After school care is an opportunity for schools

The SMH recently ran an article on how school principals can’t be made responsible for ensuring before school and after school care.

I wonder if this is actually an opportunity.  It seems to me that there is a clear demand for care as more and more families have both parents working.  The article talked about the lack of space, kitchen facilities and toilets.  I’m not convinced.

While a school may house hundreds of kids during the day there is sufficient space and toilet facilities, the number of kids requiring care is significantly less than this.  As for Kitchen facilities, most schools have a canteen and a basic staff kitchen.

The article also speaks about modifying facilities.  Given what I see at my own kids’ school, I’m not convinced by this either.

There is an opportunity for schools to provide care on a not-for-profit basis.  And I don’t mean ‘non-profit’.  A reasonable profit should be made, channeled back into the school for teachers and equipment, say 20% NPBT.

I’m sure there are plenty of teachers who both have a good reputation with the kids and would like to make some extra money to look after the kids until 6pm.

So, should school principals be responsible for before and after school care? Absolutely yes.  Working with the P&C there is a fantastic opportunity to generate revenue in an under-serviced area.  Parents want it.  They’ll pay.  Let’s do it.

What are we doing in all the time we spend at work?

Another article on the length of the working week, productivity, vacations and purpose.  The issue in the article is the length of the week (and day) and the importance of vacation time in boosting productivity.   I think it’s not getting to the root cause – we spend so much time doing crap work that just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme.  It’s a fundamental rethink of what work is really about that’s needed.  Managing the hours worked is simply moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

6 hour workday, or a 4 day week / 3 day weekend?

Sweden is trialling a 6 hour work day.

Having recently enjoyed a greater balance of work / life time, I’ve far more enjoyed a four day week / three day weekend.  Having 1 – 2 hours extra each day might be useful, but I think a solid day where I can get more done (of my own things) is better.

Work can be quite intensive and we often need a fair bit of time to simply wind down before we can really focus on the other things we want to do.  A solid day in the middle to really get into a project or even two if you can wind down quickly and don’t need to wind back up on Sunday is far more satisfying because you can see real progress.

 

What do you think? Five shorter days, or a three day weekend?

A conceptual model for grammar: Verb conjugations and tenses

The problem with conjugations and tenses

In my recent efforts to re-learn and learn a bunch of languages, I’ve noticed several trends in the majority of grammar books I’ve leafed through both in book form and on the internet.  When learning romance languages, it’s critical to properly and fully understand the grammar as they apply to verb conjugations and tenses.  I’ll be using French as an example in this post.

In my use of these references the trends I’ve noticed are:

  • The terms used to describe the tenses are overly technical and are essentially unrelated to what they are describing.

For example, the ‘imperfect’ tense refers to the past tense.  I think it’s essentially meaningless to the casual learner to refer to it as the imperfect tense.  In fact, why is it imperfect?  Then there’s the perfect tense, also used to describe the past.

Another example is the subjunctive.  The what? I hear you ask.  Well, the subjunctive describes a conditional future.  That is, when expressing it, the speaker has some doubt over whether the future being described will be true or not.  For example, in the expression ‘It’s important that he be here…’ the speaker uncertain whether the person will, in fact, be here in the future.  It needs a special grammar and in French this would be ‘Il faut qu’il soit ici’, where ‘soit’ is the third person subjunctive of être.  We don’t use it very often in English any more.

Don’t get me started on the pluperfect. What is that??!!

 

  • In most grammar books I’ve seen, the grammar and specifically tenses are presented in an almost continuous stream of facts that must be rote learned.  The only concessions to the learner are a brief introduction and some examples.

 

  • The various tense tables are presented according to the technical name of the tense and then each conjugation is presented with no English equivalent.  In order to learn the tables, people essentially need to rote learn the whole lot.

 

  • Verb tables differ considerably in their completeness depending on the author.

 

I think there are two things missing in how the grammar is presented / taught.  The first is a conceptual model clearly showing the tenses in relation to a timeline.  And the second is to simply include the English (or other language) equivalent of a tense and conjugation.

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The case for a four-day working week

Over the last six months, I’ve had a unique opportunity to rethink everything about my company.  Aside from working on the value proposition and all those good things needed to carve out a niche, I’ve been thinking about work-life balance.  And not just for me – for staff, too.

So many times, we hear people and businesses go on about it, but I don’t think any of that really works in the long term. Various efforts are made to give people social / team based activities and give other perks while at work.  However, the pressures of client deadlines, work schedules, etc., all conspire to force us to work longer hours and make us sacrifice the things we were going to do to get the balance we need.

Then there are the weekends.  How often do you feel like you’ve only just wound down and then realise it’s Sunday? And then the grind starts again.

I think a more radical approach is needed to achieve work-life balance and to do something for staff that properly differentiates the working environment from others to make it an attractive place to work.  I think that truly, the last thing people really want is to have time filled with team bonding activities when they could’ve been at home instead or doing something else completely different.

Starting from 2013, I’ll be instituting a four day working week for all staff.  That is, the whole company will operate on a four day week – Monday to Thursday – with Friday a mandatory day off for everyone.

