Friday, 30 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Stationery Strategy (1)

More reposted Odanglesex adventures with a few tweaks

FROM: Conor O'Connor, Director of Human Resources Development

TO: All Directors


In order to implement the next step change in our transformational journey to a lean, multicapablity business, the internal review of administrative support has concluded that OCC can save at least 250K by abolishing all admin posts except for those attached to Directors. As officers become more agile and adept at multi-tasking, the traditional admin support role is increasingly redundant, which is what we're making them.

The step change footfall date is 31.3.2012.

FROM: Brett West, Head of Modernisation and Business Practice

TO: All Directors and Heads of Unit
cc: Goneril Hayes, Head of Information Management

In line with Conor's e-mail about the transformation of administrative officers, and with the Agile Stationary Strategy, Directors and Heads of Unit should be aware that from 23.3.2012 it will be incumbent on all directorates and units to manage procurement of all items without support of dedicated admin officers. Since nearly 20% of officers are already registered as Procurers with Supersmart, transiting should not be onerous. However, I draw your attention, for trickle-down, to the Supersmart Procurer Registration procedure and guidance briefing, both available under Business Services on the Infranet.

FROM: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

TO: Brett West


Stationery, I think?

FROM: Dale Brashcon

TO: All Transformational Excellence

Wow! New challenges come thick and fast! Isn't it FUN!

The latest is making ourselves all experts in Supersmart so we can all order pens and conference rooms and sandwiches and consultancy work - if we need them, of course!

Lucy Leaman has come up with an especially exciting idea which I'm sure will have you all on the edge of your seats (if you still have seats - JOKE!) and it's this: we have a competition in Transformational Excellence to see who can become proficient at all levels of Supersmart first. I've OKd with Brett and Goneril that they'll join with Neil as judges and the prize will be an OCC-enabled Blackberry. 100 lines for anyone who says anything about fruit.

FROM: Silesia Jones, Equality Consultant
TO: Reema Narlikar, Transformational Excellence Officer


Rumour has it you're brilliant at this Supersmart thing. I can't get the hang of it and although Mavis is still around, she's spending most of her time making paper aeroplanes because apparently she's got a job in airport security at West Anglia Airport. Could you possibly drop round?

Grovelling thanks


To be ongoing...

Monday, 26 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Workers (3)

The last episode of how Oganglesex's employees became more agile, reposted and slightly changed.

FROM: Hilary Hannah, Human Resources Excellence Consultant

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

cc: Eustace Ojukwu, Human Resources Excellence Consultant

Kenneth: I attach the full report on TESV's piloting of an aspirational head:seat ratio within OCC's Agile Working Strategy. The summary report is as follows (please let me know if you'd like to raise any points before it goes to Ed and Cllr Wayneflete).

Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision has achieved the aspirational target of 1 seat to 2.51 heads within a challenging timescale. The actual ratio at the time of writing is 1:2.56. This demonstrates that the target is achievable across the Council. The achievement deserves congratulation.

However, the anticipated efficiency economies have not been attained: in fact, only 9.6% of the anticipated saving has been achieved to date. While power costs are down thanks to officers working from home and relying on home power supplies, none of the extra space vacated has generated income. To put it colloquially, other organisations don't want to be housed in County Hall. One VCS chief executive said his customers finding the organisation at County Hall would be "a lingering death" and then corrected himself to "not necessarily lingering". Unfortunately this ungenerous response is not untypical and all possible out-stations had already been closed, generating extra mileage expenses as officers had to travel to distant locations from County Hall.

Other difficulties include feedback by Callboysandgirls Call Centre that there has been a 72% increase in phones not being answered and low use of home computers and mobile devices because of Council security requirements. In particular, conversion of devices is taking an average five weeks, two days, seven hours, sixteen minutes and employees are showing marked reluctance to delete their existing home internet security in favour of the MaxiPlus Platinum Plated Worldwide Security package.

Feedback from employees is mixed. Many enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to work from home more, but in some cases have been frustrated by internet security issues. A significant minority find the lack of a personal space at work disorienting and there are also a small number of reported problems in individuals achieving a positive working environment at home. One of these involved a keyboard being immobilised by baby sick. There have also been some problems, which are being investigated, of disability access issues being unresolved.

It is too early to tell whether the changeover has led to increased efficiency in TESV.

Hilary Hannah
Eustace Ojukwu.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO; Neil Balderson, Senior Transformational Excellence Manager

Neil: I'm not happy about this report. It needs some polishing before it goes to Ed and Bill Waynflete. Could you drop in asap for a brief discussion and then liaise with Hilary and Eustace?

