Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Agile Stationery Strategy (6)

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 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. 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?

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Agile Stationery Strategy (5)

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 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...

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Eagle Owls

I'm just back from a week in the South of France, so now I'll be posting again - but right now, even after just one week, struggling to get up to date with e-mails and so on. Thus I'm not really ready to continue the Odanglesex Chronicles with episode 5 of the Agile Stationery Strategy or with anything profound on politics, religion, philosophy, cricket, things like that. Tomorrow I hope I can get on with Odanglesex.

For now, something from my holiday.

The vehicle has driven up a bumpy track into the old quarry, where hills of loose scree are being colonised by pines. We wait. The Mediterranean dusk falls quickly. A few late birds sing. One by one they fall silent. Nothing happens. Tension grows. We look at one another. There are no town sounds, no traffic, no aircraft, no dogs. Then, from somewhere, a deep, soft sound: OOOOOOH. It is repeated. It comes from a different place. One answers the other. Still nothing shows. Then - a vast silhouette on the rim of the quarry. It disappears. Then powerful, silent wings move in. The great owl sits in the crown of the pine, quite close, and looks down at us, calling. There is still enough light to see plumage. It turns when the sound comes from elsewhere. It replies. It stares at us again. It stays. We leave. It is dark.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Agile Stationery Strategy (4)

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, 14 February 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Agile Stationery Strategy (3)

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.

This 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 in the covered market?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Agile Stationery Strategy (2)

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. 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 milepost in the time management initiative.

Many thanks


Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Odanglesex Chronicles: The Agile Stationery Strategy (1)

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, 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: 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...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Norfolk Broads - in Winter

Fans of the Odanglesex Chronicles: I expect the next post here will be from Odanglesex. In the meantime, I'm describing another favourite place.

For the non-Brits, some explanation is probably needed - even that the term is not sexist.

The Norfolk Broads are a large area of marsh, fen, river, lake and rough grazing in the south and east of Norfolk in eastern England. They start just outside the city of Norwich (or Narj in local pronunciation) and extend almost to the coast. The "Broads" are a series of lakes - for example, Hickling Broad. It used to be widely believed that these were bits of sea that had been cut off and that the area up to Roman times featured sea channels and islands. By the middle ages we had preserved maps good enough to show no such complex of channels and islands. However, archaeological investigation showed the Broads were steep-sided and it became clear that they were the result of human activity - large-scale cutting of peat leading to depressions which flooded. The marshes, though, are ancient.

In summer the Broads and the river Yare are crowded with pleasure-boats and many other aspects of tourism and day-tripping. This doesn't prevent the area having outstanding fauna and flora characteristic of reedbeds and other marshy habitats, though these do rather concentrate in the nature reserves. In winter, the area is largely left to the locals, except for birdwatchers visiting a few well-known reserves.

I visited the day before the snow came. Even so, much of the damp fields was frosted and the normal green vistas were green and white. I came up by train and got off at a large village (or small town) called Cantley, walking along the banks of the River Yare almost to the start of the broad estuary known as Breydon Water before returning as far as the large village of Reedham to get the train again. On the way I found an excellent, friendly, traditional riverside pub, the Reedham Ferry. The land round about is almost entirely flat and the evidence of human activity, other than animals grazing and aged windmills, is very sparse - so in midwinter, it was a scene of vast, bleak, beautiful expanses. Thousands of wintering geese flew over or sounded harsh alarms from the fields. A Woodcock exploded from reeds about three feet from me. For the birders, I saw thousands of Pinkfeet, some Bean Geese, about 25 Bewick's Swans (from a railway bridge with almost the last use of the optics), various shore waders as I approached Breydon Water, several Marsh Harriers, plenty of Bearded Tits and of course that superb Woodcock.

Beyond that, I had a sense of freedom, of space and of humanity in harmony with nature. It's much warmer in summer and the profusion of wildlife is marvellous, but the magic is lost.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

"Losers and no-hopers"

I recently got involved in an argument on a LinkedIn writers' group. Nothing unusual about that - social media do not encourage nuance or sympathy - but I thought the subject worth exploring a bit.

A man who I assume to be American (because, in the whole wide world, only some Americans, as far as I can see, use these terms freely to indicate contempt) started by saying he could not stand "losers and no-hopers" and could not understand why so many writers wrote about them. Before proceeding with a fairly nuanced discussion of this, I said he must dislike a lot of people, then. This produced an extraordinary, garbled, angry, almost tearful response in which he said my comments were meaningless and I seemed to be attacking him and his long-held views. Well, yes, I responded, I was. I hated the loose dismissal of people as losers or no-hopers. I found it arrogant, complacent and anti-Christian.

