Monday, May 17, 2004


this is a test

testing 2 4 6 8 . . . .

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The following was related by the person concerned during lunch. Person concerned is the "new" quality manager, leaving on Friday after one year and two months in post - going to (rumour says) a much more highly paid job far closer to his home. Anyway, he had to sort out some tax matters, and didn't want to do it at his desk, as people could hear. So he went to a quiet conference room to phone the tax people. He didn't check if someone else had booked the conference room. Aa it happens, a very important, though normally unassuming, person had booked that very conference room, for a meeting with external customers, so person turns up with entourage in tow, to find the conference room occupied. Our anti-hero, who has now got through to the Inland Revenue, looks up, holds up two fingers meaning "I'll just be two mnutes" and the unassuming person waits outside. A little while later, the whole thing is repeated, and our anti-hero holds up one finger meaning "I'll just be one minute". Some unmeasured time later, he comes out of the conference room and the unassuming person tells him off. Our anti-hero doesn't say anything much, unusual in itself, and walks away.

Part two occurs about a week later. The new quality manager is walking from one place to another at work when he sees this unassuming chap. He draws him aside and tells him, forcefully, never, never, again to speak to him (to the new quality manager) in front of customers.

The new quality manager things that he is justified in all this. I'm tempted to think that he's so wrong about so many things that it's difficult to explain.

The product is so expensive that the number of customers able to afford it are limited, so, being a continuous improvement company anyway, customers are given special attention. Even in a normal company, I would imagine that potential customers take priority over private tax matters.

There is flexi-time available, and most people take Friday afternoons off - though it's true that people do make personal phone calls and the official line is that it's allowed, provided it's not excessive. Besides, damn it, this chap has a mobile. There's lots of quiet corners to hide/make private calls.

The unassuming chap is someone who is directly concerned in designing the product, rather than a quality manager who, when it comes down to it, considering he's not being replaced, is perhaps not essential to the company.

The kindest way I can think of putting it is that the new quality manager doesn't understand the culture of the company, never has, never wanted to, and so it's just as well that he's leaving.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Contemplated the value of reading case studies while looking at Harvard Business Review over lunch. I love that journal, but have to ration it carefully, as I read faster than they publish. The format, of course, is a fictionalised situation followed by four possible solutions by different people or companies. The afternoon was less cheerful. One of the processes I work with is devouring most of my time and the boss wants to consider how to improve it which will have the undesirable side-effect of removing some of my overtime. On the other hand, I'm so tired when I get back that my brain resembles an unset jelly. Or unscrambled eggs. Or that sludge left in the bottom of cocoa mugs, which clings and then turns the washing up water a murky brown.

Monday, March 31, 2003

Thoughts on contemporary art, probably inspired by describing the Louise Hopkins works to a colleague at work, the one I call the butterfly man. He's 40ish, divorced, takes good care of his physical shape, though I feel he'd be more attractive if he let his hair grow, instead of just jelling it into vertical spikes. Anyway, he has the limited intelligence which is one of the less desirable aspects of engineers: perhaps he likes art, but it has to conform to a set stereotype. He listens with polite curiosity while I describe some of Louise Hopkins' works and then, of course, here is comes, his reaction: "I could have done that". I think that a better reaction is not so much that anyone could have produced those pictures, but whether they would have even had the imagination to consider doing them.

One of the works - a non-Louise Hopkins one, which I just couldn't bring myself to describe - was Lucy Skaer's Venn Diagram (Nefertiti/Rorshach). Even in feverish hallucinations, I couldn't conceive of juxtaposing footballers, snakes, pseudo-symmetrical garden maze designs together with the more symmetrical (by definition) inkblots and an unfamiliar version of Nefertiti's head, as a relief bust. The colleague would have been talking about lack of skill, especially when he saw Hanneline Visnes's The Peacock, a rather sad peacock, tail erect, but each feather firmly differentiated and (I had to admit) bearing absolutely no resemblance to any peacock I have ever seen, and I used to see a lot in England, when they roosted in the trees of the local museum. Next to the peacock was a black, almost pentagonal shape, scribbled over with black biro in straightish lines. It evoked memories of Monet's haystacks, and a certain feeling of distress. What I'm wondering is whether the lack of technical skill balances the imagination and innovation of design? Further, can a picture evoke a strong reaction from the viewer while being a technically accurate representation? Finally, should the medium of the art work contribute to the reaction which the artist aims to produce? I'm thinking of Sally Osborn using watercolour on tissue paper, so fragile that it rustles and shimmers when the viewer walks past, or perhaps the giant snowballs Andy Goldsworthy made once and then photographed at all the stages of melting, so that the first photos were marvellous images of, perhaps stones or sticks held into a solid with the snow, and the last pictures were sad, neglected piles of sticks or stones with no further purpose in life.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Welcome to cargo cult management. I've been particularly unlucky in the events I've been to recently, or else somehow the voice of the customer is becoming an extinct species. Went to a social evening at the gym. It was obvious that the management had looked at all the factors involved: disco, food, drink, space. But they hadn't considered that the typical customer may have a certain fondness for 60s or 70s type music with a cheerful, defined beat. So the people attending with damned both ways. They didn't know the music or how to adapt their antiquated style of dancing to it (me, I just seized the nearest unattached man and said I wanted to dance before the buffet); but the music was too loud for anything but brief roars of conversation. It's all very well for the management to have an idea about the aims of the evening, but let the poor bloody customers in on it as well, can't you?

It's too depressing to mention other examples, there's just too many of them.

Friday, February 21, 2003

So another good man was in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong job ...a BAE SYSTEMS commercial guy got shot in Riyadh. It's true he was a commercial chap, and they are so nit-picky they might just as well be quality people, but it's very important to realise that just because a company is not to everyone's taste, the people who work there do have lives, and mortgages and opinions of their own.

Another good man just happened to be in possession of the murder weapon - it's presented very coyly in the UK press. Just because someone happens to be holding the alleged murder weapon, does that make him the definitive murderer? OK, this guy is alleged to be a Toyota car salesman, but he must have some good points as well.

There's too much allegation here. The only fact everyone can be sure of is that this BAE guy was alive this morning and he's not now and the only assumption which can be drawn is that he probably did nothing to deserve being shot dead.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Have been having far too close a look at stress for my liking. Examples I've come across include naps at lunchtime, laying one's head on the desk until being interrupted by a fresh crisis, self mutilation ... and taking a half day's holiday. I've been working such long hours, it was difficult to unwind, I even felt guilty at wandering around when everyone else was so busy. On the other hand, I used to work with someone who would defuse tension by hobbling along the corridor, flapping his arms and clucking like a hen. And the huge amount of stress floating around may include the fondness for heading off to the gym. Or standing on the third floor balcony, silent, observing the sun rise.

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