Tuesday, June 26, 2007
In the last couple of weeks I've run training and started on new projects that have all demonstrated the value effective organisational communication can bring - but all have also shown how communication can be lost in task-orientated organisations.
There is still far too strong a mentality, especially in project work, that sees communication as a 'workstream' - something that can be bracketed off and completed by checklist. It's also an exercise that's undertaken by communicators and conducted once the real decision making has been made.
I'm currently working on a communication strategy document for a project within an organisation that wants to improve the way it manages some of its non-core activity. The project is sound and will deliver a better way to work and some good cost savings - but they've been managing communication in a reactive way, and have been focused on a communication strategy as an end in itself, not a means to an end.
There's already a strategy document, but nobody's using it since it feels like an off-the-shelf where only the names have been changed. Its creation feels like a theoretical exercise rather than something that's actually helping the project team open the right doors, get the right information and come up with something better for the organisation.
As I said when I delivered the latest O2O course last week, I don't believe in a communication strategy. I believe in a well thought out and articulated business strategy and then planning effective communication to help deliver that strategy. That's where I am now: taking the project strategy - which fits directly with the business goals - and why we need to communicate, what we need to say to each group at each stage and how best we can connect with them to ensure the project reaches the right outcome.
My plan probably won't look anything as grand as what the client may be used to, but I hope it will be rather more useful than the beautiful creation that currently sits in the project area, unloved, untouched and unwanted.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
20 years ago, Jac and I looked like this - but on June 13 1987 we actually put on slightly nicer clothes to walk down the aisle at St. Mary's Church in Harefield, Middlesex as husband and wife. Funny enough, the weather was pretty much like today - a sunny morning with heavy rain forecast for the evening. We got through the pictures and all that malarkey in bright sunshine - though we got soaked on the way to the hotel in the evening.
A few days later we were strolling down 5th Avenue in New York and I remember feeling totally elated.
Three kids, nine jobs (me 6, Jac 3), 19 cars and four houses later, we're still rock solid.
It's hard to believe that back then mobile phones were in their infancy, email was a joke and the Internet had yet to be unleashed on the world. I had a 'laptop' that nearly broke my shoulder when I carried it, used a hard-copy library and microfiche to research my articles while working at Which?, and used to post 'Yellow Drafts' - hard copies of draft articles for review by the great and the good - often posting out 20 or 30 copies of an article which would come back a few weeks later with hand-scrawled comments all over them.
Life changes, but today I'm feeling weirdly constant.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
According to a BBC report, Hopkins has failed her probationary period with Britain's weather information service - and the report alludes to the fact that she may have been telling porkies about her salary too.
Hopkins considered being a bitch to be a business virtue - but in a business world where open and honest communication is a prized - though rarely realised - virtue, her Thatcherite, greed-is-goodness seems to have tripped her up big time.
She's had her day in the sun, and going 'kiss n tell' to the News of the World will, I hope, hasten her fall from C list to F list...and, I trust, F-off list.
I was at Grand Designs Live on Sunday and was interviewed on camera for Friction TV - I don't know if my piece is up there, but it's the second time in just a few weeks that someone has come up to me and stuck a camera in my face wanting my opinion. Weirdly it hasn't happened in the previous 43 years of my life, so maybe I'm growing into the face of 'Mr Joe Average'.
Anyway, Grand Designs was a significant disappointment - little to reflect the aspirational, green-tinged delight that is the Channel 4 show, and much more of hundreds of retailers trying to flog very similar looking showers, wood flooring and garden sculptures. Thanks to Nicki at WWF for the tickets - but I'm glad I didn't have to pay.
I don't like the London 2012 Olympics blog czars much either. On their own blog, responding to the launch of the event branding they say:
London 2012 team Says: 7th Jun 07, 7:11
Update: We have received many comments that reflect the tenor of negative comments found elsewhere on the web and often containing offensive language that, for obvious reasons, we cannot publish. Rather than act as an echo chamber we have published a selection here that say something a little different.
