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Posts Tagged ‘projects’

on gardening and leadership


Like many of us in lockdown, or seclusion as some overseas are calling it, I am spending more time in my garden than I probably would have done, although, for me, I am still working on a project that was conceived around the time that Covid-19 was taking hold in China and we were still in blissful ignorance of what was about to descend on the world.

Gardening gives you time to think and one of those random thoughts that have passed through my grey cells as I have been weeding and pruning is how much of what I have been doing in my front and back yards ties in to the leadership lessons that I have learned down the years.

It may seem odd that such solitary activities give rise to thoughts of leading, but one of the crucial talents that a leader needs is self discipline. Without that it is easy to lose focus and drift off track. In the business world you are dealing with customers, suppliers, competitors and regulators who create a dynamic environment much of which you cannot control despite any effort to influence it. The expression juggling chainsaws is a little extreme, but is not far off the mark at times and the person at the top of the team needs to be watching, evaluating, re-calculating, delegating, motivating, monitoring, planning and driving. Focus is essential.

Out in the garden things may seem more relaxed with just you and the vegetation, but that is an illusion to some degree for the equivalent of your business marketplace is nature and she never sleeps. Weeds are just plants that you don’t want and they are usually the most successful. They are resilient because they are left to evolve to their strengths; they compete to survive. Cultivated plants are much weaker as they are bred for other things and they need much more care to enable them to survive and flourish. The slugs, snails and aphids all ignore my weeds, but will destroy the stuff that I have spent my hard earned cash on in hours. Leadership 101 really; life is not fair and shit happens.

Tending to the garden requires planning, but also the ability to church the lan out of the window tom deal with the unexpected. Take weather. You check the forecasts (two or three at least) to get a feel for what is coming up. Like any business forecast the data will get less robust the further away you move, but, also like in business, the forecasts rarely agree exactly and you plan on worst case or maybe averaging the predictions depending on what you have in mind. What you get is rarely what you expect and you make do with what you get (sound familiar; sales forecasts anyone, or maybe delivery dates?).

Looking after a garden also means a lot of boring drudgery work, but you have to do it. Time management is all over this. You set aside maybe half an hour do do some pruning or weeding, but once you start you find something else and, if you are not focused you are still at it an hour later to the detriment of something else and you are on the back foot as far as getting what you planned for the day done. Pruning is a case in point for me as last week I decided to tackle the ivy growing over from next door where it has wrecked one of my fence panels. The plan was to strip the ivy, pull out what was left of the old panel and replace it with a new one that has been sat there since last year (when I was planning on doing it, but got distracted…). It should have taken me about 15 minutes to strip enough ivy to do the job, but an hour and a half later the Berkshire Belle was at the back door enquiring when I planned to cook her dinner; I had almost cleared the length of the fence.

These mindless tasks are a minefield for me. Sometimes I get bored immediately, give up and move on to something else which leaves a problem getting worse (and needing more time when I do get around to it), but at other times I get into the groove with my eyes and hands working on their own whilst my mind wanders off into, well anything really. I have to really work hard at keeping on track and it is an area where a leader’s followers need to pick up the tone because if they see you wandering off track where do you think that they will go? Do what needs doing and if that is not what you had planned then be sure you understand why you are changing tack and when you need to be turning back onto a course to recover.

I do. not mean to imply that gardening is a high stress environment, but then neither is leadership all of the time and when you have either activity under a modicum of control then both can be quite relaxing and certainly both will give pleasure. In that last sentence the key word is probably control. Whilst many of us get an element of pleasure from the gang-ho antics of firefighting and a good panic now and again can be fun in the aftermath, being in control is far better.

I will be back in the garden later weaving the essential periodic maintenance tasks into my various projects that make ups the overall strategy and doing my best to keep it all on track using the resources that I have whilst staying within my budget. Sound familiar?

the lockdown log 49


It has been a heavy week. The skip that I ordered on Tuesday arrived the next day and is now pretty much full. Three or four hours every day have seen a lot of progress and the garden, garage and my upstairs office all show signs of improvement and I am almost at the point where I can start to disassemble the old shed (some of it is already gone).

I am at one of those stages in a project where you move from one phase to another and there is a psychological effect. One the one hand you have the feeling that the one part is over and are thankful, but the next stage looms and can seem daunting. There is no respite, you have to keep going and it can be hard. That is possibly why I had something of a crash yesterday and was terminally depressed for most of it, l=almost on the verge of tears all afternoon and then feeling very ill just at the point where I needed to be cooking dinner.

The way that I deal with these things is twofold. Firstly I try to just get on with it; if I can do something that I can focus on I can lose myself in that task and, even if it is for only twenty minutes or so, it burns off the clock and moves me onwards. It also aids the other tactic which is my old faithful ostrich principle of burying my head in the sand. I just ignore anything that I don’t want to think about. Time passes and I get over these depressions.

