more biscuits at meetings. The actually meaning of efficiency;- the accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort, is obviously what everybody should strive for. Who wants to put more effort in than is necessary? To be inefficient, is wasteful.

But in Management speak, ‘tightening our belts’, ‘effective case management ', ‘non-duplicative/reduces duplication’ are phrases always is used in favour of just coming straight out with ‘we are going to cut jobs’. Of course if you did say that some one would ask why. If you use enough buzzwords then no actually listens.

And this is the true reason for it existing, its raison d'être. Using management speech allows you to say that you have spoken to people but you have used so many buzzwords no one actually understands what you have told them. The old way of keeping the masses in place was to use other languages – like French above. Now we use buzz words, to baffle, bamboozle and befuddle.

Where as a simile or phrase was originally intended to shed light on a matter, now they shroud it in ‘lingo’.

Can you see the policy? Not for all the phrases such as capacity building, system change awareness and coordinated delivery.

The Plain English Campaign has the right idea. Our bosses, politicians and leaders have to stop using gobbledygook. Is it any wonder no-one real knows what they are doing? They should say what they mean and no longer hide behind trite clichés.

The Essays 1 :What I would change - Consumerism

(the Financial Times (its a newspaper) is running an essay competition about "what I would change". So I tried out writing some essays. One went in, if I win I get a suit. But against the readership of the FT I feel possibly I little outgunned. The others, I am shoving here.)

It would be very tempting to go for an obvious problem here. What would I change? – no more wars, no more poverty, no more diseases, no more global warming.

I think this is trying to change the symptoms of the problem rather than the illness itself.

So I would change consumerism. Because the way we consume, is what is causing most of the problems

Consumerism works though. Greed is good. Look where it has gotten us, with sky scrapers, aeroplanes and digital watches.

I would argue that the world is built on commerce. I think there is a different between commerce and consumerism. It is one thing to buy and sell goods and services, and another to constantly have to buy things.

The problem with constantly having to buy things to maintain a society is that it is ultimately the snake that eats itself.

And consumerism is not human nature. The use it and throw it away goes against the grain for many of us – that is why our homes and offices are full of old stuff.

Seriously, right now, I challenge you to go through your house and find nothing redundant or old you have kept just in case you might need it. You probably have. An old mobile phone, an old sweater and old pair of curtains.

These items have all been replaced, but not because they are broken – usually. They have been replaced because we live in a consumer society. We have to buy, buy, buy. Get that bargain, the latest item, the In Thing.
An example. Most people change their mobile phone every six months. Most people do not use any of the new features on their new phone, or do anything different with it. Most people text or make phone calls with their phone – something possible with a model of six years ago.

Whilst it is fantastic that we now have a phone that can show you videos of Kylie Minogue, locate the nearest pub with GPS mapping and let you go on MySpace, who actually does this? Or actually wants to do this?
Most of us get a new phone as it was the latest thing. We were sold it, rather than seeking it. And we are sold a new one in six months. All the effort to make that product and it has a life of six months. And the only real reason we change it is that, we have been sold the new one.

Magnify this with cars, washing machines, clothes and all the other stuff we buy and suddenly you can see the pattern.

We change for fashion or for the sake of change. And this model needs to be maintained – there are now hundreds of factories and millions of people working making all these things and selling them all. This is why certain items no longer seem repairable. We no longer make things to last, but make things in the certain knowledge that it does not have to last, cannot last, as we need it to be replaced, as they want to sell you a new one. And just to make sure it is redundant they make new ones better, faster, sleeker and cooler.

And it is not as if this new stuff makes us happy. Usually, just as we get comfortable with a new car or new phone is when we change it.

More and more of your income, is spent on things other than shelter and food. So there is less and less money to be spent on all the problems that really matter. Rather than spending the earth’s resources on useful, needed things:- green energy, medicine, affordable housing, we waste it with consumerism.

Please recycle away, but if you changed your car every six years rather than every three would that not be better? Maybe stick with the same washing machine rather than getting a new one with the new kitchen? Do you really need yet another cashmere jumper?

This is all the change that is needed. Value you what you have, buy what you want, not what you are told to want. Allow human nature and market forces to work with this. Buy a product that will last and keep using it. Buy it because you will use it – by all means buy luxuries if you will enjoy them. Nothing is a waste if it is used and enjoyed. But just to buy because you can costs so much more than currency.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Autumnal Pictures

This was the Eden project in September. (camera phone Samsung D900i 3 megapixel)

This was outside the office today:
(G600 5 Megapixel camera - focus not fantastic.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Dog Walking Prayer

I must go to the hills again
Where the earth meets the sky

Where the wind howls around your head
And where there is the buzzard’s keening cry.

