I am very quiet at the moment. Mostly, this is because I have been producing work at my day job at a speed hitherto only reserved for the last time we thought moving 56,000 properties bin days in the space of 12 months was a good idea and I was responsible for sending the trucks down the new routes and the new houses being told at the right time in the right order the right details of the new round. Baptisms of local government fire don’t come more intense than that – had it gone wrong it would have effected every household in the Borough which is not something you get to say very often in local government.
It didn’t go wrong. The reason it didn’t go wrong relates to a three letter acronym which I temporarily suffer from in such situations where I check something, check something again, then implement new and interesting ways to recheck my facts and figures again, again and yet again.
Those times were the only ones where I stuck my head above the parapet, but the nature of my involvement meant that whilst the project team knew I was being epic, no one else did and I really really appreciated that. Had it been any different, I would have felt very uncomfortable.
So why am I telling you this?
It relates, quite directly to yesterday and today, which I spent in the company of 12 other local government types, an assessor and two course delivery bods from a college in the NE who were delivering, at no cost to us, a Business Improvement Technique Diploma. You’re probably thinking ‘what a waste of time’ since I addressed the cost already. Well no, actually. You see, for 6 days out of work, work are getting something rather unique out of us. They’re getting 13 enthusiastic, passionate people designing a new process from the ground up, bringing to bear the sum total of 107 years of service in local government, for no more cost that their man hours.
Think about how much it would cost to buy that experience in. Think about whether buying that experience in would have the words passionate and enthusiastic attached to it (discount the rare people on Twitter like Dave Briggs or Dominic Campbell, they’re not the norm, we all know they’re not).
I’m not lying or spinning this either. We have all been so determined, passionate and enthusiastic, in fact, that we overran today, needed some quite serious marshalling and produced too many outcomes resulting in the course leaders needing to ask us to revisit – apparently they’re used to dealing with people producing widgets and not dealing with people. Heh, people break stuff as soon as they enter a process, we all know that.
So what’s the point and how does it link to the beginning?
Well the thing is, my previous Department helped me test my wings. I learnt I was good at something. I didn’t learn how to do anything else, but I was allowed to do something very risky, trusted immensely, praised quietly and in a way I was comfortable with when it went right and learnt a shedload about teamwork.
Then I joined Comms. Lets think about the reputation of Comms in some areas for a moment. Now let me tell you about the person who entered the Department last August. She was shy, she was not confident, she still wasn’t too sure of speaking up, she always backed down if she thought someone else knew more than her and she damn well never ever ever spoke unless spoken to.
Spin forward to yesterday and today and there’s a comment in my Diploma folder and it says ‘Louise is positive and active in discussions and acts as an interpreter and explains things to people who don’t understand in terms they can understand and comes up with interesting solutions to problems which the group adopt and incorporate’
I suggested something totally leftfield yesterday, about using the 3,500 brains and skillsets we have to bear on issues raised by our residents through engagement processes. I suggested that we always assume the same people know _everything_, we ask our Heads of Service and the internal established networks to know everything and we never ask anyone else in the organisation who might have a new and innovative and cost effective way to fix the problem.
‘If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got’ – My ex boss
You see, sometimes the tools you bring to bear are a combination of the words of wisdom spoken 24 month before, combined with the empowering nature of the environment you are now in, combined with the confidence imbued by a Head of Service, Deputy Head of Service and Director listening to me and believing in me, mixed with the encouragement and cheerleading of assorted other individuals in the Department. But the sum total is a woman who has gone from timid as a blooming mouse to having the confidence to shape future service delivery and speak up and defend and stick to her guns and persuade and discuss and document and be proud of doing all of those things and not ashamed in the slightest of being smart, of thinking fast, of typing faster….
I’m not embarrassed any more. And for that I owe the company and kind mentoring of some very very very lovely ladies who are quietly teaching me that I am making excuses if I say I am embarrassed. That I am shying away from responsibility. That I am not stepping up and letting myself and everyone who has invested time in me down in the process of avoiding stepping up.
So yesterday and today, the organisation got the best out of me. But it was the sum total of many peoples hard work and I am afraid, so afraid, that local government will have no capacity to do this in the future. So where will the lost little girls go then? Mmmm?