Your working day, if it is typical, may well provide you with several reminders that time and cost are critical factors to manage. To be profitable, we must be competitive; to be competitive, we must constantly monitor costs and timescales. But do you occasionally hear a distant high-pitched tinkling noise that you’re fairly sure isn’t just an unattended mobile phone? It might be a triangle.
Human beings – especially the English – seem programmed to use the weather as a metaphor, and the recession has been no exception. You’re probably as tired of hearing about stormy weather and ill winds as you are of travelling in the real thing. Although there are no bonus points for collecting the set, the missing cliché is the one about battening down the hatches.
But it’s not one to dismiss. Last week’s news coverage included updates from the OECD on growth forecasts. The anticipated growth rate for the UK for 2010 has risen to 1.2% – recession is ending, at least by its dictionary definition. The OECD expects unemployment to continue to rise throughout 2010 and possibly into 2011, albeit at a slower rate. Here are the opening words of the OECD’s Economic Outlook No 86:
We seem to mention driving quite a bit here (the jury may refer to Exhibit A and Exhibit B). Partly this is just irony – I can drive, but by and large don’t – but I suspect the larger part is explained by the power of metaphor. Metaphors help us grasp something by explaining it terms of something we already understand. And driving is an interesting ‘human beings in the work environment/mindset’ metaphor: we each have some degree of autonomy, but our progress is ultimately determined by complex patterns of interplay. And, of course, by the outcomes of the work of road and town planners (the HR of personal transportation?) Our little accidents can affect more than just ourselves: we’ve mentioned airbags before, and I wasn’t expecting to mention them twice, but I found a blind spot that might be worth sharing …
Judging by his post on 5 Skills for Career Success, Indian blogger Gautam Ghosh values ideas. Always a positive sign. We picked up on one of his ideas – essentially, why don’t HR make themselves redundant – in an earlier posting here, because we liked the emphasis on direct line management involvement in recruitment, mentoring, development (and more) that it implicitly promoted. Maybe the world really is getting smaller, but we seem to have remotely synchronised our metaphorical songsheets on another topic.
Marcus du Sautoy recently presented a fascinating edition of Horizon, looking at consciousness – when do human beings become self-aware, how can consciousness be measured, monitored, recorded and so on. One of the classic tests for identifying its emergence – placing a toddler with a stick-on spot on its face in front of a mirror and seeing if it notices the spot and tries to remove it – shows that we typically achieve self-awareness somewhere between the ages of 18 and 24 months. So it’s just some of us who need another couple of decades then …
Let me start by stating that I don’t read management books. No, really: I don’t! I find the time that’s needed to plough through page after page of theory, models and narrative too precious: I tend to be easily distracted by a more instantly rewarding activity. Don’t get me wrong: I am very passionate about the work I do in helping leaders and teams to be better at managing the relationships that are key to their success. But I have known for a long time that I have a strong activist pragmatist learning style: I prefer my models and approaches to be packaged with a discussion in a few slides.
Fancy another “Who am I?” game? At 13, he was filing his own tax returns and earning more than his teachers – and flirting with shop-lifting. He has no computer or calculator in his office, which is rented, small and unpretentious. He’s self-confessed as hopeless with technology, thinks Mr Market is often crazy or psychotic. He has a website, but it doesn’t run to images. He likes burgers, coke and t-bone steaks, and eats in the same restaurant most days. He learned the ukulele to woo his first wife, who later found his second wife for him – and persuaded her to move in with him when she moved out. Without divorcing him. He thinks ‘risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing’ and he’s against borrowing. He tasks his daughter with buying hail-damaged cars because they’re cheaper, and drives them till she tells him they’re embarrassing. Getting warm anyone?
Why, when everybody knows that leadership and management development (LMD) is unlikely to produce measurable improvement in workplace performance, do CEOs spend more than $40bn pa on it?
Robert Terry argues that there are five conspirators in The Great Leadership and Management Development Conspiracy – participants, training providers, training buyers, line managers, and organisations – each providing mute endorsement for the others. And each serving to perpetuate an untenable squandering of scarce organisational resources.
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