Can you feel it?



Remember the slogan during the recent FIFA SCW? Can you Feel it! It’s here!

Well today, as I drove past some obsolete billboards I thought: Can you feel it? It’s gone!

A lot of people seem to feel like the morning after the night before.

Even News24 had a short article on post world cup blues which talks about people feeling rather let down now that all the fun and games are over. Children are back to school, there are bills to pay, jobs to finish, projects to finish.

Aahh! Projects. Do you think the SWC was a project? If so, do you think it was a successful project?

If projects are unique, and this one repeats every 4 years, can it be a project? Or can we treat this particular event (or series of events) as a single project? Who would be the project sponsor that is asking for the benefits? What are those benefits? Are there more than one beneficiary? Who were the stakeholders? Could one imagine each of the 64 matches to be a unique sub-project? What did the project actually deliver?

Or what about the process they followed. Did they follow a particular methodology? Did they measure progress in a particular way? Do they use some software of some kind? Do they have sub-area-managers to look after particular sub-sections? How is all of this coordinated? And documented? Do they retain lessons learned?

Moving right along to the lessons we can learn from this. Remember in project work, by definition it is a temporary endeavour, so when the project is completed and it has delivered the expected benefits the human resources are released from their duties towards this project. They must find other work. How does that make you feel? Redundant or excited? Up or down?

The message I’m trying to create is a very simple one: Any large project is going to come to an end, and when it does people will feel blue. People will feel they have climaxed and there is nothing to motivate them and urge them on. This is a serious issue, and there is a big need to handle this properly. BeerGrin over at metafilter asked the same question and answers varied from managing energy levels to smell the roses.

Lots of Freeway Improvement projects and other large infrastructure projects, also Gautrain, will be coming to an end soon. How do you suggest we handle the post project blues? You can comment by clicking the link near the top of this article.

Pedagogy vs Technology

laptopNow here is an interesting question: Are we making progress with technology in education and training?

Note my specific and narrow focus. Of all the people around the table, I know how fast and how far technology has come. I worked for a leading IT company (IBM) for 26 years, I am used to it(IT 😉 ). Laptops have become part of our daily must-have toolset.

And training, well I’ve trained a few thousand students and delegates during the last 10 years, and I am also a registered Assessor, so I kind of know when a student absorbed all there is to know about a subject. It doesn’t take me a 100 years to figure out how much knowledge and skill a student retains from a training course.

Which brings me to the all-important question: Are they friends yet?

Has technology bowed down to the level of learners, making it easy for them to absorb and understand the subject matter they are studying using the latest and best technology?

And you, sir, Mr Educator, have you developed yourself enough to be able to justifiably claim you are a good pedagator? (OK, that is my own made-up word – it means “trainer”).

I have this suspicion that traditional education methods are still being used extensively, because “they work”. They don’t, by the way. And I suspect that the youngsters use their laptops and not lecturers to learn from the internet, not very dissimilar to my youth when I sneaked into my parents room to rush through the pages of their secretly stashed book about the Kinsey report on sex instead of asking my parents.

Yup, the two sides haven’t met. They haven’t reconciled their differences. The trainers are traditionalists who will protect their excellent results with statistics and smoke and mirrors. And the youngsters, well, they will tell the elders what the elders want to hear, and then continue to do as they have always done.

There is a major gap here somewhere. Maybe, before we continue, we should read the Wikipedia entry for a virtual learning environment, and then come back for a more mature look at the issues. See you tomorrow!

May I, Please?


Who are you?

This issue has been bothering me for a long time, but I didn’t make a decision and I postponed it because I felt uneasy about it. I hoped things would get better. They didn’t, of course.

Then yesterday I stumbled across an article via Slashdot that made me think, especially when I followed the links to RevK’s blogsite. I was still undecided, but this morning I received yet another of these nuisance calls and so I decided that it is time to canvas some opinions and move towards a decision.

