Klaus Hnilica
Thursday May 18th, 2017

Falling Down

I no longer remember who told me this story. Perhaps it was the tourist guide when we drove to the ’Manrique Museum’? Or that female professor of geology from Brandenburg? She has been coming to the ’Lanzarote Park Hotel’ in Playa Blanca in March for eight years now and also reads Spanish Daily Newspapers, not just this stupid island magazine Lanzarote 37°. Or was it maybe Pedro who told me this story a one of his inimitable ’language cocktail’ variations at the pool?

I simply cannot recall exactly …

But it was always about that toothless street musician!

He is a true disgrace on the never-ending boardwalk close to the ocean in the south-west of Lanzarote. With his dirty and unappetizing appearance, he should not be permitted to sit there. This is simply not tolerable! Not on this fantastic EU-financed boardwalk! After all, hundreds of people pilgrimage here until late into the night.

Besides, this ’music-playing pig’ does not restrict his appearance to his rusty folding chair in front of the last stretch of fallow land, where hardly anybody would notice him anyway. Instead, he can now be almost exclusively seen on the stone boardwalk balustrade.

What an exhibition: a ’music-playing rubbish heap’ in front of the eternally sparkling, sunny ocean! With a greasy hat lying on the floor and a cap on his sun-burned head! And two watery eyes that look like puddles …

Mostly, he dribbles into his melodica – which is some kind of key flute – from which the same melody is released at all times. But it is strangely alluring! You have to give him that. Perhaps it is even by Mozart? Even if it is perhaps a little too sad? Unfortunately, I was never able to really find out.

Seven years ago, when the concert building Lava-Bubble in Jameos del Agua was closed due to stones falling down from the ceiling, this disgrace had already been playing on the Playa Blanca boardwalk. In those days, he allegedly had a rather rich musical portfolio.

And while the volcano rocks were being glued together with special resin above the roof, he also sat there every day. Perhaps even the occasional cent out of all those six million euros this roof cost found its way into his shabby hat. Who could know? Definitely not the ’music-playing rubbish heap’.

And the inauguration concert given when the renovated concert hall in Jameos del Agua  was ceremoniously re-opened will definitely also have been something he was totally unaware of. As must have been the fact that the famous English conductor John Miguel Smith was going to be at the baton and that even representatives of the Spanish Crown had accepted the invitation.

However, he did notice that the rather pompous John Miguel Smith with his much too young female companion had had a stupid accident where he stumbled right in front of the ’music-playing heap of dirt’ on the day before the concert and fell fully on his nose; yes, that was something he had definitely noticed.

And the Spanish cursing of the noble Brit was probably also something he noticed!
Mind you, Betty had even cried out “attention John“, because apparently he had recognized a strangely alluring melody and consequently only had eyes for the shabbily dressed source of the melody. But at that moment, it was already too late! He fell full-length onto the dignified brown cobbles of the boardwalk here in Playa Blanca…

Ranting, he immediately jumped up, was appalled when he inspected his atrociously grazed hands and elbows, moved his badly ailing fingers like a maniac and kept shaking his head while he smoothed the damaged, bloody t-shirt over his stomach.
He only noticed that he had also torn his rough silver Greek Knot Cross from his neck during his fall when Betty tearfully offered it to him. He gripped it like a bird of prey and threw it into the greasy hat of the street musician, who was totally appalled.

He was quick to pull Betty after him in order to get away from this upheaval among the nosy masses of people as fast as possible. Probably his only remaining worry at this time was tomorrow’s inauguration concert at the “lava bubble”! In Jameos del Agua! And his wounded arms, his injured stomach, his bloody hands and his lacerated chin. And he certainly hoped that nobody had recognized him – the famous John Miguel Smith, when he kissed the boardwalk lying on his stomach like a fallen frog …

What mortification!

However, in at least one case, this hope seemed to have been in vain; because when the ’music-playing rubbish heap’ had overcome his shock paralysis and fished out the cross that lay between the few coins in his hat, there was suddenly a strange sparkle to his alcohol-marked face. A sparkle that even continued when he opened his toothless mouth out of which came a questioning “Miguel?”…

And then again “Miguel – Miguel, is it you?“

The street musician got more and more excited and even panicky. He dropped the soiled melodica and started using his left paw, too, for squeezing the silver cross – and again and again, he croaked: “Miguel !…Miguel !!…Miguel…!!

But John Miguel Smith was far beyond hearing and being seen. In fact, he hurried like a wounded animal along the boardwalk accompanied by his totally hysterical companion. All he wanted was crawl into his lair at the Hotel Vulcano as fast as possible!

Since, as everybody knows, the famous conductor Smith strictly forbids all attempts at finding out about his life and mercilessly deplores even the smallest public assumptions, the desperate calls of an old man, too, were lost in the rippling of the ocean that ran along the lava coast near the boardwalk balustrade.

But still, as I said, I heard somewhere that this incident is the reason and the only reason why the street musician, since that time, only plays this one ’endearing melody’ that, to this day, I could not identify. It is because he still hopes that his Miguel – whom he could not have cared less about when he was a child, in fact whom he even gave away for adoption – might one day pass by and invite him, his alleged father, to drink a brandy ’Carlos III’ with him…

Well, I am not sure if it is really the ’Carlos III’ this rubbish-like musician dreams about, but I would like to invite everyone who can tell me something new about John Miguel Smith to have a ’Carlos I’ with me in the pre-warmed glassed of the Café ’Gilbert’ on the Playa Blanca boardwalk. As I see it, the old ’music-playing piece of dirt’ should get some help, so why not through a good brandy?

PS:
Please note that all persons and activities in this story are fiction. But still, I will continue to look for this melody that caused the famous conductor to fall down. I have to find out more about it …
KH
(Translated by EG)

Here is the last part of my report with some information, comments and advice, giving you the gist of the trip.

The Caribbean

The ocean and the sun, a wonderful climate, warm water from above and below, an exotic world – all these things have been a dream of mine, especially in December – and that was the most important reason for making the trip.

Travelling by ship

Going by ship is ideal for the Caribbean.  MeinSchiff 4 is a hotel that covers distances at night and mostly lies in the harbour in the day. This is how we were able to leisurely visit eight countries and ten harbour cities. We did not need a single visa. The only passport controls were when we entered and exited Germany and when we departed from the R.D. (Dominican Republic). All you need for mainland visits is the ship identification. Our passports remained in the strongbox of our suite.

