Saturday, 29 December 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Stationery Strategy (6)

So back to reposting old Odanglesex adventures with a few improvements - here the long-running saga of rationaising stationery processes.

ED'S JOB - the blog of Chief Executive Edelbertha Spengler

Hello again! Isn't it marvellous to see all the flowers coming out? It's Spring!!!

When we think of Spring, of course all sorts of things come to mind - lambs, flowers, birds, greenery, summer clothes, finalising accounts and spring cleaning.

Sometimes we collect loads of stuff we don't really need. For example, a recent check of OCC internet activity showed that some employees were registered with seven or more jobsearch sites! When my old grandma, bless her, died, we found her cupboard stacked with 1,823 empty yoghurt pots, and she didn't even eat yoghurt.

My teenage daughter doesn't really "get" spring cleaning, tidying or throwing unimportant things away. So her room is a mountain of stuff and before long if we don't step in she'll be trapped in there, let alone unable to find things she needs in a hurry, though I've no idea what those could be. What's more, she collects stuff that IS useful and forgets and buys more of them and then can't find them.

It's the same with us at work. You've probably seen that we've placed a stop on most stationery orders until we reduce our overstocking without getting into understocking. We need stocking that just fits. Everything should be accessible. So get out there and make use of all that stationery that's mouldering in your offices!

Now I'm just going to write a note to myself on that notepad I found at the bottom of one of my drawers...

FROM: Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision


I really would like to report that I've been able to make progress with the business case for the winding up of the Bank of Odanglesex Lord Pond Commemorative Fund, but I'm being distracted by complaints from junior officers about the stationery situation. It seems that some of them still make use of biros and staplers, and also that mouse mats and other computer accessories are categorised as stationery, along with printer cartridges. Hamish Carpenter has attempted to second-guess the A4Page analysis of our stationery reserves and he claims that at least three-quarters of them consist of items hardly now used if at all, such as bottles of tippex, indiarubbers and even tracing paper.

Would it be acceptable just to dump some of this stuff and then request a reassessment of our reserves?

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Neil Balderson

Sorry, Neil, your ingenious suggestion is against our Business Procedures Manual and also our Green Odanglesex Charter.

FROM: Magog Jones, Director of Transportation and Settlement

TO: Germaine Custer, Director of Children Transformation

O.K. Gerry, it's a deal. 1,500 boxes of standard size staples for thirteen packets of A3 copier paper with one magnifying glass thrown in.

FROM: Kay Farmer, Head of Member Services

TO: Edelbertha Spengler


Given the absence of notebooks and of recording devices, do you think members will notice if the Oversight of Garden Walls and Hedges meeting isn't minuted for a few months?

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: Lord Pond's Credit Card

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence, Strategic Vision and Directional Signposting

TO: Edelbertha Spengler, OBN, Chief Executive


Just to alert you that a Right to Know request has come in from Cllr Makepeace of the Undrezing First group on the Council for a full breakdown of Cllr Pond's expenses on his OCC credit card while he was Leader. I've had one of my people conducting an overview of the available information and there may be one or two items that could give the wrong impression.


FROM: Edelbertha Spengler
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob.

Thanks, Kenneth. Like what?

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO; Edelbertha Spengler

Like, unfortunately, to cynical people, that he might have been funding from public money expenses which were not fully justified in the public interest.

FROM: Edelbertha Spengler
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob

No, which items might be questioned?

FROM: Edelbertha Spengler
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob

Kenneth - many thanks for coming to see me in response to my request. I agree the visit to Bali with eight friends seems a bit borderline. Is Bali doing anything particularly exciting and innovative in local government? Perhaps you could put a policy officer or two on to this.

As for the golf course, I can see this being criticised, but we had the advice of the Council's Health at Work Advisor and the Head of Emergency Planning and Rational Decision-making under Abnormal Circumstances. The former advised that the health of the Leader would suffer if he could not play golf regularly and the latter advised that as the Leader of such a large and high-profile authority might well be a terrorist target, the only way of him playing golf safely was to buy him his own golf course. I am informed that we are now taking steps to open the course to the general public on appropriate payment being made.

No, I don't think it's necessary to commission any research on Cllr Makepeace. Bill Wayneflete says he knows him rather well.



Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Message

I would like to share with you all the immortal words of the Panamanian Christmas Song:

I wish you a merry isthmus
I wish you a merry isthmus
I wish you a merry isthmus
And a crappy new year!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Why I am not a Centrist

Recently U.K.Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has made two major speeches (one at the party conference in September, the other this month on welfare reform) in which he has made a great deal of the virtue of being in the political centre.

To me, there is neither virtue nor sin attached to being in the centre; and the centre has never been where I though I was. On particular issues, yes of course, it can happen that the right, just or practical solution is about halfway between two other proposals put forward by opposing groups. On occasion though, one extreme is right. Imagine, say, a political leader, possibly a Liberal, saying, "On one hand there are the Fascists. On the other hand we have the democrats. We are halfway between the two, rejecting the extremism of both camps, so we must be right." A particular difficulty about being in the middle by firm preference, rather than by chance, is that the middle is defined by where the extremes are. So if someone on the right, say, or the anti-environmentalist side, or whatever duality you're looking at, moves their group way to the right or whatever, the centre moves right and you must move right with it. This gives remarkable power to extremists!

The more cynical centrists, such as the court around Tony Blair when he led the Labour Party, jink right or left to make sure that a majority of voters are nearer to their position than to the position of their main opponents. The less cynical ones are puppets just as much.

If you run through major political philosophers, you'll find some who defined themselves as conservatives, monarchists, nationalists, Christian democrats, liberals, social democrats, socialists, anarchists - but not centrists, unless you count Popper as a centrist, and I would suggest he's outside the right-left spectrum.This is because centrism is not a political philosophy at all: it's either a political tactic (stay in the middle and you'll win elections) or amounts to little more than a belief in negotiation, diplomacy, the rule of law, caution - things many people clearly not in the centre also believe to be generally a good idea.

Political parties need passion. How can you be a passionate centrist?

The old, pre-merger Liberal Party constitution said Liberals "in all things, put freedom first". That sounds quite extreme. That party was often willing to take flak proposing things that seemed way out at the time. A party sharing in power will necessarily be more selective about that, but need not lose its soul.

But where is that soul? At one time I would have said quite confidently that it lay in a combination of individual liberty, support for community and individual empowerment through free collective action (active citizenship) and fairness (equality). I still think that's the essence of Liberalism (plus environmental responsibility), and distinguishes leftish Liberal Democrats, despite snide remarks from Nick Clegg's court, from social democrats, who have more faith in a centralist state and less interest in small-group action. But the second quality in particular seems to have been forgotten by many and that, together with a debasing of community politics so that it becomes local party campaigning without any idea of empowerment, may explain why a belief in the rightness of being in the centre (as opposed to being in the centre on some key issues but not on others) has gained so much ground despite its essential emptiness.

The heart is still there, but beating uncertainly.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Stationery Strategy (5)

The paper trail goes on...

FROM: Brett West, Head of Modernisation and Business Practice

TO: All Directors and Heads of Service

The implementation of the Agile Stationery Strategy has been impressive and with 93% of ordering officers now trained by Piers, Gaveston, Edwards, the small teething problems over ordering should now be a thing of the past. However, the next quantum leap is to change the nature of our relationship with stationery. On our transformational journey towards the paperless office, OCC should have far less need of hard copy stationery.

Early indications are that our expenditure on stationery is some 62% above what an agile modern organisation of our size should need. Moreover, as some units have been complaining that they are unable to execute orders, overcoming these technical blips will mean expenditure on stationery orders strays further from the optimum. An admittedly impressionistic impression is that stationery reserves are still more extensive than we need, indicating some orders are unnecessary and that valuable space is being employed in a suboptimal fashion. Consequently consultants commissioned from A4Page will be visiting offices during the next five weeks to scope the size of stationery reserves in all directorates.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Senior Transformational Excellence Officer

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision


Yesterday Mike and Reema came into the office and found a man with a visitor badge apparently stealing stationery. They blocked his exit and called security who arrived and summoned the police. The police have now informed us the man worked for A4Page and was employed to check stationery reserves. I subsequently had a rather unpleasant call from Brett West saying I should have knowwn about this and we've undermined the positive and aspirational partnership relationship with A4Page.

I dodn't know we had a relationship with them or that a stationery check was in process. Is that correct?

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: All Transformational Excellencew and Strategic Vision


I thought you should know about the spot checks described by Brett West in the attached memo. This is a milepost on our Agile Stationery Strategy journey.

FROM: Brett West

TO: All Directors and Heads of Unit

Following the checks carried out for us by A4Page, it has become clear that current stationery reserves in all Directorates and Enhanced Capability Units except Chief Executive's exceed levels set in the Agile Stationery Strategy by 29 - 104%. Ed has therefore agreed to place a stop on all stationery orders for the next six months except for Chief Executive's and Member Services.

to be continued and concluded...

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Stationery Strategy (4)

Onwards and upwards with Odanglesex's transformation of its stationery operation. As usual, this is a repost with one or two changes (one change, in fact).

