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…
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“.
“…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?
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.
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
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.
…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.
I had to give this one a try. It came to my attention too late but I tried anyway. My first PhD proposal has now been submitted. Let the learning begin.
Written in three days is not the ideal preparation. But as a forced period of solid focus and serious questioning of what I’m trying to contribute as research and how it fits to wider academic research overall, was useful reminders of what it’s all for. My passion lives here. I just hope that shines through.
18 pages of my heart and soul. A baseline reset that serves as a useful confirmation that my research, my study, my consulting, and my life choices, all still sit well upon long-term goals.
That’s a good weekend, come what may. Learnt much by learning how much more I have yet to do.
Remembering this guy and reflecting upon what we each rebuild
I never grow tired of bringing one of these old photos out.
At 100kg, clients could be assured the full weight of the London market was in their corner
Acknowledging the significance of the day, I make serious commentary within the light-hearted tone offered here. Without the Christian faith I once had, this day of reflection upon sacrifice sits no less heavily for me.
This blog presents a brief revisit of where my journey was ten years ago, and upon the folly of some ideas I was generating back then. I hope these messages resonate with a few.
As I approach 50 years of age, my reflective mood is starting to take account of past milestones again. Much has changed since I was taking stock in the build up to my 40th birthday. That man, now ten years my junior, was undergoing redress of a different kind. One much more directed toward an imagined future, but steeped in fear of regret. This time around, reflecting again as 50 years approach, I feel reconnected to that last cycle of resetting a baseline, and also toward those resets yet to come. I am perhaps more psychologically informed this time around.
By the April of 2012 I had made decent progress toward a new goal. A snoring husband was a selfish husband. Whilst my wife was still teaching, her medical condition was our growing focus. Sleep for her was an increasingly premium commodity for health. My snoring therefore had to be stopped. I had been losing weight at a rate of about 1 kilogram per week since the turn of the year. By April 2012 that was really starting to show. New clothes to account for a waist that had diminished from 44 inches to 36. An interim wardrobe replaced the fat-boy clothes. They too were later replaced as more stored energy was being burnt away. By the end of May 2012, I had lost 25 kilograms ~ 4 stone ~ 55lb. Motivation is a curious thing.
That weight fell off via a daily routine of diet and an obsessional interest in rowing. Dropping to 75kg enabled me to classify into the lightweight category of a newly discovered indoor rowing scene. I had found a new talent. My old one was being able to drink more, sleep less, and still get more done than most. My new one was not so much a talent for competitive rowing, I am too short to really excel at that, but I could lose weight as easily as I could pile it on. Rowing also encouraged me to return to lifting reasonably heavy weights. I wanted to see how far I could go. Another boundary edge to find, another type of learning to occupy my mind. A new era had arrived for me – Warren: home of the gym bunny.
Middle Aged Men in Lycra (MAMILs)
Losing weight vs finding self : confessions of a (c)aged MAMIL
Soon I was convincingly wearing rugby shirts again – much as I had in my twenties – and with much the same old belonging to a sport I never really played. My father’s sportier resolve secretly lives within me. A few genes that surface for a while but never for long. This time however, they sat central for much of the decade. I was soon aiming at goal after goal in ever more outlandish charitable endurance challenge. Outlandish because I think I needed to keep doing things others thought unpleasant or out of reach. For example, a marathon on a concept2-ergo is 42,195 meters, and my 3 hours 30 minute time was about average for my age. But how many would ever want to know if they could be that average? I rewarded my lightweight self with a mountain bike (MTB), a sport I did once know a thing or two about.
I was delighted to discover you can cycle from London to Brighton, “off-road”, over 75 glorious miles of riverside trails, forestry tracks, lung-busting South Downs hill climbs; and concluding with a suspension justifying long and dusty descent to sea level and the Brighton sea shore.
London to Eastbourne is more a cyclocross route than MTB, but I was pleased with finishing 3rd🥉 – a satisfying last minute decision to enter an event starting near to where I live.
I also jokingly claim to hold the record for the fastest Prudential London 100 on a “single gear and single pedal” bike. My one and only experience of this event was undertaken on the single speed commuter bike I bought and rode 40 miles daily, the year Southern Rail seemed permanently to be on strike.
The one gear was my choice, the single pedal however, was not my decision. It sheered off 20 miles into the Pru100 ride. The pedal cage was gracious enough to leave behind the spindle though. And I had remembered to pack my raw bloody-mindedness, so British Lung Foundation got to keep a few grand in generous sponsorship raised.
As endurance events go however, the most brutal award goes to walking London to Brighton (60 miles or 100 km) – which took four cheery friends 27 blister-filled hours.
MAMIL – Middle-aged man in limbo
Plenty of fond memories there. And plenty of achievement. There is much to be said for the self-confidence to do more and be more. The 100kg me needed to be tamed, and I do wonder what health issues I dodged thanks to my wife’s need of me to be healthier, plus the hubris I found new ways to feed. But, as I now know – there is no health, without mental health.
