17 August 2015

My Rose

The following is a short story entitled 'My Rose' that I recently entered into a writing competition.  Even though I didn't win I am very proud of this effort.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

It’s amazing how things can change so quickly.  It was only a few months ago and I was home and enjoying life with my lovely Rose.  She is my soul mate.  I knew we were meant to be together from when I first set me eyes on her.  I will never forget when the fair came to town.  There I was with my mates having a great time. I was playing Shove Ha’penny when I saw the most gorgeous person I have ever set me eyes on! I will always remember that day until I meet me maker upstairs, which will be soon.  She was with her sisters and had a flower printed umbrella to protect her from the sun.  I caught her smiling at something her sister said.  Her smile was to die for, I tells ya.

Anyways, somehow I had to pluck up the courage to talk to her.  It ain’t easy when you are a country boy working on the farm.  To be truthful I can go days without seeing any sort of female, apart from me mum and my little sis! 

Thankfully the good Lord above must’ve been smiling on me. 

A little later on as the fair was in full swing, Rose had her umbrella snatched by one of those pesky little urchins.  Fortunately I knew it was Old Tom’s son Harold.  Before he could get out of the fairground I had launched into a tackle.  We both hit the ground with a thud.  I remember telling him “Don’t you ever steal anything again, or I will beat you all the way to next week”.  I felt a bit guilty at threatening this little tyke.  So I whispered “thanks” in his ear as he had now given me a chance to talk to Rose.  I gotta admit little Harold had the most puzzling look on his face after that!  To this day I still chuckle as I recall the incident that led me to my Rose.  Not your Rose but MY Rose!

After brushing myself off I wiped my face on me sleeve and made my way to my future love.  Funny thing was I wasn’t nervous as I handed back the umbrella.  Maybe I am a modern guy.  After all it is now 1915! I remember Rose thanking me and gave me the best smile I had ever seen.  Even better than the smile me Dad had when he won 2 pounds on the Melbourne Cup.  Her smile melted me inside.  My throat suddenly became dry.  I somehow plucked up my country courage and asked if she would like to go on a bike ride.  Amazingly she said yes.  If I had died then I could have died a very happy bloke.

It seemed like ages before the day of the picnic. In truth it was just over a week.  So after Church I borrowed two bikes from my uncle and met up with Rose in the town centre. I had packed some bread and meat for a snack for us.  I remember she giggled when I told her that.  I wasn’t sure if she was impressed or amused.  It didn’t matter cos it was Rose time – my time.

We cycled out to the nearest lake.  Rose struggled at first with her long dress but somehow managed to cycle pretty well.  I sometimes deliberately cycled behind her, just so I could get a glimpse of her wonderful legs.  Yes, my Rose is perfect in all respects.  Don’t you worry about that! 

We got to the lake at just after 2 O’clock.  I forgot to bring a picnic rug so I laid down me best jacket that I had been wearing.  I then helped Rose off her bike and we sat down.  There was a deathly silence for a few minutes before Rose suggested we eat the food I had brought.  This was the, what do you call it? Oh yeah the icebreaker.  After that we talked as if we had known each other for all of our lives.  My only regret was that I didn’t get to kiss her on her cheek on the first date.  That would have been too forward of a modern guy even for myself.

It wasn’t too long before I did get my first kiss.  I think it was at the harvest festival 6 weeks later if I remember correctly.  Our time we spent together has been pure happiness.  

I was about to pluck up the courage to ask her father if I could have Rose’s hand in marriage when war broke out.  When Britain declared war on Germany I didn’t think too much about it.  After all, I was besotted with my Rose.  However, Britain is our Motherland even now, so I had to enrol and fight the enemy.   You know the ‘King and Country’ thing.

I remember enlisting with Stan and Arthur.  It was a hoot.  We thought a few months away would be great.  We could experience a new country, or two, and come back to our town knowing that we had done our part in a British Empire victory.  How wrong could we have been?

Anyways, the training wasn’t as hard as I thought.  Stan, Arthur and I had been firing rifles since we were youngsters.  We were fit too.  Playing rugby and working on the farm saw to that.   The hardest part was saying goodbye to our families and my beloved Rose.  I will never forget the tears that streamed down her beautiful cheeks.  She shouted out “I love you!”  I was too choked to reply but nodded and smiled.  That image of her fading into the distance as me ship pulled out of the harbour will never leave me.

