Monday, July 31, 2006

UNE Strategic Planning - Scoping Issues

My last post - On Rabbitohs, Welsman and the University of New England - concluded that the the silver rabbits given to the South Sydney players were a device to motivate the players by linking the present and past. I suggested that maybe that's what we need with with UNE.

My key point here is that the broader UNE community - alumni, present students, past and present staff, other stakeholders - need something to believe in, to reinforce their links with and support for the institution and its future. The strategic planning exercise will have failed if it does not deliver this.

I now want to extend my argument by looking at some scoping issues. Here I write as an insider, outsider. Insider because of my long standing links with the place, outsider because I am not there, am not caught up in current internal issues and structures.

As I see it, UNE has become far too inward looking and introspective. In a strange way the place has shrunk in its own perception of itself.

I first became aware of this trend when I returned to UNE in 1981 as a full time postgraduate student in history.

I grew up with the early College and University. Then I was a full time student there from 1963-1966.

Early UNE staff struggled with remote location and limited resources. They knew that they had to fight, to be better, simply to survive. They were actively involved in the broader New England community and far beyond. There was active intellectual debate.

The internal student body was small - there were only around 1,200 full time internal undergraduates - but diverse, drawing together kids from the North Coast who were the first in their family to go to University with academic's children and overseas students brought to Armidale by the Columbo Plan. The overseas student proportion was quite high (probably over 10 per cent) and very visible, with the Overseas Students Association being the largest student society. Relations between staff and students were close.

By 1981 when I came back to study full time again, the University was much bigger, yet somehow it seemed to have shrunk.

Part of the changes such as the abolition of the ubiquitous green gown that all undergraduates had to wear were a reflection of broader social change during the seventies. But I also thought that the growth had created a degree of complacency, that people were far more concerned with immediate internal issues, less with the external world outside the University and its immediate environs.

The University's international reach, while greater in absolute terms, had declined in relative terms. The active regional outreach programs across the broader New England had also declined.

This was the start of a period of rapid change in Australian tertiary education. The University really struggled to cope. I think that the earlier more outward looking and aggressive UNE would have managed this period far better simply because it knew, collectively, that it had be better just to survive. The University as it had become seemed to suffer an almost fatal loss of confidence.

I was again back in Armidale for much of this period. I was distressed by the way in which the place seemed to have lost its sense of its own past. I also that found the University's constant changes of directions, its slow decision processes made it very difficult to work with the place on specific development projects.

An example.

Over 1994 through to early 1996 I was involved in two projects. One was the attempt to create an electronic network, the Collective Wisdom project, linking all Armidale educational institutions to, among other things, showcase what was possible. The second was the attempt to create a cooperative multimedia centre under the then Commonwealth Government's cooperative multimedia centre program. Both required UNE to lead if they were to work. This was simply not possible.

UNE stabilized under Ingrid. Many good things have been done, some of which are referred to in the discussion paper. But I still think that it remains too inward looking and Armidale focused. I think that this comes out in the planning paper itself.

Had UNE done this exercise in 1965, the regional market would have been defined in terms of the broader New England, tablelands, western slopes, plains, coastal strip, hunter. Now this has apparently shrunk to the New England Tablelands and North West. This is a not insignificant change when you come to look at potential student numbers. There would also have been a strong focus on the University's role in the economic, social and community development in this broader region, linking this to broader regional development.

The discussion paper's focus on regional development is welcome, although I also think that it is unbalanced. It is, I think, sad to say but true that UNE's position in regional development has actually declined since the University lost sight of its broader regional role.

Another example.

My historical studies in the early eighties had a strong focus on regional movements in Australia and especially in the broader New England New State area. There was then a very strong postgraduate group from Diploma up to PhD working on local, regional and family history, providing valuable interaction. Earlier theses were an invaluable resource. The Dixon Library local history collection covered the proposed New England state area from the Hunter up.

Given all this, I actually argued that the UNE should seek to position itself as the national leader in regional, local and family history. This was just too hard to get up at the time. So what happened? The number of students in this area appears to have fallen, the scope of work done appears to have narrowed, the Dixon Library local collection now I think just covers New England North West.

