So although my minions are teens now, there are certain things that I think my minions will always love…
One of those things are Spiders 🕷
Spiders are a fantastic snack for movie nights, birthday parties and weekend break dinners.
We had a movie night on Friday and as per their suggestion we made Spiders. Here are a couple of pics:
The cool thing with Spiders is I get them involved in making dinner or the snack with me. We basically cut some viennas into three or four pieces. We break full lengths of spaghetti in three as well and stick it through the viennas. I boil it for about 15 mins and presto – dinner is served!
Add a bit of tomato sauce and you have bloody Spiders! Guaranteed hit among minions. Promise.
So I don’t know why but thinking back on my life it feels to me like I’ve always been running.
Maybe it’s because it’s something I’m good at… Running that is. Or maybe it’s just because I’m a silly girl with a few idiotic tendencies. A more apt description is ‘rushing’ actually, not running. I’ve always had a goal. Straight out of high school I started studying, then got a job, then bought a car, then bought an apartment, then got engaged and married at the tender age of 23! Please feel free to slap me when you see me again…. Who does that (except me)? And I wasn’t pregnant or in need to get married for any other practical reason.
Less than two years later my son was born. Another two years and one day later my daughter was born. My minions truly are the one and only priceless prize I have for the Speedy Gonzalez trajectory my life took. Anyway, after that I spent five years playing housie-housie. Ex-husband had a thriving business and I was set on being the most supportive wife in the world, hosting perfect dinner parties, kiddies birthday parties, baby showers for the rest of the crew in suburbia… you name it. Sunday school teacher, kids at a private school – with a crap Ms Thing attitude to match – that whole trip. The person I am now wouldn’t want to spend five minutes in the company of who I was, never mind be her friend! Anyway, it’s a good thing. I’m not a pretentious little prick anymore.
Nowadays I think there might be some people who consider me arrogant if they don’t really know me, but it’s only because they don’t know the rest of my story and what it took post divorce to move from there to here. I won’t go into that detail here now. The point of this blog came from a thought I had about slowing down. I don’t know why I was so rushed from early on in life, and maybe there is a case to be made for having to rush post divorce because I had to build my own life from scratch again to make sure my children are secure. It dawned on me recently, the time has now come to slow the heck down and enjoy the trip.
I started recognizing my own rushed behaviour. Things happen, either I meet someone or a new project or job comes up and in the past I’ve always thrown myself and my energy in totally. Despite sometimes not even being sure. But why? Why on earth Bronwyn? And then, because failure is not an option I hold onto that dumb idea forever. And even sadder… The saddest is I forget to live in the present moment!
I’ve started to see life differently now. Same life, same crap but just dealing with the crap with my full attention here and now – instead of keeping a mindful eye on tomorrow, next month or five years from now. Or sometimes just opting not to own any crap that is not actually mine. See, if you are not rushed then you can actually tell the difference – something I could not do that in the past. It is such a relief. And such a pleasure actually. The term I think of that probably describes living in the present moment the best is ‘a joy’.
Dinner time in our house has become more of a bonding affair. Not just 20 minutes on the evening schedule in-between homework time and shower time any longer. I started actively listening. And guess what… The minions then started too! Because we all enjoyed dinner time so much more, I then started looking at the menu and what we were eating. Together, we decided on healthier (and tastier) meals including more vegetables. It seems to be having a knock-on effect. This is just one example.
I have applied the same principle to my work. I admit I get less work done… BUT I am ten times happier than before and not even a quarter slower. I make time for myself – downloaded a meditation app called Headspace. Another thing I highly recommend. Only three minutes meditation per day, and by quieting the noise in my head for those three minutes, enables me hear what I must hear more clearly. The app is perfect for a beginner like me, who never meditated before.
So the Queen of Mistakes gets it right sometimes. I’ve been dubbed the Queen of Mistakes by my minions in one of our recent dinners. More relaxed now, this Queen of Mistakes doesn’t mind taking ownership of that title whatsoever…. As long as you know I’m still the Queen.
Crunching the numbers, oh yeah baby. Data Analysis = Bronwyn as Happy As A Pig In Mud! True story.
So even though thus far I’ve only gotten 8 responses from the 32 organisations in my target population, I have started capturing and analysing my data in MS Excel. Decided not to use SPSS – with so little data, MS Excel can do everything I want, plus Excel spider charts look nicer. Spider charts are perfect to present the type of data I’m analysing – easy way to communicate lots of information quickly.
