Thursday, October 30, 2014

The $750,000 Accountability Story

Keith was in his mid-50s, and was a managing partner in a large CPA firm. He'd gotten to that level because he was very good at business development - specifically, bringing in brand new clients.

His partner group, on the other hand, were mainly in the 40s. They were all highly competent in their technical abilities, but not very good at bringing in new business. Up until then, they hadn't needed to concern themselves with that - it was raining clients. And they also saw plenty of growth just from adding on new services to existing client accounts.

All of that changed with the economic landscape in 2008 when the firm began losing clients. And that's when Keith hired me.

Keith had the skills - they were natural to him. He just couldn't figure out how to transfer those skills to the people around him. "How do I get people to go to market (when they've never had to) and bring in new business??"

The first thing Keith had to understand to become a more accountable leader was that just because something came easily to him, doesn't mean it came easily to others. "They're not you," I often reminded him in our early sessions.

Instead, Keith needed to apply all the components of my accountability system - recapping, meeting his people on a regular basis, asking open-ended questions, developing his people, etc.

Instead of riding the bike for them by micro-managing, managing all the new client meetings himself and exhausting his own network and database to make introductions, he began to use my three core skills of leveraging, collaborating and strategizing.

Leverage: When people told him excuses about how their databases weren't big enough to bring in any new business, Keith showed them how to mine the gold from even the smallest database. For example, an old college fraternity chum whose brother-in-law happens to be the CFO at one of the firm's target companies.

Collaboration: As I worked with Keith to show him these strategies, I was also modeling a collaborative approach to putting our heads together to come up with solutions. Keith learned that there was a lot of middle ground between doing everything himself and trying to get people to carry out tasks they weren't yet equipped to handle.

Strategy: As I taught Keith the accountability system and he started putting it into place, he and his people discovered that those same practices can apply to meetings with new prospective clients. For example, they started slowing down the process and preparing a strategy long before they actually got in front of the potential new client. That way, they weren't just reacting in the moment and then catching up to the conversation (an approach that certainly hadn't been working).

Keith wanted to create a legacy at his firm, and his own talent for bringing in new business had brought him a lot of success and the title of managing partner. As a leader, though, I helped Keith see that the real legacy he was creating was empowering his people to land their own new business successes.

The accountability system that I helped Keith put into place resulted in $750,000 in absolutely new client business.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Louisville's Beautiful Network of Parks and Parkways - A Model For All Other Modern Cities

First Glimpses of a City of Parks

A serene well-patterned naturally beautiful landscape interlacing an intricate network of similar structures arrested my sight on touching down on Louisville Sunday the 26th of June 2006. We drove past buildings all set in uniform symmetry with the well-terraced and tended gardens of the meadows as one should see in Eden.

The newest hall of residence in the University of Louisville, Kurtz Hall, which should be our new residence for six weeks,smelled fresh and fragrant. The surrounding well-tended gardens were constantly watered with the hedges and the carpet of greenery trimmed with quiet efficiency. The harmony with which nature intermingled with architecture all over the campus was impressive. The brown-brick-like box structures with terraced roofing patterns were all harmoniously blended with the green-carpeted parks surrounding each with adjoining tarred car parks with squirrels frolicking about in this nest of soothing beauty which were healing and diverting the mind.

Families of rare white squirrels frolick everywhere in the expanse of green space especially where one could find a huge variety of some of the biggest and oldest trees in Louisville as well as lush lawns. The compact Belknap Campus is itself a walker's paradise with a cardio path around Cardinal Park, as well as huge, shaded sidewalks throughout the serene campus.

The University of Louisville has been struggling to develop and maintain an aesthetic atmosphere since the 1920s. In 2000, when Dr. James Ramsey became president of the University his wife, Jane, started working towards transforming the campus into a "more attractive, safe and community-oriented environment" for students to live and learn in.

New signages around, became part of the ongoing beautification to create a better student atmosphere as well as make the university more attractive. Ramsey and the Campus Beautification Committee have introduced water sprinkler systems, tree-lined streets, painted Cardinal medallions on street surfaces and painted overpasses. thus making it "a more exciting and prideful campus." Stansbury Park on Third Street is to be returned back to its original 19th century design made by Fredrick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park and most of Louisville's parks and parkway system.

Olmsted's concept of a park is contained in the following classic statement: . 'My notion is that whatever grounds a great city may need for other public purposes, for parades, for athletic sports, for fireworks, for museums of art or science such as botanic gardens, it also needs a large ground scientifically and artistically prepared to provide such a poetic and tranquilizing influence on its people as comes through a pleased contemplation of natural scenery, especially sequestered and limitless natural scenery'

He was quite clear that while provision for sports for example was important, it should not take over sections of the park at the expense of the majority of park users, and should only be included where it could be accommodated within the park and not permanently take over sections of it.

"The redesign of Stansbury Park, along with plans for more bike pavilions by Cardinal Stadium, increased signage around the campus and downtown" and further involvements in development efforts in surrounding neighborhoods, according to Ramsey, "are all aimed at making this a more attractive and functional community."

Ramsey, who grew up in the south end neighborhood of Louisville said "This effort is important to me. I have a love for this neighborhood and this university and I want to be engaged in making it a better place for future generations."

Such pristine beauty is replicated in the whole city from downtown to the Churchill Downs area where every home is adorned by well tended gardens and lawns studded with flowers of varying alluring descriptions.

Louisville's beauty is greatly enhanced by its extensive networks of parks and gardens with green carpets of grass decorating pathways, hedges, and roadsides. It is reputed to have the most beautiful parks in the U.S They were developed from 1891 when Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York's Central Park as well as parks, parkways, college campuses and public facilities in many U.S. locations was contracted to design a system of public lands that would be free to all forever.

Olmsted created on all contours of the landscape

  • Shawnee Park, a plain of river bottomland featuring the concourses that afford extensive views and the expansive Great Lawn, Louisville's spot for large formal gatherings, enclosed with border plantings and a tree-lined circular drive;
  • Cherokee Park one of the most visited parks in the U.S., featuring a 4.2 kilometre mixed-use loop and many well-known landscaping features, where Beargrass Creek wanders among woods and meadows;
  • Iroquois Park, a tall, rugged escarpment offering vantage views of the city;at the heart of which is a 10,000-year-old forest, blanketing the knob's steep hillsides with a great variety of rare plants and animals and. a network of pedestrian paths, bridle trails, and circuit drives
  • and Tyler Park which is a jewel of solitude in the city bustle.

A scenic 7 mile River-Walk stretches from downtown's 4th Street Wharf westward to Chickasaw park. Running parallel to the Ohio shore this path offers a variety of views, from the lakes and dam on the shipping channel to quiet, wooded portions where the occasional deer roams. East of River Walk, Linear Park has a playground with attractions for all.