Had UNE done this exercise in 1965, there would have been a strong focus on external studies where UNE was the dominant national provider. The focus is there in the discussion paper, but now the concern is the erosion in UNE's position with the University in third place. The paper does not fully address why this has happened, what is required to turn the position around.

Had UNE done this exercise in 1965, there would have been a strong focus on areas where the University had a measure of national strength, including the development of Australia's rural industries.

I know that UNE has areas of national and international strength. I would be interested to see a discussion of these and how they fit or do not fit with the proposed direction.

This has become a very long post. So I will finish with a plea for a the University to shift its focus away from little New England, big Armidale to look more broadly at what it has been, what it has, what it might be.

In my next post I will look at markets, marketing issues and some of New England's core strengths as I see them.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

On Rabbitohs, Welsman and the University of New England

This post starts with two apparently disconnected events.

Russell Crow along with Peter Holmes a'Court has just acquired the South Sydney rabbitohs.

For those who do not know, this is one of Australia's oldest Rugby League teams. The team went into decline, the game was restructured, and as part of this South Sydney was excluded as a club. The locals would not accept this. They launched a legal challenge. Nobody thought that they could win. They did, and the team was restated.

The reinstated team, out of the competition for a period, struggled. Russell and Peter won control of the struggling club to help it move forward. Following this, Russell gave every player a silver rabbit to remind them of the Club's history and traditions, the things that they were fighting for. Each player is meant to carry the rabbit around with them

In an earlier post, I referred to the well written strategy paper that Sandra Welsman had facilitated for the University of New England. How doeas this fit with South Sydney?

Just as South Sydney is one of Australia's oldest Rugby League teams, so New England is one of Australia's older universities. Just as South Sydney fell on hard times, so UNE found itself struggling. As happened with South Sydney where the official governing body removed the Club from the competition, so UNE found itself struggling with dictates from Canberra. Just as happened with South Sydney where key club stalwarts turned inwards, so UNE people did the same. Just as with South Sydney where people who did not want to change used a variety of techniques to discredit the opposition, so UNE people (especially academics) appear to have responded to Sandra's paper.

Before going on, I need to make it clear that I have a possible unique relationship with UNE, a relationship that certainly biases me. Specifically:

  1. My grandfather, David Drummond, was one of the University's founders. He fought for a university that would properly represent the broader New England.
  2. My father, James Belshaw, was of the five original 1938 staff members at the newly founded New England University College. There he met and married Mum who was the first librarian. I remember the original College as a child. I remember the key staff.
  3. Between 1963 and 1965 I was an undergraduate student at UNE. There were then just 1,200 full time undergraduates, 10 per cent from overseas. It was a magnificent period.
  4. In 1981 and 1982 I was a full time postgraduate student in the History Department. I had retained my links. This period reinforced them. I tried to focus UNE on the possibilities as I saw them, with limited success.
  5. I lived in Armidale from mid 87 to early 96, running a national consultancy business from a regional base. During this period I tried to involve UNE in a number of development projects, again with limited success.
  6. Since I moved to Sydney I have retained my links to UNE especially through Drummond, now Drummond and Smith, College as well as other UNE activities.

The point of this history? Simply, I care about UNE at a deeply personal level. I also know the place reasonably well over a very long period.

In my first response on this blog to Sandra's strategy discussion paper, I suggested that Ndarala might put in a submssion to the UNE strategy review because of the number of us who have a UNE connection. I have changed my mind, partially because so many our our people are busy, mainly because I think that I would prefer to express my own views without compromise.

In doing so, I think that I need to go another route.

Here I am not interested in attacking Sandra and her well written paper.

As Sandra knows, I have some problems with her arguments. I do accept much of her views about the trends in Australian higher education. My problem is the suggested response as it applies to UNE. Sandra, as the true professional she is, will respond to my words in the appropriate way including substantive comment.

So rather than a formal submission that gets lost in the paper, I propose to post a series of comments to this blog. I will let Jeneffer Miller know so that she can inolve other UNE alumni Then they can respond as seems approriate.

Finally, and linking all this back to South Sydney.