Time on the ship was tedious in the extreme but we did meet some great blokes and we formed our own group of friends called ‘The Family’.  Days were taken up with drills, fitness and a smoke or two.  Finally, we were told we were heading to Turkey. Stan quipped that the only Turkey he wanted to see was on a plate on Christmas Day. Even our Captain laughed at that!

Our laughter soon turned to fear and despair when we arrived at our landing spot.  I had never heard of Gallipoli before.  Now I know it well and hate it.  As we were about to get off our boats we could see and hear gun and missile fire.  It was scary and so loud!  The bloke next to me in the landing boat vomited over the side of the boat.  It was a nervy and scary time. 

Somehow we made it to the beachfront and run through smoke and chaos and made it to the nearest hills.  We caught up with other soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. The first thing I noticed was all these trenches. At times it was like looking at a long snake as it made its way across the hill.  The first few days were the hardest as we had to push further up the hill despite the Turks shooting back at us.  Some of us made it, thank God.  Others didn’t.  The members of The Family halved in a week.  Twenty of them died. It was at this stage I cried.  These blokes were like my true brothers.  To be honest, I wanted to leave there and then.  But I couldn’t I am Australian and I pledged to fight for the Empire.

Eight months on and I have become a real hardened and humourless soul.  I received a couple of letters from Rose and they have helped me a lot. I wrote a few letters back but to be truthful I haven’t the spirit to write more.  I have lost too many friends here.  Stan got caught in barbed wire and was mowed down by the Turks.  This happened within feet of me and I couldn’t get to him in time.  Arthur followed a few days later.  A sniper put a bullet into his forehead as he momentarily took his helmet off.   At least neither he nor Stan felt any pain.  God bless their souls.

So that leaves me as the sole survivor from my town.  Aside from battling the enemy I have to ensure that when sleeping the rats do not bite me.  Disease is rife in the trenches let me tells ya.  Then there’s the lice in my hair, lack of food and water and artillery noise.  It’s a Hell on this blessed Earth.

Well there ain’t much more to say really.  We are awaiting orders for one last major push to take the hilltop.  The thing we dread most is the Captain’s whistle.  Once he blows that we go over the top of the trenches and advance towards the Turks. It’s suicide really but we all signed up, and we have our honour.  I’ve been told within the next hour we will push forward.

Well I must stop now and get ready for the next phase of the war for myself.   I honestly think this will be the last moment of my life.  The Grim Reaper is sharpening his axe and my name is engraved on it.

I will miss my parents and sister.  They are the world to me.  One day upstairs I am sure we will all catch up and experience true paradise.  There’s only one person I will miss more and that’s my lovely and beautiful Rose.  She is my life, my soul and my destiny.  Rose, I Iove you so much.  I am sorry that I never got to take you as my wife and for us to raise my two sons on the farm.  I hope that whoever you do marry treats you well.  If they don’t I promise I will haunt your husband!
Whoever finds this final letter can you please deliver it to Rose first. 

This is it.  May God have mercy on my Soul.

Pte Nathaniel Harris, 

01 August 2015

What To Write?