It’s daft in so many ways because I should have been thrilled with the progress that I had made by yesterday afternoon, but I wasn’t. Things that I would normally brush off or treat as motivators just kept knocking the stuffing out of me. I could have packed up and just flopped on the sofa, but I felt that I would have felt worse if I did, not least that a sense of guilt would envelope me for skiving off and so I just kept going u til I was too tired to do any more and at that point the feeling of not being too well kicked in and as I though about how I was going to cook tea I just wanted to throw up. I told myself not to be an idiot and went into the kitchen to cook salmon trout fillets over a savoury rice and, by the time I was ready to dish up, I felt better. After eating I felt better still.

This coming week I shall have to get my finger out on the garden work as we have gale force winds forecast for Thursday/Friday and I do not want to leave anything too vulnerable. If the old shed is coming down I need to have it done quickly, but my neighbour’s fence is in a poor state and without my shed protecting it a high wind might see it fall down. That will be a problem for me even if it is their fence and so as soon as my shed is gone I will have to do a bit of reinforcement on my side so, again, I have to have all of that done by Wednesday or think about deferring it all until next weekend. Plands A, B and C are under consideration…

We are certainly doing better for garden birds at the moment. As I sit here at the dining table I have a blackbird quarrying the from lawn for worms, a pair of amorous wagtails chasing around the cherry and the hawthorn and a blue tit watching on. The starlings are back regularly through the day although their flock is around a dozen rather that the thirty or more that we used to have swarming around. The blackbird oil one of a pair and we also have a pair or robins that follow my earth moving operations with interest, They all provide enjoyment and I love to see and hear them whilst out and bout around the garden. My neighbour has tried to dislodge the fox that is camping under his shed without much success as it is still around and seen on a daily basis. It is not too bothered about me these days and will sometimes sit and watch me work for a while.

Stay safe wherever you are.lock

the lockdown log 29


Back to work this week after using up the last full week of my 2020 holiday allotment. I still have two air three days to take before the end of November, but my main holidays are done for the year and, with the Law of Sod in full swing, I got home from work on Monday to get a call to say that the long awaited shed will be here on Saturday.

This was the key to completing the back garden project and should have been erected back in July. The furlough period had seen demand for such buildings rocket and had also slowed production so that a simple garden shed could not be had for love nor money. The original delivery date was given as late August and so, allowing for problems, I booked the middle two weeks of September off to paint and build it. Delivery slipped to September 9th, then to October 8th and now October 17th.

I can, at least, now start to plot what happens next and do as much as I can with the loss of the long, light, evenings and the more clement weather that I had three months ago. No matter, others have far more insurmountable problems in their lives.

A couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the slow progress on my weight loss and the Berkshire Belle suggested that I make myself soup for lunch. We always have vegetables around and I do make us soup quite often when we have a surplus and so I began a soup only lunch programme. After about eight weeks of losing half a kilo a week I have lost 3 kg in a fortnight and am, in old money, 2 stone lighter that I was when I started this diet and exercise regime at the end of June.

I have also, this week, passed 200 miles walked (350 or so Km). My exercise walks also burn off, according to my App, about 2,500 to 3,000 calories a week. This is on top of whatever I burn off at work where I bang in between 5 and 8 miles a day five days a week. Less food in and more burned off; it is working for me. It helps that I am confident in the kitchen and can knock up a couple of day’s worth of soup at a time. It costs less than a quid a go and, so far, they have all been tasty.

I am fortunate in that I can, at times, invoke willpower. It does not always work, but in matters of health it does seem to kick in and help me out. It is not always easy to keep my head in the right place and I do have to distract myself a lot to avoid negative thinking, One of the things that is currently buzzing away in my mind is what do I do when I get down to a weight that is appropriate for my skeleton. Can I risk the odd treat or is it a bit like alcoholism and one Mars bar will ruin all of the good work? All I can hope for is that the willpower will still be there (or bloody mindedness) to stop any excess eating. Time will tell.

Stay safe wherever you are.

on projects and slippage


I started a series of projects on home and garden back in January and, when lockdown hit us, these became something of a primary focus for me. I said at that point that I would hit my overall objectives in terms of time and money, but, as so often happens in professional life, things have changed.

Taking my personal goals as a microcosm of business workings I have seen a familiar progression in that now, around seventy percent of the ay through my personal programme, the needs have changed and so what I had planned on in therms of certain specific objectives are no longer necessary.

Part of the problem has been in delays from external suppliers; the new shed is still not here and is now four weeks behind schedule and the new greenhouse is unlikely to arrive before next Spring. Both of these issues are primarily due to Covid-19 firstly because demand for garden products shot up during lockdown and then because the production facilities were not working at capacity having had to deal with the impact of lockdown, social distancing and the like. These things happen.

