A Pair Of Ruby Slippers

September 3, 2007

Lemondrops

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 7:39 pm

rainbow3.jpgWhen you’re dancing, you don’t just take six weeks off. Imagine the pain when you restarted… hideous. It is pretty painful after the standard fortnight. But having taken the summer off from this MA work, it a slow grind to try and refocus again. OK so the burning pains in the muscles are absent but the brain, oh dear.

It doesn’t help that Munchkin Land is currently more depressing than my ironing pile. I am reminded of some dodgy sticker on an old office wall (probably next to the one saying “you don’t have to be mad to work here etc”) that said “the light at the end of the tunnel has been temporarily turned off”. I get it now…. its not meant to be funny, they were serious.

For me it’s not what is going on at work, but how they are handling it. They’re pants. To use more 1990s office speak, they are treating us like mushrooms. If someone bothered to discuss with us the reasons for canceling EVERYTHING, we might just have a more understanding view. We are grown ups. But when you get everything third hand via the vending machine chat, munchkins get resentful. How on earth do they think that is going to be productive in the long run? I bet their come back to me would be along the lines of telling me there is so much I don’t know….. like DUH!

July 15, 2007

The Others

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 7:30 pm

kdm_header.jpgThe key to change here at Munchkin Land has got to be “The Others”. Seeing as I am marching about trying to bring about a change, I am pretty much catered for. It was my idea in the first place therefore I am happy, the thing is to get everybody else on side too. The actual change itself comes after that, well that’s what I have found anyway. Perhaps it is a bit like that thing women do when they want something – make the bloke think it was his idea, maybe that would help with the issues of ownership too. Make the leadership think it was all their idea. Unfortunately when I made a change via AI at work I ended up pretty much owning the subject being researched and then had created another issue, one of how to give it back to “The Others”.

 

Perhaps this is why we now have a “Change Management Team” (something I found out by chance) here at Munchkin Land. This team came about when we implemented a new large operating system (yes SAP) in 2001/2002. This was a global implementation and the team was at that time 60 strong. It is not really surprising that I didn’t know about them, firstly I was swanning off having babies and secondly the SAP implementation didn’t really touch me. This team is now down to 1 for Europe but a spin off team has been created to deal with other projects. There are 5 others in this team.

 

I telephone interviewed one of the change managers about his position (personal communications, 02/07/2007) and about the attitude to change here at Munchkin Land. He is clearly passionate about his role and about how our company tackles change and tells me that there is massive organisational change afoot that this team will help to manage. It was then that a crucial difference between this type of change and what I did with the AI occurred to me. We are back to the action turn. This team preps for and manages through a change but they don’t actually make the change – except in the smaller changes that support the big change if you follow me. So whilst they are part of that process the actual changes themselves (particularly the smaller local ones) still need to be actioned by the lumpenproletariat at the bottom of the heap. The Change Management Team is also not concerned with the initiation of that change – the changes that happen are not their ideas, these have either come from the workers or the bosses, although as I said above I suspect that most of their ideas have come from their teams which is fine if they then help them to fruition with the recognition going where it is deserved.

 

The Change team are rolling out information to line managers about how to manage change in the business, I am looking forward to getting my hands on this documentation to see if it supports and encourages initiatives like the one that I tried. Or if it just addresses major change sent down the organisational structure. The Change Management Team should certainly be able to help with communication and diffusion of the original ideas of the change, barriers that myself and others on the MA came up against in our projects. They also hopefully will help with feedback to the change originators – it would be good to feel we had a voice. Mr Glinda said something interesting about this today, he was told when he started here by his then line manager “if you enjoy change then you will get on OK here, if not you will be in trouble”. Mr Glinda felt that that was true of the time but in the 10 years he has been at Munchkin Land the reverse had become more the norm. Perhaps now with the new initiatives we are starting to slowly see that reversed. If you talk to the munchkins, there is a great deal of frustration with how long it can take to get any changes made here especially of the larger variety.

 

So who or what is holding us up and why? I suspect this is partly determined by our traditional relationship with the main company with whom we work very closely and their entrenched organizational behaviour. Our new Global CEO has threatened that if they don’t respond more quickly to our market place demands we will look elsewhere – could be an interesting one to watch. It seems we are between a rock and a hard place, in a liminal phase. We know we need to change as a company (for survival ultimately) but have not yet made that leap fully. The threat is welcome though, Victor Turner (1987) would point to the fact that it had been made publicly so with an audience in mind. Turner sees conflict as the start of a point to use theatrical language to gain insight. Goffman (1959) as I previously discussed, takes this one step further describing all social interaction in dramaturgical terms. Both seem to agree that change needs this type of interruption such as given by our CEO and then for us either to move through ritual (our change management team) to accomplish the change or to block it (the other company perhaps). So threatening to make a very drastic change could be the push both the companies need. It is after all, a highly interdependent relationship. In the mean time if they release another flaming flavour variant and call it innovation I will scream.