It’s been a long time between drinks, as the saying goes.  Or more to the point, a long time between blogs.  I could use the usual excuse that I have been busy these past few months and as such I have been time poor to write blogs, or I could just ‘fess’ up and say I really didn’t think about writing another one.  Whatever the case may be, the good news is ‘I’m Back’!
There are so many things to write about that I truly do not know where to start.  Indecisiveness kills the blogger. My recent (or not so recent) blogs have been fairly political and there’s plenty of subject matter of that ilk to write about.  Things like Bronwyn Bishop’s ‘Choppergate’ affair and her being put on ‘probation’ by Captain Tony Abbott is something I could get my teeth stuck into.  At times the whole incident is like a Laurel & Hardy sketch. Or maybe the Three Stooges (or Two) is more apt.  
The good point, from a bloggers point of view, is that our Prime Minister is always such a rich outlet of things that can be blogged about (think Captain’s Call and Shirt fronting).  It generally is one gaffe after another.  I’m sure a stand-up comedy show beckons Tony Abbott after he finishes his long and notorious political career.
Another hot topic currently is the Ashes cricket test series.  This is the ultimate Cricket battle.  A battle between England and Australia.  As at the time of writing this blog, the scores are level at one test all.  The Ashes are always keenly contested and there’s normally some controversial moment or two.  However, at the moment both teams are appearing to be behaving themselves.
Or maybe I could write about some music I have been listening to lately.  Recently, I have rediscovered the heavy rock group Saxon and have been listening to some of their most popular opuses.  One thing that struck me is how musically talented Saxon were/are.  There really is a huge chasm between the rock stars of today and those of yesteryear.
Alternately, maybe I should write about the Sydney winter.  July has certainly been one of the coldest winter months for many a year.  It even snowed heavily in the Blue Mountains a few weeks ago.  Mind you, winter in Australia is not like a winter in Europe.  To some it is ‘tropical’.  According to my weather application, tomorrow is going to be 6 degrees above the average close to the Mid 20’s.  Hardly winter weather indeed.

So I still don’t know what to write about.  Hang on a minute.  If I am not mistaken I have just written a blog!  

08 January 2015

Abbott's Year of Failure

Well it was certainly a crazy 2014 here in Australia.  Politically the government is currently more on the nose than prawn shells left in the sun for a few days.
Fifteen months into the stewardship of the Abbott government and it looks that, barring a miracle, it will be a one term government.  However, John Howard was facing decimation prior to the 9/11 attacks – and look what happened to him at the next election! 

Tony Abbott was elected mainly on an anti-labor vote.  The Rudd – Gillard – Rudd debacle had left a lot of voters disillusioned with the ALP.  Abbott fed on this disillusionment by using effectively three word slogans and reminding all and sundry how bad the then government were.  Abbott would fix the budget, stop the boats and would bring stable adult government back to Australia.  Oh, and the sun would shine and lovers would walk hand in hand through corn strewn fields!

However, Abbott and his cohorts did not experience any form of ‘honeymoon period’ that all new governments generally experience.  In fact, the Abbott government never really made it to the bedroom on the wedding night!  The country had already developed a ‘headache’.

Most voters trust their governments to do the right thing.  So if pre-election promises are clearly stated then they must be honoured.  Australians do not like governments to get elected and then to not stick to their promises.  For whatever reason, the Abbott government chose to break theirs thereby potentially cutting ‘their jugular’ with the electorate.  What made things worse was that the 2014 budget had some extreme measures in it that were not ‘hinted’ at before the election, or prior to the budget announcement.

The backlash was immediate and the government was probably surprised at the anger shown by the electorate at large.  The budget was seen as being pro-business and anti-working class.  An example was the proposed lifting of caps on university course fees which meant that some courses would triple in price.

I have always held the view that selling the budget and government policies are akin to selling a second hand car at a dealership.  You have to be able to put across your message simply and succinctly and with no small amount of professionalism.  So how come this government has failed on so many levels to get their policies and messages across?  Let’s take a look.

The Prime Minister is the figurehead of the government and must be stately when required and also empathetic.  John Howard was one of the previous Prime Ministers that could do this effectively.   However, Tony Abbott comes across stiffly and without any real fluency to his speaking.  He looks at times like he has been stunned by the headlights of the oncoming truck heading his way.  I like to call it SMS – Stunned Mullet Syndrome.  The fact also that he has to wear an earpiece to help answer questions doesn’t look good to the average Aussie out there.   I won’t even go into the ‘foot in mouth’ things that our PM has said in the past 15 months.

Our Treasurer has probably had the worst year out of anyone in the government.  Roll back the clock a few years and there was Joe, an amiable and affable type of fellow.  Someone that had a great rapport with the public.  Nowadays that rapport is non-existent.  Joe has sent out so many mixed messages “we must fix the budget”  “the budget is not a problem” that it’s hard to work out what the situation is!  He has looked especially nervous especially after his budget was totally panned by all bar the right wing commentators and obligatory Newscorp journalists.  Nowadays he is looking like a spent force – a parody of his former self.