They've then printed 18 comments and seemingly closed the debate. I've shared my views - they've been censored. They weren't offensive and were as pertinent as any that have got through the censors. What annoys me hugely is that this is a publicly-funded organisation stamping on open, public debate. Isn't that totally against the spirit of a blog? Isn't it a manipulation of the media?
I do like the BBC this week and spent a couple of hours in Southampton last night locked in a passionate debate about output ranging from Springwatch to Panorama. A few years ago I started facilitating workshops as the BBC was going through a major change programme. Out of that, I got involved in Public Accountability and have ended up on the Regional Audience Council for the South of England. While i think our impact is very limited, it's good to get a chance to debate programmes we have a passionate reaction to with the people who make and broadcast them.
I came out of last night's meeting energised and far more aware of the impact of programming on other viewers and listeners. There's an awful lot wrong with the BBC, but far more right - and I applaud them for their policy of engaging with stakeholders - a nice counterpoint to London 2012 which seems very much on the defensive.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
International businessman and leader of world conglomerates he may be, but as one of Sugar's cronies described him last night, he has 'a small vocabulary, about half of which is composed of swear words'.
Tre talked up his own reputation as a marketing, design and brand consultant - but his own website IDMM does him no favours. It's riddled with typos, grammatical errors and the misuse of language.
Okay, I often type faster than I think, but my cack-handedness very rarely ends up in the client's final version.
Tre, mate, I think you need someone to review your site content - I'd do it myself, just for the laugh!
If you want to know more about it, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So contrast that with the BBC's hit business show - the Apprentice which offered a fascinating semi-final last night.
Now Alan Sugar is not my idea of an Inspirational Manager. He barks and bullies and makes sure everyone knows he's always the boss. I'd hate to be apprenticed to someone whose only idea of the 'right way' is his way.
Last night's round of interviews for the candidates also showed how unprepared they are for management - one, Tre, came out as a loner and a bit of fantasist. What struck me most is how he has clearly been a favoured son, and has been brought up to believe in his own hype. One chap was nice but dull ans there's another real 'Tim nice but dim' through to the final in Simon - definitely a poor finalist from a poor selection of candidates.
The more interesting candidates were Kristina and Katie - definitely the two powers in the competition. Kristina's dogged, bright and clearly ambitious. She's a player with a hard streak - but is positively soft and fluffy when compared to Katie Hopkins who was Sugar's first choice as a finalist - but then stepped down when it finally struck her that winning the competition would mean uprooting to the lovely suburban landscape that is Brentwood. Clearly Katie had no plans to be an Essex girl.
Hopkins is the antithesis of Leary-Joyce's vision of an inspirational manager. Katie's a great relationship builder as long as those relationships are on her terms and will meet her end-game.
We've probably all had the kind of boss who'll climb over anyone's back to ensure they get to the top - and Katie coupled that duplicity with an ability to manage upwards by turning on the charm and the flirtatiousness whenever the situation demanded.
I'm not surprised that Katie is ex-army - she's part of that breed who works hard plays hard and ruthlessly removes any barriers to 'project Katie'.
The thing that amazed me most is that she's a mother to two young daughters - reading the kind of profile she provided in the Met Office's magazine last year pages 8 & 9, and watching her through the 10 weeks of tasks, family simply didn't feature.
And I don't think her family had much to do with her decision to pull out of the final. I don't think she ever had any intention of working for Sugar. Katie was in the game to win: she's been there all along to promote 'project Katie'. I'm sure she'll be successful in that, and we're witnessing the birth of another C list business celebrity a la Ruth Badger and Saira Khan.
What we're not seeing in the birth of a great manager - would you want to work for Katie Hopkins....or for that matter, have her report to you?
The Apprentice is great entertainment, but it's as much about business and management as Alan Sugar is about football - there's a connection, but it's becoming ever more tenuous.