Hiding in plain sight
That story I do not need to revisit – you can find it here. But there is a bigger point I wish to make. Being in physical shape certainly offered me a new sense of Self, at least for a while. However, Carl Jung would perhaps agree that this is appeasement to persona, not Self. Given my mental health decline through this decade – despite this rebirth of a more physical, less hedonistic, but no less erudite interest – I look back on those many events as delusional, or at best a misplaced escape.
That is probably too harsh, and my pride is none diminished at what I achieved in this domain. There are no doubt many a MAMIL who will present compelling case of the boost to health that exercise offers us all. But my challenge back to you is to consider the manner of the escape. And what it is one is escaping from.
I have no doubt I will sit in a saddle again too. But for me these last ten years represent a gruelling part of a different type of endurance journey, one that more than physical belligerence alone could have ultimately pulled me through. The lesson learnt here is give time to all manner of health, not just that part to which you are seen to be well.
Truth and sacrifice
I recall an insightful discussion late into 2019. Maybe it was November, but even that late it was still before the Sars-Covid19 era was a thing. I was sharing weight loss tales with a dear acquaintance of old. He too had lost weight as his thirties became his forties. He too had still lost heart in what it was he was supposed to do. We both concluded the same thing – no one else really gives a damn how you look – not from the vantage point of being in a stable marriage, and living through middle age. Any interest in look or physical health is really just comparison, favourable or not.
As we both reflected upon his ultimate need to change his life by moving to the country; plus my candid and openly discussed latter-day attempts to not have to face life at all; we concluded that weight loss was worthwhile for personal health, persona or ego, but less relevant than finding your soul. We both smiled knowingly as our discussion landed upon that truth. Two atheists reflecting upon what is still core.
I smile again now recalling that discussion. A tiny bit wiser towards my truth. A little closer to my whole. A little more connected to my sense of purpose. Acknowledging ongoing need to strip away habits, beliefs, wants, and needs. Each of which no doubt served a purpose, but one by one they each just become the obstacle, or the location of the next hole.
Needing less, but being more. That’s the owned meaning of sacrifice. At least to me.
I wonder who else finds habits so hard to keep? At least keep for long. Routine for me is tedious, except if it is directing me toward a goal. I know some people who are quite the opposite, to whom the predictability of routine gives structure, comfort, and piece of mind.
These are factors of management too. Groups and teams need to have some discipline and predictability. Routine affords such platforms from which processes can flow. They can however also become the problem, the structure or habit that stands firm whilst we try to grow. It is why we must consider appropriateness of action but also manner of control.
I’ve been preparing for essay writing for about a month. Another month to go. Familiarising myself with the complexity and unsettled science of neurodiversity. Desperate and tragic has been some of my reading around sex and gender differences (or similarities) in cognition. Each presenting recent cases of immense damage we inflict upon others by the bias and false categorisations we bestow. Based upon little more than our steadfastness in doing right. Enabled by old habits or forms of thought that took us far. Now in the way. Stopping the ease to let others grow.
Forgive us who break old habits. The routine no more. Sometimes, occasionally, they are the habits born of customs that we all need to let go.
My blogging habits as daily feed have faltered once more. That’s fine by me. It will not become a chore.
It took me quite some mental rebuilding before I was able to look this question in the eye. Not a day goes by now that I am not reminded of my answer. My answer from asking the right version of myself. It has become my means of innate motivation, intention, direction, and goal. It is how I have defined my project.
For me this is the visibility I needed. To what I direct my behaviours. What gives me a regained trust in myself. From which I have built critical controls to both enable and protect my project goal. From which I now proceed, mindful of external influence, and internal need.
My ego is still a little raw from my self-flagellations on Twitter two weeks ago. I am observing I am far from alone in being turned upon by a minority voice. But such scenes present a different challenge to our selves. Resist the temptation to ask questions.
Hardly the way of discourse, but I think that is perhaps the point. We should perhaps see ourselves as an audience to presentations. Minimum disruptions, so as not to disturb the flow.
Why do we always think we are ready to ask? Social Media is an angry place. All of us seeking to be heard. It’s becoming louder, and quicker to bring to the boil. As a global society I wonder if we are yet to find our maturity on these platforms. I wonder also if it is not free speech we should be demanding. Not free speech, but freedom to just listen and learn.
That is my realisation this week. That I have been operating under false beliefs. The belief that I am ready to ask questions. To redirect a discussion towards my interest, curiosity, or perhaps even my agenda. Particularly on subjects as emotive, delicate, and incendiary as sexual difference and gender identity. Religion and politics. Dare I also include vaccination here too.
As a majority voice we should perhaps be saying nothing at all. Taking our majority of eyes and ears and putting all to better use. Inviting the quieter voices to speak, plus the angry ones in minority place.
Follow more people you don’t understand. Organisational groups beyond your own identity and kind. Then do nothing. Literally nothing. Other than sit and listen. No questions. No responses. Just take some time to observe, listen, and eventually understand.
Maybe all majority voices should feel compelled to do this. Saying nothing. Until people feel they are being listened to. And not immediately having to explain themselves when seeking a platform on which to take a stand.