The silver rabbits are a device to motivate the players by linking the present and past. Maybe that's what we need with UNE.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Finding the right quote - an aside

If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.- George Bernard Shaw

Do you ever find yourself searching for the right quote and tried to find it via search engines? It can be really frustrating.

One easier way is to use Bill Austin's Famous Quotes site - It's a slightly idiosyncratic site drawing quotes from a variety of sources.

Quotes are filed under a variety of topic headings, making it easier to find quotes for particular purposes or, if bored, simply to surf.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Development and creativity at community level: understanding existing community structures

In my last post I posed the question: is it in fact possible to improve creativity at community level especially where this may require cultural change? I answered the question with a yes. So how might we do this?

As a strategic consultant, my starting point in dealing with change in organisations is to get to understand the organisation's existing structure and culture since these will strongly influence what can be done, more strongly how it might be done. In conventional consulting terms we often call this a diagnostic.

Exactly the same applies at community level. We need a community diagnostic.

Now when we look at the way this is often done we find a focus on economic factors if the core concern is economic development, social symptoms if the driver is a community problem such as violence in indigenous communities. While both are important my focus is different.

To begin with, the objective of the community diagnostic as I see it is not to prescribe - any solutions or actions come later - but to understand just where the community currently stands. So it is descriptive and analytical.

All communities have their own economic and population structures, their own embedded attitudes, individual power structures and contact networks, their own social infrastructure. These need to be understood.

In saying this, I am not suggesting that the community diagnostic needs to become a detailed sociological study of the type made famous in Australia by Wild's Bradstow, a pioneering study of Bowral. My focus is strictly practical, acquisition of the information required for community development purposes.

Now there is an obvious problem here in that this type of analysis can be very sensitive indeed. There are several ways of handling this depending on who is doing the analysis and for what purpose.

Where a professional facilitator or economic development professional is being used, then that professional - while needing to understand - may need to make judgements as to how much to say and how to say it. If your client is the local council, how do you tell the council that it is part of the problem?

Things can in fact be a little easier if the diagnostic is being done by a community activist or group of activists for their own purposes since they will already have some understanding of the dynamics of the local scene. However, they are likely to suffer from bias induced by closeness. Here the challenge is to follow a sufficiently objective process so that biases are exposed and tested.

In all cases, the best initial approach is to focus strongly on factual description, avoiding value judgements.

In my next few posts I will try to tease all this a little more by focusing on some of the impediments to development, change and improved community creativity.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Development and creativity at community level: can it be improved?

In my last post, A town like Alice: development and creativity at community level, I looked among other things at Armidale and Tamworth as a case study in the way in which different local history and culture affected development, arguing that Tamworth's faster business development was directly related to its culture.

Anybody who has dealt with cultural issues at organisational or community level knows that culture is hard and slow to change. So if the culture is opposed to something, that thing will be slow to happen. Given this, is it in fact possible to improve creativity at community level especially where this may require cultural change?

I think that the answer is clearly yes if the approach is linked to and set within a frame determined by the existing culture. I also think that the answer can be yes - although outcomes are less certain - where approaches require cultural change so long as the cultural change issue is approached indirectly.

I want to take the next few posts to tease these issues out.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Town like Alice: development and creativity at community level

In my last post I posed the question why do some communities develop despite the odds while others in apparently similar positions stagnate or decline?

I suggested that it was the normally the combination of key champions with community history, structure and culture that creates the positive outcome. Champions on their own did not appear to be enough. I suggested that this equated to the difference between organisational and individual creativity referred to by Jeffrey Baumgartner. As an aside, Jeffrey's web site - - is worth a visit for all those interested in creativity.

One of my favourite books when I was a kid was Neville Schute's A Town like Alice. I was not so much interested in the first part set in Malaya during the Second World War but in the second half. There the English girl comes to a small Northern Australian cattle town in search of the Australian bloke she met in Malaya. Deciding that the place must change if she is to stay there. she sets it on a development path through business creation, with each business feeding into and reinforcing the next.

I have no doubt that this can work in particular times at particular places. A modern example is the impact on the old gold mining settlement of Nundle ( of the establishment of Nundle Woollen Mills. However, in most cases more is required.

