Our New Year hopes for 2013

2012 has been a pretty miserable year with freakish weather on both sides of the Atlantic, in the U.K  the highest rainfall since records began saw people washed out of house and home and businesses ruined. In the USA Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast and several lives were lost, homes ruined & businesses destroyed.

Scandal followed scandal in the world of banking, PPI miss-selling, Libor fixing, Rogue traders etc etc

As austerity measures bite, wages decline & the economy bumps along the bottom like a flat baloon.

OK, so that was 2012, what do we want from 2013:-

  • Less emphasis on GDP and more on sustainability. The current system based on mass consumption, Consumerism & unsustainable growth fed by mountains of debt is bust ! We need to replace it with a more responsible, ecologically sound system based on managing the worlds scarce resources more effectively and equitably.
  • We need to take environmental change seriously. Whether there is a direct link between recent extreme weather & man made global warming is up for debate but there is irrefutable Scientific evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are having a direct impact on average global temperature. The long term consequences could be cataclysmic.
  • More People Power – the disaffection with the banks has led to huge defection to “community” banks like the Co-operative bank. Long may this continue. We are the mass consumers and we can have a massive impact by promoting ethical business practice & behavior.
  • Reduce our thirst for Oil – despite most of the Western world being in  recession (or near) the price of Oil remains stubbornly around $100 a barrel. There are a number of factors at work here but there is little doubt we have reached “peak oil” where future supplies will gradually decline and the price rise. We need to break the cycle by urgently seeking alternative energy sources AND reducing consumption. The Automotive industry has made great strides in recent years but nowhere near enough. Much more Innovation is needed in this area.
  • A flatter playing field – whilst workers real wages & salaries have reduced year after year the income of Senior Management & Board members has continued to rise. The gap between rich & poor gets larger every year. This defies rational thought. It is up to us to change things by greater political action, workers representatives on company boards, greater shareholder influence on remuneration committees etc etc. There is NOTHING inevitable about allowing this obscene poverty gap to continue increasing.

So there are some of our wishes for 2013. Whether they come true is up to me and you. All the best.


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Unemployment – #Innovation is the answer #pmot

UnemployedIn the U.K today we slumped to another level of misery with unemployment hitting 2.57 million, the highest for 17 years. What a tragedy especially for our youth with levels above 21% for 16 – 24 year olds.

So what’s the answer – there is no magic solution to the world economic crises but how about some of the following:-

  • less focus on “the markets”, our repeated emphasis on stock indices performance has led to short terminism in the extreme.
  • Stop bailing out failing financial institutions. Trillions of pounds of taxpayers money on both sides of the Atlantic has been thrown away propping up banks which have made disastrous risky investments at our expense.
  • Using the money saved from the above embark on a major series of public works, transport, housing, digital technology and green energy solutions should be at the forefront.
  • Set up a state bank to invest in small businesses. Small Businesses employ around 60% of the private sector workforce & are desperate for funds to enable growth.
  • Set up more Technology parks. Cambridge is a fantastic example of how successful this strategy has been over the last 20 years.
  • Encourage start-ups in the North by offering financial incentives to do so. Far too much of our industry is currently situated in the overcrowded South East. There is a wealth of untapped talent in the North which is currently going to waste & plenty brownfield sites to build on. The developments at Salford Quays including Media City is a great example of what can be done when there is a will to do it.

These are just some ideas how we can stimulate the economy by investing in Innovation & Technology instead of continuing to bail out banks  pouring more valuable resources down the drain.


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Casino Capitalism….#pmot…#biz..#innovation

traderWe have seen trillions wiped off stock markets worldwide, the FTSE 100 has lost over 10% of it’s value in the last week alone & our TV screens have been filled with hysterical traders and concerned politicians.

So does it really matter, in the long term probably not, but if you were planning on retiring soon and have an equities based pension scheme you may well have to think about postponing your retirement.

The markets have become the biggest casino on the planet, where billions are traded on market fluctuations to generate financial gain for wealthy funds. The problem is that massive losses can also be generated especially in times (like now) of great volatility.

It is almost as if Government policies are primarily based on satisfying short term targets of financial speculators.

Over the last 30 years we have seen increasing numbers of large corporations listed on the Stock Market. The benefits of this are increased transparency and greater share ownership but the downside is that company boards are increasingly focused on short term share performance rather than long term strategic growth. They are also more vulnerable to deselection which increases their focus on knee jerk reaction to stock market fluctuations.

So how do we escape from all this madness ?

Here are a few suggestions which may help:-

1) Corporations should seriously consider de-listing from publicly listed stock exchanges & revert to private Limited Company status. Directors will then be able to take a more objective long term view divorced from the daily vagaries of the markets.