FROM: Eustace Ojukwu
TO: Neil Balderson

Hi! Here's the revised version.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive

Ed: Here's the report from the HR consultants on our Agile Workers step change. The summary is as follows:

Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision has achieved the aspirational target of 1 seat to 2.51 heads within a challenging timescale. The actual ratio at the time of writing is 1:2.53. All employees are to be congratulated.

Savings of £539,000 pa can be projected if the savings pathway of the first months is projected till the year end. Energy costs are down and space within County Hall has been freed up. All working from home and in transit has been brought in line with Council security requirements and there have been no breeches.

A clear majority of TESV employees have welcomed the opportunity to become Agile and work more from home. A problem in a small number of cases of access difficulties to flexible working work stations has been addressed.

The transformation is on course to deliver greater efficiency and customer responsiveness.

Eustace Ojukwu
Hilary Hannah, Human Resources Excellence Consultants

FROM: Cllr Bill Wayneflete, Leader of the Council

TO; Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive

Ed: Thanks for the report on Agile Working. I'd like to raise two points.

First, unless our employees are trouserless, which does from personal observation apply to a minority but not to all, it should be "breaches", not "breeches".

Second, how does this Agile Workers thing tally with us doubling the charge to use the gym?


Friday, 23 November 2012

That can't be a coincidence...

Men are supposed to approach tasks single-mindedly, bludgeoning them until they die (the task or the man) while women keep several balls (of the shiny, coloured sort) in the air at the same time and multi-task.

Actually, I like multi-tasking. I even read two or three books at the same time (not at precisely the same time, but almost: on a train journey or in a waiting-room I'll read two or three pages of book A and then switch to book B). I was doing this on a train yesterday. The two books were Margaret Attwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" and David Nobbs' "It Had to Be You". I read a couple of pages of Attwood: the Commander asked the Handmaid to play scrabble with him and she did. I picked up the Nobbs. James, having been drinking a lot, disappointed his girlfriend and they played scrabble instead.


Of course not. There are endless possibilities of such coincidences occurring between two books. It might have been playing chess, thinking about an accident with some paint, realising you've acquired a flea, remembering a performance of a Bruckner symphony, farting, meeting someone from Ecuador, eating bland cheese...or, indeed, farting at a Bruckner concert with someone from Ecuador after eating bland cheese.

Funny, even so.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Workers (2)

Back to that exemplar local authority, Odanglesex County Council, and its Agile Workers - another reposted adventure with maybe a few subtle changes.

Odanglesex County Council wants agile, flexible workers and has set a target head:seat ratio. How are they getting on?

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: Hamish Carpenter, Transformational Excellence Manager

Hamish - could you drop into my office at 3:30 to discuss our response to the Intelligent Procurement draft?

FROM: Hamish Carpenter

TO: Kenneth Spotlessnob

Kenneth: slight problem. I'm working from home to help reach our flexible working target. I could only drop into your office if I left immediately to catch the train.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob

TO: Hamish Carpenter

Great. Really appreciate it. See you.

FROM: Melina Dunkley, Human Resources Excellence Advisor

TO: Dale Brashcon, Senior Transformational Excellence Champion

Dale: My fly-on-the-wall monitoring of your unit's flexible working performance raised just a few issues, as follows:

(1): High proportion of phones not being answered (61%). When phones not the employee's own were picked up, the employee often did not know whose phone it was and was not au fait with that officer's business.
(2): Competition over storage spaces has left Scott Fitzwilliam, who was on leave during the changeover, without any personal space and he is currently sharing Reema Narlikar's personal space.
(3): One keyboard with broken legs and a deficient tab key has been migrating around the room for three weeks as anyone finding him/herself in front of it is moving it to whatever work station is unoccupied.
(4): Set-up times are mostly within HR's target, but vary considerably. Some tasks are common - for example, entering the digits necessary to activate the phone, adjusting the chair, computer set-up and repositioning any hard copy resources needed from storage to desk; but some are not essential. Henry Donaldson has the longest average set-up in your unit, at 10:16, and a significant element in this at 1:52 is locating his photos of his wife and children in his briefcase and transferring them to the desk.

ED'S JOB - the Chief Executive's blog

Hi! It's me again!

We all have dear loved ones we like to keep in mind. If you don't, well, I expect you've got a cat or a hyacinth. I've got a husband, three children, a dog, a cat, an aged mother and a tortoise, but I haven't got a hyacinth.