 

I have gained a bit more understanding of how complex it must be to turn a tanker the size of Munchkin land however. It was hard work just fitting my small AI project into the allotted timescales, so I surmise this is magnified with larger projects. Something to be considered up front. Then there is what changes exactly to make and do we have the skills within the organisation to be able to do that? Will that add to the timescales?

 

My experience of the AI project has overall encouraged me to keep trying to affect change. I certainly feel enabled by my current manager to do this but have no idea how his imminent departure may take effect. The issue of what to study was a difficult one, lets face it, what doesn’t need some sort of change in an organisation like ours? I do think the fact that my choice of study was team based, was a smart move as it was within my arena of control. I am always telling my son not to fret about things he has no sway over and to concentrate on the things he can influence. I think this is not a bad starting point for AI changes either. There would have been little point in me trying to change line production at our factories for instance, this is not an area I know much about nor would have any real influence over. That is not to say AI shouldn’t be stretching but if it is completely unrealistic it will be more depressing than anything else. Perhaps a point to note here would be that more complex areas of change if approached with AI could benefit from being broken down and looked at in manageable chunks. Rather like how I started with team communication as a whole but then concentrated on the meetings as the main focus of the work.

 

I do think there are areas of best practise that we unearthed that could be cascaded to other teams though. A barrier here is to get the buy in at the right level to make that happen. Frustrating yes, bureaucracy drives me nuts, but necessary to play the game successfully. There are fringe benefits to this effective brown nosing though. I would put money on the new VP remembering me over several other team members. This means that now I feel able to go and speak to him about my next venture when the time is right. I wouldn’t have been comfortable with that before the project.

We have had another meeting since the AI finished. There were a couple of items that reverted back to pre AI meetings – but several more that remained and again the meeting was again deemed a success by the team. An interesting point was that the person we invited to run a session at our meeting contacted me directly about the meeting and to arrange the session rather than the boss. I am hoping that this is because since seeing me present my AI at the last meeting she views me as having some authority there, rather than that I own the meeting. This type of impression of me could be very useful for my personal profile if and when I decide to try for a new position in CCE.

 

 

Goffman, E. 1959 The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin

Turner, V.1987 The Anthropology of Performance. Baltimore: Paj Publications

 

July 14, 2007

Il a Dit “Non!”

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 2:44 pm

oztrain.jpgIt was all going swimmingly then the new boss put the kyboshes on it by saying “non” to us leaving the building for our next meeting. This is a shame as this was one of the key issues we identified during our AI and had team consensus. So what I did was storm straight up to his office, stamp my feet, slam my fist on his desk and demand that he listen to our reasons and insist that we hold our flaming meetings wherever we jolly well want to hold them…. OK no I didn’t, I moaned a bit and chatted it over with the team. The general consensus was that as he is new he doesn’t yet understand our company’s culture and is trying to make his mark (he seems to be saying “non” a lot at the moment). But a girl can only take so much, the next meeting is a 2 dayer and if he so much as pokes his nose in I will be up to his office with units 2 and 3 in hand to have a civilised chat about our well reasoned arguments for a bit of time out.

 

When I undertook the project, it was totally sanctioned by the then current bosses, The VP who says “non” is new, had he been in place before I started maybe this would have affected what I chose to study or at least how I chose to study it. Easy to say with hind sight but certainly a point to note for any future work. Actually Mr Glinda has just been promoted too so it could indeed be back to the drawing board, I will have to see who replaces him or if he is replaced before assessing the impact.

 

I don’t think all is lost however, what having conducted the AI has given me is the support to fight my corner. The research has armed me with the back up evidence I need to feel confident (get me) to speak to the boss if I have to, and not just to give him a jolly good listening to either.

 

I was asked in the forum if I thought that we would let the boss upset the team meeting again or if we were a little more robust as a result of the AI. Having pondered on this I think the answer is that we are now more aware that we need to be more careful with the scheduling of agenda items and visitors but that ultimately it is difficult to tell the boss to bugger off and stop disrupting the proceedings. Difficult but not impossible, I would hope that we would employ a more complete dialogue with him before future meetings, so that if he insists on coming he knows what to expect and so do we. This returns to my point above about getting his buy in before starting the AI.

