Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Turn choices into direction

Is the way you live your life a bit too 'random' ?

We all live such busy lives - and make choices about all sorts of things every day - but are the choices you are making really helping you progress and develop or are you instead just reacting to events.

Here is an exercise that may help you:

Take a little time to think about your 'dream goal' - this can be anything  from having an ace holiday to progressing to the next step at work to completing the next award on your personal journey.  It does not matter so much what it is - but choose something it really big , really  exciting and currently out of reach for some reason.

The next step is to think about the three main things stopping you from reaching the goal you are seeking.  Take the time to write down your goal together with your top three challenges.

Now - for each of the challenges, determine what you need to change in order to resolve them. This will give you, for each challenge - by naming the action you need to do will make it easier  to help overcome the associated challenge.

These three actions can become a plan you follow in order to remove the challenges stopping you gaining your goal.

It is best to try and make these actions as SMART as possible. Smart in this case stands for : Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Now, to follow your plan  - whenever you have choices to make, if you can, choose the decision which furthers one or all of the actions you have come up with.

By aligning the small choices you make on a day-to-day basis to your long term dream goals in this way - you will find your life as a whole much more 'in focus', allowing you to be generally much more optimistic about the future and allowing you to gain much more from what life has to offer.

For more about SMART objective setting take a look at<>

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top Tips for making the most of external business resources

All businesses are currently undergoing changes that redefine the very principals of operational excellence -  the core values residing at the heart of stable and sustained quality service delivery and corporate growth.

These changes open the doors to opportunities available in the modern global marketplace – no longer constrained geographically and intensely inter-connected, the use of skilled contract resource and entire outsourced teams is now common-place and of growing importance.

Here are a few suggestions for consideration that will help improve the return on investment from these types of staff.


Typically  contractors are brought in either to supplement in-house expertise or staffing levels on individual projects.

Manage contract staff in the same way as you do other members of staff.

Our approach  is to apply our ‘three C’s’ methodology (identify and then improve areas within communication, collaboration and delivery control).   By supporting key  elements of the engagement you will build a working environment boosting performance for all staff .

Do not leave these key building blocks to chance, even with short-term staff. Avoid an 'us and them' culture and encourage cross-pollination of skills and experience.

Agree clear targets and objectives - track results and performance. Look to provide opportunities for knowledge transfer – contractors  are hired as experts
on a premium rate and you should involve them with employees so that the knowledge is shared and the long term staff know-how is extended.

Follow-up and regularly communicate with the contractors throughout the engagement. Ensure that all the result delivered by the contractor meet both yours and the contractor's expectations.  Always provide honest feedback of both your expectations at the outset and the progress achieved against it.

Outsourced teams

Typically engaged to progress software development/design and support call-centre functions for cost benefit and operating hour reasons.

Allow extended team time to understand and contribute as peers with in-house staff.
Engage with them regularly and allow them to take pride from being part of your team.

Outsourcing an aspect of the business will not make the challenges is presents go-away. Before investing in outsourced team resource - ensure the suitability of the work being planned for delivery by them and ensure that as many bottlenecks within the supporting processes as possible are resolved.

Identify cultural, working hour and process differences as early as possible and allow contributions from both parties on equal terms.  Success in meeting combined project goals will be a desired outcome shared by both you and your outsource partner.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Both hands back on the wheel !

I found this recent news item from the BBC of interest and thought I would share it with you.

Recently the Police in the Arab Emirates were baffled by a sudden drop-off in the numbers of road accidents. It was only when the Blackberry service was restored that the accident statistics  returned to their previously levels that the emergency services put two and two together and made the connection.

The spate of highly visible Blackberry service outages only goes to prove the reliance on mobile information access by today's workforce.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flexible Working Technology Update 2011

In this article we look at the latest developments in technology which help to enhance and improve both team morale and performance.

Cloud based solutions

What are "Cloud" based solutions - in general any solution provided by services running on computers owned by a third party and accessed via the internet can be described as 'cloud based' -- also known as "Software As A Service" or "SAAS".

