Open Thinkering


Tag: dilbert

Calling myself into the office: August 2010

This series, published on the first Monday each month, is aimed at personal improvement through the public sharing of goals and targets. In this post I look back at whether I achieved the last monthโ€™s goals and come up with some targets for the coming month. ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking back…

There’s three core things I’m doing terribly with at the moment:

  • Biting my nails – well I have done it for about 25 years…
  • Losing weight – being away from home so much makes it difficult
  • Writing my thesis – I’ve had so many other priorities on this month (although I have chapterized it now!)

My targets for last month were:

  1. Go camping with my 3 year-old son, Ben, in our smaller tent.
  2. Compose an e-book on Google Earth in preparation for Google Teacher Academy.
  3. Comment on at least one blog per day (other than this one!)
  4. Play golf with my Dad (whoโ€™s back from the UAE for the summer as of Friday)
  5. Sort outย, the domain I bought for my son, with some useful content.

How did I do?

  1. Done! It rained more than I thought possible in one night, but we went (Beadnell Bay) and we enjoyed ourselves.
  2. I decided against an e-book, but created a Google Earth for #GTAUK wiki and wrote an e-book called #onfire: ignite your productivity. I’m happy with that!
  3. I’m certainly commenting on more blogs than I was. Perhaps not one per day, but the idea was to kickstart the habit again.
  4. I played golf with my Dad and my father-in-law yesterday (technically the 1st of August…)
  5. I’ve only added one thing to Ben’s website as it hasn’t been a high enough priority in the scheme of things!

Looking forward…

July was a busy month work-wise for me. I had several conferences to attend and a number of presentations to make. August, on the other hand, looks like it’s going to be a quiet month. Therefore I’m going to set myself one main target:

  • Write 10,000 words of my Ed.D. thesis

If I don’t there’s no way I’m going to get it finished for my self-imposed deadline of 21 December 2010! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Calling myself into the office: July 2010

This series, published on the first Monday each month, is aimed at personal improvement through the public sharing of goals and targets. In this post I look back at whether I achieved the last monthโ€™s goals and come up with some targets for the coming month. ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking back

I had some stuff rolled-over last month. How did I do on those?

  1. The horror of the Edexcel standardization meeting made me chew my nails off. Gah.
  2. I’m down to under 13.5 stones now. Which is good, but still not 13 stones flat.

So I need to roll both of these over again!
Continue reading “Calling myself into the office: July 2010”

Establishing your productivity ‘endgame’

‘Endgame’, like ‘aftermath’ is a term with a defined meaning that we borrow for everyday usage:

In chess and chess-like games, the endgame (or end game or ending) refers to the stage of the game when there are few pieces left on the board. (Wikipedia)

This can be used as a powerful metaphor for different stages of life – and the productivity and motivation required to get there. I’ve got an endgame in mind that’s comprised of three parts. I want to:

  1. Be writing and presenting on a freelance basis by the time I’m 40.
  2. Spend as much time as I can with my family.
  3. Have a stress-free (or at least low-stress) lifestyle.

It’s all about priorities. I’m not about to turn down potential high-risk opportunities without deep consideration, but they have to – long-term at least – fit in with the above. I’m not going to flog myself like the proverbial dead horse for things that don’t fit in with these. Have you got guiding statements like these to help focus you?

You may be wondering what this has got to do with productivity. Isn’t this just deciding your life’s priorities? Well, as I argue in #uppingyourgame, productivity is always productivity for something. There’s not much point streamlining and making more efficient something just because you can – especially when it’s something that you value.

Take, for example, Saturday mornings with my son, Ben. We could be in and out of the swimming pool after doing pre-planned training and then straight home. But why? Instead, we enjoy a different sort of productivity. It’s a productivity that is focused on our relationship with each other and our own happiness and enjoyment.

So have a think about your productivity ‘endgame’. Are you headed down the right road?

Calling myself into the office: May 2010

In #uppingyourgame: an educator’s guide to productivity I mention an idea originally by Dan Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. It’s a fairly simple idea, but involves a journey that I want to share publicly. Why? It will motivate me even more and make explicit the process involved in case others want to do likewise! ๐Ÿ™‚

The idea is that of ‘calling yourself into the office’ once a month for a review meeting. Just as you would do at a performance management review, you should be testing yourself against a set of goals or targets that were set at the previous meeting. As this is the first of these monthly posts I’m planning to share this one is just target-setting. The next of these will include a review and then further target-setting.

