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Showing posts from 2015

Rule of Law and Tribunal in Sydney

On the 24th February 2015 (six months ago) the Owners Corporation of an apartment block lodged an application to NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) seeking orders to appoint compulsory manager of a strata scheme and to refund the fees paid to the former strata manager.
The application caused by negligent and inacceptable behaviour by strata manager and included the following concerns:
-No proper service for two years
-Breaching of the rules and not following the orders of Owners Corporation
-Spending money on items that were not agreed or ordered by Owners Corporation
-Not servicing fire safety inspections and insurance for the building appropriately
-Other issues  
All the documentation related to the above-mentioned problems has been submitted to the Tribunal. Finally the Owners Corporation has received the Tribunal decision (4th August 2015). The adjudicator on the matter decided to dismiss the application.
The first reason for dismissal is:
“The applicant has not provided a c…

About Meetings

Meetings are important part of the business activity. Our basic need to communicate is topped by necessity to deliver meaningful results at workplace. As usual though reality is not as rosy as the ideal that many of us trying to achieve with meetings.
What is a good work-related pastime for one is at the same moment a time wasting and useless activity to another. This contradiction is coming from a few factors (among other things):
1.Core difference in perception of meetings between different levels of workplace hierarchy or among committee/board members
2.Meeting audiences and agendas
3.Involvement and focus level of participants during the meetings
Therefore usually instead of being an effective business or private processing tool, meetings become the opposite.
There is an opportunity to adjust existing practices to meet new expectations of the work related activities to be more productive and fun. It is not hard to achieve as well by implementing useful techniques and tricks.
One. Cre…

Sydney - Silicone Valley for Builders

"We have a problem with waterproofing in the bathroom. Would it be possible to fix it?"
"Yes, we can fix it. We will apply silicone."

"There is job to attach a roof to the terrace properly."
"Cool. We will do it by applying silicone."

"The window frame is installed without flashing."
"That’s OK. We will fix it with silicone."

"Bathroom doesn’t have any waterproofing."
"No worries. We will apply silicone."
...

I have talked to a building quality specialist during the most recent (third so far) inspection of the same property where builders can't rectify their lousy work.
The inspector said "it seems like builders in Australia build homes like it never rains here".

It’s not fair to all builders of Australia to state that the quality of their work is not up to any acceptable standard. For sure many builders are good professionals and do their job at the highest quality level.

However around 800…

Construction issues resolution in Sydney - Part 15

This post is a continuation of the long process that started in December 2011 and is still going. Here’s the link to the whole story:
http://traveloga.blogspot.com/p/home-building-issues-sydney-experience.html

An idea of this publication is to draw attention of people who are interested or involved in the building industry, property market, construction, property development and property management and ownership. That should help to raise awareness and to ignite conversations with relevant people in law making, business and other communities who could take this information to account when they dealing with relevant matters and think about quality of the work and of research and education.

This matter is about building defects that are covered by statutory warranty, but in reality are covered by rather a joke. Well to be fair to all parties some minor defects (that are similar to paint a crack or to replace broken toilet paper roll holder) were brilliantly rectified by the responsible…

Complexity of Challenges and Increasing Degradation of Capabilities

While reading some paperwork regarding International Tax Law subject following statement drew my attention:
"The complexity of the international tax rules makes it nearly impossible to diffuse the public sensibility about the issues."
It is from the speech "Sense and Sensibility: The Policy and Politics of BEPS" by Manal S. Corwin. 
The full text can be found here: https://www.kpmg-institutes.com/content/dam/kpmg/taxwatch/pdf/2014/beps-corwin-tillinghast-tn-100614.pdf
That thought is not unique to tax law. In my experience of more than 3 years doing what I call “applied dispute resolution” which correlates with law research and paralegal activities I see that in any area of law, social matters, environmental, humanities, economics and others we can witness increasing level of challenges that our society face.
Let’s take as an example The Law.
Carefully crafted legal framework is one of the essentials of contemporary society. However what we see is:
- Growing complexity of …

First Android app

I have finally built and installed to the phone my first Android app:


It has got the following features at the moment:
- call to remote Web service to retrieve data from the database;
- display received data in a timeline;
- cool floating button;
- form to submit data to the Web service.



This is also my first ever project to build in Java. My profession is mostly related to Microsoft .NET and this project was an interesting variation from usual.

Cool stuff!

Communication and Work

Good communication is one of the keys to successful business collaboration.
Business process designed and implemented properly is an important part of reaching a business goal. Business processes are designed and implemented by people. Contemporary level of technology development allows us to automate processes partially, but at the end of the day it is people who make final decisions and do the job to integrate those various pieces of a process puzzle into a working mechanism.
People are communicating with each other. They are not machines and therefore interpret received messages according to their attitudes.
Personal attitudes and combinations of those are different for everybody. They may match but not with every person you meet or have a chance to work with.
It may happen that messages received from others are in a form, intonation and with content controversial to our personal views, traditions, knowledge and mental state. This situation is described as cognitive dissonance,…

Mastering The Multitasking

There is usually two distinct perspectives on multi-tasking:

1. Multitasking is counterproductive. We get distracted by multiple tasks that all get our way and fight for our scarce attention, time and resources. This leads to a common fallacy that if you do multiple activities “at a time” you are not doing good work in any of those.

