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  1. It wastes so much time. Every morning all hotdeskers have to unload the entire contents of a locker on to a desk space only to have to tidy it all away again every night. In a building with 1000 people that’s a lot of wasted hours. Every day. If we say, as a conservative estimate, it takes 5 minutes to pack up and tidy away and a similar time to unload and set up, thats 10 minutes a day per person. That’s 10,000 minutes in my mythical office of 1000. That’s 166.66 hours wasted every day. 833 every week, That’s over 100 8 hour days every single week. Wasted. Just because you can’t leave your stuff on your desk. Imagine what the company could do with that time.
  2. It wastes so much time. I can never find anyone as I can’t simply go to ‘their’ desk and see if they are in. As they might be sitting on an entirely different floor today. I can’t leave a small donut by way of thanks either.
  3. I don’t know anyone’s name. Now there aren’t nice little name plates by people’s desks I have no way of  cheating by having a sneaky look at their name plate when I’m talking to them.
  4. If you come in after 9 o’clock you have no chance of finding a seat in your area and you end up sitting miles away and eventually you realise you might as well be working from home. So you do and the company loses the benfit of your physical proximity and you lose the benefit of social interaction.
  5. Some people don’t actually hotdesk. They still have ‘their’ seat and no one dares to sit in it. And that just p*sses people off. If the company or going to make rules, we all need to follow them, or agree they’re not working and revert to all having our own desks.
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Process process

March 4, 2014

I haven’t posted for a fortnight as have been so busy for the past few months that I’ve not had time to write. And I enjoy it so much I don’t want  it to become a chore. A necessity. So recent posts have often been ones I’ve drafted earlier and all I’ve had to do is press “Publish” and hey presto, a blog post.

However, this week I have been in a meeting which had been arranged with some difficulty to get everyone around the table. Time was precious as there was much to do and deadlines looming. This meeting was billed as a critical necessity. Everything else had stalled whilst we waited for the outputs of this meeting.

Did we maximise the use of our time? Did we buggery. The leader of the meeting was late. Then we spent the next 15 minutes deciding who would take on the various assigned roles – timekeeper, (self explanatory), snow patrol (stops people going off track), herder (brings them back from the toilet), observer (reports back at the end of the meeting how it went). In this particular company apparently this is the norm. And unlike school, there was no staring at feet when volunteers were asked for – people willingly assigned themselves roles.

So at last we are ready to start the meeting – only used up 25% of the allocated 2 hours so far – and then we get down to business. Or not. There is a discussion lasting a good ten minutes between two people about who is ‘accountable’ for this project. Versus who is ‘responsible’. The nuances are lost on me and frankly irrelevant to everyone else at the meeting apart from the two debating it. This is something that should be discussed ‘offline’ (*groan*). But surely the ‘snow patrol’ person will tell then to shut up and get on with the meeting? No, of course they don’t. They don’t want to interrupt the two most senior people there.

So of course I can’t hold myself in and suggest we focus on exactly what it is that we want to have decided within the next 80 minutes. I am looked at as if I have come from Mars. “Well we won’t know that until we’ve had the discussions.” I realise I am not going to get anywhere. I get it that you need to discuss stuff, but surely you have to ask yourself WHY? Why are we discussing this – what is the point of it? We don’t discuss which theatre show is best because we know it’s not relevant to our work. Surely, we only discuss things because they inform our decision making. There has to be a decision at the end of it. Even if that decision is “We can’t make a decision on this as we haven’t got enough information so XYZ will research this and report back so that we can make a decision.” It’s all about the decision making for me.

But it was all about the information sharing for them. And so we spent the next hour listening to presentations basically. On stuff I’d already read because it was all freely available. No valuable insights or reinterpretations, just the data. No actual discussion on what the data might mean. Or how it might be used. Just data. And when the meeting ‘wrapped up’ with 5 minutes still to go, the ‘observer’ fed back how useful it had been and how much ‘engagement’ and ‘energy about the project’ there was in the room. I nearly engaged some bicep energy and smacked him.

I thought that it had been a waste of time. Not completely because it was great to meet people who I have only seen on email, but in terms of outcomes. All that information could have been sent to us to read when it suited us (which would have meant we didn’t have to wait over a month to get everyone together), and then we could have met and discussed what we think it means and what we are going to do with it. Someone else I know who works in a different company warns everyone she is in ‘Driver’ mode at the beginning of meetings – I love it. She wants to get things done and in the nicest possible way she is alerting everyone this isn’t just information sharing – we have to actually get somewhere at the end of it. 