 

Another question that has arisen concerning my AI was” were my methods of data collection appropriate”? A few people have asked me this and I have changed my mind a few times as to what the answer is. I have arrived at the decision that AI incorporating interviews was a really useful way for us to go. Had I taken a more ethnographic approach as some suggested, which would have been less obtrusive, I don’t think it would have achieved so much. Doing the research overtly had a few fringe benefits over and above the AI change outcomes themselves too:

 

  • I spent time chatting to each team member, this is something that has helped my communications with them especially the newer members that I didn’t know quite so well. I didn’t realise my communications needed to be improved before I did the research.
  • The team feel that they have had their say and that they can help to shape decisions that concern them – we recently ran a session on this in the follow up meeting.
  • They (and maybe more importantly I) see that I can have an affect on the whole team

 

I do acknowledge that the data collection wasn’t neutral but I am not sure that this is necessarily a problem and could it ever really be neutral? Additionally back to my postmodernist friends, why should it be that it being neutral or even that someone else’s view would be any better than mine anyway? I do think I missed a trick when I didn’t pay close attention (or maybe any attention) to people’s motives for what they wanted for the team meeting. My mistake here was to just assume they were honourable. Whilst I may have got away with it this time, it is certainly something I will bear in mind for future studies.

 

I am a bit disappointed that I haven’t managed to make the ripple effect of the project move far out of our team. I think this has been for a few reasons, obviously my lousy attention span and lack of confidence are well documented, but also there were a few other external factors such as the change in key staff roles and the fact that the subject I concentrated on within communication is perhaps too general? That all said, I think this is one for my future plan. Mr Glinda has also said that he would like to speak with the Learning and Development Team about what we did and that he intends to take some of what we have learnt with him to his next role if applicable.

 

I have also been asked a few questions about the blog we set up. Currently it is still not really being used, but no one wants me to delete it. I am hoping that this is because they are coming round to the idea of using it. I have heard team members proudly telling other people that we have a team blog (whilst I seethe quietly “why don’t you use it then?” under my breath) which is interesting. They like to be seen to be acquainted with emergent developments but not necessarily actually use them. However perhaps the idea was right but the vehicle wrong? Being in an eBusiness Team gives us a great excuse to use evolving technologies and applications. There is Second Life, Habbo and free collaboration tools available on the net for example and recently a few of us have got into Face Book, perhaps that could be more useful to team communications? I would have to convince the CCE Web Police to let it be accessed at work which could be tricky, but I have done it before so there is hope. A positive here is that it has made me start to look at these communication tools more carefully and consider their application internally and also externally for our websites. We have since employed one www.box.net to share some best practice between us and our Australian counterparts.

 

Something that constantly amuses me is the amount to which my studies have had an effect on my team mates and those in Munchkin Land that I discuss it with. I touched on this in my previous unit. But with the AI unit the self and team reflection continued, perhaps we did it anyway and I just didn’t notice, but I think not. I bear the brunt of it as I am seen as fair game seeing as it is me doing the course (I basically agree and my hide is getting tougher). So I am subject to fairly regular “honest and open” reflections on my behaviour that I don’t ask for. Just this week I have been accused of being “f*cking neurotic” (by a someone widely regarded as a bit of a nutter himself) of managing down my expectations so that I never disappoint myself too much (a short version of a long diatribe) and of having a mid life crisis (how rude) in public. I was saved by Scarecrow who called me a visionary in the forum and my Mum who said she was proud of me. Whether true or not, I suspect most, if not all of these conversations would not have happened if it weren’t for the course and these units tied in with self and wider reflection. However, I am left reflecting on whether all this reflection is making me more or less “f*cking neurotic”.

 

I do feel I am getting braver, the AI forced me to talk to the whole team and I have learnt that the next time I do it I need to take it to a wider audience and feel pretty comfortable with that. I don’t think I would have been a few months ago. I have re read my first post (https://apairofrubyslippers.wordpress.com/2006/10/03/dandy-lion/) about what I wanted to achieve by doing this course and although there is still some way to go I honestly feel like I am going in the right direction. I am not sure it will be at Munchkin Land, I have dipped my toe in other waters recently but so far have not been entirely convinced to move. At least now though, I feel I can.

Tin Man

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 12:17 pm

 

tin-man-box.jpgIt seems I have turned into a girly swat, I even handed in my last piece of coursework early. But it’s not that I was just so swatty that I couldn’t wait to get it done excluding everything else from my life (ha! my “Life”!) but rather that I have learnt something in the last few years, mainly from having had the kids. I have learnt that I can’t leave things to the last minute any more because if I do, one of the little dahlings will get Hand, Foot and Mouth or something gross and I will be in trouble. So I build in time for these things to happen just in case and then if they don’t I can hand in early and go and enjoy the weekend. One of the main things that struck me about Tin Man’s work is that he conducted the AI and I think wrote his report all in a space of about 4 weeks. I can’t help but be impressed as I would only be able to get about halfway through in that time but I do wonder if this made his job harder than it needed to be?