The Louisville Waterfront Park prominently located on the banks of the Ohio River East featuring large open areas showcases the waterfront with overlooking walking paths, the Festival Plaza, a water feature with a series of pools and fountains, a children's playground and a harbor. Resplendent with yachts and sea and motor bikes with police mini-vehicles it was agog with millions celebrating amidst the jocose display of fireworks, a veritable medley of colors and sounds criss-crossing each other in the sky in heralding yet another anniversary of America's attaining full nationhood last year, when I was there. Free concerts and other festivals are frequent occurrences here.

Further out from the downtown area is the Jefferson Memorial Forest which, at 6,057 acres, is the largest municipal urban forest in the U.S. which is already designated as a National Audubon Society wildlife refuge offering over 50 kilometers of various hiking trails. Otter Creek Park another large park nearby, .while actually in Brandenburg, Kentucky, is owned and operated by Louisville Metro government while. Otter Creek, from which it is named, winds along its eastern side.

A scenic bend in the Ohio River, which divides Kentucky from Indiana, can be seen from northern overlooks within the park which is a popular mountain biking destination, with trails maintained.

Other outdoor points of interest include Cave Hill Cemetery where Col. Harland Sanders was buried, Zachary Taylor National Cemetery where President Zachary Taylor was buried, the Louisville Zoo and the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area. Towards Bardstown one of the most famous slave houses Farmington Historic Home stands amidst a verdant lush greenery. This house with well tended lawns interlaced by wooden and concrete paved paths and a pool at the far side was part of the slave-holding plantations of the South where hemp and rice were grown as well as wine brewed.

Louisville's fantastic parks system, owes much to people like Gen.John Breckinridge Castleman who as first parks commissioner, brought Frederick Law Olmsted to Louisville in 1890 to work on its parks design and donated land for Cherokee Park--with his statue now standing in Cherokee Triangle in tribute. More recently David Karem, led the popular Waterfront Park's development, while David Jones Sr., co- founder of Humana Inc, leads an ambitious drive to establish a green-ring around Louisville called "City of Parks."

The Value of Parks and Gardens

The preservation of Louisville's natural environment through expanding parks and forests amidst an urban space improves water and air quality, cools the city and provides a natural habitat for the animals and birds who in turn build up a natural and refreshing atmosphere for leisure.

Park DuValle has been transformed into a series of traditional Louisville neighborhoods linked by a continuous network of streets and parkways. For Louisville's western neighborhoods were dominated by two crime-ridden public housing projects and a badly deteriorated apartment complex with virtually no existing retail outlets in the neighborhood except small convenience stores.

These parks achieve the hallmarks of Olmsted's social vision. As the source of healthful inspiration - through mental, physical and social recreation - they provide a respite to the stresses of modern city life, spaces where people can come together to create a stronger community, whilst exhibiting all the classic physical elements of an Olmsted park: graceful topography and alignments; ease and accessibility; balance of uses; expression of native character and use of native materials; separation of traffic modes; and subjugation of built elements to nature. The Olmsted Parks are a magnificent work of art that must be preserved to continue their enormous contribution to the quality of life in Louisville. The landscapes in and around the parks thus remain a crucial resource for serving the cultural and recreational needs of the public.

As Mayor of Louisville, Jerry Abramson said. the green-print will unite neighborhoods and people, with a trail that will help connect all parts of the community," "Parks draw people together who might not otherwise encounter one another, bridging the gaps between city and suburb, between rich and poor, between white and black. Parks raise property values and make our community more attractive to new residents, businesses and visitors. Parks preserve irreplaceable landscapes. Parks give our kids a place to play, and they allow each of us to take a break from the daily hustle and bustle."

Studying the Creation of a Unique Park System in Louisville to Replicate in all other Cities

The restoration of historic buildings is a widely accepted activity, for either re-using them for different activities, or restoring them as landmarks and attractions for visitors, whereas designed historic urban parks and landscapes are generally less favored for historic preservation or conservation.

Landscapes are sometimes more difficult to characterize. Erosion of the original design and loss of individual features, usually makes it hard for the general public to identify that they were actually 'designed' at all. Public perception is often that these urban landscapes were just bits of land that weren't built upon or left-over bits of countryside that escaped development, and were kept as such for public recreation.

Parks need to both restore their value as cultural resources within communities as well as enhance their recreational value. Much could be learnt from the Americans about historic urban landscape restoration through their successful restoration through innovative, best practice and good design in Louisville which both respect the original design whilst remaining relevant to today's communities. The designed as well as neglected landscape legacy of cities are great assets to restore and continue the tradition of park building to reflect the mood of 21st century cities. When done successfully, with sensitivity good design and good future stewardship this can achieve both the conservation of built landscape environments, as well as provide meaningful, beautiful and robust new landscapes to cater for changing and expanding communities.

A) The realization of the need to upgrade Louisville's look

In the 1980s, Louisville was another declining industrial town in the Mid West. Then it recognized the value in its park network as being vital for the city's ecological health, economic growth and for improving the quality of life for its dwindling inhabitants. The network was designed in 1891, to provide an escape from the industrial city into the healing world of nature.

Since World War II, Louisville's public parks, had been falling into decline, with lack of investment, over-use and natural disasters like tornadoes thus bringing a breakdown in the relationship between the community and its landscape. The spiraling cycle of disrepair and subsequent reduction of use became damaging for both the parks and their users, with further neglect following.

B) The creation of Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy

A group of concerned citizens formed the 'Friends of Louisville's Olmsted Parks' in the early 1980's, and prepared a report on park conditions. In the late 80's Mayor, Jerry Abrahamson created the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy to stop the rot, and turn the parks around in an attempt to make their park system the best. The Conservancy was set up to act as a non profit, sister organization to the 'Metro Parks', to assist in the planning and funding of this massive renewal program to both preserve and enhance this great work of landscape art. The city invested $1million in setting up the Conservancy as a separate but complementary organization to the City funded parks department. The initial funding established the conservancy and paid for a Masterplan to be drawn up for all the 2,000 acres of parks and 15 miles of connecting parkways, to set the stage for the future private investments in the parks improvements.

In 1995 with the master plan document finalized a practical plan was set out for its implementation. It pulled together specific projects, management strategies, and new maintenance techniques, all designed to work together to enhance all the parks in the system.

Frederick Law Olmsted, had in 1891, urged the people of Louisville to 'Adopt an Ideal, and to let it guide all planning and actions'; The Conservancy's master plan reiterates this ideal and continues to set out the way forward for Louisville's Olmsted parks. His systems comprised of parkways which would connect the separate parks with each other, and the downtown to them, thereby structuring the growth of the cities. They were to be planted with trees creating a park-like feel, and separating the modes of transport used on them.