FROM: Conor O'Connor, Director of Human Resources Development

TO: Brett West, Head of Modernisation and Business Practice

Brett -

It was unfortunate that the last module of the Supersmart ordering training could not be delivered because the Supersmart order for the training from Piers, Gaveston, Edwards had not been completed. I'm afraid the failure was in our Directorate, so we'll hold our hands up. Verity Casement and Martin House can be booked as they achieved an above average satisfaction rating on the feedback forms, but unfortunately booking them on a once-off basis will be more expensive. Please cascade.

FROM: Conor O'Connor

TO: Lisa Contractor, PA to Conor O'Connor


I messed up that Supersmart order. Could you be at my shoulder when I do it next?


FROM: Naomi McNeish, Children's Team Co-ordinator (Mid-West)

TO: Maori Sheepshed, Assistant Director of Children's Services (Children)


We're out of postits. We're out of biros except for green ones. We're out of highlighters. We're out of A4 for the printer and photocopier and as you appreciate, some documentation is still not accepted unless in hard copy form. Supersmart insists I don't exist and I'm beginning to believe it. As I'm the budget holder no-one else can order this stuff and we're now at a point that Mid-West cannot function properly.

Can you help?

FROM: Maori Sheepshed

TO: All Children's Team Co-ordinators

Please note that from 28th April for an experimental four months, Mid-West and Far West's infrastructure services will operate as a single unit. This should deliver efficiency gains. There are at present no staffing implications.

FROM: Magog Jones, Director of Transportation and Settlement

TO: Simeon Lascelles, Director of Spatial Exploration and Direction Management


In the whole of T&S, I am reliably told, there is not a single staple other than those already inserted in sheets of paper. Some officers are even resorting to extracting the used staples and trying to reuse them. We have, however, a surfeit of mouse-mats (the computer sort, I assume) following the latest round of redundancies.

One of my spies was recently in your core team's office and observed copious supplies of packets of staples. I understand you're taking on five new staff. Could we exchange some of your staples for our mouse-mats?




In principle, yes. However, we have a problem in that the staples ordered do not fit any staplers in our office. Do you have any X33U2 staplers?

This one will run and run...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Stationery Strategy (3)

Odanglesex continues to fast-track its stationery operations into the 21st century with some slight hitches, and I repeat the old posts with a few changes.

FROM: Rob Methuen, Business Transformation Consultant

TO: Brett West, Head of Modernisation and Business Practice

cc: Goneril Hayes, Head of Information Management


You asked me to report on progress towards the total enablement target for Supersmart engagement, and in particular its contribution to the Agile Stationery Strategy.

There's good news and bad news.

The good news is that one module of the enablement target has been hit. Since there are no admin officers left except those directly attached to Directors, 94.4% of Supersmart orders are now committed by the responsible officers, exceeding the target of 90% comfortably.

The bad news is that there have been a number of teething problems with officers not yet fully proficient in Supersmart. The "urban myth" you referred to, that a Head of Service had ordered 7,000 sandwiches instead of 7,000 hours of consultancy time, is sadly correct. It should, however, be noted that the sandwiches were considerably cheaper than the consultants. There have also been a number of complaints from officers who had not appreciated the need for security reasons to change their passwords every four days and are consequently being locked out and deleted. Senior officers are complaining that they are taking far longer to execute an order than the admin officers did, and Magog Jones has calculated that as he's paid five times more than the admin officer was and he's taking approximately three times as long to execute the order, the new system is fifteen times more expensive than the old.

I calculate that it cost the council £529:16.8 for Magog to make that calculation and have drawn his attention to this.

The above has led to a further distortion. As a minority of officers are in fact proficient in Supersmart, some units are indulging in financial sleight of hand so a competent officer can make orders for others, or are even giving that officer their passwords so he or she can impersonate them on the system.

One further issue was brought to my attention. I mention it here though it's not properly within my remit. Three officers who required small items were disappointed that the approved suppliers' prices on Supersmart exceeded the prices in WH Smith by up to 34%, and argued for discretion to buy.

FROM: Brett West
TO: Rob Methuen
cc: Goneril Hayes

Thanks, Rob. Teething problems are to be expected. Our procurement arrangements through Supersmart are devised to maximise value for money, so no departures can be permitted. It is disappointing that some officers do not appreciate the need for security. The perfomance on Supersmart of some senior officers is also disappointing. I will be speaking to Conor and Ed about whether this can be made a criterion within Advanced Performance Evaluation and also about addressing these shortcomings through training.

Where did the sandwiches go?

FROM: Conor O'Connor
TO: All Directors and Heads of Service


In order to make the next step change towards implementation of our Agile Stationery Strategy and the concomitent Agile Services Strategy, Agile Premises Strategy and Agile Consultants Strategy, all officers on Supersmart are required to attend two-day Supersmart ordering training commencing 1 April. The training will start with the most senior officers below Director level and proceed downwards over the life of the programme.

The nomination form is attached. I stress that no exceptions will be allowed.

FROM: Reema Narlikar, Transformational Excellence Officer
TO: Scott Fitzwilliam, Transformational Excellence Officer


What's this rumour that Brett West was seen selling sandwiches???

Friday, 7 December 2012

Wisdom must reckon on the unforseen

The above paradox is quoted by G.K. Chesterton in the very first of the Father Brown detective stories and attributed to (Edgar Allen) Poe. There was another American who talked about known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns. I actually think his formulation was quite neat, unlike his legacy.

Poe was right.

Occasionally in this blog I depart from questions of political philosophy and suchlike to talk about something serious - birdwatching. A few days ago I went on a longish walk along our local river, the Stour, which for much of its course forms the Essex/Suffolk border. I was in the attractive area known as Dedham Vale, crossing damp meadows by a path close to the river, and was due a stop for coffee and sandwich. I found a suitable just-about-fallen willow and sat down. There were large black-and-white (Frisian?) cows nearby. As I ate and drank, one cow approached close. I guarded my food. I did not think there was any point in guarding the other things I'd put down. Putting the sandwich box away, I looked up to see the cow making off with my binoculars dangling from its mouth by the strap. As the river was close, a disaster was possible.

Fortunately my yell caused the cow to drop the binoculars, and on grass, not in the water.

Never underestimate cows.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Stationery Strategy (2)

On with Odanglesex's state-of-the-art stationery ordering, another reposted and tweaked Odanglesex adventure, the second in the series on moving stationery into the 21st century through innovative direction management.

FROM:Dale Brashcon, Transformational Excellence Champion
TO: Douglas Black, Performance Networking Consultant
cc: Albert Doxe, Transit Facility Manager

No, Douglas, I didn't order 200 barrels of cleaning fluid through Supersmart. I ordered 200 black biros.

FROM: Douglas Black
TO: Dale Brashcon


The Supersmart code is definitely for barrels of cleaning fluid and the supplier will enforce payment. Albert is asking where we should put them as he understands he is about to have to find space for a large number of cocks removed from offices under our time management initiative.

FROM: Douglas Black
Douglas Black wishes to recall this message.

FROM: Douglas Black
TO: Dale Brashcon

Sorry, clocks.

FROM: Dale Brashcon
TO: Douglas Black


Henry Donaldson in Hamish's team tells me he knows a man. I'm not sure if his wife is aware of this (JOKE!!!). Anyway, I'll sign off the payment as I have no alternative and this guy Daley Arthur will collect them.

FROM: Douglas Black
TO: Dale Brashcon


Unless Daley Arthur is a registered beneficiary or partnership collaborator under IAMS(QV16), Albert won't release the barrels to him. It's in standing orders.

FROM: Dale Brashcon
TO: Brett West, Head of Modernisation and Business Practice

Brett -

Could you get your guys to fast-track the attached registration form for Daley Arthur Enterprises? This is an essential strategic milepost in the time management initiative.

Many thanks


Friday, 30 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Stationery Strategy (1)

More reposted Odanglesex adventures with a few tweaks

FROM: Conor O'Connor, Director of Human Resources Development

TO: All Directors


In order to implement the next step change in our transformational journey to a lean, multicapablity business, the internal review of administrative support has concluded that OCC can save at least 250K by abolishing all admin posts except for those attached to Directors. As officers become more agile and adept at multi-tasking, the traditional admin support role is increasingly redundant, which is what we're making them.

The step change footfall date is 31.3.2012.

FROM: Brett West, Head of Modernisation and Business Practice

TO: All Directors and Heads of Unit
cc: Goneril Hayes, Head of Information Management

In line with Conor's e-mail about the transformation of administrative officers, and with the Agile Stationary Strategy, Directors and Heads of Unit should be aware that from 23.3.2012 it will be incumbent on all directorates and units to manage procurement of all items without support of dedicated admin officers. Since nearly 20% of officers are already registered as Procurers with Supersmart, transiting should not be onerous. However, I draw your attention, for trickle-down, to the Supersmart Procurer Registration procedure and guidance briefing, both available under Business Services on the Infranet.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: Brett West


Stationery, I think?

FROM: Dale Brashcon

TO: All Transformational Excellence

Wow! New challenges come thick and fast! Isn't it FUN!

The latest is making ourselves all experts in Supersmart so we can all order pens and conference rooms and sandwiches and consultancy work - if we need them, of course!

