A Song About Work

Many, many, many months ago I was invited to give the closing talk and a song at Workplace Trends 2012. I agreed, even though I’ve not performed a song in conference for a while – it all seemed so far away, saying yes was easy…

The event approached and I prepared my talk like crazy. I love to practice, practice, practice these things, and simultaneously I love to leave spaces in the flow. Spaces where spontaneity can and will occur, spaces where I can reference other things I’ve learned at the event, spaces in the flow are vital for me to be able to give my best. The certainty of uncertainty. The talk seemed to go well and soon you can be the judge as I’m in the process of editing a short film of it – watch this space.

I also prepared a song, a piece that Neil Usher wrote the lyrics for. I’ve played this song a couple of times previously and never quite got to grips with it, so for this event I was determined to crack it. I practiced, practiced, practiced, and although I felt I was getting better at delivering the song, I still wasn’t happy with it. So in the end, I decided to apply a similar ‘leave spaces’ theory to the song, as I do for a talk. What this meant was that in the moment, as I nervously played the song, I fiddled with the tune and I also left a verse out. No one knew apart from me – but what the good people at Workplace Trends got was a one off.

Here’s the song in case you fancy a listen. I took a big risk with this and I think it worked, judging by the reaction at the finish, the audience appreciated it.

The video was shot by my good friend George Brent. George runs GB Audio Visual – a great company doing top drawer AV work.

Liveable Lives – Humanising the Workplace

Conversation and the human element are at the heart and mind of great work. We need to stop trying to force the vagaries of humanity into a four box model and think more about how we adapt the models, processes and restrictions of work to fit us humans better.

In March 2010 Ziona Strelitz of ZZA published a paper called Liveable Lives. In the words of the author, this paper seeks to:

alert Human Resources and Corporate Real Estate professionals to the tensions employees face in managing their commitments to work and the rest of life, challenges that are magnified when long travel time is involved.

It’s a powerful and easy read. The paper talks about a range of subjects which circle the dreaded ‘work-life balance’ and you can grab a copy here.

In the Autumn of 2011 Neil Usher took Liveable Lives, turned it into a set of lyrics and kindly gave it to me to play with. I gave the song an airing at Stop Doing Dumb Things 2011 and left it, hanging in the air. The truth is I wasn’t too happy with the arrangement I’d concocted.

The song has bounced around inside my head ever since. Yesterday I found myself with a few minutes between tasks and the mood took me to have another go. I made this tune up on the fly and I think it suits Ziona’s and Neil’s work much better than the first attempt. I hope you enjoy the paper and the song – I’ll be revisiting some of these humanising concepts throughout 2012 and beyond. And if this subject interests you I recommend you buy a copy of Humanize by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant it’s a fabulous invigorating read about putting people at the centre of organisations in this social world of ours.

Liveable lives

Well they shut my office and consolidated
me, all the way to the city
Now I spend three hours incarcerated
In vacuum-packed self-pity
They said it helps collaboration
And competitive position
But I only leave my workstation
For coffee – and micturition….

We’re masters of our destiny
But no-one wants our opinion
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century minion

Well, they declared me an agile drone
Took away my rolodex and chair
then sent me home to work alone
in a bedroom only ten feet square
I bought this condominium
To avoid the grim commute
Now I’m stuck with the barest minimum
Can’t work – and I’m skint to boot

We’re masters of our destiny
But it still feels most unpleasant
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century peasant

Well, they can’t see me panicking
The departmental bedrock
And they can’t hear the faint ticking
of my biological clock
I still feel fairly saleable
When perfumed, buffed and lacquered
I’m lonely and available but
But overworked, stressed – and knackered

We’re masters of our destiny
But lost in hopeless wondering
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century underling

Well, we’ve all agreed I’m flexible
Work when, where and how I choose
And as childcare costs are miserable
Its homework, and nothing to lose
But there’s marmite on my laptop
And my iPhone’s in the toilet
Its a perfect life if you can stop
The little ones’ will to spoil it

We’re masters of our destiny
But we’re overcome by hassle
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century vassal

Well, I declared myself a professional
Dad, a five-year blue-collar sentence
Its the hardest job that I’ve ever had
No leisure time for repentance
I never thought I’d miss the life
Where I wasn’t consumed by intrigue
Or the ice cold thrust of a corporate knife
From an underachieving colleague

We’re masters of our destiny
But don’t recognise our werf
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century serf

Well, I got my cherished promotion
To a Senior Vice President
And the office buzzes like a bee
on heat, I so long to be a resident
But my parents need me to be around
As they play out their encores
and my absence only brings the sound
of a corridor – of closing doors

We’re masters of our destiny
But fast-tracked to the grave
Our liveable lives are a fantasy
As a 21st century slave

We’d be masters of our destiny
If we could only see what’s wrong
Our lives need not be the fantasy
Of a 21st century song
Our lives need not be the fantasy
Of a 21st century song.

Fancy a Curry? The Morning After

I don’t really want to go into the details of curry after effect. No, best not eh. So how are things in unsolicited email land? If that sentence means nowt to you, you can enjoy the Currys experience and song here first, then pop back and continue…

After five months of trying unsuccessfully to unsubscribe from Currys email database, the first Currys blog post, song and complaint letter to the ASA went live on Jan 12th. In 24 hours the song and blog post together received just shy of 400 views.

On Jan 13th some Twitter conversation started when @dixonsdelivery made contact

dixons tweets

On Jan 15th I shared my frustration with the CEO of Dixons Stores Group Retail (who own Currys/PC World). And I contacted @dixonsdelivery. That same day I heard from the previously silent @dixonsops. Coincidence? You decide.

dixonsops tweet

I dropped a line to @dixonsops saying I think everything is under control. Then on Jan 16th I got a follow on Twitter from @MarkWebb_Dixons. I followed back on the 17th and this happened:

Mark Webb Tweets

Yep – we had a conversation, a straightforward, honest and quite enjoyable chat on twitter. Well done Mark. And have the emails stopped yet? Well I had one on Monday – nothing since – fingers crossed.

So once again the power of the song and the social web prevails. And whilst I admit I quite enjoy bashing out these songs about poor service, it doesn’t reflect well on the world of customer service when we have to go to such lengths just to make something simple happen.