work

McDonald’s Promise Sustainable Beef

Posted on Updated on

McDonald’s, the biggest purchaser of beef in the US has promised that it will begin buying beef from a verified and sustainable source by 2016.

There is a but… They don’t know what verified sustainable beef actually is!

There is no definition of beef, for anybody that is, so this claim by McDonald’s is ambitious in more ways than one I guess. On the plus side McDonald’s are working with suppliers such as Wal-Mart to come with a definition they can work within, but this sounds a bit like asking a fox to guard the chickens. It’ll be a definition that suits McDonald’s but which may not actually resemble anything you or I might understand as beef. So on the negative side the players are setting the rules!

Image

When I go to my local butcher and ask for a cut of beef I fairly well know what I’m looking at is beef. This might not be so clear with a McDonald’s definition I venture. Beef could end-up being something that’s mechanically reclaimed beef which is roughly equivalent in terms of protein content.

Image

Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president has explained that they are not ready to give a figure for how much beef will be from a verifiable sustainable source in 2016, its an “aspirational goal” he says, you better believe it if they don’t actually know what beef is I reckon. But it has been speculated that the process to get from zero to 100% beef from verifiable sustainable sources could take 10-years.

But think about this for a moment; the route the beef takes – cattle farm – suppliers – slaughter houses – patty makers… burger on a bun.  All parts of the supply chain act independently with each taking a profit and still we have the £1.99 Happy Meal!

How do they do it for the money?

Nonetheless verifiable sustainable beef or not a McDonald’s burger will still be 550 calories, and half the recommended level of fat for a day.

Power Games

Posted on Updated on

Enron logo, designed by Paul Rand
Enron logo, designed by Paul Rand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In business you will come across and probably be the victim of those who are ruthlessly power hungry, I know I have and it ain’t pleasant I can assure you. To be honest the pursuit of power and only power in business (or more generally life as well) is not a an assured route to success; but those who practice the corporate power politics don’t know that and they will be relentless in their pursuit I promise you.

But you know the problem, you’ve got part way up the corporate greased pole only to find the further up you go the more power hungry your colleagues are. The conundrum of course is do you consolidate what you have achieved so far or do you carry on with the ever increasing risk being that you lose the lot. What ever you choose you will nonetheless have to deal with these power obsessed co-workers, so how to deal with them?

Do you ignore them, hope that they go away, that they will eventually recognize your contribution and and they’ll leave you alone? No, not a chance of that. Never be so naive as to think this will ever be the case. But should you instead go on the counter offensive? Do you turn brutal in your pursuit? Also No, you’ll need friends or at least allies along the way for the continuing journey. Instead you must remain calm under pressure, self assured of your abilities; after-all you haven’t been promoted to your position by being stupid have you? But you will have to be and remain at your best, there’s no time for an off-day believe me. And remember those who take aim at you, those who seek your power will eventually make a mistake, they will overreach themselves and you want to be prepared for the moment.

Nevertheless you may (will) be drawn into conflict at some point and I recommend:

  1. Competence in role is your defense: those most vulnerable when under attack are those who are either complacent or who don’t deliver top notch results. Say what you are going to do, do it in the time-frame agreed and in budget. Sounds simple but it isn’t.
  2. Confidence: only those who are confident in their own abilities to deliver can truly exercise power. That’s not to say that everyone who does deliver results will exercise power, just that you have got to deliver and be confident that you will before you can take power.
  3. No short-cuts (ever): Lance Armstrong, great athlete absolutely no doubt but the cheated, he took the drugs short-cut to win and then lost. He lost not a small bit though, he lost BIG on the world stage. In these cases its not the wins no matter how many that will be remembered, it’ll be the betrayal of trust. In business think of Jeff Skilling in charge of ENRON – an example of cheating on a monumental scale.
  4. The war zone becomes too dangerous: if your company has become a hunting ground for the power hungry, a power-at-any-cost environment then perhaps you should consider a new venue for your talents. When companies deteriorate to this level its often a sign that either the company is in crisis or about to fall into one!
  5. Could you be the next entrepreneur?: you’re talented, you know you are. So why continue with the red dot of a power obsessed co-worker permanently fixed on your back? You’d be making a mistake if you thought the power struggle will go away by being a start-up but you will have the rewards, all (or at least most) of them. Leaving the organisational power struggles behind might just turn out to be a better use of your time and energy.

Power, personal power, power in the work-place; this is complicated for sure. You’ll never achieve with out it but it can equally be your ruin if not used with finesse. So if you find yourself in a place that encourages the ruthless to show disrespect, the insecure to take credit, or the savagely ambitious to take the joy and meaning out of work, seize the only power that really matters: control over your attitudes, your values and the quality of the work that you do.

