Meet or Email

I have noticed over time, that the number of people who phone me on my office line during the working day is decreasing, whilst email has become almost unmanageable. Note I don’t use the phone at work for chit-chat only business. This suits my misanthropic view on life but does not pander to my narcissistic traits.

I was discussing this with one of our up and coming future project managers the other day and broached the subject of “business life before email and mobile phones” Of course to a twenty-three year old it must seem like the dark ages. But there was a world in construction management where we built things without spreadsheets, pdfs, ipads etc.

The conversation went back further to the time before telephones. No I am not that old but it brought to mind one of my favorite authors, who credited himself with being the author of a book in which the telephone was first used extensively between the characters. The author being Evelyn Waugh 1903 to 1966, famous for Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Handful of Dust and Scoop.

Vile Bodies was published in 1930 and is Evelyn Waugh’s second book and. Similarly to his first novel Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies is set in 1920’s high society London. It is about the “me generation” who are rich and privileged. They go to all night parties and love being in the papers. They were part of the cult of celebrity. Nowadays it seems the dream for the great unwashed as they wander around the supermarket checking their smartphones for some oh so important message, tweet or update, is to be famous. They attach self-worth to having a mobile phone as if it sets them up as being important. When in fact Waugh’s book title describes them perfectly.

We take the telephone for granted but email is easier yet more pervasive for some people, although my preference is a bit old-fashioned – it is called face to face. This is something I constantly bang on about to young PMs especially in solving issues with subcontractors. A face to face meeting works so much better than a curt email.

Which brings me to this great short article from Keir Thomas-Bryant of Sage

Five crucial advantages of face-to-face client meetings


There must be a fair amount of movement in the construction job market as I have had over a dozen requests to provide references in the last couple of weeks. I do not have an issue with providing them, but I like to be forewarned by the candidate they have given my details as a potential referee.

Usually the reference request is from a recruitment agency and they have a set list of questions. But to me, the most important one is would I employ the candidate myself. I might not particularly like the person but if they have the ability, experience and willingness to be a key team player, then no problem. I never want to hinder someone’s search for employment but if I am unaware they are looking, and give me the opportunity to give them some straight advice, the reference they get might not be what they are expecting. Last week I was asked my opinion on a candidate who had not let me know their intentions and the role they had applied for was completely beyond their capability. They did not make it to interview and I would have told them they were aiming too high.

References are usually sought from someone who the candidate reported to. If I was asked to provide a reference for myself I would do it in reverse. That is I would offer the insight from someone who I had hired and reported to me, from cadet to project manager it makes no difference. Potential employers would not appreciate this tactic but if I were hiring, I would gain valuable insight in speaking candidly to a candidates’ direct reports. They have worked closely with the candidate and know them probably better than anyone. This might give some of my previous hires great satisfaction as sticking pins in effigies of me seems like hard work!

Censorship in the workplace

CensorIt is fair to say that almost all bloggers have a day job, but carry out their blogging activities in their own as opposed to the company’s time. But that does not allow employees to blog about certain aspects of the business in which they are employed. But how far can companies go in restricting what bloggers put out on their sites.

Most companies have policies regarding computer usage and confidentiality. But some companies are raising the levels of what an employee can say or blog to a point where they want to vet everything an employee has to say. Often it is an individual manager that wants to control their staff above and beyond what the company guidelines provide for.

So what does an employee do if they are faced with a controlling manager. Simple. If the blog does not refer to, imply, make reference to or in ay way breach the company guidelines, tell the manager where to go. If that results in a stoush and if it is allowed to continue, then it is not the kind of company you want to be employed by. Time to “Ramble On”

FIFO for real

There is a great deal of talk in the media about Fly In Fly Out and I suppose Brisbane to Port Hedland which is the same distance as London to Jerusalem, is a fair way to go to work.We mobilsed a week ago so now it is life in the camp for three weeks then back to Brissie for one week! Round trip nearly 10,000 Kim’s or 6,200 miles in the old money so lots of frequent flyer points, long waits at airports, crap airline food and we won’t mention DVT. Is it worth it? Well most of the workforce gross $5,ooo per week and pay more tax in a year than two school teachers earn. They all get free accommodation, flights home and some of the best food I have ever had, plus free Foxtel, WIFI, laundry, transport to work, gym etc etc. And project managers get exactly the same conditions but some earn more than the Prime Minister of Australia. So yes it is worth it. Of course long hours and 13 days straight without a day off is tiring, but the full week at home plus the dollars make it worth while. But there is another side that is often overlooked. You work with people 10 to 12 hours each day seven days a week, you breakfast with them, have dinner with them, wash your clothes with them, and have to listen to them. So situations arise where someone you dined with the previous evening, is someone you have to pull in to line the next day. The secret is keeping a distance from those who are under your responsibility. And if you don’t the consequences become personal. Maybe that is why “the boys” call me an arrogant prick ……… But that’s better than a soft prick.



The IT Crowd

What a breath of fresh air to have an IT department that believes their role is to support operational staff. In other words they exist because we need them and not vice versa. The lifeblood of a company is communication and my new company don’t mouth it they do it. There have been occasions in the past when I have had to literally threaten IT people to be held by their ankles from a window to get them to do what they need to do, so big tick for Amos and his staff.

IT departments when they are a support service do get a hard time and sometimes it is justified. However, when they understand their role and actually sit down with the person with the issue as opposed to hiding behind the dreaded email “help desk”, they then understand what we as project managers need – reliable communication.