Aside from Julie Bishop, the Coalition’s only shining star, the general public does not have high opinions of Chris Pyne, Barnaby Joyce, Eric Abetz, Warren Truss and especially Scott Morrison.   The way this government has put the electorate offside so quickly is quite an achievement in itself.  The question is how can they fix it?  In short, it may already be too late. 

A revamp is required aside from the mini cabinet re-shuffle that was announced recently.  For the Coalition to win another term in office, or at least put pressure on the ALP, they must sack Peta Credlin.  Ms Credlin comes across as a total power hungry control freak albeit one who has the full backing of the PM.  However, her stifling of senior ministers means that they are unable to be themselves or put across their message to the country.   If ministers were allowed to be themselves more then maybe, just maybe, the public would warm to them.

Joe Hockey should be axed as Treasurer as he has totally made a complete hash of the job to date.  If this was an office job he would have already been sacked.  It would probably pay the government to appoint a lesser known candidate to this role.  That way there would be less backlash than, say, if Matthias Cormann is appointed to Treasurer.

However, the biggest problem for the government is Tony Abbott himself.  He is clearly not winning over many with his policies and actions.  The Catch 22 is that if he is removed as PM then the Coalition will be deemed to be no better than the previous government.  The only two pretenders to the throne would have to be Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull.  However, Malcom has lost favour with the public due to the cost cutting exercise with the ABC and SBS.

So what can the government do?  Probably not much if the truth is known.  The good ship LNP is floating rudderless into dangerous waters and there doesn’t seem anything that they can do to stop this.  So the next 20 months will see more of the same.  The Senate will continue to be troublesome and the expected economic forecast for Australia isn’t all blue skies and sunshine either.

Given that most of the cabinet are devout Christians then they could always spend more time praying for an upturn in fortunes.  Only One person knows whether this policy will work!

11 June 2014

Woes and Inexperience of the Budgetary Kind

The Abbott government has a huge issue that it needs to resolve. In fact, it is really two issues. The first is to try and convince the Palmer United Party senators (with Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party in tow) and other independent senators to pass a hugely controversial budget. The second is to sell this ‘austerity’ type budget to the electorate. So far the Government has not succeeded with either of these issues. 

Even if the bills pass the Senate, and therefore becomes law, it is expected that there would still be a lot of hostility from the public. How can the government turn this around and effectively sell the specifics of the budget to an already sceptical electorate? If we look at it another way, how did the Government dig this huge ‘hole’ for themselves in the first place? 

To answer this it is best to look at a couple of sporting analogies. With the FIFA World Cup breathing down our necks, I thought it would be best to start with an analogy of the football type. 

A football manager has to take into consideration a number of factors when selecting a team. It is not just a case of choosing 11 players and 5 substitutes. Managers and the coaching staff would have spent many hours studying the opposition and working on appropriate tactics. Especially in relation to how not to concede goals. They would also be looking for their opponents ‘Achilles Heel’ to see if that can be used to their advantage. 

 Aside from this, the weather conditions would also play a role in team selection. For the FIFA World Cup, some matches are being played in the tropical region of Brazil. This means that heat and humidity will take a toll on the players. A good manager would ensure that his team are fully equipped to handle this. Finally, on the day of the game, a Manager will pick the best team to play the opposition and hopefully win. 

Similar considerations impact cricket, and indeed all sports. A cricket coach, together with the captain, will firstly look at the wicket and assess what it is likely to do over the next 4 or 5 days of the game. They would factor in that, for example, Sydney is traditionally known as a spinners wicket, whilst Perth is seen as a fast bowlers paradise. Hence team selection will be made accordingly. In addition, the state of the weather prior to the coin toss will have an impact on whether to bat or bowl. A cloudy day could influence a captain to bowl first rather than to bat. 

Politics is a similar beast to sport. Every government has an agenda that they want to implement. Some of their policies can be seen to be ‘controversial’ whilst others will be universally accepted. What the government has to do is to gauge public opinion and work out the best strategy to sell the message to the public. To do this, there would be discussions within the cabinet and advisers as to how to effectively implement their policies. Remember, if you can get the public onside then more than half of your budget battles are won. 