2) They should follow the example of German organizations and involve workers representatives at board level, increasing participation and integration.

3) The only way to pay down debt is to generate growth; Governments need to think beyond printing money and subsidizing banks. Innovation in manufacturing and services should be strongly encouraged.

4) Failing corporations, whether banks or otherwise, must be allowed to fall. The risks of failing institutions should not be born by the taxpayer.

5) A state bank should be established to act in direct competition with the private sector so that essential Capital flows can be maintained.

6) Government (NOT essential public services) must be streamlined and taxes reduced. For too long those in business & manufacturing have subsidised those working for the state who provide no added value whatsoever.

We need a radical rethink if we want to escape the madness of Casino Capitalism.



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Politically correct ? …..#pmot…..#in

et tu Bruti

et tu Bruti

According to my Dictionary Politics is defined as “Social Relations involving intrigue to gain authority or power” so its not just Politicians who practice politics, in fact it is as old as human interactions.

Every organization has its own politics. Some are much more blatant than others but politics is present wherever humans interact.

Generally, the higher one goes in an Organization the more powerful the politics.

If you are a Project Manager & you hate office politics then you are probably in the wrong game.  Project Management involves a large degree of political manoeuvring and in order to get things done you have to ask people in certain ways which may involve putting your spin on the available information.

When you join a new organization spend the first couple of months observing the behaviour of your co-workers, call it awareness or paranoia it’s your best defence against being a victim rather than a victor.



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10 predictions which CRASHED & BURNED….#pmot #in

FuturologyIt’s that time of year again when we all reflect on what has passed and look forward to what is to come, so here are three predictions for 2011 and beyond:-

U.K Economy – whereas there has been a resurgence in manufacturing in the U.K, and a very welcome one at that, there are an awful lot of people facing an uncertain future particularly in the Public sector where tens of thousands will return to work after the holidays to pick up their redundancy notices. On a personal level this is devastating and any talk of these people being absorbed by the private sector is complete nonsense. Some will make the transition but many will face a long painful struggle.

If you are in this position it is a time to reflect on your career and if you are lucky enough to have received a reasonable redundancy payment take time out to think about what you really want to do with your life.  Recessions are a great time for starting your own business for if you can survive a downturn you will be well placed for the future.

FTSE 100.

The Footsie 100 has been on Bull run since early 2009 and currently stands around 5800. The all time peak was around 6800 before the Crash so to assume the current Bull run will continue unabated is blindly optimistic. Shares have been a fairly “safe” option recently with interest rates at an all time low but with inflation on the increase interest rates are due to rise in the next year making Savings accounts more attractive, consequently the FTSE rally with grind to a halt in 2011.


There are an estimated 1.4 million Freelancers in the U.K. representing a 14% growth in the last 10 years (Small Business Research Centre at Kingston University)  and their numbers are set to rise as this form of employment becomes more common. A significant portion are highly skilled Engineers & Project Managers.

As employers seek flexibility and to minimize severance pay, employing Freelancers at a higher day rate becomes a favored option.

So there are our predictions for 2011 which will probably go the same way as these classic “10 predictions which crashed & burned”……..

1) “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now; All that remains is more and more precise measurement.
Lord Kelvin, speaking to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1900.

2) “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.
The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

3) “While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.
Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, 1926

4) “By the year 1982 the graduated income tax will have practically abolished major differences in wealth.
Irwin Edman, professor of philosophy Columbia University, 1932.

5) “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.
Popular Mechanics, March 1949

6 “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.
W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954.

7) “It will be gone by June.
Variety, passing judgement on rock ‘n roll in 1955.

8) “Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition.
Dennis Gabor, British physicist and author of Inventing the Future, 1962

9) “With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.
Business Week, August 2, 1968

10) “By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half…
Life magazine, January 1970

A Happy New Year to you all !



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Ed – tell us what you will do for manufacturing ?

Ed Miliband

Now that Ed Miliband has being elected Leader of the Labour Party perhaps we should expect some real policies to revive the U.K manufacturing industry.  Ed has mentioned “broadening the industrial base” but there is precious little on the official Labour Party website to illustrate what this means.

The last Labour Government presided over the biggest decline in manufacturing industry EVER ! from 28% GDP in 1996 to a pathetic 10% in 2010.

“So what ?” you may ask.

Well, manufacturing is important for the following reasons:-

1) Jobs tend to be higher paid than those in administrative rolls.

2) Every job in manufacturing creates 10 others in the Supply Chain.

3) Products manufactured in the U.K generate important foreign income and reduce the trade deficit.

4) Making things generates a sense of self worth and pride.

