Category Archives: Management

Management books and Winston Churchill

After much thought, and sitting up until after midnight, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t concentrate on writing an interesting post. I have therefore settled on throwing a few things together and trusting that it will be OK.

Come to think of it, I may write a business management book based on that premise. Somewhere in the house I have management books based on  Henry V, Attila the Hun and Jean-Luc Picard, so why shouldn’t Just Chuck it Together, It’ll be OK be a success?

I may market it as a breath of fresh air in a world that seems to increasingly demand perfection, effort and planning.

How about Leadership Secrets of Winston Churchill – a quick study of how the man voted the Greatest Briton of all time actually ran things. It strikes me that when he wasn’t being random he was often drunk, but he still managed to win a couple of World Wars and a Nobel Prize. Makes you think, doesn’t it.

In a modern context, by the time we’d planned, done the Prince 2 stuff and explored the Health And Safety implications we’d have had jackboots marching up the Mall and King Edward VIII re-installed in Buckingham Palace. Or, I think, Edward III for those of you in Scotland.

Anyway, I’d better get to bed as I don’t want to be late for hospital.

In the meantime I will try to think of something entertaining to write for Friday.




The Coming Year (Part 2)

The plan for the year is gradually coming together, which is good, because I want something to take my mind off yesterday.

First, I’m spending time on getting my health in order. This isn’t really an active choice, after the pre-Christmas admission to hospital it was more or less forced on me. I’m in hospital tomorrow, though I’ve already covered that.

Second, I’m doing more exercise and making sure I get out in the open air. We said we would do it and although it’s a bit patchy it’s going quite well. Having blown a few cobwebs away I’m now feeling a lot fitter. Again, it’s not taking a lot of effort as I like getting out with the camera and binoculars.

Third, we’re putting a few plans in place for holidays- a long weekend in the Lakes and a week on Mull. Last time we had a full week the Beijing Olympics were on. Again, it’s not difficult to manage this.

Fourth, we have the permaculture and nature books out and we’re planning the changes in the garden. We’ll start with a good tidy (we’ve neglected it badly over the last couple of years due to the time we’ve spent on the farm) and see how it goes. This is going to take more effort. I’m starting with a wildlife pond and gooseberry bushes. Well, you have to start somewhere.


Washing up basin wildlife pond

Fifth, we need to declutter the house  and do some decorating. (See comments in Four). So far I’ve taken some books to charity shops. Every journey starts with a single step…

Sixth is weight loss. No plan just yet, it’s just sitting their like the elephant in the room. That’s what Julia has started calling me anyway.

The featured picture is a Robin from Rufford Abbey, all puffed up against last week’s cold.  It’s hard to beat a Robin photo for cheeriness.

Too lazy to work: too scared to steal

I’m beginning to regret my new routine. It’s all very well saying I’m going to take Fridays off because it’s the only time we get a full day to ourselves and we need to spend time together, but (and sorry,  I know I’ve said this before) I have to be pretty nimble to avoid ending up with Friday as a housekeeping day.

I’ve been avoiding a bag of bedding for the last few months. I have enough laundry to do, without taking on this third bulging bag. Additionally, it seems to devour other items in the drier so you end up with a duvet cover full of assorted shirts and the folding process always seems to provoke offers of help. I don’t mind nodding to people in the laundry but full scale conversation whilst fishing underpants out of a duvet cover is a step too far.

Anyway, knowing that she had her heart set on laundry, I rose early, whispered that she should treat herself to a lie in on her day off  and attempted to sneak out with an abridged version of the laundry and a book. Not that I’m well-adapted to “sneaking” or any other sort of clandestine movement.

After 26 and a bit years of marriage she has developed an extraordinary sense of telling that I am about to do something sneaky, even when she’s asleep. I nearly used the word “snoring” there but “asleep” seems more tactful, particularly as she reads the blog.

Next time I won’t pause to check library opening hours and buy two new belts from Jacamo on the computer, I will just get the stuff into the car and make off into the cold, grey dawn.

It has to be said that there is an advantage to her way of doing laundry. I normally launch a hit-and-run operation, with the wash and wear programme followed by throwing it into a drier. Using more laundry and the bigger machines gives you thirty or forty minutes where you can stroll down to the cafe to eat freshly prepared bacon cobs and drink large mugs of tea.

After that we looked at staff training. That’s me, as things stand at the moment. JUlia is management. I am staff. Did you know that people pay up to £300 a day to go to a conference and listen to people talk?

We are also expected to pay £100 a day just to go on council courses on safeguarding vulnerable people – these are compulsory and must be undertaken on a regular basis to ensure (a) that you keep up to date and (b) keep paying the council money. I believe this is what was referred to as a “protection racket” in the 60s but is now known as “continuing personal development”

We’re in the wrong business. Now that my legs are giving trouble bank robbery isn’t an options but training looks like a good thing to be in. It’s not quite as lucrative but it’s morally (slightly) superior and you don’t run the risk of being locked up for ten years in the company of people called Nobby and Crusher.