Lucy Leaman has come up with an especially exciting idea which I'm sure will have you all on the edge of your seats (if you still have seats - JOKE!) and it's this: we have a competition in Transformational Excellence to see who can become proficient at all levels of Supersmart first. I've OKd with Brett and Goneril that they'll join with Neil as judges and the prize will be an OCC-enabled Blackberry. 100 lines for anyone who says anything about fruit.

FROM: Silesia Jones, Equality Consultant
TO: Reema Narlikar, Transformational Excellence Officer


Rumour has it you're brilliant at this Supersmart thing. I can't get the hang of it and although Mavis is still around, she's spending most of her time making paper aeroplanes because apparently she's got a job in airport security at West Anglia Airport. Could you possibly drop round?

Grovelling thanks


To be ongoing...

Monday, 26 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Workers (3)

The last episode of how Oganglesex's employees became more agile, reposted and slightly changed.

FROM: Hilary Hannah, Human Resources Excellence Consultant

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

cc: Eustace Ojukwu, Human Resources Excellence Consultant

Kenneth: I attach the full report on TESV's piloting of an aspirational head:seat ratio within OCC's Agile Working Strategy. The summary report is as follows (please let me know if you'd like to raise any points before it goes to Ed and Cllr Wayneflete).

Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision has achieved the aspirational target of 1 seat to 2.51 heads within a challenging timescale. The actual ratio at the time of writing is 1:2.56. This demonstrates that the target is achievable across the Council. The achievement deserves congratulation.

However, the anticipated efficiency economies have not been attained: in fact, only 9.6% of the anticipated saving has been achieved to date. While power costs are down thanks to officers working from home and relying on home power supplies, none of the extra space vacated has generated income. To put it colloquially, other organisations don't want to be housed in County Hall. One VCS chief executive said his customers finding the organisation at County Hall would be "a lingering death" and then corrected himself to "not necessarily lingering". Unfortunately this ungenerous response is not untypical and all possible out-stations had already been closed, generating extra mileage expenses as officers had to travel to distant locations from County Hall.

Other difficulties include feedback by Callboysandgirls Call Centre that there has been a 72% increase in phones not being answered and low use of home computers and mobile devices because of Council security requirements. In particular, conversion of devices is taking an average five weeks, two days, seven hours, sixteen minutes and employees are showing marked reluctance to delete their existing home internet security in favour of the MaxiPlus Platinum Plated Worldwide Security package.

Feedback from employees is mixed. Many enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to work from home more, but in some cases have been frustrated by internet security issues. A significant minority find the lack of a personal space at work disorienting and there are also a small number of reported problems in individuals achieving a positive working environment at home. One of these involved a keyboard being immobilised by baby sick. There have also been some problems, which are being investigated, of disability access issues being unresolved.

It is too early to tell whether the changeover has led to increased efficiency in TESV.

Hilary Hannah
Eustace Ojukwu.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO; Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager

Neil: I'm not happy about this report. It needs some polishing before it goes to Ed and Bill Waynflete. Could you drop in asap for a brief discussion and then liaise with Hilary and Eustace?

FROM: Eustace Ojukwu
TO: Neil Balderson

Hi! Here's the revised version.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive

Ed: Here's the report from the HR consultants on our Agile Workers step change. The summary is as follows:

Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision has achieved the aspirational target of 1 seat to 2.51 heads within a challenging timescale. The actual ratio at the time of writing is 1:2.53. All employees are to be congratulated.

Savings of £539,000 pa can be projected if the savings pathway of the first months is projected till the year end. Energy costs are down and space within County Hall has been freed up. All working from home and in transit has been brought in line with Council security requirements and there have been no breeches.

A clear majority of TESV employees have welcomed the opportunity to become Agile and work more from home. A problem in a small number of cases of access difficulties to flexible working work stations has been addressed.

The transformation is on course to deliver greater efficiency and customer responsiveness.

Eustace Ojukwu
Hilary Hannah, Human Resources Excellence Consultants

FROM: Cllr Bill Wayneflete, Leader of the Council

TO; Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive

Ed: Thanks for the report on Agile Working. I'd like to raise two points.

First, unless our employees are trouserless, which does from personal observation apply to a minority but not to all, it should be "breaches", not "breeches".

Second, how does this Agile Workers thing tally with us doubling the charge to use the gym?


Friday, 23 November 2012

That can't be a coincidence...

Men are supposed to approach tasks single-mindedly, bludgeoning them until they die (the task or the man) while women keep several balls (of the shiny, coloured sort) in the air at the same time and multi-task.

Actually, I like multi-tasking. I even read two or three books at the same time (not at precisely the same time, but almost: on a train journey or in a waiting-room I'll read two or three pages of book A and then switch to book B). I was doing this on a train yesterday. The two books were Margaret Attwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" and David Nobbs' "It Had to Be You". I read a couple of pages of Attwood: the Commander asked the Handmaid to play scrabble with him and she did. I picked up the Nobbs. James, having been drinking a lot, disappointed his girlfriend and they played scrabble instead.


Of course not. There are endless possibilities of such coincidences occurring between two books. It might have been playing chess, thinking about an accident with some paint, realising you've acquired a flea, remembering a performance of a Bruckner symphony, farting, meeting someone from Ecuador, eating bland cheese...or, indeed, farting at a Bruckner concert with someone from Ecuador after eating bland cheese.

Funny, even so.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Workers (2)

Back to that exemplar local authority, Odanglesex County Council, and its Agile Workers - another reposted adventure with maybe a few subtle changes.

Odanglesex County Council wants agile, flexible workers and has set a target head:seat ratio. How are they getting on?

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

Hamish - could you drop into my office at 3:30 to discuss our response to the Intelligent Procurement draft?

FROM: Hamish Carpenter

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob

Kenneth: slight problem. I'm working from home to help reach our flexible working target. I could only drop into your office if I left immediately to catch the train.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Hamish Carpenter

Great. Really appreciate it. See you.

FROM: Melina Dunkley, Human Resources Excellence Advisor

TO: Dale Brashcon, Senior Transformational Excellence Champion

Dale: My fly-on-the-wall monitoring of your unit's flexible working performance raised just a few issues, as follows:

(1): High proportion of phones not being answered (61%). When phones not the employee's own were picked up, the employee often did not know whose phone it was and was not au fait with that officer's business.
(2): Competition over storage spaces has left Scott Fitzwilliam, who was on leave during the changeover, without any personal space and he is currently sharing Reema Narlikar's personal space.
(3): One keyboard with broken legs and a deficient tab key has been migrating around the room for three weeks as anyone finding him/herself in front of it is moving it to whatever work station is unoccupied.
(4): Set-up times are mostly within HR's target, but vary considerably. Some tasks are common - for example, entering the digits necessary to activate the phone, adjusting the chair, computer set-up and repositioning any hard copy resources needed from storage to desk; but some are not essential. Henry Donaldson has the longest average set-up in your unit, at 10:16, and a significant element in this at 1:52 is locating his photos of his wife and children in his briefcase and transferring them to the desk.

ED'S JOB - the Chief Executive's blog

Hi! It's me again!

We all have dear loved ones we like to keep in mind. If you don't, well, I expect you've got a cat or a hyacinth. I've got a husband, three children, a dog, a cat, an aged mother and a tortoise, but I haven't got a hyacinth.

Life isn't just about work. We need to reserve a space for personal relations, as I do.

However, when we're working towards the marvellous, lean, proactive, holistic future we all see for Odanglesex County Council, we do all need to keep our minds on the job. That's why I'm sure you'll understand the new rule banning all personal photos from County Hall. However, I know some people may find this hard and I do feel for them, so the attached instructions will enable you to print off pictures of the Chairman of the Council, the Leader or myself or that wonderful photo of myself and Odanglesex's favourite comedian Sammie Drivell hugging and place them in the frames we're providing so these will be a permanent feature of your workstations.

I'm really looking forward to getting mine! Cheerio.

The third and last episode of Agile Workers will see a much-anticipated report written for Councillor Wayneflete...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Some Central American country has had an election

Some central American country has had a presidential election and the incumbent, widely characterised in the U.S.A. as a socialist despot, has been returned.

I am of course talking about the U.S.A., not Venezuela.

A lot of people have discussed and analysed the result of the Obama - Romney contest, often perceptively. I'm not going to second-guess them, but just look at three things.

First, commentators keep saying certain states - especially Ohio - are key determinants. We should remember that the political balance in most states is constantly changing, both because of changes within that state such as a decline of heavy industry or an influx of prosperous retirees or Latino immigrants, and because the nature of the Democrat/Republican divide is always shifting. Social-economic factors probably count for less, and questions of social attitude for more, than they did not long ago, which may account for states like West Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee moving away from the Democrats while Virginia, Colorado and California move towards them. Not so long ago California was a crucial marginal state and any Democrat not easily winning West Virginia was in big trouble. Of all Obama's wins, Ohio was the second closest: he could have won quite easily without it and a tiny shift would have meant just that, so the comfortable wisdom that Ohio always decides it may be on the way out.