Then there were the things that were uncovered as work progressed; the bae for the new shed required digging out of some significant root systems and even the had to be raised about 10cm. Clearance of waste was affected by Covid-19 restrictions and instead of a daily trip to the tip I could not go for about a month and then was restricted to two trips a month.

If I were to be sitting with an employer discussing how well I had performed in terms of meeting the objectives set nine months ago I would not be doing too well I suspect, but therein lies another story and one that I have visited here before. The bottom line is that the world changes around us and we need to be able to recognise that.

Looking at where I am now against where I was in January the difference is huge and whilst I have not sone some of what I set out to, because of external forces, we are in a much better place than we were at the start of the year. My main aim of having the deck sorted out so that we could enjoy some of the Summer sitting out has gone because Summer is past. That is a shame, but the bulk of the hard work is done and come next Spring it will al be there for us to enjoy.

In business we often become so focussed on getting to an objective that we miss the fact that we do not need to get to that place any more. Time and money are expended on things that have become obsolete or for which the immediate need has passed. Plans should always be flexible because, to quote the old military adage, no plan survives past first contact with the enemy. Your strategy may still be current, but the tactics have to adapt to what is going on around you.

Hang loose and take advantage of what you can do as long as it helps you prgress

the lockdown log 26


Well, here we are on a bright, if cold, Thursday morning six months on from my first Lockdown Log. How time flies, but we could be in for another six months yet if not longer.

I have had my first three month review since being diagnosed as Diabetic type 2 and the first results are OK. I get the rest of the news next week when the blood test data comes through. The only negative for me so far is that my knackered kidneys are showing a fractional potassium deficiency, but I have been there before and will get back on the daily bananas. My feet have been examined and found acceptable and I go for my eye assessment tomorrow, fortunately the centre is a ten minute walk away so I have no transport problems for getting home.

On the project front my new shed is not coming until next month according to the latest estimate. Not great news, but I have plans, F, G and H ready to deploy as necessary. Hopefully the rain will hold off today and I can get a decent day’s work done out there.

Somewhere in the timetable I will try and fit in another exercise walk. Since I restarted doing these at the end of June I have racked up just over 200 km (125 miles) and am going to try and double that by the end of the year. Next year I am going to go for 1000 km in the full year just in exercise walking (I also do over 10 km a day at work five days a week, but that doesn’t count). At the moment I am contemplating trying a 10 km exercise walk. Accepting that I do that easily in four hours whilst getting paid for it and that I have been told to stop power walking on tarmac because of aging joints I reckon that 10 km is going to take me over two hours and my real reluctance is in investing that amount of time. Watch this space…

The Berkshire Belle is over her fears of going out and we have made a couple more shopping trips plus one to the doctor’s for her ‘flu jab (I had mine when I went for my diabetic tests). She loathes wearing a mask like many do, but it is one of the things that we have to put up with. At least she is past that dread of going out and that has to be good.

Autumn seems to be upon us and I am trying to remember that there are various annual jobs that need to be plugged into my assorted projects. The gutters need maintenance, bulbs need planting, leaves need clearing up and the Hawthorn is dropping a large quantity of its fruit all over the front lawn just to list a few. All of this keeps me busy and stops me thinking too much about the bad things going on around in the world. Ignorance is bliss and I am happy to maintain my own degree of oblivion.

I hope that you are all doing as well as you can, so stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 20


Weather extremes are messing with my efforts to keep my various projects on track, the extreme heat not being conducive to labouring outside nor for some of the indoor jobs and now heavy rain has further complicated things; traipsing mud around is not popular and I have to wait for things that I could not paint because it was too hot to dry out before I can paint them.

These are the sort of buggerment factors that all project manage to face up to and I will manage somehow. The year is slipping by and it is now barely light when I get up at five in the morning and darkness is falling by around nine in the evening. There is still much to do if I am to meet my self-imposed plans, but if I look back there is a huge amount completed. I have written in my Monday Musings blogs about the need to occasionally stop and look back to see how far you have come and it is an important psychological boost when you start to feel that you are losing momentum.

Having written my last Monday Musing on crisis management I had to put my abilities into practice last week when one of the local foxes wandered into the house and then went berserk trying to get back out. Fortunately keeping calm and being patient Reynard was persuaded to leave, but in its blind panic it took a while for it to realise that it was rushing past an open door in its attempts to get out of a window. No damage was done in the house and the fox seems to have recovered as it has been several times since.

Such diversions are not always welcome, especially when, as happened here, I had just got everything ready to start a job when I was called shift our furry visitor. By the time that I had got rid of it, helped to restore order in the house and discussed with the Berkshire Belle (who had taken it all very calmly) how we could prevent further incursions I had largely gone off the idea of what I had gone out to do. Certainly it took me so long to get my head back into the game that I didn’t get the job finished.

