Finally, the Mac butterfly is broken upon the wheel
13 March 2020 by David Bott
Bizarrely I was there in plenty of time for the “start the week” meeting and there were some interesting “catches” this time. I seem to remember it spun off into separate meetings about various things, so I didn't get back to my desk until 10.30!! That gave me just enough time for Jools to tell me what I was doing before I met the Digital Britain dudes to discuss the structure of the next competition – the big one that is supposed to build on the achievements of the Feasibility Studies, whatever else comes in and possibly even provide products and services that can be validated on the TeStBed. I then spent some time with Anne going through our recruitment, the upcoming review and other aspects of HR, before we went into an interview for EGS. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be seeing this candidate again! Immediately after that, Obi-wan and the remaining metrics Ninja, who has morphed into a CSR Ninja, met to go through the presentation to the Board. I had missed many of the previous meetings because I was out on the road, so they wanted to make sure I knew my lines! That was followed by a meeting with the accountant Rachel to go through the various co-funding arrangements we might, or might not, have in place. My final meeting of the day was with Celia Caulcott over in BBSRC. The research councils are thinking hard about Hauser Centres (and in the case of the BBSRC, wondering why they are different from Institutes). She also commented on how “cute” our new farm-boys were. I then caught the train down to London – sitting next to Celia and extending the meeting. In the evening, I grabbed a quick meal with Fearless Leader whilst he told me what he would have said tomorrow!!
Tuesday saw an early start in Tracy Island before yet another impersonation of Fearless Leader – this time as the chair of the Strategic Advisory Group. For the “Chief Executives Report” I channelled FL from the evening before and no-one noticed it wasn't him. The NINJ feedback seemed to go well and although the formal feedback from the Hauser Centre work – with just under a million indistinct and contradictory recommendations – was largely discounted, our preparatory work was widely praised for its logical structure and focused approach. My timekeeping was good up to this point, but the discussion on the research councils was where it all fell apart. Following on from a discussion at the last meeting where the integration of universities was queried, David Delpy gave an overview of academic work, focusing heavily on the EPSRC – because he knew the details. I think the group found it unsatisfactory and the discussion went on a bit. I wandered back to Tracy Island and took a phone call from a guy from Finmeccanica, about how best to engage with us. I offered the now standard package (unofficially known as “doing a Cisco”) that I would bring a small party of Technologists aligned with their chosen areas to discuss what we are doing and start a dialogue about our strategies.
The evening saw the re-appearance of FL (he claimed to have been meeting some Europeans as an excuse not to chair the SAG) for a meeting with Cancer Research UK. CRUK (apparently they have the same aversion to their acronym as we do!, but they’ll never know I used it) are probably the most advanced in their thinking and practice about stratified medicine, but I got the impression they are still unsighted on what to actually ”do” to make it happen faster. We discussed the potential to work together as co-funders and did the standard first date stuff of talking about our roles, aims and record collections.
The next day saw a bleary-eyed FL and me catching an early train back to Swindon for the final meeting to prepare for the Governing Board meeting in Scotland. It’s all coming together quite well but we need to all have the same high level goals and sound bites if we are to get our message across. I spent the afternoon doing one of my other jobs and reminding myself why I enjoy small companies so much!!
Thursday was a truncated Executioners Meeting, where we proved that there is so much going on, even a “by exception” scorecard review takes lots of time. We also struggled further to understand the machinations of the accountancy tribe as they thrash our finances into a plausible shape, decided yet again we really need an international strategy and not a list of things we did because they seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I then joined the Manufacturing Strategy Implementation Board by telephone – last time, I found physical interaction too intense emotionally. They are still trying to do as little as possible and anticipate that in a months time, no-one will care anyway. It truly is depressing. And the phone line kept going down, but they kept calling me!! Finally I took another phone call about a “composites” dinner next week, where I am (you guessed it) impersonating Fearless Leader. Actually, it sounds quite interesting!!
I had been looking forward to Friday for more than the usual reasons. I drove up to the venue in the middle of Leicester (note to self, buy a sat nav) and gave a 15 minutes “challenges” talk as part of the launch of the iFestival. I was on 3rd, but the 1st part – introductions and advertisements – went on for 15 minutes longer than planned, so I started at the time I was supposed to finish. I was the warm-up act for Richard Noble and thoroughly enjoyed his re-working of history to suit his own goals. I did notice, however, that for a man who thinks that failure is a necessary part of growing, it is interesting to note that he blames bankers for all of his “failures”. I was then invited to the EMDA Innovation Council Meeting but this was running late, so other than David Clarke talking about ETI, I didn't seem much of what they do. For the afternoon, Jools had booked me to see the Renfrew Group - http://www.rg3.com/index.asp I think FL had met them before and they had been to Innovate, but they still seemed to miss the point of how we operate – so I told them. After that we got on to more interesting stuff. They are an interesting company, part design studio, part small run manufacturer. They had been involved with DoH working on HCAI (healthcare associated infections) before the Design Councils “Design Bugs Out” programme – but there seems to be a number of their ideas which have been approved by the DoH but which run foul of the standard problem that the NHS doesn’t procure centrally or innovatively (I met a man from Herman Miller a few weeks ago who had a similar story). If all they are doing is moving the valley of death on to a different part of the development pathway and companies are still not bringing new products to market, then the process is still borked!
By the time I got home, I knew I had 3 “urgent” voicemails and (from my BlackBerry) 84 new e-mails, but spent most of the evening coming to terms with the fact that ITC have finally won and that the latest version of the Exchange software had managed to stop me accessing my e-mail via the Mac. So this is being written up offline and cut and pasted into webmail – because it times out half way through things. My joy is complete!!