Month: August 2009

Recent Archaeological research shows football invented in Wales

Recent Archaeological research shows football invented in Wales

The first reference to football being played in this country was actually in Wales over a thousand years ago. The beautiful game was watched and played by hooligans as it is nowadays was probably introduced to Great Britain by the Romans in Wales and was played in the great Amphitheatre in Silurum Venta (aka Caerleon) by soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion during breaks from sacking, pillaging and general mayhem. Watched by the local natives one can imagine how it quickly spread to the other main tribes in South Wales the Dementae (the Llanethii) and Ordovices (Pontypoolae) and in a few years a healthy football league was established only broken when the pre-eminent Welsh Saint Cadfael banned football on the Streets of Shrewsbury in the middle of the 12th century allowing cnapan to ascend into prominence.

As a form of replacement the game of cnapan became very popular especially in the Southern counties of Wales where two teams of around 750 per side from competing parishes passed a tallow soaked wooden ball (the cnapan) between team members until the ball was too far from the start point to be returned before dusk or everyone went home for tea or got fed up. Clearly archery, bowls and Quoits also played a major role in Welsh sports as well as the more obvious games of coracle racing or Bando. This latter game, which is a form of Hockey played without a ball, is where the team players (the obligatory 750 per side from competing parishes) beat the crap out of each other until the last man standing is declared the winner then taken to hospital. An honourable mention must also go to Welsh Baseball played for hundreds of year since the reign of Llywelyn ap Cruffydd the Last, which was as we all know taken up by the Americans, and where the modern form of the Welsh game was codified in Llantrisant in 1892 only to die out promptly in 1893.

I mention the illustrious past of Welsh honor on the field of sport as suitable backdrop to our recent successes in the Olympic games where four medals were won by Welsh athletes (one more than the Scots I note) and our aspirations to field our own team at the 2012 Olympics in London. There has been heated discussions across the country (well in Jack Trehern’s bar in Newport) that we could have quite a success as the tradition of sports runs deep in the country as can be seen from the above. The only thing holding us back is that with the exception of the above we are quite hopeless at most sports, and despite representations to the IOC cnapan will not be a demonstration sport at the next Olympics. Which as a South Wales Argus editorial recently noted is yet another sign of cultural imperialism by the English and a shameful indictment of the Gordon Browns mishandling of the economy and comes as a direct consequence of the credit crunch (Eh what! ed.).

Careers: No Ladder to Climb?

The most traditional of all career forms is the bureaucratic, hierarchical career. (Kanter, 1989). You know the model. The only way to go is up, and promotions with concurrent pay raises represent career advancement for the most part. This may be fine for the individual who desires to manage at ever-increasing levels of responsibility… and who also accepts the inherent idea that competition intensifies as advancement continues because there are fewer and fewer slots at the top.

Standard bureaucratic organizations are said to be best-suited for times of stability rather than change. And while nature loves a hierarchy, it’s an emergent hierarchy — not an imposed one that can be implemented solely by creating a new organizational chart. (Morgan, 1997)

Working within bureaucratic organizations can pose special challenges for individuals who: 1) Do not wish to manage or lead. 2) Pursue professional careers. These two groups may not necessarily be mutually exclusive.

Let’s look at each briefly.

Those Who Don’t Want to Manage
Not everyone wants to manage. I don’t think we’ve addressed career anchors yet in much detail yet, so this is a good opportunity to do that. Edgar Schein (1980), one of the leading figures in the development of organizational psychology, originally proposed that there are five distinct career anchors. These are “technical/functional competence,” “managerial competence,” “creativity,” “security or stability” and “autonomy.” He later added three more: “service/dedication to a cause,” “pure challenge” and “lifestyle.” You can read more here: Schein’s Career Anchors

Now, you might look at that list and think that all of them – or maybe two or three – are your anchors; but Schein says that one is dominant; and you only know what it is in retrospect by reviewing your career decisions thus far.

Our “autonomous” anchor is a good match for someone who doesn’t want to manage. This group, Schein says, wants to determine its own hours, working patterns and lifestyle. Individuals with this anchor are most likely to drop out of “conventional business organizations, though their consulting or teaching activities continue to be related to business and management.”

You can see where an individual with an autonomous career anchor might not be a good fit in a bureaucratic organization. Yet there’s no reason to assume that this individual is any less desirous of career advancement than someone whose anchor is managerial competence. But where are this careerist’s opportunities for advancement within a bureaucratic organization?