I know I am aged. I know I am not street. But this is about work communications. Not banter between friends. Not text speak. This is when one is trying to have a professional relationship. In these circumstances I cannot understand why one wouldn’t want to speak as plainly and clearly as possible. Why do people feel the need to overcomplicate things? And make up new words or new meanings for old words?

The 3 offenders that have annoyed me already today are:

  1. Ahead of:  As in “Ahead of our meeting today I wanted to …”Ahead is in front of in a physical sense, not on the time space continuum. What is wrong with ‘before’?
  2. Upskill.  As in “We need to upskill the team so they understand the core demographic.” What happened to train? Teach?Improve?
  3. Revert. As in “I will revert as soon as I know the answer”.  What  – they will return to a state that they used to be in? Become embryonic? Primordial? Revert means to return to a previous condition or state – it doesn’t mean “I will get back to you.”

You might have thought I had exhausted all my energies on hating the way language is used in previous posts. But I haven’t. Just as I was about to post this my blue touch paper has been lit by the suggestion to ‘reach out’ at the end of an email rather than straightforward suggestion to ‘contact’. “I’ll let you reach out to x directly.”
I don’t want to ‘reach out’ to colleagues. If I need them, I’ll email. Or call. “Reaching out” is overblown, emotive, nauseaous. It conjours up visions of the comfortably off opening their loving arms and hearts to touch the poor and needy.
If I get another one today, I might just revert to my previous neanderthal  self ,  ‘reach out’ and club someone.

There’s one sure fire way not to make any mistakes. And that’s not to do anything. It means no one can blame you when things go wrong, you never have to explain yourself to the powers that be, and you keep your slate clean. And seemingly your job safe. The key to this way of working is avoid making any decisions. You’ll be shocked to learn it drives me nuts.
Decision making is a binary process. On or Off. Yes or No. Stop or Go. Agree or Refuse. A decision is absolute. It doesn’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. It takes the information currently available, evaluates it and gives people a course of action. (Keyword alert – action!). Without a decision there is just talk and discussion. But no action. Of course there may need to be research and discussion to come to a consensus, but eventually someone has to say “STOP! We are not philosophers here to debate the ins and outs of every moral angle. We are here to do a JOB. To get things DONE.” And a decision has to be taken. Are we going to make this happen or are we just going to talk some more about it? And I vote for action nearly every time. Because for me it is better to have a decision, even if ultimately it turns out to be the wrong one, than to have no decision at all. Having a decision allows things to happen. Not having a decision simply leaves things in limbo.

The decision may be not to proceed after all, but at least we wont waste any more hours weeks and months debating whether we should do it or not. Without the decision we are paralysed.

There comes a time to draw a line. To think, I have enough information here to make a valid decision. Yes, i could spend more weeks finding out more things, talking to more people, having more meetings, but will the amount of time and money I spend doing that really be cost effective? Will the decision really be SO much better than it would be if I just took it now and we ran with it? Or  will  the moment have passed by the time you are ready to make your decision and so the decision will have been made for you? Sometimes I think that’s why people prevaricate – in the hope that something will happen so that they don’t have to make the decision after all.

Decisions aren’t always irreversible.  Obviously they sometimes are, but often the decision can be amended if critical information subsequently comes to light. That’s not the same as re-visiting the decision every fucking time we meet to discuss a project. That drives me mental too. Look, make a decision and stick to it unless there really is overwhelming reason to reconsider.  I just want to MOVE ON and DELIVER.

If we don’t make decisions, we don’t make anything happen, we just allow things to happen to us as we huddle around the meeting room, paralysed by the fear of making the wrong decision.  I suggest that all these prevaricators, the wishy washy non-decision, paper-pushers just try making a decision. Practice it. Get the feel of it on their tongue and get a taste for it.

Just decide what you want to do. It’s not that hard. I think they’ll be surprised at how exhilarating it can be,  No more churning about in a muddle, drowning in more and more options with no idea where to go. Once they make a decision they will have opened up a clear line of sight to a goal. The end game. Where we all want to be. And it will feel good. And all their colleagues will be relieved that someone has made a decision at last, even if they don’t all agree with it.

And every time they make the wrong decision, and things go awry (and they will) they will learn form that and get better at weighing up the pros and cons and get better at making even better decisions.  And they might start to enjoy it.

