Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Safety first"/ "Canadian tech adoption lags global peers"

Nov. 9, 2016 "Safety first": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

Cort Dial insists in his new book that executives need to shift expectations about workplace injuries Heretics to Heroes

By Cort Dial Bee Cave Publishing, 392 pages, $9.99 (Kindle)

‘How did we kill this man?” When his plant manager wrote those words on a blackboard, Cort Dial was in shock, trying to process the electrocution of a worker at the chemical plant where he was holding his first supervisory post. Mr. Dial held the hand of the dying man, comforting him, after the worker’s crane had made contact with the plant’s main power lines.

Now, the plant manager had gathered staff for a meeting, telling them they would not leave until the tough question he had put before them was answered. It took a while, as they went counterclockwise around the room, everyone asked to provide a reason, over and over again, with nothing satisfactory coming forth.

Mostly, people shifted blame onto the worker or professed not to know. “If we have to stay in here for weeks, we will,” the plant manager said after three hours, allowing them a short break. “This meeting will not end until I understand how we killed this man.”

After thinking hard about the question, Mr. Dial finally realized the truth. But he was too ashamed to admit it. The plant manager sensed his reticence and pummelled him with questions about whether he and other company supervisors had discussed the dangers of power lines and cranes. No, they hadn’t. Instead, they had groused about how contractors weren’t “staff,” insisting they had to be kept away from the company’s bathrooms and locker rooms because they were considered dirty and untrustworthy.

“We killed him,” Mr. Dial finally admitted, “because he was a contractor.”

That incident inspired Mr. Dial in the decades since to encourage higher productivity and greater plant safety by treating workers more humanely. As he boldly told a subsequent boss who was allowing lax practices: “I will not tolerate anyone in this plant doing anything that puts our people’s health, safety or well-being at risk, regardless of his rank. That commitment is something I will not relinquish. Do you understand that about me?”

In the industries he works with – oil and chemical companies among them – the assumption is that workers could be hurt severely or even die in the course of a project. He insists the managers start with a different premise – that nobody will be hurt or killed – and turn that into reality.

In a pivotal speech to the executives at a firm where he worked, he set out three guiding principles we should all ponder:

1. It is unacceptable to harm people in the pursuit of business results.

The company had “injury and incident” targets, which he called an admission that senior management believed people must be harmed for the company to do business. He warned that “the day was coming where society would no longer allow us to harm people in order to produce business results. We had better figure out soon how to produce those same results without harm to anyone or anything, or the public was going to revoke our right to operate.”

2. Numerical injury goals may be commonplace for projects but actually have no place in the management of health and safety.

The health and safety of employees is different from other aspects of the business, since when corporate management talks of numbers here, they are forgetting it’s about people – living, human beings.

3. You can’t measure what is most important to performance.

“In the near future, health and safety, and performance management in general, would be much less about equipment, systems and processes and much more about leading and inspiring people,” he writes in his book, Heretics to Heroes. Executives who can’t make that shift will at some point find themselves redundant.

Consulting to a project in Bahrain, he found the workers were immigrants living in appalling conditions in the construction company’s camps, accepting the horrible situation because they needed to send the money home to help their families. He persuaded the construction manager to shut the project down for a few weeks while conditions were improved. Asked what level of improvements were required, the manager, coached by Mr. Dial, responded: “When you’re completely comfortable having your son or daughter stay in our camps, then you will have met our standards.”

The extra cost to treat the employees well – fixing up the camp, improving the food, giving them proper time to eat lunch – drew senior management’s attention, and the improvements were almost reversed. That is, until they realized the project was beating its timeline, was far more productive than any similar efforts and, as a result, far more economical. As well: No serious injuries. An inspired, engaged work force paid dividends on that project and many others Mr. Dial has stage managed.

Many managers will scoff at his idealism. But it is based on practical examples, which he shares in the book, stories of his experiences and, more broadly, lessons learned over the years, from childhood through the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. The book is enthralling, dramatic and insightful – a winner.



