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The 'golfless' week-end at the Belfry

From: Alastair MacDonald
Category: Story
Date: 25 Feb 2004
Time: 11:45:11 -0000
Remote Name:


Ian and I must be the only two golf fanatics who have spent the week-end at the Belfry and never made it onto a single tee. Our missed opportunity happened in November 1989, when Ian was given the task by Uwe Lamann, one of the mentors Sharon mentions in the ‘About Ian’ section, to project manage a major employee change event. Uwe had been given the task to turn round Norton, a telecomms distributor Siemens had acquired a few years earlier and which was basically a basket case, bleeding millions of pounds. Winning over the employees was key to that task. Uwe asked me (I was Head of Corporate Communications for Siemens in the UK) to be Ian’s ‘co-pilot’ on the project. We were already all good colleagues, as I had worked (and played!) with them both regularly when they were with Siemens’ Components division. Anyway, back to the week-end. The venue we chose for the employee event was the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham As it has no accommodation, Ian and I decided to stay at the Belfry, ever the optimists that we would squeeze in some golf as a fitting end to what we felt confident was going to be a successful week-end (we had hacked round Forest of Arden when we had visited the venue for a ‘recce’ some months earlier, so we needed a bigger stage for our finale!). We had access to the Motorcycle Museum venue from 12.00 midnight Friday, with a complete stage set to be built, presentations to be finalised, early morning rehearsals to go through, Nick Ross (one of Ian’s earlier dealings with celebrity!) to be briefed on his arrival at 10.00am, before some 400 employees arrived from different parts of the country around lunchtime for an afternoon conference and evening bash. We knew it would be a long night – which it was, getting to bed around 5.00am. The next day was even longer, stretching from 8.00am Saturday to 5.00am, Sunday, when we finally got back to the Belfry after an unbelievably successful event, followed by some celebratory drinks at the New Hall Hotel, where most of the others were staying. Ian and I agreed to meet at around 9.00am for breakfast, with that round of golf still in our sights. But when we dragged ourselves out of bed and met up some time around then, the physical (7 hours’ sleep in two nights!) and emotional (what a success!) exhaustion of the week-end made us realise we just wanted to get home, Ian to his family, me to mine. The Belfry, we agreed, would just have to wait to be graced by our presence! I tell this story because, in a way, it was a pivotal week-end in Ian’s career. The success of the event demonstrated to what was then the PN (Private Networks) Board members involved (Zaboji, Schmucking, Hammerschmidt) just what Ian could do. (Maybe only those who work(ed) for Siemens and understand the ‘Fiefdom’ mentality of the different Business Units know the significance of this. Neither Ian nor Uwe were historically from the PN ‘Fiefdom’, so they had no automatic credibility or standing there; they were from the Components ‘Fiefdom’, so the PN trust and confidence had to be won.) Ian had certainly won over the PN guys with his ability to get on with the job, despite the many problems and hassles it involved, and see it to completion – an attitude and approach recognised and praised in other contributions on this site. His secondment to work for them in Munich followed. It is no exaggeration to say that this was also a pivotal week-end for Siemens’ communications business in the UK, as it gave Uwe Lamann and the rest of his management team the employees’ confidence and commitment to enable them to transform the business into Siemens Communications Systems, stopping the rot of Norton and laying the foundation for the successful Siemens business it has become today.

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