Posts Tagged ‘john bowen’

musings on the pace of change

I’m writing this at almost 11,000 metres above the Atlantic ( 36,000 feet for those of us who are still partially in Imperial mode), my iPod is pumping 60’s Motown into my ears and I’m comfortable in my window seat. I have a drink and my laptop and have nothing much else to do so writing this week’s missive seems a good idea, but what to write about? Well the fact that I’m doing all of the above is still a source of wonder. Read more…

let’s get rid of the unlimited liability clause

The purpose of contract documents is to set out in as an unambiguous manner as possible the intentions of the parties involved. Clarity should be of the essence, but so many contracts are drafted by lawyers these days are not only impenetrable as to their meaning, but also often contain clauses that make little practical sense. Read more…

midweek musings on thank you notes, and why it is wrong to solicit them

One of the things that have been doing the rounds on various blogs and social media posts for a while now is the lost art of the thank you note. Now I like to write one of these where appropriate, and I do mean write; pen and paper and my own hand, not typed.

But many of these recommendations to write thank you notes are for where you have been interviewed for a job, the suggestion being that you should always write a thank you note after the interview or you won’t get the job. Read more…

leadership lessons from Michael Schumacher

Taking a sporting theme for the second week in a row I’m going to refer to the aftermath of Michael Schumacher’s early exit from the Chinese Grand Prix after one of his wheels was not properly attached during the first round of pit stops; “I don’t have any hard feelings. I feel a bit sorry for one of my boys that I guess he feels responsible, but it’s part of the game”.

And this after he lost the chance of his best result since making his comeback and, possibly, a win on the circuit that he won his last race on. No tantrums, no ranting or raving, just a straightforward comment. Read more…

midweek musings on menswear at work

Talking to people about formal business wear at work this week, there is no sign of any abandonment of the collar and tie for men. With all of the moves to try and dispose of the tie, why is it still with us? Read more…

Things That Go Bump In The Night – part three

In crisis or incident management there is a lot that can go wrong. One outfit that I worked for had a crisis management manual that was spilling over into a third 4 inch thick ring binder. Yes it was well researched and worked well for desktop exercises, but how are you going to work with that when you are stuck out in the car park in the wet and the wind trying to sort out which page you need?

One of the big problems with thinking about what disaster might befall you is that you go down the input specification route; you plan for all sorts of things that might happen when many of them have the same two or three results and they are that you can’t use all or part of the site, or all or part of its services.

My contention is that it doesn’t matter that much why you have the problem. That just gives you a clue as to how long you have the problem for, for example if you have a gas leak outside the site and you can’t get in (or get evacuated) you can’t use the building for a few hours, but if you have a fire it will be a few days disruption to, possibly, having to move to new premises. In both cases it is the loss of use that needs priority.

All of the functional groups within the building will have their own continuity plans and the FM team need to be aware of these and support as necessary, but it is the FM team that will take most of the early actions in managing the incident.

In these pages you’ll find stories of some of the major incidents that I’ve been involved with. In The Day The Town Stood Still it was a pretty routine day when something came up, and that then escalated to a point where the improbable coincidence of a second problem brought us close to the edge of a disaster. If the team at the second site had not been effective in dealing with the flash fire, the gridlock caused by the first problem preventing the Fire Brigade from getting through might have seen us lose a building. There is a very fine line between OK and Oh S**t! sometimes.

Does fortune play a part? Maybe it does; there are times when timing or nature will be on your side, but mostly it is thinking, training and practice that will make the difference. If you’ve thought things through, planned and prepared through getting people trained and have drilled them then most of the risks are mitigated or reduced.

But to finish off this series with a final foul up, I’ll tell you about the one that really got me into FM. At the time I headed up the Operational side of a logistics business and the property maintenance team worked for HR. We had a problem with the flashing that covered the join between the wall and roof of the warehouse above the goods inwards doors and a decent repair was budgeted for.

I arrived one morning to find a queue of lorries outside. The cause was obvious; scaffolding completely blocked access to goods in and our operations were paralysed. It cost us dearly, but was easy to put right. The cause was poor communication; no-one had bothered to consider that we needed to work through the repairs. Facilities came under my control from then on so that there would be no more such incidents. and led to me making the move to FM myself.




Leadership lessons from the News of the World & Wayne Rooney?

Over the last week there has been much discussion in and around the media on leadership, primarily concerned with the roles of Messer’s Murdoch pere et fils. Personally I find the sight of politicians haranguing successful business people on the subject of accountability completely risible, but hypocrisy is the hallmark of modern politics and, sadly, we quietly accept it.

One day we might see genuine leadership from those we elect to office, but I doubt that it will happen whilst they all subject themselves to their media advisors; you can lead a committee, but you can’t truly lead by committee.

Where the Murdoch chaps fit into this week’s thoughts is the question of their position relative to what they knew. The whole sorry mess has seen much hysteria, but there is a basic issue at the heart of it as far as leadership goes, and that is that the leader should be setting the tone and that will be promulgated throughout the organisation.