Of course as the Project Manager you are responsible for the profitability of the project and IT support gets charged to the job. If you have a problem with a subcontractor for instance you hold the purse strings, but you do not with your company’s internal departments. My new best friend Amos understands that and I take my hat off to him.

Perhaps other IT people could learn from Amos. but if you try to poach him you may have to learn to appreciate hospital food.

Stone Wallers

Well it had to happen, the first blog from my iPad, an early Christmas present from my beloved. But down to business:

I believe in passion, I have written about it, brought it to the forefront of people’s minds and always tried to ‘maintain the rage’. But how do you keep the passion when you hit a stone wall, have cold water thrown over ideas, have your passion misinterpreted as a threat to the status quo.

What you do is simple. The stone wall may seem immovable and intransigent but really it is just a temporary block which can be surmountable. The stone wallers are predictable and stand out in organizations. Ultimately they get left behind an they are further away from the business as Narnia.

So maintain the passion and when you want to quite – don’t. Ramp up your efforts and stay until you have laid the stone waller to waste.

My father’smotto was simple “per ardua ad astram” it worked seventy years ago and it is apposite right now.


12 Microsoft SharePoint Sites - Winners of the...
Top Sharepoint Sites

For those of us who work in organisations that have a head office, regional offices and remote project sites, communicating across the business has always been an issue. Especially here in Australia where the expression “just down the road” can mean 500 klms.

OK we have the internet, mobile phones etc but transferring information from a coal mine site to head office is reliant on a “link” of some type. Too much data slows the link down, people get frustrated and resources are tied up. But now with cloud based computing we can change how communication can be speede up and with software like Sharepoint we can have a certain level of commonality within the company.

If you can log in to face book you can access Sharepoint. If you work in groups or project teams you can share information easily. If you manage groups or teams you can monitor what is going on no matter where it is taking place.

The biggest issue with Sharepoint is people taking it up and using it. Without adequate preparation and training staff assume it is “out of the box software” like Excel, when in fact it is a tool which can be easily developed to suit user requirements. So to implement it effectively we need to make it as essential as email. Interestingly, the “Facebook Generation” have no problems with this as it is just another site to surf. Some others who have not emraced the social network concept will need more assistance

Microsoft Dynamics 2012 AX Launch

Microsoft Dynamics AX

This launch is a must for anyone who is involved in managing business processes. The future of inter linked business management, linked MS programs such as Sharepoint, could be Microsoft Dynamics

You can register for this upcoming event at this site:

Are you one of the future 100,000,000?

I am not a social media butterfly but I am always interested in ways in which we can make our lives easier within the construction industry.

The latest offering from our American west coast friends is the Google Plus Project. I won’t ramble on about how it works or the pro’s and con’s viz a viz  Facebook/Twitter et al.  Suffice to say it is going to be big, very big.

My question is can we use G+ (as the hipsters call it) in the construction industry? Some immediate uses are the ability to video conference up to ten people simultaneously. So Mr Construction Manager, from head office you can have a weekly hook up with up to ten sites and talk and see to your site managers. Mr Commercial manager can do the same with his Contract Administrators (aka project control managers outside Australia). The company Safety Manager can do presentations on incidents, method statements etc. So that is a big tick for G+

The next use is the way in which people you connect with are placed in “circles” etermined by the user. So you can have a circle of site managers, or one of consultants, or the PCG. The information you distribute only goes to those in the circle you specify. maybe the next step is video minutes of subby meetings, but they might be R rated and cannot be circulated as they would bre each google’s content policy. But seriously there is a lot of potential in the desemination of information.

Currently G+ is not available as an enterprose tool but they are trailing that with some larger companies such as Ford. But that should not stop us using it within a business environment to simply communicate. I am double checking this with the Google guys.

With the introduction of Office365 “in the cloud” and the future demise of purchasing off the shelf software to upload on our PCs, the way in which G+ integrates with other Google products such as Sites, maps, Documents etc makes it an application we should not ignore. I know several construction companys that manage their tender process, document control, RFI/Variations etc through Google Products without the need for an in house IT guru. just a cadet with an iPhone and he is happy because his parents follow him on Twitter and Facebook, but on G+ he controls his “Stream”, Circles”, Hangouts” and “Huddles“. Oh dear I think I am turning hipster – Pirillo please send help!

Networking Nonesense

The You Suck Proportionality
Image by LexnGer via Flickr

I have a theory, well I have many but this one states:

“the amount of active contacts in your network is inversely proportional to the amount of years experience you have in the industry”

Which means those who are relatively new to the construction industry have many contacts that they are in touch with in order to promote themselves. Whereas those who have been in the industry for many years have a lot of contacts they want Not to be networked with and do not see the need for mass networking.

I recently decided to use gmail as my primary email, contacts, diary etc synced to my iphone, ipad et al. This meant merging various outlook, hotmail, Opera, Excel dbases, to come up with a full list which was up to date and with no duplicates. The merged contact database was 7,246 contacts. After culling duplicates, the dead, the retired, the bankrupt and those residing in the home for project managers who have overdosed on cost reports and spreadsheet senility, I ended up with 3,156. Take out all my personal friends and that slashed the total to 3,152 (no comments on misanthropic, narcissistic project managers please). I then took out all architects, engineers, consultants and other near do wells, sales reps and real estate novelists, I got down to 658. Still too many.

So I have embarked on an experiment. I have deleted all contacts in the iPhone and will only add them when they call me. This meant adjusting the sync settings in iTunes but that is a whole new post in itself.

On completing this exercise the iPhone rang, my first unadulterated contact. It was a gentleman from Mumbai asking if I was interested in real estate in Dubai.

The contact list is still empty