Those with Professional Careers
Our second group is represented generously in the academic literature by engineers, for example. However, physicians, attorneys, artists and actors also have professional careers. The distinction is that the identity affiliation with one’s profession, rather than one’s organization may be stronger. So let’s go with an engineer example, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers, 1980). We’ll look at what might be the case when a very talented engineer is promoted to a position that requires business development or marketing skills.

According to Myers, “among research scientists and design engineers, introverted (I) intuitives (N) stand at the top.” Among engineers, INTJs and INFJs are common types. For starters, these are people who are energized more from what’s going on inside their own heads versus what’s happening in the external environment, which is where new business comes from.

One of Myers’ key ideas behind types is that we can all become more balanced and capable of dealing with others if we understand and work at developing our auxiliary types – i.e. the non-dominant ones. An INTJ or INFJ who has not done this is not well-suited for a job that requires a great deal of interaction with the external environment or viewing issues from a customer perspective. Myers writes: “They will have little or no development of an outer personality and equally limited use of the gifts,” and “even when well-balanced, they have a tendency to ignore the view and feelings of other people.” So, we have an engineer who doesn’t get to do what he enjoys and is good at, and in fact, may be painfully aware that he’s in a bad-fit situation. Conversely, it doesn’t seem all that realistic for the organization to expect this change to generate much new business.

So, then, where are the opportunities for career advancement for an talented engineer in a bureaucratic organization?

Guest & Sturges (in Gunz & Peiperl, 2007) suggest that individuals who do not fit the traditional upward path respond in variety of ways. Not all of them are looked upon with favor by management.

Methods of Responding
They become stars within their organizations, and even though they may have topped out at a salary level, their talent and expertise built over time have earned them a reputation based on achievement, a reputation that brings a measure of satisfaction. The work of Zabusky and Barley (1996) is cited.

They seek variety and control. This illustrates the concept of resistance, which we addressed last week. However, the ways in which individuals may seek greater variety in their jobs and greater control in their workplace may be frustrating to those who hold legitimate power in a bureaucratic organization.

They disengage. They settle in where they are and do what the job requires without investing emotionally in it.

They change employers, which falls under the concept of “tourism” and is related to the idea of boundaryless careers, which we also touched on last week.

They become self-employed.

They opt out and become unemployed.

So not a lot of encouragement here, especially if one is seeking to increase earnings; but it is heartening to read that key writers in academia are looking at the issue from a critical perspective.

It would be great to hear from anyone who has struggled with his or her place in a bureaucratic organization and found a satisfactory solution. Or, if anyone has a problem, we could discuss that as well.

Till next time, all my best,

References (Accessed: May 2008). Schein’s Career Anchors. Schein’s Career Anchors

Guest, D, Sturges, J. (1997). Living to work – working to Live: conceptualizations of careers among contemporary workers. In Gunz, H & Peiperl, M., Handbook of Career Studies. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore: Sage.

Kanter, R. (1989). Careers and the wealth of nations: a macro-perspective on the structure and implications of career form. In M.B. Arthur, D.T. Hall & B.S. Lawrence (Eds), Handbook of Career Theory. Cambridge: CUP, 506-521.

Morgan, G. (1997). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage.

Myers, I. (1980). Gifts differing: understanding personality type. Palo Alto, California: Davies-Black Publishing.

Schein, E. (1980). Organizational psychology. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Secondary Reference
Zabusky, S. & Barley, S. (1996). Redefining success: Ethnographic observation on the careers of technicians. In P. Osterman (Ed.), Broken ladders: managerial careers in the new economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

How to cold call a client effectively – the road-map to success

Effective Cold Calling

Cold-calling a client is often regarded as the equivalent of clutching at straws in terms of generating business – and research has shown that out of all prospecting methods, cold-calling is the least effective. The perceived wisdom against cold-calling states that it’s effectiveness disappeared when society moved into the Information Age and many sales gurus will state that cold-calling has not only become obsolete, inefficient, and ineffective it is actually counter-productive. Generating high levels of sales resistance as it often offends qualified prospects who may have otherwise bought had they been approached in a more professional manner.

For sure cold-calling is not for every sales team or every product or service, but for certain services, cold-calling is very effective in finding prospects willing and able to purchase and is an extremely effective prospecting tool. Because cold-calling, making an unsolicited business approach, either door stepping or by phoning, just like spamming, is surprisingly successful if done well and above all is targeted and qualified.