The bits I didn’t like

September 23, 2013

The only bits of medicine I didn’t like, and in fact was quite squeamish about, was eyes. There were things I didn’t enjoy as much as others, like filing, but eyes did my head in. There was a girl at school who could put her finger under her eyelid and basically wipe her eyeball with her finger. Used to make me feel physically sick.  And as a doctor it’s pretty tricky to just say “Yeuk, no don’t show me that stye/conjunctivitis/contact lens!” so I had to brace myself and swallow hard when I did anything involving eyes. Funnily enough I rather enjoyed incising and draining Meibomian cysts which are little cysts in the eyelid and you have a special circular little clamp to use once you have flicked the eyelid inside out. Sounds gross but actually rather fun.  But that’s about the only time I haven’t minded eyes.

The worst time was when I was covering Accident and Emergency and two men came in having been involved in a stabbing. The guy I was resuscitating had been stabbed in the chest,the neck and the face. The knife in the chest had pierced his ventricle – the pumping chamber of the heart. The neck one had missed the major artery but looked like it had pierced the top of the lung. The one in the face was through the cheek bone and up through the bottom of his left eye. His eye was pushed forward out of its socket and resting on his cheek.

As the anaesthetist my job was to secure his airway so that air could come in and out. Basically to keep him alive whilst the rest of trauma team worked on him. He had arrested and had no signs of life so I needed to put a tube down in to his trachea (windpipe) so I could help him breathe and some lines in to give him fluids and drugs. Someone else was on his chest doing compressions whilst trying not to squirt all the blood out of the hole in his chest and heart itself.

The cardiac surgeons arrived. We are still in casualty but they decide they need to open him up and sew up the hole in his heart.  This meant getting all the sterile drapes on and making sure the field they were going to operate in was clear of any of my unsterile equipment. No tubes or bits and bobs in the way that they might accidentally touch once they had scrubbed up.

So I had to wrap his head in a sterile green drape to keep all my tubes and stuff  well clear of the surgical area as all my equipment is not sterile. But obviously I still have to be able to access them all and check he is still breathing OK and still unconscious. Wouldn’t want him to wake up and start coughing or pulling at his tubes.

Thus I have a green drape about a metre square and I lift his head up to shuffle the drape underneath. I then take the corners furthest away from me (I am standing behind his head) and pull them up and across his face, trying to ensure I capture all the tubing. (It’s a bit like putting a towel turban on after you’ve washed your hair except I’m wrapping his face in it too). And as i bring my hand up my finger catches his eyeball resting on his cheek. I am nearly physically sick as it blobs around. I have to clip the drape with forceps to hold it in place and I am terrified I will accidentally puncture the offending eyeball but I don’t.

It’s fairly crammed in the resus room in A and E but it’s all we can do and the surgeons have split his sternum (breast bone) open and have rib spreaders in place to hold the rib cage apart whilst they sew up the ventricle. They have managed to restart his heart and they put in a chest drain to reinflate the lung that has been punctured. It’s all going on and I am keeping him alive whilst they build him back together. I’ve had to be very mindful of this eye that is now hidden under the green drapes as it is not uncommon to rest ones hands on top of them, or a piece of equipment if it were light and obviously I can’t do that as I might damage it.

And soon the cardiac surgeons leave – all flying surgical gowns and blood stained boots. And I am left with this poor guy. And his eye. It is still there staring at me from under the drape that I have now loosened but not revealed the offending globe.

We are waiting for the ophthalmic consult. The eye guys have been called but obviously couldn’t do anything whilst the cardio-thoracics are ongoing. So I wait for them. They have been called from the specialist eye hospital Moorfields which is not far away in the City.  I am dreading the eye surgeons wanting to take him to theatre and then I will have to  anaesthetise him for that and sit through the whole gruesome procedure. And eyes are so close the head where I sit, I can’t get away with not looking.

And then the door opens and two guys sweep in. In shades and black crombie coats. As cool as fuck. Seriously it was like Men In Black but 20 years before it. I removed the drape. They took one look and said “He’ll have to come back with us.” What a result. The surgery was too complex for them to do at our hospital, They wanted to take him back to the highly specialised theatre in Moorfields.

“So how did it happen?” asked one of them. “It was an argument about a parking space outside a curry house.” I said. We all looked around the room at the aftermath of a senseless altercation over something as trivial as a parking space. He was lucky to be alive and may well have lost the sight in one eye. The other guy had been whisked away to theatre with an abdominal stab wound. At various points there had probably been in excess of seven or eight people working on each victim, numerous pieces of equipment, drugs, and blood being used, It will have cost the NHS thousands and thousands. All for a sodding parking space.