The ship

Mein Schiff 4 is a German speaking ship. It is modern and well organized. The crew emanates a positive atmosphere. However, it also seems to be a product of convenience, following strict processes that are probably the same on all cruisers. You probably cannot do it any other way with 2,000 guests. The safety drill is good, but the question arises if it would actually work in case of an emergency.
The suites are spacy and functional and make a good impression. Most of the suites have a balcony. In former times, cruise ships were built in a more horizontal style. The lower decks were, for instance, reserved for the huge communal areas, such as restaurants, theatres and shops, along with the crew cabins and utility rooms like kitchen, laundry and much more. The upper decks used to belong to the passengers. Since the ships were rather broad, there were several corridors with outside and inside cabins for the passengers.

With ships now becoming broader and broader, this concept is changing. On the vertical level of modern ships, there are now the crew and service areas in the inner part of the ship at almost all central levels. That is a separate area with its own staircases and lifts. This makes it possible to have even larger community halls in the lower decks. Now the passenger area is exclusively at the outside, quasi built around the crew tower.

Consequently, almost all the suites now have balconies. We very much enjoyed ours. Whenever we stayed in our room, fresh air from the ocean drifted through the open balcony door. That was especially appreciated at night, when we were able to taste the air of and listen to the sound of the ocean without having switched on the air conditioning.

MeinSchiff 4 has two swimming pools. They are both on deck number 14 (there is no deck number 13). One of them is external and surprisingly large with 25 metres. Unfortunately, they are both operated with sweet water, rather than with ocean water. Naturally, the water used on board is won through osmose and/or distillation from ocean water. Consequently, it is not very good for the mucous membrane and the rest of the skin. That is why I hardly ever used it.

The gigantic reclining chair deposits on the diverse sundecks and inner decks are quite impressive. They almost reminded me of refugee camps. Having to service more than 2,000 passengers, you probably cannot do it any other way. Regardless of the multitude of reclining chairs, however, the German towel syndrome was ever-present. Even early in the morning, most of the reclining chairs held towels and other small supplements such as books, sun-blockers, caps or similar things to signal that they were taken. Apparently, nobody was bothered at all by the fact that the on-board instructions clearly said you should not do this kind of thing.

“Welcome back in Germany“

After a long day on the mainland, it feels good to be back on board. The crew will then say: “welcome back in Germany”. On the ship, it is also very much the same as in Germany: at least at first sight, everything seems to be well-ordered and clean – and that is probably true for normal circumstances. All the advertisements clearly follow the “German mainstream”.

But even more than in Germany, the service is provided by people from all over the world. For instance, I meet many service persons from Eastern and Southern Europe, but also from Asia. But you can look wherever you want: room service, restaurant or bar – you will never meet a German employee.

The persons working on the ship mostly do not have a German employer, either. Mostly, they are employed by agencies, for instance in Switzerland (officers), in in Cyprus (service) or in Manila (nautical). As on Meinschiff, they will then be body-leased by the holders. Naturally, this procedure is not TUI specific. The entire sector is doing it in the same way.

The work schedule, too, can only be considered in accordance with German work law if you interpret it very lavishly. They work ten hours a day and seven days a week. If necessary, extra hours are a matter of course. They only have a few days off. If someone’s work was exceptional, they get a special day off – which then, as a rule, is used for mainland visits.

The employees are happy with their jobs and their salaries. There are no deductions for social security. The countries where they are employed have very tax-friendly conditions for seafaring men. Additionally, they offer a surprisingly cheap health insurance for the mostly young persons, even if it only covers the absolutely necessary medical costs. Incidentally, this is the reason why there is no other European country that employs more seafaring men than Switzerland.

Basically, everyone who is employed on the ship is a seafaring person, regardless of where exactly they work: in the nautical, hotel or tourist sector. Consequently, they enjoy a fair net income, even though the pre-tax income is not really high. The cost of living is low, they also get tips, and they see the world. What more could you want?

All inclusive

For cruises, the TUI has an all-inclusive business model. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this concept. You often consume more than you wanted to (or should?). To make up for it, the procedure is rather simple and you really save money if you consume much. On the MeinSchiff 4 , the “all-inclusive” is actually honest. (Almost) Everything is included in the price. Even at the bar. Be it the excellent quality cocktails, the long drink, lots of beer and wine, there is a huge selection of market products, all of which is included in the price.

Only few things cost extra, for instance the specialties in three restaurants. At the bar, only very few and particularly famous spirits and wines are not included. It is true for freshly pressed orange juice and champagne.

Of the food, caviar and spiny lobsters are not included. But then, you can get caviar every week as part of your normal breakfast. Freshly pressed orange juice and the water on bottles labelled “Mein Schiff” cost extra. In the restaurants, however, both sparkling and non-sparkling water are included. There are water fountains on all decks where you can fill the carafes that will be found in your suite.

Food

The food was good quality. It is the same level as in good German cafeterias. More like Münchner Rück (MR) or Allianz than like Siemens AG.
In the (also included) “fine restaurants”, such as the big main restaurant, a several course meal is served on “posh” dishes. The food is the same (good) quality but made up to look good, too.

Self-service and service are well balanced. In several restaurants you can have both in neighbouring or secluded areas. The service does not cost extra, which means it is included in the total price, which is also true for GOSCH at the rear of deck 12. We liked staying there, especially because they had a huge open-air section. The grill bar, one deck up on deck 14, exclusively open-air, was our second favourite place. Along with the two bars nearer to the bow on the swimming pool and one deck up with their really exquisite cocktails, also all open-air.

Exercise

If you want to have enough exercise on the ship, there is a simple trick: only use the stairs and never use the lift. If you stick to that rule, you will, due to the 14 decks, the reception area on level 3 and the exit at water level on deck 2, remain in shape.…

Entertainment

The on-board entertainment is like everything else. Well organized, of acceptable quality, German mainstream like Helene Fischer. To be sure, this is not necessary my favourite, but most of the people on board seemed to like it. The same is true for the band – all of whom were certainly good musicians, but they did not seem to enjoy their own music very much – at least that was my impression. Local music – and also local food –, however, is not something you will get on such a German ship. I am sure it would not have been too hard to, for instance, take a reggae band on board between the two Jamaican harbours.

