Friday, 14 October 2005

Newsletter Issue 103, October 2005

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 103, October 2005
Hi guys,
What is so bad about power generation in New Zealand and why? Read on to find out Who's Got the Power in our country.
If you are a director, then reading Ten Tips for Improving Board Effectiveness may be just what you need. 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Who's Got the Power?

What on earth are we doing about our energy crisis in this country?
I am constantly amazed at how many of our Kiwi communities are incredibly short-sighted when investors are wanting to set up generation in their area. Resource Management Applications for power generation projects are being stymied at every turn by small local groups. There is a huge amount of "Not In My Back Yard" and "Not Over There Either" attitude in these groups, which is limiting our competitive advantage and assisting New Zealand's downward slide on the OECD list.
Post-war, we were lucky to have had some very able engineers plan our infrastructure requirements going forward. The power generation plants and transmission systems which were set up have ably met our energy requirements for half a century.
However, we have not had the investment, nor the environment to be able to MAKE the investment, to take us ahead for the next 50 years. We use a lot of electricity in New Zealand, and rising domestic prices (which after all only makes up 13% of the energy market) has not made an appreciable impact on domestic demand.
May's edition of Bright Magazine, issued by NZT&E, reported some global trends. They were:
  • while the World Business Council for Sustainable Development ranks New Zealand as a world leader in renewable energy (gas, hydro and geothermal), our consumption of energy from non-renewable sources continues to rise
  • increasing power prices are fuelling interest in energy efficient technologies
  • the introduction of a carbon tax on CO2 emissions from 2007 in New Zealand is also driving the development of products and technologies that increase efficiency or avoid greenhouse gas production all together
I was horrified to hear earlier this year that nuclear power is being considered as a viable option, at a time when those countries which are still using nuclear power are mothballing their plants because of the environmental risk. Oil-fired generation plants no longer seem such a sensible idea either, with the cost of oil per barrel reaching record levels.
We have so many sources of renewable energy available to us - hydro, tidal, solar and wind. Having just been in Germany, and seen that all schools have their roofs packed with solar cells feeding back into their national grid, it amazes me that we don't do the same on all of our government buildings. And everywhere in Germany there are wind turbines, their blades turning ponderously (it bewilders me that people can find these majestic generators ugly!). Why are we too not taking advantage of our coastal breezes?
Our Kiwi situation seems to be "we want lots of power, but we don't want anyone to generate it anywhere in New Zealand and we'll use the RMA to stop development. We know we have renewable energy resources, but we don't want to use them. We want to save them". Save them for what, I wonder?
I am a staunch proponent of the principle that there should be a balance between economic drivers and aesthetics. But I strongly feel that the RMA has allowed aesthetics to be king, to the detriment of our infrastructure and our economic future.
The RMA is a wonderful concept, but it is too fragmented, too easily railroaded by small lobby groups, too at the whim of local councils, and does not have a strategic focus. A national infrastructure strategy, superior to the RMA, could ensure that necessary energy resource investment and development happens; underpinned by an Act which allowed long-term societal best interest projects to go ahead.
Or at best, we are all going to be sitting at home in the dark.

