Pious expression please.  Deep meaningful gaze.  And all hail ordinary hardworking families.

Why shouldn’t you?

After all politicians use this meaningless cliché all the time.  No point in citing chapter and verse.  Most of them are up to it, most of  the time.

Why do they have to use this drivel?

What do they mean by ‘families’?  Mum and dad plus an average 2.2 children?  No other variations, perhaps just slightly unconventional, allowed?

What’s wrong with people who are not in families at all?

What’s so good about being ‘ordinary’?  Why only ordinary families?  Aren’t most families extraordinary in one way or another?

Again, do hard workers only come in families?  No hardworking singles around?  Are all families, no sorry all ordinary families, hardworking?

This is no more than a lazy sort of sucking up to people who are not daft enough to fall for it.

I say to you…oops, no, that’s another cliché a high proportion of the political class insist on using.

Rant over.  For the time.

The FIFA crisis or “crisis-what-is-a-crisis?” has gone quiet now Sepp Blatter has been re-elected to the post of president by acclamation, and to the accompaniment of triumphal music (a presentational hint there to UK election returning officers?).

Amidst the too-many words written about this tedious charade a quote from former Scottish Football Association president John McBeth sank almost without trace

To me, football is a sport, a game…I’ve always said to them [Fifa committee members], if you look after the game money will follow, if you look after money you will kill the game. Unfortunately they’ve been looking after money for too long.

These words are eerily familiar to something one of my lesser known heroes of improvement, Czech shoe maker Tomas Bata, said in the 1930s

Do not pursue money. He who pursues money will never achieve it. Serve! If you serve as best you can, you will not be able to escape money.

These prescient words came to mind as I joined a Twitter exchange today on what the purpose for a public sector web site should be (I’m @rogerlwhite if you ask).

The consensus of the participants batting those addictive little 140-character messages back and forth was that the main purpose of a web site should always be to meet the needs of users.

If you can get over the bit about money that’s exactly the sentiment that Tomas Bata in the 1930s and John McBeth a week or so ago were articulating.  It applies no less to the delivery of public service than the making of shoes or a professional sport.

30 November was an unusual day.  I was doing more listening and reading than communicating myself.  This is what I heard and saw.

On a serious note, the UK snow dump was at its height (literally).  Councils all over the UK were keeping people up to date about the impact on their services – mainly travel warnings and closures of various sorts. The #uksnow web site map spelt out by the minute where the white stuff was falling.

The UK Department of Health quoted Secretary of State Andrew Lansley on his new proposal for public health responsibilities to be moved to English councils – “Directors of Public Health will provide strong and consistent local leadership by acting as champions within councils”.  Hope the budget moves with the responsibilities.

I received a reminder from HM Treasury that their independent review of fair pay in the public sector led by Will Hutton would  publish its interim report next day (They did.  He recommended the highest paid employee in any public sector organisation should receive no more that 20 times the salary of the lowest paid – I’d have missed that without the reminder).

The Scottish Government told me I could watch a video on their web site of their response to the UK Government’s Scotland Bill.

There was other serious stuff too.

Someone said “Several years ago, I worked with the head of a large company who was very skilled at his job.  Because no one doubted that, including him, he was also utterly at ease with acknowledging his shortcomings.  He was also eager for any kind of feedback, because above all, he wanted to grow and improve.  What you got was a whole person, confident and humble, skilled and flawed.  Not surprisingly, he was beloved”. A great example of leadership.

Meanwhile over in the Daily Telegraph a medic was recounting his experience of being an unexpected emergency patient in an NHS hospital – “A kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a sympathetic smile: these are the things that there are no tick boxes for, and that are so difficult to regulate or control; yet for the patient, are so important”.   Hmm, that put performance management in perspective.

Elsewhere, there was a heartfelt blast by a dis-satisfied customer against his internet service provider (ISP) –“What is it about Virgin.net call centre staff that is most irritating?  Their ability not to listen or their ability to patronise?” Be assured friend.  They are not unique.

I also learnt for the first time about social media surgeries where those  familiar with the likes of blogging, Facebook and all things webby make themselves available for people to get help with the technology so many still fear.

Another first was discovering Jumo“We connect individuals and organisations working to change the world – find issues and projects you care about; follow the latest news and updates; support their work with your time, money, and skills”.  One to investigate further.

Sometime after mid-day (a bit late guys) the Scottish Government reminded me it was St Andrew’s Day.  As it happens, someone else had got there first and already let me know that “legend has it St Andrew’s head was once stolen from Constantinople and brought along to Rome”.  They cited Radio Vatican (“la Voce del Papa”) as the source so no doubt about that one.   In a surfeit of things Caledonian someone in York (York?) asked me what my three favourite Scottish beers were.  I was tempted to answer “The first three pints” but held back.  Even more weirdly, Hillary Clinton, yes her, sent me and doubtless many others a historic (she said) St Andrew’s Day message.

The bit of me interested in history was intrigued to see the UK mapping agency Ordnance Survey had mapped the Southampton blitz 70 years on in a “mashup” of data.

To leaven the diet of serious information the wilder fringes enlightened me on other matters of great import:

  • the Queen had little to say in favour of Nick Clegg but a lot in favour of a good G&T (this intelligence sadly turned out to be false)
  • an American woman who uses the Twitter name “theashes” had been pestered by cricket fans falsely believing she is the bearer of news about sport and was driven to respond “I am not a freaking cricket match!”
  • The Economist advised me that Canadians do not like to be fondled (at least in airport security searches)
  • someone said they’d just discovered that MILF stands for Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Filipino terrorist group and advised the group concerned to “get some brand advice”.

And back to where we started another correspondent wished Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and himself a Happy Birthday and noted the first two were probably having a better day than him – “Being dead beats being snowbound”.  Oh, I don’t know.

Footnote.  If you use Twitter you may guess what was happening.  All this was brought to me in or via the Tweets I received on 30 November.  It’s taken a while to review them and post this.  Yes, there was a lot of dross and, no,  I don’t normally do more than scan incoming Tweets quickly.  But there was news, learning and amusement, nearly all of which I’d have missed otherwise.

My thanks to the anonymous and unattributed authors of my 440 Tweets that day.  A quick Google will probably bring you oodles more information on any of the topics not linked above.

Why?  because I like ‘em…

 [Attributions, if at all, are as I have them – no guarantees of correctness: amendments welcome]

  •  There’s no career path these days, only crazy paving, and you lay it yourself – anon. career teacher
  • Let’s make toast the American way.  I’ll burn, you scrape – W Edwards Deming
  • If you want to increase your chances for improvement, focus on the system.  If you want victims, focus on the people – Phil Monroe
  • Do not pursue money. He who pursues money will never achieve it. Serve! If you serve as best you can, you will not be able to escape money – Tomas Bata [I may return to this interesting character]
  • If you put good people in a bad system, the system will win every time – Myron Tribus
  • When all is said and done, more will be said than done – Winnebago Tribal Council, Nebraska
  • Partnership Version 1: the suppression of mutual loathing for mutual gain Version 2: the suppression of mutual loathing in the pursuit of government finance  – both anon.
  • I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by – Douglas Adams