 Incumbent governments tend to issue a ‘nasty’ budget first up knowing that they can offer ‘sweeteners’ in the succeeding two budgets. 

The Abbott government, and especially the Treasurer Joe Hockey, decided to paint a picture of ‘doom and gloom’ prior to Budget Day. Leaking details of parts of the budget prior to its reading in parliament is not a new thing. All governments do this. The idea is to mentally attune the public to the ‘bad’ parts of the budget. 

The other aspect of the budget is to sell it once it has been read in parliament. Generally the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will go on a type of media ‘roadshow’ espousing the reasons behind the budget decisions. Favourable media can certainly help with selling the message. 

So where did it all go wrong for Tony Abbott and the Coalition? Obviously, the ‘all guns blazing’ approach of the government in relation to the budget has backfired. It is simply too harsh for a first budget. Also, continually blaming the ALP for the budgetary decisions wears thin after the first 100 or so times. It would appear that the government didn’t do their research correctly and have totally underestimated public reaction. 

In my opinion a large part of the failure of the budget has to sit quite firmly with Peta Credlin - the Chief of Staff. Peta Credlin is reputed to have a stranglehold on all policy decisions that the government makes. She is the conduit for the Prime Minister, the cabinet and back-benchers. Ministers, for example, have to get her permission just to undertake a media interview. So it can be seen that Peta Credlin has a lot of power and influence as well as being the Prime Minister’s confidante. 

 It would be natural to assume that Credlin played a major part in the shaping of policies for the budget. As such, she has totally overlooked the reaction from the public. If we look at the earlier sporting analogies it could be said that she did not do her ‘homework’ in relation to the anger from the public. If this is the case then it clearly shows Credlin’s naivety and possible inexperience. 

So where are we at the moment? Well, we have a government who cannot pass all of their bills in a fairly hostile senate without ‘watering down’ a number of policies or, heaven forbid from their point of view, scrapping a few of the controversial ones. Given the theme of the budget, Tony Abbott could go for a Double Dissolution of parliament but, based on the opinion polls, the Coalition could end up out of government. The bleak economic picture that the government has painted does not give them much room to manoeuvre anyway. Whatever happens one thing is sure, the next few months in parliament are going to be far from boring! 

 Finally, could it be that Peta Credlin is out of her league as the Chief of Staff to the government? How many times have we heard of promising footballers and cricketers who just couldn’t take the next step up despite their ability? This is reminiscent of the scene where the coach goes up to the young budding sport star and says “look son, you are just not going to make the grade. I am sorry”. Maybe this is an apt description that fits Ms Credlin. Only time will tell.

10 April 2014

Racism, Religion and Internalism

There has been a lot of debate recently over the Australian Government’s decision to look at amending section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.  The amendments proposed include removing the provisions making it unlawful to “offend, insult or humiliate” based on a person’s race.  This would be replaced with a new clause that bans racial vilification.  In brief, a large number of Australian’s feel that the proposed changes will, in effect, allow people to be more racist to others.

Since the debate about section 18C has started there has been a couple of incidents, most particularly in multi-cultural Ryde, where a poster was displayed with the words “No more Asians.  It’s not the face of Australia.  We speak English.  Save our Aussie culture”. Under the proposed amendments a number of migrant groups fear that they will incur more racist incidences like this one.

Before I move on, I would point out that every country has elements of racism.  This can be along the lines of hierarchy, culture, religion or even social groupings.  Australia is no different to any other country. There is, and always will be, an element of racism from a small group of Australians.

Since the tragic events of 9/11, Muslims and other religious groups, have had to cope with racist attacks – both verbal and physical.  John Howard, the then Prime Minister, hardly helped racial tensions in Australia by announcing, in the lead up to the 2001 election, that “we will decide who comes to our country, and under what circumstances”.  Four years later and racial tensions reached boiling point during the Cronulla riots.

Fast forward to today, and a search on Twitter will easily show racist tweets here in multi-cultural Australia.  These tweets are normally aimed at Muslims, especially those who can easily be identified as such.  Women who wear the hijab (headscarf) are particularly vulnerable to attack. 