But Oh Vrek, what a feeling! Only a very few other feelings can compare. Like a part of my brain switched on that I haven’t used in a while. Absolutely loving it – each and every time MS Excel moans at me and tells me my formula is wrong. And I curse under my breath – sometimes out loud, but when I check it again…indeed. I get a kick every time that happens. Oh the things we do for fun.
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For those mildly interested in the details of my research, as is the nature of a true academic, I present to you a brief summary of my findings thus far 🙂
So the key concepts in my study are Quality Management (leading to Operational Excellence in a pharmaceutical organisation) and Culture. I’m basically investigating what culture supports quality management to make certain organisations just flipping brilliant at what they do (aka operationally excellent). I’ve delineated Operational Excellence (OpEx) in nine dimensions of Quality Management, namely Strategy, Customer Focus, Employee Empowerment etc. etc (see the diagram below). I have also identified four distinct organisational culture type based on research by Cameron and Quinn (2010). The cultures are the Clan culture = family orientated/mentoring culture; the Adhocracy culture = Risk takers and innovators; the Market driven culture = always chasing the money; and finally the Hierarchical culture = a pretty anal bunch who insist on always following strict and set procedures. Even though I sound dismissive of the hierarchical culture, please know in pharmaceutical manufacturing you need more of that than anything else because the health and lives of people are at stake. Anyway, no more boring details.
Check the pictures below. I have profiled (admittedly with little data), the GMP licenced pharmaceutical organisations in South Africa to see how well the are doing in terms of Quality Management Practices (or OpEx) and then also profiled them based on dominant cultural characteristics….
And so the next thing I have to do is go visit some of them, to find out how it is that they do what it is that they do. And I also want to understand what is it about a particular organisation’s culture that makes the score higher than others in the nine dimensions of Quality Management. ….But that’s not all folks, since this is a PhD, I must develop a model for other organisations to use, that will help them become operationally excellent. But that’s enough of this for now. Bwhahahaha …pretend evil laugh evil laugh… My raw data awaits me for some more number crunching. Catch you on the flip side peeps.
So there are many things going on right now. Most significant for me is Fees Must Fall has resurfaced. There have been noteworthy protests on campus. Uncanny timing….. and ironically on the anniversary of Steve Biko’s death yesterday some of my colleagues were trapped in our building on campus due to protest action. Thankfully, I can report that no one was harmed. Today there is mass confusion on campus. Classes are locked. No one is sure if lectures are taking place or not. Some staff are at home out of fear of their safety, others diligently go in out of loyalty, but then leave because of the locked class situation. Some students are milling around while others have amassed in a group and are chanting in the student centre. And the latest news just in is everyone in our building was just evacuated again now due to safety concerns. What a royal mess.
After what transpired yesterday I met up with a colleague in Stellenbosch to give him some advice and ideas on how he could move his classes online and this started me thinking of what it all means. So I’ll be blogging about that soon. As soon as I can articulate my frustration, despair, my hope and my faith in a coherent and diplomatic manner, without giving in to my seething bubbling anger.
In the meantime I also think it’s time to wrap up my Sweden trip. So here the final instalment of that adventure…
So we arrived at Arlanda airport and we still didn’t have accommodation. Seriously living precariously. We managed to find a tiny little room in town. Seriously…TINY.
Then to catch up and do touristy things….
Beautiful churches and old buildings in Stockholm. Our hotel was in the city very close to Gamla Stan (the old town – literally the oldest part of Stockholm). Was so beautiful. Spent a morning exploring it and visited the Nobel Museum.
Then for some more museuming…
But then we were tired. Look, you can only do that much museuming in a day.
It didn’t stop us from clubbing that night though…
Even the trip back home from the club that next morning was breath taking.
So then some more museuming….. Saving the best for last….
Admission time: I can neither confirm or deny that the ABBA museum might or might not have been my favourite or least favourite museum in Stockholm.
And then our final day in Sweden we spent in a quaint little town called Sigtuna. It had a really ‘small town feeling’ to it – rich in history. The perfect way to end a perfect trip.
Root cause analysis or RCA is what we call a ‘quality tool’ in the work that I do (and what I teach our Quality students). It’s the stupidest thing in the world – well not really. It’s ingenious, but it is so simple that it’s stupid. It lives at the intersection of project management and risk management (and therefore quality management). Basically, as the name suggests, it looks for the root causes of problems. Sometimes, most times we intuitively know the root causes of an issue. But the thing is ….in business if you actually allow yourself and your team to go through the steps of RCA you might be pleasantly surprised (as I many times was) to discover that there is actually something there, that you and other people in your organisation really just had not considered before. So, it really just is a simple systematic and amazing tool that helps you to continuously improve.