C) The structure of Louisville's park system

Louisville's park system is composed of three distinctly different landscape types. Louisville's natural landscape and scenery were the starting point for Olmsted's design. He took the distinctly different terrains and landscape characters of the three sites to create Shawnee, Cherokee and Iroquois Parks. These were to be the three principal parks whose uses and designs he planned to be compatible with the scenic experiences they could provide.

Shawnee being situated adjacent to the Ohio River, took advantage of its river views both in their own right and as a backdrop for the concert stage. It provided access to the river for boating and bathing, and the rest of the park was created as a large open area of rolling meadow interspersed with shade trees, which could be a major site for recreations and sport. Thus he provided the recreational elements which Olmsted knew to be necessary in city landscapes, but always wanted to prevent from interrupting his composed 'natural' scenes which could be designed in his other parks.

Cherokee Park was almost exclusively dedicated to the enjoyment of scenery, and designed to exploit the setting of its location in the stream valley, and contained less provision for formal activities than any other he had designed.

The third major park was Iroquois. Sited on a steep hill, It had originally been known as the ''Burnt Knob' due to the original savannah vegetation which was managed by a cycle of burning and regeneration by the native American Indians. Its steep terrain was deeply forested. Olmsted proposed that this site should be treated as a scenic reservation as its topography, character and vegetation was unsuitable to providing open parkland, which was in any case, amply provided by the other two. Iroquois was to represent the forest scenes of the Appalachian Mountains, experienced on the journey from the Mississippi south, to Virginia.

The last major element of Olmsted's design was the parkways connecting the parks with each other and the Downtown. The construction of these was carried out in piecemeal. As well as the major parks and parkways, several smaller, neighborhood parks were designed by Olmsted and later the Olmsted brothers, all 18 contributing to the overall network.

D) The loss of many character defining features of the parks

Over time many of the character defining features of the parks have been lost. Physical and spatial elements have been overlaid, replaced with contemporary elements or altered. The onset of the car, over use, natural disaster, installation of contemporary structures, flytipping, malfunctioning equipment, general disrepair and invasive species had all led to the erosion of the original vision and structure.

The parks were originally designed specifically for 'ease'. So visitors should be able to move through and enjoy the different views and scenes while pursuing their passive or active recreation with ease. Routes guide you through the gently unfolding and ever changing scenery, whether on foot, bicycle, car or horse. The circulation system became fragmented and dysfunctional as the agents of change took their toll, making layouts confusing and movement difficult through some areas leading to perceived dangers and fear for personal security. Ease of use was thus lost.

Shawnee Park, originally designed with recreation in mind had become a victim of its success as it got covered with baseball fields and associated fencing, which obliterated its naturally inspired landscape and led to the exclusion of most other uses and users.

The topography of Iroquois Parks had been taken advantage of as a natural lookout point, first by the American Indians and later, as Olmsted had intended. The summit becoming a desirable vantage point for drivers, thus became over trafficked. The large open grassed 'Summit Field' at the top of the park, 'The Knob' was often to be found covered in cars. This soon became a poorly drained, muddy field, leading to further run off from the summit and erosion of the forested slopes and circulation systems contained within.

Vegetation erosion and loss, as a result of car parking on the edges of the scenic drives, and damage done by the 1974 tornado, has been a major agent of decline of Cherokee Park. The tornado felled 2000 trees in its 20 minute crossing, and subsequently allowed an invasion of alien species to colonize, causing dark masses of impenetrable vegetation. Blocked off views limited the public's natural way-finding ability and led to desire lines, further degrading the visual quality of the designed landscape and creating physical problems with storm water runoff. The characteristic long vistas through the stream valley with meandering paths through the landscape had largely disappeared as a result. Sports pitches and bland, functional, but ugly structures had been placed around the park, further interrupting the composition of the various scenes. Combined sewer outfalls into the Creek degraded water quality and increased flow, thus reducing the creeks natural ability to withstand erosion of its banks by floods.

E) Strategy for the revitalization of the parks

The strategy for the Olmsted Parks, was to first define the 'period of significance' within the life span of the parks' history. In this case it was defined as being mostly from the 1890s to 1916, and partially into the 1930s, when the parks and parkways were designed and built.

Its significance, as a designed historic landscape, is recognized through the designation of the Louisville system as being listed on the National Register of Historic Places thus recognizing its importance as a cultural resource for its citizens . It also offers it some protection from federally funded projects that may impact on these historic resources. As the three separate parks were designed to be distinctly different from each other the rehabilitation strategies had also to be distinctly different for each. The key concept of 'ease of use' was one of the major and constant considerations taken into account with the rehabilitation strategy.

Shawnee Park's formal sports provision has been condensed into one area, thus restoring the informal landscape and therefore the park's pastoral quality. Strategic views to the river have been restored by vegetation clearance and land form alterations, overcoming physical and visual barriers created by flood defenses.

Problems of car domination at the top of Iroquois have been overcome by redesigning the former muddy grassed field into a native Savannah wildflower meadow. This has transformed the car dominated mud bath into a flowering oasis, while also saving on maintenance costs, being now managed by burning on a 3 year rotation, as the American Indians do with only grass paths mowed regularly.

The flowing lines, vistas and routes of the river valley landscape in Cherokee Park have been restored with the creation of additional new paths, giving access to a long derelict stonework seating area surrounding the seasonally running Barringer Springs, re-interpreting both the natural and designed aspects of the park.

The preservation and rehabilitation strategies of the master plan and the other park programs designed by Louisville Metro, are in the process of reversing decline. Louisville will thus receive the full benefit of the Olmsted legacy, while meeting the need for current and future recreational needs, through sensitive design and the creation of new facilities which do not compromise the original vision.

The extension of Olmsted Parks' legacy throughout Greater Louisville

The mission of the Louisville Conservancy is also to extend the Olmsted legacy throughout Greater Louisville for the benefit of generations to come who could enjoy an extensive green space in Louisville 'The City of Parks' The long term vision of the Mayor of Louisville in 2005 to build upon the groundwork laid down over 100 years ago, is to ensure, as the community grows, that all residents have access to quality parks and open space.

The delivery mechanism for this is a significant public private partnership consisting of several organizations including Metro Parks, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Louisville Metro Government, 21st Century Parks (A new not for profit organization established to accept donations for land acquisition and for development of new parks) and the Trust for Public Land, (a national not for profit group which works to conserve land for the public to enjoy)

This partnership is working together to accomplish three major projects:

- Acquire land which will become a new interconnected system of parks

- Create a 100 mile, green loop and trail around Louisville's perimeter to tie together its diverse parks and communities, and control sprawl, ( like a usable greenbelt)

- Invest in improving the existing parks.