The general principles of selling apply equally to cold-calling and as in a normal sales call it is about building a business relationship around a mutually defined need. A financial salesman once told me that when he called ten clients and closed a deal on the last one for one thousand dollars each one of those calls was actually worth to him a Texas penny. That’s the way he looked at it. Rather than nine rejections each call was regarded as a success and precursor to the successful last one where the deal was made. However even against this positive outlook such an approach that rationalises the process as a numbers game and reduces the sales engagement to the equivalent of junk mail in the end will lead no-where.

The following are my top tips for being successful in your prospecting


Firstly identify your market for your product or services then target buyers in that market – first base is getting to know to whom you will be talking to. Narrow the search and get an up to date list of potential clients along with contacts phone numbers etc. Be aware that your current clients competitors are a good starting point for new engagements.

Invest time in research about your potential clients The sales team need to be encouraged to research companies they are going to ‘cold-call,’ so they know something about the company’s business, issues and as a result their potential needs.

Doing the Call:

  1. The objectives of the call is to get the 30 minute appointment or a ‘call to action’ – a follow-up.
  2. Warm up the cold call by sending out a message that you will be calling (but do not say when). A cold call is better used for when you want to make a sale or make an appointment today – ‘I am in your area today so’ .
  3. Craft a good script and more or less stick to it – set down your exit dialogue and leave the door open preferably with a ‘call-to-action’. However customise the delivery and be contingent – the prospect may cut in and go directly to ‘so what can you do for me…’
  4. When starting the call get to the point and be efficient never ask how they are today – it sets of invisible alarm bells and gives them time to think of a response to fob you off.
  5. Smile and be pleasant throughout and you will feel better (and have higher self-esteem) and your client will feel that you are smiling through the inflection in your voice.
  6. Be nice to the gatekeepers and develop standard scripts to the objections they will throw at you. If you meet a new one (objection that is) that you have not heard before write it down and develop a scripted response for the next time it comes up.
  7. When you get to the Principal acknowledge a time limit and stick to it – ‘I know you have only 30 seconds so …’ Ask for the appointment and ask her to write it down.
  8. Do not say you will call a day before to confirm – just turn up at the appointed time. If something really came up in the meantime and you turn up, and the appointment is cancelled, the balance of power shifts in your direction and you should get the return match. Don’t forget to ask for the new appointment.
  9. Get lot’s of practice and develop a thick skin – I am quite serious – practice cold calling on your colleagues and get them to give you a hard time (they will need little encouragement). They will be over the top but never-the-less this will be invaluable training.

Prospecting is the foundation of any company’s sales approach and enables you to hit targets and fill the pipeline – it is the lifeblood of your sales process. Sales prospecting using cold-calling just like fishing requires that you find the fun in the game. What prevents sales people cold calling is often the fear of rejection that an abruptly ended sales call engenders. We need to turn this around – just as when fishing we rue the ten that got away all that is forgotten when we land the big one. Besides what has happened is the client has not rejected you she has lost the chance of a great deal for the short term ego boost that chewing out a sales rep has given her.

Potentially cold-calling is a means of identifying potential prospects for your sales efforts and is the reconnaissance before any battle begins and is an excellent method of qualifying potential leads. Cold-calling is not where the sale happens its where the terrain is identified and the process begins. It must be said that cold-calling is hard work and not particularly effective compared to other techniques such as networking however although the most universally despised aspect of the sales job if done well will pay very rich dividends

How to manage remote staff – tips and guidelines

How to manage remote staff – tips and guidelines

Clarify types of remote working:

  • Home-based
  • Satellite offices
  • Mobile
  • Client based
  • Part or full-time remote.
  • Professional or clerical staff

Are different issues.

Myth 1– employees can take care of themselves
Myth 2– trust and control are easy
Myth 3 – unless I can see them they are not working

Successful virtual/remote working requires radical new approaches to evaluating, educating, organizing and informing workers.

Staff worry – that they will be forgotten, that they will lose promotion prospects, that they will not be trusted, that people will think they are not working when they are. Evidence is, may be benefits to both organization and individual but there really can be isolation, reduction in promotion, tendency to overwork and reduction of intra-organization communication, identification and (potentially) commitment.

Remoteness does have implications, don’t assume you know how to manage. As employees move away from office managers need to change their managerial style. There is a risk that managers can slip into communication patterns that are totally task oriented and miss verbal cues that let them know that these patterns are demotivating the staff.

