Archiv der Kategorie: English

Out of the routine

After one-hundred months of weekly blogging, I’m getting out of this routine. In 2013, I started with fifteen categories (see the Categories pull-down menu on the right) without having a long-term plan in mind. The selection of topics arose spontaneously over time. They are mostly about communication, management, meaning design, change management, and governance. In addition, I categorized all posts with over 3300 tags. The word cloud on the right side highlights the most frequent keywords using the font size. The most used English keywords are metaphor, communication, change, context, and rules. In this post, I summarize my insights from over eight years.

How much effort was needed?
In the absence of an attendance recorder, the creation was not measured. The effort for the more than 420 articles results mainly from the two languages – German and English. I aim for about 500 words per post. The present articles contain between 300 and 1700 words. On average, I estimate the effort for a bilingual article to be eight hours per week. The range goes from four hours to several days. Several thousand hours or more than 400 PD have been accumulated.

What my writing process looks like
For me, an important lesson learned is the path from idea to publication. The typical procedure looks like the following.

  1. Preparing the topic
    The first step is to develop a subject that seems worth sharing, mainly researching the related aspects. It consists of the individual parts, the context, and the coherent structure. In addition, I develop a simplified visualization of the topic and transfer it into a symbolic image. Only after I structured the whole, I start writing. In individual cases, this can take weeks.
  2. Writing and revising the draft
    With the topic in mind, I write the first version in German. The model gets transferred into a verbal form – describing the terms, explaining the context, and showing examples. In the end, I summarize the findings at the end. This version matures overnight, and I revise it on one of the following days. Now I look dissociated at the text as if it were from somebody else. As soon as nothing bothers me, I run the spelling and grammar check (currently: Grammarly). Based on the suggestions, I revise the sentences and fix mistakes. To make the text more understandable, I identify abstract terms and awkward passages with Blablameter.
  3. Translate and revise the text
    The matured text gets now translated. I’ve been using software (formerly SYSTRAN and now DEEPL) for years to get a rough translation. I revise the English version until I don’t get stuck either. The English text is then cleansed from errors and awkward phrasing using Grammarly. While editing the English text, I adjust in parallel the German one to keep both versions in sync. Later, it would be more difficult to find the changed positions again.
  4. Having the texts read aloud
    After the text is available in German and English, I have it read aloud. I found out that listening is another effective way to improve a text. For this purpose, I use the Text-to-Speech reader TextAloud. While listening, I can either walk around or close my eyes. On the other hand, the program reads the FULL text, i.e., without skipping paragraphs. In this way, I discover other errors and weak points in my wording, which I otherwise overread. Here again, I revise the German and English versions side by side, as described above.
  5. Making the final correction
    Some texts do not pass the fourth step satisfactorily. In this case, they slip into the hold file and are completely revised sometimes later. If the texts survive the follow-up, a final correction is made using Duden-Mentor and Grammarly. With this, the articles are done.
  6. Publishing the blogpost
    When publishing, the texts are uploaded to and tagged with keywords. Most of the time, I have several articles in the pipeline. Since I publish only one topic a week, several finished posts accumulate over time. Because of this preliminary work, I have a buffer for the weekly release. Besides, I collect ideas for topics and half-finished texts in a development file. The writing process ends with the upload. I publish in the order of uploading. In rare cases, the articles are re-sharpened after some time.

Some topics resist publication. They do not immediately fit together coherently. The explanations are too awkward, or doubts arise about the article. Then that fragment remains in the development file until I resolve the concerns. The flow typically ensures that I reach an end more easily and do not “endlessly” fine-tune the expression. In a week, the flow ideally takes eight hours.

What I have learned

A blog cannot be taken for granted. Depending on the claim, a text requires much research time, and I collect evidence in a particular folder. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to find the sources later. Revising texts involves discipline. The writing process and the software I mentioned help, and they “force” one to edit the complete text. Reading aloud has proven to be particularly effective. The quality of the voices is now so good that I over-hear the shortcomings, such as the particular intonation and speech errors.

The chosen weekly rhythm of uploading one article on the weekend was crucial for the present texts was. With one family-related exception, I kept this rhythm up – in addition to my work. The daily readers drove me. The most popular text is MPPI – The indicator for project problems with over 10,000 views. Followed by Contacts with a difference with about 8,000 views, Das Meer – die ideale Metapher für eine Vision (over 6,600 views), Free willing – Deciding without obligation (6,311 views), and Der Berg – die ideale Metapher für ein Ziel (5,803 views). Today, I would not use that many keywords because it makes it more difficult to cluster the topics. In any case, the built-in full-text search makes it easier to find texts.

What’s next?

In the future, I’ll put my energy into books. The first titles kept me busy for a long time. memenotes – Food for thought for rethinkers  (see video) is a bilingual collection of thought-provoking ideas that I have collected over the years and put into notebook form. Denke/Th!nk (see video) is a small book that should awaken the reader’s creativity. In the context of business and personal initiatives, the images, topic tableaus, processes, and templates inspire new ideas. More books are in the making, and I redirect my blogging routine there.