So far, the local government has earmarked $20million over a multi-year initiative with $1million pledged in the 2005-6 budget. $38million was secured from federal funds in 2005, and with private contributions, the total raised by December '05 was $60million. The setting up of the '21st Century Parks' organization has enabled the acceptance of tax deductible donations.

Innovative Park Creation for Restoring, Enhancing and Preserving A Brighter Future for All

The City of Parks initiative, while mostly acquiring land and building new parks, is also crucial, in helping with the 'restore, enhance and preserve' mission of the Conservancy. The Olmstedian 'Ease of Use and accessibility' philosophy is being continued and expanded thus aiding access to the original as well as new parks. The new parks can incorporate new requirements, such as state of the art skateboard facilities and interactive water features, rather than having these facilities squeezed into landscapes which weren't designed to accommodate them. 'Extreme Park' skateboard and cycling park is just such a facility, located in downtown Louisville, an extension of Waterfront Park a brilliant service which has become nationally renowned. Facilities such as bike hire are provided in the new sites, thus increasing visitors. The new Waterfront Park is an exciting collection of activities, ecologies and spaces contributing to the richness of Louisville's collection of parks.

Waterfront Park has helped to jump-start the downtown area. Over $400million has been invested in the downtown riverside area since 1994. The park itself costs £100million. Historic buildings have been retained and re-used within the development zone, with the history and character of Louisville respected as people are re-connected with their waterside. Jobs in that area have grown from 400 in 1986, to over 5,300. Metro Parks department are developing new parkways to add further connections from the downtown to the parks, thus increasing accessibility and use of the system. Louisville's early recognition of the value of parks, has enabled it to stop, and then reverse the spiral of decline, and resuscitate this resource on a massive scale for the benefit of the city. In doing so, it has helped in continuing to define the city's form, preserve the rich native landscape and improve property values.

Louisville's Olmsted Parks and Parkways a unique component to the fabric of the city, contributes to the quality of life for all citizens. The value of the clearly-planned system of large landscaped parks connected by tree-lined parkways, and smaller parks, playgrounds, and squares is greater than ever. For parks have the ability to improve almost every aspect of life for individuals and the community at large. Caring for these historic treasures and seeing that they remain valuable assets for every community should therefore be the perennial preoccupation in all cities in the world.

Further Reading:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lanzarote Benefits From the Legacy of Cesar Manrique

Lanzarote, the fourth largest of the Canary Islands, owes a great deal to one of the islands most famous residents, Cesar Manrique.

Through his vision the island was saved from extensive tourist developments during the 1970's which helped preserve the natural look and feel that so many people return year after year for today.

Unlike some of the other Canary Islands, Lanzarote does not play host to tall high rise buildings. Indeed, many buildings do not even break the tree line and are white in appearance. This is thanks to Manriques vision and him imposing certain restrictions on developments on the island through colour, location and height.

It is also thanks to Manrique that there are no advertising billboards lining the (few) roads on the island of Lanzarote. This has also helped to keep the natural look and appearance of island and keep it from becoming over commercialised.

Manrique, an artist by trade, also helped to shape some of the natural attractions on the island, all of which I have been lucky enough to visit on several occasions.

Through the use of natural landscapes and lava tunnels Manrique created a number of visitor attractions throughout the island, some of which are detailed below.

In the North of the island Mirador del Rio looks out over the island of La Graciosa. Mirador (Spanish for lookout) sits on top of the northern cliffs of Lanzarote and offers amazing views out over the neighboring island. There is also a coffee shop / bar here. It is a very relaxing place, as indeed Lanzarote is a very relaxing island!

Manrique was also responsible for the restaurant located in the Timanfaya National Park. This restaurant provides a totally unique "natural" grill where food is cooked from the heat of the underlying volcano.

It is with regret that Manrique was tragically killed in 1992 in a car accident just a few metres from his home (now the Cesar Manrique foundation), however it is clear that we owe a lot to Manrique for making Lanzarote what it is today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top 10 Great Things to See & Do in Andalucia, Spain

1. Sun and Sand

With a thousand kilometers of coastline there is one common factor: the Sun. Come and be captivated by Andalusia's coast, where you will find a endless miles of unspoilt beaches, majestic cliffs, salt marshes brimming with wildlife and a little-known undersea world simply waiting to be discovered.

Andalusia's coastal beaches are its natural heritage and each have their own distinct personality. The coastline, includes the Costa Del Sol in Malaga, the Costa de la Luz in Cadiz and the Costa de la Luz in Huelva, the Almeria Coast & the Costa Tropical in Granada, all are idyllic natural settings, with crystal clear warm waters and year round sunshine.

2. Golf

If golf is your passion, you will be in the best region in Spain for this sport. You can enjoy the sun whilst playing golf in Andalusia all year round.

From the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, Andalusia offers a generous host of courses with first class facilities and stunning surroundings that are worth visiting simply in their own right.

Whether you are an novice or a pro, you will find Andalusia the perfect place to play, thanks to its excellent weather and the quantity and quality of the courses. There is an extensive range to suit all players. The variety of the courses, their facilities and their track record with many of the major championships being held, which help guarantee golfing quality in Andalusia.

3. Entertainment & shopping

Choose from one of the many amusement parks in Andalusia; Descubre Isla Magica or El Parque de las ciencias being just two of the options available to a visitor to the region

For shopping lovers the huge El Corte Ingles shopping complex provides a superb shopping experience, or visit Puerto Banus for its exclusive brand name boutique shopping beside the delightfully quaint harbour.

Markets (or mercados in Spanish) are a common sight in the towns and villages throughout the Andalusia region, They are noisy, colorful and highly entertaining and an experience to be witnessed, whether you plan to shop or not. Markets thrive throughout the province and are the pivotal centre of life in towns and villages.

4. Nature

Get closer to nature in Andalusia by enjoying the magnificent Whale & Dolphin Watching off the straits off Andalusia. There are two national parks in Andalusia: Donana and Sierra Nevada providing a great way to spend time amongst stunning natural landscapes.

Andalusia is a bird watcher's paradise as it lies on the Europe to Africa migratory routes.and attracts ornithologists all year round. There are in fact so many ways to connect with nature when visiting Andalusia from visiting its abundant Forests, Sampling its Salt water and Fresh water fishing or simply admiring the wonder of its numerous Olive groves and Cork trees.

5. Sports

Whether indoors or outdoors, Andalusia offers a broad range of sporting activities, and there are numerous kinds of national and international competitions held in the province.

Sporting competions held regularly at Andalusia's different stadiums, circuits, pitches, sports halls and courts also allow spectators to enjoy watching live sporting competition at the topmost level. Famous events include Formula 1 Grand Prix or the Motorcycle Racing World Championship can be witnessed alongside international surfing and body board competitions.

