Thursday, May 24, 2007

A different perspective

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows, the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away on the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

From a Railway Carriage - R L Stephenson

The bike is being fixed. Most of that 60 BHP is unusable when only one of the two cylinders is firing. Darn. So I'm travelling by train.

I'm struck by the difference between the quiet town where I start my journey (well, quiet at 8 o'clock anyway) and the noise, dirt and bustle of The City. This makes the return journey all the more pleasant, watching the concrete disappear behind as I head through fields towards home. Ahhh. It's good to be in the middle of the lively atmosphere and amenities offered by The City - but it's great to go home again.

.. gotta be slightly worried about the sign on the station, though: "fast trains pass through the platform". Keep back behind the yellow line? Sounds like you're better off somewhere else entirely!

Monday, May 14, 2007

... and another one opens

First impressions should not be underestimated. I have developed a theory, that you can tell what a company will be like to work for by using their toilets. Thinking back on companies I've worked for, they all lived up to the first impressions I got from their toilets.

OK: this may sound a little mad - but bear with me. I thought back to my interview for the job I've just left. I should have trusted my instincts. I've nothing particularly bad to say about them, but the slightly shabby toilets show the same disregard for the employees that the rest of the company does. It's all about attention to detail. If a company can't even manage to get its toilets looking clean and smart, you've got to wonder about how much effort they'll spend making sure the workers are comfortable. A company that spends the effort to ensure the toilets are well put together and well maintained is more likely to make sure their employees are well looked after.

Today, I found my new work lived up to its toilets. So far, so good ...

Friday, May 11, 2007

One door closes ...

I've got that last-day-at-work malaise. People are being nice to me - which is always off-putting. We've been to the pub for lunch and there's no pressure - but there's something of an anti-climax to today. Not with a bang .. and all that.

I am looking forward to Monday morning - with a mix of eager anticipation and trepidation. Meanwhile, there are presents to wrap and a very-nearly-four-year-old to get calm enough to sleep tonight.

Onwards ...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New Job Titles

Talking of new jobs - which is on my mind from some reason - how's about this lot of trendy job titles? I'm not sure they beat "Technical Solutions Designer", though.

What ever happened to "Software Archaeologist", eh? &e?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em ...

Communication is an underrated skill. This is the conclusion I've come to. And we Brits are not very good at it.

The few OFSTED inspection reports I've read - particularly those for "failing" schools - comment on the quality of communication channels. Clearly, they see this as a key factor in maintaining an effective organisation. I agree wholeheartedly. In my experience, a business can succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to communicate effectively. Among the problems, is the fact that inadequate communications are rarely detected (as the people who run the business don't get to hear about the problem .. a classic gotcher).

It's not that people are not willing to communicate - or necessarily that the company culture is bad. Mostly, it's because different types of people talk different languages. The technical departments often talk themselves blue in the face, warning management of the likely disaster as a result of some business decision. To often, this is in vain as the product management or accountants listening cannot understand the problem. Likewise office staff typically feel dissatisfied with decisions made by their management. This is often due to their lack of understanding of the issues involved.

I'm often struck by how much can be achieved by setting up effective communication channels. In times of stress - when a release is imminent and we're facing the proverbial all-nighter - I have on a few occasions pulled the metaphoric rabbit out of the hat by walking up and down the office all day, passing messages back and forth. It's truly amazing the difference this can make.

What is needed is a translator: a mediator. Someone who can speak to each in language they can understand. How many people do you know with this job function? I can think of none. There's nearly always a requirement for "effective communicator" in any job spec, but this never translates into any real-world responsibility.

So: the solution? Ensure that middle-management do something useful and make sure everyone understands what everyone else is saying. Or hire people who can.

In my new job, I shall be mostly ...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Back to School

My youngest daughter is going to school today. She's 8, so this shouldn't come as a surprise. She's not been to school for three years, however.

We've enjoyed home educating our kids. It's been hard at times, but on the whole it's been a fulfilling experience. We've connected with our kids in a way most parents don't have the chance to.

Our eldest has decided a year ago that she wanted to go back to school. She's made the transition and whilst we have our concerns about her performance, she's doing well. Now the others will start back at school over the next few months. I feel heavy-hearted about this, but feel proud privileged that we took the chance to teach our own kids for a while.

Home educating is a heavy responsibility and is not an easy job. It is worthwhile, however. There are sacrifices, and an adjustment to lifestyle is necessary - but the rewards are beyond calculation.