Take the case of the New England (Australia) cities of Armidale and Tamworth as an example.

These cities are traditional rivals. Tamworth has seen Armidale as academic, snobbish and effete. Armidale has seen Tamworth as crassly commercial and narrow. I have stereotyped these views, but it gives the picture.

Back in 1980 I returned to the University of New England to do some postgraduate work in history. Part of this focused on differences between towns, the way this affected history and development. This led me to wonder why it was that Tamworth and Armidale had such different development patterns, why in the thirty years after 1930 Tamworth had seen business start after business start, while Armidale's business community remained static and largely unchanging.

The usual explanation given at the time for Tamworth's growth as compared to Armidale lay in the economic difference between farming and grazing. The farms around Tamworth created a much larger market place than the more sparsely inhabited grazing properties around Armidale. This was true, but I did not feel that it was a sufficient condition.

When I looked in more detail at business creation in Tamworth, I found a pattern of business creation chains in which one business led to another. I also found that Tamworth business people demonstrated a willingness to put money into new starts, making it easier to get things of the ground. There was no such pattern in Armidale. Tamworth simply had a more entrepreneurial and outward looking culture than Armidale, making it easier to get new things of the ground.

Later, when I was trying to run a national consulting business out of Armidale while also trying to play an active role in community development, I found that many of the same traditional cultural patterns still remained, making it hard to get new things of the ground.

Returning to my starting point, the Armidale/Tamworth example illustrates the difference between individual and organisational creativity.

Armidale has many creative people, generating far more academics, writers, playwrights than Tamworth. It is a hugely attractive city in life style terms. But when it comes to business or doing new things - Country Music is an example - requiring cooperation, Tamworth beats Armidale hands down simply because it has greater community creativity.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

History, creativity at community level

In my post of 10 July 06 (Current Topics: Bliesner family, importance of organisational history, the creative organisation) I spoke among other things about the importance of organisational history and about individual versus organisational creativity.

Two of my colleagues - Tom Schwarz (Kinnogene Australia) and David Jago (Smart Meetings - have been working on the development of new facilitation approaches at community level intended to help communities resolve problems and take greater responsibility for their own development.

This work links to a broader question. Why do some communities develop despite the odds while others in apparently similar positions stagnate or decline?

The answer appears to lie in the presence of key champions. However, when we dig down we find that it is normally the combination of those champions with community history, structure and culture that creates the positive outcome. Champions on their own do not appear to be enough. This equates to the difference between organisational and individual creativity referred to by Jeffrey Baumgartner.

Friday, July 14, 2006

On productivity: a short note

Over lunch I was reading the latest issue of Australia's Business Review Weekly. Lunch, by the way, was salad with fish sauce. I have very little time, but I do try to do some things outside especially gardening. And lettuce is easy to grow!

Back to the point. The BRW had a short comment on decline in productivity in Australia's electricity industry. All very serious. But, and as the few readers of this blog will know, I actually believe that history is important. And history provides a very useful corrective to the view expressed in the BRW story. In doing so, it also demonstrates the need to look at key measures like productivity change in a longer term context.

I have been monitoring performance in networked industries like telecoms or electricity for the best part of 30 years. There is no doubt that there have been huge productivity gains, although those gains are not associated primarily with new technology (the common assumption) but with new work structures. However, some of the gains can be transitory.

Corporatisation and privatisation of Australia's electricty industry saw large productivity gains. However, some of those gains were due to unsustainable cost cutting on the staff side.

In 2004 I chaired a seminar trying to attract trades people to consider employment opportunities in regional NSW. One of the speakers was from the electricity industry. He said in part that cut backs across the industry in the recruitment and training of linemen had created a major shortage. The industry was now struggling to catch up.

Link this to the productivity question. The initial cuts led to substantial apparent productivity increases. But the industry then had to pay lot more to try to attract immediately available linemen and to train new one. So productivity turned negative.

The point? Beware of apparent trends unless you understand what had happened before.