 

One of the main things that struck me about Tin Man’s work is that he conducted the AI and I think wrote his report all in a space of about 4 weeks. I can’t help but be impressed as I would only be able to get about halfway through in that time but I do wonder if this made his job harder than it needed to be? It then struck me that perhaps this is the same with the projects that he works on, that he has to deliver large pieces of work in a relatively short period of time, a common malaise for SMEs. Then that this way of working exacerbated the time he could allow for this AI, which could be potentially time saving – a vicious circle. This is an issue I have come up against at work that as a result of my personal experience have tried to counter. When I inform agencies that I want them to tell me (within reason) the timescales for a project they look genuinely gobsmacked – but it works well. Obviously one cannot do this for every project but I have found it to be a good approach when possible. It is also an example of how I like to work with my agencies, more in the spirit of a colleague that I would sit next to rather than a contracted service. It is this idea of that relationship that forms the basis for my main area of criticism of Tin Man’s AI.

 

As “a client” myself, I would love to have someone like Tin Man to work with, he clearly cares about and wants to improve the experience for his customers. Tin Man didn’t involve anyone from the client side in his study, if he had I suspect that the materials he produced would be a little different and he may have got another slant on issues and opportunities. In choosing the subject of improving client communication for his AI he is picking on a key element of this relationship between agency and client and in my experience something that is usually overlooked. I have recently run a pitch process in Munchkin Land to decide who will create our new corporate site, all of the agencies we saw would no doubt be able to give us something technically splendid, what I spent more time deliberating over was, could we work together? Do they understand our culture? Can they work with us to develop the site in line with other channels’ strategies? And crucially, how would they go about helping us to source content? This is an area that Tin Man gives scant regard pushing it back to the client – but then not giving them the chance to respond.

 

When questioned about the decision not to involve clients in his AI Tin Man explained that he felt his team meetings (where he conducted research for his AI) were not the appropriate arena to consult with clients – sounds like he felt they would either be scared off or would change the dynamic so as not to make them useful to his team. I know he intends to involve them at a later date (and indeed views this as the second cycle of AI) which is useful but I still feel they could have been consulted earlier. I can’t help but wonder that if he had been able to give himself a little more time he might have been able to incorporate some contact with them. If Tin Man’s team meeting was not deemed an appropriate platform to involve clients I feel he could have made use of other media such as online surveys or even emails or phone calls. There was also an opportunity to involve ex-clients or tap me for info if using current clients was not sanctioned by the bosses.

 

Following on from my criticism of not involving the client I wonder if Tin Man’s AI provides an opportunity to take exploring this relationship further. I would like to see the whole relationship between the agency and their clients examined as an extension of his work on the communication media. I wonder if the agency Tin Man works for can use AI to try and move how they are viewed by the client from the arena of tactical supplier to something more approaching strategic partner by refining how the 2 parties approach projects together using the AI process.

 

If they can be seen as a strategic partner the agency’s clients will start to view the agency as a crucial intrinsic element of their future business success. On a basic level this would help to bring in more work, but also it would be interesting to see what effect it had on the issues that Tin Man mentions that prompted his study These being: understanding what service the agency offers, sourcing content and the design process. To be viewed as strategic partners, the agency would have to reach a detailed understanding of the client’s business organisation, culture and strategy. I would say that Tin Man’s AI has been looking at the reverse – the client gaining an understanding of what the agency does. Whilst this does clearly need clarification, I think there is a chance that examining both sides in an AI study would provide a fuller picture. This is assuming that Tin Man’s agency engages in some strategic (as opposed to purely tactical) projects of course although I would be surprised if they didn’t having viewed some of their work via their website such as the Drysuits & Wetsuits company for whom they have done more than 1 piece of work.

 

This type of AI to change the client/agency relationship would of course need buy in from the client side. Tin Man has used Goffman (1959) to explain why he didn’t invite the client to his meetings as he saw the client as undermining, their authority. Goffman further endorses Tin Man’s point about changing the team dynamic with his theory that the audience (his clients) also often like to sustain the impression fostered by the performers. So possibly even if Tin Man and his team were to invite a client in, they may not be willing to actually see what was taking place in the meetings or to surrender the impression that they previously had of the agency. Goffman attributes this to the audience seeing a time and hassle saving by not breaking down the illusion. This might translate into Tin Man’s work by what we have seen already from some of his clients – they just want to deliver a brief, possibly not a very good one, then see some pretty designs closely followed by a website that looks fab and does what they want without them ever actually having to get involved at all. Therefore would they view getting involved in this type of study as a hassle, or could they see that potentially it represents the opposite?

 

This is tricky stuff though, Goffman also highlights that performers may be unaware how routine their performance with their audience is. For Tin Man this means trying to gently show this to his team without upsetting them. It is possible that the team meetings could change and still be productive or even more so for example, but routine is stopping this from being seen. Marvellous I can come in and use my team meeting AI on them – how convenient. This could mean that having the client in the very meeting that they don’t want to disrupt could have a positive not a negative effect. I guess there is only one way to find this out and it could be risky.