Sometimes I love my job

September 17, 2013

Last week had a day in point. Uptown at a hotel so the team i was training could be off site. I had four hours of their time and a brief to discuss issues to do with being out ‘in the field’ as its known as opposed to the particular issues of being in head office which is what my training usually concentrates on. So I’d spent quite a bit of time pulling a presentation and exercises together trying to make what can be viewed as an essentially dry subject in to something a little more fun. A bit more practical application and less this is what the rules say. So exercises, scenarios, quizzes, yes no cards. You get the drift. And it’s a bespoke session for this particular team so I’ve not tried it out before so don’t know exactly how the timings will run. Have I got enough stuff? Will I run out of time to get through it all? It’s a bit of a whistle in the wind but all down to how much interactivity and discussion, challenge and debate I allow. Because that’s the best bit really. The on-the-spot Q and As. The real stuff they are dealing with – what should they have done in this situation? So often training is theoretical, hypothetical and avoids giving clear direction – as these are the judgement calls that need to be made and people can find it difficult. But that’s the bit I probably enjoy the most as it shows people are actually engaging with the session and coming up with stuff that will actually help them in their day job.

The four hours flew by for me – might have seemed longer for them – but grabbed a nice buffet lunch and headed back to Paddington station only 3 minutes away. Perfect placement for me. Then off for a meeting with an agency to discuss a conference that is happening next month and the agenda, presentations and the like need to be decided and sorted. Three hours flew by and hopefully much was decided so it felt a worthwhile meeting as opposed to the pointless work-avoidance, decision-revision scenarios they so often are as I may have mentioned.

Then straight to the train station and uptown to a burlesque show via Pizza Express. Oh yes, it was a great day from beginning to end. Full on to full off (apart from nipple tassels) and loving every second.

I am a freelance Consultant to a number of different businesses and with holidays etc I am having to play catch up and working shedloads. Which I enjoy. And the other day was a day of ups and downs and headbanging frustration but a great rollercoaster ride nonetheless.

It started with reviewing materials on the computer – calm, quiet, introvert inspection. It moved to meeting to agree a position between three of us and was an enjoyable discussion and meeting of minds. It then moved on to the telecon from hell. Four of us on the line from the UK and half a dozen or so elsewhere. But obviously not all there at the start. No we have the usual revisiting of decisions already taken in the first 15 minutes, followed by a realisation that the key player isn’t actually on the phone so no decision can be taken.

But we all took a decision a few days ago, why can’t we stick with that? Nothing’s changed. Then someone else joins the call. And introduces a whole new, incoherent element to the proceedings. We discover this is actually someone very senior whose views we should listen to but I have got to the point of no return. I am trying to interrupt the ramblings but am not getting anywhere until he decides to draw breath. By which time I am seething with anger at what I see as lack of clarity and vision from someone so high up and that’s it. I’m on my feet and yelling in to the speakerphone. i am invoking company mission statements in a bid to get them to understand that what they are suggesting is unacceptable to their own company, not just me. I rail for a good minute. And there is complete silence at the other end.

It was a different silence to the one when you ask brightly”Does any one have any ideas?” and you can hear people shuffling, wriggling, metaphorically looking down at their feet. No, this silence was total. As if we’d been cut off. It was a void of shock and disbelief. I realised I had gone too far but it was too late. I felt my contract swinging in the breeze but felt vindicated by my righteousness. (Won’t feel so clever if I can’t pay the mortgage though!).

And then someone at the other end broke the ice and acknowledged that it was a blistering attack and I’d stung them in to silence. But then we moved on. To a degree. Until someone else joined the call and we had to start over. And then we moved on to the main reason for the call, Having used up half the time on a side issue. The person whose call it was was doing her best to retain control and in the end it came down to her apologising for “being brutal” but asking for an actual unequivocal yes or no from the two most senior people there. Everyone else had put their cards on the table, but at the end of the day, these two had to make the call. They are paid high salaries to make high level decisions. To be fair, one of them did step up to the plate and do it. But the other? He weasel-worded his agreement in such a way that it was clear he was only agreeing because everyone else was. Here he was, the most senior person on the call and yet presumably he had just floated in to that position, and has stayed there, resting on the shoulders of his subordinates. Leadership my arse.

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