How does a grandmother who is blind share books with her grandchildren?

This post has been inspired by the fact that the first 2 weeks in June 2013 is Make a Noise in Libraries (MANIL) Fortnight which is an annual campaign to bring public libraries and blind and partially sighted people together to improve access to books and information.manil13pic

Eileen Finch is a grandmother who could not find any books on the market that were suitable for her to share with her grandchildren. She decided to create her own children’s books in a unique format – giant print with Braille and illustrations. If you want to see the range of books she has published then go to her website access2books  where you can also buy the books yourself. You could also ask your local library if they have them in stock – and if they don’t suggest that they so. The list of libraries that currently stock the books can be found here.

So why have I put this into my management musings blog? It is because the journey that Elaine went through is one that anyone with a passion and an idea can follow to make a change they believe in, or to create a new business.

The key things that Elaine did were to:

  • Identify a gap/ need
  • Research the potential solutions and current provision.
  • Obtain an IP Publishing licence
  • Negotiate with publishers to use 30 popular UK books
  • Painstakingly redesign the books into a format which is more accessible and shareable for people with a visual impairment.
  • Work out a way of printing and binding the finished work into a book format. The type of paper and binding used were particular problems. In the end she had to design and make her own binding equipment.
  • Find funding to keep the project going
  • Find outlets to access the mainstream library market – Peter’s Children’s books of Birmingham helped by ordering a set based on the prototype.
  • Create a business format to procedure and market the books – in this case a Community Interest Project.

The books look brilliant and having Braille as well as large print and pictures widens the range of people who can use them- have a look for yourself. 

This is an impressive story of determination and persistence that we can all learn from, in particular:

  1. Focus on the final outcome when things get difficult
  2. If you cannot find the solution you need then create them
  3. The road to success is not easy, but if your dream is big enough, and your desire is strong enough you will succeed.

Make a Noise in Libraries Fortnight is run by RNIB National Library Service.

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Is starting 2 new businesses at the same time a good idea?

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my previous post Feel the Fear and do it anyway I explained about the big step I had made in deciding to take redundancy and try out a completely new way of living. I have worked in local authorities for over 30 years – and without a break for just over 26 years so this is a really big life change for me.

I decided that I did not want to focus on a single career any more, but that I would like to develop a portfolio to make sure I did not have all of my eggs in one basket. This was even more important as I was not going to have a regular pay cheque to rely on and would have to rely in the vagaries of the market – and my ability to market my own businesses.

Why did I chose the 2 businesses that I am now developing?

I chose them because they both build on my core values of helping other people to improve themselves and my desire to get back to working directly with, and helping, people. I also wanted to continue to use and develop the skills I have developed throughout my professional life as I had worked hard to learn and apply them and still have a lot to give back to all of the professions I embrace.

When developing new businesses from a standing start it is important to realise that you will be very lucky if you get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It is important, though, to measure what you are doing for your businesses each day so that you know you are moving them forward a little bit. This is a very different way of planning to that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. When starting a new business you also need clear outcomes, but the timing of them is difficult when you are still establishing yourself, and how do you know if they are realistic? Instead it is important to give yourself activity goals for every day – as you can measure your achievement if these and the more effective and positive activity you do the more likely it is your business venture will be successful.

How do you know what activity goals you need to set?

By talking to others who have gone through the same process and who can give you an idea of which activities you need to do, and for how long, before you start to see the desired outcomes that you want from your business. This can include developing a presence in the areas where people looking for your kind of business congregate – either online or face to face, the number of calls you need to make to prospects, the type of information you need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.

I cannot tell you yet if I have made the right choice – come back and see me again in December to see how I am doing with my 2 businesses Kate Millin Consulting and KMC Forever.

There’s no such thing as a new idea or common sense is not very common

Just old ideas continually recycled!

I am currently doing a postgraduate qualification in Shared Service Architecture with Canterbury Christchurch University. My second piece of work is a literature review and I have chosen to look at successful governance in shared services. It has to be an academic piece of work so the literature reviewed must come from academically sound journals.

The first thing I found was that Shared Services by that name have not been round long enough to have academic studies done on them. The second thing I found out was that there are a lot of academic reviews into a whole range of joint working – which Shared Services is just the latest sexy title/ method of doing. Hence the title of this post.

Each of the new iterations of the joint (or collaborative) working phenomenon is presented as a whole new way of working. This,sadly, seems to mean that the wheel keeps being reinvented. I cannot see very much evidence of practice being based on the considerable learning and information that has been collected about previous iterations. This is despite the fact that a number of key issues keep coming up regularly:

  1. The need for Trust which is very difficult to develop when organisations and people are put into ‘forced marriages’ by government policy and financial incentives. They are much more likely to work together successfully if they develop the collaboration gradually and together.
  2. Which leads me the need for Time to develop the partnership – how often are organisations forced to do things quickly because of the political and financial pressures
  3. The final one is that there needs to be a jointly agreed reason or series of reasons for working together – the main one being that the sum of the whole is greater than each organisation working separately.

These key factors come up again and again, and yet the same mistakes and issues keep being repeated!

Although I say there is no such thing as a new idea, each version of working together is subtly different and called different things which is why I have not used the same words to describe the joint working throughout  this post. 

The issues, however, are rarely different so my plea to anyone coming up with a ‘new’ way of working is please take the time to look at the similar predecessors to your idea and use them to stop repeating the same mistakes.

This is the principle I will be using when I qualify as a Shared Service Architect as one of the key principles for this professional role is to use the learning from previous shared working to improve the development and planning of future shared services.

Think like an entrepreneur – even when working in public services

Thinking like an entrepreneur is a skill that is not obvious in those managers working in public services. In fact it is sometimes seen as the wrong thing to aspire to. I, however, disagree. I think there is a lot of the entrepreneur in those public service managers who manage to develop their services effectively especially in these time of tight or nearly non existent budgets.

I have been inspired to write this post having seen the list in this blog by Reference notes – just the list on the summary is enough to challenge me.

So ……

how many of you as managers have the confidence to let people have a go and fail?

when a member of your staff, or a customer comes to you with a suggestion is your first reaction ‘it won’t work?

can you really say that you are interested in trying something new or are you too tied up in coping with the now?

I have given myself the challenge to respond to future suggestions I have presented or sent to me with ‘that sounds like something I would like to develop/or would like you to develop. What do you need from me to help you’. I challenge you to do the same and see what happens.

My prediction is that you will end up with some interesting projects happening, staff and/or customers who feel listened to and appreciated. You will also feel more inspired. And maybe, just maybe, one of those seemingly off the wall ideas will become the thing that finally makes someone you have been trying to convince about the importance of what you are doing finally understand.