I must not forget the German Soccer League. They have public viewing on a huge screen with English comments in the open-air arena as well us under deck. Consequently, we had between one and two German Soccer League matches on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, which actually makes sense on days at sea. Of course, you get beer along with it – in huge bowls, the iced three-stripes beers from Jamaica is sitting there for you to take. The rule is: get one and drink it. If you do not like the three-stripes beer, you can also get Korona (from Mexico – my personal favourite) or one of the InBev brands (Becks, Franziskaner …). All free thanks to “all inclusive”.

For me, however, the most cherished entertainment on the ship was the great view from the top. Especially when we lay in the harbour or driove into or out of it, I was able to really collect my “great views” and spend hours just looking.

This is not what you saw from the big ship, but from the ferry after crossing the Panama Channel from the Pacific Ocean to Panama City.

Hier der Blick nicht vom großen Schiff sondern nur von der Fähre nach Durchfahrt des Panama-Kanals vom Pazifik auf Panama City.

Internet

From past experience, I know that, on board a ship, the internet access is usually via satellite and consequently not acceptable for an intense user like me. I never tried it on MeinSchiff, which means I have no idea if it was good or bad. But it was definitely rather expensive.
Consequently, I recharged my mobile phone whenever I was on the mainland. One possible way of using it are hotspots near the harbour that take a few USD for hour passes. However, I would recommend you go into the towns and either use public free hotspots or look for a coffee house where you get WLAN as part of the deal.
Digital

MeinSchiff 4 is a rather digital ship. You will find huge touch screens all over the ship. They inform you about the ship, the restaurants and the current program. The pictures showing the crew are displayed digitally and only printed after you order them. It is easy to use the ship App. Using it, I can also book trips and see how much money is on my on-board account.

Bicycle

There are no bicycles you can rent for mainland trips on MeinSchiff 4 . That was a special MS Europa service I very much appreciated. On MeinSchiff 4, you only get bicycles for specially organized tours. But you can have those both as normal trekking bikes and e-bikes. They even had e-rollers on board. But then you have a huge number of persons riding in single file on those trips, which is not an idea I am in favour of.

Renting a bicycle was possible only once at the harbours we arrived at. It seems like in Central America this is not a very popular thing to do.

Mainland trips

Everything is on offer – hiking tours, bicycle tours, bus tours, tours with boats of different sizes. You can book a jeep tour and a monster truck tour, even plane tours. In Cartageno I noticed that there was a city tour on MeinSchiff  with simple electronic scooters on three tyres.

The focus is on getting to know the country and the people, as well as cultural, historic, geographic and geological sightseeing. Many trips include the visit of an adventure or amusement park.

The trips are well organized – which, of course, always depends on local agencies. They also explicitly state this in the terms of business. The tour guides speak German or English. More often than not, the linguistic competence of the local guides is less than satisfactory. The tours are not cheap, but then the countries you visit are not cheap, either.

During our private tours, we often had nice and very positive contacts with the local population.

Day and night

Due to the time of year, the sun is in the south in December. Since the Caribbean is north of the equator, we had eleven hours of sunshine and thirteen hours of darkness. However, that is not a problem, because ten hours of sun every day are absolutely sufficient.

The guests

We probably had a good average make-up of passengers, which means we saw a representation of our society. Basically, we are talking those persons who can afford to go on a long-distance vacation. In that category, MeinSchiff  is actually quite an economical option. Regardless, I got the impression that some of the vacationers must have been saving money for quite some time in order to treat themselves to this trip, or perhaps some of them even had to borrow money for it.

Barbara said she saw a lot more tattoos than in the Unterhaching swimming pool. For me, that is not a problem, even though, personally, my attitude towards tattoos is a little on the sceptical side. Consequently, there is no tattoo displayed on my body, not even the beautiful IF logo.

Most of the persons we came in contact with were very agreeable. It only happened once that I had to suffer through a few AfD slogans during a meal …

Miscellaneous

  • Sun blocker:
    Always a good idea, although the many cloudy hours made it easier to avoid sunburn.
  • Protection against mosquitoes:
    Not necessary.
  • Diamonds:
    Can be bought all over the place, even in blue, with money returned. But they also cost a fair penny. I do not have the know-how to judge if buying jewellery would be profitable.
  • Cigars:
    Smell nice, but are also quite expensive – but I no longer smoke (except once in a while, unfortunately).
  • Coffee:
    Can be bought all over the place – but it is always rather strongly roasted and consequently not necessarily the right thing for the German mainstream taste.
  • Rum
    Can be bought all over the place – plenty of it. And it tastes rather nice.

This is it as far as IF blog.de in the Caribbean by ship is concerned until my next trip comes up.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday December 26th, 2016

Touring Central America

An “Alien” on a Huge Ship.

We returned from our ocean trip on Christmas Eve and already spent two wonderful days in our “home sweet home”. The repercussions of the trip are still with me – now I reflect all those many adventures that happened during fourteen very intense days.

In the last two weeks, we visited eight countries. From La Romana in the Dominican Republic, we went to Jamaica, then Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia and back to La Romana via Santo Domingo.

Just as we had hoped and anticipated, it was pleasantly warm in the Caribbean. Whenever clouds showed up, they were welcome, because the prevented us from getting sunburn, regardless of us basically always staying outside and enjoying the fresh air. The rest of the time, sun and rain switched places frequently, with advantages in favour of the sun. Once in a while, there was quite some wind.

It was night for almost thirteen hours, and I mean a rather dark kind of night. That meant there was always enough time to really get enough sleep. Keeping our balcony door open, we enjoyed the sound of the water at night. More than eleven hours of the day, the sun shone really bright – which was enough time fill with intense adventures.

To be sure, it was a typical “all included” trip on a huge ship with more than 2,000 passengers. There were plenty of animations on diverse big and small stages. As often on cruisers, they tried to make the passengers feel that theirs was a glamorous world of luxury.

As far as we were concerned, we defined the boat trip a little differently and did not organize it in the same way as the majority of passengers. Consequently, we always stayed outdoors and did not eat in the big or small restaurants inside the ship a single time.