And all I ask is a clear path, on which to walk
And, on its route, a sheltered meadow in which to lie

And all I ask is a clear day, with not too many clouds in the sky,
And all I ask is a lonely place, with out too many people passing by.

And all I ask is the distant sight of a village church steeple,
beside it a sleepy pub; with a garden and a cool spot out of the sun

And all I ask, is at the end of the day when the walking is done
When the shadows length, and I am too tired to run.

Is a bowl of water and the bone I am due.
Is somewhere to rest my paws, and in my dreams, rabbits pursue

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Besuited Man

My suit is my armour
Can't you see?
The cloth turns aside arrows.
The pinstripes protect me.

Let others their worn denim or corduroy prescribe
I am happy when in a suit I am spied

Something that fits- and fits me best
I am not happy in a string vest

Clothing you can wear anywhere
For which few doors are barred
A besuited man is a suitable man at large

Maybe as all formality is dead
Maybe fashion says I should look like,
I just stepped out of bed

But as people judge by looks,
then look and see
As the besuited man,
the smart man,
the well dressed man.

Is visibly me

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bad Advice - What Real Men Do

The things that people expect Real men to do

  • Get Drunk At Any given opportunity - if you don't get utterly leg less you are not a real man
  • Ogle at any passing female who is even slightly attractive. Irrespective of context, time, place. E.g. Doctors, policewoman. Real men have a huge sex drive
  • Eat the hottest curry possible. Real men can take the pain; the meal is an opportunity to look hard not eat nice food.
  • Violence or threats of violence are always a solution. Even if he is twice your size and you are more the shape of the Michelin man than he-man, act as if you are as good as Andy McNab in a fight situation.
  • You are a rule breaker. Act like a career criminal. Even if you have never even got a parking ticket, Real men have their own rules. Laws are for other people, etc
  • Spend lots of money. You are well off. Obviously not super rich, your are no toff, you work, but Real Men hare largess.
  • Worship football. In fact all sport, no matter how obscure you must know about if not have tried your hand at semi-pro or retired due to injury. Badminton, show jumping and tennis do not count. Horse racing just about.
  • Drive too fast, in a very big car. Even if you live near work, and have no family, a huge saloon is required. Hatch backs and people carriers are a no-no. Estates not good. Four-by-four is ok as long as it is not a girlie RAV4 or similar
  • Read a tabloid. Never a broadsheet. Certainly not a novel unless it is an Andy McNab or is something gritty or hard-boiled. Books on sport or war are good
  • Military experience is very handy. Always claim some.
  • Children should be called "ankle bitters" and generally ignored/bullied
  • Women are "skirt" and generally ignored/ogled/bullied. Apart from mothers who are feared/worshipped
  • Green vegetables, salad and fruit are for not for Real Men
  • You are an island, a rock, a fortress and need no help from anyone. all men do this - especially if lost.

A Hot Dog Day

The sun turns the air to the consistency of treacle.
Basking in the sun are the teeming people.

Swarming on any open space, like kicked over ants’ nests.
Women in bikinis, men down to their string vests.

Flesh already turning a bright cherry red.
And people eat outside, as if it were the med.

A Black Dog pants in a drought ridden tree’s shade.
And it is so bright that all the colours fade.

For a short, short time, it is sunny and warm.
And the only people unhappy, are those who tend lawns.

(ok written last summer)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pride In One's Work

Even I, a dyed in the wool lower-middle management clone, even I, cynical bitter and twisted as I am, even I, safe in the knowledge that what I do does not matter, try to do things properly.

Some of it is stubborn pig ignorance – some of it habit but mainly it is a perverse pride. Even if everyone else just cuts and pastes their reports from articles on wikipedia, even if most of the data they produce is meaningless garbage spilled out from some data base that bares no resemblance to reality, even if no one reads what I write and what I do is utter pointless, I will do it properly.

Maybe not well, or perfectly, but you will get what you asked for/need. Should some one need the last quarters results in a pie chart, and run down of the critical issues since the last meeting and the outstanding testing for a project done by Tuesday, they will get it.

Is it is partly my own insecurity –not in my job but emotionally – that I do not want to let people down. Partly that I am honest. I did sign a contract to do this and I will do this. And I think that is no bad thing.

So many other people do not seem to care if what they do is wrong, poor or faulty. The utterly selfishness, lack of pride in one’s work is breathtaking. Having visited hundreds of factories and workshops, and dealt with a great many builders, electricians, plumbers and roofers I am still amazed by how they treat their work.

Slap dash



Things don’t work, or are broken or so poorly done as to be nearly, but not quite useless.

So is this just a rant then?

Well no. I think it is cultural thing. I think the lack of respect, especially in the UK (note to Americans : its is the small selection of islands, off Europe, you use as an airbase) for trades people and anyone not in a suit and tie and “in charge” means that no one has any respect to what they do as "work" anymore

It is all about money. Ok the bad old days of “loadsamoney” is gone, but there is a hangover from it. Commercial gain and capital is all that matters.

