Design thinking?

(Estimated reading time: just over 1 minute)

On Saturday we travelled across the new Queensferry Crossing.

It’s a lovely looking bridge (see Modern can be beautiful). And, it will last for more than 100 years.

Also, it’s claimed that it will be able to withstand winds and stay open in situations that would have closed the Forth Road Bridge.

So that all sounds good. Maybe even great.


The design of the roads to the bridge doesn’t seem to have been addressed. The queues that plagued the old bridge are impacting on the new one. Four lanes of traffic still reduce to two at the entrance to the bridge.

This seems like a lost opportunity.  Shouldn’t an iconic project have created a better solution to multiple problems? Presumably, the project objective was achieved – build a more robust bridge.

But what limited the vision?I know that more work = more cost. But is that the real – or only – reason?

The Scottish Government has been criticised whenever the Forth Road Bridge was closed to traffic. Yet, complaints about regular, daily delays for drivers barely register at a national level. Is the problem the difference between FUBAR and SNAFU?

Lack of vision, economy, oversight or cynical approach? Whatever the reason, it’s not great, and it takes the shine off an impressive piece of infrastructure.


Please, please do not ‘Reply All’

I’m old enough to remember a time when we did not have e-mail. So I can clearly see the benefits that it has brought to communication. It also a burden, mainly because it is cheap.

deleteHow many e-mails do you receive each day that you automatically delete?

The delete button is my best friend. The first step in my workflow is to decide if an e-mail (or incoming piece of paper) can be deleted.

This week I have experienced two of my pet e-mail peeves. Earlier this week a colleague sent me an e-mail about an urgent, time sensitive matter. The problem with this is that I do not sit and wait for the thrill of a new e-mail arrival. I process e-mail in batches – at set points in the day. So for most of the working day I close down my e-mail software. Urgent matters require a walk along the corridor or a phone call. I know it seems like dated technology but talking to someone is a powerful communication tool with built-in feedback.

My other pet peeve is the use of the reply all button. I can’t be the only one who thinks this function should be disabled from all e-mail software.

I know this will shock some people, but I don’t care if you’re available for the meeting unless I’m the one organising it; and I’m not interested in your comments on the paper unless I’m the author or editor.

Please stop it! Think about the recipients. They have plenty of e-mail to deal with already. If 20 people are asked about their availability for an event and they all ‘reply all’, that’s 380 unnecessary e-mails to be dealt with. It’s expensive and frustrating and completely pointless.

Please, please do not ‘reply all’.

The value of a life?

Driving home from work yesterday the “main story” was the shooting of 2 journalists in Virginia. This is a shocking, tragic event. Another story was mentioned in passing – 50 migrants found dead in the hold of a boat off the Italian coast. Part of a huge, incomprehensible story of human suffering.

How do media organisations determine the value of one human life over another? Why are two deaths more newsworthy than 50? What values lie behind this decision? What does it say about us a society?

The images below illustrate the matter. The image on the left shows the BBC’s new homepage, with no mention of the migrant story; the image on the right show the world news page confirms the relative profile of these stories.

(Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Words fail me.

Lord have mercy!

The rise of the celebrity banker

I wasn’t going to write about this… in fact, I wasn’t going to write about it 6 or 7 times… but now I am (going to write about it).

The stooshie du jour is the removal of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood.

So what can I write that adds anything to this sorry saga?  Not much – just chucking in my tuppence worth.

First of all I need to declare two things – I don’t know the name of the chairman of our bank and I’m not a fan of the honours system.

When did bankers become celebrities?  It seems that if you’re employed as the Chief Executive of RBS, then celebrity goes with the job.  One was pressurised into waiving his bonus this year, another was stripped of his honour.  The approach of government, other politicians and media in both cases has been hostile, bordering on the vindictive.  These men have been singled out for populist treatment – giving the punters their pound of flesh – because they’re easy targets.  But the shallow, facile tactics have immediately revealed themselves as hollow gestures.

One executive gives up his bonus; all the others keep theirs.