Ten Tips for Improving Board Effectiveness

Recently on the American Management Association's website, there was an article with some tips for Directors. After reading these, I had a think about what I had found worked well for me as a Director in New Zealand.
Interestingly, I found my list to be a bit different. So for those of you who are currently directors or who are planning on volunteering your services, here is my amended AMA list of target items for improving the effective functioning of your Board:
  1. Understand your Board responsibilities, policies and procedures. Really get to grips with the division between management and governance and keep your focus on governance
  2. Understand the environment that the business operates in by wide reading, research and through applying your own knowledge and experience
  3. Get to know the businesses' performance drivers. Understand the financials, budgets and Critical Success Factors. Talk to customers and staff, walk around the business from time to time and keep your eyes open
  4. Get to know the businesses' people. Learn the unvarnished truth about your management team
  5. Actively manage succession including selection, development and transition for the management team
  6. Perform CEO evaluations frequently and systematically. Have a good job description to measure against and also have the CEO to self-evaluate
  7. Guard against cliques forming within the Board or in the management team; suggest team building exercises across the groups if this  does become an issue
  8. Develop and foster a culture of vigorous, considered debate on key issues. This will mean that as you are clear on why you are taking a particular strategic decision, you will also be able to sell it well to the organisation, ensuring buy in
  9. Support your Chair and allow them to lead the board. Any issues you have should be discussed with the Chair and then left for them to decide the appropriate course of action. Additional politicking will eventually fragment the Board
  10. Allow the Chair to be the main link with the CEO, acting as mentor and sounding board.
One of the issues not on my list from the American Management Association's article suggested that the Board should "stress test management's candor"; ie that you should check that your CEO or management team are telling the truth to the Board. I feel that this is a strategy that should be only used if communication has already irrevocably broken down; it would be very easy to destroy the trust and respect between a Board and a CEO with such a manoeuvre.
Enjoy your directing!

Excel's COUNTIF Function Part 3

Last time we looked at criteria using the letters at the start of a word.
Criteria can also include other functions like 'TODAY()', which will return today's date. This must be "concatenated" - or added to - the comparison operator using ampersand (&); eg you would use =COUNTIF(A1:A10,">" & TODAY()) if you have a list of dates and need to know how many there are after today's date.
NB: Functions have to be outside the quotes and need "&" to join them into a condition.
You can also use two wildcards with COUNTIF; the asterisk (*) and the question mark (?). As usual, the asterisk is used to search for anything regardless of the number of characters; eg you would use the function =COUNTIF(A1:A10,"*b*") if you wanted to search the list shown below for any cell containing a letter b, =COUNTIF(A1:A10,"b*") for anything that started with b or =COUNTIF(A1:A10,"*b") for anything that ended in b.
If you used =COUNTIF(A1:A10,"*b*") the result would be of 2.
         Column A
  1. Aaron
  2. Bertram
  3. James
  4. Kimberly
  5. Miriam
  6. Ophelia
  7. Simon
  8. Travis
  9. Wallace
  10. Zachary
The question mark (?) is much more specific as "?" only replaces one character (although you can use multiple question marks for multiple letters); eg =COUNTIF(A1:A4,"smi??") would return "smial", "smile", "smint", "smite" and "smith".
Next time we will look at mathematical operations.
Thanks to Woody's Office Watch for the background for this series. View what the Office Watch team have to offer at

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;
  • NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard. Some groups protesting Resource Management Applications appear to protest only because they don't want development anywhere near them.
  • NOTE, Not Over There Either. And some of the NIMBY groups also protest development anywhere else as well.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
Continuing our Outlook hot key list, this time we look at all you can do with the plain old alphabet keys with Alt, Shift, Ctrl. In this newsletter we take letters E to J;
  • Outlook "Center" Ctrl & E
  • Outlook "Create a new folder or open a selected folder" Ctrl & Shift & E
  • Outlook "Forward a selected E-Mail item" Ctrl & F
  • Outlook "Open Advanced Find dialog box" Ctrl & Shift & F
  • Outlook "Flag item for follow up" Ctrl & Shift & G
  • Outlook "Create new Office document" Ctrl & Shift & H
  • Outlook "Add italics" Ctrl & I
  • Outlook "Go to Inbox" Ctrl & Shift & I
  • Outlook "Create a new journal entry or open an existing one" Ctrl & Shift & J

Hot Linx
Whether you have people coming from overseas, or if your short people are bored during the school holidays, check out for their entertainment
For a brief history of computer science, check out the brilliantly brief compilation work at
If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing any Maori legends about our native New Zealand birds, then go to
OK, if you want to visit a website that will mess with your eyes, then the Zoomquilt is it. Check it out at

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here