Secondly, observing how close the results were in Florida and Ohio (a swing to the Republicans of 0.5% would have won them Florida, and a swing of 1% in Ohio would have been enough) I wondered if despite Obama's eventual healthy lead in the popular vote (misrepresented by many commentators commenting before the big Democratic votes of California and the other Pacific seaboard states were counted) Romney might actually have won on a tiny shift. However, a closer look dispelled this impression. Because Obama hoovered up (Roosevelted up?) states like Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as small states like New Hampshire and Nevada, he could have won without either Ohio or Florida. The next closest state in Obama's column was Virginia, and there a 1.5% swing would have been needed. Even that would have left Obama the winner. To lose he would have had to surrender all those first three states plus the fourth closest win for him, Colorado - and that would have required a 2.4% swing to the Republicans and for Romney to win the state while his comrades were losing control of the state legislature.

Thirdly, I thought about the choices of running mates. Both seemed questionable. Romney, like McCaine a moderate Republican, like McCaine assuaged his party's carnivores with a hard-line running-mate. McCaine probably thought his choice a stroke of genius with woman voters angry at Obama for defeating their champion Hilary: in fact Palin was a liability. Governor Ryan of Wisconsin is a less ignorant hard-liner, but he couldn't even carry his own quite marginal state and as for motivating Republican hard-liners, they surely so hated Obama that they would have voted anyway; while the idea of Ryan a heartbeat from the presidency disturbed moderates.

No such concern hangs around the veteran foreign-policy specialist long-time senator Joe Biden. However, the reasons why he seemed a good choice for Obama's running-mate in 2008 seemed to count for less this time. He brought experience to balance Obama's inexperience - but whatever you think of Obama, he certainly had a lot more experience by 2012! Biden brought age to balance youth - but by 2012 grey-haired Obama seemed more than four years older! He brought "blue-collar" (working-class) credibility to the rather academic and unearthy Obama running against a populist war hero - but although this still counted, in 2012 Obama was running against a Mormon millionaire and blue-collar voters might have been less inclined to defect. Biden's state, Delaware, is tiny and safely Democratic. Obama could have approached a Marine veteran Virginia senator, for example, but he stuck with Biden, who could have been offered the Secretaryship of State Hilary Clinton has said she's vacating. Maybe he was right, because most people thought Biden ran rings round Ryan in their debate.

Do you get the impression I'm fascinated by the politics of this obscure central American country? Well, I am, and frustrated too by the gridlocks and the power of vested interests. Maybe it needs an American invasion to sort things out.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Workers (1)

Back to reposting slightly improved - or worsened - Odanglesex County Council adventures - this one on Agile Working!

FROM: Simeon Lascelles, Director of Spatial Exploration and Direction Management
TO: All Directors

cc: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive



A recent study by Gomez Pertwee Associates shows that the seat/head ratio in local government can be reduced to 1:2.93 recurring without impacting in a negative direction of travel on service delivery standard attainment levels. We currently stand at 1:1.41. Ed has asked me to task you all with producing business plans by the month end to reduce your head/seat ratios to at least 1:2.43 recurring. Cllr Wayneflete is showing a personal interest in this issue.

I attach a presentation by Gert Offenbach of Gomez Pertwee to a recent seminar in Bruges. Conor (on Human Resources Development's contribution) and I will be happy to field any queries as appropriate.


FROM: Magog Jones, Director of Transportation and Settlement
TO: Simeon Lascelles

Simeon, could we have that presentation in English, please? My Serbo-Croat is a bit rusty.

Most of us have one head, one seat.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: All Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

These are interesting times - exciting times, indeed, and I know you all share my excitement at the opportunity to beacon our enthusiasm for agile working in TESV so that our transformational pilot can be showcased across OCC and the public services commissioning community worldwide as a directional excellence exemplar.

We all know that agile workers are the future. We need to bring the future forward to the present. This is not just about Flexible Working, important though that is. Instead of the static employee tied to a one to one relationship with an inflexible workspace, we can embrace innovatory work delivery modes such as working from home, maximising use of agile equipment such as the Blackberry and Smartphone and flexible workspace management within office usage parameters.

Yesterday at the Heads of Units meeting we looked at some of the ways we can leap ahead on agile working and I am confident that this Directorate is not only going to meet the corporate target of 1:2.43 recurring with all mileposts, but exceed it. We've therefore agreed for TESV a target of 1:2.51 and I'm looking forward to meeting with Simeon and his team on Friday to materialise specifics.

FROM: Magog Jones

TO: Alex Knollys, Head of Transportational Direction Management


As your lot are on the road most of the time, and when they're not, don't need to sit at desks much, and I've checked with Spatial Exploration that for the purposes of the dreaded ratio, vehicle seats don't count, you've no need to worry because you've hit the target already.

(Now how is the authority's seat reduction strategy going to work out in practice? All will in due course be revealed...)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

What is government for?

During a BBC TV news item about the US presidential election, after the result so a bit reflective, a Republican voter, interviewed, said, more or less:

"If you believe that government's about helping people, then Obama's OK, but if you believe government's about helping people to help themselves, you worry...". This sounded quite thoughtful and the idea that government's main role is enabling (helping people to help themselves) appeals a lot to a British Liberal.

But first of all, even by Abraham Lincoln's quite narrow definition of the role of government (doing what people can't do for themselves) by any realistic analysis there is a substantial role for government, especially if you admit things that are clearly, in the best interests of people in general, done by government at some level (policing, for example: many people could instead protect themselves, but the cost in violent deaths would be horrendous and the weak and poor would be least able to protect themselves).

The idea that everybody can pull himself or herself up by his/her own bootstraps is traditionally American, but flourished when the constantly moving Frontier made such self-improvement much more achievable for people who started with nothing. If you really want to enable everyone, then some people need a help up until they're in a position to make choices and help themselves. In Britain, for example, the last Labour government laid down a minimum wage by law. It was and is pretty low, but some people were being paid below it and at that level their choices and ability to help themselves were extremely limited. Some business organisations warned that the minimum wage would drive down employment, but that didn't seem to happen. The minimum wage would look to some Americans like classic socialism; but from a libertarian point of view, what individual liberty was reduced by it? The individual liberty of those paid a bit more was increased.

Undoubtedly there is a trap of coming to rely on government to fix everything. It can't, and if it could, it shouldn't. But a trap on the opposite side is to see the alternative purely in terms of individual (or at most family) initiative. Some things can't be fixed by any individual and may not be best left to government, but are fixable by relatively small numbers of people freely banding together - a community, a society, an action group. So one of the key questions for government at any level should be, "How can government encourage and assist community and other free collective action?"

Obama was a community organiser. I suspect he understands that. Our Prime Minister David Cameron did understand that, but his "Big Society" has vanished under pressure from the economic slump, the defecit reduction programme and unimaginative civil servants who saw his agenda purely in terms of getting former public services provided by charities (which themselves might be more top-down and no better at involving volunteers than the statutory organisations).

We shouldn't give up that easily.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Winter visitors

Last weekend but one I saw my first winter thrushes of the season. Anyone in the U.K. or Ireland with a slight interest in birds will know what I'm talking about - the large, noisy, gregarious, nervous Fieldfare and the small, inconspicuous. less nervous or gregarious Redwing. Finns or Norwegians might be puzzled because they have these birds in summer and they nearly all leave in the autumn. Americans have the same kind of migration but different species.

Why's it so special? In spring a birder is looking out for masses of different species coming in and they all have their typical times - Wheatear from late March, Willow Warbler from early April, Cuckoo in the third week of April, Swift in the first third of May and so on. In winter the number of species arriving is smaller unless you count all the shore birds which breed from Northern England to the high Arctic, and they start coming as early as late July when we're still convinced we're in summer. Those two thrushes are the most obvious and numerous of the land passerines (perching birds) that act as a sign of approaching winter.

They arrive in urgent, hyperactive flocks, eager to feed. They spread out to favoured habitats and when winter comes, if there are harsh conditions they move on again or find a special source of food such as a garden with many berries, or they die.

I love the sense of change, of movement in autumn. Nothing represents that better than the winter thrushes.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: Vital Statistics (3)

The conclusion of the reposted adventure of Odanglesex County Council and the Statistical Unit. This is of course fiction. Fact is stranger than fiction.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision
TO: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive
cc: Conor O'Connor, Director of Human Resources Development


Transportation and Settlement are arguing, perhaps a little combatively, that our new Statistical Unit overlaps with the Statistical Services and Processes function currently placed in that directorate under Neville Potts. It is clear that our statistical work needs direction management and a coherent approach to deliver the Council's objectives.

Would you agree that the following would be the best way of resolving this little problem?

* A new post of Head of Statistical Strategy and Numerological Transformation be created on K2(P2), one grade above Margot Outforle's current post and two above Neville Potts', the position to be advertised internally;
* The current posts held by Margot and Neville to be abolished and a post of Assistant Head to be created at K2(P1);
* The two units be combined under the leadership of the new Head of SS and NT with the loss of one K2(MO3);
* The new unit to be placed in the Chief Executive's unit and to be line managed by myself in my role as Assistant Chief Executive and not as Director of TE&SV?

FROM: Edelbertha Spengler
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob

Kenneth: Conor thinks we could shave off a K2(M4) as well. Otherwise, fine.

FROM: Conor O'Connor
TO: Edelbertha Spengler

Ed: Sorry you couldn't get back in time from the Local Government Excellence in Transformation Awards ceremony because of choppy water in the Solent. Just to let you know that the panel offered the post of Head of Statistical Strategy and Numerological Transformation to Margot Outforle and she has accepted. Neville Potts has turned down the Assistant post and is taking voluntary redundancy: we will need to reinstate the process to appoint to that post.

