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80 Shades of Beige

Stuart White

Flip Dictionary! If that phrase leaves you lost for words you clearly haven’t got a copy. Designed and compiled by Barbara Ann Kiffer, the person responsible for the Millennium update of Roget’s Thesaurus, the Flip Dictionary solves the problem of when you know what you want to say, it’s right on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t quite think of it. 

It goes beyond the standard dictionary format by offering cues and clue words to lead you to the precise phrase or specific term you need.  (note to self – ‘look up phrase ‘flip dictionary’). There’s even an online Adobe Acrobat version available for people with a fear of paper (papyrophobia) or even worse, fear of paper cuts (pulpuslacerataphobia).

As you can see, the Flip Dictionary is full of amazingly useful and totally useless titbits.  For instance, we may have been led to believe there are 50 shades of grey but did you know there are more than 80 different shades of the colour brown and in case you don’t believe me here is a sample to whet your literary appetite; anthracene, beaver, bistre, brindle, buff, doeskin, dun, fallow, fulvous, nutria, pongee, raffia, seal, sorrel, taupe and umber.

Now I am not quite sure where I can slip these extensions to my vocabulary into the conversation or even this column but I’m working on it and it did get me thinking that there is so much that is useless or inappropriate in the business world that it would be handy to have a flip corporate manual to assist in offering 79 other choices to specific situations, standard problems, accepted solutions and clichéd practises. Maybe the Flip Policy Manual or whatever could advise you what was no longer useful or completely redundant?

Having 80 different colours of brown may seem superfluous and overkill but so too are the many activities, rituals and norms we have in the corporate world. So here are some grey areas we should find alternatives for.

Team Building Retreats – I am referring here to the old ‘build a raft and climb a rock face’ interventions that are supposed to develop closeness and camaraderie through a shared near-death or severe deprivation experience away from the work environment, a sort of right-of-passage ritual for suits. These kinds of exercises are usually heavily over-subscribed by executives secretly harbouring a desire to be daredevil thrill seekers who can only usually get their adrenalin rush watching Mission Impossible movies.

In the real world team building can better be accomplished by using common sense and a few fundamental principles such as getting people to recognise that together they perform better and produce more than individually, by establishing an environment of trust, involving and including everyone and then recognising the efforts and attainments of the team, rather than by silly virtual reality war games or scripted, controlled and orchestrated adventures, the results of which rarely last much longer than the end-of-exercise party at the bar.  Face it, Tom Cruise most of you ain’t.

Mission Statements – A litany of self-delusion that everyone has to have but never remembers the wording or why it was put there in the first place. I am a great believer in ‘if its not working, toss it out’ and in my humble opinion I would have expected by now that Mission Statements would have fallen into a state of total disuse. Surprisingly they continue to be considered one of the most popular end-product management tools in the world, even ranked as one of the top two corporate practices in global usage by Bain & Company since 1993.

I do believe in the old expression, "No wind favours the ship that has no charted course” so I appreciate the critical need for organisational direction but don’t kid myself that the Mission Statement is the vehicle that will make it happen; they’re simply not worth the paper on which they are written. The average Mission Statement is a lofty, unattainable piece of pomposity which is, as John Philpott in ‘People Management’ says, “little better than a secular version of the religious pieties that in early times were hung above the door of the workhouses in England.”

Corporate Uniforms – Now I know I am going to be hugely unpopular with this one but let’s face it, having a dress code is the ultimate in management command and control. I have worked for organisations that branded you a black sheep, sent you home and docked you a day’s pay because you exercised a bit of personal choice in the threads department, thus leaving the work to be carried out by the mindless sheep happy to be all dressed the same way giving the same lousy service. But at least, the corporate thinking goes, they are uniformed and uniform in their lousy service. Fortunately in this country the not wearing of ties and tights is not too much of a criminal offence anymore.

Security Sign-In Procedure – This is a whole redundant employment industry on its own, requiring a superannuated security guard whose only responsibility is to ensure that the access register is completed. I love it when they get pernickety about the time “Excuse me sir but it is 4.23 and you have entered 4.25.

‘The fact that you recorded your name as Rumpelstiltskin and listed the reason for the visit under ‘Business, as in none of yours’ is neither here nor there. The only people who benefit from access-control security guards are the printers and stationery store owners purveying those massive and massively-expensively bound attendance ledgers, made of nothing but the best quality paper. They have to go, the books and the guards!

So Flip Manuals are in and team building, mission statements and uniformed time lords are out.  Or maybe not? Shall we flip for it?

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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Fate of Africa: Underdevelopment Authored in the Corridors of Western Intrigue   

17th November 2020
Howard Nicholas

There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White   man has no kin: his kin is money”.  The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”

To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.

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The Desolation Sacrilege

17th November 2020

 A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies


Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?

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Joy or grief in the hereafter

17th November 2020

Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?

Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.

Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.

Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:

  • Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
  • He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
  • As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.

This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.

“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)


In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.

‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)

In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.

If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.

However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.

Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..

‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)

In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)

Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.

According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us.  Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.

‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)

Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.

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