Saturday, 18 April 2015

Thought Picnic: Beyond the call of duty

So they were burnt?
Someone came up with a policy that reeks of exploitation much longer before it suggests a leaning toward loyalty. Yet there might be a historical view to the situation, but that does not make it right.
When you toil and sweat at the coal face, knowing duty and responsibility, there is remuneration and recompense for your work. That is a contract of confidence properly rewarded as it should be.
Yet for an organisation whose main stock in trade is wheelbarrows of money, a parsimonious tendency to extract for claims to be made on expense much later cannot be right, even if it is the established standard.
It is unfair
There might be many who have the means and breath to face up to a large extraction from their wallets, however, the truth is in this business moneys in churn, everyone is left at a disadvantage, but the organisation and that is hardly fair, if the call is the organisation requiring you risk much for it.
At a point, where one finds oneself demanding a review, embarrassment and shame might find inroads into the conversation, but that should never be the case. The requirement is well beyond the call of duty, it makes extraneous demands of loyalties and it might bring along its own stress.
Shoulder this responsibility
The incidental and the limited can in terms be expensed, but there is nothing wrong even in the era of cost-cutting drives that cut down to the bone in having the organisation itself organise trips, accommodation and much else that pertains to the comforts and the accoutrements that will allow one carrying a responsibility to do what they are engaged to do without distraction.
Besides, the organisation has the heft to negotiate the best deals in bulk and with a standing relationship, it should not be devolved to individuals to namedrop to be eligible. There are invisible costs to all these devolved arrangements and that all makes for a feeling being put under unnecessary duress.
Beyond the call of duty
Reassurances of reimbursement are not enough, someone eventually has to take the pain as it starts from the employee through the employee’s agency and rarely the organisation, interest lost and the organisation that scrimps on pennies to save pounds to rain upon a few in truckloads of bonuses does not have to laugh all the way to the bank. It is the money store, itself.
Then you think of other places, too long a list of places where no one has to bear the cost, because all is in hand, borne by the organisation and those with the responsibility to approve such.
There is no doubt in one’s mind, what is being required is well beyond the call of duty. It definitely is, and it must change.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Opinion: No man!

Just imagine if when Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, the paramount chief of Lagos in that moment of unguarded irresponsible verbiage had been challenged rather than applauded.
Wonder if the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, had been circumspect about foreigners if his views met with immediate disapproval as he spoke.
If in that interview cum media chat, President Goodluck Jonathan when he did not give a damn, the obsequious, star-struck and fawning interviewers had the temerity to ask him to responsively give a damn.
If those we look up to were given a piece of our minds contrary to blind followership begging for subservience.
If we balanced our respect with a modicum of irreverence that allowed leaders to lead without thinking themselves infallible, omnipotent or inviolable because they were conscious of their humanity and listening for good and sometimes difficult counsel.
I believe the story would have been about the reconsideration at that setting than the overheated reporting of the outburst. Maybe, just maybe, the world we see would have been a better place.
Sadly, leaders fail themselves when surrounded by acolytes who do little to complete and complement their leadership by vying for favour and recognition when they should be accentuating the good with fervour and curtailing the bad with wisdom.
There are too many 'Yes men', men without cojones, self-interested minions whose activities eventually show the whole enterprise they are in, in a bad light.
Invariably, they excuse the inexcusable, support the intolerable, defend the reprehensible and promote the atrocious with utterly damnable and illogical arguments as their acquiescence gives licence to impunity without any discernible consequence.
Yet, what a leader needs is a fearless and bold courageous follower or counsellor. Like the man who whispered in the ear of gladiators of old on victory processions: 'You are but a man, mortal and at the mercy of the gods and the times'.
No men, one who can stand up when all are bowed in worship and obeisance to say, 'No man! You can't say that,' or 'No man! You can't do that'.
The person to stay the folly, quell the anger, appeal to the better nature or arrest the stupidity that leaves men as sheep when they should be lions.
Just imagine if the courts of kings, leaders, the powerful, the rich, the elite, the privileged or those with responsibility or authority had viziers with gravitas or jesters with levity rather than Yes-men. Just imagine how much peace and harmony will reign.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Opinion: Wasting talent toward instant fame

