What colour is my work?


Here are coloured beads in 2 jars.

A man (a slightly famous games designer in his 60s) every day takes a bead from the right jar and pops it into the jar on the left.

Each bead represents a day. The amount in the jar on the right are an estimate of how many days remain to be lived.
In the jar on the left the beads have colours to signify his youth (orange ), teenage and early 20s (black) and so on.

In the right jar there are colours for his 70s and 80s.

I want two glass jars on the end of my desk at work.
One is to hold blue balls, the other red balls. I’m thinking of balls the size of marbles.

I don’t directly help customers, so my work must be a support service, helping the core services to do their job.
At the end of every day if I have done work that helps someone else in the organisation to help a customer then I would put a blue ball into the blue ball jar.

If I can’t find an actual person that I’ve helped with their customer, then I’d put a red ball into the red ball jar.

This will serve as a physical sign of the value of my work to customers.

I need to buy two glass jars, these are good for £1.25 from Ikea.
And I will need a very large sack of red balls….


I will keep you all updated when I need to buy some blue balls.

This entry was posted in customer, me doing it, purpose, systems thinking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What colour is my work?

  1. John Rudkin says:

    Hi. I really enjoy reading Think Purpose. I find the entries rather entertaining, but my reasons may be a little different to what you might normally assume. I worked in an organisation that suffered many of the same issues that you use in your articles. By the way, I don’t know how you get away with some, especially if you are indeed an employee of the public sector. I do believe you though, because it sounds right.
    I worked for someone who took a great pride in trying to do the best for the customer…..but his attitude change. He became besotted with Systems Thinking. “Besotted”? It went from a serious interest and became almost a religion. As I saw the theory and practice growing, I saw something that related to my own background, as I was trained as a Designer, taught Design Education – and was used to working using Design Thinking. It was as though I’d defiled the very beliefs when I tried to suggest that there were parallels in approach. This person didn’t just demand everyone adopt Systems Thinking, but began to use it to convince everyone that understanding ST was something of a Religious Experience. Give me strength. This Religion was supported by the use of language, in a different context, and with meaning that had to be decoded. Actually it was not that difficult to understand at all, but that use of language became a way to share dialogue in a way that only a few chosen people were able to decipher. Of course, some staff said nothing, but looked bemused, or jokes when he left the room, but I saw the use of ST as becoming subversive and confusing, but it split the staff. I tackled that. I saw one staff member modifying evidence just to please (ingratiate) their Manager.
    So sad? Has anyone else seen or experienced this sort of thing? IT WAS VERY DAMAGING, and ultimately it did not really deliver the results, but there you go. It made someone feel important. What did it do fir the customer in the end. Red balls.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      These days, with The Bloody Audit Commission gone, a lot of the heat has gone out of performance management. All of it, really. The purpose of it was to gain high scores for the council, which everybody important depended on for their careers. With this gone, so did the arseholes who worked in performance management. There is a high turnover in management in councils, one of Deming’s “deadly diseases”, so they’d have gone anyway but with them went a huge need to conform to tight-lipped acquiescence in the fantasy that it was all (any of it) important and useful.
      So I got away with it.
      Also, nobody gives a damn what I type here, quite rightly. As long as I am not defaming anybody or make any of the stories about the place REALLY NOTICABLE, then it’s all fine. And I am fantastically charming and likable in person.

      That all sounds very odd, the story. I’m finding that I’m increasingly embarrassed about my previous bible-thumping about ST. I saw some ST types recently quoting from books, referencing things, excitedly brandishing control charts and it was thoroughly alienating and a bit daft looking. Not engaging, and I thought “God, I hope I don’t come across like that”. I have come across some Ninja types who don’t ever use the phrase “systems thikning” and just concentrate on purpose, it’s very clever. As it looks normal, as it IS normal. Normal, but not normal. That’s something to aspire to I think.
      I WILL be getting 2 jars and the balls, probably for next week. I think it could, just possible, be a useful prop to try and surface the conversations and thoughts that people are having anyway about the value of the activity we carry out. At worst, a bit of fun. Me being eccentric I can get away with ALL sorts.


  2. Pingback: My Red Beads Experiment (part1) | thinkpurpose

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