Instead, we always ate in one of the two small beer-garden-like open-air restaurants. And it almost went without saying that we never attended one of those many shows that actually fascinated many of our fellow travellers. This is how it became a very simple vacation, just for Barbara and me.

A private “crusader” in Roatán (Honduras).

In the daytime, we spent each day in one of six countries and two days in various places in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Dependent on the situation, we spent six out of ten days away from others, hiking privately and once riding rented bikes. We took up offered trips twice. At night, we were always on the ocean. The same is true for the four ocean days during which we let our souls relax and digested what we had experienced.

Two gigantic ships meeting in Cozumel (Mexico).

During the next few days, I will relate what went through my head in all those days. For instance that we actually visited three countries that do not have their own armies and how we saw that the majority of people living in those countries were very happy and proud of this fact.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

About stand-by-jobs, facilitation and driverless underground trains. And about Uli.

I short time ago, I was introduced to Ulrich Sendler. Uli is an “Independent technology analyst” and musician. He writes books (that are even translated into Chinese, where they are best-sellers), gives presentations (judging by what I saw of him, I assume his presentations are rather competent and entertaining) and he also works as a counsellor and moderator. When we met, he told me that he will soon be speaking in Gütersloh on the keynote topic: “Automated Society”. You order a service via internet and the delivery or service will be carried out automatically.

For me, “automated society” and “self-service society” are also “buzz words” often used when people characterize our “new digitalized society” in our “post-fact everyday life”.

These expressions immediately triggered a few association and ideas:

Technology is there to make life and work easier for humans. There is a nice and nowadays often used buzz word for this:
Facilitation!
In Wikipedia, you find the definition: 
Facilitation is any activity that makes tasks for others easy, or tasks that are assisted.

In everyday life, this is responsible for the fact that work humans used to do is now easier because of technological advances. We might even end up having to do nothing at all.

Just think of Lufthansa pilots. Currently, they are often written about in the press because of their passionate attitude towards strikes. Your average poor pilot will only be allowed to actually become active for ten minutes of a long-distance flight, for instance to the Caribbean: when initiating and realizing the start and landing phases. He spends the rest of the time watching the plane fly. The poor pilot is not allowed to relieve his boredom by playing computer games. Presumably, alcohol is just as forbidden as visiting ladies – like stewardesses – in the cockpit. All that remains is boredom.

Wecker1In my vocabulary, these jobs are “stand-by-jobs”. Since I used to be a programmer, this would be like having to watch the computer programming itself and then being allowed five minutes to evaluate if the resulting program is what it should be. To me, such a job description sounds rather cruel. It is quite possible that such a stand-by job will cause depressions.

Two decades ago, there was a phase of about two weeks after I had switched to a new employer during which there was nothing to do for me. I sat in my office from morning to evening, was terribly bored and tried with all my might to do something meaningful. And the digits of the clock seemed to really, really creep.

Never again in my work-life was I as unhappy as then.

Münchner U-Bahnhof Dietlindenstraße (U6) - Urheber: FloSch - Eigenes Werk unter CC BY 2.5 (2005)

Munich Underground station Dietlindenstraße (U6) – by FloSch, under CC BY 2.5 published in Wikipedia (2005)

One of the systems the Stadtwerke München (SWM) supervise is the Munich Underground Network. The SWM are intelligent employers. They know that humans do not appreciate “stand-by-work”. Underground train drivers, too, have become “stand-by-workers”.

But the Stadtwerke want happy underground train drivers who are motivated to do their jobs. A short time ago, I learned that all underground train drivers have to exit at every station to control how full the train is. And after this has been done successfully, they have to signal that the train can continue. That is an important task.

This activity was introduced to make the platforms safer. Above all, however, it is a measure that serves the driver, because in this way his job gets more responsible and diverse, and he even gets a little exercise. That is good both for the body and the soul.

Except that in Nuremberg, the underground trains have been moving without a driver for many years now. And those in Lyon have been doing so for decades. And in both cases, the model seems to work quite fine, actually even better than with a driver.
May my readers come to their own conclusions.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Yesterday, I used the MVG Bus number 210 from Neuperlach Station to Ottobrunn, Jahnstrasse. The driver sat in his dark cabin and was rather isolated. All contact between vehicle and passengers was automated: the display and announcement of stops. The driver is reduced to being the one behind the wheel. He will stop the bus whenever he can see someone at the bus stop or if someone has pressed the button inside the bus. On this evening, I was lucky, because the driver drove very sensibly. He never accelerated too abruptly or stomped on the breaks with too much force. I found that rather agreeable. But there are also some drivers who really let their hair down. That is when you think a self-driven bus might have its advantages. Technologically speaking, I am sure it is already possible.

Roland Dürre
Monday November 7th, 2016

Entrepreneur’s Diary #118 – Employee Involvement

A short time ago, I received an email from a young man who is also an entrepreneur and a friend of mine:


During the last two years, a lot has happened and our small IT company now has seven employees. For next year, we are again seeking new employees. We are also wondering how to improve salaries in general without threatening our financial situation – in case matters will at some time not be so rosy.

Now I would like to ask you if you have experience with employee involvement or if there is somebody you could refer me to. Since we do not specialize in one product, generate a lot of cash flow with custom-made goods and also do not wish to sell our company, the question might be a little more complicated than it initially looks.

Would there be a chance for you to feel like and have time for coaching us in this matter in the near future?


Naturally, my answer was YES. But it was not because I wanted to coach them. That is something I refuse to do as a matter of principle. I also do not like to give advice. After all, advice can turn vice. Instead, I share my knowledge and ask questions.

Hoch die GREAT WALL mit Käppi nach hnten.

Once in a while, being an entrepreneur is like climbing the GREAT WALL.

First and foremost, I checked If I had ever before written anything about employee involvement in my entrepreneur’s diary (Unternehmertagebuch). Since the answer is no, I will relate the results of my discussion here in the blog.

Let me start with my own experiences:

As a matter of facts, fairly shortly after the foundation of the InterFace Connection GmbH (for us, the name Connection was more than just a name, it was programmatic) in 1984, Wolf Geldmacher and yours truly decided that we wanted to offer all employees (and even in 1986, we are talking around twenty) shares of the enterprise.

