‘The Blog’

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‘The Blog’ is a collection of takes on management, politics and life in general, with regular posts to feed the soul.  After spending many years as a management consultant, stealing people’s watches to tell them the time, my intention is to have fun, cause mischief, entertain and above all inform. Consultant and writer by day, raconteur and stand-up by night, there is something for everyone. Click on the tabs to find out about me and the services offered. If you are offended easily, don’t complain, don’t come back – unless you have shedloads of money, in which case I’ll do my best to accomodate you – even I have to eat!

Andrew

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What If World War One Was A Pub Brawl?

I am not caught up in the centenary commemorations marking the outbreak of the First World War.  This is not out of disrespect. Indeed my own grandfather was mortally wounded at Gallipoli and served with four of his brothers. He was given a full military funeral, with gun carriage and a three volley salute. I prefer to celebrate the armistice and the end of the Great War, lest we forget.

photo

At a time of increasing global tension, we could do worse than familiarise ourselves with those events which led to butchery and bravery on both sides. What if World War One was a pub brawl:

“Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.

Austria demands Serbia buy it a whole new suit because of the new beer stains on its trouser leg.

Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.

Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.

Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in doing so.

Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that its sufficiently out of order that Britain not intervene.

Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what is Germany going to do about it?

Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action anymore.

Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.

France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.

Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there. Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

Australia punches Turkey, and gets punched back. There are no hard feelings because Britain made Australia do it.

France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.

America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.

By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault . While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

The End…. (or is it?)”

With thanks to the author, Nico Crisafulli

Source http://www.tentimesone.com/if-world-war-one-was-a-bar-fight/

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Leadership in a Paragraph

You don’t usually expect to get engrossed in a discussion on leadership, over a coffee, with a group complete strangers at a motorway service station in the English East Midlands.  Well that’s what happened.  I just had to gatecrash the party.  These were good guys, honest hard working souls but they were for the most part sharing, in an increasigly animated way, the most bizarre theories on leadership.  Leadership is a subject that I’ve studied extensively but for some reason I seemed unable to articulate my thoughts.  Well articulate of a sort I managed, but summarise I did not. I sounded at best like an eccentric professor as I stumbled through theory after theory and had the air about me of one who had lost his way somewhat.  On reflection perhaps their thoeries were if bizarre a least succinct.  Perhaps my brain was fried after ‘sales bootcamp’ – article on that beauty to follow, I promise.

What I realised was that I needed instant access to the place that all of that learning had taken me to.  Just as the aspirant entrepreneur will have access to his elevator pitch should the occasion on which he finds himself in a lift with Lord Sugar ever present itself I was in need of the Tibself Declaration, the summation of my academic endeavours on leadership, a paragraph on which to call.  Well here it is fresh from my pen.  Gentlemen, as promised, these are the qualities which make a leader great:

There is a commonly held perception in western culture that leadership equates to a superior intelligence, logic and wisdom but it occurs when one group member modifies the motivation or competencies of others in the group.  In short you cannot have a leader without followers.  Numerous academics prepared lists of qualities that constituted born leadership but the lists became long and bewildering. De Gaulle was tall but Napoleon was short. It does not make a difference.  Perhaps trait theory isn’t appealing to those born with the sceptical gene. In short trait theory alone cannot account for the complexity of leadership because it is too one-dimensional.  Leadership has to be one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth but we recognise it when we see it.  Different situations call for different skills and styles.  No one leadership style is ideal for every situation and a leader must be able to modify their approach accordingly by telling, selling, participating or empowering.  A great leader will demonstrate consideration and be mindful of subordinates, including a respect for their needs and feelings but they also have to be task orientated, with a focus on goal attainment, after all that’s what they are there for.  Charisma as personal power resides in many great leaders; it can be enhanced by position or expert status.  You are; what you know; what you do; and what you believe but you have to be able to able to motivate and enthuse others.  It is perhaps because the topic has consumed so much energy, time and effort that it appears to be the Holy Grail for corporates and entrepreneurs alike.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Hutch on Management

Occasionally I get asked to advise those embarking on a career in management. Well it certainly isn’t my style to be straight laced but I’ve never ceased to be amazed by those who take themselves a little too seriously. You had to be there to witness the look of horror on a certain recruiter’s face when I shared a few gems of wisdom garnered over twenty years in management. I considered the presentation to be such a success that it now forms the basis of one of my stand-up routines.
facepic Andrew
1 Never walk without a document in your hands
People with documents in their hands look like hard-working employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in the hands look like they’re heading to the canteen. People with a newspaper in their hand look like they’re heading to the toilet. Above all make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false impression that you work longer hours than you do.

