Focus

Examining the wood from the trees

Odd to think that in a few hours my attention will change so profoundly. As regular as this change is, I doubt I’ve ever really considered the knowing of its impending impact upon my experience of the now. It is exam day again. My last for quite a while. It therefore represents a final push in one direction, before I am compelled to look another way.

This is a personal reflection upon those influences which I am coming to believe direct us all. Both individually, and in coordination or conflict; in cooperation or competition; and for better or for worse, compel us all.

As with anyone or any team, my focus is occasional drawn to other things. Other things that at the time become my focus. We may have many focus’, or a few. Beyond my study focus I have my research. My work. My wife. My engagements with the wider world. My imminent changes to where I live, my finances, my everything. But right now, beyond this reflection, my focus quickly funnels back into a space of learning. My gaze the leading edge of my thoughts. Drawing me toward the window of my laptop. And from there inside another world, where all the unknown knowledge waits for me. This siren lures me in. The answers to my questions shared here with me. The demands of an exam deadline keeps me from distractions. And in a few hours it will be gone.

What then will have my focus? My work. My wife. My engagement with the wider world. My imminent changes to where I live, my finances, my everything. Odd to think that in a few hours my attention will change so profoundly. Once again.

Seeing the wood for the tress. Is that the wood 🪵 in trees 🌲 🌳 🌳 or trees in the wood? Either way I think the need for perspectival adaptability and focus is well made.

A Gray Day – can we Sue?

What SMART change to the control environment is being made?

I am sure we have all read the report. It does not take long. Once the blame game subsides, what has changed or will change now? That is my question.

Whilst SMART objectives are a little cliché these days, they do still serve purpose when seeking visibility of behavioural change, and thereby regaining trust in systemic failure.

SMART move to avoid committed change…

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Not that much of this report is intended to be anything more than presentation of facts. My concern here is that we have sixty pages that simply gift the tabloid tickertape and headlines a few more inches – but none of that will lead us anywhere meaningfully forward.

This report is a pretty disappointing an output by volume. By quality, the analysis and conclusions are so very weak and devoid on any tangible opportunity to act. And I see nothing coming to challenge that fact.

Painting over the cracks

In the end we are being offered a report that describes a clear dereliction of duty. The greater dereliction here is what is happening beyond this report. The failure to offer SMART actionable change should concern us all.

I present the key wording that foreshadows this coming apathy to change. In essence what this reads is “mistakes were made, but changes are afoot, and you just need to trust us not to do it again“.

All of these quotes are from pages 36 and 37 of the Sue Gray report.

Mistakes were made:

“…attitudes and behaviours inconsistent with the guidance…”

“…failures of leadership and judgement in No. 10 and the Cabinet Office…senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear the responsibility for this culture…”

“…lack of respect and poor treatment of security and clearing staff. This was unacceptable…”

unquantifiable actions taken, thus enabling leadership to once again escape:

“…fragmented and complicated leadership structures in No. 10. I am reassured to see that steps have since been taken to introduce more easily accessible means by which to raise concerns…embed a culture that welcomes…challenge and speaking up…”

“…changes to the organisation and management of Downing Street and the Cabinet Office with the aim of creating clearer lines of leadership and accountability…”

More time being gifted to avoid measurable improvement:

“…I am pleased progress is being made in addressing issues I have raised…”

“…since then guidance has been issued to all Government Departments…”

“…now these need the time and chance to bed in…”

visibility | behaviour | trust

If this is the direction of change, then we will be no closer to increasing visibility and addressing inadequate behaviours (as intent, belief, action). There can be no expectation of increased trust.

In any other context, this would not stand. Yet here, we all seem powerless to intervene. Let’s at least start with asking the better questions. What SMART change to the control environment is being made, to which you (PM) stand personally accountable for?

PhD and me – I got in!!!

Leeds University, Civil Engineering Department, PhD Student (Oct 2022…)

I am delighted, stunned, giggling like a child, as I confirm to this blog that I have now been formally selected to start a full-time, fully funded, PhD programme in October. Leeds University, Civil Engineering department, currently ranked second in the whole of the UK.

