The Land of the Rising Lid

Recently I was asked for a holiday recommendation, to which I unhesitatingly responded: Asia. ”Ooh, nah, it’s hot and dirty there” was the reaction.

Our recent experiences in Japan proved the exact opposite. The first thing that strikes you as you speed into Tokyo on the high-speed train is how clean the place is. Crowded, yes, what do you expect if you cram 38 million into a city? But the houses are spotless and well-tended, no graffiti is to be seen, and the streets free of litter, chewing gum and dog souvenirs. They say they had to remove all the litter-bins after the sarin attack on the underground, but that alone cannot explain such cleanliness.

Continue reading “The Land of the Rising Lid”

Who cares?

Have you noticed those stickers? They are proudly displayed on cars – mostly on the back and often on vehicles like the KIA Carens and the Peugeot 807. Very rarely or not at all on a Mercedes Benz SLK or an Audi TT. You may think: “Oha! The latter vehicles are well-endowed with horsepower, while the former are in need of it.” With this I counter with the Opel Tigra Twin Top, which even with the largest engine produces a modest 125 bhp. Now you might think: “Eureka, I‘ve got it. The latter are made by German carmakers and the former are from countries less skilled in car making.” I counter such a foolish assessment with a dry “Citroën C3 Pluriel”, a convertible like SLK and TT, which is built in a country that stands for French bread and overpriced red wine, and in terms of power potential still lags behind the above-mentioned Opel.

The former often sport small screens at the back fastened to the headrests, which is never the case for the latter. To all those who now think: “The latter can only accommodate two people, while the former can accommodate six to seven”, we can only shout “Brilliant!”

Continue reading “Who cares?”

Bear Truth

When I was in Canada one guide gave us an important piece of advice about bears: “Black bite, brown down”. In other words, black bears can be intimidated (unless they’re with their young or cornered), so make lots of noise to repulse them. All you can do with brown – or grizzly – bears is make yourself as small as possible on the ground and pray they may lose interest. Good advice for the workplace? Not all of us are bear whisperers.

Innovation or decay?

Blame Management (Part 2)
Undocumented, but practised processes of project management

While in Part 1 we introduced ourselves to the significance of this falsely demonised topic in society and companies, it is time now to become more concrete.

This requires a common understanding of what it is all about.

Definition of terms

The English term “blame” has also been very common in the German-speaking world for some time, but there it is increasingly used in its progressive form of “blaming”, i.e. accusing someone of something. In my opinion, we should expand the definition in the corporate environment in such a way that it better fits actual practices:

“Assigning responsibility for negative events or circumstances to the lowest still plausible, but politically most defenceless hierarchical level.”

Continue reading “Innovation or decay?”

Autumn is here

… or: Halloween in day-to-day leadership
(Part 1)

And with falling leaves, persistent rain and colder nights dread falls upon us… When I went to my car yesterday in a good mood, it was already there! She was waiting for me, unmissable, right in the middle of the door to the underground car park! That’s my door, it wanted to tell me. I would have liked to have agreed with it and run back up the stairs immediately. My breathing became shallow and my body began to make movements the mind considers nonsense, but my mind had absented itself anyway. You guessed it. On the door sat a cobweb spider, aka a house spider, altogether about 6 cms across.

Why am I telling you about my fears?

Because I think it’s time to make fear socially acceptable. Fear is a deeply human emotion that unfortunately sometimes makes us do things that don’t make sense. I often experience this in companies. But first things first.

Continue reading “Autumn is here”

Innovation or decay?

Undocumented but practised processes of project management: Blame Management

Du …

Many, perhaps even countless approaches and best practices can be found for projects and for dealing with projects. Often they differ only insignificantly, which stems from the nature of things, or better said, from the nature of project management. After all, there is a certain consensus about the most important aspects and topics in this environment. Only in the weighting of the topics and then possibly in the details do the different approaches differ. However, one thing strikes you: not all the important procedures commonly used in practice are included in these descriptions. And these tried and tested approaches often make the difference between personal success and personal failure. We need to bridge this gap.

The following is a detailed and process-oriented description of one of the most important aspects of successful project work: the process of blame assignment and administration (blame management).

Continue reading “Innovation or decay?”

Multicultural teamwork

“What you don’t want people to do to you…”

When we talk broadly about international company takeovers, joint ventures and corporate co-operations, there is an interpersonal aspect behind these economic headlines: teams that previously were often active only in their own language and cultural area need to initiate international cooperation. I have already experienced this situation in two companies (one formerly German and one formerly Dutch) and am aware of the uncertainties that the initial phase of an international team structure brings with it. The time is not always there to prevent all potential gaffes with hazard warnings. I can assure you that under the pressure of day-to-day business, people very often blunder, even with the very best intentions!

Continue reading “Multicultural teamwork”

Take one, pay one, make two from that? No way…

In my last post I wrote something about crypto currencies and blockchain, but only hinted at what blockchains can be used for and what the fundamental innovations of blockchain technology are. For me, it’s the fact that the double-spend problem is finally solved – transparently and without having to trust a central authority.

But what does that mean in detail? The easiest way to explain double spending is as follows: If you buy a book in the real analogue world [1], you pay for a book once and get a book once [2]. And only you own the book physically. If your neighbours want to read it too because you raved on about how great the book is… Well, then you have to “lend” it, i.e. give it away – then your neighbour will have it. Thus there’s only one “instance” of the book, unless you copy it yourself and then distribute it (but let’s forget that now before we do overdo it 😊).

Continue reading “Take one, pay one, make two from that? No way…”

Can you hear me? I can’t hear you!

International Conference Calls

In international companies, the Conference Call is the easiest way to hold meetings with participants from different countries. Depending on the company’s policy, this is done as a video call (with web cams) or audio only. Both have pros and cons.

The advantage of the video call is that it becomes easier to follow what is happening, because you can see the participants talking and can recognize and interpret any emerging anger, impatience or lack of understanding earlier.

The advantage of “audio only” calls, on the other hand, is that you can take part in meetings that take place in the middle of the night or in the early morning due to the time difference, even in your pyjamas, without anyone noticing it. In addition, you can wander around the house during the meeting – equipped with a headset.  However, it makes sense to know the range of your headset, otherwise you might miss crucial dramatic moments.

Continue reading “Can you hear me? I can’t hear you!”

Big Brother is alive and living in Canada

…or how I learned to stop worrying and love Big Data.

For the last couple of years I have been dabbling with genealogy. My family in England has always been convinced we were related to Jack Cornwell, a 16-year-old Naval recruit who died a heroic death at the Battle of Jutland in the First World War. My mother was German so I was curious about that side of me too. Most of my relatives are dead, so I had just a few recollections of family anecdotes and a handful of old photographs to start with.

Internet to the rescue! Mormons in Salt Lake City, whose mission in life is to find salvation for their forefathers by genealogical research and ordinances performed by proxy for them, run several online sites to help you “discover your family’s story.”  The story goes that before and after the Second World War dozens of Mormon researchers photographed and transcribed huge numbers of church and public records in Europe long before anyone had thoughts about data security. There are now millions of records on their databases.

Continue reading “Big Brother is alive and living in Canada”