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  • Matt Turner

Local Government: Sooner Safer Happier for Stockport mbc (III)

Chapter 3

At the beginning of this week, I had an intention to be sat here writing this post on the theme of Data… but things don’t always turn out the way we plan them, do they?

I have no doubt that I will be circling back round to that subject very soon, but as I continued with my “discovery” phase conversations, with various people around the organisation, another topic emerged.

Like the High Holidays spread a lot of cheer but put a spanner in the works of half the world’s exercise regimes, Covid not only created some great new collaborative habits but also broke some healthy ones at the same time.

You might be feeling something similar in your place of work…in fact my colleague Nawel Lengliz posted on our Sooner Safer Happier blog about it last month.

Having worked with SMBC twice before, over a decent period of time, I’m lucky to be afforded an uncommon perspective, a sort of time-lapse, that is very revealing. A view that others experiencing the change in real time don’t notice…and in truth it just goes to highlight how easy it is for organisations to have life, external distractions and influences, break their rhythm and habits.

Image: Karl Chester

What I’m hearing is something I have heard quite a bit, in many places over the past few years, and SMBC is no different…remote working has had an interesting effect.

Despite all the constraints, achievement has been phenomenal, morale hasn’t waivered and professionalism and conscientiousness has skyrocketed…. Trust rides high, but an interesting flip-side is that certain sorts of transparency have diminished.

Working in the fast pace of pandemic response has meant evidence of outputs and outcomes were easy to spot. It was a time of novelty, innovation and emergence. The results were self-evident. Set up testing centres within a fortnight, implement safety protocols in public spaces in days, etc.

As we transition back to a more stable environment, and focus on longer term goals our talent for visualising the delivery pipeline has atrophied… it is less habitual, less natural. There are still pockets of people, teams that work visually and, it seems now, they are better able to transition back to a more predictable style of delivery.

The super thing about this is that there are role models that can help others remember how to work out loud, visually, and regain the benefits of employing explicit policies for things like limiting WIP, deferring commitment, relative prioritisation and by this increase throughput and decrease times to deliver. All of these things help the management of dependencies and risk. They reinstate a different type of “choice architecture”. Now that the pandemic has past and frantic delivery of outputs has reduced, results are less evident and trust can ebb away… it is more crucial than ever to re-establish visual working and collaboration to ensure progress against longer term goals remains conspicuous, so we can see what is happening in a timely manner and respond appropriately.

It has been nice to have people, who have benefitted from working this way before, recognise that its absence. They are asking for this type of help, to get them back on top, stabilising their system of delivery. This self-awareness is very encouraging, it means there is still and understanding of the why even if the muscle memory of how has missed a few gym sessions!

…of course, when we get back to old exercise regimes it’s good to fire up the Strava or Health app… back to that subject of data… seeing the analytics of how we are getting back to full health can be a great motivation… more of that in the weeks to come!

by Matt Turner, 11/10/22


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