I’m going to set myself 5 targets for this month:

  1. To write and send off my first academic journal article, applying Empson’s seven types of ambiguity to the issue of digital literac(ies).
  2. Not to bite my nails at all (it’s not particularly a nervous thing – I only do this whilst I’m reading or driving for some reason…)
  3. To continue to publish a blog post here every day without fail.
  4. Book a laser eye surgery appointment (I’m sick to death of wearing contact lenses and glasses!)
  5. To lose one stone in weight (I’m currently 14 stones, which my Wii Fit thinks is too much – I’m 6’1″)

I think all that’s eminently do-able!

Anyone want to join me in this public journey of self-improvement? :-p

Everything that’s wrong with educational management, summed up in 3 Dilbert cartoons.

Before I start, I must point out that this is not a dig at all the members of the Senior Leadership Team at my current school. Not at all. Rather, it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at the practices that traps people in management positions – at all levels – sometimes fall into. They’re therefore traps I’m going to do my best to avoid when I become part of the Senior Leadership Team at my next school!

Shiny Shiny

Dilbert - pie charts

I’ve seen two awful presentations in the past couple of weeks. One was just monumentally bad – the presenter couldn’t find files, sat us through ages of short video clips and sprang questions at us to fill in time – and the other was just rambling and poorly thought-out. What was common to both approaches, however, was the assumption “I’m using technology therefore this must be a good presentation.” Gah.

I take the above Dilbert cartoon in the way that I think it’s meant to be read – i.e. as an extremely sarcastic and ironic look at how easily people are impressed by things that look good. That, to some extent is true. But it’s only true when accompanied by at least some level of competence in presenting information in an interesting and engaging way. Technology does not do the presentation for you!

On a slightly tangential note, I’m also concerned about the uncritical and all-too-credulous nature of otherwise intelligent people when presented with graphics that represent statistics. It’s critical literacy and a basic understanding of statistics. A grasp of these should be a pre-requisite for a career in any professional occupation…

Surfing the status quo

Dilbert - 'good'

Hiding behind desks is something that people in management in the world over are particularly good at. In schools its especially straightforward to seem good at your job if you get the data right. Schools only have to be seen to be doing things correctly – they aren’t inspected very often, parents are often (sometimes voluntarily) left out of the everyday loop concerning their child’s interactions at school, and the status quo suits most people very well.

So if you can engineer a situation where you or your institution seem to be doing everything right, the weight of conservative opinion and social inertia are on your side. As a manager you just need to jump through the oft-renamed hoops.

What am I planning to do? Aim to be an expert. Of course, I’ll never actually achieve my goal for, in a Socratic manner, the more you know the more you realize you don’t know. Still, it’s the process that’s important – as Kathy Sierra pointed out back in the day on her much-missed blog:

How to be an expert - graph (Kathy Sierra)

Most managers are ‘amateurs’ on this graph. They find a way that works for them and then keep on doing it. Over time, this means inconveniencing others and distorting things to make things fit into their system.

Those who choose the ‘expert’ path and challenge themselves to keep learning become – perhaps inadvertently – leaders, as the enthusiasm for continuous learning and their own professional development attracts others like a magnet!

‘Drive-by’ management

Dilbert - drive-by management

One of the results of being an ‘average’ manager (see above) is that, by not challenging yourself to learn new things, you will have spare time. Feeling guilty about this, managers then want to make sure they look like they’re doing their job and have authority. They therefore make things up for people to do, are awkward just for the sake of it, or ‘drop-in’ on people and point out irrelevancies.

I’m going to take as a fundamental maxim that people should be trusted to be professionals and get on with their job. Yes, there should be as much appropriate communication as possible, but attempts to micro-manage and meddle usually backfire. I suppose you could say that’s a fairly laid-back approach. Fair enough, but I’ll be demanding results! I think people will respect that. ๐Ÿ™‚

What do YOU find wrong with management in education? Share your opinions in the comments section below!

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Dilbert on ‘learner voice’

For those not within the education system in the UK, allow me to explain. There’s been an emphasis over the last year or so to give the opinions of students in schools more status. In some cases this has worked very well and added to the life of the school. In others, it’s been just another box to tick. I imagine that in the latter type of school, the Dilbert cartoon below would resonate with teachers:

Dilbert on learner voice?

What are your thoughts on ‘learner/students/pupil voice’?

Productivity: the problem for me, summed up in two images.

I’m a sucker for gadgetry. There is not an area of my life that isn’t technology-enhanced in some way (Oi! stop that sniggering at the back…)

But seriously. If it’s shiny – no, scratch that, it doesn’t even have to be shiny – if it’s cool and useful in some way, I tend to want it. I’m not going to list everything as it would seem somewhat boastful and inappropriate in these times of economic woe, but I’m sure you get the picture. I always know what item of technological wizardry I’m going to buy next should some money come my way through the various side-projects I’m involved in.

