Moving

Moving day. We have organised a truck and some labour to help with the heavy lifting, and we’ll be back and forth all day taking bags of stuff to the new house. The oldest daughter has an inkling of what’s happening. The others are none the wiser. We’ll all be sad to leave this house which has been home for 8 years. But the new house is the future!

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Collecting junk

I am surrounded by audio and tech…stuff. I have four amplifiers, 5 speakers, a mini recording studio, a DVD player and 2 dust decoders. Then there is a bookshelf full of CDs and LPs, laptops, microphones, guitars, and various sets of headphones. All of it is unused. We are moving house soon and maybe it is time to rationalise this pile. Call some of it what it truly is. Junk.

It is a curious thing, collecting. My own collection and my status as a ‘hoarder’ has happened despite my best efforts. I have a passion for tech and AudioVisual, but I clearly also have some underlying desires to cling on to the past. The music industry as it was, the bands I used to play in, the days when I had time to burn on TV and music.

Excuse the obviousness of my simile, but South Africa is much like the room around me. There is a lot of excess baggage to offload in order to make any progress. In order to move on.

Happy Tuesday. Here’s to creating a writing streak, and to moving on from junk!

Systems

One of the things I like about working in operations is choosing the tools our employees will use at work. As consultants this usually means which software we use for productivity and things like accounting platforms and payroll systems. Trying to optimise this sort of thing is part satisfying and part frustrating. It’s an ongoing challenge.

I see these decisions are now being made at a younger and younger age. When I was at high school the choice was mainly pen or paper. Now children learn to read on iPads and present PowerPoint shows weekly on the class computer.

My most useful tool is my phone of course. To even call it a phone any more seems wrong. More like a computer. Remember landlines?

The deciding factor

Our work can decide a large chunk of our lives. Particularly the location, but also many other more subtle things. Our job is, after all, where we spend most of our time. It can change our mood, our language, our sense of achievement.

I got in touch with a long lost friend of mine – the most Italian guy I ever met during my stay in Italy – he is now working in the middle east for an oil company. His written English is impeccable. When I knew him I would never have imagined him outside of Italy. Or writing a word of English. But often our work decides where we go, and of course we change over time as a result of our choices.

The pandemic has altered our company’s operations a little in that we are mostly working from home, depending on the client. There is both freedom and confinement in working from home. At home, I have noticed more lately that work has becomes the non-negotiable; “I have to, it’s for work!”

Even if the kids are going bananas, and even if the house, garden and dogs are a mess – work often decides a large chunk of our lives. Perhaps more so now in a pandemic when we all work from home. What we used to leave at the office, is now affecting our home life too.

Feedback

I have always found feedback a tough pill to swallow. But, during a scientific experiment if you don’t get any feedback to modify your hypothesis, then you make no progress. Scientists if they are true to their craft want to fail as much as possible, on their way to a breakthrough.

Some of my colleagues – the best performers i know of – are always wanting and giving feedback. True, honest, brutal feedback so that they can go back to the drawing board and modify a piece of work on the way to shipping it to a client. It’s been a really slow realisation for me – but holy cow it is important. It is a pivotal part of effective work.

We forgot to feed our dog this morning (I know!). He offered me plenty of feedback to rectify the situation and now his stomach is full.

It is not my natural state to search for feedback, or to accept feedback easily, yet i understand how important it is. Perhaps my weakness is partly a hangover from school days. At school we were given accolades and marks based on remembering content, as opposed to assimilating feedback. Feedback was not really needed if you just remembered what was told to you – the result is that I got used to not needing much feedback. This worked fine until I wanted someone to pay me for anything I produced. Refinement was needed. Feedback was needed.

Streak!

Approval and reassurance

Sometimes a project relies on a carrot at the end to be deemed complete. A box is ticked for external certification, verification, audit approval. If you are the one doing the auditing and handing out the approval, then there is good money to be made. Consulting companies are often built on the steady lines of work from legislated approvals needed by clients. The accounting firm’s bread and butter is its audit work. The distinguished University hands out coveted degrees for its income. These tick-boxers are usually the least creative jobs out there, relics from the industrial revolution. This sort of work is increasingly uncalled for. The growing alternative is to make your own reputation and to do creative work.

My daughter got a certificate for her reading programme on the iPad. Of course, the other siblings all wanted one and so we have printed out three identical certificates to make everyone happy. A communal sense of achievement, perhaps. Luckily the others can’t read the actual certificates with same name on them, so they all feel special.

I tried to pass the CFA level 1 exam twice. It was beyond me for a whole host of reasons. It was the first exam I can remember failing. A test of my sense of self-worth and a revealing moment for me as it showed me just how reliant I had become on others telling me I had done “enough work” or I was “qualified”. I already had an undergraduate and Masters degree in Arts/Humanities, I had a good enough career and plenty of work to do – but I also wanted everyone to believe I could do Maths and statistics.

Who are we relying on for approval and for reassurance? Both are increasingly futile.

The (workday) writing streak continues.

