Thursday, 23 February 2012

Tell your boss your work is ROT! and survive.

As promised here is how to tell your boss they are talking ROT and leave their office with your job and reputation in tact.  I allude to this in the blog The Logistics of Toothbrushing with 2 Year Olds but a recent lunch with Nigel of X Leadership led me to think that maybe more people need to be able to confidently show their bosses where the ROT is setting in.  If you are reaching for the quarter of whisky in the top draw to steel your nerves or you haven't read through this fully and have already emailed the boss to tell them they are talking rot....well I can't help you now.

NB:- None of this constitutes career guidance or mentoring: should you walk into your bosses office yelling ROT the risk is entirely yours.

"The DST triangle"
Resource, Objective and Time are like the Speed, Distance and Time of mathematics.  They form an interrelated triangle in which you can work out the value of the third for the other two.  For those of you who were daydreaming at school or more fixated on what might be for lunch.  The opposite diagram (often known as the DST triangle) is an aid to later in life learning.  

Well I borrowed this and added my own letters, replacing speed and distance with resource and objective.  I am not sure whether this represents original thinking or just an new presentation of an age old principal but I know that I regularly see people and have even managed people who tell me something can't be done but can't tell me why.  I needed a tool to help folk work out what their operational problem was which didn't require them to find the value of "X".

I believe and I lead The Logistics Project in the belief that anything can be achieved as long as one of these three parameters is infinite.

Resource:   The amount of money, manpower or equipment you can throw at a problem.

Objective:   The amount to which you can change the goal......does it really need frills and automated coffee
                   brewing facilities

Time:          Yeah.......I don't need to explain that one do I?

I guess I am trying to narrow down the weird assertion that an infinite amount of monkeys on an infinite amount of typewriters with an infinite amount of time would eventually write the works of Shakespeare - or the equally bizarre line that an unnamed RAF Officer used to regularly use in the drinking establishments of Hitchin. "In an infinite universe, somewhere there is a right time for you and I so why not here and now": - ladies of Hitchin thank you for the humorous responses which I still treasure today.

So here is where you get to march into the Big Cheeses Office yelling ROT.  A project is given to you which your gut tells you is simply .....shonky.  The objectives are woolly or excessively detailed, resources are in adequate or budget is spent out and it has to be completed before the file hits your desk.  So how do you apply the Resource, Objective and Time principal.  Effectively you need to break things down into metrics because this remains a mathematical tool;  O=R*T.

Resource may need to be broken down into different metrics to show that several permutations don't work such as man hours, money for outsourcing or extra labour or number of shiny new pieces of equipment.

Time is best broken down into traditional chunks, days, weeks, months but if you are confident feel free to freestyle.

Objective...don't be fooled into thinking the objective is the objective quite often it is the objective + personal preference, personal ambition random items that were in the intial spec that weren't actually necessary.  Break the objective into achievable chunks against time so in logistics terms (although this works in almost any field) - Free on board - Landed at Port of destination - Cleared or whatever bite size chunk you choose.

My advice is play around with these chunks now until you get as close as you can to the full objective inside the right amount of time but have a couple of back ups which cover off the other priorities....... once you have them..... take a deep breath and start shouting ROT and take your arrayed lumps of resource, objective and time to your bosses office.  Now put the problem in their hands, show how the equation doesn't work with the fixed parameters you have been given and then go on to give your selection of  3 solutions that prioritize each of  resource, objective or time and ask which one they prefer in a calm soothing tone of centred confidence.  If needs be talk them through the ROT equation not forgetting to mention how you never read blogs in work was out of hours research.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Logistics of Baby Feeding

Keshie Loves Carrot
(no children or adults were hurt in
 the making of this picture)
It is now time that Keshet my youngest daughter took the stage in Surely More Interesting Than Cargo Manifests.  This seems a little harsh as it is actually Millie my oldest daughters birthday today but as I was feeding Keshet breakfast I realised that there is a lot in common between distribution and fleet management and trying to get fruit puree into a 7 month old.

Keshet, or Keshie as we call her, is a like a demanding site; very eager to get hold of the product.  She is not to fussed how it gets there or how much wastage occurs in the delivery.  Such concerns are the remit of the distribution manager (aka Daddy).

Daddy has a fleet of 2 - 3 spoons.  These are not general spoons used elsewhere in the cutlery draw fleet, these are special soft tipped spoons suitable for the receiving site.  Now those of you who are not parents are thinking that a fleet of 2 - 3 spoons is more than enough for a simple delivery schedule.  Those of you who are parents have already started to giggle or sweat uncontrollably.

You see the soft tipped delivery vehicle in question is prone to impromptu unserviceability.  Quite often the receiving site is not ready for the delivery and in a bout of aggressive yard marshalling (at least that's what I think she is doing) the soft tipped delivery vehicle is knocked to the floor and acquires dust and other foreign objects.  At other times the receiving site management do not respect the delivery schedule and try to take matters into their own hands retaining the use of the soft tipped delivery vehicle.  No amount of promulgating expected delivery times or verbal encouragement seems to resolve this problem.  Quite often Daddy argues that his Tachograph has expired and it is time for a new driver.......thanks Mummy!  

