Newsletter No 3. September 2007

In the last issue we talked about working in virtual teams. Several readers have suggested (and we agree) that it would be useful if we could make this in some way interactive – make it a way to share knowledge between a community of colleagues. So, if you have any comments or stories about things that have worked for you, that you would like to share about virtual working we would love to hear about them and share them via the newsletter. Please contact us here with your comments or stories.

In this issue we will explore the phenomenon which we are all facing: going back to work after summer time. For many of us it is an ideal time for "taking stock" and reflection; to take a look at where you are with regards to any goals/targets you have for your organisation for the year and also to reflect on where you are in your own personal goals and life/work balance.

In this issue:

The LASA Team

Latest thinking

Taking Stock – reflections on the year so far, a timely reminder

We are now two thirds of the way through the year. Realistically, it is roughly the last time you can expect to systematically take any "strategic" actions that will make a difference on your performance contract or business goals for the year. It is hard to achieve such things in days, so it is a good idea to take stock of where you are with regards to where you’d like to be now (or where you promised to be), versus "where you are" as you gear up to the end of the year and to make some plans to close the gap(s).  A careful assessment at this time of the year can re-invigorate you to a higher level for the last few months of the year.   Don't forget to acknowledge and celebrate your successes as well - we frequently forget to do that.  It can also help to energise you towards a higher level of performance.

 Here are some questions that we hope are useful:

  • Do you have appropriate measures to help you to see where you are now and where you need to get to (so that you will know when you’ve arrived)? If not, what would useful/appropriate measures be?
  • Where are you with respect to your KPI’s? Where is your team? Your division?
  • What can you realistically influence between now and the end of the year?
  • If your goals are not realistic, what can you do about it?  Is it appropriate to modify them in any way due to circumstances which have changed since you developed the goals?
  • What are your next steps and by when do you need to complete them in order to achieve what you want to achieve?
  • What small step can you take today?

A nice tool that we use to help us to quickly see where we are is a dashboard. It is simply a slide with the most critical and important (and therefore, only a few) goals/KPIs listed and in response to each a traffic light symbol – green for on track, amber for warning, watch closely and red for danger, needing immediate corrective action.

Don’t forget to think about (and apply) the same questions to your team if you lead a team. One part of organisational performance is making sure that each part of the organisation is working as it should, identifying where it isn’t working properly and helping/supporting it to do so.

The second part of taking stock is looking at your own life and accomplishments versus goals for the year.

What DO you want?

A very important question. Consider:

Success - By Walt Emerson

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

In your own life – the entirety of it – are you happy and finding fulfilment with the balance you have? Do you get enough energy from what you are doing? We suggesting filling out the matrix below to assess your level of satisfaction and fulfilment in the collection of activities in which you are engaged.  Once you’ve identified what gives you energy and what saps your energy, you can get an idea of what you might like to do less of and/or stop doing and what you want to do more of. It may even give you an idea of what you really want to do with your life!

  Energy Giving Energy Draining

As you reflect on your both your life goals and any annual goals you have established and have been working towards, if you aren’t satisfied with where you are in your journey towards accomplishing these goals and aspirations, what would get you there? What small step could you take today?

What is important to you?  Are you doing that?  If not, what steps can you take to do more of it?  Reconnect with your core values.  They may have changed.  They may have stayed the same...just think about where you are now and what - if anything - you need to do to be on track.

What did you set as personal goals this year? If you didn’t set any specific ones, what do you think you were aiming for? What were your implied goals? How are you getting on?

Small steps are great – things you can do immediately or by the end of the day. Good luck – taking the next steps in your life.  Remember the old and somewhat trite phrase:  "Today IS the first day of the rest of your life!"

You may like to consider one last question: If you woke up tomorrow and overnight while you slept (somehow) everything in your life was perfect, but you weren’t aware of would you know?

Latest Books

In Praise of Slow: how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed

By Carl Honor�

During the summer break (when we work slower) I tend to read different things. Having heard Carl Honor� speak, I was keen to take a look at his book on how to be “slow”. It is a thought provoking read. He makes the point that, “All the things that bind us together and make life worth living – community, family, friendship – thrive on the one thing we never have enough of: time.” He sums slow philosophy up in one word: balance.

The book must have been fun to write – it is a combination of statistics, interesting stories, anecdotes about how Carl (an international journalist) experienced his journey to find out about “slow” and humour. He looks at how we came to be so infatuated with fast and faster, and how a normal human being (one with a mortgage to pay, a family to raise and so on) could start to take advantage of being slow.

