Archives for category: Management

We all seem to be agreed that there have been huge advances made in world knowledge in the past 30+ years yet we tend not to take this, and its implications, any further. My oft expressed feeling is that much of the increase has bypassed many of our leaders on the world stage and they don’t recognise its how dangerous this is. For example, it is nearly 50 years since Trump went anywhere near a text-book, assuming he hasn’t done so since he did his undergraduate degree. Much of the knowledge revolution will have bypassed him and others in similar positions of influence and power.

An even bigger disadvantage of this ‘head in the sand’ attitude to learning is that much of the new knowledge will also bypass our young people in school unless we realise what is happening. We can’t continue with this ‘what was good enough for us is good enough for them’ attitude. We live in a world of new and progressive knowledge and it is dangerous to try to pretend it isn’t happening.

A few years ago we had a review of our education system in Australia and seemed to take the view that real change was largely too expensive so lets forget about it. Some of the changes will be implemented, such as new equipment, but much won’t be, particularly ideas which enable teachers to have a new attitude and provide an environment in which their creativity can be enabled. Far too much stress, and money, is currently directed at national testing which at best is severely limited. The current model includes labelling the neighbourhoods in which schools are located in terms of economic status! Thank goodness nobody labelled me at school. My life would have taken a very different path and would have been unlikely to include 5 degrees, with 3 higher degrees and a Ph.D!

School principals should be the knowledge leaders in their schools, which implies updating their qualifications, leaving the everyday running of the school to non-teachers. This would enable them to concentrate on bringing out the creativity in their teaching staff and providing an environment in which this could flourish. True and productive leadership.

A few weeks ago I attended an assembly at a local primary school. It was beautifully coordinated, with children involved as much as possible but on the teachers’ terms. The children sang well, standing tall and with their arms neatly tucked in beside them, a good reflection of 20th century discipline! A modern 21st century school would have had the children fully participating, letting their bodies express the music too. Ownership was well and truly in the hands of the staff.

To me full participation means that the children are really immersed in their learning, whether it be music, robotics, English or mathematics or any other subject, and it isn’t compartmentalised into what happens inside the often prisonlike school structures and the external learning which defines the world we live in. The two worlds would be complementary.

Schools seem to have changed little in the last 50 years, with only marginal improvements in class size and replacement of blackboards etc. The change we need is to recognise that our teachers are artists and should be given freedom to use their imaginations and be recognised as the backbone and strength of the system. This would help to marry what is taught and learned in schools to be applicable to the world outside. I suspect our failure rate, and drop out rate amongst the students, would decline and teachers would have more pride in their work and be less likely to drop out themselves. Real, up-to-date modern education.

I seem to have become involved in a jigsaw recently which I would rather not have participated in.

It started when I read an article about the importance of management in the success of a company. If management don’t appreciate their staff, and make them aware of how much they are valued, it has disastrous consequences. This shows in a high rate of ‘sickies’ among staff and high staff turnover rates. With the former it means carrying extra staff where their presence is necessary, such as in hospitals and nursing homes. For all businesses having to regularly replace staff who resign is expensive, thus raising operating costs.

The second part of the jigsaw was learning that our local public hospital has the highest sickie rate of any of the comparable facilities in the area. The person in charge blamed the nurses, apparently unaware that research shows that the blame in such situations lies with management. Worse still I have since been told that their figures have deteriorated further this year.

The third and final puzzle piece was when the safety officer of a major hospital in the U.S. was quoted as saying that the greatest threat to the safety of the patients was the relationship between the staff. Put these pieces together and I hope that neither I, my family or my friends have to be admitted to this local hospital.

The situation was brought home to me recently when a family member went into hospital, fortunately to another one, a private one. What struck me was the wonderful relationship between the staff, from the nurse in charge of the ward to the trainee nurse doing a university placement there. Both said how much they enjoyed their work. The older one said she had worked there for 17 years. What impressed me even more was that this was 21st century care as it wasn’t just the medical care that was done as a team but they also included patients and visitors who were given the impression that they were also part of the team. This is commendable as of course they all have a role to play in patient recovery.