No one reads History, or English Literature for the joy of it at University. They want jobs, so they study management and try and get on "Grad Schemes". And why wouldn't they? ho wants to get in 20 grand of debt studying Elizabethan culture and the rise of the Roman Empire, to then work in a call centre?

Doing a job well does not matter anymore. Even what it achieves does not matter. What matters is how much you are paid and how rich you are. Period.

Added to this that consequences of doign a job badly are nill (anyone know anybody fired for incompetence? Aside from big executives resigned after being caught defrauding the company, making a complete mess years running).

Doing it well, and being respected by your peers for it does not happen.

We judge success and happiness by the size of bank balance, house, car and flash clothes.

The Protestant Work ethic is dead.
The Fast Buck is how we are.

A Boy Running

Arms and legs pumping
Head lolling
From side to side,
As he is running
No longer fast
Not with any speed
But he keeps moving
Filled with the need

To escape
To flee
To evade

Running on emotion
All energy spent
Tears mingling
With the sweat
Legs heavy
Lungs bursting for breath
A boy running

He hasn’t got there yet

25 May 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Difference is the Distance

The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
The difference between life and death is a breath.
The difference between happy and sad is a smile.
The distance between you and me is not a mile.

The end is the end, is the end in itself

The difference between left and right is only the side.
The difference between old and young is the length of the ride.
The difference between the start and the end is the time.
The distance between you and me is not on a sign.

The end is the end, is the end in itself

The difference between one and the other cannot always be seen.
The difference is, well, you know what I mean.
The difference is what you make it to be;
That is the difference and the distance between you and me.

The end is the end, is the end in itself

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." - Euripides (480-406 B.C.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another Day Begins

And another day begins.

And the alarm goes off so early that it is still dark, wailing away like a bereft and hurt child, before you can club it to silence.

And another day begins.

And you lay there in the dark, caught between the blissful unconsciousness and tired consciousness, between duty to get up and the desire, the deep need to sleep.

And another day begins.

And the alarm goes off again. You club it senseless again, and lie there, with an aching bladder and the foul taste in your mouth. You are awake.

And another day begins.

And the hot water isn’t on yet, and you cut yourself shaving and there are a pile of yesterdays bills among the detritus on the kitchen benches, and the milk is off and the toast is burnt and the kettle boils away to itself, un-notice un-loved and un-wanted.

And outside the rain slashes down and the trees read up to the sky with cold skeletal hands, begging for salvation

And people and buses, and cars and trains hustle and bustle by, sickening keen to start the day

And the cheery, buoyant and above all irritating radio presenters introduces another, sickening, cheery, buoyant, and above all irritating pop song, by another cheery, buoyant and above irritating pop star as you try to get you head straight before you brave your way to work, as;

Another day begins.

Just like all the others, with all the joy the light and life taken out of it.

Another day begins.

With always so much that has to be done, and so little that you want to do.

And another day begins.

To merge with the last, in a sea of grey, bland, memories.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sparrow’s Flight

Out of the darkness,
into the light.
The sparrow’s flight,
takes it

From the cold stormy night,
into the warmth, the heart’s delight.

Weaving, darting, through the rafters,
full of life and joy and laughter,
the little bird flies.

It sings, it sings,
high and clear.
So all around can hear,
the melody of its song.

But all too soon it is gone.
Even as the song’s echo, lingers on.

The bird flies in by a window and out again.
From the dark night and back again.
Within our reason, and beyond our ken.

A few wing beats, a swift flight.

A short burst of song.

For my grandmother, Gwen (1922 – 2007)

Friday, January 26, 2007

The problem with writing poetry in the dark, is that it is like life.

You can only guess at what mark you are making and whether it makes any sense. And even when you are finished you probably cannot see the whole thing.

Like life, you grope for meaning and to create something. But you cannot see what you are doing.

And should you actual see it - it probably is a big mess of condictions.

I write poetry in the dark

I write poetry in the dark, searching for meaning
not seeing, only feeling.
I grope in my enforced blindness for the words; the meaning; for a truth.
I write poetry in the dark, sober or drunk it is a blessing
My fingers or pen connects to the back of my brain and the words and the emotions pour out. A dark, polluted river of thoughts from my soul.
Free from me, unleashed and no longer dammed, contained, constrained.
I write poetry in the dark, a glimmer of light in the nothingness.
The last glowering, glowing embers from my mind and my will.
Battling sleep and fear and worry and necessity;
chiseling out the only time I can.
To be me
I write poetry in the dark, so I am me
for a few stolen minutes
I am me
for a few precious, stolen minutes
I am me
Before sleep takes me