I am a Christian, but I probably made that point because this language of losers is so prevalent in America (when other use it, in Britain for example, it has a mannered, imported sound, as if the speaker is using the terms "High Noon" and "ballpark") and the vast majority of Americans are apparently Christians. Admittedly some logical people combine a winner-takes-all, loser-is-despicable philosophy with rejecting all religion, but somehow many combine vocal support for the man who said "Blessed are the peacemakers" and "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven" with aggressive and self-righteous materialism. Let me stress hard that this isn't an attack on America (the U.S.A.) or my many internet friends there!

What do the terms "no-hoper" and "loser" imply? The former is easier: it's someone with no reason for hope. So presumably a slave, a "lifer" in prison or a dying person is a no-hoper; but of course the phrase is used to imply that those who fail deserve to. From my point of view, of course, no-one can ever be a no-hoper. "Loser" seems to be used mainly with the same superficial thinking: someone is at the bottom of the heap, so (s)he deserves to be there. Just a little consideration of the disadvantages people may face in growing up completely contradicts this way of thought. It is not to deny freedom of choice to point out that if both parents are drug-addicts and petty criminals in a location famous for deprivation, you need extraordinary light or luck not to end up much the same, whereas a start in a prosperous area with loving and prosperous parents makes your path quite a lot easier - and that's just within one country.

There is a sense of the term "loser" that I have a degree of sympathy with. A fairly small number of people have entrenched psychological habits that lead to repeated failure. These can range from a lack of self-belief (based probably on early negative experiences) that leads people to be competent at lower levels, to be good subordinates, say, but given initiative, to give up too easily or to funk the big, risky decisions - or indeed, a gambler's addiction to risk that may bring a few big successes but is bound to lead to utter failure before long - to repeated reaction to any difficulty that it's impossible and unfair, leading to complaining while rejecting practical ways out of the problem. These behaviour patterns, particularly the last one, can be very frustrating for friends and colleagues - but like any addiction, they're horribly hard to break out of, and breaking out needs love and patient support along with inconvenient challenging.

And inconvenient challenging was what I was doing in questioning that talk about losers and no-hopers.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

King David and the Knights of the Mahogany Table: The Fall of Good Sir Fredwyn

When King David was still young and his knights had not sat down around the mahogany table, for an evil power possessed it, his rule was challenged by young Prince Nicholas, who ruled in the wild and barren mountains of Scotia, and in Devonia, and the wilderness of Cheshire, and the dank marshes of Somerset,and the far hills of Brecon and of Carshalton. The armies of King David and of Prince Nicholas fought bloody and desperate battles in Hereford, and in Wells, and Richmond, and in Somerton and even unto Frome, in the land of the people of the horn, that in the vulgar tongue is Cornwall, and on the bleak hills of Westmorland; and many valorous and noble knights were sore wounded.

Then said King David unto Prince Nicholas: "Why do we not work together, and cast the dark balrog out of the land of Downing, and sit together around the mahogany table and sup mead?

And Prince Nicholas said: "All right". So he swore allegiance to King David and in return his most noble followers were made knights of the mahogany table and supped mead.

Now in these days there was a noble knight called Good Sir Fredwyn, who guarded the caravans of gold out of Scotia into Camerlot, and out of Camerlot into Scotia. Many maidens swooned before his face and it was always found that when the caravan's journey was over, there was more gold than when it had started; and for that Good Sir Fredwyn was showered with jewels and handmaidens.

Then came a dark day when Sir Fredwyn came to the King, who said: "Where is the gold?" and Sir Fredwyn said, "I have lost it." Then the King and the whole court waxed wroth, and the king stripped him of his garter, and henceforth he was Good Fredwyn merely. And Sir Osborne, who attended the bedchamber of Queen Theresa, rejoiced, for no person would ask where the gold in his charge had gone, but revile Good Fredwyn. And Good Fredwyn went into the land of Twitter, among the elves and witches, and waxed wroth, and counted his gold, and felt better.

NOTE FOR NON-BRITS: Some possibly relevant facts:

The Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party is David Cameron.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats is Nick Clegg.
The Liberal Democrats are strong in South-west England (including Devon, Somerset and - if it's English - Cornwall) plus rural Scotland, Cheshire and South-west outer London.
The places where King David and Prince Nicholas battled are all marginal constituencies between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Somerton and Frome was particularly famous for having gone Liberal Democrat in 1997 by just 130 votes.
Sir Fred Goodwin was chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which overreached and crashed, having to be rescued by the government (I've toyed with the timing here, as the crash and rescue happened under the previous government). He was recently stripped of his knighthood.
George Osborne, a close ally of David Cameron, is Cahncellor of the Exchequer (that is, minister of finance).