At the time, we were four partners in the firm. The “active” ones were Wolf and I. We were both employees of the Connection as managers and both owned 30% of the capital. The two “passive” partners in the firm were Dr. Peter Schnupp (a man who had written IT history) and the InterFace Computer, represented by Claus M. Müller. They had 20% each. At the time, our capital was as much as 100,000.- DM and our legal status was limited liability company.

Dr. von Hase was “our” counsellor-at-law. He accompanied our enterprise during many years. In retrospect, I can certainly say that his advice was always very good advice for the company. It did not take long for him to convince us that the limited liability company status was not the best possible for an enterprise with several partners. Especially if some of them are also employees. Conflicts that, for example, might arise from the enterprise-employee relation might easily have a negative effect on the partnership level.

Consequently, 17 employees of the IF AG founded a share association that took 10% of the capital (10,000 DM) out of the entire sum (100,000).

The sales price for the 10% was 60,000 DM (10,000 DM for the shares plus an extra rate of 1:5 , i.e. 50,000 DM). At the time, our enterprise was easily worth 600,000 DM. The money remained in the company as backup, which improved the capital situation (from 100,000 to 160,000 DM). The total shares situation changed as follows: Wolf and I now held 27% instead of the 30% we held before the transfer. InterFace Computer and Peter Schnupp now had 18% each instead of the 20% they had had before. And 10% were now owned by the shareholder association of employees who then mathematically held a share of 1/170 each of the enterprise. It was a good example for a successful employee involvement.

For the employees, one disadvantage was that they could not directly own shares of the enterprise, instead “only” indirectly holding shares as an association. This limited the fungibility of the shares. When, in the late 1990ies, the InterFace Connection GmbH became the InterFace AG, the shares of the employee association became stock of the InterFace AG, which meant this limitation was no longer active. Whenever I meet InterFace AG employees today on general meetings, they tell me that the employee involvement was the best investment of their lives.

In the 1980ies and especially in the 1990ies, many persons worked with option models in Germany that were rather dubious affairs as far as tax was concerned. The procedure was particularly attractive for young and quickly growing enterprises that wanted a speedy entry into the stock market. I have a few scattered friends who actually – to their own surprise – became millionaires because of these models. Mostly, however, the persons I know who did it tended to lose money, rather than profit.

Today, I believe cooperatives are probably something to keep in mind when this is your purpose – especially if you want to think sustainable and long-term. Even though originally the cooperative model was not intended to be beneficial for employees. Initially, they wanted to share the use of production machinery and buy said machinery. But it will also work if you want to make it possible for employees to share the success.

To me, partner models such as those used for entrepreneurial counselling look rather innovative. Especially the varieties where you can buy shares upon entering the firm and have to hand them on as you leave sound exciting, With them, you will profit from the success and growth of the shared enterprise in all the time you are part of it. If I were ever to found a new company, I would probably try the BGB company partner model.

During our discussion, we also looked beyond the “pure earnings”. To be sure, a market-oriented income plays an important role when it comes to the employees’ motivation. In fact, salaries and continued education are the most important costs in service companies. It goes without saying that enterprises find it easier if they only need to pay part of these costs if they are actually successful.

However, money is only one (even if an important) part of what constitutes the relationship between the enterprise and its employees. The entrepreneurial culture and the values lived in the firm are just as important. Catchwords are openness and transparency, the possibility to participate, as well as respect and appreciation of all the persons in the firm being a foregone conclusion.

In an enterprise, you should feel that all the employees share the courage for the future and find pleasure in doing what they are doing. “Strategy” should be something like a shared feeling, rather than just words. The enterprise should not just create value for the shareholders, but also for all the stakeholders. That includes the families of the employees. For partners and children of colleagues, the enterprise should be something they can “touch”.

And also – this is very important:
Success should (as often as possible) be celebrated together!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Modern enterprises want their employees to “actively participate” in the company. The participation of the employees when things are developed and their actively being part of decisions is considered a positive asset and a necessary requirement for a secure future. Terms such as “democratic enterprise” are en vogue. Some even get enthusiastic about holocracy (Holokratie), which is a term I like to intentionally misspell as “holocrazy”.

Yet I have all the respect in the world for the underlying intensions. Just as I also very much appreciate the ideas about “Common Good Economy” (“Gemeinwohlökonomie” – for instance as initiated by Christian Felber). But how is an enterprise supposed to manage the necessary change?

Meine Twitter-Fenster.

My Twitter Windows.

As I see it, social media play an important role when it comes to trying to establish the culture of an enterprise – both internally and externally.

For change and modifications, communication at eye-level and an internal intranet that works a little like the well-known social media systems à la Facebook are an important requirement. Today, we also call these concepts “Corporate Social Media (CSM)“. Perhaps we will soon have an “SMO” on top of the SEO (search engine officer who is responsible for the search engine optimization) – with the SM, naturally, not being short for sado-maso, but for Social Media (Social Media Officer).

I am a little sceptic about a CSM who has been appointed from the top. The employees should initiate the transformation. The same is true for the very popular term CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). It is about how an enterprise can live up to “ethical expectations”. This is also one of the tings the basis must want and work towards.

You will immediately understand my scepticism about CSR initiated by leaders after, for instance, having read the books by Mr. Otfried Höffe. His books have become standard literature at universities in the ethics faculties. I have no idea why this is so, because, as I see it, the books contain poor material all the business students have to learn. They do not satisfy any philosophical requirements.

But then, I am an evil sceptic who even considers the valuable term BGM (company health management) ridiculous, regardless of it not even beginning with a “C”. Incidentally, I distrust abbreviations that start with a C as a matter of principle. This is not only in politics and not only when the C is for “Christian” or “Corporate”. I am also very cautious when it comes to all combinations and abbreviations that contain terms such as management, manager or officer.

But now let me write the constructive part of this article. I would like to show with the example of twitter how you can actually manage to make people inside an enterprise really enjoy the meaningful use of corporate social media addressing the world outside the firm. The motivation of the employees is joy and intrinsic, without any special incentives or such.
How to make an entire enterprise twitter and thus authentically demonstrate its strength in the network, at the same time showing its nice collection of great individualists and presenting them to the market?

As you can easily imagine, this cannot be done through centrally controlled marketing strategies that follow ancient concepts. The role of marketing is among the things that need to undergo drastic change. Virtues – and I do not mean new virtues – such as the subsidiarity principle that is based on trust and error tolerance must also be re-established.