Cerebral None Event

Posted on Updated on

Flaubert's Parrot
Flaubert’s Parrot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The condition of being stupid is more common than you would at first realize. Take for example a recent incident I had to deal with:

  1. Employee A sells a BlackBerry phone to Employee B but refuses to hand over the phone after he gets the cash
  2. Employee B waits and asks for the phone for a couple of weeks
  3. Employee A keeps him waiting and eventually offers to return the cash when he gets paid
  4. Employee B is paid weekly so assumes that Employee A will pay on Thursday (the same day he gets paid)
  5. Employee A lets Employee B think this even tough he’s paid monthly
  6. Employee B finds out and realises he’s gonna have to wait another week
  7. Employee A books a week long holiday for the week he gets paid
  8. Employee B finds out and gets angry then even
  9. Employee B assaults Employee A, then takes Employee A’s bag with his phone, shoes and keys by way of a ‘no-phone tax’
  10. Employee A goes to the Police
  11. Employee A and the Police man come to work to sort out the mess
  12. Employee B hands back the bag less the phone which he agrees to hand back when he either has a working Blackberry phone or his money back

 

Employee A is stupid because he honestly thought he’d get away with the con even though he works at the same place as his victim; Employee B

Employee B is stupid because he trusted Employee A who he does not know socially.

Each suffered from a Cerebral None Event!

Stupidity:  bonehead, brainless, dense, dim-witted, doltish, dopey, dork, dull, dumb, foolish, gormless, mindless, oafish, obtuse, senseless, simple, slow, thick, vacant & weak-minded

Quotes about Stupidity:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
― Albert Einstein

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
― Albert Einstein

“I’ll take crazy over stupid any day.”
― Joss Whedon

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
― George Carlin

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”
― Napoleon Bonaparte

“Stupidity isn’t punishable by death. If it was, there would be a hell of a population drop.”
― Laurell K. HamiltonThe Laughing Corpse

“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”
― Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

“The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.”
― Harlan Ellison

“There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”
― Frank Zappa

“Far be it from me to ever let my common sense get in the way of my stupidity. I say we press on.”
― Sherrilyn KenyonInfinity

“To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness – though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.”
― Julian BarnesFlaubert’s Parrot

What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”
― Christopher HitchensHitch-22: A Memoir

“Irony is wasted on the stupid”
― Oscar Wilde

“Sometimes a man wants to be stupid if it lets him do a thing his cleverness forbids.”
― John SteinbeckEast of Eden

“[In the Universe it may be that] Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare. Some would say it has yet to occur on Earth.”
― Stephen Hawking

“Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.”
― Napoleon Bonaparte

“I have defined the hundred per cent American as ninety-nine per cent an idiot.”
― George Bernard Shaw

“How stupid lovers can be! But if they were not, there would be no story.”
― Jean PlaidyThe Courts of Love

“If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out.”
― Will Rogers

“There’s a thin line between genius and bottom-barrel stupidness. I hover delicately on a tightrope between the two, wondering where I’ll land if I’ll ever fall.”
― Suzanne CrowleyThe Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous

Sunday Shopping – France

Posted on Updated on

Français : Anne Hidalgo Première adjointe au M...
Français : Anne Hidalgo Première adjointe au Maire de Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In France since 1906 Sunday has been protected as a day of rest by statute with just a few exceptions; fishmongers, florists and those businesses that are closely associated with tourism. Businesses that break this law are subject to a fine of €6000 (about $8000).

However, France as are many European economies, is facing higher that desirable levels of unemployment, presently running at a jobless total of 10.5% with what can only be described as feeble economic strength with reducing consumer spending. So there are voices within France who are saying that Sunday trading should be more liberalized in an effort to boost consumer spending. Indeed public attitudes seem to be suggesting that they want Sunday trading and shop workers would also like Sunday trading as well. So why not?

Those who oppose the extension of Sunday trading; Unions & the Roman Catholic Church argue that it is important to keep the 35-hour week and Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation. That change would be Anti-French.

Laws about Sunday trading vary greatly right across Europe, German still largely supports the notion of no Sunday trading while the UK has very liberal laws. The UK broadly speaking allowed open Sunday trading with sweeping changes introduced in 1994. Greece and Italy who both have struggling economies have both recently changed their legal frameworks to allow Sunday trading in an effort to combat the very poor economic conditions they are facing. France too has gone some of the way with changes introduced in 2009 under the previous right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy who gave Mayors the authority to designate specific Sunday trading areas.

Commercial tensions are running high though. In recent court rulings DIY stores Castorama and Leroy Merlin were ordered to close on Sundays following a complaint from their commercial rival Bricorama. These rulings have not quelled the demands of those who what Sunday trading, indeed they have added fervor to the cause for Sunday trading. But traditionalists still maintain and defend the importance of balancing work with leisure time which to any outsider appears central to the French way of life.

Nonetheless the evidence does support the majority view that people want to shop more, they want to spend more and those who work in shops want to work more.

Now that France has a Socialist President in power the argument just got a lot more trickier for all concerned. Further loosening of the Sunday trading laws is unlikely, Labour Minister Michel Sapin has not indicated that he is inclined to make further changes. In addition to this, prominent Mayors like Paris’s Bertrand Delanoe, a Socialist, has refused to extend Sunday commerce zones.