2 Use computers to look busy
Any time you use a computer it looks like work to the casual observer. You can send and receive personal email, chat and generally have a blast without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren’t exactly the societal benefits that the proponents of the computer revolution would like to talk about but they’re not bad either. When you get caught by the boss and you will get caught your best defence is to claim that you’re teaching yourself to use new software to save valuable training expenses.

3 Messy desk
Top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us it looks like we’re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the observer last year’s work looks the same as today’s work; it’s volume that counts. Pile them high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your desk bury the document you will need half way down in an existing stack and rummage great when he or she arrives.

4 Voice mail
Never answer your phone if you have voicemail. People don’t call you just because they want to give you something for nothing, they call because they want you to do work for them. That’s no way to live. Screen all of your calls to voicemail. If somebody leaves a voice mail message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during lunch hour when you know that they’re not there, it looks like you’re hard-working and conscientious even though you’re being a devious weasel. Which do you think came first, the telephone or the telephone-answering machine? Exactly. You are being a luddite if you answer the telephone, holding back progress and showing tremendous disrespect to the inventor of the answering machine.

5 Looking impatient and annoyed
Always try to look impatient and annoyed to give your bosses the impression that you are always busy.

6 Leave the office late
Always leave the office late, especially when the boss is still around. You could read magazines and storybooks that you always wanted to read but had no chance as a child – I missed out on Tin Tin. Make sure you walk past the boss’ room on your way out. Send important emails at unearthly hours and during bank holidays.

7 Creative sighing for effect
Sigh loudly when there are people around, giving the impression that you are under extreme pressure.

8 Stacking strategy
It is not enough to pile lots of documents on the table. Put lots of books on the floor etc (thick computer manuals are the best).

9 Building vocabulary
Read up on some computer and technical magazines and pick out all of the jargon and new products. Use the phrases freely when in conversation with bosses. Remember: they don’t have to understand what you say, but you will sound impressive.

10 Have two jackets
If you work in a big open plan office, always leave the spare jacket draped over the back of your seat. This gives the impression that you are still on the premises. The second jacket should be worn whilst wandering around elsewhere. When it is not being worn hang it in the cleaners’ cupboard. Get the cleaners’ permission and strike up a friendship with the cleaners – remember they are the ones who know what is going on.

11 Most important
Make sure your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder while you’re reading this.

Hang on a minute
Or more importantly instead of getting ‘all corporate’ and throwing a fit at the sight of such subversive advice, if you are an aspiring middle manager take pleasure in the fact that you have been warned about the antics of others. Of course if you are a leader in waiting you might want to reflect on the fact that all of the strategies outlined are a response to a management style which values control and draws its strength from a macho culture – a culture which sadly still prevails in too many organisations.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Bonfire of Vanity – Or how to burn all of your bridges in one blog post

Is it a statement of oxymoronic proportions to say that while I’m not a conspiracy theorist, conspiracy is everywhere?  Any intelligent person, I should pre-qualify this statement by saying that the only troubling thing about common sense is that it’s not very common, knows that agendas are commonplace, be they personal, professional or corporate.  This only problem is the fact that we need to remind ourselves of it.

If, and for many people thist is a big if, you are interested in taking responsibility for at the very least seeking out the elusive truth I would recommend taking the time to visit the websites listed below, caveated as appropriate.  By all means continue to patronise the mainstream media outlets too, for without our daily dose of reality television, antiques shows and property renovation programmes Jack would indeed be a dull boy.  Public opinion does count (an article will follow reporting on how with only five percent of a population engaged in non-violent protest governments can be destabilised) but it would be refreshing to think that it extended beyond Prince George’s favourite toy or the fate of Manchester United and included reminding governments that George Orwell’s 1984 was a novel and not a user manual.

