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