There wasn't much between the two of them on written applications or interview, but Margot won heads down on the presentational task. As you'll recall, it was to present a report on "Odanglesex in 2030: a Statistical Approach". Margot's demonstration of the implications of a continued increase at the current rate of golf courses was very well received. Neville, by contrast, lost marks by discounting statistics from Spamby Island on the grounds that climate change would have resulted in its disappearance by 2030, since Councillor Sillitoe-Heald pointed out that our official position is that climate change is a statistical blip; and his projection of the numbers of Bangladeshis leaving Wenham to settle in Odanglesex was vigorously disputed by Councillor Broadthwaite in terms he really had no answer to.

Councillor Broadthwaite was also concerned that Neville's calculation of his likelihood of being a car thief came out at 2.25%, 0.55% higher than the result from Scunthorpeshire. He asked, "Are you saying that if there were fifty Adam Broadthwaites, one of them would be a car thief?". Neville's reply was, "No, councillor. Almost certainly something in the region of nought to five, though." Enough said.


FROM: Edelbertha Spengler
TO: Margot Outforle

Margot - congrats on your new job! Could you do a guest blog next week - perhaps with some interesting statistics that would be meaningful to most of our employees? Say anything you like, starting with how excited you are to be taking on your new responsibilities and what a wonderful place to work Odanglesex County Council is.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dying to speak

I've just finished reading a book about the European revolutions of 1989, when Communist regimes crumbled one after one in Eastern and central Europe. I lived through that period, albeit in a Western democracy, and the account revived memories. As a History graduate, it struck me very strongly that nothing like this had happened anywhere since the European revolutions of 1848, which were spread by railways above all else (and those of 1989 by TV and radio, while the "Arab Spring" was hugely influenced by the internet. The 1848 revolutionaries' successes were mostly very short-lived. While many of the new governments ran into trouble and people became disillusioned, none of the countries involved have returned to anything like the old system and in all of them except Romania democracy seems reasonably secure.

People faced hounding from their jobs (OK, not to unemployment, but a professor could end up as a cleaner), were imprisoned, beaten up and killed for their beliefs and their refusal to give up. Families were deliberately and insidiously wrecked.

So those of us who never had to risk death or disgrace to speak our mind or vote in a free election shouldn't take these things lightly or say they are of no value.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: Vital Statistics (2)

Continuing reposted Odanglesex adventures with a few tweaks.

The story so far: Councillor Broadthwaite has been enormously impressed by the Statistical Unit in Scunthorpeshire County Council and has persuaded Kenneth Spotlessnob to set one up in Odanglesex.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: Silesia Jones, Equality Consultant

Silesia - I see you got the same e-mail I did from someone called Margot Outforle, Head of the Statistical Unit. Did you know we had a Statistical Unit? Seems it's in Neil's empire. I'll ask Kenneth, but wondered if you were more in the know. Seeing that you and I already do a lot of statistical work, as do some members of my team such as Mike Hicks, I'm puzzled Kenneth thought this necessary. Also puzzled by her statistics. Seems very likely that the high proportion of deaths in Moat ward, Oldchester is down to the fact there's an acute hospital there. Not that hospitals kill people, of course, not most of the time.

FROM: Neville Potts, Statistical Processes and Services Manager

TO: Margot Outforle, Head of Statistical Unit


Don Warne copied me an e-mail copied to him by Dan Ahmed about meetings of a Statistical Priority Directional Signposting Working Group which it appears you lead. Can I check the accuracy of the following:

(1): You're Head of the Statistical Unit in Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision;
(2): This unit's remit covers all the Council's work;
(3): The purpose of the Working Group is to set priorities for all the Council's statistical work;
(4): The Working Group has held three meetings and is about to hold a fourth;
(5): The Statistical Unit in Transportation and Settlement, which I head, and which was given responsibility for cross-council statistical work in September 2009, has not been informed of or invited to the meetings?

FROM: Margot Outforle

TO: Neville Potts


Sorry about the delay. Can you make the Working Group meeting tomorrow at 2:30 in ES12A? Delighted if you can come.

To be continued and concluded...

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: Vital Statistics (1)

Thanks to Kenneth Spotlessnob having momentarily sat on his multi-enabled phone, enabling a recording device, and then later his slight mistake in copying the recording to an ex-employee, we are able to eavesdrop on a conversation between men of power and standing.

Councillor Broadthwaite: "Ah, Kenneth. I want to talk to you about my visit to Scunthorpeshire. They have some absolutely amazing stuff there."

Kenneth Spotlessnob: "Oh, right. Excellent. What's that, councillor?"

Cllr Broadthwaite: "Fantastic security-controlled car-park, for a start. But they've got a Statistical Unit that can do just amazing things - makes us look like cavemen. And cavewomen, of course."

Kenneth Spotlessnob: "Oh, right. Like what?"

Cllr Broadthwaite: "Councillor Butterfield, I suppose."

Kenneth Spotlessnob: "No, excuse me, I was unclear. I meant to ask what statistical functions they could do."

Cllr Broadthwaite: "Ah. Well, for a start, they showed me how they could feed a lot of information about me into the computer and out came a prediction in less than a minute of how likely I was to be a car thief!"

Kenneth Spotlessnob: "Gosh. How likely are you?"

Cllr Broadthwaite: "Only 1.7% with some twiddly bits."

Kenneth Spotlessnob: "Parameters of significance."

Cllr Broadthwaite: "It was very reassuring, I can tell you. Now just imagine if we could do that for every resident of Odanglesex, not only for being a car thief, but being a good parent, needing home helps, reading dirty books, voting Conservative...and other stuff too. Why don't we have a unit like that?"

Kenneth Spotlessnob: "Interesting, but...."

Cllr Broadthwaite: "I'm going to speak to Bill Wayneflete about it."

Kenneth Spotlessnob: "By all means, councillor, but I can take action on this with your approval."

Cllr Broadthwaite: "Wonderful. Fancy a beer?"

So the Statistical Unit is created. In Part 2 we will see the consequences...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The true meaning of words

The internet is well-supplied with useful, clear and sometimes witty explanations of what words mean. Some of these concentrate on distinguishing words with similar spelling or sound but different meaning. Most of these sites seem to be American. This could be because most wise English language wordsters are American or because most people making silly mistakes with English are American. Probably both, given the population.

Well, here's my contribution.

SPECTACULAR: Wearing spectacles or possessing spectacles - "She looks spectacular".
UNSPECTACULAR: Not needing or not having with one a pair of spectacles - "I am unable to read this document because I am unspectacular".
MALEFACTOR: The certain something that defines masculinity or distinguishes the male from the female; the male pudenda - "Those running shorts won't hide your malefactor".
DISEMBARK: Remove the outer covering from a tree - "The deer are disembarking the trees".
RATIONAL: Restricted to small portions - "Food is rational here".
RATIONALIST: Someone who believes in restricting things to small, defined portions - "If you were a rationalist you wouldn't eat so much".
RECTITUDE: Having a posterior - "The Bishop is a man of enormous rectitude".
ALLEGATION: A group of crocodile-like reptiles - "That allegation will not go away".
ALLEGORY: A suitably-prepared place to keep crocodile-like reptiles - "You don't find dragons in an allegory".
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION: Growing breasts naturally - "Anna was delighted she had spontaneously combusted".
FRIABLE: Suitable for cooking with oil - "Eggs are not friable unless you remove the shells".
MARINATE: Put something through a sailor - "Don't eat that - it's been marinated".
FASCINATE: Tie something up; become obsessed by uniforms, strong leadership and militaria - "Italians were fascinated by Mussolini".

Any additions?

Friday, 12 October 2012


This'll be a short post. WARNING: THIS POST HAS PARTY POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS. I have posted about what I understand it to mean to be a Liberal and explained that I'm an active member of the British Liberal Democrats, but most of the time I prefer to post about political and moral issues in the broad sense (or satirically) rather than talking party politics or indeed Christianity or Quakerism.


If you look at the history of dissidence and nonconformism, you'll find it often suggested that these strange and awkward people, by deliberately taking a route different to that taken by most of their countrymen and women, are unpatriotic. Of course, if they oppose what they say is an unjust war (or war in general) that leads to more accusations of disloyalty to country.

If while participating actively in a political party, you raise criticisms, that can also be seen as disloyal. Blairite Labour had a particularly insidious concept of being "on-message" or "off-message", implying that there was one necessary message and if you dissented from it in any way, you weren't suggesting a slightly different path, but dropping off the right path.

Of late the Liberal Democrats in Britain have faced a lot of criticism for sustaining and joining in a Conservative-led coalition making cuts to reduce the deficit at a time of recession. I don't want to get into arguments about what they or the government have done right or wrong except to say that in 2010 after the election there was really little choice. Labour plus Liberal Democrat added up to less than a majority and the markets were ready to panic at a weak government.

But I am critical of some aspects of the leadership. Nowe here's my central point. I see some activists who do a lot for the party raising criticisms - and others reply with comments like, "Stop wingeing and get out on the doorstep." Now this seems to me a bit like saying, "Stop polishing your shoes and learn Spanish." While it may be difficult to learn Spanish at the precise moment when you are polishing your shoes, there is actually no conflict between being devoted to polishing your shoes and successfuly learning Spanish. Similarly, Liberal Democrats who are critical of the direction of the party are in no way prevented from getting out on the doorstep - and in fact many who are critical are amongst the hardest workers with continuing local successes under their belts.