Cryptome

http://Cryptome.org

This is the daddy of all leaked, secret and or ‘embarrassing to Authority’ archives

Deep Politics Forum

http://DeepPoliticsForum.com

A deep politics discussion group with a large archive of related documents and video

MediaLens

http://MediaLens.org

A site dedicated to exposing the propagandist nature of the mainstream media

SourceWatch

http://SourceWatch.org

A US based wiki-encyclopaedia of people, organizations, and issues shaping the public agenda.

SpinProfiles

http://SpinProfiles.org

A UK based wiki project that seeks to expose the reality behind ‘official narrative’ spin

Wikileaks

http://WikiLeaks.org

A site to protect and assist whistle-blowers sharing  sensitive material.

Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org

Lots of information on almost any topic, but fatally flawed in certain areas.

Wikipedia is good at what it does but if we’re honest its editorial policies give it a blind spot around matters of deep politics meaning that the information retrieved is likely superficial and fragmented at best and more often than not a smokescreen. To quote a friend:

“Wikipedia’s adherence to the official narrative as promulgated by the ‘reliable sources’ of the commercially-controlled media effectively mean that, to use an astrological metaphor – the sun must always be represented as revolving around the earth.”

The reporting of the “Gunpowder Plot” of 1605 is a good example of how ‘undisputed facts’ can be presented with little reference to more likely interpretations of the episode, giving birth to the “official narrative”. Popular perceptions are drawn from the “official narrative” of the establishment caught off-guard by wicked Popish conspirators set on blowing up parliament, saved in the nick of time by a sequence of events more suited to a Boy’s Own storyline. If this all sounds familiar it’s because you’ve probably read it in Wikipedia, where accusations of ‘state conspiracy’ are relegated to a single paragraph and agent-provocateuring doesn’t get a look in.  Then again I am biased, I have an agenda for as part of my stand-up comedy routine I ask whether Guy Fawkes was the last man to enter parliament with the right idea?

Problems arise when the official narrative becomes the consensus narrative. Richard Heinberg refers to The Consensus Trance which is instinctively understood by the ambitious and in Britain at least, remains absolutely central to success in business, public affairs, academia and the mainstream media, trumping all other considerations, including intelligence and ability. Why?

Because, proportionate to one’s approach and proximity to the thresholds of REAL power, to EFFECTIVELY question it is to threaten and therefore become toxic to the Arbiters of your advancement, whose rank position and place depend upon it.

Of course you’re pretty handicapped to start with if you run around telling everyone that you are a critical friend from day one. Who is the laugh on though when it turns out that the narrative is a lie? It is as honest as the statement on a twenty pound note which states that the Bank of England promises to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds. There isn’t any real money anymore, no gold standard, just fiat, just digits on a screen, so twenty pounds of what exactly? To put it another way, as said by a source known to yours truly:

“It is all a clever ego-stroking Orwellian illusion designed, developed and molded by self-perpetuating Power Elites to serve purposes far and away removed from those of fond and credulous popular belief.”

How my own adherence to the consensus narrative came to be shaken shall remain private for now but over the last twenty years I have at various times worked with Government ministers, had considerable experience of local government and involvement with the intelligence community and more than one police force.  I only lack experience with the judiciary but avoiding cross-dressers has been the way it’s been, pure coincidence I assure you.

blue-pill-red-pillSo we got to the Red Pill/Blue Pill moment and the shattering of some cherished and long-held beliefs, neigh illusions. Where we are now is where we are. Understandably my public sector client list has diminished and I can confidently predict its exstinction. So we are left with me satirising and dabbling in stand-up comedy through my alter-ego Bobby Nitro. To be honest life in polite orthodox company can be difficult when your contributions to discussions on politics, philosophy and world affairs in general are likely to be considered, in varying degree, unwelcome, threatening, scary, treasonable or simply mad. It doesn’t help when I suggest that I’ve never ‘unknowingly’ offended anyone.