Unfortunately, as Julia pointed out, my specialist skills of sarcasm, being rude to customers and making soup aren’t going to get us very far in the world of corporate training.

BY that time I had to go to have my annual leg check up (it’s been a medical sort of week).  I still have two legs, they both have five toes. and my beleaguered circulatory system is still pumping blood all the way down. Good to know.



Back to “Normal”

Looks like we’re back to normal.

That, as you may know from previous posts, is not an entirely good thing. “Normal” for the farm is a relative concept, and not at all like the “normal” that you may encounter in everyday life.

We came back to find we had an email containing all sorts of random decisions about the kitchen/cafe and followed up by arriving on the farm to find that there was a large pile of leeks and parsley outside the back door of the centre.

Worse still, the keyhole beds have been dismantled. The bricks from one have disappeared and the tyres from the other were all piled up neatly. We’re not sure what happened to the 20 strawberry plants that were planted inside the tyres but previous experience suggests they will be in the compost. We’ve rebuilt one bed, but can find no trace of the missing bricks.

That’s what happens when he gets time to think (and I use that term loosely).  Though I hate to cause offence (you know how tactful I am) if you were to fancy a swim in the average farming family gene pool I imagine you’d have to be content with a paddle.

In addition we had the Mystery of the Disappearing Letter and the Case of the Hidden Bird Seed.

The former was easily solved once I’d spent 10 minutes searching.

“The person we are looking for,” I remarked sagely to my assistant between pulls on an imaginary Meerschaum, “is of medium height, slight build and pale complexion. She speaks with a slight Nottinghamshire accent, does not smoke and is in the grip of a cleaning compulsion.”

“How can you deduce all that from just looking at your desk?” asked my awestruck assistant.

I smiled condescendingly and tapped the side of my nose.

However, when you know there’s only one person around here in the grip of Compulsive Cleaning Disorder it’s easy enough to connect a missing letter to a major suspect. After a quick phone call we had a confession and the letter within ten minutes.

The hidden birdseed, which had been tucked under my desk, was found under a curtain under my desk, lest the sight of it merely pushed out of sight should upset a passing client. Don’t even ask why they make me have a curtain under the desk…

Finally we moved on to the third perplexing case of the day – The Mixed Ear Tag Mystery. Sheep need two identifying ear tags, one yellow one with a chip and one other. The other one is not chipped, and may not be yellow. It must, however, bear a matching number. Now, the mystery of this was twofold. How did they manage to get 160 tags muddled up so none of them were in pairs, and how did we get landed with the job of sorting them out?


I think I have a glimmer of an idea of how to manage some of this random activity. In years to come all those people who have previously oohed and aahed over Management by Walking About, Quality Circles and the Pursuit of Excellence (plus my favourite – The Boiling Frog) will talk in terms of awed reverence of my contribution to management science – Management by Nailing Things to Your Desk.


Step away from the email!

“You’re never alone with a Strand.” as the advert said.

I tend to find the same with email, as last night proved. After a day of jobs and errands we sat down to eat and watch Death in Paradise. It was a relaxing end to the day.

That was before Julia decided to check her emails. When someone from the farm goes on holiday I make sure that I don’t disturb their time away with emails and work-related discussions. When I’m away I tend to ignore emails, to the point that when we last went away I made sure that we didn’t take computers and went to a B&B that didn’t have wireless.

Not everyone takes that attitude, and Julia fell into the the trap of opening an email from the farm last night. I won’t go into detail, because I’ll then be falling into the same trap myself, but it was something that, once known, needed action.

Me? I didn’t open the email.  It’s about something that should have been done last year, and it should have been done by someone else.

In short, it’s not my problem. I’m not going to ignore it, but I’m not going to squander a few precious days off by dealing with it now.

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” – Matthew 6:34

In this case, “the day” is the day that I return to work.




Dancing in the Rain

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Vivian Greene

We’ve had rain today, and plenty of it. Compared to yesterday, which was like a misplaced June day, we have had November come early.


I’ve churned out more paperwork, sent out more newsletters, pressed a small amount of juice as a demonstration (though the washing up afterwards was still full scale), added some apple pictures to our new webpage (I live on the edge, don’t I?) and arranged a refund from ASDA. I’ve also developed a hatred of internet shopping. Actually, that’s not true; I’ve reinforced my hatred of internet shopping.

Two weeks ago I ordered some air fresheners with the cafe shopping. I didn’t want them but some other centre-users appear to have more sensitive noses than I do. At no time did the internet site inform me that they came without refills. Last week I ten had to order refills – they fit all Air Wick fresheners according to the internet. All except mine…

Anyway, because I’d left it four days I couldn’t do it via the web and had to ring them. I spent 13 minutes waiting to be connected to someone who couldn’t hear me because we had a poor connection. The customer service desk at ASDA Newark failed to live up to its name when nobody picked up the phone. Finally I got someone at my third attempt. They proved to be efficient but overly friendly. I know it seems harsh, but I can do without it.