Life isn't just about work. We need to reserve a space for personal relations, as I do.

However, when we're working towards the marvellous, lean, proactive, holistic future we all see for Odanglesex County Council, we do all need to keep our minds on the job. That's why I'm sure you'll understand the new rule banning all personal photos from County Hall. However, I know some people may find this hard and I do feel for them, so the attached instructions will enable you to print off pictures of the Chairman of the Council, the Leader or myself or that wonderful photo of myself and Odanglesex's favourite comedian Sammie Drivell hugging and place them in the frames we're providing so these will be a permanent feature of your workstations.

I'm really looking forward to getting mine! Cheerio.

The third and last episode of Agile Workers will see a much-anticipated report written for Councillor Wayneflete...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Some Central American country has had an election

Some central American country has had a presidential election and the incumbent, widely characterised in the U.S.A. as a socialist despot, has been returned.

I am of course talking about the U.S.A., not Venezuela.

A lot of people have discussed and analysed the result of the Obama - Romney contest, often perceptively. I'm not going to second-guess them, but just look at three things.

First, commentators keep saying certain states - especially Ohio - are key determinants. We should remember that the political balance in most states is constantly changing, both because of changes within that state such as a decline of heavy industry or an influx of prosperous retirees or Latino immigrants, and because the nature of the Democrat/Republican divide is always shifting. Social-economic factors probably count for less, and questions of social attitude for more, than they did not long ago, which may account for states like West Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee moving away from the Democrats while Virginia, Colorado and California move towards them. Not so long ago California was a crucial marginal state and any Democrat not easily winning West Virginia was in big trouble. Of all Obama's wins, Ohio was the second closest: he could have won quite easily without it and a tiny shift would have meant just that, so the comfortable wisdom that Ohio always decides it may be on the way out.

Secondly, observing how close the results were in Florida and Ohio (a swing to the Republicans of 0.5% would have won them Florida, and a swing of 1% in Ohio would have been enough) I wondered if despite Obama's eventual healthy lead in the popular vote (misrepresented by many commentators commenting before the big Democratic votes of California and the other Pacific seaboard states were counted) Romney might actually have won on a tiny shift. However, a closer look dispelled this impression. Because Obama hoovered up (Roosevelted up?) states like Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as small states like New Hampshire and Nevada, he could have won without either Ohio or Florida. The next closest state in Obama's column was Virginia, and there a 1.5% swing would have been needed. Even that would have left Obama the winner. To lose he would have had to surrender all those first three states plus the fourth closest win for him, Colorado - and that would have required a 2.4% swing to the Republicans and for Romney to win the state while his comrades were losing control of the state legislature.

Thirdly, I thought about the choices of running mates. Both seemed questionable. Romney, like McCaine a moderate Republican, like McCaine assuaged his party's carnivores with a hard-line running-mate. McCaine probably thought his choice a stroke of genius with woman voters angry at Obama for defeating their champion Hilary: in fact Palin was a liability. Governor Ryan of Wisconsin is a less ignorant hard-liner, but he couldn't even carry his own quite marginal state and as for motivating Republican hard-liners, they surely so hated Obama that they would have voted anyway; while the idea of Ryan a heartbeat from the presidency disturbed moderates.

No such concern hangs around the veteran foreign-policy specialist long-time senator Joe Biden. However, the reasons why he seemed a good choice for Obama's running-mate in 2008 seemed to count for less this time. He brought experience to balance Obama's inexperience - but whatever you think of Obama, he certainly had a lot more experience by 2012! Biden brought age to balance youth - but by 2012 grey-haired Obama seemed more than four years older! He brought "blue-collar" (working-class) credibility to the rather academic and unearthy Obama running against a populist war hero - but although this still counted, in 2012 Obama was running against a Mormon millionaire and blue-collar voters might have been less inclined to defect. Biden's state, Delaware, is tiny and safely Democratic. Obama could have approached a Marine veteran Virginia senator, for example, but he stuck with Biden, who could have been offered the Secretaryship of State Hilary Clinton has said she's vacating. Maybe he was right, because most people thought Biden ran rings round Ryan in their debate.

Do you get the impression I'm fascinated by the politics of this obscure central American country? Well, I am, and frustrated too by the gridlocks and the power of vested interests. Maybe it needs an American invasion to sort things out.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Odanglesex Revisited: The Agile Workers (1)

Back to reposting slightly improved - or worsened - Odanglesex County Council adventures - this one on Agile Working!