Offer received and signed by return ten minutes ago…

My seemingly unreachable ambition to sit in both academic and industry camps remains fired-up and on track. Researching in the name of one, but serving both. Hoping to learn to write and research with academic precision and add a small piece to the sustainability puzzle that now challenges us all.

How this came to be I will digest and reflect upon. A blog for another day. For now I feel humbled, daunted, and thrilled to be given new means to be.

PhD and me, is alive. My journey will continue to be shared here; on LinkedIn; and in everything I still have to do.

To be continued …

Friday 13th

Superstitious cognition, not sense

Happenstance

The human brain is wired to predict future events based upon experience, and short-cut complexity with modelled approximations. It should be no surprise therefore that we read more into happenstance than we should.

I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re sceptical

Arthur C Clarke (maybe)

Not that I am superstitious. I am an INFJ, Type 9, DISC yellow, Sagittarius. That makes me far too sceptical to be categorising coincidence, or be convinced by correlations masquerading as cause and effect.

Change control

…review structures and processes that could make a difference…

Lindsay Hoyle – Speaker of the House

This is a quote from today’s news. In my project world this kind of review is about matching the framework to the range of influence it intends to control. From the world of insuring construction projects I observe this matching of control to need is not done well. In project management academia I think we miss this point when considered holistically. In psychology this assessment of behaviour to aid control is understood in part, but typically only observed in simple settings and in a lab.

Sir Lindsay wrote: “In my opinion, it is time to consider radical action, and review structures and processes that could make a difference…”

“…serious allegations have been made, and we must address them as a matter of urgency. It is imperative we do the right thing by staff and MPs as well.”

BBC “Westminster reform: Lindsay Hoyle and Andrea Leadsom call for urgent changes” 1st May 2022

How control, influence, and intended change interact is what my research is all about. I am researching this in projects of construction. It is what I do in my consulting work. It is how I now orientate my own life.

At its heart, my research is directed toward a simple explanation that enables us all to ask more…

v | b | t

Here are some simple metrics of in applying this to the question of Parliament:

v | b | trust

We are directed toward lost trust. Where there is failed intent, we trust less. Establishing better frameworks for the intended change seems to me the sensible first assumed move to make. It is how to enable the electorate and the stewardship that serves us to regain some shared trust.

v | behaviour | t

We are addressing self-serving behaviour being empowered to serve itself. We are required to challenge innate motivations and compare what is happening to what is required. It instils the accountability of decision-makers and removes the defensive-decision making they hide behind. But more than that it so considers the suitability of their agendas, their capacity and capability, their judgement and the support systems they need. So that leaders can be what they intended to be, as servants to us all; not have what they intended to have, as servants to themselves.

visibility | b | t

We are seeking better visible to us all. An electorate that currently just has visibility of the indifference shown by the power-base. Visibility of deceit, misinformation, and calculations of what needs to said rather than what needs to be done. Legislation passed to protect past error in response to the questions we ask. Repeating evidence of leadership being the opposite of integrity and in not leading by example. What is needed is greater clarity on what is being intended. What vision is being worked towards. And what independent governance from independent source, ensures accountability of all.

Three possible latent origins of failure

Across each of these metrics we appear to have a failing framework of control in government. Beyond the personalities and party colours of the day, it is to our Administration that we should expect permeant control. I see three likely sources of failure that allow the wrong influences to reign:

1. the control of the internal system is failing

2. failure in the policing, the governance, or assurance of appropriate control

3. the clarity of intended change and to whom benefit is the primary goal

Either way the framework needs to have measure of all. Able to have account of all influences redirecting intended change. Thereby protecting the collectively agreed goals and/or the means to adapt such goal to the novelty of new or that which was previously unknown.

Projects | Within Projects

Whether in politics, or in charges of failure by the United Nations or World Health Organisation. Whether we are considering major projects like HS2 or Crossrail. If we are focused on decisions of priority to feed the hungry, or house the homeless, prevent needless bloodshed; or empower the entrepreneur, realign relationships with Europe, intervene in Ukraine, tackle climate change; or ensure our own growth upon a polluted home. Or, if we are addressing our personal purpose and how best to get there. All such intended change requires the appropriate selection of control, and account for all actor interests that may influence this goal for better or worse.

At its core, that is what is being called for here. At its heart, I contend that this is what we are all really asking for.