SAAS is currently in-vogue, although the pros and cons of using them should be weighed before allowing use for "real business".


By allowing someone else to take care of the headache of looking after infrastructure : Servers, routers, storage, backup etc. you allow your organisation to concentrate on it's core strengths and get on with the job.

SAAS is delivered via web browsers such as Chrome or Firefox which almost any computing device; laptop, tablet, smart-phone etc. will have.
This also reduces the hassle of "rolling out" software to users and means people can get up and running almost straight away with an interface they are used to with no technology-frustration.

Because the reputation of organisations offering these solutions are based on the quality and resilience of the solution being offered (Google, Amazon and Microsoft) are big players in this sphere; high levels of availability, hassle free usage and very secure access are the norm.

As these are now a well established alternative to in-house internally supported systems - information and reviews about the various services are readily available.


For any cloud based solution, your information will be travelling over the Internet and hosted on third party servers. So your organisation needs to look carefully at the provider's Service Level Agreements and
the implications of any local (UK) data storage legislation and compliance policies.

Some useful cloud based solution include :

Dropbox - This is a cloud based file sharing service which is simple to use and allows you the benefit of an allocation of free storage that can be accessed anywhere with Internet access. For a team separated by
distance this can be very useful. Off-site, secure storage of important documents can make the difference between business closure or delays resulting from a disaster and means that continued working can be immediate as restoration of files come from this cloud based off site storage, making it a valuable   part of your disaster recovery plan.

Google Docs - Built by the makers of the Google search engine, these tools allow you to build Microsoft Office compatible documents, spreadsheets and presentations from any location on the Internet.  When
teams are collaborating on projects from multiple locations - on-site, home based or traditional office accommodation - this service is extremely helpful in removing the problems associated with multiple
copies of working documents and allows more than one person to be editing these documents in real-time.

Private Virtual Cloud
This is where your organisation owns and looks after the servers, where using external shared services is not an option due to policy compliance or other issues. There are SAAS solutions which can be deployed on
private clouds such as Microsoft Sharepoint and Adobe TeamWare. These systems allow you to share documents and collaborate on them in real time,  overcoming of the  drawbacks of traditional document based administration.

This is a very crowded and competitive market, great for a business in terms of keeping operating costs down and with the quality and functionality of these products becoming higher all the time the business case to adopt
this technology continuing to gain strength.

Teleconferencing has moved on a great deal in the last few years; with collaboration  advances that bring all the points of information required to work well as a team into focus in a full on-line shared workspace.

It is no longer just sufficient to bring individuals face-2-face via webcams from different locations. Entire teams can now be involved on-line with the development of documents, the support of entire business processes and the sharing of complex calendars. Team events can be facilitated via presentations and shared artefacts can be
created and then subsequently modified as they are discussed.

Here is a link to a comparison web-site that describe the key features available in teleconferencing software today and provides a direct comparison between the features in each.

Top ten teleconferencing solution reviews -

Work is something you do - not somewhere you go !

The mobile workspace, regardless of your chosen flavour - be it Blackberry, Android or iPhone - provides location-independent access to many services, including email and document viewing wherever you are. It
is also platform independent; desktop, laptop, ipad or mobile device and extends where you can work to where work needs to be done as never before.

We hope you have found this article of interest and given you some areas for thought around how technology can support your team in a new and exciting way. If you would like to explore your own team requirements in
more detail, please just contact us and we would be happy to discuss how we can help.

You may also like to consider having a team tune-up, where we could cover your specific issues in more detail.
(See special offer in this months CAL newsletter )

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A sustainability champion !

In this post, I am going to share a story that shows that business success and sustainability objectives can be combined effectively. Mel's story has been a great example and encouragement for CAL during our growth stage and easit provide many of the 'best practice' attributes of a social enterprise that make them well worth knowing about and emulating.