6. Relaxation & Therapy

Andalusia has all the right ingredients and is the perfect setting for you to enjoy a personalized health and beauty treatment experience. It is an ideal place to combine action and pleasure.

If you are looking for that healthy holiday for both body and mind, then your senses will be satisfied by the exceptional facilities and treatments awaiting you here in Andalusia.

Thermal waters, a range of mud treatments, therapeutic baths, water jets, algae therapies, massages... these are the main components for revitalising treatments at specially designed spas and hotels.

7. Flamenco

Flamenco is a passionate and seductive art form of dancing, a mysterious and misunderstood culture that has been practised in Andalusia for nearly half a millennia, and today flamenco has numerous aficionado's worldwide.

Many people witness flamenco in some form or another during their summer vacations in Andalusia, especially on the Costa Del Sol, where there are great flamenco Tablaos in abundance

8. Culture

Andalusia has a wealth of culture that will take you way back into history, with major archaeological sites, the legacy of the different cultures and civilizations that made their home in this rich, beautiful land in the south of Spain.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada and the Giralda in Sevilla are first class World Heritage monuments, an immense artistic legacy that has been passed down across millennia of history.

The stunning Moorish, Renaissance and, especially the Baroque architecture can be seen in its most important buildings, the fortresses, the castles, and monasteries to be found throughout andalusia, which help to complete a hugely valuable array of cultural heritage.

9. Sierra Nevada

Snow & Sun, Sea & Mountains, Sport & Relaxation, Art & Gastronomy, Shopping & Therapy at a Spa, Sierra Nevada offers you the perfect combination of all of these.

Sierra Nevada is a paradise for snow lovers. It has the number-one ski resort in southern Europe, where you can enjoy the maximum number of sunny days a year, is the perfect place for all winter activities.

The quality of its services and facilities together with its lively atmosphere and nightlife make this mountain retreat a five star spot for winter sports lovers.

10. Gastronomy

The Mediterranean diet is in vogue. Basic products such as fresh vegetables and pulses, fresh fish, ripe fruit and virgin olive oil have made Andalusian cuisine a major force to reckoned with.

Andalusian cuisine centres around fresh, localy sourced ingredients, with fresh fish dishes available in all coastal areas and the finest meat dishes inland. A huge variety of sun ripened fruit is to be found throughout.

The gastronomy of Andalusia owes much of its origins to the Moorish cuisine of Al-Andalus. Its style came to transform many customs. It was the people of Al-Andalus who first created the dining room and the current order of dishes served in a traditional Andalusian meal.

Friday, October 17, 2014

10 Cool Things To See On Berkshire Trails With Your Dog

"If your dog is fat," the old saying goes, "you aren't getting enough exercise." But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see in the Berkshire Hills while out walking the dog.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s President FranklinRoosevelt put thousands of unemployed men to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Work camps were set up across the country with the mandate to build roads, reforest denuded lands, and construct recreational facilities for public use. Some of the greatest legacies of this "Tree Army" are in the Berkshires, including Bascom Lodge on the summit of Mount Greylock. Designed by Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance, the rustic shelter was designed to blend in with the landscape using native materials of stone (Greystone schist) and lumber (red spruce and oak).


The great ice rivers of the last Ice Age melted from Massachusetts about 15,000 years ago, scraping and shaping the landscape and leaving behind a fair share of debris. Strange rock formations from retreating glaciers are known as erratics. The greatest oddity in Pittsfield State Forest is a glacial erratic known as Balance Rock. The massive 165-ton limestone boulder teeters precariously upon a small, 3-foot piece of bedrock.


Does your dog have any herding instincts? At Tyringham Cobble the canine hike begins in an open field where you may find yourself hiking with your dog through a free-ranging herd of Hereford cattle - as they have done for 200 years.


A canine hike in October Mountain State Forest may be your best chance to spot Massquatch, New England's version of Bigfoot. There have been occasional sightings of a hairy, oversized, human-like creature in Massachusetts across the years from the Atlantic beaches to the Berkshire Mountains. The Berkshire Eagle twice reported encounters at October Mountain in the 1980s, including an up-close and-personal at a former Boy Scout camp near Felton Lake.


After World War II interrupted his career as a Williams College librarian, Lawrence Bloedel purchased the former Nathan Field farm with his wife Eleanore. In 1948 the couple retained Edwin Goodell to build a house to accommodate their expanding collection of contemporary American art. He responded with a modern, window-dominated design adorned with simple lines. In 1966, Ulrich Franzen delivered a Victorian Shingle-style house for the Bloedels' grandchildren, known as The Folly. The Bloedels donated their blend of architecture and nature to the Trustees of Reservations in 1984 and when you hike with your dog at Field Farm today you can walk among 13 modern sculptures, including works by Richard M. Miller, Jack Zajac, Bernard Reder and Herbert Ferber.


Nathaniel Hawthorne called the Ice Glen, a cleft in the rocks between Bear and Little mountains behind the town of Stockbridge, "the most curious fissure in all Berkshire." It is a ravine without a stream - all the water around Ice Glen flows on a south-north axis while the gorge is aligned east to west. In fact, the glen, stuffed with stacked boulders and draped with hemlocks, was once a glacial lake. Tucked away from the sun's rays, the season's last snow melts here, hence its name. Further west, beyond West Stockbridge, Stevens Glen was once one of the busiest tourist destinations in the the county. In the late 1800s Romanza Stevens built bridges and staircases to the Glen and its waterfall and charged 25 cents for tourists to view the magic of Lenox Mountain Brook.


In Natural Bridge State Park, the site of a marble quarry until 1947, is a dam built totally of marble blocks, etched in black on the edges. As Ed Elder, who operated the property as a roadside tourist attraction, would describe it, "This is the only marble dam outside Athens, Greece."


Shaker communities were required to clear the summit of a nearby hill for worship. Near Hancock around 1842, this site was atop Mt. Sinai, now known as Shaker Mountain. The trail today leads to two Shaker sacred sites that have been leveled out on the top of Mt. Sinai and Holy Mount. When the Shakers worshipped here non-believers were not allowed on these grounds.


All over the Berkshires your dog can view and swim under hydrospectaculars. Some are reached with hardly a hike (Campbell Falls, Windsor Jambs, Wahconah Falls), others with a little effort (The Notch Brook Cascades, Bash Bish Falls, Tannery Falls) and other waterfalls are rewards for a spirited canine hike such as Sages Ravine in Mount Everett State Reservation.