FROM: Simeon Lascelles, Director of Spatial Exploration and Direction Management
TO: All Directors

cc: Edelbertha Spengler, Chief Executive



A recent study by Gomez Pertwee Associates shows that the seat/head ratio in local government can be reduced to 1:2.93 recurring without impacting in a negative direction of travel on service delivery standard attainment levels. We currently stand at 1:1.41. Ed has asked me to task you all with producing business plans by the month end to reduce your head/seat ratios to at least 1:2.43 recurring. Cllr Wayneflete is showing a personal interest in this issue.

I attach a presentation by Gert Offenbach of Gomez Pertwee to a recent seminar in Bruges. Conor (on Human Resources Development's contribution) and I will be happy to field any queries as appropriate.


FROM: Magog Jones, Director of Transportation and Settlement
TO: Simeon Lascelles

Simeon, could we have that presentation in English, please? My Serbo-Croat is a bit rusty.

Most of us have one head, one seat.

FROM: Kenneth Spotlessnob, Assistant Chief Executive and Director of Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

TO: All Transformational Excellence and Strategic Vision

These are interesting times - exciting times, indeed, and I know you all share my excitement at the opportunity to beacon our enthusiasm for agile working in TESV so that our transformational pilot can be showcased across OCC and the public services commissioning community worldwide as a directional excellence exemplar.

We all know that agile workers are the future. We need to bring the future forward to the present. This is not just about Flexible Working, important though that is. Instead of the static employee tied to a one to one relationship with an inflexible workspace, we can embrace innovatory work delivery modes such as working from home, maximising use of agile equipment such as the Blackberry and Smartphone and flexible workspace management within office usage parameters.

Yesterday at the Heads of Units meeting we looked at some of the ways we can leap ahead on agile working and I am confident that this Directorate is not only going to meet the corporate target of 1:2.43 recurring with all mileposts, but exceed it. We've therefore agreed for TESV a target of 1:2.51 and I'm looking forward to meeting with Simeon and his team on Friday to materialise specifics.

FROM: Magog Jones

TO: Alex Knollys, Head of Transportational Direction Management


As your lot are on the road most of the time, and when they're not, don't need to sit at desks much, and I've checked with Spatial Exploration that for the purposes of the dreaded ratio, vehicle seats don't count, you've no need to worry because you've hit the target already.

(Now how is the authority's seat reduction strategy going to work out in practice? All will in due course be revealed...)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

What is government for?

During a BBC TV news item about the US presidential election, after the result so a bit reflective, a Republican voter, interviewed, said, more or less:

"If you believe that government's about helping people, then Obama's OK, but if you believe government's about helping people to help themselves, you worry...". This sounded quite thoughtful and the idea that government's main role is enabling (helping people to help themselves) appeals a lot to a British Liberal.

But first of all, even by Abraham Lincoln's quite narrow definition of the role of government (doing what people can't do for themselves) by any realistic analysis there is a substantial role for government, especially if you admit things that are clearly, in the best interests of people in general, done by government at some level (policing, for example: many people could instead protect themselves, but the cost in violent deaths would be horrendous and the weak and poor would be least able to protect themselves).

The idea that everybody can pull himself or herself up by his/her own bootstraps is traditionally American, but flourished when the constantly moving Frontier made such self-improvement much more achievable for people who started with nothing. If you really want to enable everyone, then some people need a help up until they're in a position to make choices and help themselves. In Britain, for example, the last Labour government laid down a minimum wage by law. It was and is pretty low, but some people were being paid below it and at that level their choices and ability to help themselves were extremely limited. Some business organisations warned that the minimum wage would drive down employment, but that didn't seem to happen. The minimum wage would look to some Americans like classic socialism; but from a libertarian point of view, what individual liberty was reduced by it? The individual liberty of those paid a bit more was increased.

Undoubtedly there is a trap of coming to rely on government to fix everything. It can't, and if it could, it shouldn't. But a trap on the opposite side is to see the alternative purely in terms of individual (or at most family) initiative. Some things can't be fixed by any individual and may not be best left to government, but are fixable by relatively small numbers of people freely banding together - a community, a society, an action group. So one of the key questions for government at any level should be, "How can government encourage and assist community and other free collective action?"

Obama was a community organiser. I suspect he understands that. Our Prime Minister David Cameron did understand that, but his "Big Society" has vanished under pressure from the economic slump, the defecit reduction programme and unimaginative civil servants who saw his agenda purely in terms of getting former public services provided by charities (which themselves might be more top-down and no better at involving volunteers than the statutory organisations).

We shouldn't give up that easily.