I do not the end, but I switch to an irregular rhythm. I hope that the current topics will continue to arouse keen interest.

An ongoing crisis becomes normality

On the tenth of April 1912, the Titanic started from Southhampton on its long-distance maiden voyage to New York. At that time, it was the largest passenger ship. Fortunately, of the 3,300 passengers allowed on board (in addition to the 900 members of the crew), only 2,400 were on board. Until the collision with the iceberg, the steamer was considered the safest ship of its kind. In other words, further away from a crisis than any other ship. After the sinking, design changes were made, the number of lifeboats was made dependent on the number of people on board, and regular inspections were required. Everyone who travels on a passenger ship knows about the mandatory drills conducted within the first 24 hours at sea. For a quick rescue, radio communications have been reorganized – 24h radio operations, a secondary power supply for radio, rockets only to be used for emergencies. Nowadays, airplanes patrol to detect icebergs at an early stage. However, emergency efforts do not mean that everyone is in constant distress. As long as a system does not fail, it operates regular. Despite this simple truth, those in charge in the corps behave as if they are perpetually in crisis mode.

However, this general crisis mode is counterproductive because it overloads the participants endlessly and leaves them accustomed to this state. To be able to use the momentum of a crisis, people should differentiate various crisis modes.

  • Potential crisis
    This state is part of regular operations. No crisis is taking place yet. However, leaders are developing the understanding that difficulties are conceivable. Although they do not like surprises, meritocratic leaders find it difficult to invest in assumed themes. For them, the best-case scenario only offsets the effort by avoiding damage. It all starts with creating an awareness of the need. First and foremost is the unbiased description of dangers and effects, such as the legal duties, possible economic damage to the company, and drawbacks for oneself.
    Established crisis management is the basis for mitigating incidents. It includes clear roles, processes, different scenarios, regular discovery, observation, and assessment of the imaginable crises.
  • Latent crisis
    We are still in daily biz, but we recognize the first signs of a crisis. The main objective is to avoid the occurrence of an emergency. For this purpose, predefined measures are triggered to prevent damage. The greater the possible harm and the more likely the crisis is, the more elaborate the measures have to be. The profit arises from the fact that NO significant disruptions occur.
    For this purpose, early warning sensors and safeguards are installed at the identified weak points in the biz model, the organization, and the infrastructure. Key figures alert decision-makers to undesirable changes in operations and crisis management. In preparation, susceptible building blocks are additionally maintained, and exercises are carried out just in case.
  • Acute crisis
    The tipping point, and thus a crisis, is reached when a disruption makes normal operations impossible. Now the crisis team should quickly take up its positions. During this process, the prepared emergency plans are executed. Those responsible are focused on remedying the plight. Resources are directed to the essential points. The information flow is ensured. The stress reactions of those involved are alleviated.
    Depending on the scope of the incident, these can be short engagements of a few hours or very long deployments of several weeks and months. These involve troubleshooting, performing emergency care, and executing measures for survival. The duration of the crisis depends mainly on adequate preparations.
  • Survived Crisis
    The crisis ends with the canceling of the acute incident. Thus, the unit is not yet back in stable condition, but the obstacles are eliminated. After that, the clearance starts, restoring the ability to work, and regular operations start. It requires sifting through the damage. Reconstruction is planned. The necessary resources are provided. The previous decision-making paths are reactivated. The personal stress aspects and trauma of those affected are treated. In parallel, the review of what happened starts. In an After Action Review, the incidents are evaluated with representatives from the areas involved – especially the root causes.
    It is the start of preparing for the following incident. The findings are incorporated into the crisis preparation and made available to everyone – e.g., the insurance companies, supervisory authorities, bodies, and the leadership team.

Bottom line: Dealing with crises requires more than spontaneous decision-making in the acute case. Above all, everyone must be prepared for possible crises. Without an acute crisis, it requires a shared understanding of crises and the various crisis modes alongside normal operations. Everyone should know that potential crises go far beyond the imagination of those responsible – as we have seen vividly since the beginning of the Corona crisis. The decisive factor is a skillful assessment of the risks – how probable and how severe. The mandatory training develops then an emergency plan for all conceivable cases and case types (e.g., economic, social, technical, legal). In this context, all threats can never be recognized and correctly assessed. To react appropriately, coherent preparation and follow-ups are indispensable. The defined crisis modes demarcate normal operations from the real crisis. Above all, leadership awareness of possible incidents should be raised and linked to concrete tasks, competencies, and responsibilities. The annual exercise keeps those involved fit for the cases that should be prevented. An endless horror story is devastating for preparation, making crisis the norm. It takes away the urgency and momentum of the organization to resolve the crisis.