The main issues that some Australians have are that we could allow asylum seekers who are terrorists into our country who would then attack our beliefs and also look to hurt and kill innocent Aussies.  Others feel that migrants are generally ‘dole bludgers’ who don’t want to assimilate. In addition, some feel that there is a plan to take away ‘our’ Christian values and make Australia a Muslim country through stealth.  Note that at the last Australian census in 2011 Muslims made up a mere 2.2% of the population.  Christians, on the other hand, made up a total of approximately 63%.

The media certainly plays a role in swaying our views on subjects.  A number of right wing commentators often make reference to the danger of letting asylum seekers into Australia.  Is this fear valid?  Or do we need to look at how our Christian faiths and values stack up against other religions.  Is our real enemy, from an historical point of view, ourselves and not religious groups who make up the minority?

A quick search on the internet shows that Christians, as a rule, have a long history of decimation and destruction.  Consider these examples:

·         Between the 10th and 12th centuries it is estimated that more than 20,000,000 non-Christians were killed.

·         The 30 year war in Germany in the 17th century saw approximately 40% of the population of the country decimated.

·         With the arrival of the Spaniards to the Americas in the 16th century it has been estimated that 60,000,000 locals were slain.

·         During the Second World War, 6,000,000 Jews were killed in concentration camps and roughly 600,000 non-Catholics in Catholic Extermination Camps.

·         During the Vietnam war 80,000 locals were killed whilst in concentration camps.

In the last two decades we have also witnessed mass murders in Bosnia and Kosovo as well as Afghanistan, as the Allies went searching for Bin Laden.

Certainly it can be seen that Christians have been responsible for many atrocities in our history.

Before, I conclude I am certainly not saying that other religions are ‘holier than thou’.  Certainly there has been many atrocities in a number of Muslim countries.  Especially in the Middle East and North Africa.  To this day this continues to be the case.  Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have also been involved in aggressive campaigns that have left many thousands dead.  It is part of the Human psyche that we attack and kill each other regardless of any God that we may worship or not.  Historically this has been the case and this will no doubt continue in the future.

So let’s remember that Australia is blessed with migrants from all corners of the globe.  Over the past two centuries they have brought their culture and way of life into this country.  How many of the people reading this drink cappuccinos (Italian), enjoy a kebab (Turkish) or love eating burritos (Mexican)?  It is important we sway the argument away from the phobia that is attached to migrants and recognise the role they have played in giving us a rich and well founded lifestyle that we are proud of.  

We need to embrace our multi-culturalism with open arms and learn from each other.  You may find that we have similarities that you never realised before.  Remember too that the vast majority of people are just like you- friendly and peace loving!

22 January 2014

Social Media Respect

It has been a while since my last blog, so I thought I had better rectify this!

So much has happened over the past few months that it is hard to know where to start.  However, I would like to start with a topic that touches every one of us and that is "Respect".  In particular social media respect.

As human beings we can be very self-opinionated.  On the whole, this is an admirable quality.  If we didn't sometimes challenge each other, authorities or our beliefs then the world would be a much more boring and backward thinking place.

However, we need to show respect to others when we are using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.  People use social media for a variety of reasons from keeping in contact with family and friends, sharing interests, following 'celebrities' and also to share opinions on a number of topics.

In the old days (pre-internet) a lot of conversations would take place in the tea room or at the water cooler at work.  In reality, these conversations still happen to this limited audience today. However, social media allows people to access a larger audience. The use of hashtags are a common way to find a topic and comment on it.

Social Media allows people to hide behind their comments without the recipient (of the comment) knowing who they are. This leaves everyone's opinions and beliefs open to potential attack. These attacks are nowadays known as trolling.

I, myself, have been trolled on a few occasions. These troll attacks have been in relation to my views on gun control, politics, asylum seekers and ensuring religious tolerance.  Except for one occasion I have not worried about the attacks.  The only occasion it affected me I really felt infuriated!

However, as time goes on I have realised that not everyone will share my views.  In fact, a number of my friends differ with me on a variety of topics.  Having said this, some people react differently to other peoples views.  In extreme cases, due to trolling and cyber bullying, some people have taken their lives after being attacked.