With the Law of Sod in full swing it appears that my deck stain sill be delivered today or tomorrow. I will re-check the directions, but given that the weather has broken (after the thunder storm of last night it has already rained three times this morning in the two and a half hours that I have been up. Looking at the forecast my chances of getting the new decking fry enough to stain look bleak for the next ten days or so. Ho hum; Plan M I think I am up to now.

I cut my hair again this week, the fourth self-haircut of this Summer. My usual barber has apparently reopened, but I am a little twitchy about going there as we have a significant upsurge on the Covid-19 front here. So another sit in the back garden with the clippers and using my ‘phone camera as a substitute mirror has, at least, tidied me up again. In the process of using the ‘phone to check my work I inadvertently took a selfie; who is this old git I see before me? Small wonder that they want me to wear a mask when out; it must make me look less frightening. Age creeps up…

One of the biggest problems we face at the moment is that hope is being drained. I can only speak from a personal perspective, but the little things that we enjoy as a couple; going out to shop, to eat or to visit places is lost for the foreseeable future. An end to the pandemic is not in sight and we are trying to adapt, but many of the things that brought us joy are out of reach. Yes I know that there are millions worse off than we are and that we have many privileges that others crave, but that is where we have to try and get our mindset changed. We have become used to being free to do what we can afford to do and now we can’t much of that and, because we think that is is sensible, are choosing not to do other things.

This week we have learned that one of my nieces and her partner have bought Covid-19. Fortunately they seem to have been only mildly affected, but they are the first people that we know that have caught it and even though they live an hour’s drive away it somehow brings it closer.

At the end of the day we have each other and that matters enough to keep us fairly sane in these weird times. We hope that you are all staying safe too.

the lockdown log 19


Not a great week for us here in Swindon as we have rocketed into the Nation’s top ten, possibly even the top five if some reports are to be believed and are therefore under the threat of a lockdown. People locally are frightened a little more than they were.

Talk of a lockdown for the over fifties would impact on me. I am classified as a key worker, but that might not count if things change and my employer is a caring one and has already furloughed a pregnant colleague so even if I am exempt in a regulatory sense I might get bounced anyway. Wait and see. I shall not worry about it as it is out of my control, but I will have to think about how I deal with not being the hunter gatherer as I am now.

This worldwide plague is not going away and we obviously need a vaccine to counter it. We don’t have one yet, but seemingly we could be close. The problem with these things is that you only know in hindsight if you have got it right and that makes life very difficult. All we as individuals can do is to be responsible and try not to catch it or spread it.

WAs that a pig I just saw fly past the window? Probably not and the chances of everyone behaving responsibly are the same as me seeing a flying porker. Whilst I do not look to social media for intelligent debate I do read things there and the level of stupidity and ignorance is breathtaking even if you take out the politically motivated stuff. It is a shame that Covid-19 is not selective enough to take out these people.

Anyway, enough ranting for now. We are coping here well enough and remain healthy so I have little to complain about beyond the thoughts above. The world still turns and I get to see the sun and moon in turn. Our lives are different, but we still have them and I am grateful for that.

The weather is very erratic this year, again, and there can be no doubt that we are having to live with the effects of climate change. What the balance is between the natural world doing what it has done since the beginning and the efforts of certain portions of humankind I don’t know, but we try to do what we can to help. I understand that my efforts are puny in the wider scale, but every little helps and so my revamping of the garden includes plans to go from four water butts to five and space is being made for a second compost bin (although I am not sure we have enough waste to justify another one).

All of these little projects help to occupy my mind. I like solving puzzles anyway and the intellectual challenges of my assorted projects, no matter how small they are, does help to keep me amused, if at times frustrated. Anything is better that sitting around wasting my days; I know that I don’t have too many left now so I try to make them all good ones.

Stay safe out there, one and all.

on implementation


Almost anything that you change can be a project, so from simple things within the office to nationwide rollouts I have seen a lot. Some I have been on the receiving end for, in others I have been part of the roll out team and for some I have been the sponsor. Not all have gone well, so let us have a look at why. Read more…

on knowing where you are starting from


I have written before about how something that I was taught early in my life began to useful to me much later, and often in ways that I had not considered when first learning it. One of these was summed up in the words; “If you want to get somewhere, always know where you are starting from”. Read more…

Just do it


Things that need to be done can sometimes seem hard, complicated and daunting. Finding a place to start can often be hard and as for trying to get diverse groups of people around the table, let alone to agree to anything, looks impossible. There are all sorts of platitudes that can get trotted out at times like this; the journey of a thousand paces starts with a single step, or eating the elephant one bite at a time being two of my least favourites, especially when they are trotted out by people who don’t have to do the hard jobs. Making things happen takes all sorts of things, but there is one tool that works every time. Read more…