Some of the other consequences of taking the Red Pill are, in no particular order:

  1. Deep and abiding distrust of ‘The State’, its apologists, its spokesmen and its enforcers.
  2. A clear understanding that the central operating principle of the state is deception, compounded by obsessive secrecy and a fear of the general population.
  3. A realisation that ALL political parties are pissing into the same pot, differentiated only by the force of the flow and the shade of the urine. There is a lot of heat but little light as they all seek perpetual ‘growth’ on a finite planet.
  4. Recognition that the war on terror is the waging of war on an abstraction which lines a lot of pockets.
  5. Sleeping like a baby, for power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I have none whatsoever, other than that to make genuine, relaxed, honest, open-minded, sceptical, illusion-less enquiry.

In the 1999 film The Matrix, set in a dystopian future, Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne explains to Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, what the Matrix is and Neo realises the truth, that he is just a small part and one of the Matrix’s “slaves”.  Morpheus then tells Neo that he can become free, and explains the choice:

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth – nothing more.”

To be continued…. Maybe…. ;)

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

The Crazy Ones

My clan are the mavericks, the vagabonds, the mad scientists, the gypsies, the theatre people, the artists, the musicians, the deviants, the radicals, the outsiders and you.

Your clan may well be diferent but we should all raise a toast to those who inspire us and reflect upon the excellent words of by Rob Siltanen, with the participation of Lee Clow, written as part of Apple’s “Think Different” campaign.  The campaign was about reinforcing and reflecting the company’s philosophy. It was ordered by Steve Jobs when he finally resumed control of Apple, the company he once co-founded.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Be inspired to think differently too and to break the rules and raise a toast to the crazy ones who featured in Apple’s groundbreaking campaign.

Amelia Earhart

14th Dalai Lama

Jackie Robinson

Miles Davis

Alfred Hitchcock

Jim Henson

Cesar Chavez

Jim Henson

Pablo Picasso

Miles Davis

Charlie Chaplin

Jane Goodall

Mahatma Gandhi

Ansel Adams

Pablo Picasso

Mahatma Gandhi

Thomas Edison

Lucille Ball

Orson Welles

John Lennon

Maria Callas

Desi Arnaz

Frank Capra

Yoko Ono

Martha Graham

Bob Dylan

John Huston

Cesar Chavez

Joan Baez

Frank Sinatra

Albert Einstein

James Watson

Ted Turner

Richard Feynman

Amelia Earhart

Francis Ford Coppola

As your critical friend I recommend that you act with integrity, never cease to question and fear nothing but fear itself.  In our age of mass media and hype, when it is too easy to be labelled, too easy to be marginalised and too easy to be offended, too many people say nothing, do nothing and contribute nothing.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Ground-Breaking Thinker

Apparently I’m a ‘Ground-breaking Thinker’.  I join the ranks of charming, enthusiastic people, bubbling with energy, with a liking for centre stage. It’s true that I love variety both professionally and privately and I like to tackle change consistently with optimism and firm belief in my own abilities; always on the look-out for improvement possibilities – a critical friend you might say.

I’m categorised as having the advantage of excellent communication skills and approaching the world with curiosity and openness, with the ability to master new situations with resourcefulness and a great deal of talent for improvising. My spare time is taken up with a large number of hobbies and true to form I like to travel in order to gather as many different impressions as possible – unbeatable at discovering new possibilities.

Like a K-tel television commercial from the seventies, there’s more.  It’s confirmed that in my work I rate challenges and diversified tasks, not able to stand routine.  Yes I love to astound others with bold ideas for an original, new project and then leave it up to others to implement them. Hierarchies, rules and regulations do arouse my opposition and I do love outsmarting the system. It is vital to enjoy my work; and when this is the case, the charge of workaholic is made with some justification.  My creativity best takes effect when I work independently but I do have a penchant for motivating others and infecting them with my optimistic nature. Conceptual or advisory activities appeal best to us ‘Ground-breaking Thinkers’ and some people feel somewhat duped by our flexible and spontaneous nature.