Before I elaborate on the details, I would like to point out the difference between “collective enterprise twittering” and the “functional twittering” as it is done by the National Railway (Die Bahn@bahn) or the Telekom with their twitter accounts (“Telekom hilft” @Telekom_hilft – I tried it myself when I was in an emergency situation and it helped me a lot). It makes a lot of sense and is often a good way to get the attention of these enterprises when you have problems. And it is also often the only chance a user has of being heard when the hotline or other “normal” channels that should connect you with the enterprise fail.

For the enterprises, the use of these social media channels is quite beneficial, because it helps to release the burden of the expensive hotlines that by their constantly being busy already annoy the customers. And, as a general rule, good social media services can be offered much cheaper than the classic help desk.

But this has nothing to do with “corporate social media” as in “here, the employees twitter”.
In order to twitter collectively as an enterprise, the first thing you need is a shared twitter account that is used by many, ideally all, employees. Initially, a defined team should do the exemplary twittering for the enterprise on this account and maintain the account. In the long run, it is, of course, desirable that all the parties concerned share the maintenance work and responsibility for the account.

Perhaps such a team should also help with some advice and organizational assistance as to what sort of communication is supportive of the enterprise and what is not. But then, most employees have quite a good instinct when it comes to this issue.

Also, all office buildings should have a screen installed in rooms such as the entrée, meeting halls and kitchens. On these screens, a twitter wall (here is the example of the ActMobCmp-Twitter-Wall) with current tweets is running at all times. Because reading the tweets your friends and colleagues have written will whet your appetite and encourage you to do some twittering of your own. This is how activity and shared directing will start happening by itself.

In this article, I used “twittering” as a kind of metaphor (pars pro toto) for social media in general. With Facebook, Google+ or also a Corporate Blog, it is not much different. Thus, Corporate Twittering is a good way to start more social media activities. As soon as (almost) everybody is enthusiastic, you can also try “Corporate Blogging”.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles of my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Friday February 12th, 2016

Three Phrases that can Destroy all Joy and Courage.

And I mean both for yourself and for others.

So klein ist der Mensch. Am linken Rand Muhamed, Führer und Freund.

We are back home! Humans are such small creatures. On the left, you can see Muhamed, our guide and friend.

Last week was the first time I saw the tombs and temples of the Pharaos. I learned many new things and had time to ponder.
I became aware of three phrases that can make life harder. The first one is

Yes, BUT …“
Early in life, I learned that it is probably not a good idea to say “yes, but” too often. It happened while I underwent management coaching.

In entrepreneurial everyday-life, I sometimes suffered under the “yes, but” attitude of the people around me. It probably never gained us very much.

When we decided
Hurrah, we will go on our first ever cultural Nile river trip!
the phrase re-surfaced.
I often heard it – sometimes I even heard myself saying it.

Yes, but what about our carbon dioxide footprint …
(a problem I take rather seriously) 
Yes, but aren’t cultural trips always so tedious …
(a temple a day, and sometimes two…)
Yes, but what about the long travel until we get there …
(it took almost 13 hours, first the train to Nuremberg, then the flight to Hurghada on the Red Sea and from there the bus to Luxor – another 380 km).
Yes, but we cannot do it because of the terrorist threat …
(while two trains collided in Munich)
and so on, and so forth …
And how stupid we would have been had we abstained from this trip!
The second phrase I mean is
Being opposed to something!

How often do I catch myself opposing something?
I oppose the gigantic subsidies of business cars. I oppose fascism. I oppose the stupidity of politicians. I oppose the coal harbour on the Barrier Reef in Australia. I oppose waste of food. I oppose bureaucracy. And so on, and so forth …

Just a few years ago, my friend Jolly Kunjappu declared that “being opposed to something” is a negative concept that will push you down. Why don’t we, instead, focus on what is nice, what we like and what we appreciate? This concept will give us courage and joy.

The third phrase is one that I was made aware of by Moslam last week. Moslam was our guide during our Nile river trip. We became friends. He regularly travels to Germany. Consequently, we also talked about his experiences in my home country and he told me how it always moves him when his German friends keep saying:
“We must …“

I know very well from my own experience what he means. I must go and buy some milk. After that, I must write an IF Blog article and evaluate business plans. And then I must meet Barbara for lunch at the Artemis (the Greek restaurant just around the corner). And in the afternoon, I must meet friends from the university at the Forschungsbrauerei for the brown ale initiation. And tomorrow, I must go and attend the F.re.e

But then, isn’t it wonderful that I can go and buy milk. After all, it is not at all a matter of course that, just around the corner, you can buy good milk in the brown bottle with 3.8 % fat. It actually still tastes like milk! And I always enjoy dining at the Artemis, because there the food tastes excellent and the Greek landlord and landlady are always so friendly. The Forschungsbrauerei, too, is always worth visiting and at the F.re.e , there are so many impulses waiting to tell me what I can do – thanks to the diversity of cultures and regions on our great planet.

These are all things I enjoy doing, because they are just wonderful – so why would I have to do them?

In a nutshell, I would say:
It pays to think and write in a “positive” way. If that is what you decide to do, you will feel and think more and more like it!

Pure luxury between Luxor and Assuan. Isn’t life just great?

Luxus pur von Luxor nach Assuan. Das Leben ist schön!

Luxus pur von Luxor nach Assuan. Das Leben ist schön!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Now I returned home from Dornbirn and it is the weekend. It was a truly strong week. First, I spent two nights in Nuremberg with a long day on the #DOAG2015 and then, between Thursday and Saturday, I enjoyed a very intense PM-Camp in Dornbirn #PMCampDOR. Incidentally, the two hashtags will link you to the tweets for the two events. It is well worth taking a look.

Last Wednesday, on the DOAG 2015, I was again permitted to speak. I talked about:

“Creative Room – Healthy Room!“

Here are the picture by Christian I used and the short outline of my presentation.

"created by Christian Botta"

“created by Christian Botta“

Today: More often than not, the work situation in enterprises seems to be insufferable. There are (many) employees who mentally already have given notice. The salary is considered compensation for personal suffering. But then, they have neither the courage nor the strength to say: “Love it, change it, or leave it“.
Useless meetings, feeling powerless and the burnout syndrome are the consequences. Now they want to do something about it, see also: BGM (company health management).
Consequently, we find change all around us. Conferences are replaced by anti-conferences. I prefer attending barcamps…

And I will now present the story of my presentation. I had to hand in a short version. Then the documents for the presentation. Also the transparencies. But I had none. Because I always speak without.