Australia's history wars

In two of my early posts I referred to the history wars in Australia and briefly discussed approaches to history. Now Geoff Robinson in his the southcoast blog has drawn my attention to the Australian Government's summit on the teaching of Australian history. Geoff's blog includes a link to an Australian article on the summit.

Now Geoff makes an interesting point, one that bears upon the question of topic selection, one of the elements in the history wars. Will they include in any new curriculum key topics relating to things such as the industrial strife in the 1890s, the role of the union movement and the arbitration system? I do wonder.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Current Topics: Bliesner family, importance of organisational history, the creative organisation

The last few days have been one of those busy periods when things have been all over the place, making it difficult to think about a single topic in any in-depth way. So I thought that I should simply record some of the issues/topics.

Part of the time was spent creating a story on the Regional Living Australia site - - on the relocation of the Bliesner family from Melbourne to the Dalby on Queensland's Darling Downs. These case studies on people who have left metro for Regional Australia are always interesting because they introduce me to new communities, or at least communities that I do not know well.

Part of the time was also spent in professional discussion inside and outside my own group, looking especially at issues associated with organisational development and change.

One discussion thread triggered in part by the current University of New England strategy review (see story of 7 July : Welsman, University of New England and Planning) was the role that history plays in both impeding and assisting organisational change.

This is a topic that deserves a long post in its own right. In summary, organisational history is often ignored or seen as an impediment, especially by new broom CEO's. Change is required, we must get rid of the past. Yet the reality, at least as I see it, is that cultural change depends upon understanding existing history and culture, is most effective when related to that history. The challenge is to find the right way to understand and respond to both history and culture.

A second discussion thread was the difference between individual and organisational creativity. This one was triggered by a post by Jeffrey Baumgartner on Nava Shalev's Global Relocation Portal blog - In this post Jeffrey makes a clear distinction between the two and argues that organisations must consciously manage organisational creativity if they are to maximise individual creativity.

Now that's fair enough. But like the earlier and related concept of the "learning" organisation, management of organisational creativity is actually a slippery topic.

Organisations can, as Jeffrey suggests, adopt policies that will encourage creativity at individual level, they can consciously bring in new people from different areas (I am always astonished at the way organisations want to just recruit people from narrowly defined experience slices), they can use multi-function teams. But is this the management of organisational creativity or simply the creation of conditions that will encourage creativity? Is is possible to go further than this? Does it in fact matter?

As a consultant and senior manager, my experience has been that there are in fact creative organisations, that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts, that it does therefore matter. However, getting this across properly to clients is hard because so much of it is "soft" stuff, things that cannot be directly measured. And we live in a measurement age.

This post is long enough. I will return to these themes later.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Country Week 06: selling regional NSW

In my last post (Welsman, University of New England and Planning) I talked about the way in which an email from the UNE Alumni Office dealing with the future of UNE provided a link point across my various interests. During the week I also received another email with similar effects.

Peter Bailey emailed me that Country Week - - had brought a new web site on line. Now I think that this is important.

Peter has been a man with a dream. He has believed for a number of years that country Australia, all the areas outside the metro cities, must combine together to sell their story. As a first step, he launched Country Week in NSW.

Now this might all seem self-evident, at least to Australians. The metro markets are big and crowded. It is hard for any regional centre to get its story across. They are all just too small. So why not combine to sell the message?

The on-ground reality is very different. Regional centres find it very hard to combine because they see themselves in competition with each other. So they fragment and waste their resources.

On my companion blog site on the history of New England - - I have looked at some of the reasons why this is so in one area, at the way in which divide and rule - the factional system - has been used as a weapon.

One of the marvelous things about Peter, something that I admire enormously, is the way in which he has refused to admit defeat. Somehow he has managed to unify sufficient parts of non-metro NSW into a single promotion selling a credible story to those in Sydney. To do this, he travelled thousands of miles by car and plane, criss-crossing NSW constantly. Anybody less determined than Peter would have given up.

Ndarala became a major sponsor of Country Week in 2004. We did so in part because we had member practices providing a range of regional development services, in part because many of our members were in regional Australia. Our media centre - - contains a range of stories explaining our involvement.