The stone walls found throughout Massachusetts are some of the most beautiful walls ever built. The fact that so many can be found in Berkshire woods attests to the skill used in construction. You could not just pile up rocks found around your property and call it a wall. When a stone wall was finished it needed to be inspected by a fence viewer. If a wall was deemed sound the owner could not be liable for damage done to his crops by other farmer's animals.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Travel Sedona's Red Rock Country - The Jordan Family Legacy

Although one could stay for months in the beautiful red rock rimmed landscape of Sedona, many of the 4 million tourists per year visit just for a day; perhaps on their way to the Grand Canyon or up from Phoenix to escape the heat. On any given day, Uptown Sedona is buzzing with tourists shopping at the quaint boutiques, crystal shops and art galleries, sampling local treats and enjoying the spectacular 360 degree view of crimson monoliths. In the heart of Uptown Sedona, just a few blocks up Jordan Road, visitors can also get a taste of life in the early days of Sedona by visiting the Sedona Heritage Museum. Jordan Road is named for one of Sedona's early families who devoted their lives to developing Sedona into a thriving community for their children and future generations.

The story of Sedona's famous Jordan family begins with William and his wife, Annie Bristow Jordan, their sons George and Walt and their wives, Helen and Ruth. This industrious, hard-working family and their orchards became a cornerstone for Sedona's commerce.

William Jordan originally began farming in Arizona in 1881 about 20 miles west of Sedona near Clarkdale. There he had great success until the toxic fumes from the nearby Clemenceau smelter killed his crops resulting in one of the first U. S. Supreme Court battles against a firm for environmental pollution. He conducted tests of air samples to determine how far away he needed to move to resurrect his enterprise. In 1926, he purchased 175 acres at the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon from Claude Black who had only just purchased it a few years earlier.

There were 9 children born to Will and Annie Jordan: six sons and three daughters. When the two eldest sons went off to fight in WW1, Walter, the third son, dropped out of high school to assume his brothers' duties on the farm. It was Will's fourth son, George who bought out the orchard from him in 1927 and started marketing produce as far as 120 miles away. Walt worked with George until 1928 and then began his own farm on a 65 acre of patch of dry land that Will acquired from Jesse Purtyman for $1000.00 and 12 creek side acres of the original Jordan property. Not much for dry farming, Walt needed to figure out a way to irrigate his crops. He investigated purchasing a water wheel system from New York, but it cost more than the entire purchase price of the original 175 acres. Determined, Walt enlisted the help of George, who had studied engineering back east. Together they poured over the drawings of the water wheel and during the following winter, George began building the components for a giant water wheel right on the living room floor much to the dismay of his tidy wife, Helen. By spring they had the beginnings of the Sedona City water works.

During the Great Depression, produce prices were low and it was difficult for local farmers to make a profit, so George began a co-op. Local farmers would bring their goods to his packing shed where the produce was uniformly packed and readied for market. George would then take the fresh fruits and vegetables to his customers in the neighboring towns of Jerome, Cottonwood, Clarkville, and Prescott as well as Flagstaff and other northern Arizona towns.

Walt could have been considered a Renaissance man of his time. He researched and taught himself all aspects of farming and running an orchard: soil nutrients, grafting and pruning fruit trees and using bees for pollination. He even set up his own weather station and devised a thermostat system to monitor the conditions for frost.

Walter started his farming legacy by growing carrots and driving the hand bundled bunches 12 hours by Model A Ford to Phoenix. There he and his wife would sell them to the hotels and restaurants. Using the money he made from marketing carrots, he was able to pay off his father for the parcel of land, purchase some fruit trees and build a 14 x 20 foot cabin which became the Sedona Heritage Museum in 1990. During the years it took for the fruit trees to mature, he grew strawberries, beans and other vegetables for income.

Getting his precious cargo to market was often a harrowing experience. After working in the orchards all day, he then worked into the night packing the produce on his modified truck. With little or no sleep, Walt had to drive at a snail's pace over steep slopes and navigate some tight places with plummeting drop offs on northern Arizona's early rugged roads.

The Jordan family legacy lives on in the Sedona Heritage Museum located inside Jordan Historical Park.

It was Ruth who desired to preserve the history of Sedona and after Walter's death she approached the Sedona Historical Society with an idea for a museum. In 1991 the Jordan home became the property of the City of Sedona and is now managed by the Sedona Historical society.

Visiting the museum is a great way to experience the life in the early times of Sedona. In addition to the cabin with its original furnishings and the packing house, the museum displays antique farming implements, various exhibits and has a quaint gift shop. The Sedona Historical Society hosts many events there and continuously strives to preserve and teach Sedona's history.

A walk around the park gives the visitor an opportunity to stand in Walter and Ruth's shoes.

The homestead is surrounded by inspiring red rock formations such as The Fin and The Sail. These shapes were familiar friends of the Jordan family. One outcropping, The King and His Three Wives overlooked Walt and Ruth's first home. This configuration consists of a group of small monoliths. The king is off by himself facing a cluster of 3 monoliths, his queens. It is noted it by their daughter, F Ruth Jordan in Following Their Westward Star that Walt thought the tree on the ledge of the king appears to be his boutonniere.

There are several hiking trails just behind the park where an avid hiker as well as the casual visitor can enjoy the natural beauty of Sedona. Walk the trail around the formation known as the Cibola mitten named for the mythical Spanish City of Gold or take a longer trek on Brin's Mesa. As you drink in the boundless beauty surrounding you, imagine life as an early settler; working endless hours under primitive conditions relying only on resolution, endurance and ingenuity.

Look for more articles in this series Watch for Red Rocks by Ann Galgano-Bellile.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Custom Software Development Makes Economical Sense For Extranets - Asian Paints Case Study

Twenty years back most companies the world over had no choice but to use custom developed software. Custom Software developed for self use provided the only means of mapping and automating the business processes within. Large IT teams typically were hard at work developing customized software for business users. These were well before the days of software outsourcing.

Then came the wave of out of box enterprise solutions like SAP, Peoplesoft, Baan, Oracle and corporate IT lapped them up in a big way. Centralized databases and real-time view of data were the buzz words and any company worth its salt did not want to be left behind. Legacy custom developed softwares were quickly consigned to the dustbins (oh OK Recycle bins!) and the long and painful implementations (not to miss on the lighter wallets) began. We will not get into the debate on Custom Software versus Enterprise Apps as that is not the subject of this article.

Instead we would like to explore why it makes sense to look at custom software solutions in the current context specially for extending the enterprise to channel partners like distributors, dealers, service centers etc. the example used is of Asian Paints. Asian Paints has always been at the cutting edge of technology implementation

I will take the example of MySAP Call Centre implementation replacing the legacy software at Asian Paints a leading corporate in India. Asian Paints was operating a 12 seater distributed call centre with a custom software solution. At that time, the software at Asian Paints was made by a single member team and met all the requirements of Asian Paints. The only problem was that the custom software used by Asian Paints made use of distributed databases. In the year 2002 Asian Paints (an existing SAP customer) wanted to explore the feasibility of shifting to MySAP to manage the Call Centre. We are not sure what level of evaluation was undertaken by Asian Paints besides - "It's from SAP so it must be worth it!". Certainly no usability study and impact on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was undertaken by the team at Asian Paints.