Christian Botta of VisualBraindump made a picture protocol of my presentation. Thanks a lot!

Today, I give my presentation. Perhaps I will call it “Complexity, Innovation and Burnout in Enterprises”. In fact, that would have been a better title than the one in the proceedings. Or perhaps “How to Keep Humans Species-Appropriate”. Because, basically, I was talking about the same principle as the “key speaker” Gunter Dueck.

I started with the impressions for the presentation from early this year. That was when Dietmar Neugebauer (President of the DOAG) asked me if I would again like to speak in November on his conference. I certainly gladly accepted. Then there were the thought-provoking impulses. One of them was OpenInnovation at InterFace AG , realized with the Nuremberg FAU, chair of Prof. Möslein. During the final event of this project, there was a presentation by Dora on “creative rooms”. After this, it became pretty clear to me how rooms (and organisations) should “look” if you want them to provide innovative inspiration – both physically and virtually.

Apparently, they have something to do with participation, respect, eye-level, culture, breaking patterns, joy and happiness.

A few weeks ago, I heard an interview with Dr. Marius Poersch. Marius is a psychologist, head doctor in a hospital with many patents who have suffered from burnout. He wants to be more than just a “repair shop”, so he also does some scientific research on what humans and organisations can do in order to minimize the burnout risks. After his presentation, I have a good idea what a “burnout-free” room should look like.

Surprisingly, but basically also logically, the result is: the rooms are exactly the same. The “room” as described by Dora for promoting innovation looks exactly like the one presented by Marius for keeping us healthy.

So what are the reasons for all this frustration we suffer from? We assume it is the complexity that gives us fear and the bureaucracy that is generated in our society as its consequence, trying to give us some dubious sense of security.

Insertion:

As an example: my own frustration as an entrepreneur (because at oracle in Nuremberg), the story of DocuMaker and the Federal Agency for Employment.

Failure due to stupid rules, the Oracle middleware product manager does not know the product, prediction about the future of Oracle by Larry Ellision … lots of frustration, immense loss for all. Thank God no Distress for us, because the success would have been Oystress.

Assumption:
A complex world with quick change gives us problems. And then there are the processes, rules, protocols, processes that are supposed to help with the complexity but all they do is make life harder for us.

Insertion:
About the Berlin PM Camp (complex versus complicated).

There were also many abstract discussions about the difference between complex and complicated. According to Niels Pflaeging, it is quite simple: as long as it is just complicated, the classic methods of project management and problem solving can help us. But this is no longer true when it gets complex.
I think it is not as easy as that. I did a session with Maik Pfingsten (Blogger, PoD-Cast) and rather enjoyed Maik’s definition of complexity (from the perspective of the system engineer)
x – axis: degree of complicatedness; 
y – axis: speed of change;
The more you get of both, the more “complex” it is;
I extended this to also include the 
z – axis: “human factor” degree in the project.
This means: the more complicated and dynamic and the more of a human factor you have, the more complex it is …

But:
Seneca said: Philosophy does not mean talking, it means acting.

Consequently:
What can we do? Whenever it gets more and more complicated, when matters change ever faster and when the human factor becomes more and more apparent?

There are no cooking recipes or Best Practice, neither are there any methods or technologies. All I can offer are a few ideas to think about.

As an engineer, software person and technologist.
Let me refer you to the: Agile Manifesto (2001)As an entrepreneur, manager and leader:
Hans Ulrich – Eight Theses on Change in Management (1982)Insertion:
Here are his “Eight Theses on Change in Management” in a nutshell with a few additional notes:

  1. Accept not knowing and not being able to predict the future as a normal state of affairs!
    Well, you simply cannot predict the future …
  2. Broader horizons for your thinking!
    Oppose “You cannot do this” or “This is how we always did it”. Do not suppress the freedom of ideas. Share knowledge.
  3. Move in the category “both”, instead of “either-or”!
    Black-and-white is out, colourful is in.
  4. Think multi-dimensionally! 
Your balancing of values must be ethically responsible. Basically, humans can only deal with three ideas at one time.
  5. Use self-organization and self- control as your basic formative model for your enterprise!
    Responsibility, subsidiarity
  6. Consider management as a function that gives and promotes meaning!
    
New management image.
  7. Focus on what is really important!
    Work economy.
  8. Make use of group dynamics!
    Cultures, symbols, rites, rituals …

As a human being:
John Izzo – five things you should consider before you die!
I strongly recommend the Review  of the book.

Or the experiences made by Bonnie Ware:
Here are the five things he found out people wanted:

  1. “I wish I had had the courage to live my own life“
  2. “I wish I had not worked so much”
  3. “I wish I had had the courage to show my emotions“
  4. “I wish I had remained in contact with my friends“
  5. “I wish I had permitted myself more happiness“

Those are the five insights Bonnie Ware collected when he accompanied dying persons. As I see it, there is a lot to be learned for life from these statements …

Yet none of all these things will help you if you are not prepared to actually live. Something is still missing.

Insertion:

One of my mentees works for Osram: They are already in a permanent crisis, anyway. Additionally, their move from near the 1860 stadium to Garching looked a little stupid to me. My mentee lives in Unterhaching. His daily way to work is now four times as long as it used to be. He feels how his mood gets worse and worse. .
He arrives at work in a bad mood and returns home in a bad mood. Dialogue: How is your boss? – He is in a good mood! – What is he doing differently from you? – He rides his bike every morning from Trudering to Garching! – So why don’t you, too ride your bike! – Cannot! – Cannot is not defined! 
He then bought an e-bike and went to work riding it every day. And ever since then, he arrives at the office in a good mood, and the same is true for when he arrives at home. And he feels so much better …

In simple terms:
Our body needs exercise and fresh air. And time with nature. And you can have it so easily – with active mobility in everyday life. See also AktMobCmp.

Seneca, too, taught us: 
Follow the laws of nature.
(Seneca was a teacher who wanted to make his students successful and happy. Unfortunately, this has never been the first goal of my teachers).