Three different styles may be appropriate in different circumstances:

  • At hands reach
  • Collaboration
  • Relationship and trust

Issues include: trust, identification, socialization, control

Remote/virtual staff must clearly understand why they exist and be able to translate their purpose into actions. Research suggests greatest problem for staff and managers is still communication. Managers must become results oriented, shift from being a controller to a leader or coach. Need to develop specialised communication and planning skills, including the ability to communicate well electronically.

Managers and supervisors should:

  • Establish a relationship based on mutual confidence and trust.
  • Ensure well structured, relevant and regular communications.
  • Be available for consultation and advice – set expectations for response times (same day preferable). 
  • Ensure technology and support easily available
  • Enable and encourage good communication with other workers
  • Jointly establish precise goals and objectives (and ensure resources available)
  • Evaluate and feedback on a regular basis
  • Ensure staff participate in organizational activities and are kept informed – don’t assume they have seen the intranet notices.
  • Make sure managers and employees are clear on performance objectives and measurement.
  • Pay close attention to peer relationships, set up buddy systems and agreed forms and frequencies of communication.
  • Plan to communicate by f2f as well as telephone.
  • Set up socialization events and/or drop in facilities, ensure these are genuinely encouraged.
  • Certain areas demand f2f – particularly appraisals, salary reviews.
  • Don’t just e-mail – think before you send. Relevance and impact in particular – how will the other party respond to this? Do they need to know?
  • Re- educate managers and employees for a virtual culture, when and how often to communicate, when to talk vs. type, what to say etc.
  • Ensure staff are trained in time management and how to establish effective off-site/client-site office.
  • Set up a knowledge management/repository so staff can find out who can help on different issues.
  • Set up mentoring and coaching programmes for new or inexperienced personnel.

Practical guidelines on monitoring

  • Communicate goals clearly
  • Set priorities
  • Assess on results (set project milestones, hold periodic reviews, establish check-in periods and frequent updates)
  • Agree on results indicators and how to track these
  • Make sure/check that communications are clear and understood
  • Get regular feedback from employees co-workers and customers
  • Collect specific examples of performance related actions and results to facilitate objective performance discussions.

And do this all with an air of trust and confidence its a  balancing act for sure!

Need to focus on key areas such as communication, trust and control and expand on these.
Perhaps need to assess current mindsets and explode the myths etc.
Start by asking what problems they have in managing remote staff (if they think they don’t have any, ways to explore?)

So communication…

Consider aspects of office that technology not (yet) replaced:

  • Corporate culture and socialization opportunities
  • Creation of loyalty and identification
  • Unplanned and f2f communications – can give additional information and assess attitudes or concerns.
  • Control by observation
  • Access to additional materials
  • Symbols of corporate structure and political workings

Topics that may need addressing include team leadership, work-life balance, orienting new employees to culture and managing performance.

The nature of the information needs to be changed, as well as the medium.

It is recommended that companies:

  • Institute new information flows to replace current ways of communication.
  • Ensure all understand the strengths and weaknesses of various technologies for communicating in specific circumstances – aim to make communication more rational and considered.
  • Educate all employees on how to be more effective providers and consumers of information.

The best practice of managing diversity at work

The best practice of managing diversity at work

The business case for being positive about diversity at work is not just legal and financial; it is also closely linked to looking after your customers and your staff. Although many organisations are becoming more aware of the legal aspects of discrimination, a focus on the legislation will not change hearts and minds.

This article discusses what is meant by diversity, outlines the business case for taking a positive approach to diversity at work, and discusses the psychological underpinnings of related concepts such as stereotyping, prejudice and group membership. Most importantly it will highlight best practice for training and diversity awareness sessions, as recent research highlights that if not done correctly diversity training can actually make things worse.

What is diversity?

People vary in multiple ways, by age, personality, gender, ethnicity, religion, education, sexual orientation, morals, beliefs, hair colour, and shoe size, to name but a few! Sometimes these differences mean that some people are treated less favourably, or find things more difficult to do because of the way we create our environment to fit the ‘average’ person. Sometimes this makes people upset or angry, or they just ‘give-up’. Generally it can lead to misunderstandings and/or poor working relationships. Even if no harm was intended, in the wrong environment people can feel threatened and stressed if they perceive inequalities. It often means the organisation and the people in it are not working as effectively as they could.