So they may be wrong in their criticisms, but to criticise is not to stand aside.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: Some are more equal than others

After a break while I was holidaying up the East coast of England and (just) Scotland from Flamborough Head to St Abb's Head, here's another reposted Odanglesex adventure, this time on government pronouncements on equality law.

FROM: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director Of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision


Could your people cast an eye over this excerpt from a speech by the Secretary of State and see if there's anything we need to do?

"...and another thing. It's about time we stopped poncing around burbling on about equality and human rights. People in the Isle of Brent aren't bothered about that highfaluting nonsense any more than they are in Heckmondwike. Get the streets cleaned. Get the milk put out. Put vandals in prison. Those are the things that count. If I find any local authority wasting money on political correctness like equality monitoring I'll bloody have them tarred and feathered, and if my colleague Ken Priestley hasn't announced that last bit yet, he will, or my name's not Fred Lardly".

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager

Neil: Please look into this asap for Ed.

FROM: Neil Balderson
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob
cc: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager


Street cleaning is a district responsibility and milk transit pathways sit in the private sector. Imprisoning vandals is a matter for the police and the courts. So I think we're all right on this one. but I'll check with Hamish we're not doing anything the Secretary of State could judge to be politically correct.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Neil Balderson

Or politically incorrect.

FROM: Silesia Jones, Equality Consultant
TO: Neil Balderson; Hamish Carpenter


"Politically correct" is not a precise term. I certainly cannot reassure you that we aren't doing anything towards equality or human rights: for example, Councillor Wayneflete recently approved the reversal of a decision not to grant-aid the Isle of Brent Domestic Abuse Crisis Centre after lobbying by the Right Hon Fred Lardly, PC, MP, and also wrote a supportive foreword to our Equality Action Plan.

Fred Lardly's remarks should be put in the context of his speech four days earlier to a meeting of university vice chancellors:

" if you think that standing up for fair treatment for everyone irrespective of whether they're black, white, yellow or bloody purple with orange bits is a luxury that we can do without in hard times - think again. It's essential to the Big Society, civilisation and business efficiency, and that means knowing what's actually going on, so you'd better be able to tell me, or my friend Liz Fluffstone will be round, and let me tell you, she's pretty serious for a Lib Dem and a woman."

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Edelbertha Spengler


I've made exhaustive enquiries concerning your query about the implications of Fred Lardly's speech, and there does not appear to be anything we need to do, especially in the light of his remarks in the House last night about "letting local authorities get on with the job and not interfering, not like that other bloody lot".


Sunday, 30 September 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: A Good Performance (2)

Continuing with the reported Odanglesex adventures.

The story so far: the Council has promulgated a profile for performance review with set percentages for each category, any departure from this profile to be approved at senior level. It has also created a "Best Person of the Year" award and ceremony: both of these are presented as responses to a staff survey finding that people want more recognition for good performance.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager
TO: Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager


I'm applying for the performance profile to be varied for my team. It really would hit me in the guts for any of my people to be judged "failing", as basically they're all up to the job and working hard. You'll be aware that the team has had a number of major successes this year and I fill in the case for a variation in the attached submission. I also attach the rating I believe would be appropriate if variation is approved.

FROM: Neil Balderson
TO: Hamish Carpenter, Sammi Parrot, Maurice Maina


Thanks for submitting your requests for EDPE variations. As the robustness of the model depends on maintaining the highest standards, it has unfortunately not been possible for Kenneth, Conor and myself to approve any variations. Where you submitted assessments based on the hoped-for variation, these have all been downgraded to fit the profile. I know you'll be disappointed by this, but I know you and your team members will understand the reasons.

Best wishes

FROM: Dale Brashcon, Transformational Excellence Champion
TO: All Transformational Excellence

GOOD NEWS! You've probably seen the announcement on the Extranet or the latest Ed's Job, but if not, THE DETAILS OF THE BEST PERSON OF THE YEAR AWARD ARE OUT!!! Except, of course, the names of the winners! That we only find out on the night. I know just how excited everyone has been about this and it's obvious from the nominations received that this is really going with a swing. Thanks to all those who nominated colleagues, and special thanks to those who nominated me (ONLY JOKING!!)

If you've read the Extranet you'll know that we've been really lucky to get Ned Pratt OBE to compere and present the awards. Ned will be known to all of you as Odanglesex's premier comedian, the star of "Carry on up the Rear Passage, Gunga Din", "Pratting About" and many other excellent shows.

I hope to see you all on the night. If you're not there, I know where you live (ONLY JOKING!!)

Kenneth wants a really good turnout from TESV. Remember, there are cakes and soft drinks.

The blog of Chief Executive Edelbertha Spengler


There's really only one thing I can talk about this week - the wonderful night we all had at the Best Person of the Year celebration. I'm sure you'll all agree that Ned Pratt, who was so kind to agree to run the show, was outstanding and I have to admit I was in stitches at times, though I couldn't quite understand the joke about someone called Lord Pond.

The cakes and pop went like, well, hot cakes, and Minnie in my office had to nip out to Tesco's for replacements.

Well, if by any chance you were unable to attend, here are the results. Congratulations to everyone who was nominated and to those who nominated them.

BEST GUARDIAN ANGEL: Bartholomew Addison, Financial Resources
BEST INNOVATOR: Kerry-Anne Porritt, Older People and Recycling
MOST IMPROVED: Satish Chatterparjee, Transportation and Settlement

AND THE OVERALL WINNER, BEST PERSON OF THE YEAR: Henry Donaldson, Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision.

MANY CONGRATULATIONS, HENRY! Your book vouchers are in the post (sorry they weren't ready on the night).

Now just think, everybody - next year THIS COULD BE YOU!

FROM: Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision


Just a little blip, but it could be embarrassing, so better make sure UNISON don't hear about it. Did you realise that Henry Donaldson in Hamish's team is Best Person of the Year and has just been adjudged in EDPE to be failing?


FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Hamish Carpenter

Hamish: We need to have a word about the debacle concerning Henry Donaldson. I hope tomorrow at 4 is suitable for you. Emma Carver from HR will be present. We will be reviewing criteria for EDPE assessment and appropriate implementation pathways.

Believe me, readers - this is only JUST in the realm of fantasy.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: A Good Performance (1)

More local bureaucratic fun re-posted here: now the council's approach to performance review and reward. Believe me, this is not far off the truth.

FROM: Conor O'Connor, Director of Human Resources Development
TO: All Directors; Chief Executive


The proposal for an Excellent Performance Delivery Environment (EPDE)I put before CRB has been approved. To summarise:
* All employees will be graded from A - E by their line managers as part of the annual My Performance process. Grades will be reviewed and approved or amended by Team Leaders.
* To prevent grade inflation, managers will adhere to the following performance profile as closely as possible: A: 15%; B: 25%; C: 25%; D: 20%; E: 15%.
* The thumbnail definition of the categories is as follows: A: outstanding, innovative achiever; B: high achiever within normal parameters; C: meets requirements of job; D: meets requirements of job with some areas for improvement; E: failing and in need of remedial action.
* Categories A and B will receive income augmentation in line with annexe 3A.
* There will be an appeals procedure: details will follow.

This will sharpen up our performance and ensure that we both encourage the high-fliers and weed out the underperformers.


The blog of Chief Executive Edelbertha Spengler

Hi! I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm a great fan of Queen's Sticks Wielders women's hockey team. Last season was really depressing and we got relegated to Division 2. This season, though, we're going great guns and have won four out of six matches, one of the others being drawn.

What made the difference? A real determination to concentrate on performance and raise the team performance level! And it was a real team effort.

Although performance levels at Odanglesex County Council are pretty much through the roof, we can't afford to rest on our laurels. We only beat Scunthorpeshire by one point in the Local Goverment Chronicle poll last year, and they're making big efforts. We must achieve continuous improvement. That's why I could so easily relate to the finding in the Employee Survey which said that 71% of you thought we could do more to reward good performance.

We've taken that VERY seriously and done two things in response. One is to introduce a Good Performance system which will identify the best performers and reward them. Your directors will be speaking to you about that very soon. The other is to launch a BEST PEOPLE OF THE YEAR award scheme in which all of you will be able to nominate fellow-employees (you can't nominate yourself, sorry. You can't nominate me either - sorry again) for recognition of their outstanding service and they will receive awards at an annual ceremony hosted by a major Odanglesex public figure. Councillor Wayneflete and I will judge the nominations together with Conor O'Connor and we're really looking forward to it!

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision


Does this new performance reward system really mean I have to assess one of my people as failing?

FROM: Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: All Transformational Excellence managers

Kenneth's had a number of queries about EPDE. They come down to the same thing - the degree of flexibility in the recommended profile. In order to ensure a robust performance structure, departures from the profile must be minor and exceptional. Appeals will be dealt with by Kenneth. I hope that clarifies the position.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tomato or Tomato?