How will this work?  Simple.  No change to salary (same pay), no change to annual leave (four calendar weeks), no change to billable hours (32 hours per week).  I only expect people to bill 32 hours per week anyway.  The company’s profitability models are based on 32 hours.  Why not do that in four days instead of five?  After all, we all know the maxim – Work fills the time available.

Rather than trying to invent the next contrived activity to keep people motivated and create an attractive workplace with other meaningless games and trinkets, why not give people what they really want – the time to the things they’d rather be doing than going to work.  And here’s another maxim – Who, on their deathbed, ever said they wished they had spent more time at work?

 

I think the only real way to achieve work / life balance is to have more time for the life component.  Just imagine what you can do with a three day weekend, every week.

Building online social communities: Helping your members cross the observer / participant barrier

This article follows on from our previous one ‘Long time listener, first time caller’.  In this article, we discuss what you need to do to foster and promote the necessary user behaviours within online communities to create a sustainable active community. We build on our ‘Observer / participant barrier’ model from our earlier paper to show you how to successfully manage your members as they start the process of engaging with your online community. We use strong social psychology models as a basis for the recommendations on how to work with your community and include a checklist of dos and don’ts.

You can find it on the PTG website under ‘Our Thinking’ and then go to the ‘Psychology / Social’ section.

You can also download it directly from here.

Let me know what you think in the comments…

Long time listener, first time caller – Why people do and don’t engage in a community

In this paper, we discuss the psychology of why people simply (and passively) observe a community while others actually participate and contribute. We discuss the process and decisions people go through when locating a community, choosing to sign up and participate in activities (e.g., sharing of information), through to becoming a ‘long time member’, or in some cases a leader (or super user) in a community. We present our ‘Observer / Participant Barrier’ model illustrating the critical leap people make to become active members in a community. Anyone who’s interested in creating a successful online social network /community should take a look.

You can find it on the PTG website under ‘Our Thinking’ and then go to the ‘Psychology / Social’ section.

You can also download it directly from here.

Let me know what you think in the comments…

Pick a sign, any sign…

My good friend Andrew Lizzio snapped this image for me on a highway turnoff just south of Cairns…Nice to know he was thinking of me on his holidays!! ;-)

A confusing mess of signs at a railway crossing on a highway turnoff, south of Cairns, Queensland, Australia

A confusing mess of signs at a railway crossing on a highway turnoff, south of Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Does your NPS survey tell you exactly how to improve loyalty and referrals?

I’ve written a new paper on the PTG website.  In this paper, I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Net Promoter Score. Its strength is in moving beyond satisfaction to loyalty and referrals. Its weakness is that like nearly all surveys I see, it provides no explanatory or predictive power. That is, you can have a good score or a poor score and not know why. Without this insight, you don’t know what to do more of, less of or differently.

This paper is Part 1 of 3 and starts with a discussion about the NPS and surveying, followed by Part 2, where I’ll show you how to design a rigorous causal survey. In Part 3, I’ll take you through how to quickly and simply analyse a causal survey using multivariate statistics.

You can access the paper from the PTG website, under ‘Our thinking’, in the ‘Psychology / Social’ section or directly from this link: How to make the Net Promoter Score truly actionable.  I hope you enjoy it.  Look out for parts 2 and 3 in the very near future.  If you have any views or comments about what I’ve said, please let me know…

Psychology / Social

Does your NPS survey tell you exactly how to improve loyalty and referrals?

In this paper, Craig discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the Net Promoter Score. Its strength is in moving beyond satisfaction to loyalty and referrals. Its weakness is that like nearly all surveys he sees, it provides no explanatory or predictive power. That is, you can have a good score or a poor score and not know why. Without this insight, you don’t know what to do more of, less of or differently. This paper is Part 1 of 3 and starts with a discussion about the NPS and surveying, followed by Part 2, where he’ll show you how to design a rigorous causal survey. In Part 3, Craig will take you through how to quickly and simply analyse a causal survey using multivariate statistics.In this paper, Craig discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the Net Promoter Score. Its strength is in moving beyond satisfaction to loyalty and referrals. Its weakness is that like nearly all surveys he sees, it provides no explanatory or predictive power. That is, you can have a good score or a poor score and not know why. Without this insight, you don’t know what to do more of, less of or differently. This paper is Part 1 of 3 and starts with a discussion about the NPS and surveying, followed by Part 2, where he’ll show you how to design a rigorous causal survey. In Part 3, Craig will take you through how to quickly and simply analyse a causal survey using multivariate statistics.

Enhancing the UI design of iTunes’ ‘Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps’

In this first article in a new category of entries ‘Design it better’, I’m going to take things, usually websites or applications, I’ve used or seen that have potential, but could be designed in a better way.

I’m also going to provide an insight into some of the thinking that went in to the design enhancement so you can see why it was necessary. While the example is trivial and the solution obvious, you’ll see there are other solutions that could have been used, and why the selected one is better.

The first thing I’m going to cover is a new feature found in iTunes 9.1 called ‘Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps’.

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