The business case
Organisations in many parts of the world are beginning to take note of the benefits of a diverse and equal workforce. These include:

  • Enhanced creativity
  • Reduced employee stress
  • Increased customer satisfaction (particularly where the customer profiles are matched with staff profiles)
  • Reduced incidence of bullying or harassment
  • Improved team-working

For many this has led to increased organisational performance and a reduction in problem behaviours, (some of which may result in legal claims).

Psychological underpinnings
A wide range of psychological processes underpin both the problems and the solutions to diversity in organisations.

These include:

  • Group memberships – People have a strong need to feel part of the in-group. They like to identify with people who are similar to them and there is a strong drive to wish to differentiate from out-groups. This can lead to:
  • Categorisation – lumping people together into groups because they seem to share characteristics. This process is very beneficial to us normally as it speeds up recognition, allowing us to see that a Poodle and a Great Dane are still examples of dogs for example (and therefore potentially dangerous if they bite). However as people are so complex this generalisation process is often misleading. It is linked to our need to use:
  • Stereotyping – ideas are held about other people based solely on their membership of particular groups or their physical characteristics. Although useful when there is a need to make quick judgements (in evolutionary terms stereotyping has been helpful for our survival) they can be used unthinkingly to create prejudice and to justify discriminatory behaviour. Stereotyping can lead to prejudice – pre-judging people solely on the basis of some perceived difference.

Many of these processes are automatic, although in the right circumstances people can learn to reduce or control them. Understanding these processes, and why they are both useful and problematic, can also help us to understand which types of diversity training can be of most benefit.

Best practice for diversity training
Many organisations have started to include diversity awareness training as a standard; some are moving further forward into diversity management (which implies a step-change in systems and processes). However, some types of awareness training actually increase the processes of group membership and stereotyping, actually making the atmosphere at work worse! Groups can become defensive if made to feel responsible for inequalities and may increase their group cohesion by denigrating the out-group. Other activities have been known to increase anger, confusion, or to lead staff to deny that such situations exist in the workplace today.

The most successful interventions apply the concepts of social identity and enable re-categorisation (welcoming a broader membership into your in-group) and make salient the complexity of social identities. Such exercises have been shown to minimise bias and increase tolerance and positivity towards ‘out-groups’. Other successful interventions include simple stereotype activation sessions, where employees are then allowed to discuss why they were unable to consider non-stereotypical answers to scenarios. Examples of these include situations which can only be resolved by non-stereotypical gender roles, such as a female surgeon. Increasing awareness of our own cognitive biases and how the processes ‘work’ has been shown to increase participants’ motivation and willingness to change.

One important factor must be taken into account. Prejudice and discrimination are supported, or rejected, by organizational norms and values. Research indicates that people often become more prejudiced in public, because of the support they gain from others. Any diversity training must therefore start at the top and include everyone in the organisation, and systems and policies must be effective in demonstrating that the organisation is equal, open and fair.

Increasingly, HR Professionals are increasing their own knowledge of the psychological aspects of work, by studying advanced courses in occupational psychology or organizational behaviour. They wish to ensure that they fully understand the processes involved in their practice, and can ensure that any training and development, even if outsourced, is based on both theory and the latest evidence. Diversity is one of many areas in HR that can be more fully informed by considering psychological processes.

How can people in an outsourcing respect their manager but hate the organisation?

I was thinking about outsourcing change management and the observation that those being outsourced often speak with respect about the boss delivering the message whilst being very hostile to the organisation actually forcing through the reorganisation. It has often happened to me when talking to people being outsourced that some managers or leaders are able to give bad news when it is necessary whilst still maintaining a good relation with their staff.

From a justice perspective, followers, or in this case the ones on the ‘receiving end’ of the outsourcing change, will judge the leadership exercised as to the degree which it is fair. That is leaders can motivate followers by following ‘fair procedures’ and followers can as a result become more supportive of the direction or goals being proposed and exercise good organisational citizenship – even when the goal being proposed is adversely affecting them.