So when you read a comment or post on a social media site remember that a human being with feelings has posted it.  Healthy debate is always to be welcomed but do not overstep the mark. Lets keep conversations healthy and non-aggressive.

20 October 2013

Are We Robots?

As a prequel to the topic of this blog I would like to make reference to the Pink Floyd song 'Welcome To The Machine' from their classic 'Wish You Were Here' album.  The main premise of the song is that we are all part of a well oiled machine, a factory processing unit where we are but a cog in that process.  Our life revolving around the repetition of life/work and so on, whilst the company we are working for makes huge profits.  So with this view in mind read on as I look at if we are robots or not... 

Over the past thirty years there has been something of an underground revolution going on.  It is a revolution that has not required guns, bombs or even covert operations by elite militia.  It has not required UN Peace Keeping forces and it is not religion based.  By and large this revolution has been under the radar of the media.  In fact, the only time that you would have heard about it would have been through industry related forums and workshops.   Even though this revolution was borne out of good intentions, it has become clear that there is a potential dark side to it as well.

So what is this mysterious revolution?  Well, this is the revolution of business efficiency.
Over the last three decades businesses worldwide have been looking at ways to make processes more efficient.  By efficient I am really talking about minimising errors, making the process simpler and, of course, making the product or service cheaper (or should I say more profitable).  After all, if you eliminate errors you will save money on your production costs.  For a large number of industries (think the car industry) it can make sense to streamline production.  That way, at every stage of the evolution of the construction of the car you can easily monitor its quality as well as being able to pinpoint where any defect or error has occurred.

Business efficiency has become a science as well.  There are a number of theories and worldwide standards that can help businesses and employees alike.  One is Six Sigma which some of you may be aware of.  Six Sigma, for the uninitiated, is a set of tools, techniques and strategies used for process improvement.  It was originally developed by Motorola in 1985.  Since then it has been implemented by a large number of companies worldwide. 

Another efficiency tool is Prince 2.  This is used for project management purposes and covers the management, control and organisation of a project.  Somewhat surprisingly this was developed by a UK government agency in 1989.  It is now seen as one of the global industry standards for projects across all industries.

There are many more theories and concepts aside from the two I have mentioned above.  A quick internet search will provide a plethora of different ideals for business improvement.
From a different angle it could be argued that all business processes that follow these concepts have, in fact, morphed into factory processing lines.  Without a doubt for some this is a good approach (again, think the car industry).  For other industries it does take away the ‘organic’ thinking that is important for the good or service being developed.  This lack of ‘organic’ thinking has, in my opinion, impacted workers.  Nowadays employees who are utilising Six Sigma, for example, may not always see what the overall end result will be. 

They may also not be able to think ‘outside the square’ clearly which is a very important element not only in business, but also for the growth of us as humans.  It could be argued that after three decades of the implementation of these concepts that we are turning into human robots.  Robots that are unable to compute anything outside of their immediate vicinity. 

Recently, I came across this on a project that I have been working on for 12 months.  An issue arose that required input from a number of people as to the best way for resolving it.  However, some of the project team had trouble coming up with a required solution.  Their view was that all the boxes had been checked from their partitioned view, and therefore, all was fine.  They could not grasp what the ‘Big Picture’ was.  It actually took a few phone calls, emails and time to resolve this issue.

Now Sir Richard Branson is certainly not one to get bogged down with theories and concepts.  Aside from any regulatory requirements he utilises an organic and consultative approach to business and issues.  I remember reading that he normally makes decisions based on his gut feeling rather than spending many hours researching.   I think it is safe to say that Sir Richard has had a fairly successful career adopting this approach!  I am also sure that he surrounds himself with like-minded people (I am still awaiting a call from Sir Richard – hint, hint).

My worry is that as we improve technology then more and more business concepts and theories will be introduced.  This could well lead to less ‘thinking outside the square’ situations.   Probably the best way ahead is to combine both business efficiency processes with organic thinking.  We must ensure that all workers and employees are fully aware of what the end picture is.  Until we do this we run the risk of us all turning into human robots.

Remember, that we must always look at the end result.  That is the good or service that we are supplying to our customers is the correct one.  This may require more of the ‘grey matter’ inside our heads rather than any process.