Here is the problem: People are hiding their identity as a subterfuge when they want to sell me stuff I don’t want. They con me into answering the phone when otherwise I wouldn’t have done so. They don’t show their numbers on my cellphone.

It is not an easy decision though. I cannot just ignore the call. I actually pay Vodacom for CLIP (Caller Line Identification). I have children who may need to contact me urgently, even if I am overseas. Therefore, when I am in a meeting, or I don’t want to be disturbed for a while, I don’t normally switch off my phone but I look at the caller’s number and if it can wait I let it go to voicemail, to return the call later when I can give the caller my full attention.

But what do I do when I cannot see the number? Can it wait? Is it maybe an important call? Could this be that long-awaited contract award? Or my child in need? In fact the basic question is: Am I obligated to answer the call if I don’t know who is calling?

Question: Would you open your front door to somebody when they ring your doorbell but refuse to identify themselves? Are you obliged to open the front door to your home just because the person rings the bell but isn’t willing to show you who or what they are?

It gets more complex than that. What about the incredibly arrogant attitude of the all-too-powerfull Banks in South Africa? When you call them they ask you a million questions, all under the guise of making sure you are who you say you are. But when they phone you … they don’t show their numbers! How do you know they are who they say they are? The other day I tried to ask the operator to identify himself and I was told it is not necessary!

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: What is the best thing to do? What do YOU do? How do we solve this problem?

Here is a link to the most hilarious way of handling it (approx 2.5Mb) Cute! 😉

This is what I am doing, and I would appreciate your feedback:

  1. When I cannot see a number, I will try to answer but I will always fully identify the caller (and the purpose of the call) and perform step 2, before proceeding to converse.
  2. I will obtain the contact details (e-mail or fax number) of the supervisor of the caller.
  3. When the conversation is over, I will send a letter to the company via the supervisor, kindly requesting that they fix their call centre to show their number in future to identify themselves properly.

Is this a good thing to do? Please comment and let me know.




If you didn’t know this, the Gautrain Project (linking the international Airport with the business centres of Johannesburg) is one of the biggest projects underway on the African Continent, and I understand it is also the first underground train on the continent. A must-see project.

So you can understand that I was looking for a valid excuse to board the train and see for myself what all the excitement is all about. I thought I would sneak a ride to the airport and visit one of their many excellent restaurants. People will think I’m just another traveller, right?

And so it comes to June 12th around 2:45pm and I’m one of hundreds of people milling around the Sandton Station trying to purchase a ticket. I’m impressed that so many people make use of the train to the airport. I fail to notice that not many people carry luggage.

Finally after struggling at the over-loaded ticket office I make my way down the escalators to the platforms. It seems like we are down by 10 storeys. Already I like what I see: Lots of friendly staff, efficient and clear signs, and the announcement that the next train is 4 minutes away. So far so good. I still fail to notice that most of the people are gathering in small family groups (mom, dad, children, uncles and grans) and they have no luggage.

We board the train, find a seat, and we are sucked away silently into the underground tunnel only to appear a few minutes later near Marlboro Station, before being tugged away to the airport at 160km/h. All in all a very pleasant experience and before you know it we pull into O R Tambo Airport Station 15 minutes later and we have to get off. Lots of people boarding when we disembark and by now I’m beginning to notice the lack of luggage.

We check through the turnstiles and head for the restaurant floors, thronging with the other traingoers. They all seem to go in the same direction. What? The restaurant is full, do we want to wait? So is the next one. Eventually it dawns on me: Most of the passengers went to the airport for a joyride on the new train.

As a project it is now in phase 1, connecting the airport with Sandton over some 20 kms. Phase 2 will expand to 80kms and add Pretoria and central Johannesburg as destinations. I believe they’ve spent around R23bn so far and the cap is some billions away. Currently 24 trains with 96 coaches will operate the line and I’m told that they are not going to stop soon.

Lets tilt a hat to the Uber Project Manager Jack van der Merwe who started with the conception more than 10 years ago. He says it was a project of a lifetime for him. One isn’t often offered such a big chance.