6 years ago Dorking business man  Mel Mehmet  came up with an idea that he believed could help to reduce congestion on our roads by encouraging people to commute more sustainably, without costing the earth.  And so under Mel's guidance, the Dorking Decongestion Forum and Reigate & Banstead Decongestion Forum joined forces to form easit the East Area of Surrey Initiative for Transport with the aim to address congestion and commuter transportation issues in and around the area.

Since then over 50 businesses employing over 180,000 staff across 3 counties have joined the easitNETWORK scheme, working together to encourage and support businesses adopt alternative and sustainable transport behaviours by introducing travel initiatives designed around the needs of the businesses themselves, with the ultimate goal of reducing pollution, easing congestion and increasing staff satisfaction.  By generating strength in numbers and bringing together businesses with local Government, easitNETWORK is able to create new and cheaper travel options, lobby for changes to public transport provision and generate funding for new initiatives.

To date some 45,000 staff members have requested and been allocated an easitNETWORK public transport discount card, 4,500 weekly bus tickets are being sold to easitNETWORK members, over 600 additional car sharing spaces have been introduced at member car parks, 68 bicycles were loaned to easitMEMBERS in 2010 all pledging to cycle to and from work at least twice a week, shuttle buses  introduced now carry an average of 2000 people to work each week from various railway stations, lunchtime shopper buses  transporting staff to and from town centres and new privately funded transport routes introduced at easitNETWORK locations!

easitNETWORK has won a number of national & regional business awards including;

  • The Queens Award for Enterprise 2011, Sustainable development (pictured)
  • Gatwick Diamond Green Award for Travel & Transport 2009 & 2011
  • The City of London Business Award
  • Recognised by the Department for Transport & Highways Agency, being hailed as an example of best practise.

Future easit  projects under development include the launch of new easit networks in the UK, introduction of electric charging posts and expanding easitNETWORK to encompass green energy solutions in the workplace.
For more information about easit, please call 01306 886677, email 

Friday, May 06, 2011

'Big Society' means big opportunity

A 'Big Society', giving local communities the power to control their own environments, to run new schemes and make the community a buzzing centre, meeting needs of the people who live there.

It all sounds wonderful, but is this a reality or just a pipe dream?  

In this article we look at the main drivers and barriers then ask what can be done to get 'The Big Society' really working. Firstly we must ask ourselves why is this initiative being driven from central government; is it just a way to replace paid roles with volunteers?  

The answer has to be, even for a sceptic, lowering costs is very attractive, but the reality is that services to the community are and will change, no matter what, and the success or failure of 'The Big Society' initiative  will not change these facts.

The idea of volunteers is fundamentally part of the British way; the scouting and guide movement have been based on this model for over one hundred years. So this is a good model to look at and ask what changes they have seen in this model. The answer is that it has been in decline with less people willing to be volunteers for some years now.

This has been backed by the Hansard Society survey: One in ten plan voluntary work( and points to the fact that the reality is that most people do not volunteer.

This is due to a number of factors, which are very relevant to 'The Big Society'.  One factor is the traditional elements of society that will volunteer are those with a professional background and lifestyle, which again is backed by the Hansard report "Those most likely to put themselves forward were parents aged under 45 and from a high-income group". Therefore we need to look at the barriers faced by this element of society and how modern life has impacted on the availability and willingness to volunteer.
It has been well documented that working mothers are now the norm with professional couples balancing home life, work and childcare. (The UK has the third highest rate of female employment in Europe with a record 70% of women at work.-
Although we hear many a dissenting voice saying this must change, the hard facts are that it is almost impossible to change society and would we really want to remove opportunities from any working parent?

Another factor is that running a voluntary organisation or public sector initiative is just like running a company; you need skills, opportunity, enthusiasm and leadership. In fact you need to be entrepreneurial, a team player and committed to success. In fact I think this explains why the elements of society that have traditionally volunteered are the professionals and leaders.
The last factor to consider is that anyone who is likely to volunteer or more importantly create services around community needs, is going to be very busy so we must consider how we can change or influence this.