This recognition of team work, rather than the hierarchical model which characterised the last century, is valuable knowledge to enable all organisations to reach the highest standards in all aspects of their work, leading to higher productivity. It is absolutely necessary in all businesses, but particularly where people’s lives and well-being are at risk.

 

 

Last night I went to a talk about how the digitised world is changing our lives, not just as individuals but more importantly how it is changing the world around us.

As individuals we are mildly concerned about personal security of ourselves and particularly our children. There are many benefits from having a mobile phone which I personally appreciate knowing that if I am ever in strife I can get help, no matter where I am. This is probably the reasoning parents go through when giving their children a phone, not realising how it can be abused, including by school bullies, causing an enormous amount of distress. Many of those doing the bullying are probably just adopting the culture of other kids without realising how harmful it can be, particularly when they live in a world where bullying is not properly defined and therefore recognisable.

The speaker at the talk mentioned that the school her brother’s children go to (in the USA) use fingerprints for identification. They no longer need to take the role and automatically know which children are at school. If they do multiple checks during the day they also know where each child is. At the most recent school bombing in that country parents were called to the school, unable to be told if their children were involved until they got to the school. There are usually pluses and minuses in new systems.

What last night’s talk was mainly about was digital change in the workplace and the necessity for people from all different areas of expertise to be involved. The value of teams was mentioned, and particularly teams composed of people from different age groups. I hope that this aspect of our new lives will be taken up by others. We not only need experts representing different areas of progress in the digitalised world but also we need to be able to put them in perspective in a time frame.

We cannot avoid this new world we are moving into, which offers us so many benefits, but we need to recognise it as a mixed blessing which we need to make sure we have control of, not an easy task particularly as it attracts talented people who see its potential to harm others without being caught.

One of the main problems with it is that often senior people who are sanctioning its use in their business are not as fully aware that it has drawbacks as well as its benefits. The recent hacking of the Australian Census, which is not universally accepted as a hacking event, shows the difficulties. The fact that it couldn’t be denied as a hacking event even by the top experts in the country shows the degree of difficulty the world faces with the new technology.

No matter how complex the topic is we need to keep ourselves grounded. It amused me that in arranging a discussion on what is probably the major problem facing the world today the organisers hadn’t thought to arrange for the old technology of microphones to be used making it hard for some of us to follow the discussion!

The last couple of decades in particular have seen us make huge advances in communication and other areas of technology which seem to have affected the lives of many people in the world. The ones who have missed out are those who seem to miss out on everything- food, clothing, shelter and medical expertise. And we don’t seem to care.

Does humanity have to be like this? Is there one country in the world which is going against the trend and reducing the gap between the top rich 1% and the bottom poor 1%? If there is such a country I would guess that its leaders are not rich, as are currently the leaders, and potential leaders, in the most influential countries in the world.

Citizens in the USA seem to be heading in the direction of having to choose between two rich citizens for their next leader even though I am sure that there are many, many, people who would make better leaders because they have more knowledge and ability and are not tainted by being money addicts.

So many countries in the world have this problem of admiring the rich, presumably because they wish they were in that position themselves. In Australia the media is listing the top people on our rich list presumably lauding them for having this particular trait, which in the field of medicine would be labelled an addiction. In the past so many rich people have used their wealth to honour their names and families by putting their money into charitable trusts or noteworthy buildings, both of which honoured their memories for generations to come. Today’s rich seem more intent on spending as much of their wealth on themselves and leaving their offspring in the same situation rather than leaving a lasting memory. Is this because the Christian church, which encouraged the former behaviour, is no longer as influential as it was?

Is there no one today with the power and influence to encourage a fairer sharing of resources? Could I be right in feeling that if we did have fewer rich people and fewer poor people the world would be a much better place? We can’t just assume that those at the bottom leg of the ladder are brainless and untalented. Many of those who have reached the top today have done so because they got a leg up and opportunities from their rich families, rarely just from their own abilities.

Could we measure the degree of success of today’s world by the extent to which the basic necessities are available to all, and all have access to a good education and the opportunity to make use of it to the best of their ability? If we could make such a measurement I suspect today’s world  would end up with a big ‘FAIL’.