This sociability and enterprise ensures that there’s a large circle of friends and acquaintances – yes near two thousand LinkedIn connections with a third degree reach of eleven million is pushing it a bit. You’ll mostly find me in a good mood and a popular and very welcome guest. Grumbling and peevishness are supposed to be unknown to me, though I do admit to being a little erratic and unstable when it comes to obligations and this makes me appear to be unreliable to some.

‘Ground-breaking Thinkers’ are very critical and demanding when it comes to picking a partner because we look for the ideal relationship and we have a very concrete picture of what it looks like. Mutual aims in life are very important to us and we don’t like compromising and would rather remain alone. It is a challenge to have a long-term relationship with a us but hey we get lots of material for our stand-up comedy sets.  Are you listening?  We need a lot of space and diversity or we become bored and feel cramped. Those traditionalists have problems with our willingness to take risks and our crazy, spontaneous actions. If you can summon up sufficient flexibility and tolerance I can promise that you’ll never be bored.

I am told that the adjectives which describe ‘me’ are:

extroverted, theoretical, logical, spontaneous, rational, innovative, intellectual, open, independent, curious, enterprising, analytical, clever, enthusiastic, venturesome, inventive, energetic, sociable, optimistic, non-conformist, creative, freedom-loving, charming, able to get enthusiastic, self-confident, communicative, capricious, inconsistent and outgoing

I cannot argue with the above.  I like thesound of it but just as I share my horoscope with half a billion other souls, I share the above with, well just under half a billion other souls.  There are sixteen categories in total in the iPersonic system, the other fifteen being: analytical thinker, determined realist, dreamy idealist, dynamic thinker, energetic doer, engaged idealist, good-natured realist, harmony-seeking idealist, independent thinker, individualistic doer, laid-back doer, reliable realist, sensitive doer, social realist and spontaneous idealist.

The iPersonic system was developed by Felicitas Heyne, a well-known psychologist and International Affiliate of the American Psychological Association (APA) and Member of the German Psychological Association (BDP).  Maybe we find what we are looking for in these things but at the very least it’s fun.

You can have a go yourself by following the link to www.ipersonic.com

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Skinny Latte?

Are you looking for more work?  Be honest!  Are you after more work or a skive? I’ve met some great people at coffee mornings and I’ve also met some who were as dull as dishwater.  Here’s the dilemna – I like coffee, I like people but has this combination got me much new business? Errr no. It has given me the opportunity to procrastinate, to get away from the tasks that need to be done, in the name of networking. I was at a business event in Manchester a few years ago when Sir Alan, or to be precise Lord Sugar, was asked about getting seed funding for a participant’s ‘new idea’ to set up a networking club.  I don’t normally take Sugar [sic] but the poor lad was given the look, swifly followed by one of most apt knock-backs I’ve witnessed. “Networking?”, replied Lord Sugar, “Do you mean bright young things, hanging around in open-necked shirts quaffing Evian water and talking bollocks?”.  “Errr no, drinking coffee”, was the response.  And sadly that just about sums it up.

A Chris

God I used to do these things twice a week.  I was lapping it up.  I even went to the flash ones where you got a free amaretto biscuit.  New business? Not really. Did I meet some useful contacts? Yes but would I or could I have met them somewhere else and under different circumstances? Almost certainly. So cut out the coffee and cut out the crap. By all means network but know why you are there and what you are there for and if you find yourself there every week, asky why?  Other people know why they’re there. It is not to “take your business to the next level”, it is so that they can find out about you and pick your brains for free.

Go for coffee by all means, meet friends, make new ones, relax but if you’re wearing your business hat, act like a business. Do your homework before and after. Check out your new friends and at the very least pick their brains. Ciao

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

A Star Is Born!

Well, what can I say?  Those who follow me on twitter know that I have difficulty limiting myself to 140 characters or less.  Well away from the cyber world and inviting the real world in to make one of its increasingly rare guest appearances, I can publicly announce that the secret is out.  Yes I have been ‘outed’.  There are two of us, or maybe three.  As my late mother used to say, “Us three make a fine pair if ever there was one!”  Me the consultant, writer and occasional blogger, known and loved by many (Note to Editor: Check facts before publication) and my alter-ego Mr Bobby Nitro.