The trouble is, of course, that gadgetry depreciates rapidly in value. Perhaps I should buy rare books. They don’t tend to go down in value. Anyway, all of this can have an impact on my productivity if I’m not careful. I have to set aside times to focus on the things like my Ed.D. and work for publishing companies that has to be done. I suppose as one of my official job titles is ‘E-Learning Staff Tutor’ I could claim it’s all just research for work… ๐Ÿ˜‰

My second major barrier to productivity stems from my youth. I can remember beingย  about 12 years of age and round at a friend-of-a-friend’s house. He had a computer (quite a novelty in those days) and had just purchased a game by the name of Championship Manager ’93. Oh. My. Goodness. How I loved that game. I bought it and every version of the game since then almost as soon as they came out. I didn’t do as well as I should have done in my GCSE‘s because of the legendary Championship Manager Italia. I played incarnations of the game less at uni, but with its successor, Football Manager has seen me succumb once again. I’m currently playing Football Manager 2009 with its great 3D match engine which looks great on my (shiny!) new Macbook Pro.

I go through phases with games such as this. The trouble is that they’ve recently released Football Manager Live, which is to the sporting genre what World of Warcraft is to the MMPORG. I just know for a fact that if I started playing that then even my semblance of a social life would disappear! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

What are YOUR barriers to productivity? Do you accept and work with them, or are you working to eliminate them?

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Why we should adopt the OA5 system in education

My friend Paul Lewis, he of the infrequent blogging, very kindly let me have his Dilbert omnibus last year. I’ve been reading it again recently and it’s got me thinking about conformity and creativity. The omnibus brings together 3 Dilbert books into one volume. Joy! ๐Ÿ˜€

In The Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams outlines the ‘Out At Five’ business model. Enshrined within it are not only some comic gems, but some great pieces of advice. If we stuck to some of these in education, we’d go a long way to reforming the whole system.

He divides his principles into two subcategories:

Staying out of the way

  1. Scott Adams advocates letting the ’employees dress any way they want, decorate their work spaces any way they want, format memos any way they want’. This is because that there is no proof that any of these impact productivity. Instead, they create a message that conformity is valued above efficiency or creativity. Whilst I would still advocate some form of school uniform to prevent undue focus on students’ clothes, I do think schools in general could be a bit more laid-back about the ways both students and staff express themselves. I’m certainly not saying profanity, drugs and alcohol should be imported to create some type of dystopian educational system. Instead, I’m saying that we should value difference and (that abused word) diversity over conformity and standardization.
  2. Eliminate artificial processes. In businesses these are obvious, but in education they can still be seen. For example ‘Every Child Matters‘ and ‘Personalising Learning’ agendas. They’ve got titles no-one can disagree with, but lead to bureaucracy and a loss of focus on the actual students themselves. It’s my belief that every educator has, at their core, the well-being and interests of students in their charge. As Scott Adams puts it:

If you have a good e-mail system, a stable organization chart, and an unstressed workplace the good ideas will get to the right person without any help The main thing is to let people know that creativity is okay and get out of the way.

What does an OA5 manager do?

  1. Eliminate the assholes. Quite blunt, but you know exactly what he means. There’s people who put a downer on the whole enterprise of education. They’re quick to blame students rather than themselves, they’re more interested in internal politics than student wellbeing and achievement, they like being controversial for the sake of it. Let’s get rid of them. In fact, I’m all for moves to make it easier to remove teachers from their posts. Why should we get, in effect, ‘immediate tenure’?
  2. The second is my favourite: make sure employees (i.e. teachers) learn something new every day. As Scott Adams remarks:

    The more you know, the more connections form in your brain, and the easier every task becomes. Learning creates job satisfaction and suports and person’s ego and energy level.

    But more than that, as teachers, we should be good role-models as everday and curious learners! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Cultivate all the little things that support curiosity and learning. Questions such as ‘What did you learn?’ when you make mistakes are more powerful than, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’
  4. Teach employees how to be efficient. Lead by example – keep meetings short, refuse to take part or go along with low-priority activities because it’s ‘polite’, and (my favourite) respectfully interrupt people who talk too long without getting to the point. I’d force everyone to read blogs such as Lifehacker, Zen Habits and Unclutterer every day. But that’s just me… ๐Ÿ˜‰

What do YOU think? Besides the name (Out At 5) is there anything with which you’d disagree?

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