One former banker has his knighthood revoked; all the other bankers, directors, board members and regulators keep theirs.

Justice done?

And.. whatever Fred Goodwin was responsible for during his time at RBS, does he really merit such ferocious vilification?  Where is our compassion?   Where is the quality of mercy?

There is deep hypocrisy here.  Tawdry, petty, snap decisions do not make for good leadership.

The question that I’m left asking is, ‘Who is really dis-honoured in this situation?’

This Christian Voice doesn’t speak for me

I came across this article from The Guardian – Tesco slump due to divine intervention

Members of the Christian Voice group have apparently been praying “for confusion in the Tesco boardroom” – and God has answered their prayers.

Why the campaign against Tesco? Because Tesco was a sponsor of the Gay Pride march in London last year.

I wish to distance myself from this prayer campaign for a number of reasons.

1 – I’m tired of the obsession that evangelical Christianity seems to have with homosexuality.  The only time that this branch of the church is heard is in connection with gay issues.

2 – For me, there are far more important issues for the church in this country to tackle – like the increase in child poverty and the impact of the planned changes to the benefits system.

3 – If you believe in the power of prayer, pray for something positive.  It’d be better to pray for a change of heart over sponsorship next year, than to seek boardroom confusion in a major company, employing thousands of people and contributing to the limited economic activity at this time.  (And no, I’m not a particular fan of Tesco!)

4 – Who is likely to suffer from a fall in the value of Tesco’s shares?  Maybe the people who made the decision about sponsorship, but it’s far more likely to be the people whose pension fund has invested in shares in Tesco.

5 – IF we’re going to use prayer as a weapon against companies, I’d choose companies whose activities are far more dubious than Tesco’s.  Maybe arms manufacturers that sell to repressive regimes; drugs companies that inflate the prices of their products where the need is greatest; all sorts of companies who exploit the people and other resources of the planet.

So, to make myself clear: Christian Voice does not speak for me.

>Passing the Buckfast OR fast buckpassing?


So once again, the unusual tonic wine is in the news here.  I resisted blogging about it a couple of weeks ago, when it was reported as being linked to 5,000 crimes over a three year period.  Now Scottish Labour has launched their own commission on alcohol and are calling for the amount of caffeine in Buckfast to be reduced.  Maybe they’ve got a point – but it’s a minor issue.  

When you consider the extent of the problem that this country has with alcohol misuse, the use of Buckfast is all but irrelevant.  Still it gives the politicos in oor wee Parliament something else to disagree about.  Labour won’t play with the SNP minimum pricing proposals, the SNP won’t play with Labour’s Buckfast proposals.  I’ve heard a lot of arguments about these two issues over the weekend, but I haven’t heard anything about the root cause of the problem.  Nor have I heard any talk about working together in a consensual (call it adult) way to deal with this issue.  You see that doesn’t make good headlines, doesn’t show how different we are from each other, how much more impressive my argument is than yours.

It’s the politics of the playground; while alcohol continues to blight lives up and down the land.  It drives me mad.

Pass the Buckfast – I need a drink!

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>Rant #483


This morning I started to read a research report that had landed on my desk in recent weeks. I didn’t even get through the Executive Summary before I binned it.

The problem wasn’t the content – I didn’t read enough of it to be able to assess its value. The issue was the use of language. Maybe it’s a symptom of my increasing grumpiness in middle age, but I am thoroughly fed up with government agencies, quangos and other people who don’t directly deliver services talking about the need to drive up standards.

To talk of driving up standards infers two things to me.

Firstly, it suggests that standards are not adequate as they are. This begs a further question – is it the standards that are inadequate or the performance against these standards?

Secondly, the assumption that improvement can only come through driving up implies that there is a significant degree of reluctance from at least one of the parties being discussed.

The people producing these documents are frequently the same people who exhort those working in UK public services to work collaboratively; to develop partnerships; to breakdown artificial barriers between agencies etc, etc. Yet the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.

In my view if they wanted to work in genuine partnerships, they would use language that fitted with that approach.

Here endeth the rant… (for today!)