The political tensions are sure to be heated to boiling point on this issue as Mayoral elections are due to take place in March 2014. Conservative candidate for Mayor of Paris Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has proposed expanding Sunday shopping as part of an effort to defend France’s title as the world’s most-visited country. By contrast the Socialist contender Anne Hidalgo, on the other hand, has maintained that Sunday should remain a day of rest for people to spend time with family or do charity work.

Politicians on the far left have threatened to run against Anne Hidalgo if she changes her stance on Sunday trading potentially splitting the left vote and allowing in the Conservative into the Mayors job.

March in Paris should be fun for those who watch French political maneuverings.

Tax exemption for overtime

Posted on Updated on

A world map of countries by gross domestic pro...
A world map of countries by gross domestic product at purchasing power parity per capita in 2006 from the World Bank. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was trawling through the net this afternoon when I came across a truly revolutionary, innovative idea on the economy!

Increase the purchasing power of workers.

As an idea its probably what most, if not all governments would want to achieve. Well, reading Philippe Doucet he seems to have a great idea on how to actually do it.

Income tax exemption for overtime working!

Over the last 12 months the French public believe that their personal purchasing power has decreased. They don’t feel quite as wealthy as they did. People all over the developed economies of the west are being asked (told) to work harder for less pay. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that his idea will in any way address unemployment, that is a factor that can only be dealt with over time (years). But by increasing the purchasing power of those in work it can only assist industry and services to survive this longest of all drawn-out recessions.

The struggle with unemployment is about skills in my view. Skills training, up-skilling, vocational education is the way to deal with unemployment. Under-qualified employees are a burden to business both in supporting the reduced productivity, and the cost of employing appropriately trained employees.

The time is now for the debate concerning workers pay and how its taxed. The idea of tax exemption for overtime comes from the left of French politics is true, but it makes it a no less valid proposal in an environment of stagnation of ideas. Radical; yes, Inspired; yes, Fresh; YES!

There’s also the hidden benefit of reduced employment costs, business too will benefit financially (well they will here in the UK). Of course this policy represents an increase in sophistication for employers and employees alike, but consider the benefits to the economy. The economy is treated to a boost whilst fairness to workers is also addressed.

Since the debacle of the Banking crisis, the ineptitude of our politicians this seems to me an idea that addresses so many issues of perceived (in)justice that I almost cannot understand why it hasn’t been proposed earlier.

The government of the day is voted for on its supposed ability to defend the interests of the populace who voted for them. Higher paid workers (myself included) and those who earn big bonuses (bankers…) will not benefit from this policy, it will be those who do the real work. The middle and working classes.

I don’t support this policy because of some high minded principle but from a very practical stand-point. More money in the economy will benefit everybody.

Fulfillment doesn’t come for Free

Posted on Updated on

One of the greatest, most important principles we can learn is that fulfillment does not come for free. Having our accomplishments handed to us on a platter might feel good for a moment or so, but it’s the work involved in earning it that will create a lasting appreciation and fulfillment.

Image

The harder we work for something, the happier it can make us. Hopefully, this gives us a different way of looking at the obstacles in our lives.

Gen X, Y & Z + more

Posted on Updated on

5 generations in the workplace, Generation Z (born 1996 on-wards) are in the workplace and the room for cross-generational conflict is here.  Younger workers feeling deprived of career opportunities by job blockers. Older workers aghast at the irreverence of youth.

ARRRRRRRRRRR!

Retirement age removed, pension crisis in full swing, surge (massive if you’re Spanish and Greek) in youth unemployment.  The storm is upon us.

The emerging sectors of digital, green and creative offer fantastic opportunities but a greater likelyhood of Gen X, Y and Z coming together each with a different set of skills and reference points.  The challenge; getting each to educate the other in their relative strengths.

Image

The time to be honest is now.  The new realities are that growth and satisfaction come from diverse development experiences along with a range of different career opportunities.  Reverse mentoring (cross-generational educational engagement) projects offer a way of getting the old and the young to just talk to one another.  By engaging across the generations people are freed to have flexible thinking.

By exploring what’s right for individuals and addressing the tensions of generational differences trust can be encouraged to grow.  Experiences and outcomes will be all the more richer, individual priorities appreciated, flexibility fostered and social environments more fluid.

So 5-Gen workplaces, what to do?  Well best advice is definitely don’t lose your head when faced with difficulties.  Honesty is the key, and keep to the task.  Job organisation and design will have to appreciate the different generations and make the best of them.  Rewards too, some younger workers will almost certainly be better rewarded than older workers; again honesty is key, reference the task.

Communication, the biggest single failure in any business, but there is a gap in what is being openly discussed and what should be openly discussed.  Close the gap!

A spectrum of ages in a workplace is a positive advantage.  It allows for a diverse range of skills, points of view, learning opportunities.  By leveraging this diversity the business will benefit.

Each generation will typically have its own communication style, values and feedback modes.  Everyone needs to recognize this and come to terms with it.  Communication styles will have to be flexed to meet the varying demands of communications across the generations.

Job blocking?  Its a fallacy to think that young people are being job blocked and careers stifled by older workers.  By working together opportunities will be created.