In biology there's a process called "speciation", which is the moving apart of two groups of individuals of the same species, usually geographically separated, until they can be counted as separate species. Something similar happens with languages, although as history has tended to create larger units and faster communication across longer distances as time went on, with languages we also see the process in reverse. At some stage the northern and southern Celtic languages diverged and later the two languages themselves subdivided, encouraged by being separated by non-Celtic speakers, so Cornish, for example, is neither Breton nor Welsh. Distinct dialects spoken by small numbers of people in limited areas, though, have been disappearing quite fast since the 19th century. Languages can also be created by what in biology would be called crossing: cross old Low German with Norman French and you get English. Fortunately the people who speak these languages are fertile, unlike most products of cross-species intercourse.

What on earth is all this about?

It's about British English and American English. Of course there are other Englishes with their own developments - Australian and Indian English, for example - but I fancy looking at these two.

Some characteristics of American English are down to recent crossing or gene-swapping. In parts of the U.S., for example, it seems to be acceptable to say "If I would have done more revision I would have passed the exam" instead of "If I'd done..." (had done). That would be grammatically correct in some other nordic languages. "Fresh" meaning forward (of a girl) comes from German "frisch" (joyful, bubbly). The use of "hopefully" to mean "I hope this" instead of "full of hope" comes from German "hoffentlich". It is better to travel, hopefully, than to arrive.

In other cases American English preserves versions less changed by time. "Dove" instead of "dived" is archaic British English. Pronouncing Lieutenant (a French word meaning place-holder) as "Lootenant" is much closer to the French pronunciation than the British "Leftenant". In fact I really have no idea how we managed to arrive at that pronunciation.

Now for some interesting differences.

The only British English term for the season including October is "autumn". Americans recognise this word, but the common term is "fall". OK until you say something like "What a wonderful fall!" or "She phoned me in mid-fall".

The space for storage at the back of a car in British English is the boot (odd, though you could put your foot in it). Americans say "trunk", presumably because at one time trunks (not the elephant sort) were strapped to the back of the car for storage. So I can put my boot in the trunk or my trunk in the boot. Elephants - please don't try the latter. For that matter, don't submit to the former.

A living-space within a larger building is a flat to the British. The invitation to look at my lovely new flat would not appeal to Americans who, extravagantly, can have up to four flats.

In Britain a lift can take you somewhere in a car, but can also take you up or down inside a building. American lifts are not capable of taking you directly up or down.

"Republican" carries some drastically different meanings depending on whether you're in the U.S., Britain or Northern Ireland. So I may be a Republican in Britain but lose that characteristic by travelling west (but not east unless I go far enough to cross the Pacific).

The two Englishes are, though, coming together now faster than they diverge. "On the weekend" is now common in Britain where once we would only have said "At the weekend" - and we now use "hopefully" in two quite different meanings. Still, there is hope for diversity as Brits may acquire bits of Polish and Americans bits of Spanish.

We may yet be two different species.

Once we're different species, of course, it's hard for us to interbreed.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: Ed's Christmas Message

A bit before time, another reposted Odanglesex adventure, this time the Chief Executive's Christmas message.

ED's JOB: The blog of Chief Executive Edelbertha Spengler

Wow, only two days to the REALLY BIG DAY - Christmas!

At home we've been hyperactively getting everything ready, the presents, the wrapping paper, the cellotape (desperate last-minute trip for that), the turkey, the pudding, the tree, the car window de-icer, the battle plan for refuse and recycling arrangements. Just remember to check out what the changed timetable is for collections in your area.

My ten-year-old is a bit hooked on glace cherries, so I'm having to take steps to limit the supply this Christmas or she could be sick again.

It's a bit like that about the Council's budget. You can have too much of a good thing. Some restrictions are necessary and even some compulsory redundancies. Today those of you who that applies to will be getting the notification. I'm really grateful to them for all the work they've done, whatever it was. My eldest son tells me Christmas is really an ancient midwinter festival when people got rid of all their accumulated fat and vegetables and nuts and celebrated the end of the old year and the start of a new and exciting one, and that before that they probably had some human sacrifices (URGH!) so for all of you experiencing change, IT CAN BE EXCITING!

Excuse me. Now the turkey needs stuffing!!!



Monday, 17 September 2012

Autumn birds

Here in England autumn is in the air. The air is a little colder, each day is slightly shorter than the one before and in the countryside if you pause, you can sense that slight sweet rotting smell.

For birds it's a time of change. It reminds me how different our perceptions of time and change can be depending on the latitude we live at. For temperate parts south of the equator, of course, you just reverse the times so Christmas will be in summer and May Day will come towards the end of autumn's slide into winter. The experience of the seasons is the same. But further north, winter is longer and harsher, as I experienced for two years in Finland. Most birds leave in autumn and hardly any arrive, making spring far more dramatic. In the two years I was in Finland, I saw my first Woodpigeon of the year each time on the 30th April. Near the equator, as in Kenya where I've also lived, none of the resident birds leave but you know Europe and Northern Asia are descending into winter because new birds arrive, many of species not present in the European summer.

Last week a visit to our local North Essex migration hotspot, The Naze, an unstable peninsula between the open sea and an estuary, turned up several migrants, birds not present in summer locally but passing through on the way to Africa - Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Garden Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Sand Martin and others. Yesterday i was covering an area not far away and also coastal but much more sheltered, so less likely to attract local rarities - the complicated estuarine areas of Hamford Water and The Wade. This fits in neatly with a pint in the Red Lion, Kirby-le-soken, before I head back. Birds sitting on an old upturned rowing-boat in the channel were revealed as three different tern species, Sandwich, Common and Little. A Whinchat flew to the top of a bramble bush. Those are all birds heading for Africa. But soon after a small, sharp-winged, intense, fast shape cut across the sky and put up clouds of waders. The first Merlin of the winter had arrived.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: A Thousand Miles (2)

FROM: Kelly Pattrick, PA to Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

Kenneth wanted to be assured that your claim for 49 miles for the round trip from County Hall to and from Little Pilesbury is correct. The AA route planner says 45 miles.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter
TO: Kelly Pattrick

Kelly: Bodger's Lane was blocked by a fallen tree. The best alternative route through the Dirksedges took an extra four miles.


FROM: Reema Narlikar, Transformational Excellence Officer
More reposted Odanglesex fun: Following concern about the levels of mileage claims, all claims now have to go through the Director. In Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision, of course, that's Kenneth Spotlessnob.

TO: Bunny Hare, Financial Processes Consultant (claims)

I submitted my mileage claim for the second quarter of the year nearly four months ago and it hasn't appeared even in the pay statement that's just arrived. Sorry to push, but what's happening?


FROM: Bunny Hare
TO: Reema Narlikar


Sorry, I haven't heard back from Kelly Pattrick as to where Kenneth has got with it. I'll chase again.

FROM: Bunny Hare
TO: Reema Narlikar

Ree: your claim hasn't been approved by Kenneth yet. Kelly tells me he has quite a backlog.


FROM: Reema Narlikar
TO: Hamish Carpenter

Hamish: please see attached emails. Comment reads: ****@@@&%$***!!!!

FROM: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision


Just to assure you that following the informal word you had with me about the large amount of time Directors are having to devote to checking mileage claims, I'm putting to CLB that claims under 500 miles be self-assessed and thereafter by line managers only.


Monday, 10 September 2012

A Fine Wine

Just a quickie for now. I brought back from Hungary two bottles of white wine from Thummerer in the east of the country. They specialise in reds, but I liked their whites better.

One bottle is now finished and it was marvellous - crisp and quite dry but grapey. It's not normally on sale in the U.K., but is in some other foreign countries. It's EGRI KIRALYLEANYKA (can't do the accents).

This may seem like a commercial, but I don't do commercials and this isn't one. It's just an excellent white.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: A Thousand Miles (1)

In this reposted Odanglesex adventure, senior management is getting concerned about the level of mileage allowance claims and responds with its default reaction - tight centralisation (for a while).

FROM: Grant Coutts, Director of Financial Process and Resources
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

Kenneth: I attach a copy of the quarterly analysis of mileage expenses by directorate. While the overall trend for the Council is directionally benevolent, your directorate's mileage is increasing. One employee in your directorate claimed for more than a thousand miles in the last quarter.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Grant Coutts

Grant: Many thanks for this. Who was it and what was the precise figure?

FROM: Tracey Love, Financial Processes Officer (claims)
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

Kenneth: Grant asked me to supply details as above. It was Chalmers Butt, District Community Development Outreach Officer. He claimed for 1071 miles.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Danni Worrall, Senior Strategic Visioner

Danni: See the above. Please get a grip on Chalmers' expenses.

FROM: Danni Worrall
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob

Kenneth: Chalmers was appointed six months ago to a new post, if you remember. It involves going round all the districts and many of the meetings are in village halls and so on. He really does need this mileage.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Danni Worral

Danni: Thanks for this. Nonetheless, try to control his mileage. This is a corporate priority.


FROM: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive
TO: All directors

Colleagues: Some of the trends in mileage claims are not as we would wish. Moreover, where the trend is benign, it is generally well short of our milestones. Consequently, as you are aware, at the last CMB meeting we agreed the following changes which should be conveyed to your staff.

All journeys which generate an entitlement to a mileage claim must be approved at least a week in advance by the line manager and by the relevant director.