Throughout my career it has become necessary on occasion to work on fleet establishments, redundancy is a difficult thing to build in because anyone who has worked in transport will tell you that if there is a vehicle spare someone will fill it....particularly a passenger vehicle..... vehicles cost money even if they are sat still and the US Military is the only organisation I have worked with that have the ability to carry larger numbers of redundant vehicles.  Perhaps needless to say it is important to factor in scheduled maintenance so that your fleet is kept  working optimally.  Keshie's spoon antics aren't so far from the behaviour of receiving sites and transport users.  Envisioning the entire team on the transport and fleet management seems like overkill as you are doing it but in reality the more people who understand what you are trying to achieve the more likely you are to achieve your goals.  Keshie has only part of the vision she only sees the current delivery not the ongoing process, but as she becomes more aware of our aims she does less impromptu yard marshalling and lets us get on with it.

Anyway, I have a report to finish today.  Later this week we are expecting to blog on telling your boss he/she is talking ROT and making them feel good about it.....well goodish.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Logistics Project's Valentine's Day Special

NB:  This is delivered a day late so as not tip Mrs Al off about her Valentines pressie.
Well I have been quiet for a couple of weeks now mainly due to work In Haiti but an interesting conundrum came up in Haiti that feeds neatly into The Logistics Project Valentines Day Special.  Nomenclature.......yeah..... now you are feeling romantic, eh?
Nomenclature is more easily defined as "what we call stuff". Working with an amazing Information technology team in Haiti we juggled ideas for naming conventions of products.  Don't switch off yet, it will get more interesting.  I am from the formal back ground of the RAF which requires things to be described noun, adjective, adjectival clause describing use.......socks, green, for the wearing of....... Paper, blue, abrasive engineering ......  So ingrained is it that people actually order, Beer, Lager, for the drinking of....admittedly they are trying to be funny but the nomenclature is a way of life.  In Haiti we are trying to define a catch all nomenclature system to cover all line items in a project store for an IT system. Ask five people to define the same item and you will end up with five similar but distinct answers which leads to people not being able to find things on the IT system or worse still to be recorded as two or three different items.
So how does this become a Valentine Special......make up that is how.  Mrs Al of The Logistics Project may have mentioned that she wanted Benefit make up should my travels take me through any duty free stores between Bath and Port au Prince.  Sadly it just hadn’t happened and in a bleary eyed 4am moment on a Virgin Atlantic flight I mixed up “smokin eyes” with “big beautiful eyes” and “bad gal eyeliner” with “bad gal lashes” mascara.  Now Mrs AoTLP was very gracious about this but I resolved that Valentine’s day should be my chance to get this right.
Perfume Notes
Monday afforded an opportunity for me to head to London for a quick chat to a lady about Malawi, but allowed me to the wares and fares of Oxford Street; London’s premier shopping street.  This is the cause of true love as I am not really one for department store perfume and make up department.  I don’t know how anyone can discern one fragrance from the next.  The second I entered Selfridges (who incidentally don’t stock Benefit in case you are using this blog for factual content) my eyes start to water ......maybe even bleed with the onslaught of aroma.  The odoriferous vapours claw at my throat in the same way incense in a sudanese indoor offense intended Messrs Gaultier, Boss and Ms Chanel.  What perfume does have going for it is a naming convention; at the simplest level Eau de Parfum (EdP) will be more concentrated than Eau de Toilette (EdT) and in turn Eau de Cologne (EdC) although if you research it further you can get perfume extract, esprit de parfum at the stronger end and perfume mist and splash at the the infallible Wikipedia tells me.
I should point out that chemicals applied to my skin and I don’t really mix.  If I ever use Deet to deter mosquitos I can taste it in my mouth within second and I am hallucinating in a wibbly wobbly rainbow world with in minutes.....and not in a “hey aren’t we all so groovy and lovely way”..... more in a nauseous “wow bad trip bummer man” I need my forehead spnge with cool water in a darkened room way.  So by the time I reach the Benfit counter at Debenhams I am mildly disorientated, my eyes are watering like I have been watching Bambi’s mother die and I can taste every Sandalwood top note in the building, despite trying to hold my breath for the entire duration.  I tell Melinna, (who was very helpful should Debenhams HR read this), I want the number 10 bronzer........oh no nomenclature failure!!!   No less than 8 boxes appear on the counter, two tones, single powder tones, round boxes cubes the works...... I want the RAF nomenclature system back,  bronzer, shade 10, for the applying to face in novelty cube box with retro graphic.....reporting for duty sir!!!!!!!!  I battled through and guessed pretty well making up for my inflight blunder but gents know your nomenclature before leaving for the make up counters next valentines day. It is a logistics principle.