 

To add a further layer of complexity, Goffman alerts us to the issue that audiences when not colluding as above, are looking for clues that the performance being given is false, so to move the agency from performer (or tactical supplier) to becoming one team with the client (strategic partner) the original performances by Tin Man et Al have to be flawless to convince them it is a good idea. Incidentally this harps back to a discussion in the forum where there was much written about why a live performance is frequently preferred over a recorded one – it’s the same thing; everyone is waiting to see if you go wrong!

 

In the forum, we discussed with Tin Man about “cover your arse” type of documentation. Others pointed out that they should have this in place so that they are covered when their sometimes wayward clients request excellent things like switching on the Google button. I know where they are coming from but feel that the AI has the potential to find a different way round these issues. Ultimately even if a client is completely in the wrong and directed back to Ts and Cs it is unlikely to pacify them if an issue arises – the kind of “tough, that was in the small print” type response is not terribly helpful for either party. If the two worked together in a different way then these types of issues need not arise as regularly. Perhaps there is scope here for the AI to look into different ways of imparting Ts and Cs rather than the “cover your arse” doc? Is there potential to try out client training perhaps? This could be extended to cover the issues created by clients expecting the agency to write copy too – it is not rocket science (I do it all the time), a few pointers in 1 session could go a long way – could be chargeable too of course.

 

Then there is the thorny issue of content gathering. With Tin Man’s it AI feels like stale mate to me – he is quite rightly pointing out that he doesn’t know what these companies do and that they need to generate their own content. But then it is likely that these companies have never had to do this before and don’t know where to start. Is this another area in which AI could help? Could there be a trial of something like seconding an agency member of staff into the client office for a day to help them start to generate the content perhaps or a workshop to generate ideas. This would all be part of moving the relationship to strategic partner too. Potentially if these ideas worked they would be cost and time savings. I rather suspect we are back to where we started though with the initial outlay of time being a stumbling block needing a fair amount of influence and negotiating to overcome.

Enough of this talk of expansion of Tin Man’s AI I think. I am getting carried away, but that is really only because these issues are dear to my heart and I am really encouraged to see them being tackled. Although Tin Man says his personal profile in his office has not changed, I feel sure it must have done slightly and even though this might not show immediately, perhaps there will be opportunities in the future that arise as a result of this? Sadly I am not convinced that his bosses realise just what an asset they have in Tin Man and how what he is doing could be so beneficial for the whole company. I guess there is a challenge there for Tin Man to show them. I promise this is the last time I bang on about involving the client, but if he did there is a chance that the client might feed this back to his bosses for him. I certainly would.

 

Goffman, E. 1959 The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin

 

May 14, 2007

1 Down…

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 2:51 pm

lc_71087_wizard_of_oz_tape_measure.jpgI’ve made the action turn, its done. It went pretty smoothly actually, I would even go so far as to say I enjoyed it. The feedback to date has been positive and constructive, we have some more ideas for the next meeting too, all good stuff.

I am now starting to suffer my usual feelings of, “OK ,done that, can we move on?” Which is a shame really as I have to write a report on it now, I am hoping I will feel a bit more inspired than I have recently.

I think I am suffering from taking on too much and ending up not doing anything properly.

May 1, 2007

The Opening Night – A Review

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 7:35 pm

cafe1.jpgOn Thursday, the curtain will rise for the first time on the long awaited third play, “Team Meeting” by Dorothy Gale. It will be performed in an unusual venue in Uxbridge Town Centre, away from Gale’s usual Charter Place home. More of an installation than a play in the traditional sense, it has been only partly scripted by Gale and her long suffering writing collaborator Mr G.W. Glinda.

In the opening scene the troupe is seen gathered together, sat around a table. One notes the obligatory dodgy chairs, a playful postmodern reference to Gale’s love for Graham technique no doubt!

The dialogue starts low key with Gale’s and Glinda’s run of the mill script but then is cleverly developed by the able cast using their well honed improvisation skills. This approach ensures a different experience for the audience each time the play is performed. Indeed the group have taken steps to subvert the usual flow of theatre dialogue and include audience participation by encouraging audience members to suggest topics to be debated by the cast by contacting the company with ideas a week before the performance. However not all suggestions will be taken up, they politely rejected my idea of jargon bingo.

In addition to the different subjects available for discussion, Gale and Glinda have a list of stars invited to make special one off appearances. These range from Branson-esque Cameo appearances to a full evening long performance alongside the regular company members.

As Gale strikes out in this new direction it is yet to be seen if it will be a success. However, It should if nothing else, prompt some discussion about the format of traditional plays and what that means for the actors and their audiences.