Other important thing about RCA is that you only gonna do it after there is a problem. Why would anyone do it before they have something to fix? (… that’s a trick question by the way, I know the risk management guys are screaming at me now :)) Yeah ok. Let’s move on.
So kids are, in my opinion, the experts of RCA. And since we all were kids once….except Shaun – he was always grown up (rolling my eyes), we all can be great at RCA. So the final step of RCA is asking “Why?”, more specifically 5 Whys. If you have a kid, you’ll know they’re flipping relentless…”Why?”, “Why?”, “Why?”, “Why?” and “Why?” – no matter what your answer is. I reckon we should all aspire to be like that again. And following these steps, if you take appropriate action and respond to the root cause, your negative issue should never recur.
So here’s what I’m actually blogging about, in our personal lives we stop too soon. Ok maybe it’s just me. Or maybe we not ready to know something until we are. Be that as it may, I’ve been reading a book called “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” and I’ve really been enjoying it. Most of what the author says is not anything I didn’t know. It was very cool though because he basically just ordered my thoughts. And the main point that he emphasizes (and something I hadn’t thought of before) is the underlying cause of any unhappiness is a skewed (or outright wrong) value in our lives. Huh….Like what’s a value?
And so I was thinking about myself and the times I’ve been unhappy. Time to time I get unhappy about tons of different stuff, but the most common recurring unhappiness is in the past two years is I’ve had rotten relationship luck. I can say (and pretend.. like I do) it doesn’t matter… but you know what, it does. To me it does. That’s an area which the author of the book would say “I give a fuck about”. Yet I know beyond any shadow or reason of a doubt that there is so much more happening in my life. Amazing stuff. Besides the PhD (my Beautiful Nightmare), watching my students grow, the fascinating research I’m doing on Open Education, my beautiful children and amazing family and I have the absolutely coolest friends in the world. And so armed with my newfound insight (aka the value stuff), I actually did a RCA.
And yes the author was right…. at the end of my “Whys?”, I realise there is a “value” in my life that is indeed misaligned. It’s a core value – one that I’ve believed my whole entire life. It is that being in a “traditional family unit” is the basis or a principle on which one builds happiness. Not only was I brought up believing that, in my life I am surrounded by ‘that’. My parents, my brothers who are both married, many people who are important in my life – an endless list. I forced myself to admit, I’ve been using that as a benchmark and blatantly disregarding the other benchmarks in my life, which believe it or not are actually are there.
Take that idea of “family unit” being the ideal away from me and you’ll flip my world upside down. But that exactly was the precise cause of my unhappiness! True story. So you know what I did… I took that value away from me. After doing my Whys? and spotting it, and then I realised I had to ask “Now what?” And guess what, …there is a what. The armegeddon that I was expecting didn’t happen.
So I’m changing my benchmark for happiness. It does not mean that finding a partner is not important to me. It’s just not so important anymore. I want to be happy more (consistently) often than what I currently am. And if I start using the other metrics I’ve identified (and now acknowledge) as true metrics of happiness (in my life that is), then my endeavour is not impossible. It’ll take time to break an old habit but it’s more than doable, because not only am I good at things associated to my new value, I enjoy striving (and thriving) toward them. I honestly think that following this process will add value in every area in our lives, not just at work.
So the bottom line is I have discovered a new final step to RCA. It doesn’t end with 5 Whys?… It ends with “Now what?”. And then do whatever it is darn it. I might just write an academic paper on this. The next time I present a lecture to students on RCA that is exactly what I’ll be telling them. Analysis without the necessary follow-up action is meaningless. Gosh I simply love my job. Quality rocks!!!!!!
Disclaimer: RCA starts with Ishikawa analysis and then 5 Whys (and my new step the “Now what”), – it’s not just the 5 Whys #JustSaying
Sitting writing in the sunny braai room on a quiet warm Sunday morning (and not caring if it’s good writing or bad writing – that’s my supervisor’s problem) with a good cup of coffee and a slice of honey and oats toast bread with peanut butter and maple flavoured syrup on it.
Minions haven’t woken yet – or more likely, they are afraid to emerge from their bedrooms out of fear of what Mom might suggest we do today. They seem to prefer to prospect of hiding out in their rooms than the one of going to look for mushrooms on Lion’s Head. And yes I know there are no mushrooms on Lion’s Head. I guess that’s why they still hiding 🙂 #CrazyMom.
So my iPod keeps me company as I work. Feels so good to just be in my own skin. Cherished moment.