How well that is done is another facet of leadership, but you cannot always guarantee that everyone will do the right thing; there are all sorts of possible failures from people not doing what they should whether that be through innocent or malicious reasons. I well remember a negotiation training course where a good syndicate group would have worked out that, at a critical stage in the deal, they would have to brief their notional team on keeping their powder dry. The boat must not be rocked at any cost, and so the syndicate would go through the role playing of talking the senior management team through what was needed of them. We would then roll the timeline forward and, of course, one of the senior team would have stepped out of line and torpedoed the negotiation. Sure it was cruel, but the syndicate members needed to be able to react to such situations because they do happen.

Now I make no judgement here on whether or not the M team knew what was going on over at NOTW or not, but it is patently obvious that you cannot delegate and be absolutely certain that your standards, policies or instructions will be upheld. You accept the risk and build in appropriate measures to mitigate against such risk, one of which is that a transgressor will lose their job.

To be  conducting the questioning of the Murdoch’s along those lines is to mislead the public at large and is therefore another leadership failure , but let’s not get me back onto politicians, let’s just return to the point of the leader needing to set the tone.

Elsewhere in my newspapers this week I note that a certain Mr Rooney heads the table of footballers whose name is most popular amongst fans buying team shirts. It seems that more people want to have his name on their backs that anyone else which, on the basis that he has followers, makes him a leader of sorts.

I don’t follow professional football much these days; the game has lost its charm for me, but I respect Mr Rooney’s ability and application in his job. What does nothing to earn my respect is his behaviour, and this is what he shares with the NOTW.

The NOTW was successful because people wanted to read what it told them. It too was a leader and generated large amounts of advertising revenue because of its followers. But, like Mr Rooney, there were behavioural aspects that should have been curtailed, and in this the Murdoch’s failed.

Leaders can be good or bad. We need the former.

They call my right hand men Himmler & Hess and want me fired Part 2- more tales of life on the facilities front line

Last week left my team and I somewhat on the back foot. The clients were ganging up demanding my head to head off the changes I wanted to make and, in at least one case, to waste a 6 figure sum. My team’s morale was on the floor and, quite frankly, I just wanted to get back down the M4 before the fog set in as the winter darkness fell, but this was not the time to be walking (OK driving) away. Read more…

They call my right hand men Himmler & Hess and want me fired Part 1- more tales of life on the facilities front line

The other Facilities Front Line posts here have been on the dramatic side; gunmen, dodgy parcels and so on. These are rare occurrences although they do make for good copy; most days at the office have some drama, but overflowing toilets, disputes over parking places and rows over catering or meeting room bookings are not the sort of tales to grip the reader. Today’s tale is somewhere in the middle. Read more…

when people come together they can fill a space with their life and energy

I’ve written here before about the alleged demise of the office, but the topic has raised its head again this past week so I’m off again.

We earthlings enjoy a fantastic range of communications devices these days, and we’re a couple of generations away from my early days at work where I would carry change to phone in to the office as and when necessary. Now the science fiction of my youth is a reality and I have a few of these devices at my disposal and am a happy, and fairly prolific, user of them.

The ability to keep in touch and to interact with others remotely has changed the way that we work, but that isn’t new; it’s just the natural process of evolution. The pace may vary, but change is constant.

The office as I have known it is a relatively new thing in terms of human history, and it has changed a lot in my time. At the end of the day it is a tool and we will adapt it as we need to. One of the buildings that I once managed is now an easyOffice and part of Stelios’ new venture. It still exists, which is more that can be said for some of the other flagships of my old 1990s empire; one has been demolished and an apartment complex now stands on the site, another has just been demolished and a third has been gutted and the shell absorbed into an industrial building. My team and I used to look after over 3000 people in those three offices and they were all key parts of the organisations that we worked on behalf of.

But we changed them radically over the time that we ran them and had them in a constant state of flux as the tenant businesses needs changed. There may have been an illusion of permanence, but it was only an illusion. The illusion is in the minds of the people though; the building is just a convenient place. Those of us who have managed big workplaces will know how lonely and dead they are when empty.

When people come together they can fill a space with their life and energy, and those provide a synergy that no amount of remote working or cloud collaboration can replace. The challenge for us within the industry is to provide those spaces, but in what form?

I remember the first Regus office locally and being very interested because they were doing on the open market what I was trying to do for an internal market. There was a time when it looked as though they wouldn’t make it, but the financial model has worked and others have followed, as with easyOffice in our old floors at Palmerston House, and all power to them for that.

Coffee bars, hotel lobbies, supermarket cafeterias and motorway services are all playing their part as alternative places to meet, but the thing that intrigues me is that there is still so much focus on city centres. With all of the moves away from pinning us down to the daily grind of going in to the office, most cities are working towards transport and infrastructure plans that are based on sizeable growth over the next 10-30 years. That implies that we will still have these great hives of activity for a long time to come.

Will we push the market, or will the market pull us? I don’t know that I have the answers right now, but it sure is a fascinating time to be in the industry isn’t it?