Team Meeting from the 3rd May playing “Upstairs” at Pizza Express, Uxbridge, tickets still available from the Box Office

April 21, 2007

I Want To Be Alone…

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 9:33 am

dorothy-baby.jpg

Tin Woodsman: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I – I think that it – it wasn’t enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em – and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?

It’s OK, I’m still enthusiastic, its just that now I have to rely on a few other people to help me make the planned changes. That makes me nervous. What’s even more irritating is that I know this part is really important, I need to learn how to influence my colleagues to make things happen and then I need to learn to trust that they will do it. How awful.

The team continues to be helpful, if a tad sarcastic at times, which is all good. The wider issue is people outside of the team who are harder to coordinate as they are not onsite and have a day job to do.

Learnings here are that making changes at work, even small ones can be a lengthy and sometimes frustrating process. I was chatting to a munchkin from The Lullaby League yesterday who was telling me about some of the problems they have with the systems they are using. I suggested starting a joint project to look into the issues and come up with a solution and he declined stating that it wasn’t worth it as it would be too difficult, take too long and any solution we came up with either wouldn’t be perfect (duh) or wouldn’t be able to be implemented – thank you Sarbanes-Oxley. Is he right? My overiding thought is “no”, but I understand where he is coming from. I suspect the fact that we very rarely take a step back and do some analysis on current issues contributes highly to many of our current frustrations. I wonder why we don’t? Is it just that people are too busy or has it just not been seriously considered before? I am hoping to use my AI as an example of what could be done in a similar way for larger issues, well if it works out well, otherwise I will say I was too busy to do it properly and go back to moaning about our systems.

March 27, 2007

Mithering Munchkins

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 8:32 pm

lollipop_guild2_cropped.jpg
Boy oh boy oh boy…. here I go again, only this time it’s not personal. This time the whole of the Lollipop Guild are involved. I have been tasked with an AI project and I’m looking at how we communicate and specifically the team meeting.

There is some great research about to help with my prep. Last night I read through an article from a scholarly management journal about AI in organisations that concluded that such journals were only vaguely related to a real manager’s world. It went on to say everyday management is better explored through a range of “philosophical viewpoints; Aristotelian praxis, hermeneutics, existentialism, pragmatism, process philiosophies and phemonenology”… I think your average everyday manager would agree. So bearing that in mind I have started to interview the team about their views on our meeting and how we might change it. The actual outputs of this I will include in my report, but I wanted to write a journal alongside to record the “asides” and to note my thoughts and feelings before they change with time and practical knowing.

Basically today I am thinking what a great bunch the Guild are, I was aware that I am taking their work time and that they are busy but (so far) they have all been really positive and helpful. I know the acid test will be if we can actually get some of the things we discussed to happen but at the moment I don’t see why not. I am in the middle of my usual spurt of enthusiasm I feel at the start of a project, I hope I can see it through, it is very exciting (see told you I had enthusiasm) to be looking at a work process in this manner and I am having to stop myself getting carried away and wanting to look at everything we do like this. I am guessing that might try the patience of even the most saintly team members.saint.jpg

February 25, 2007

Dorothy Gale Biog

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 8:43 pm

dorothy-arnold.jpg

Date of Birth – Undisclosed, Heswall, England.
Date of Death – 13th June 2069 hit by a falling giant “M” when walking under a “cinema” sign, Monte Carlo
Spouse – married 29th May 1999 to Spencer Holmodopolos, Greek Shipping Magnate

Mini Biography

Born in Cheshire in the 70s, a daughter of a salesman and a potter, Dorothy moved to Oxford in her early years. She was always encouraged to speak her mind and try out different activities for her body. She became an avid fan of Martha Graham technique continuing to practice until her death. She had two brothers both much older than her, that often took her to the cinema to watch her beloved films. It was during this time Dorothy decided she would become an actress.

Dorothy attended stage school and after graduating began getting small roles in plays in the West End. She always attracted attention in these parts, especially for her roles in “I’m 16, I’m Leaving Home” (1987) and “I’m Off to the States” (1991); then she finally broke into the mainstream when she took the starring role of the stupid English girl in “Getting Arrested in Malaysia” (1994); The inevitable film offers followed, and after recording a few screen tests, she was cast in “Get a Proper Job” (1996), opposite Johnny Depp. The film was a surprise hit, and after agreeing to her salary demands, Robert Bassett Film Co signed her to a contract. She made two more films during 1996 and 1998. Winning her first Academy Award before defecting to rival production company CCE Studios where she remained for many years featuring in several more movies.

Alongside these film roles, Dorothy was also active behind the scenes (see producer and director). Offstage she used her time to foster her interests in the arts and took every opportunity she could to travel.

From her early 50s and by then working only occasionally, Dorothy explored the world with her husband until her death in 2069 in Monte Carlo.