If the line manager is the relevant director, approval must be in place also from the assistant director. If the potential claimant is the director, (s)he may approve his/her own expenses subject to normal controls (you can leave that bit out when you cascade).

All claims must be approved and countersigned by the director.

Thanks and have a good weekend


FROM: Kelly Pattrick, PA to Kenneth Spotlessnob
TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob

Kenneth: When I sent out the mileage e-mail to all Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision, was I supposed to leave out that bit about directors' expenses and Ed's comment in brackets?



Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: Lord Pond

More re-posted Odanglesex adventures. The previous Leader of the Council was Lord Pond. He was found out in various misdeeds and now both politicians of his party and officers are keen to forget him as soon as possible.

FROM: William Wayneflete, Leader of the Council

TO: All Odanglesex County Council

I thought I should let you know that I have been informed that an exhaustive routine check of our records has revealed that the convicted necromancer "Lord" David Pond, a cat-herd, was once a member of this council, elected for the Graveigh division. An intensive and rigorous investigation is now taking place into whether he was ever, as he has claimed on television, leader of this council.

Any enquiries from the media should be referred to External Communications. If, as may occasionally be the case, you should enter a hostelry and be asked about "Dave Pond", the line to take is that you have never heard of him.

Many thanks for your support.

Bill Wayneflete


Edelbertha Spengler's blog


Yesterday my eight-year-old left the back gate open and Rupert the Tortoise escaped. We were just in time to stop him getting on a bus. I don't know about you, but I hate telling the children off. However, I did feel I had to lay down the law a bit about gates.

In the same way, I thought it'd be timely to remind you about security at County Hall and particularly access issues. After all, as a nerve centre of government, we would be an obvious target for terrorists or "Occupy" protesters, and a thief seeing all the publicity bandied about on the amount of money we spend might try to gain entry to see if any of it was lying around!

I need to remind myself about this just as much as anyone else. Only about four years ago, I distinctly remember being greeted in the Roman atrium by a short, fat man who embraced me and said he had just found out that I was a woman, but never mind, I still had a job. Naturally I assumed he was a leading member of the council. I now realise this may have been incorrect and I should have asked to see his I.D.. Please do the same for anyone you don't recognise, unless, of course, they have a badge saying VALUED CUSTOMER.


FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision
TO: Kelly Pattrick, PA to Kenneth Spotlessnob


I'm just updating my gifts and favours register entry. Could you check for me with Internal Governance Excellence whether Lord Pond giving me an ice lolly constituted a gift which should be declared?


Sunday, 2 September 2012


"Politicians" has become a dirty word. However, no state that got along with an element of free participation by at least some of its citizens has ever donw without politicians. Even in the direct democracy of Athens there were political leaders.

So those who rubbish politicians as a class must stand for one of these two things:

*EITHER some kind of dictatorship

*OR much more honest and better-behaved politicians.

I do suspect that some of the anti-politician and anti-politics culture is whipped up by right-wing media because the more people distrust politics and politicians, the more they will be happy for decisions that used to be taken openly and democratically through the political process to be left to corporations and (which is not quite the same thing) to the market. I've posted on the limitations of the market before, but just remember two things about the market: it doesn't think far ahead; and if you have a thousand times someone else's spending power, for the market, you have a thousand times the power. Forget one person one vote.

However, even the most ideologically pure free-marketeers admit some room for collective, democratic government, for which you still need politicians. I think hardly anyone in stable democracies wants dictatorship. Still politicians, then, but maybe better ones?

That's a perfectly reasonable aim and the U.K. parliamentary expenses scandal gives it force. But that scandal related purely to NATIONAL politicians (control over local expenditure is much tighter) and yet it's tarred local councillors with the same brush. As for the sort of honesty that means sincerity rather than decent behaviour over money, people say they want that kind of honesty in politicians yet those who display it are often pilloried for putting their feet in it.

It's also worth remembering that opinion surveys over nearly fifty years have shown that U.K. voters have a very low opinion of M.P.s and councillors in general, yet often like their own local representatives. In other words, there is an anti-politician assumption which is unaffected by positive experience of your local person.

There's a widespread assumption that local elected politicians are paid careerists - yet if you look at the allowances U.K. councillors get, they vary between about £1,000 a year and £10,000 (excepting what a few people like a leader of the council get for what's maybe half a full-time job), not big money especially if you consider that being an active councillor will involve expenses (driving around a lot, for example, and very likely some of your election expenses) and many hours of work, not only meetings but taking up problems for people, talking with people, researchiung issues and so on.

Someone posted on a local paper discussion board that their council would be better if the councillors were all independents instead of "political careerists". Well, look at the typical local council and you'll find many of the councillors are retired people who've had careers and now want to do something for their area and promote things they believe in. Others have good non-political careers they may well be damaging through the spare time and mental energy they take on council business. Out of 50 councillors you might find about eight or ten who had national political ambitions and maybe two of those would be elected to parliament, not necessarily for more than a few years.

As for independents, there are some good ones, but here are some of the minuses:

- they're all well-off. Political parties can pay the election expenses of relatively poor candidates, but independents pay their own, unless of course they have rich friends who may expect favours in return.

- you generally have very little idea of what they stand for or how they'll vote on key issues: there's no manifesto, for a start.

- if they do express a commitment, there's no mechanism to stop them going off in a completely different direction, whereas a party candidate elected on a manifesto who completely ignored it would probably be in trouble.

- very often they're party loyalists in disguise, so you get the party rule without the honesty of knowing you're voting for the Conservatives (say) to run the council. In a recent town council election not far from me, seven people were standing as independents yet were endorsed en bloc by the Conservative district and county councillors and behaved like a party slate.

Sometimes it seems the anti-politician mood is so strong that people forget that the vast majority of local political activists are volunteers who believe in something.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


This is not about young people, especially gang members, showing or not showing ("dissing")"respec'" to other similar people. That's an interesting development of language, but that kind of respect is about enhancing someone's self-image.

It's not about traditional respect for elders (children for adults, young adults for older adults), or for clergy, upper-class landowners or whatever - even teachers. My belief at fifteen is pretty much my belief fifty years later, that while some systems, to function effectively, need a fair amount of people acting as if they respect people of "standing" - so, for example, in an effective school, hospital or military unit, if the decision-makers were regularly treated with open disrespect, the work of the unit would be damaged - real respect either has to be earned (so I respect Stephen Hawking, Kelly Holmes or Rowan Williams) or it's due to all humans,perhaps all life-forms.

It's about memorials. Today I was waiting for some other people in a village (Dedham) by the war memorial, so I read what was written on the memorial. I thought at first it was a rare exception, with as many names recorded for the Second World War as the First (this has only happened in my experience when the place was by the sea and had a strong naval connection, since British military losses in the First World War were far higher than in the Second, but naval casualties were higher in the Second). But I'd failed to see that there were two panels of names for 1914-18 and one for 1939-45. In three cases, I think, surnames occurred twice in the 1914-18 list. This might just indicate that this surname was traditionally common in that village, but it might well indicate the loss of two brothers. In one case a surname not nationally at all common appeared in both lists: perhaps a child lost his father in one war and himself died in the next. The 1939-45 list included two civilians, evidently a woman and her young child. That must have been a bomb. Dedham is not the sort of place to have been a deliberate target, but maybe the bomb was off-target for the mail railway line a few miles off, or the plane was unloading its bombs having turned back from its intended target for some reason such as damage, mechanical problems or fog. In Britain as in other countries, such losses were numerous in cities, ports and so on, but rare well into the countryside.

I thought a bit about what I had learnt and the stories of these people, stories I would never learn.

Some children jumped up on the higher steps of the memorial and played noisily. Their parents called them once and after a while they left. When I returned to the place later, more children were playing on the memorial.

Now - I had mixed feelings about this. I feel such a memorial ought to be treated seriously - whatever you think of war in general or these wars in particular - and we should show respect for those who died. But might not they have been happy that children were happy there?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: Branding the Directorate (2)

Continuing the rerun adventures in Odanglesex County Council with Kenneth Spotlessnob's attempt to find a slogan for his directorate.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision
TO: Dale Brashcon, Transformational Excellence Champion


The word for the entries to brand the Directorate is quality rather than quantity. Six entries was a bit low. Could you present the whole thing in an upbeat, positive way in line with our core values? You know the result, of course.


By the way - can we meet with Neil at four to discuss an implementation trajectory for my learning experiences from North Korea? I'd value your input.

FROM: Dale Brashcon
TO: All Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

I'm sure you were all drumming your fingers waiting for the announcement that's had us all excited - the result of our competition to brand the Directorate! Well, this is it. We experienced a massive surge in entries after my little note of encouragement - a 100% increase, in fact. We knew how keen you all were on this!

Judging the entries was really exciting, but frustrating too as only one could win. Congratulations to everybody, but especially to Scott Gerald Fitzwilliam, Management Trainee, FOR THE WINNING ENTRY:

Collaborative, Responsive, Agile, Proactive! I'm sure you'll all agree that's us to a T! This should go on all our outgoing e-mail traffic and I attach a guide explaining how to add it just under the text.

FROM: Scott Fitzwilliam, Management Trainee
TO: Reema Narlikar, Transformational Excellence Officer

REE! HELP!! I just meant to send that to you. Come and comfort me, PLEASE!