This year's Country Week will be held in Sydney on 11-13 August. It provides a major opportunity to find out more about some of the opportunities offered by regional NSW.

Welsman, University of New England and Planning

During the week I received an email from Jennifer Miller, the alumni officer at the University of New England attaching a strategic planning paper for the University.

For those who are interested in a general sense the VC's letter and discussion paper can be accessed through the UNE home-page at or

The discussion paper managed to straddle a number of my current interests.

The paper itself was prepared by Dr Sandra Welsman, one of our own Ndarala professionals with a long interest in higher education as a sector. Our own site carries an earlier article by Sandra - Australian Higher education 2016 - Looking Back- This article explores the changes now taking place in the sector.

Sandra's interest in the general topic is shared by a number of our professionals and has been the subject of a number of internal email chains. However, there is added interest in the UNE case because a dozen of our professionals including me have an involvement with the place totalling more than a 100 years as children of staff members, students, present and former staff and alumni.

Founded as a college of the University of Sydney in 1938, UNE is one of Australia's older tertiary institutions and the first university located outside a capital city. Its establishment and the earlier establishment in 1928 of the Armidale Teachers College were one of the outcomes of the historical processes that I have been tracing through in my blog on the history and culture of Australia's New England - see

Like other tertiary institutions located outside Australia's metro centres, UNE has suffered in recent years from a combination of demographic change, creation of a plethora of rival institutions in both metro and regional areas, constant changes in Government policies and funding and shifts in community attitudes. One of the aims of the planning process is to find the best way of addressing these challenges.

As a collective, we have long been interested in regional development and the promotion of opportunities outside Australia's metro centres. This led to the launch last year of Regional Living Australia - - as a site intended to promote non-metro opportunities including higher education.

So we have a very clearly established interest. However, Sandra's extremely well written paper raised an interesting challenge.

It would seem logical for us to put in a submission to the UNE review given our interest as well as our collective professional knowledge. However, how do we do this without running across Sandra's professional role? What do we do or say if our collective view is different from the necessarily composite view put forward in Sandra's discussion paper? And that seems quite likely on some issues.

Take one simple example. Is UNE a regional university or simply one located in a regional area?

Speaking personally, I have never thought of UNE as regional university in the narrow way the term is used today - it really has become a put down - and hence am uncomfortable with the attachment of that term to the University. Here I have a lot of sympathy with Charles Sturt, a university that has steadfastly refused to classify itself as a regional university on the simple grounds that such a tag is likely to be sudden death to some of its strategic aspirations.

I think that we will probably put in a submission, but have to work through just what we can usefully say first.

Blogging Woes Revisited

In my 4 July post on blogging woes, I complained more in sorrow than in anger about the way in which Google's automated system had decided that two of my blogs were potential spam creators.

I am pleased to report that after inspection both have been removed from the watch list, meaning that I can again post without going through the time consuming process of constantly entering letters to prove that I am not a machine!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Exploring the blogosphere - Searches

One of the best and most enjoyable devices that I have found is to actually use the search facility on the blog.

These are far from perfect. For reasons that escape me, a search on this blog on blog, blogs, blogging yielded just one result when it should have thrown up several entries. Sometimes, too, you have to plough through a lot of ephemeral material to find a few nuggets. But it is still worth while.

This is best illustrated by example.

I found Gautum Ghosh's blog, Gautum Ghosh on Management - - through our common membership of LinkedinBloggers -

Gautum is an Indian HR professional. He uses his blog to talk talk about a range of management issues, especially from an Indian perspective. So when I found the blog I used the search engine to get an overview, searching on topics of particular interest.

I started by searching on professional services, finding 10 posts. These included several general posts on blogging that I scanned quickly for interest. In one I found a nugget, a link through to technorati -

I am sure that all the blogging experts know this site, I did not. It appears to be a very good blog search, monitoring and measurement site.

Drilling down, I searched on law firms, another interest of mine within professional services. In this case, no results. So I then searched on outsourcing, an interesting topic at present because of India's role. Here I found 29 posts, some containing interesting material.

I then looked at training, 27 posts. This showed me that the Indian discussions on topics such as training metrics were a subset of broader global discussions. I found some interesting links here, but did not pursue them because of time.