Trade Marks

Played independent women who thought they knew what they wanted
Was known to moan at the start of a project before settling down
Liked to be entertained and enjoy herself
Worried about everything
Great in a crisis
Very short attention span
Hard on herself

Quotes

Sorry, can I just ask you about this?
Just because it has always been done like that, doesn’t mean it has to be done like that
Its fam’ly, innit, fam’ly
I’m not a control freak, its just that I am the only person who will do it right
Why does everyone else’s look different from mine?

Filmography

Actress

1990s Dorothy played many roles and the ones we will look at here are the ones where it’s apparent she acquired some of her most notable skills. In 1996 in “Get a Proper Job” she played an incompetent sales person turned rookie office worker. The early part of the role involved her being slung out of shops and sworn at, her character starting naive then slowly learning to counter that kind of conflict. The plot followed her dawning realisation that nothing was worth being that unhappy and that you can change your situation as the character took a new job in an office. Having studied method acting at stage school and sporadically throughout her life, after some relevant research, Dorothy demonstrated a natural ability with technology, becoming PC literate in order to be credible in the second half of the film. The film was well received by the public and Dorothy showed great promise that they could expect a stronger performance in future movies. There was a problem however; the management of the production company saw her as typecast in similar ‘gritty” parts. Dorothy knew to progress her acting skills and be seen as a serious artist she would need to move onto a more open-minded production house.

2000s Following her move to CCE Studios, Dorothy’s first role was as a supporting actress in “In Outlet Manager” (1998). She received critical acclaim for her performance praising her for her life like practical knowledge. Her character was once again in an office environment and so she was able to build on her previously learnt PC skills and spent hours with real experts to appear on screen as if she really understood her character’s position. It was “In Outlet Manager 2, The Sequel” (2000) that saw Dorothy progress from supporting role to leading lady. Here Dorothy’s character grew in responsibility managing the change in the film’s storyline from the first film’s chaotic overtones to the second’s more relaxed and organised pace. As a result of this success, Dorothy’s confidence grew and she started to take on the responsibility of looking after younger aspiring actors and actresses. This was a responsibility she took very seriously and always tried to use every avenue open to her to gain knowledge on the best way to go about this. She would become a bit of a pain always asking for advice. It was worth it in the end though as she built a softer and more intuitive way of dealing with people, a relief for the media who had to interview her.

After some time away from the limelight when she undertook some backstage work (see producer and director), Dorothy made her first 2 attempts (again with CCE Studios) at a comeback to acting. The first was half hearted and resulted in a poor performance in a second rate movie as her passions were still very much with producing (The Dream Time, 2003). But the second attempt was much more successful as she had taken enough time away, had carefully prepared herself mentally and physically and was ready to return to the big screen with renewed zeal. Her enthusiasm rather than skills, which were rusty, carried her through (and rubbed off on the other actors) a small part in an excellent film “Time for Change” (2006) which although well received by critics, was not the box office hit she had anticipated. It was later that year she decided to take on extra acting lessons to help find a way through this difficult period and keep her enthusiasm from waning. They had a positive effect and in 2007 Dorothy was to make “Another Year”. A film which saw her display old and new talents with renewed vigour. This film though was in a similar vein to the ones that had preceded it and if she was going to avoid being typecast once again and be able to retain her enthusiasm she would need to rethink her performance. Behind the scenes she re-examined her career. When she finally decided to be honest with herself, she realised that this was the only time in her life that had not been thought through. Her early career had been planned meticulously and she knew exactly how she would spend her old age, but this part of her life had been neglected. With hindsight this was not very impressive as it was likely to be the longest stretch of time in her life. If she didn’t decide what she wanted to do she was in danger of grabbing any role which came her way or leaving the profession totally without really considering the consequences that may hold for her. This was not an easy thing to resolve but at least she had realised this was an issue. It was also notable that when she took some advice it made her think that ideas she had held several years ago were perhaps right after all and that recently her purpose had been a bit misplaced.

It was around this time too that Dorothy started having difficulty with the owners of the studio. She felt overlooked but was contractually bound to stay so used the time to try and improve on the skills she felt she were lacking. She had previously looked after less experienced actors and it was this direction Dorothy was to take again, first in informal coaching then taking a more official role as a Drama Instructor. She wanted also to be more aware of other elements of her profession and how it was developing. Eventually she decided she had learnt all she could from the crew at CCE Studios and left to see if she could build on her skills elsewhere. JFDI Studios had a vacancy for a director; Dorothy got the job and moved to the next phase of her career (see director).