He looks at slow food, slow cities, mind/body, medicine, slow sex, the benefits of working less hard and finding the right tempo (balance). It is nice to know that I’m not the only one feeling that life is speeding out of control and to have some ideas about how to make better decisions about the speed of my life – how to find the balance. Carl says it best, “The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquillity to make meaningful connections – with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own minds and bodies. Some call that living better. Others would describe it as spiritual.” It is a book to enjoy and savour… and read slowly.

IT Corner

Gathering METRICS

In our main article we talked about KPIs and dashboards. If you have a cooperative IT department with the right sort of reporting tools, they will be able to implement a solution for you. But this may not be the case and you may need to do something yourself or get in outside help.

The first port of call in any case must be the IT department as they will have to provide you with the tools and access to the systems to get you the information you need. They may have all the proper reporting tools in place and all the data you need already mapped. You then only need someone to do the work of creating the reports.

Frequently life is not that simple, the reporting tools are not in place or the data is not mapped into them. In this case you need to look at how to get the data from the systems or to add extra information manually. The best approach would be to stick to Microsoft Office tools, software that most people in an organisation have and know how to use.

Excel and Access allow you to connect to external databases (again with IT department permission as they will need to give you access rights and passwords). You will need a bit of expertise to get the right data from the systems and you will need to make decisions on timing of the data. Do you know what a month is in your organisation? When it starts and stops?

Excel is also good at creating forms to be filled in to collect that data that is not held in any system. People can fill these in and return them to a central point where a large number of the individual forms can be collated into a single report and possibly make use of system data as well. For a more permanent solution it might be more appropriate to create a website just for data collection, providing people with greater accessibility and user friendliness.

As with all data analysis there is a problem of data quality and provenance, especially when it comes from different sources. It is possible to do some automatic filtering but it does require great care.

If you need any help in this area why not contact us, we offer a free initial advice service.

Interesting Links

A funny picture in Bratislava Photo – ‘Temple figures', Kathmandu July 2005 �PMLustig

Latest News from LASA

  • July saw Tricia as a guest speaker at Roffey Park Institute speaking on their OD Certificate Programme and sharing our her experience working in organisations.
  • We worked with an oil & gas exploration team on an After Action Review (AAR) of their initial seismic survey, capturing the learning for the next projects.
  • Nic has worked on updating existing websites into newer PHP5 scripting.
  • August time.... holiday time!


Quotes on questions

There are no right answers to wrong questions."
- Ursula K LeGuin, American author

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, German poet

"The answers you get from literature depend upon the questions you pose."
- Margaret Atwood, Canadian author

"He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever."
- Chinese proverb

"There are years that ask questions, and years that answer them."
- Zora Neale Hurston, American author

"In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted."
- Bertrand Russell, Welsh philosopher

"The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions."
- Susan Sontag, American author

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom”
Francis Bacon

“Questions focus our thinking. Ask empowering questions like: What’s good about this? What’s not perfect yet? What am I going to do next time? How can I do this and have fun doing it?”
Charles Connolly

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
Naquib Mahfouz

Joke corner

The Innocent

1.A nursery school pupil told his teacher he'd found a cat, but it was dead.
"How do you know that the cat was dead?" she asked her pupil.
"Because I pissed in its ear and it didn't move," answered the child innocently.
"You did WHAT?" the teacher exclaimed in surprise.
"You know," explained the boy, "I leaned over and went 'Pssst' and it didn't move"

2. A small boy is sent to bed by his father. Five minutes later.....
"I'm thirsty. Can you bring a drink of water?"
"No, you had your chance. Lights out."
Five minutes later: "Da-aaaad....."
"I'm THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water??"
I told you NO! If you ask again, I'll have to smack you!!"
Five minutes later......"Daaaa-aaaad....."
"When you come in to smack me, can you bring a drink of water?"

3. An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally asked him
"How do you expect to get into Heaven?"
The boy thought it over and said,
"Well, I'll run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, 'For Heaven's sake, Dylan, come in or stay out!'"

4. One summer evening during a violent thunderstorm a mother was tucking her son into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice,
"Mummy, will you sleep with me tonight?"
The mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug.
"I can't dear," she said.
"I have to sleep in Daddy's room."
A long silence was broken at last by his shaky little voice:
"The big sissy."

LASA Website

If this interests you, there are other interesting resources on the LASA Insight website so why not take a look by going to

Comments and Feedback

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@Patricia Lustig 2008