How is anybody supposed to come to terms with his own life if he cannot even come to terms with his own mobility? And driving a car is definitely not something that makes you free, nor will it bring you fulfilment in life … (Even if that is what a seemingly overpowering industry tells us in a gigantic brainwashing process).

So: what we need is nice and regular exercise!

But not the kind of exercise I experienced after the Eldorado cinema in the Sonnenstrasse. I had tears in my eyes when I exited after having watched the great “Die Kinder der Mme Ann“. And just imagine, right across the street, there is a fitness studio on the first floor. It has huge windows … And you can see in the light of the windows how the persons do their “work-out”. According to the motto Work Hard, Play Hard, WORK OUT …

For me, this is a horror vision. Planning fitness like an entire life. So why not change your life! You will see it can be done. Because, as Seneca said:

The reason why we do not start doing something is not that it is hard. Instead: Things are hard because we do not do them.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.:
During my presentation, I made two more insertions: about terrorism and about the asylum seeker situation. And I gave a short summary of what caused both. But most importantly, I described why I am not at all happy with how we react to both problems. However, I will write two separate articles about how I feel about these issues in the near future.

Roland Dürre
Tuesday July 14th, 2015

From PM Camp via BGM to John Izzo…

In my life, one of the nice things is that, more and more often, I meet persons I rather like. I make new friends all the time and I always learn important things from them.

Here is an example: in 2011, we had the first PM Camp in Dornbirn. It was a huge event – both for me and, so I believe, for all the other participants. According to the feedback we received, (almost) everybody went home happy and content. Including myself. After all, I had met many persons who take a serious interest in project management, leadership, entrepreneurship and much more. And, basically, they all want to live a meaningful and successful life.

Then we really got under way with the PM-Camps. In Vienna, Zurich, and many more German cities, they have now become a regular event. And their number increases all the time. People and communities build networks. And, again and again, some of them became my friends.

This was also how I first met, learned to appreciate and now have come to love Dr. Marius Poersch. He takes his job as a doctor rather seriously. In a famous hospital, he helps people who burnt themselves out dealing with “modern work-life stress factors”, people who have more and more stress or even suffer from a psychosis already.

By now, he has come to the conclusion that, indeed, it is an honourable task to help people and support the healing process. Yet he is also driven by the awareness that, for many people, it need never have come to what it came to. If only – well, if the living and working environment were just a little different and the potential of suitably adapting were a little better.

And since Marius wants to be more than just part of a “repair shop”, one thing he did was establish an institute (www.erwerbscoaching.de) where he does research with equal-minded persons, examining how people might be enthusiastic and work through their entire work-life without sacrificing their own balance and starting to get psychotic. In short: he is looking for a work and life environment where a sustainable and full life is possible.

However, he also does research on the other side of the coin – namely what sort of individual concept in the sense of life goals and life style you should have in order to live a positive life that enhances your existence.

In order to promote this goal, he developed a method rather similar to the one described by John Izzo in his book “Five Secrets”. He interviewed senior citizens who worked an entire life long and who now, being retirees and pensioners, still and again involve themselves in various ways with civic affairs. His reason for taking that group of persons as interviewees is that one can assume they know a health recipe that, for example, will also prevent burn-out.

A good friend of mine – Dr. Andreas Zeuch, known way beyond the PM Camp environment as an author and entrepreneurial consultant – introduced me to Marius.

I was chosen as one of his interview candidates. So, on a nice and sunny afternoon, we met in Stuttgart and talked. Conveniently, it was just before the Stuttgart PM Camp started.

I was curious and also a little excited about what I was going to experience. The afternoon turned into a beautiful evening and later a wonderful shared breakfast. Even as we talked, many things out of my own life became suddenly clear. Later, Marius explained the technological background of his method, as well as his procedure. And that gave me even more insight into myself.

A few days ago, I received mail from Marius. Inside the envelope, I found the aforementioned book. I was truly delighted – after all, I believe I found a true friend in Marius, and gifts sent by true friends are always a special delight for me.

I finished the book quite quickly. Even though there is no doubt that it is a little American and extra detailed, it is exciting to read – and it is an important piece of literature for persons prepared to think about their own lives. For me, all the ideas, conclusions and demands formulated in the book by John Izzo make complete sense.

The title of the book is:
“The Five Secrets You Should Have Discovered Before You Die”

As I see it, the title says it all. And I also gave a short overview in my last IF blog article. I truly recommend that you read it.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I know that Dr. Marius Poersch is still looking for more interview partners for his project – and I would certainly like to support his work. So if you know any senior citizens who, after all their work life, remained healthy and enthusiastic, why don’t you inform me? I will gladly forwards the contact data.

Roland Dürre
Wednesday February 18th, 2015

ANNOYING PEOPLE.

This, too, is a result of my meeting with Ardalan, which I wrote about in my last article. Among other things, he told me that he likes to “annoy others”.
Well, I was moved by his desire to “annoy others”. I thought about what exactly it means to “annoy others“! And what you could achieve by doing so.

The following Ideas popped up:

Many (probably all) persons constantly believe they own the truth…
Yet we assume that there can be no absolute truth. If at all, then what we hold to be true are our own personal certainties. These “certainties”, however, can differ hugely from person to person. In fact, they might even be opposites.
Especially dangerous are those certainties which have not originated with personal experiences but with future experiences (and consequently with things you so far only imagine). So if persons believe that they know something they have not yet experienced and then even continue by generalizing it and wishing to superimpose it on others, then matters can easily turn dangerous.
Such certainties might also be called “dogmata”. Here is my example:

Some people know exactly that there will be an after-life after death – even though they have never died. Or they know that asylum seekers are bad for Germany. Even though they never so much as knew one.

How better to annoy someone than by managing to disrupt his truths a little bit? By helping to question his certainties? And, above all, by stealing some of his security, which mostly is based on very simple and stupid dogmata?

If then I could do this with the person concerned not immediately noticing and instead him only slowly – but then so much more profoundly – realizing what happened as he ponders upon our discussion, this would be a masterpiece, wouldn’t it? It might actually be a very special way of “coaching”?

In the future, I am quite determined to “annoy people” like Ardalan does. And I will start today.
And you, dear readers, are my first victims!

RMD
(Translated byEG)

P.S.
Now I ask you all: would you like to join me when I am “annoying people“?