This can be sharply contrasted if you think of a more distributive type of process where the person affected by the change only sees the instrumental issues – how the change is materially affecting them (loss of income or job for example). What this forces us to consider is how people apply different yardsticks when looking at an organisation’s position and how this can inform us why a person could simultaneously ‘respect’ the person who is communicating the bad news whilst keeping this distinct from poor justice perceived at an organisational level – or from another person or department  elsewhere. I.e. is it seen as fair what the company is proposing as articulated by the manager compared to the way it is actually carried out at a company level. For example an outsource in order to gain cost advantages over an incumbent workforce would I suspect be judged adversely in a distributive justice sense, whereas a correct and fair application of the selection of the people affected by the outsource, as done by the manager, could be seen as procedurally fair if done with integrity – you would probably hear things like ‘he’s only doing his job’ or ‘he has no say in the matter’ but never the less ‘he’s a good chap.’

You could also take another view more directly related to identity and leadership: followers internalise the leaders perspective and construct an identity congruence to the leaders (buy in to the vision) and the issues around Identity in terms of the organisation (letting go and the processes involved in breaking the psychological contract) and constructing a new identity with the new organisation in outsourcing or ‘downsizing’. These types of processes also affect those left behind – i.e. be distanced from the organisation as a consequence of a poor outsource process. These sorts of processes could also help us ‘explain’ a differential response to the different players within an organisation (respect the manager but despise the organisation) – this is seen a lot in downsizing or outsourcing organisations people leave and organisation with a bitter taste in the mouth. It should not be forgotten that poorly outsourced people are probably lost as customers for the rest of their lives!

What this means is that the response of workers to an outsource can be greatly affected by the way messages and procedures are actually executed. A fair and equitable approach delivered by a well trained and respected manager can actually help in reducing resistance to change – in effect stopping causes of resistance at source.


Be critical and think about what people are really saying

Be more critical and critique what people say

To a large extent in the academic and business world things move forward by a thorough critique of the existing body of knowledge or by taking apart the
position people take on a particular issue (usually in hindsight). Often very strong positions are held based on very shaky ground and expertise claimed based on little supporting evidence. I think it is always interesting when you look at a newspaper report or an article in the trade press one can always determine the authors own position vis a vis the issue being discussed as well as the position they take in the field of knowledge they are advancing.

What we need to do when we look at a report being presented to us at work, or even on the nightly television bulletin, is to learn how to evaluate what people say and weigh the truth and merit of the argument they are proposing.

When we listen to these arguments try to assess:

  • What are the assumptions being mobilised by the author from her own perspective to support the case and what approach is being taken in the construction of the argument as far as evidence is concerned.
  • What is the purpose of the review or report – what is it for and for whom is it written?
  • What is being included or excluded from the author under scrutiny in terms of the body of knowledge and alternative views?
  • How are countervailing views dealt with and what form of words is being used to describe them – dismissive, pejorative or supportive?
  • How gaps in our understanding of the issue are explained – or are they glossed over and simplified in order to trivialise opposition?
  • What is the actual or implied call to action – what is it the writer wishes you to buy or accept that forms the core of the message?
  • I personally also ask – so what have you brought to the party, what contribution have you added to my understanding of this topic?

The way to read a newspaper follows the same approach – it means we engage with the author and as a consequence perhaps we will learn something. Remember we should not accept any assertions, claims, or recourses to expertise from any authors of these papers or articles unless they demonstrate their expertise with erudite argument. We need to look at all of them with a sceptical eye and try to get behind the purpose of the message and how it is aimed to persuade and orient opinion in a certain way and in business to ensure the ‘right’ decision is made.

What is a Statement of Work (SOW)

What is a Statement of Work

A Statement of Work (SOW) is a companion document to the services agreement that consists of a narrative description of the products or services to be supplied. A statement of work is a necessity as it refines the understanding between the parties as to what must be delivered and the terms and conditions to be applied. A Statement of Work is in effect a contract between the parties for the service delivery or of a commercial understanding of how to work together in a joint activity with a client.

The typical objectives of the statement of work are to enable the contractor to clearly understand the requirements and needs of the customer organization. You wouldn’t enter into a contract with a builder to make over your house on a smile and a handshake (I hope) and neither should you enter into a commercial relations to delivery a multimillion dollar project for a website development contract either. To be clear on this don’t trust a handshake or a verbal promise always document your understanding – it is far better to spend time arguing about what must be done before the work has started. If you’ve taken the proper steps to write a thorough statement of work then no surprises should occur on delivery when what was ordered is actually seen for the first time.

The Statement of Work spells out the scope of work to be done, the deliverables, the responsibilities of each party, and any fees for services to be rendered. The SOW is created once a client feels comfortable and ready to proceed with the project or activity and documents the joint understanding of what must be achieved at each stage. The statement of work (SOW) is a management product that formally documents the products to be delivered and the associated work units to be performed under the contract.