Awesome humanity
This is probably a difficult subject, but one that needs addressing in many ways. We have to ask, what makes the world go round and gives us the comforts that we enjoy and others crave for?
Whilst every profession in its way brings value, there are professions that are more than essential and without creating or engendering rivalries, might be more important than others.
In areas of medicine and technology, if people did not make careers out of the looking to ease pain and discomfort out of curiosity and determination, what kind of a world will we have?
Other professions
In my case, I know that the absence of health can literally mean the absence of ability, will, strength or purpose to do anything else. Last weekend, I hopped on a plane to Bucharest, just because I thought I could go there.
However, I would not be here if not for the doctors, the nurses, the medicine and more invisible but critical support systems had not come to play over centuries of repetition, standardisation and perfecting to find a way to put cancer into remission and keep my health at one of the best levels I have ever had.
My journey to Bucharest also would have been impossible without the fundamentals of physics, the applications of chemistry, many mathematical equations, visionary and sometimes daredevilry thinking that has made cars, trains, airports, aeroplanes and all the backend systems down to the person who has to do the graft work of lifting and throwing my luggage about as it follows me on my journey.
Nurturing talent
This brings me to an aspect of discipline that will apply to literally any vocation, in an opinion piece for the Evening Standard under the title of “Talent is worth little without the hard graft that must go with it.” Sarah Crompton writes about the absence of star English dancers in ballet or contemporary dance.
She mentions three of the leading choreographers who have expressed concerns about the standard of contemporary dance training, Akram Khan for instance says, “I am concerned that somewhere, somehow, the training young dancers go through in the UK is not supporting them in the rigour, technique and discipline that I am looking for in a dancer.”
Lloyd Newson, says, the students trained here “lack rigour, technique and performance skills,” then, Hofesh Shechter suggests, British dancers are “consistently outclassed by fitter, stronger and more versatile dancers trainer internationally.” Let’s not go into the fact that these three leading Britsh exponents are Bangladeshi, Australian and Israeli, respectively.
Then Tamara Rojo, who is the Artistic Director of the English National Ballet, gets to the heart of the matter, “Do we want to promote instant success and instant failure, or do we want to promote self-esteem and hard work?” Now, did I say, she is Spanish?
Really nurturing talent for life
This is not to say there is no raw talent in Great Britain, we have much undiscovered and unrefined genius lurking in the inner recesses of the many youths who have not had the teaching, lecturing, mentoring, coaching or just help to realise their potential.
In other cases, and this is where it gets rather unfortunate, the syllabus structure in many disciplines beyond dance, in schools and universities are not equipping our youth for the varied careers needed to have a thriving country that is building for the future.
Much as we hear that the UK has the fastest growing economy in the developed world, the fact is this is not trickling down or lifting people up, it is the rich getting richer and the poor sinking further into poverty. The political battles of our election already show that the visionary has deserted our leadership; we are aiming for nothing, just fame.
That seems to be the career goal of most of our youth, instant fame, lots of money and a jet-setter’s life, without the really backbreaking hard work, but what is instant is just what it is. There is no depth, no rigour, no discipline, no attention to the fundamentals stemming from the patient and painstaking attention to detail and we wonder why people crack. Just imagine lifting a weight you have never practised for and the back gives.
Project Manager fame
I see this in my field of endeavour, Information Technology, everyone wants to be a Project Manager and they have all acquired the certificates like garlands to litter their CVs with the jargon and superfluity of words as pertains what they seem to have done.
The British in its Empire days had one amazing exportable skill, it was one of managing people, organisation and application, recognising ability and gathering men to perform. This is what put the Great in Great Britain, between negotiation and plunder, we created an Empire on which the sun never set. That is now history.
Sadly, what we now find in many Project Managers who usually get paid a lot more than everyone else are people without the rigour, the technique, the discipline, the depth or basic understanding of the management of projects, the management of people, the fundamentals of the project, the appreciation of the talent pool necessary to achieve project goals and how to nurture that skills pool to achieve results.
Then you wonder why projects fail, because in most cases, Project Managers are an abstraction from the core reality, task masters who have rarely done the task, let alone understood the task and they only have to converse with you to lay out their ignorance like a billboard.
The need for more dirty hands
I have only found a few Project Managers in my 25-year IT career who have taken the time to get involved enough to understand what we want to achieve so that they can take some realism away into crafting their project plans.
I have in certain instances had to take projects I am on by the scruff of the neck and assume the role because my reputation is at stake. Yet, this is the instant success or instant failure Tamara Rojo talks off, the absence of the essential grounding and pain of long-term practice and application that becomes evident when we are really tested by the reality of getting things done.
Objective tests will no more cut it, we need comprehension tests, application tests, less simulation and more practical hands-on, hands-dirty work with the sweat and hard graft that brands perfecting whatever we do into making us completely dissatisfied if things are not just the way they should be.
I salute everyone who does that extra bit beyond the necessary to ensure what they do, even above the call of duty and responsibility makes our world a better place. Thank you.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hello Dr Dick, my friends need a ...