Last night I made my Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival debut, delivering a thirty minute set as part of the Square Mile Smiles Showcase.  Leicester is one of the top five comedy festivals in the world according to the Guardian and it was a sell-out.

I’ve fought the ‘outing’ for a while.  Don’t worry I’m not buy-sexual, I don’t pay for it!  I was in two minds for long enough about the day job meeting the after-hours job but clients should fear not.  Names are always changed to protect the guilty.  So if you are that Whitehall mandarin and you’re worried about that ‘pickle’ that you got yourselves into before you invited me in to help-out (you know the one that was so bizarrely unbelievable that no-one would ever believe it) you’re safe! (clears throat).

facepic AndrewSo I’m now featured on the UK’s largest promotional website for comedians, appearing alongside the likes of Peter Kay and fellow goldbug Dominic Frisby (though it is a well documented fact on Kitco that all of my gold was lost in that boating accident!).  As the promo piece on Bobby Nitro says, “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the  courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads”.  Well in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king (I lost my left eye on a ’visit’ to Israel via Dhekelia Garrison eons ago).

I’ll be interested to see where the published article takes us, opportunities or repercussions?  Whatever the outcome, there is only one individual behind the mask and he continues to be driven by integrity and positive intent.  So your criticalfriend slays dragons, tilts at windmills and does ‘stand-up’ too but he remains a trusted advisor, he just needs to vent occasionally.

“‘Bobby  Nitro’ is the alter-ego of management consultant, writer, satirist and mentor  Andrew Hutchinson.  As the founder of criticalfriend.eu, featured on BBC Radio 4′s World at One, he has mixed with academics, politicians  and entrepreneurs whilst working for household names and government departments.  As a tested after-dinner  speaker, for an informed and educational take on leadership, management, the  economy, politics or the stories behind the headlines, Andrew has a growing  reputation for providing a unique take on events which is both challenging and  thought provoking, as he educates and entertains with positive intent.  With a wealth of material to  draw upon he has, by popular demand, added stand-up sets to his offering  enabling him to push the boundaries even further as he satirizes and ridicules  his paymasters.  Names are changed to  protect the guilty.

He believes in ‘working to  live’ and not ‘living to work’ and you are just as likely to find him jamming with  a French rock band in Burgundy, doing stand-up comedy in Budapest or delivering  after-dinner speeches in Sweden, as you are in the boardroom.”

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

To Sell or Not To Sell

I have been away. I have been undercover. I have been at sales bootcamp in the Cheshire countryside where if there had been a second week to the ‘training’ it would surely have included wearing an orange jump suit with optional waterboarding. I found the week to be as rewarding as it was memorable.  Rewarding because it has made me more self-aware despite finding it to be a diet of motivation, bullying and brainwashing.

An article on my experience of the methods used in training will follow.  So too, pending legal advice will be a description of the tactics used by this self-proclaimed ‘ethical’ organisation which feeds at the heart of our education system providing ‘student support’ in the home.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson

Criminal Disclosure

We know that in a competitive employment market employees have to differentiate themselves in increasingly creative ways but did you know that at the same time as this is happening a small minority of employers are going to extraordinary lengths to acquaint themselves with prospective employees’ backgrounds? No this isn’t a post about monitoring tweets or facebook profiles but one about the worrying way in which a minority of UK employers seem able to sidestep the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and effectively discriminate against ex-offenders.  If this is news to you or you want to learn more about criminal record checks in the UK you should read on.

You need to understand that the Act was intended to help rehabilitate those who have broken the law by prescribing a rehabilitation period after which certain criminal convictions are ‘spent’ or forgotten. The length of the period varies according to the offence and the age of the offender but as a guideline it can generally be said that convictions resulting in:

  • Fines and community service become spent after five years;
  • Prison sentences of up to six months become spent after seven years;
  • Prison sentences between six months and two and a half years become spent after ten years;
  • Sentences over two and a half years are never spent.