Nonetheless, MySAP was rolled out swiftly to the Asian Paints Mumbai Call Centre by the Asian Paints IT team (thankfully saving the fat implementation bill at least). Our familiar Custom Software lay firmly in the bin!

But just a few months on when we (at Asian Paints) looked at the effectiveness and cost benefit we were in for a surprise. Why? Read on...

  • For a simple call that needed very few data fields to be captured in the Custom Software solution, Asian Paints agents now had to fill many more data fields as dictated by MySAP leading to longer call handling times
  • The training required to learn to use the software increased many fold leading to higher induction time and cost for Asian Paints.
  • The call centre needed leased line connectivity to the Asian Paints servers so add a connectivity cost into the equation
  • If there was a power failure or link failure the Asian Paints Helpline would stop working - so add the backup power, and backup connectivity cost
  • The screen was so cluttered that the Asian Paints Helpline agents needed bigger monitors so add the cost of new workstations
  • Some of the reports specifically required by the Asian Paints Call Center were not available or configurable easily
  • We are of course not going to talk about the license costs etc. that Asian Paints had to bear. So we end up with significantly greater costs (the increase in costs are too embarrassing for me to share) for one great achievement - Real time data!
And that too for a 10 odd seater Call Centre that Asian Paints had to operate! What's the alternative? Maybe a simple custom software solution using xml web services based synchronization could have saved Asian Paints thousands of dollars every year. Is it possible? Of course and quite effective. Read this article for more on distributed solutions.

One last question is bound to come up. What if we want to have data synchronize with SAP? Well we just write some ABAP code and expose some methods to consume data from third party applications.

The technology landscape has changed and it is now possible to extend corporate ERPs to partners through third party custom Software quite easily without incurring the heavy overheads thus significantly reducing TCO.

Food for thought?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Landscape Edging Stones - A Great Way to Spruce Up Your Garden

Now that the harsh winter of 2009-2010 is just a memory it may be the right time to get outside and make some of those landscape improvements that will allow the days spent on the lawn a more pleasant experience. Of course, the reason people spend time outside is to enjoy nature so why not make those improvements with a natural landscape edging stones.

Natural stone lends itself to a variety of aesthetic applications, such as edging around a flower bed to add to the natural feel of the plants growing there or to create a walkway to make it easier to go from place to place. Natural stone can even be used as a retaining wall to protect the earth that is being held back from erosion. Unlike wood or plastic, stone will last forever and needs little to no upkeep once it has been installed.

Stone has been used in a great many ways in the past and many of the structures it has been used to create are still standing centuries after their first application. It is not unusual to see stone structures built centuries ago throughout the world that are living on and being used by modern day man. This is not only a testament to the builders of those structures but to the quality of the material itself. For those wishing to leave a legacy for future generations, natural stone is the way to go.

When using natural landscape edging stones for a do it yourself project a few techniques should be considered. Remember that it will be necessary to displace some of the earth and sod from the spot that will receive the edging. By laying a plastic barrier down before placing the stones weeds and grass will have no place to grow and pop up in the cracks between the stones. That means a little digging and a bit of extra work, but the effect will be worth it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Take Care Of Your Business, VIII

Respect Yourself And The Country Around You

A few weeks ago, I drove from Colorado to North Carolina and back. I wanted to see my son and daughter and grandkids, and haul out several holidays' worth of unshipped presents to them. And I wanted to have a little adventure, the type of which you can only have when you see the U-S-A in your Chev-ro-let (or, in my case, your little import pickup truck).

I wasn't in a hurry. I took some back roads. On the way out east, I stopped by the Shiloh National Battlefield and filled myself with a new consciousness of the courage and perseverance it took to preserve freedom in our Union a century-and-a-half ago. And on the way back, I meandered through the coal mining countryside of West Virginia and Kentucky, where I gained a new respect for, well, respect.

The poorest economic areas of our nation are now in the inner portions of our big cities. Social programs have drawn an ever-increasing percentage of our population to the cities where poor people can be "helped" (or supervised, or - some might say - enslaved), so the poorest part of the country is no longer the rural coal-mining region. But you can still see the ghost of poverty everwhere you look in coal country, from the hollowed-out mining towns to the once-bustling shop districts now devoid of humanity.

But the worst thing I saw was the garbage.

In rural North Carolina, near the area now called the "research triangle" and where the elite class now lives, the countryside may not be pristine, but it's pretty. Same for Virginia. But by the time I got to coal country, I saw a volume of roadside garbage that surprised me, and the likes of which I don't see anywhere else (and I've driven extensively throughout the American countryside). Occasionally, the road widened and I'd see a cluster of huge, ostentatiously-pretty homes with attractive landscaping. Then I'd drive around the next bend in the road, and there again, I'd see piles of trash.

Why doesn't anyone get out and clean this up? I wondered. Out west, on the way out, I'd seen jail crews out in their orange vests, filling bags with roadside trash. Why don't the coal country communities even care enough about how their towns and landscapes look to dispatch jail crews to clean them up? I mean, I hadn't seen trash like this since the last time I walked around the poor inner-city areas of Denver, or Phoenix, or Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or Atlanta, or Dallas, or Chicago, or New York.

You know, the places young protestors like to "Occupy" these days.

I have a theory: there's a legacy of victimhood in these places that doesn't soon depart, once people become accustomed to being taken care of by the government and not to taking care of themselves. And wherever people feel poor and incapable of self-determination, the cycle becomes deeply rooted and the trash starts to pile up. The answer, I figured, was this: they don't have the habit of self-respect in some places in America, and you can tell those places by the garbage.

Forget for the moment the inner workings of collectivist economics. Forget the inner city. Focus instead on your inner self. Are you feeding your inner Victim with negativity, envy, jealousy, class-warfare, and self-loathing of everything from your own nation to your own talents? Or are you feeding the opposite part of your nature - your inner Entrepreneur - with optimism, self-reliance, generosity, and self-respect of everything from your resume to your community?

If you think of yourself as just another cog in the great machine, as just another unit of human resource to be deployed (or not) by your government masters, as just another number to be called at the unemployment office... please, for the sake of us all, think again. Think of yourself as a business. You're in business to share the best of your skills and talents with an eager market. You're in business to find and keep happy customers. Whether or not you actually own and run a commercial enterprise, you're in business to be the best you can be. Don't concern yourself with getting your "fair share" - focus on making the world better, and trust that everyone will get a better share when there's simply more to go around.