 Nov. 12, 2016 "Canadian tech adoption lags global peers": Today I found this article by Leah Eichler in the Globe and Mail:


A new survey shows nearly half of employees think their workplaces aren’t ‘smart’ enough, and that there’s little appetite for change

The future is here. Virtual reality and the Internet of Things are changing the way we play and live. When it comes to adopting new technologies and trends at home, I am always open to experimentation. Personally, I cannot wait until my fridge reorders milk when I am getting low.

However, if you live in Canada, it’s not unusual to hear that when starting a new job, you are given only an aging desktop computer. If you are fortunate, it’s a basic laptop with a VPN key.

That’s why our expectation of how quickly our workplaces adapt differs from our need for the latest gadgets at home. According to a new survey by research firm PSB for Dell and Intel, more than four in 10 Canadian employees think their workplace is not “smart” enough and more than one-third say the technology they use at home is more cutting-edge.

Only 39 per cent of employees expect to be working in a smart office over the next five years, lower than the 57 per cent of global employees who expect the same. The 300 Canadians among the 3,801 respondents in the survey were more conservative about embracing new technologies at work than their global peers and expressed less of a willingness to use virtual and augmented reality products at work. In fact, nearly half favour office perks such as Ping-Pong tables and food over high-tech perks.

Canadians have a reputation for being a few years behind other countries, particularly the United States, in adopting new technologies. However, it’s time to put this reputation to rest before we get left behind.

“Being conservative and late in adopting new technologies in the workplace such as Internet of Things, virtual reality, augmented reality or using tech solutions for better workplace collaboration will impact the ability of Canadian companies to compete and be innovative on a global scale,” warned Carolyn Rollins, chief marketing officer of Dell EMC Canada.

Not only that, employers who are slow or complacent about adopting new technologies will also find it challenging to attract and retain top talent, Ms. Rollins said. The study reports 61 per cent of millennials say that a new job’s technology impacts their decision to take the role. More than half of millennials also said they would embrace artificial intelligence at work, believing it would make their job easier.

“Canadian millennials are the ones pushing the envelope and driving the next workplace evolution, therefore employers should take note about the expectation of this group when it comes to integrating the latest technologies into the workplace,” Ms. Rollins said.

The notion that we don’t expect more from our work also says something about Canadians’ relationship to their jobs. It may be that we just don’t care enough if our workplaces are technologically advanced. The study showed that more than half of Canadians identify their job as “something they do to pay the bills” and almost three-quarters say that their life begins at the end of the workday.

This isn’t the first time Canadian companies have been warned that they aren’t adapting quickly enough. In 2015, a Deloitte report warned that Canadian companies weren’t prepared for the disruption to come, including artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and collaborative connected platforms, the Internet of Things.

Of the 700 Canadian business leaders surveyed, the Deloitte study found 35 per cent of firms wholly unprepared for technology disruption. That means the companies didn’t understand the changes to come, did not have a corporate culture that provides incentives for innovation, nor did they have the ability to rapidly deploy new systems.

But not everyone feels that Canadians are slow to adopt new innovations.

“Just because innovation may not look like it does in the U.S., doesn’t mean it’s not successful. Real innovation is visible and making an impact every day in companies and organizations right across Canada,” said Allen Lalonde, a senior executive at IBM Canada Research & Development Centre.

He cites healthcare specifically as an area in which Canada is demonstrating advances in cognitive computing. For example, researchers at the Movement Disorders Clinic at Toronto’s University Health Network along with the analytics team at the Ontario Brain Institute are using IBM’s Watson (a supercomputer that utilizes artificial intelligence) to learn how to repurpose readily available drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease. It will expedite the work needed to analyze 31 million sources of relevant literature, enhancing the researchers’ productivity.

In the financial sector, he adds, businesses are increasingly turning to the power of analytics to help manage client experiences and make them more secure.

But these are only a few bright points in an otherwise dismal report on how Canadians are once again acting “conservatively” and how those inhibitions about embracing new technologies will keep us behind. As an entrepreneur who has straddled both the startup world and corporate Canada, my only advice is to drop those inhibitions quickly. While you are at it, throw out the Ping-Pong table.


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