So what have we established so far?
  1. In order for the Big Society to work we must focus on the people most likely to volunteer.  
  2. To ensure that community services are aligned around needs we need professional entrepreneurs.
  3. The people we are looking for will be busy and time available will an issue.

The dilemma here is how do we free up these people without having an impact on their income? This is where we can apply the element of lean processing, by looking at elements of their lives that add little or no value to anything. The biggest waste is travel to and from a place of work, usually at peak time wasting hours in a car, train or bus. I have not included walking or cycling in this assessment as both have health benefits and allow time to unwind. Some would argue that sitting in a car or train allows you to unwind, but in my experience this is untrue and while driving down a county lane can be pleasant, stuck in traffic is not! A recent study from INRIX UK found that motorway journeys during peak hours take an average of twenty two percent longer than the same journey would take in non-peak times. (

The next is the use of an office, while it can be a good environment to get work done it is also very inefficient and most people waste time during the day making a day in the office approximately 45% efficient. Using the latest figures available for office space a typical cost per square meter is £500 and typical desk space is 15 square meters per desk, which means each desk costs £7,500 pa.

I am sure that by applying lean processing in greater detail will reveal many other areas where efficiency could be gained, but I am sure you will agree that these two represent a common theme through most people lives and so will be the focus of my thoughts here.

Home or flexible working has been around for some time now and most organisations have schemes to promote or encourage staff to work in this way, but why am I not seeing less traffic on the road at 7.00am in the morning? Why am I not seeing empty trains going to London? Why am I not seeing community working centres? 

In conclusion if we want the big society to be a success and provide a model of how local community can be empowered by central government, then we must create a space for the key volunteers to come forward. This needs change in the way we work and for businesses to embrace smarter working.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Working remotely to boost the UK economy

I have to thank Peter Bird from for introducing me to this local company serving the needs of remote workers here in the UK. Based in Hampshire, with a background in PR and structural engineering, Cheryl and Trevor are working hard to create a unique brand in the virtual and home based staffing arenas.

Here is their story:

Remote Team Network (RTN) is a new internet company, set up in 2010, specialising in connecting UK freelancers with projects that can be done remotely online, usually working from home.   

Through our secure website, companies post projects and freelancers can respond to them to bid on a job.  This is a transparent and easy way for freelancers across many sectors, to find new, self employed remote-working projects at UK rates of pay. 

The Directors of RTN are experienced business people who have worked internationally as freelance contractors, so they know what freelancers need.

Trevor Bettell is a structural engineer with experience in all forms of construction and Cheryl Dowler Bettell has worked in marketing and PR across all business sectors.

Cheryl and Trevor state: “We started the company to make it easy for UK freelance contractors to compete for UK outsourced jobs on a level playing field and for companies to keep jobs in the UK.  

We are building a community of people who are ready to work remotely on jobs.  Many people are seeking more flexible jobs, so they can enjoy a much better work-life balance.  Working from home they gain a more relaxed lifestyle and can spend more time with their family, or on leisure activities, rather than spending time and money on commuting.  Not having to fill the car up every couple of days to drive to work also means less outlay, which is good news.

A great boost for RTN has been winning a major export contract in Uganda.  The entire project is a multi-million pound tourist development at Jinja, alongside the Source of the Nile and Lake Victoria.  We have won the first stage to provide the conceptual design, in association with PWP Architects of Havant, and have high hopes of taking the project through to full implementation.  RTN is inviting freelance construction specialists in the UK to lodge their interest in providing remote work on the project – specialists such as quantity surveyors, contract and project managers, civil and structural engineers and draughtsman. 

The trend to home-based jobs is predicted to continue rising steadily from today’s estimate of 4 million to a likely 6 million in 2012.  By helping create new jobs in the UK, RTN is playing its part in helping the UK economy to climb out of recession.

Aiming to  make remote working easy for both businesses and freelancers,  Trevor or Cheryl would be happy to chat about it on 0845 2000 750.