2. Multitasking is a way of getting many things done in a short period of time or in a long run.

Indeed it can be either a disaster or a great helper depending on how it is used and practiced.

Most recent research shows that we don’t do multiple tasks purely in parallel or simultaneously. That means we don’t purely multi-task, but switch between tasks and execute them one at a time, but by spending very small timeframes on each task.

A good example from the history is a story about Julius Caesar capabilities in that area. Plutarch writes, “Caesar disciplined himself so far as to be able to dictate letters from on horseback, and to give directions to two w…

Price Vs Quality

We all have probably seen on the Web pictures which may look like the following:


It implies that if someone quotes to a customer low (or lower than average, I presume) price for the services or products it necessary means low/lower quality of the services or products provided.

This is very interesting assumption and I had a short conversation a while ago on Twitter with another SharePoint specialist about it:


Original Bjørn's article should be here http://t.co/36brwYq4Kf

A study in Journal of Consumer Research http://www.jstor.org/userimages/ContentEditor/1351717003127/DevalRelease.pdf in regards to the subject clearly shows:

'"Consumers rarely have complete information and use various strategies to fill the gaps in their knowledge as they consider and choose products. One of these strategies involves using naive theories: informal, common sense, explanations that consumers use to make sense of their environment. For example, consumers may believe that popular products a…

Review: Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Shaped the Modern World

Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Shaped the Modern World by Jane Gleeson-White

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This book is very interesting. While reading it becomes clear why bookkeeping today is what it is. I liked to see historical information about it and some outstanding people who influenced the way people administer business.
Despite the main idea of the book, this quote shows us that nothing has been changed for centuires:

"Money, wrote Alberti in the 1430s, ‘is the root of all things’: ’with money one can have a town house or a villa; and all the trades and craftsmen will toil like servants for the man who has money. He who has none goes without everything, and money is required for every purpose.’"



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Managing Performance and Improvement

Review of employee performance or enquiry about it is necessary. It is important from the business process perspective.

However usually some critical items are missing from the picture:

a) Clear metrics of performance;
b) Communicating to the employees what is their career path or responsibility-compensation evolution;
c) Information about necessary skills or competencies the employee is missing to reach potential role within organisation.

At my first ever interview with a huge multinational software company in 2001 when I just finished university as a Software Engineer, one of the questions I still remember was "How many lines of code have you ever written?" I didn't know exactly and estimated it as approximately 10,000. The interview was unsuccessful, but I presume not only because of that reason. If I had this question at an interview again I'd reply to an interviewer with a proposal like "Would you also like to know how many lines of code I deleted?" …

Property Management - Delegation of Duties

As I explained in the previous post, communal ownership like strata title implies duties and responsibilities of all owners. This is not quite comfortable idea for majority of property owners.

If we consider current unit/apartment prices in Sydney as an example the reasons of it would become apparent. In addition there is a particular feature of Australian lifestyle which is politely described as being laid-back.

Strata owners have to regularly contribute money into an account specific for administration and maintenance of the building and common property. Here’s where majority of property owners in such titles limit their duty and responsibility in relation with the communal well-being and problems. However this is not enough.

Some owners contribute their time to present at the meetings as an executive committee and once a year for all owners meeting, i.e. out of 28 units there are 4-5 units that consistently are involved. That doesn't mean involvement after or in between meetin…

Planning Essentials

It’s hard to underestimate importance of planning. It is (or should be) integral part of any conscious activity that requires more than 1 step and implies a target. Especially when we deal with complex processes of various kinds. Contemporary prejudice about planning is that it’s only relevant to big projects like construction, IT, space exploration, military operations, massive production etc. However any activity that involves setting up a goal and steps to achieve it requires planning.

Why is it necessary? Because we need to:
1. Estimate approximate date/time to reach the goal
2. Understand what/who is required to achieve the goal
3. Measure success or failure
4. Review and adjust the plan if needed.

So planning may help not only at work, but also in personal life which will in turn positively influence our so-called work-life balance.

Planning should only serve one purpose – reaching as close as possible to the target. Very often this idea is being overlooked and buried under a p…

Review: The History and Psychology of Human Conflict

The History and Psychology of Human Conflict by Mohr, G. A.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars



This book does not have depth enough to cover its' subject. It seems like bits and pieces from history, some research on behavior, some cliches on propaganda and marketing which all falls apart so after finishing this book it's hard to say how does this all work. It was ok to refresh the memory on some historical matters, however in this book it is very concise and doesn't correspond to either psychology or to what the author wanted to say about the conflicts. Not recommended.