It’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of a spent conviction. As you might expect there are exemptions from the Act and most people wouldn’t take exception to the exemptions which apply to certain types of job, usually those:

  • Where people are working unsupervised with high risk groups such as children and older people;
  • Involving senior roles in banking and the financial services industry;
  • Connected to law enforcement;
  • Involving national security;
  • In the prison service;
  • Within health, pharmacy and the law;
  • In private security work.

Employers offering a position which is exempted from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 will usually seek a STANDARD disclosure for around £26 or an ENHANCED disclosure for around £43 from the Disclosure and Barring Service through an accredited third party organisation. It is important here to understand that though the applicant for the check is the employee, the Standard or Enhanced Disclosure check can only be processed via the employer who must prove that it is necessary. An individual cannot request a standard or enhanced disclosure check on themslves.

Where a job doesn’t require a standard or enhanced DBS check the employer still has the right to ask if the individual has a criminal record but if the conviction is ‘SPENT’ under the Rehabilitation of Criminal Offenders Act 1974 the prospective employee doesn’t have to disclose this. If the employer wants proof that the individual has no criminal record they can ask the individual to request a BASIC disclosure.  Any individual can do this but to do so they must visit the Disclosure Scotland website for this service, confusing I know but you don’t need to live in Scotland to apply for a Basic disclosure in your own name. You might be asked to provide a Basic disclosure for a new job or if you are undertaking volunteer work and there is a cost of £25 to do so.  Of course a Basic disclosure will not reveal details of any spent convictions, you are protected under the Act as the position is not exempted from the it.  If you really want to get into the meat of this you need to visit the DBS website for more detailed information on Disclosure and Barring Service checks.

Where things get interesting is when we consider that sometimes for non-employment purposes someone may be required to disclose information about themselves and any criminal record which they may have.  A POLICE CERTIFICATE is a criminal record check issued mainly for immigration purposes. It is needed if you require a work or residency visa for countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. In the case of the USA you will also need a Police Certificate for holiday purposes if you have ever been arrested or convicted of any offence, no matter how long ago it was. The cost of obtaining a Police Certificate is £45.  A SUBJECT ACCESS REQUEST is different as this is to provide an individual applicant with details of any information held about them on police computers and is intended for personal use only. The cost of obtaining a Subject Access Request is £10.  To apply for a Police Certificate or a Subject Access Request you should click on the link to your local police force, found on the following ACRO page

Both check the Police National Computer to see if the individual has a criminal record and check for ALL Convictions, Warnings, Reprimands and Cautions recorded on UK Police Systems. The ‘ACPO Retention Guidelines for Nominal Records on the Police National Computer’, which incorporates the Step Down Model, are applied when preparing the Police Certificate. Scottish and Military Convictions are NOT subject to the Step Down Model.

In essence this means that a Police Certificate or a Subject Access Request will in most cases show ALL arrests and convictions, even if the conviction is SPENT.  For this reason a Police Certificate or a Subject Access Request should NOT be used for employment purposes and an employer should not ask a prospective employee to obtain one, even if it is at the employer’s expense. If a full disclosure is necessary because the employee is working unsupervised with vulnerable groups the position would be subject to a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure DBS check which the employer could apply for.  If the onus is placed on the employee to confirm the information the position is not subject to a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure and a Basic Disclosure fulfils this requirement, providing the protection afforded to individuals under the Rehabilitation of Criminal Offenders Act 1974.

A prospective employer, who insists on being provided with a copy of a Subject Access Request, even if it is at their expense, is creating an unlawful bar to employment and potentialy a claim for unlawful dismissal.  At best they are demonstrating their naivety with the basics of employment law, at worst they are setting out to deceive the individual and deprive them of the basic protections afforded to them under the law.  Where a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure is deemed to be necessary strict guidelines are in place governing how that information may be used.  Making the content of a Subject Access Request freely available may lay a prospective employee open to bullying, intimidation or even blackmail in the workplace.

All rights reserved © 2014 Andrew Hutchinson