Group dynamics have been interesting today, with a new member of the group joining us from a local school. He doesn’t have learning difficulties, more family issues< and although he like the farm, having been here before, he was finding the group a bit wearing, particularly as he wants to get on and get some work done. The others mostly accepted him, but one of them didn’t like someone else being the centre of attention. Cue tears.

That’s how it goes. Most of the progress we make is by taking people out of their comfort zone and this is one way to do it.

At least it diverted attention from last week’s big news – that Social Services expects four of the others to share a taxi. When the original two were joined by a third last year they didn’t like it. Now that they’ve been joined by a fourth, they are all complaining about him. Well, they were last week. This week they were distracted by someone new.

So we’ve all had to adjust, as I’ve had to admit that internet shopping is here to stay, and it does beat going out after work to shop. I’m sure I can get used to it, and if it isn’t quite as romantic as dancing in the rain, I can still adapt to modern ways at my age.

Five habits of successful people

What you say, another offering from Nottingham’s answer to Peter Drucker? For I have decided to become a management guru. Maybe Tom Peters actually, because I just checked up and all in all I’d rather be compared to someone who is still alive.

Yes, after seeing the offerings sprinkling the internet I’ve decided to have a go at doing a list of my own. It’s inspired by the list of 5 things to do on Mondays that I’ve already talked about and the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

(1) Define “success”. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or a corporate drone digging yourself an early grave. It’s OK to be laid back, even lazy if you want to be. As long as you are making yourself and your partner (if you have one) happy and are paying your way you are doing OK.

(2) Look at your targets. Look at where you are now. Don’t stress out, just reduce the targets to match your current position. Simple.

(3) Plan several steps ahead. If you want to retire early and carve wood learn about carving now or it will never happen.

(4) Eat bacon. The importance of bacon sandwiches in bonding, teamwork and everyday life cannot be overstated. Surrounded by veggies? Get new friends. Tofu is not the same.

(5) Stop reading lists you find on Twitter. They are useless and they waste the time you should be spending on daydreaming or surfing the net in search of wisdom. Apart from those sites that start “17 Celebrities who…” I promise you there is no wisdom to be found there, and I have looked.

Me, ranting again

I’ve just been reading an article on the web that reveals 5 Monday Morning Task for a Successful Week. I’ve included the link because it seems the polite thing to do, both for the author and the readers, who might like to know why I am fighting a rising tide of sarcasm. On the other hand, you may want to avoid reading it.

Get an Early Start. 

Set a New Goal

Schedule Meetings for the Week

Show Appreciation

Assess Upcoming Challenges

My replies.

All starts feel early, and all early starts end up later then I intended by the time I’ve seen to the kids, made sandwiches, gone back round the block for something I forgot and complained about how slowly I move in the mornings since old age started to bite.

You can set a new goal any time. I do it when I’m falling asleep at night – it always seems easier then and the goals always seem more grandiose.

Yes, meetings, let’s have more of them. After all they are always productive, nobody ever drones on (and on) and you never come out of one feeling like some idiot has stolen a portion of your life.

Again yes, that’s what the world needs – more shows of insincere appreciation. Say thanks to people when they do something good. Say it at the time and say it as often as necessary.

Don’t even understand the fifth one properly – what job allows you to wait until Monday to “Assess Upcoming Challenges”. Do it Friday and have a peaceful weekend.

I’m not saying it’s all wrong, but I don’t like the way it’s delivered.

This is the sort of article you get when you allow shiny, smooth, plastic child-men with degrees in management to write about management.

You don’t need a degree in something to be good at it. For proof of this show me another of these articles. I don’t have a degree in swearing, but  if I ever have to assess another of these articles you’ll see that I’m pretty good at it, even if I do lack paper qualifications in Applied Invective.

Screveton Kitchen Nightmares

I’d love to get Gordon Ramsay down here to sort things out.

Why, you may ask, would I want to unleash a psycho-chef on the poor unsuspecting users of our kitchen. Well, not all, just the one, to be honest.

We’ve always had this view on the farm that more is better. Sometimes it’s about involving so many people in a simple process so that it becomes unmanageable. Other times it’s about wallpapering the centre with multiple posters – the official line is that the more you put up the more people read them. Don’t know what anyone else thinks of this – I tend to think that too many posters cause poster blindness.

Any comments anyone? Am I right (as I think I am) or am I just being a grumpy old man (as my wife assures me)?

Not sure where this bolshie streak has come from. I remember thinking John Ball had a lot going for him and next thing I know whenever people talk of community allotments (as we are doing at the moment) I have started to think of Winstanley.

Let me know what you think – I’m off to check out Billy Bragg on You Tube.


One of the main things that came across from Tamara Hall’s presentation on Wednesday night was what you can do when you focus on something. She was given five years to live at one point, and she concentrated on doing a couple of things well.

Having examined my working habits, conscience and lack of success it’s a lesson I’m going to take on board: having examined my waistline and eating habits I’ve concluded that I may not even have five years!

It’s a short blog because I have things to accomplish…