In all, I thought that this was not a bad yield for half an hour's investment, so will come back from time to time.

Exploring the blogosphere

When I started this blog, I said that I wanted to chat, to reflect on things that might otherwise get lost in a busy professional life. Now the use of the word chat implies a conversation.

When I began I knew the that the blogosphere was incredibly crowded. I had not realised how crowded.

Technorati presently monitors 47 million sites with 2.7 billion links! The number of blogs grows all the time, especially among young people. My eighteen year old's group uses blogs as a device for keeping in touch, for sharing photographs in particular. Some of those blogs are created and then just sit there, others change all the time.

So how do we explore this incredibly crowded space to best advantage, how do we use it to achieve our own ends whether they be professional, business or simply conversational? I think that it all depends upon purpose.

I first became interested in blogging because I saw it as a tool that my own professionals within the Ndarala Group might use to achieve their practice objectives, promoting their expertise to a broader world. This can be especially helpful for the self employed professional lacking the promotional resources of a conventional organisation. This remains my view, although there are a number of difficulties to be overcome if it is to work.

I then looked at blogging as an internal communications device and learning tool within organisations, especially where an actual or potential community of practice was involved. I think that this is one of the most exciting practical applications of the blogging format.

More recently, I have focused on blogging as both conversation and a way of finding things - personal and professional - that I might otherwise miss.

In the next few posts I want to record some of the things that I have learned. In doing so, I will write not as a technical professional - I am in awe of the technical expertise I have found among bloggers and cannot hope to match this in anyway - but focus instead on the personal lessons.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blogging Woes

A few days ago I established a third a blog - - to focus on the management of professional services firms. I did so because I want to use this blog for conversation across the full range of my interests.

So far so good. However, Google's automated anti-spam system then decided that the new blog might in fact be a spam generator. This means that while I can still post, I have to keep filling in letters before I can do so. This happpens each time I save to draft. I do this a fair bit having lost previous posts, so it's time consuming and annoying. It also means that while the blog can still be found at its web address, there is some loss of access and I think indexing.

Worse still, Google has now extended the anti-spam system to this blog, presumably because of the link between the two.

Whatever my blogs may be, they are clearly not spam. I have sent the required follow up measures to Google so that they can inspect the sites. Hopefully this will not take too long, or I am going to expire from frustration.

Monday, July 03, 2006

the southcoast: the Geoff Robinson blog

I have just come across a very thoughtful and I think useful blog -

Published by Geoff Robinson, the blog defines itself in part as "historically informed comments on labour and politics with an Australian & North American focus."

I come at things from a different perspective to Geoff.

To the degree that I now have a party political position I describe myself as Country Party. My grandfather (David Drummond) was a Country Party parlimentarian. As a child I handed out party how to vote cards at election after election. Later I was a Country Party machine official, helping rebuild the party in Eden-Monaro. In this role, I supported and actively promoted the change of name to National Country Party, a move I now regret. I also ran for but lost party preselection.

My views on social issues never fitted exactly with the conservatism of some party members. But I felt strongly then and now that the basic philosophy of the party, its belief in the small person, in the virtues of cooperation, in the need for electoral systems to prevent the oppression of the minority by the majority, was right.

While I come at things from a different perspective to Geoff, I support what I see as one of his key points, that the past should be used to inform the present. I also find his different perspective refreshing. Finally, his blog seems to include a wealth of interesting links.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why can't professionals sell?

One of my clients is a CBD law firm. Their professionals find marketing hard. The same thing holds with the professionals in my own Ndarala Group. They know that they have to get the work through the door, but find it hard to go and chase the necessary clients. Why is this so?

I think that part of the reason lies in the combination of personality and training. The professions attract people who can examine problems objectively. Our training reinforces this. But sales works on emotion, on the ability to explain to the prospective client why we can solve their problem. Our training in objectivity makes this hard.

But I also think that part of the problem lies in intellectual arrogance. We actually expect the client to understand why they should use our services simply because we are a professional. But why should they? It is our task to help them identify their needs, to give them the information to choose us.