Repairs done here
A rather funny conversation ensued in my taxi cab ride to work yesterday on an interesting, but also sensitive subject.
I had just read about André van der Merwe, a South-African urologist who had headed a team of surgeons in performing the first successful penis transplant in the world in December 2014.
Whilst attempts have been made before to transplant the penis, in the case, the recipient of this wonderful gift of surgeon and apparent return to manhood now can urinate, can have an erection, can experience an orgasm and can even ejaculate. I guess it is time to make babies. [BBC News]
One point to note is that South Africans have pioneered various firsts in surgery that have become commonplace as in the case of Christiaan Barnard who performed the world’s first heart transplant in 1967 and Patrick Soon-Shiong who performed the world's first full pancreas transplant in 1987.
Fixing the system
Now, Dr van der Merwe or for simplicity sake ‘Dr. Dick’ was addressing an absolute necessity in South Africa where the Xhosa boys were involved in a rite of passage, Ulwaluko which involved genital circumcision and the initiation into manhood. These circumcision rites have claimed 853 lives in the last 20 years, however, for those who survive the ordeal, they may have had a botched circumcision.
These circumcision activities done in non-sterile bush environments following traditions that one might be persuaded to suggest be abandoned are in terms dangerous, when not performed by qualified medical personnel.
This is where Dr Dick is now in high demand for his expertise to repairing the damage caused in these crude circumcision abattoirs and I could imagine that eventually when more people are trained up to perform this procedure, other men who are not particular gifted in the endowment area might seek generous augmentation.
Change has come
By terms this is a difficult procedure and probably hard to master, but when this becomes commonplace, you wonder how freely men would avail themselves of this opportunity and gift when presented with the choices of length, girth, curvature and dare I say, colour matching.
At the same time, I guess this gives the concept of organ donor a completely new meaning. The race to endow and perform has begun with new aspects of penis envy becoming the staple of tabloid fodder. The kiss-and-tell of ex-partners spilling the beans of how from the acorns they once knew oaks have suddenly sprung.
Just as Viagra has banished non-performance to the posthumous state, Dr Dick has brought to life the fact that just because you were cut badly or were born with something less wieldy, you have to live with it.
In terms of commendations, Dr Dick can have any Nobel Prize of his choosing, for Medicine and Physiology for obvious reasons, for Chemistry in that it might make a great difference, for Physics just because the earth moved, for Literature if anyone writes about their exploits and for Economics if the recipient considers becoming an International gigolo.
Pick your dick and watch it click.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Thought Picnic: Where everybody knows your life

All the same
The uplifting song theme of Cheers has always had some words that speak louder than the simple pleasure of the tune. The refrain contains these sometimes reassuring words.
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.
[ Written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo – Cheers! ]
We have our own troubles
This became an interesting illustration when chatting to a mentor relation well over a decade ago. He lamented over the fact that his sons rarely called home. I told him, they do not call home because anytime they call, someone offloads the issues at home at them.
Whilst whoever is doing the offloading finds an understandable outlet, the boys over here as apparently single men then did not have the environment within which to properly shoulder or empathise with that situation.
This is reality
Let me explain – once I called home and I had hardly said my greeting before my mother descended on me like a ton of bricks about care, responsibility, concern, consideration and every single issue of emotional blackmail you could have lobbed at you. I patiently listened and did not as much as answer back.
She handed the phone to my immediate sister and she began to ply into me; that upset me no end, I broke down. Then I put in a plea that went along these lines – You know what? When things happen, you have the opportunity and the proximity to gather round and discuss, appreciate, consider and do things together.
Like family or not
Yes, family, whether you like the setting or not, has a root of life function that we might feel attached to or estranged from. In either case, there are occasions that demand you come together to celebrate, to contemplate or to grieve, these are elemental realities of life.
The member of the family apart in distance or some other type of separation my not have the communal environment to engage. Without it, the presentation of loneliness and isolation is exaggerated and then that person begins to play that whole family in their minds. It is a very unhealthy situation to be in.
If this person has their own family, there is probably something that can shared in the emotional burden and with that comes some sympathy, or empathy, but better still come comfort. Where this is absent, you probably seek out relations or friends, strangers come last – you need someone to talk to and probably, that person should be a professional – that is therapy.
Other places for comfort
In other cases, in the absence of these needs that are essential to our expression as social animals, the person might go to a religious place or even bar and drown their concerns with alcohol.
I am a teetotaller, in the main, I do not particularly like bars. There are times I have called friends, at other times, I write about what is bothering me as a crude form of self-therapy, however, one of the things I do is just go to sleep. I will find something to playback in the background either classical music or the gospels and lie down.
My sleep is a leap over
No matter what has bothered me before I went to bed, I have been blessed with the grace of getting up and feeling better. My mind is fresher and I probably also have some inspiration for something. Inspiration is a wonderful thing too, and I have had some wonderful inspirational moments in the shower – high-powered showers, I mean.
However, back to the theme song at the beginning of this blog, sometimes, you want to be not just where everybody knows your name, but where they know your life and when you share your troubles, you all feel the same.
It is well.
Cheers ("Where Everybody Knows Your Name")
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
All those night when you've got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it's tail;
And your third fiance didn't show;
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead;
The morning's looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn't even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;
Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came...
[ Written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo ]
[Where Everybody Knows Your Name - Wikipedia]