Producer

1990s In 1999 Dorothy’s life took on a different direction when she took the job of producer for the first time in “2 Funerals and a Wedding”. This was a long term project; eventually becoming the prequel to two other films she was involved with also as producer. The credentials needed for this job were different from her acting roles but would be useful for other areas of her life. She learnt more about people and how to exist with and get the best from them over a period of time. Tolerance and negotiation skills were also sometimes required, but her love of change and ability to “add a different flavour” to everyday tasks stood her in good stead. It had been rumoured that until her experience as a producer Dorothy could be rather stubborn. It is known that she received a great deal of advice and life coaching from a close friendship forged on the set (although was still known to throw the occasional celebrity tantrum). She was also later to credit this time in her life for teaching her how she wasn’t always at the mercy of her emotions and that she could make a conscious choice to affect them. Her acting experience helped here as she found she could often act confident even if she wasn’t feeling it. She thought often about impression management and was reminded of her early days of Graham technique where she learnt that the way she moved her body would affect how she felt.

2000s Dorothy produced two more movies, “The First Born” (2002) and its sequel “It’s a Girl!” (2004) these were to test her more than any other roles in her career to date. She had to acknowledge that her actions had a direct effect on other people and maybe most crucially, accept that there were areas in this role that she couldn’t always control, some of her cast for example. This was difficult for her and something she battled with on and off for years to come. A fellow Producer gave her the following advice that stuck with her, “Dorothy, you really need to learn to say F*ck it”. Crucially this part of Dorothy’s career backstage showed her that a life treading the boards was not the only meaningful existence. She began to see herself with a different frame of reference, not as the prima donna actress at the centre of her world but as a part of a whole within it. This role forced Dorothy to make important decisions by herself. In previous acting roles she had been able to take the advice of those around her, but now she was where the buck stopped. This was liberating, she would take this new found attitude to the rest of her life and work, empowering herself to make decisions and facing up to the consequences if necessary.

Director

2010s 2010 saw Dorothy direct her first movie for JFDI Studios, “Callow” was a low budget movie but Dorothy showed excellent directorial potential and it was to be the first of several exciting and unusual films to come from JFDI after Dorothy joined. None were mainstream but all were unique with many becoming cult favourites. The odd flop went largely unnoticed in the name of experimentation.

Dorothy stayed with the role of director for several years with various different production companies and even set up a small one of her own as a side project. As she aged she took a less hands on approach, and eventually she was delighted to find herself in a position where she was able to just work occasionally on projects she found appealing as was the Hollywood model.

February 20, 2007

Theatre of The Absurd

Filed under: MACMP — author @ 7:43 pm

“You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom”

toy.jpg

I want to use my next post to assess my current skills and make a plan for the future, but I felt it needed a little more introduction. I mentioned Symbolic Interactionism in an earlier post and admitted to having a soft spot for a certain protagonist’s work – Goffman. His theory of self (or rather parts of it as it is too complex for full use here) has been my inspiration to question and evaluate my skills and investigate a future strategy. I hope by using this approach, I will be able to stand outside of myself and consider my roles more clearly, rather than try and think from the inside out as with Myers Briggs.

As I have previously stated, Goffman uses a theatre analogy to attempt to define self. He places importance on the roles we play and how they are assimilated within us to become who we are, as opposed to viewing an individual as having fixed traits. As always with these things common sense tells us that the truth is probably somewhere in between, but this approach of “role” fits well for discussing different aspects of life in a situation such as this that I find myself in. I am using a fake actress’s biography and the role idea instead of creating a more traditional plan. I have used a few of the online tools to give myself some background ideas and some thoughts for questioning myself but they felt very dry and did not keep me entertained very long. Halfway through I tended to wander off, get tea and forget about them. I hope by using a more unusual medium it will help me to really think the issue through at a less superficial level whilst also being entertaining. Entertaining not just for me but for you too. Goffman tells us we need to be aware of our audience, consider yourselves considered. Welcome to the theatre, let’s hope it’s not Absurd.

The picture above, in case you are wondering, sums up beautifully how this reflection is making me feel – no not like a naked blue boy, but rather simultaneously ancient and infantile, slightly out of place and uncomfortable. It is making me challenge “truths” about myself that were, at some level anyway, completely fine 5 weeks ago and making me focus on debunking what I assumed I wanted. A sculpture like the one above asks us to reconsider our ideas of the body and indeed, people. I am trying to turn this towards myself.

The hardest thing has been to admit that although I had had my life all figured out up until now (and when I am old) I had sort of ignored this bit. When really faced with giving it some in-depth thought I got the opposite answer to what I started with. Ho hum, maybe this will revert again, we’ll see. It also reinforced to me that my life, and especially my career is not now my own, what I want for that role is second to what I need to do for my children. I have tried to concentrate on gaining skills rather that setting out a clear career ladder as I think that, certainly in the next few years at least, this is a way for me to progress so that eventually when maybe I am able to dedicate more time to my career I don’t find myself left too far behind. I don’t see this as a problem, just a fact; the kids are much more fun than work anyway.

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