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Strata Essentials for Property Owners - Responsibility

If you talk to people who own apartments/units in NSW 99% of them will say something like "our strata is totally dysfunctional" and some of them might say "our strata management is quite good". Below I will explain what they mean by saying that, because what they are referring to may be quite different from what they say.

Term "strata" is used by majority as something that relevant to ownership, management and ongoing maintenance of a block of units. The concept of strata title was introduced in 1961 in Australia to deal with property rights of apartment blocks. Strata title allows individual ownership of "a lot" which is part of the building (apartment, unit, townhouse) together with shared ownership in the "Common Property" which is the remainder of the building that is not included in the individual lots (i.e. walls, roofs, foyers, planters, pathways, parking etc.).

This is a type of communal ownership and living. The keyword her…

Prioritisation - Key To Success

- "Should I buy those gloves?"
- "How much are they?"
- "$70"
- "Hmm, that’s too expensive"

A couple was in a tiny store in the centre of Sydney buying discounted uggs and other sheepskin apparel. $70 was a significant amount for them especially comparing to the prices of other goods in the store.

In about a week she decided to buy them though. They returned back to that shop, bought the gloves and she was very excited. The excitement continued with a shopping spree at Paddy’s Market in Chinatown market which is very famous for low prices. They bought some clothes, souvenirs and other things. All those other purchases however were not as precious to her as the gloves she was aiming to buy at the beginning and were the main goal of the second trip.

Back at home they started unpacking the stuff and realised they lost the gloves somewhere.

It doesn’t matter whether the price level or the value of all these movements back and forth just to purchase…

Home Building Quality - NSW Legislation Changes and Implications For Owners

Home Building Legislation Amendments - Customer: Dear Mr Builder, would it be possible to rectify the outstanding defects 1)..., 2)..., etc.?
- Builder: You have been pain in the backside. Stop whining. We bent over backwards to help with your problems! Don’t contact me anymore.

This is a type of conversation that happens from time to time when dealing with builders 2-3 years into the defect rectification process. Why it may take so long? Many factors affect the process.

This morning a couple of my friends have shared the article "Home Building Amendment Act: Sydney apartment owners say law changes are 'draconian'", knowing my interest in those matters. I indeed have some relevant experience.

The publication by Sydney Morning Herald above has got a couple of interesting items. First, it is vivid that comments to the post contradict whatever is said by Department of Fair Trading (authority) representative and chief executive from Urban Development Institute of Austr…

Scrum - Team Culture and Wall Manifesto

In the Scrum framework one of the key components is the wall and daily stand-up. In some organisations I worked with the whole concept of the wall is not accepted by many developers, because of the stand-up necessity and "time waste".

Very often all that methodology is used for the sake of methodology and not to achieve what we actually do - adding or creating value to our customer (usually called "The Business").

I can understand frustration that is caused by the wall and stand-up process. From the software developer perspective it is really a waste of time for the following reasons:

1. In 95% of cases developers are head down working like hell delivering valuable outcomes that they are accountable for. Extra effort to go to the wall, staying there for 15-30 minutes and listening or not listening to what others were doing yesterday and will be doing tomorrow is annoying for them;

2. The mere fact of having to do something mandatory to do that looks like useless a…

Review: Doing Business In China: A Guide To The Risks And The Rewards

Doing Business In China: A Guide To The Risks And The Rewards by Christopher Torrens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



The book is interesting in regards to information about Chinese way of doing business and as an overview of its various economic and geographical zones and authorities in general.
However I found some interesting moments there which . First, the text sometimes doesn't match the table data. The book was written in 2010, but the tables have statistical data only up to 2008. Second, I had a feeling that the point of view in the book just portrays the way Chinese people do business in their context as wrong. What foreign companies trying to do in China looks like constant effort to adapt Chinese way of doing business to their concepts. Not sure whether it is a right attitude in this case. Also my interest for proverbs and quotes didn't allow me to miss curious issue that I described in the blog post: Chinese Proverb




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Chinese Proverb

Chris Torrens in his book "Doing Business in China" uses quotes and proverbs for every chapter.
One of them is "A conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study. Chinese proverb" on page 87.

I was curious to find out how it may sound in Chinese and after some research found the following quote:
"A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years' study of books." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hyperion (1839), Chapter VII. Quoted from the Chinese.

Interesting twist, isn't it?

Then I found a book "Chinese Moral Maxims: With a Free and Verbal Translation, Affording Examples of the Grammatical Structure of the Language" by John Francis Davis, F.R.S. The book was published in 1823. The compilation of idioms in the book was made in 1818 to help students who are learning Chinese and "other Persons to whom it may not be altogether devoid of interest". The quoted proverb is on the page 193:



As …

Review: Australian Business Law: Compliance and Practice

Australian Business Law: Compliance and Practice by Roger Vickery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



This book is very good at explaining the subject of Business Law and is written in the format that helps to better understand it. It would be great as a reference book for use when working on certain matters or as a textbook for those who wants to study. In comparison with other book I read about Australian Business Law this one has got more details in some areas like Corporate Structures.



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