5) Manufacturing provides valuable Tax revenue.

If we seriously want to reduce the current account deficit and claw our way out of recession we need some real policies to revive the manufacturing sector based on new product development and innovation.

So Ed – tell us what you will do for manufacturing ?



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If it looks like a turd & smells like a turd…

Libyans celebrate the return of Megrahi

Libyans celebrate the return of Megrahi

As the row over the release of convicted Libyan Terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi rumbles on oil giant B.P is preparing to commence drilling off the Libyan coast in waters slightly deeper than those which have been so grossly polluted in the Gulf of Mexico.

Fueling the controversy this weekend it was reported by the Financial Times that “Michel Williams told a U.S government investigator that an important alarm, which could have detected the build up of natural gas, was disarmed so as not to wake people up at night”

In 2007 B.P signed a $900 million deal with the Libyan government allowing it to begin exploration in Libyan waters.

Megrahi was released in August 2009 on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Government having being convicted in 2001 for the bombing of PAN AM flight 103 in 1988 and the murder of 270 people.

He was given only 3 months to live before release but has made a remarkable recovery since returning to Libya, it is rumoured that he has taken up Highland dancing with gusto and is often spotted out and about wearing a kilt.

Interestingly Megrahi abandoned an appeal which would have disclosed a lot of evidence to the public shortly before his release on compassionate grounds.

The debate about whether there is any connection between the release of Abdel Based al-Megrahi and the commercial deals struck between Libya, B.P and the U.K  Government will rumble on but……..

If it looks like a turd and smells like a turd……………………..



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North South divide……..

In the 1980’s Britain was a divided nation in more ways than one.The industrial strife of the miners strike and the subsequent pit closures took a terrible toll on the Economy of the North with high unemployment and social deprivation rife in cities like Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester & Sheffield. No one captured this division better than the comedian Harry Enfield with his cockney character “Loadsamoney” and his Newcastle counterpart “buggerallmoney”.

Whilst these caricatures caused hilarity both North and South they represented real, deep cultural divisions.

Of course the South has always had it’s own problems of density of population, high housing costs, congested roads, increased pollution and pockets of real deprivation alongside unbridled wealth.

In the 1990’s onward there has been tremendous progress in the North. Cities like Newcastle, Manchester & Leeds are unrecognisable compared to 20 years ago. Rather than squander money City councils like Salford have done a tremendous job in bringing new investment to previously deprived areas and building new, modern infrastructure which is the envy of the world.

The massive cuts announced by the coalition Government risk undoing all of that and there is a real danger that their impact will be felt far more sharply in the North where there is a much greater dependency on Government and Civil Service jobs.

This must not be allowed to happen. There must be Government incentives for New Businesses to set up in the North. In these days of electronic communications there is absolutely NO good reason for New Start ups to be located in the South East. Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester & Liverpool all have excellent airports and rail and road infrastructure. There are skilled and educated workers available at a fraction of the cost of workers in the South East.

This is not a plea for sympathy, it is a demand for equality of opportunity.

If we want to avoid another North South divide, with all that entails, we must encourage Business Investment in the North.


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Its all Greek to us……..

The riots & violence in Greece are a possible foretaste of what is to come in the U.K as we stand on the brink of  the most important election for over 30 years.

Whoever wins we should not fool ourselves, we are in for a period of huge change with severe public spending restrictions which will affect millions of our citizens.

This is not the fault of any individual or even as a result of the actions of a bunch of investment bankers. Capitalism is cyclical in nature and some of us have seen it all before to one degree or another. Boom and bust is the nature of the game. We have been very fortunate to live through a period of sustained growth with low interest rates over the last 13 years.

However, inevitably, this created a huge bubble in the U.K & U.S housing markets which was built on highly leveraged debt.

It was inevitable that a crash would follow and now is the time to pay.

Let us hope that whoever wins the election apportions the pain equally & as fairly as possible and that we can avoid the tumult which is currently sweeping across Greece.

We certainly do live in interesting times.



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It was 20 years ago today……

Anyone old enough will remember the day, twenty years ago today, that Nelson Mandela walked to freedom, blinking in the sunshine, after 27 years in jail, much of that time on Robben Island.

Following his release Mandela exhibited exemplary leadership leading his people to a relatively peaceful future in a democratic South Africa.

It was an incredible achievement given the depth of hostility which existed between black and white.

We should also acknowledge the role played by F.W de Klerk who paved the way for democracy and mitigated the hostility and understandable fears of the Afrikaans resistance.

Both Leaders demonstrated that when we sit down to negotiate a peace we do so with our enemies not our friends but that it is possible to achieve peace against seemingly impossible odds.