Make, don't take. Expect to take care of yourself and others, not to be taken care of. Thinking of ways to create new opportunities beats sitting around and lamenting the opportunities politicians say you never got. It beats it every time.

While I was in coal country, I took the opportunity to go by Coalwood, where the story of "October Sky" is set. It's an inspiring movie, and therefore one of my favorites. It's a story about overcoming adversity, not succumbing to it. And you can still see the self-respect in that tiny little place, where rockets took off and true hope soared, more than half a century ago. Folks there are probably still poor... but the town's a little cleaner, and there is almost a palpable optimism in the air that still hasn't left Coalwood since the days of Homer Hickam and "the Rocket Boys."

Then, just around the corner, on the way back to the main road, there are piles of garbage by the side of the otherwise-beautiful country road. I tried not to look at the trash. I tried to look at the opportunity there - the opportunity to clean up the landscape and reclaim the beauty of this one little corner of America.

The government wants to grow by making you diminish. Your opponents in life want to keep you hopeless, helpless, and self-loathing. But you don't have to be those things. You can ignore the victim-makers. You can take care of your own business with true self-respect, and watch your fortunes take off - like a rocket.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Changeability - Can You Drive Your Business Without it?

"...a systematic and institutional capacity forchange may now be a company's single most valuable asset." Michael Hammer, Beyond Reengineering

You may be in charge of your company but are you in control of it? How many times have you tried to manoeuvre your company in a particular direction to find that it is incapable of responding in either the right timescales or manner? Make no mistake, your ability to steer and move your company is only as good as its inherent ability to respond to the need to change, its business change capability. Would you accept a car that had a rubber steering column and did 0-60 in whatever time it felt like? Of course not, so why accept the equivalent in terms of business change management?

Take a good look at your own company. Operationally you may be doing a good job of servicing the customers. Management wise you've probably got a good team doing your planning and overseeing the day-to-day operations but how well are you coping with your changes? How many IT projects do you have on the go? How many reorganisations or office moves? What's the impact? What's the cost? What's the benefit? Who's doing what to whom and when? How do you know? Is it within your means to change the direction and momentum of that reengineering programme? Is change a necessary evil or an opportunity to succeed? It's probably a bit of both but one thing is for sure, it's not going to go away.

The Change Imperative

All businesses must change over time or else they will fail. The commercial landscape is constantly changing due to the interplay between the market, legislation, technology and competitors. Two things are needed to navigate that landscape: headlights and a responsive vehicle. New and small businesses tend to have the latter by default. They don't have the massive cultural, technical and customer legacy of larger, older companies to hold them back. The smarter of these businesses will have also invested in a good set of headlights. As they succeed they too accrue a legacy to slow them down, unless of course they have developed a business change capability in line with their growth.

When is a Change Not a Change?

So what is a business change capability? Let's start by defining a business change. All businesses can naturally cope with a limited amount of variation in the cases they handle. Shops can handle different basket sizes and mixes, manufacturers can produce customised products and hospitals can treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. The twin daily operational goals of efficiency and effectiveness produce a compromise position. Increases in efficiency tend to result in specialisation that in turn reduces the ability to handle variation whilst the drive to be effective requires an ability to handle all the variation being thrown at it by the chosen market. It's fast food versus a la carte service. At the end of the day a particular operational model is implemented. Any change to this operational model is a business change. A business change capability is the means to efficiently and effectively (there they are again) perform a business change.

House of Cards

That's OK then, all you need to do is improve the way you reorganise, implement systems or move office. If only it were that simple. Businesses are incredibly complex and sensitive organisms. They can swallow directorial dicta without blinking but change the coffee in the finance department and your invoices take three times as long to process. The operational model mentioned above is not as simple as an organisation chart or a flow diagram. It is multidimensional. Move location and you affect processes, roles, infrastructure and communications. Change a department's structure and you can impact jobs, systems, facilities, information flow and loyalties. Implementing a new system will change processes, skill-sets, responsibilities and data. Any potential change needs to be considered holistically to increase the chance of success (or for those whose cup is half empty, to reduce the risk of failure).

The Whole and Nothing but the Whole

Taking a holistic perspective of change brings with it a whole new mindset compared to some of the more traditional change efforts. No longer do you have 'system implementation' projects, you have 'process improvement through faster access to information and the removal of organisational boundaries' projects. No longer do you have 'reorganisation' initiatives, you have 'the clarification of roles and responsibilities through the clear ownership of processes and the implementation of supporting systems' initiatives. The days of dropping a new system or organisational structure from a great height into the operational business without making sure it fits must come to an end.

Turning on the Lights

Now that we have a holistic view of a business change we start to notice something. There appears to be more interference between the various change initiatives taking place in the company. Joe's new customer care processes rely on roles that Fred is removing in his web interface project. Helen's team-working initiative is being impacted by Sue's relocation project. The holistic viewpoint has not created these overlaps it has simply made them more visible. To complete the picture we need a common language across all the initiatives that enables these overlaps to be seen. That language comes in the form of business models.

Super Models

Business models provide a pictorial and textual description of a business. They act as a set of maps onto which change activity can be plotted. Only by using a common set of models across the business and for all change initiatives can we determine who is doing what to whom and where effort is duplicated or lacking. Without this, time, money and energy will be wasted regardless of the skill and best intentions of the participants. These models must cover the various perspectives required by the holistic view. This includes process, organisation, systems, data and location. 'That's all well and good' I hear you say 'but these models will always be out of date'. 'Not if you build their maintenance into your change processes', I reply. Which brings us nicely to the next topic: method.

Process Rules

Whether they like it or not all businesses have method or, if you prefer, processes. How good they are is another matter but all businesses have a way of working. They know what to do when certain events happen such as a customer placing an order. Similarly, in order to conduct business change we need a method or a set of processes. What do we do when a potential change is identified? What do we do when a change project needs to change scope or fails to deliver? How do we handle a new corporate vision? How do we handle a simple process improvement? How do we allocate resources across dozens of competing changes? A permanent business change capability needs to be able to answer these questions by providing a set of processes, roles and supporting systems capable of dealing with all of these situations. Such a capability has the added bonus of being self-improving. It is just another set of business processes etc that can be modeled and changed.

So What.....?

So what does all of this mean? It means that, with a set of repeatable processes that help define potential changes holistically, assess their impact and interdependencies, determine the optimum mix of integrated change initiatives across the company and maintain an accurate set of business models, you have some hope of driving your company through that mixture of mine-field and oil-field, the corporate landscape. Without it you'd better get used to that rubbery steering and sponge-like response ...but then again maybe it is time for a service.