Thursday 31 December 2015

Deliverables for 2016

Finally, this old brontosaurus rex has manteshelved laboriously into the 21st century. I admit that ‘deliverables’ is a useful word – used properly. My problem over a few years now has been that when people use this word they too often seem to be worrying a saucepan on the kitchen floor like hungry dogs: they think that anything at all involved in the pursuit of a target is somehow part of the deliverables. So the process becomes confused with the needed result – the outcome or target – being pursued.

If I have a business-like resolution for the New Year – that shiny, polished and minty thing starting tomorrow – it is not to concentrate on the ‘what’ question, so much as the ‘how’ question. The how is about process, the ‘what’ is mostly to do with the deliverables. (In truth, this is the last time I shall use that word in this piece, probably.)

When it comes to communications strategies, the process in all things business is critically important. It concerns how we use our people and our funds effectively; it is the mechanism for reform, improvement and change, for redefinition, reinvention and stimulation of all the parts of a reasonably well-oiled machine.

That makes it all sound easy to accomplish, and it can be depending on how well the internal communications mechanism marries with the brand and all other aspects of external communications. I’m not going to use terms like social functionality, stakeholder engagement, reporting profiles and other such isms of business-speke. They will only confuse unless they are hard-fixed in a proper business diagram.

But let’s look briefly at the process.

By asking how we will achieve something, the question presumes you have a particular goal or a set of goals. They may be tactical, as concerns outwitting competitors; operational, as concerns the way you deploy your resources; and strategic, describing how these two factors build towards your vision for the future. If by chance you have not mapped out these three factors by the last day of December 2015, it might be worth getting the pencil or flip chart ready, pretty soon.

To meet the goals you need a process or set of carefully interwoven processes depending on the size of your company. For example, regular monthly checks against your business plan to measure actual versus desired results, budget spend and other er…achievables…is a very worthy process in pure business terms. How, whether and when you communicate your progress is also important to build into the programme. This part – this process of communication – should be part of the definitive plan. Do it well and everyone feels they are contributing to clear goals; do it badly and no one knows what to do, when to do it and whether what they have already done is worth anything to the organisation.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone felt they had achieved something useful at the end of each working day? Too often your main resource – people – are out of the loop and spend copious amounts of unnecessary time running round in circles. That is not just a factor of poor supervision or management, it is because too many people are not party to the tactical, operational and strategic decisions. However, if you happen to be spending fat wads of cash on knowledge management you might be barking up the wrong tree; there is a big difference between managing what you think people ought to know and what they really need to know, which is whether they are doing well or badly. An appropriate smile is worth a thousand emails from semi-detached bosses in adjoining seats. One approach is sterile and back-covering; the other is human and purposeful.

Enough for the moment. What I have avoided mentioning here is what I do to help businesses communicate better. Find out more on my website. Call me if you need help; tell me what you want and ask me how I might achieve it.


Tuesday 22 December 2015

Why we must stay in Europe

It was a big day. The first of January 1973, when we formally joined what was then called the   European Economic Community (EEC). I wonder how many people remember the 40th anniversary of the moment – a Ted Heath with laughing shoulders moment – when the then Conservative Prime Minister signed us up, lifting his cap to the French hilariously in their own language. “Nu sommes tray tray herruh detre party de la marshay comah”.

If you’ve not heard of him, yahoo Ted Heath. He was a wonder on stilts, loved his music and was good with sail boats of all kinds. Bit grumpy sometimes but good at what he did, when he applied himself. Three-day week. We loved it.

Talking of sailing, of course, there has been much water sous la pont since then. Forty-two years and still counting.

I suppose we must ask: ‘What have the Europeans ever done for us’? John Cleese in the guise of an advanced zealot could tell you [‘Life of Brian’ – if you haven’t seen the film, see it!].

What indeed? Nothing really. Apart from the Working Time Directives and the Social Charter, the one stipulating that we really do not have to work more than 48 hours a week, legitimately, for our employers; the other making the whole concept of Care possible and worthwhile?

Hmmm…but we might have coped in both quarters pretty well on our own without being European Members. N’est ce pas?

Alright then, what else has Europe done for all of us? Well, apart from seed-funding thousands of EU Member infrastructure projects making it possible for other countries to grow their trade base and do business with us; not much else. Oh… Apart from Human Rights Charters, Agricultural policies; massive leverage in global decisions; oversight and insight, and sharing in each other’s nascent and actual problems; mutual understanding, appreciation and the development of twinning, the exchange of food and cultural activities, sharing and co-funding of Art, Architecture, Acting and Archaeology – before even we get to the second letter in the alphabet. Apart from making it possible to join our mutual military might so we could play boots on wings to do some selective rooting out of such problems as exist currently in the Middle East. Apart from presenting each other with leadership and a few more shoulders to cry on as well as to support us. 

Crikey, I’m running out of words to describe this behemoth.

I should add, submissively, that I am massively proud to be English, Scottish and an eighth Japanese; and European to my follicles. Yes, I know these are difficult times but I am sadly pleased that so many people are upset by the biblical exodus of so many others in search of a warm hearth and hospitality – who need a bit of TLC and plenty of shelter.

Are we not lucky with our troubles, and foolish with our hopes? Are we not fortunate enough? If we want more of what we have for ourselves, and should we get it, would it not be like the froth of a cappuccino, drunk in a breeze? Easy to refill if you have the coin.

But I digress; it’s often the way when you have the privilege of time to think, rather than the rat of now and of need gnawing at your stomach. The tears of children elope into the middle distance on our European tellies. Pour quoi? Ce n’est pas necessaire, je crois. Europe can solve it and I believe it will.

copyright Giles Emerson: 22 December 2015

Friday 4 December 2015

Windows in poetry!

Like a stack of wooden industrial pallets, this blog might run round in circles, catch on or fall flat in the wind. I see these pallets where I sit through the window, wood framed by wood as I pick and scrabble in my mind for words.  

The idea is that you think of a poem you like, know, or have just browsed for online, which is about windows or which puts windows in the frame of the poem – so to speak.

It might be a whole poem about windows of the soul or it might be just a very apt and well observed line or two from a poem. The theme is windows, so it could be about anything; the window you look out of when you think or dream, the windowless ruined castle, the windows on the wharf-like structures by the big rivers and ports. 

So many different views to take into account.

You can do humour, puns: anything, say, to do with glass, mullions, wood or UPVC. Take that last as an acronym perhaps and do us a poem: Here’s an example for the genre we are inventing:

Under the washed and wind-bent tree
Poppies framed beyond the lea
Voices silenced by the view
Caught my eye: the thought of you

You see where the acronym is - it is good to give your thoughts and words a frame sometimes, a limitation, the security of four walls with one opening.

You might use the idea of the green stain of moss on white plastic as an image of decline. 

You might have a favourite song in which the image of windows is part of the lyric. You might have a child’s poem about a house with windows that look like eyes. You might see a window in the skies of your imagination and use rhyme and beat to bring the thought to life. You might think about the frosted rime that hoars the winter window in the day and melts in cosy Christmas homes. Enough of this, enough of pomes. It’s now your turn to burn the run to Christmas with some cheer, and turn your pen to us and let us hear.

We seriously do want your thoughts, and who knows how they may be rewarded if you come up with something marvellous.

Just write to us in the comment window box. Or catch us on Twitter or Facebook. A like is alike to a window, painless until glazed.