This isn’t good enough. In the past the plague affected everyone, rich and poor, and today’s superbugs are threatening to do the same. We need to pull together to make this world a happier successful place which we all share. Technology and other modern advances can’t do this on their own- it needs a caring human race to facilitate it.

I don’t know if Australia is behind the rest of the world in its politicking but our politicians are certainly living in the last century as far as prenting political policies are concerned. We have several good organisations which are able to model political ideas, and work out the effect of them, but for some reason our politicians prefer to put out policies without measuring their effects.

Two serve as examples. Quite large numbers of backpackers come out here and work their way around the country, sight-seeing, meeting locals and more importantly  helping our fruit growers in harvesting seasonal products which don’t warrant fulltime, year round employees. It is a win-win situation for both groups. The conservative politicians have seen this as a pot of gold and are intending to increase the income tax on the backpackers. The result is that many of them have diverted to Canada and New Zealand instead, apparently countries where their governments are more knowledgeable about the situation. We are missing out on what was a beneficial arrangement, the backpackers miss out on seeing Australia and the fruit growers won’t get their crops harvested. This reflects 20th century policy determination when we weren’t able to work out the effects of disastrous policies like this would be.

The other policy which also seems like a stab in the dark is that of negative gearing, in which people who own rental policies are able to offset expenses properties they don’t live in themselves against tax on their income. This benefits people who can afford to buy more than one property, with the rich owning several property’s and getting even richer. The main concern is the effect this has on house values with some suggesting that this artificially raise house prices, forcing young prospective first home buyers out of the market. Again modelling should be able to ascertain the effect of doing away with negative gearing, retaining the current system, or what to me would be a more sensible solution of allowing it to only apply to one property.

Unless the experts can be asked to research the effects of such policies voters are left to take a stab in the dark about the outcomes of such policies and which way to vote. Hardly the basis for determining two important monetary policies in the 21st century. It’s time our politicians moved into the 21st  century in determining policy. We now look in vain for evidence of the effects of new party policies in order to cast a valid vote.

 

 

I have attended 2 functions this week which were dealing with the way older people are treated, in very different ways. One was  research from two universities, the other by people researching care both in the community and in residential care. The different contributors showed very different approaches.

The two University studies were about intergenerational interaction. The first proudly described a project in which children’s play areas are built near aged care facilities. I got the impression that the older people had not even been consulted. Given that some older people, particularly the fragile, do not like boisterous children around them, I felt that this is very much a ‘client’ program.

The second study was from the University of Queensland. It linked older native foreign language speakers, in this case Chinese, with students in years 11 and 12 who are learning this language. It meant that the students heard the language from native speakers and also learned about their culture. For their part the older people felt that their lives were suddenly more meaningful. They had an important purpose in their lives. A win/win for both groups.

The second function united researchers looking at assistance for older people, with older people using these services, particularly those living in the community. It provides a link between the bureaucrats and the customers or clients. One person in the group objected to these words, pointing out that we are actually ‘people’.

The main problem in Australia seems to be the ability of older people to access information, finding out what help is available. Given that home care is much cheaper than nursing home care it is a major problem. There were complaints about telephones not being answered, and web sites that were hard to use. This is easily blamed on the lack of computer knowledge on the part of older people, not considering that it may actually be a problem. From my own limited experience the fault lies with the on-line programmes which are usually very badly written, making them inaccessible. As long as older people, not the programmes, are being blamed little is likely to change.

Some of the comments described older people who needed help showering at home having to wait long hours, in one case until 5pm, for the provider to arrive. Another was of a newly arrived resident in a nursing home being told to go to bed at 7.30pm. She protested that this was not her custom. She was told she had to because they all had to be in bed before the carer could end her shift and go home. The carer settled the impasse by turning the light off. This was appallingly dangerous. Let’s not rush to blame the carer. The fault is with management which created this rule. There are so many stories of inadequately trained, uncaring management it is time such problems were addressed. Where management in any workforce situation does have the necessary knowledge and attitude, sick days and staff turnover are greatly reduced. It is more profitable!

Meanwhile the voices of older people must be heard in any situation in which we are involved. We are people! Such an attitude creates a better, more efficient, happier  and cost-effective world for all involved.