Monthly Archives: August 2013

//August

There’s no need to feel guilty

Of all the pressures that we have to put up with there’s one that we really can do without – guilt. Now there’s nothing I can do about taking away memories of bad parenting incidents or the dumping of an ex-lover or stealing your sister’s shoes or saying bad things about a colleague in the hope of being promoted but, thanks to my cousin Sarah, I can offer some advice on the kind of guilt that plagues many people, much of the time.

The guilt I am writing about is the inability to fully relax and enjoy yourself because of feeling guilty about the fact that you really should be doing something else. You know the kind? The ten minutes of relaxing in the sunshine or reading a favorite magazine or newspaper, or possibly enjoying a TV program in the middle of the day on a day off; or even reading an interesting and ‘useful’ book? The secret here lies in the word ‘should’: “I really should be doing the ironing” or “I really should decorate the top bedroom” or “I really should complete the excel spreadsheet I promised my boss.”

How often do you use the word ‘should’ each day, referring to yourself?  According to Cousin Sarah, the secret is to ban the word ‘should’ completely. Instead you replace it with ‘Must’ or ‘Need’, this immediately removes any underlying guilt and allows you to make priority decisions in a more balanced way.  I am told the Japanese do not have the word ‘no’ in their vocabulary, so if they can manage without the word ‘no’, then I can see no reason why we cannot live without the word ‘should’, especially when applying it to ourselves?

Sarah says it’s changed her life, and if Sarah says it has then I believe her.  Now, I am not a ‘should’ man and usually I do not feel guilty when I am having a little relaxing time; I guess that it might be because I tend to keep myself busy most of the time and any moments I have to myself are quite rare (and therefore felt ‘earned’). But I know plenty of people who do not fully enjoy the time they have to themselves because they tend to feel guilty about not doing something they consider more important or useful.  I guess it is more a bloke thing not to feel guilty about dossing about (whoops, I can hear the ping of my email system ringing already) but perhaps at least you could consider if ‘should’ would be a good word to banish into room 101.

Have a good week,

Harley

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Business processes, a painful shoulder and bicycle brakes

Recently I have been suffering from a rather painful shoulder, the annoying and yet good thing about it is that it does not hurt all the time and when it does it only really hurts when I make certain movements, however the type of movement can vary, making it very difficult to predict exactly when the searing pain will kick in.

Last week I was talking to my doctor about it and how the X-ray and echo taken by the specialist at my local hospital didn’t show up very much wrong.  My doctor, who knows about these things, made a comparison between my painful shoulder, the echo, the X-ray, and adjusting the brakes of a bicycle. He pointed out that the problem of the echo and the X-ray is that they only show the specialist a still image, making a detailed diagnosis is therefore rather difficult.  It would be more a matter of good luck if it happened to show up much at all. “It’s a bit like a bicycle wheel” he said “you can adjust the brakes perfectly, making sure that there is exactly the right amount of space between the rim of the wheel and the blocks but it is not until you spin the wheel that you will see if they are perfectly adjusted.”

This got me thinking. Very often when we set about optimizing business processes we spend a lot of time looking at diagrams and discussing procedures with experts that we tend to sometimes forget to look at exactly what is happening in reality. Not just at a given moment in time but over several hours, days, weeks or months. I am sure this can be the reason why often a business process optimization fails to deliver anywhere near the improvement we expect.  What’s more, just like my shoulder, if you ask me how it is on a good day, you’ll get a very different answer than when I happen to make a sudden movement and the pain unexpectedly kicks in, then you might hear some language that you might not expect from me!

Have a good week,

Harley

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Amsterdam

I love Amsterdam, I love its winding canals and narrow houses; it’s reflections of the past yet its forward thinking attitude. Now you might think that Amsterdam is mainly inhabited by Dutch people and you would probably be right but when I tell you that there are over two hundred and ten different nationalities living in that city then you will get an impression of what I think its magic ingredient might be?

Quaint rural villages are beautiful to look at and for some, to live in. But me, I like the multi-national complexity of iconic cities. I am convinced that just like multi-cultural businesses, multi-cultural cities allow for a kind of dynamic very rarely found anywhere else. I believe it is their very multi-culturalism that makes them great and not necessarily what brought them about in the first place.

New ideas can be challenged from every angle and new challenges can be tackled by diverse groups of problem solvers in a way that single culture companies cannot. This is especially true when the solution will need to be rolled out across the world – what’s good for one country and culture, is not necessarily good for another and how can one every know the difference?

I also like, London for the same reason, I might not want to live there when I retire but then I wouldn’t want to live in a business then either.

Right now my life is still about getting things done and thinking across borders is a good way to start. So Next year when I recruit some job students for a few projects that I will set up in the summer,  I don’t think that I will only recruit local Belgians but I will open up a couple of places for brilliant candidates from another part of the globe.

What do you think? Know anyone that might be interested?

Have a good week,

Harley

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On the road again

By the time you are read this, I will be far away driving around Eastern Europe on my Triumph Thunderbird. It’s that time of year again when I switch off my phone and email systems and clear out the cache in my brain of all the stuff that is no longer needed.

Every year my wife very kindly lets me go away on my motorcycle. Fourteen days without domestic or business discussions, decision making, disputes or celebrations. It’s my selfish time, time for driving down endless roads with no particular destination apart from the name of an hotel printed on a piece of paper where I can safely stay the night. It’s my selfish time where the focus is on negotiating every bend and junction with care and attention and wondering what will on be on offer for supper.

It’s a time for reflecting on my past, for thinking about the future but more importantly; for simply engaging with each and every day; rain or shine, happy or sad; noticing the minutest details while ignoring the gigantic backdrops, or for reveling in the wonder of nature while forgetting that one has bills and bank loans and tax liabilities and investment decisions to make. No, no, for now, I am out of reach and far away.

Greetings from another place,

Harley

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