Intervention

Board meetings are a strange beast. A clear role for board members is debating and approving the long-term strategic plan of the company. They can and should decide on important decisions about the leadership team – they are responsible for hiring or firing the CEO. This is important and keeps leadership accountable, however, it’s always useful to remember that the board is working for the company not the other way around.

Furthermore, The Board should not run a company. That is the role of the CEO and his/her senior management team. The Board’s job is to make sure the right team is at the helm, not to be at the helm themselves. Boards that meddle, that get too involved, that undermine the management team are hurting the company, not helping the company. (This passage comes from Fred Wilson at http://www.avc.com – an amazing resource)

My children sometimes need to be left alone. Whether they are figuring out a puzzle by themselves or having an argument with their siblings – sometimes the hardest thing as a parent is knowing when not to get involved.

I ate a lot of food yesterday. We had a family celebration for Mothers Day and for a family birthday. As a responsible occupant of this body I am forced to embark on a health binge – I had to intervene.

Happy Monday. Another week another streak.

How long is a piece of string?

Much of consulting work is an exercise in drawing lines in the sand and negotiating for precisely when a piece of work is finished. Will it be done when we save $xxx amount of money? Will your version of the document be the final draft and deliverable? Will your resources need to finish this project before they get paid? Is it enough to send you a timesheet with hours spent this month? Each project offers a different set of parameters to work with and to define. The skills for defining a project scope were simply not taught to us in school. But that’s a different topic.

There is a dance at the beginning of a project. The client’s needs and expectations need to be heard. Then a sufficient solution needs to be agreed upon. Note i said sufficient, not perfect. The pursuit of perfection has scuppered many a consulting project and sent it to the bin.

Winter seems to have hit Cape Town in the space of a few days. On Tuesday we had blistering sunshine, and now on Friday we have chill and rain. Rain brings decisions. Decisions on whether or not to mend the roof, to plant the flowers, to fix the damp spot in the walls. A house in winter is kind of like a consulting job. We need to agree on how much needs to be fixed for us to live at ease in the place. How long is a piece of string? A house is never perfect.

If I could, I would eat chocolate all night. Once a packet of chocolates is opened, I am a little like a labrador in that I don’t seem to have that “off” switch when I have had too much. I just keep eating until it’s all gone. How much is enough?

Third post in a row. Definitely a streak.

Thursday blog – a streak?

How do you market a consulting company? How do you get people to pay attention to a consulting company? Do you really listen to Deloitte or Accenture posts online? I don’t. And I help to run a similar business to them! For us at Caliba, marketing has historically involved very old school cold calling and networking, with a LinkedIn turbo boost. We are developing a more mature online presence with our website now functioning (www.calibagroup.co.za) and the LinkedIn company site working well (https://www.linkedin.com/company/caliba-group-south-africa) but the marketing is definitely reliant on a network of professionals who know us already. Reaching new audiences has in the past been left to the Australian partner company to manage, but now we are taking over the local SA presence – so this is a work in progress.

At home my dogs are driving me a little bit crazy. They bark and do their business on the lawn. They ALWAYS want to play. I find it more of an effort to walk them and play with them. I am having to force myself to pay attention to them. Four human kids are tough competition for any pet. I must keep up the vet visits and the walks. They’re really great dogs who deserve attention. It’s even harder to care for a pet when your kids fall sick. Winter is coming in Cape Town like Game Of Thrones, and so the snotty noses are in full force, much to my cocker spaniel’s disgust.

Paying attention versus thinking. These two things are different. Contradictory even. Paying attention is using your senses and often involves taking what is in front of you at face value. Thinking can lead you all over the place, across space and time. You can second guess a lot when you are thinking. You can be in one place but also be somewhere else when you are thinking. You cannot pay real attention to something if you are busy thinking too much. My self improvement thought of the day – less thinking, more paying attention. If only for the sake of the dogs.

Two posts in a row. A streak? Yes, a streak!

Wednesday night randrews

Work has been picking up lately. Even though we are still dealing with the prospect of an upcoming third wave of COVID, South Africa feels like it is functioning relatively normally and businesses are looking for help. Particularly the mining companies who have had a good year on the back of global demand. We have never been so busy.

Our busy-ness is of course compounded by our four children, and the fact that we are in the midst of selling our house. It is comical to watch the chaos, and then to watch real estate agents try and take photos of us in a good light for their websites! I’m looking forward to the move at the end of the month!

I saw a post with apocalyptic ecological messages on Facebook today. I used to get such anxiety over climate change, but now I think the messages themselves are misguided. The basic needs of conservation and environmental management have been hijacked by a quasi-religious insistence on doom. Often if taken to its logical conclusion, this line of Malthusian thinking calls for fewer humans and I don’t know who gets to decide on breeding rights!

I must not forget there is much to be thankful for and to admire in humanity. We can fix any environmental problems we face but we must look out for each other. I’m convinced it starts with uplifting the desperately poor. Environmental humanism then. This is a thing: see here https://environmentalprogress.org

I want to blog every day. The start of a streak, then.