Typical contents are:

  • Aim and objectives of the activity
  • The scope of the activity and any limitations
  • Assumptions and constraints
  • Project plan and approach
  • Governance and review points including the project management process to be used to report progress
  • Deliverables to be produced including any dependencies
  • Due dates for deliverables
  • How deliverables are approved and what quality procedures are in place.
  • The commercial considerations

Requirement of a good Statement of Work

Normally a statement of work is employed when a simpler needs requirement document cannot be used and it must describe what must be accomplished in terms of the client’s requirements. Stakeholder needs, wants, and expectations are also analyzed and evaluated before being converted into requirements. There may be items such as, reporting requirements, commercial restrictions, market research, anti-competition agreements, geographic scope etc. that must be included. It must outline all applicable quality systems including quality review processes and acceptance procedures to be used, as well as the definition of the type and extent of control that is to be exercised on subcontractors should these prove necessary. On this latter point a sub-contractor must sign up to the overall conditions and the party concerned must warrant that this is the case. Overall a SOW identifies the requirements to be satisfied not the way they must be achieved leaving the parties free to use their own expertise and skill to achieve the desired result.

Creating a statement of work is not an easy task and can be time consuming but is well worth the effort. Do not trust to partner rhetoric that suggests leaving the difficult points to later never rely on such terms ‘spirit of agreement’ – it always ends in trouble. If a statement of work is too ambiguous, it can lead to misinterpretation and future problems and a major falling out. The failure write down expectations and then to properly execute a SOW is often the reason parties end up in a dispute and the major reason why this process must be well thought through and executed.

How many bacteria in a doner kebab?

How many bacteria in a doner kebab – Bristol University Student finds out the hard way

I was talking to her indoors about her sisters son who’s at Bristol University who just had a nasty run in with Gastroenteritis following a ‘delicious’ late night snack of a donar kebab (despite repeated warnings from his mum) after consuming a quick ten pints at the student union bar. This nasty ailment is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract involving both the stomach and the small intestine and resulting in acute and sometimes violent diarrhea . The inflammation is caused most often by infection resulting from with certain viruses bacteria or their toxins. Worldwide, inadequate treatment of gastroenteritis kills 5 to 8 million people per year mainly children under five. The lad was actually quite ill with his attack and was bedridden for three weeks.

In case you missed it last time I feel the need to share one of those interesting facts one comes across concerning this perennial favourite of drunks and layabouts after a night on the town and following consuming a skin full of lager; the donor kebab. I do think it is related you need to be drunk to be daft enough to eat this stuff. A recent analysis of the contents of yer average kebab showed about 60% was moisture, 20% a protein resembling meat 15% fat, 3% ash(??) and nearly 2% salt. It was the make up of the protein that caught my eye (no not the occasional horse or cat meat) but the vast colonies of bacteria that take up residence in the salmonella on a stick in the shop window. Psychotropic bacteria, leading the roll call of nasties with coliforms (the bacteria from mammalian poo) mould and yeast coming in with honourable mentions. Now you measure the presence of such things as bacteria by the colony forming units per gram measure (CFU/g) where each single CFU contains around 10 to 20 million bacteria (oh joy) even better is the numbers found in in Kebabs at 5log10 CFU/g which is about 100,000 CFU’s or about 10,000,000,000,000 bacteria per average portion of Kebab. As a matter of pure interest there is even more bacteria CFU/g in turkey kebabs (Bootiful as Bernie from the bird flu sanctuary in Norfolk would say) – mainly due to the slaughtering and collection process that literally vacuums every scrap of meat from the deceased animal’s carcase.

Now I’ve always remembered the revolting smell that comes for free with a kebab – my first encounter many years ago was when a colleague brought one into the office to eat at his desk and was told in no uncertain terms by our boss – ‘to get that stinking crap out of here or yer sacked’. So I have always said that anything that smells that bad cannot be good for you (or your career) – and yup my cousin has just found that out for himself – although to be fair after a skinful at the uni bar I doubt he had the intellectual wherewithal to know what he was eating.

Talking of nasty smells I came across this nice word: Osmophobia – the fear of foul odours and nasty smells that often occurs when listening to labour politicians explain their innocent mistakes in accepting illegal funding for election campaigns or explaining why they claimed expenses for porn videos.


Here is a nice picture of a bacteria magnified sqillions of times: