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.

PhD and me

Learning by doing

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.

Death and rebirth : know thyself

Remembering this guy and reflecting upon what we each rebuild

A family guy

I never grow tired of bringing one of these old photos out.

Peter Griffin doppelgänger

2010. All bought and paid for. Even the suit.

At 100kg, clients could be assured the full weight of the London market was in their corner

Good Friday

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.

One pedal one gear keep moving

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.

6 km for this photo plus the 100 km we were promised

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.

That was a blistering pace

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.

Safe seats

Letting sleeping dawgs lie

13th March 2020. 760 days of lockdown in our house today.

2nd May 2024. 751 days from today. The date of the next general election.

So I guess we’re past halfway…

😤 😡 😠

Habits or chores

Sometimes my only habit is the opposite

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.

If I had my time again I’d {insert here}

Finding your project

Finding my project
(beardall.blog)

visibility | behaviour | trust

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.

What does this question mean to you?

Projects | within projects

Ssshhhhh … listening is a spectator sport

Less ask: more time to grasp

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.

Mistakes were made…

…scapegoats will be blamed

Is it possible to see through the manoeuvring that is intended to pass on blame? Particularly when distraction is involved. The origin of the scapegoat suggests we have been societally accepting of this idea throughout history. Accountability must be retained in high office. Prime Ministers and NHS Trusts showing us why we need more transparency and power to intervene.

The original “scapegoat”

This quotation is from Karen Armstrong 2014, “Fields of Blood : Religion and the history of violence”

“Every year in ancient Israel the high priest brought two goats into the Jerusalem temple on the Day of Atonement. He sacrificed one to expiate the sins of the community and then laid his hands on the other, transferring all the misdeeds on to its head, and sent the sin-laden animal out of the city, literally placing the blame elsewhere.

In this way, Moses explained “the goat will bear all their faults away with it into the desert place”. In his classic study René Girard argued that the scape goat ritual defused rivalries among groups with the community. In similar way, I believe, modern society has made a scape goat of faith”

Leadership scapegoats

I give leadership a hard time. Occasionally I step back and ask myself if I am in-fact just projecting my own failings onto others. But not today. Today I am in full rant.

I think we have seen several protracted attempts at such deflection in the headlines today. Leaders who may claim to be victim. Political scapegoats. Alternatively, the case can be made that they themselves have been found to be creating distance to invite a future scapegoat in.

Example one, who is preparing whom for the blame here in party-gate, part IX?

Mr Raab said the PM had updated Parliament “to the best of his knowledge and his understanding

BBC article here

Is that really the party line? Surely, there is at no point opportunity for leadership to claim this final defence for withholding information – “I didn’t know” – that is not an excuse when you are in charge.

I have argued before that accountability is immovable from the highest office. In this instance, failure to check equals failure to act. That is failure as the servant of the people you represent. Accountability of the senior decision-maker is really that simple. With rightful blame attached.

But what concerns me here is the potential impact if Boris is seen to be a scapegoated leader, because it offers permission to leave all else unchanged. Boris is a scoundrel, and he must go – but what is stopping the next being just the same? We need change – but the system is as much to blame.

visibility | behaviour | trust

First, another example of the ease with which this can be flagged (if we are so inclined). Back to some basic heuristics to check the situation against.

visibility | b | t

A leader who is unable to present clarity because of a failure to look, is acting with neglect by turning the blind eye, or conveniently choosing not ask. We can see this, so should the governance that keeps their decision-making abilities defined.

v | behaviour | t

This persistent behaviour is self-serving. It enables the personal defence of a child. Except this is not a playground. “I didn’t know”, is responded to simply with, “Well you were expected to. It is your job to know.” We can back this up with clarity of permitted and expected processes in senior role.

v | b | trust

Once a failure to perform is highlighted, so inherent trust is eroded. A little lost trust, or perhaps in totality. Either way, this prompts a change.

Any manager will know this. If you have people responsibilities you will know this. The underperformer is now necessarily more closely managed. In 2022 may be in performance reviews, or perhaps the introduction of a performance improvement plan, disciplinary action, or in extreme situations in termination. This may be necessary for the good of the wider team. It may only be fair to them if lesser performance is managed this way. But we culpable too, at least in part, if the right training, the right resourcing, adequate empowerment and oversight offered, and clarity of internal processes that are regularly checked to ensure they reflect what is needed as critical controls.

Anyone with client responsibilities will know this. Any client relationship can reflect this building or loss of trust. A supply chain partner may have contractual remedy or legal ramification ( particularly if there was no trust but contracts enabled trade). Better trust however is built when closer relationships are being fostered. Better trust that goes both ways.

In all cases increased visibility, or corrective behaviour, are required now that we have less trust.

What should support the assumed trust, is the checking. The processes of assurance that may be line manager, peer review, stage gate approval, which is then further supported by spot checking or audit that is expected is actually coming through. How often do we see a lack of governance, procedure, or level of independent challenge meaning things are missed?

I speak at length about this in construction. This is more than dealing with assumed error, this is also adding value as that extra pair of eyes. “I didn’t know” as a leader is to reflect the failure to be aware. Why trust the leader who clearly does not care? This is the leader who is not serving you.

More scandalous dereliction of leadership

Another headline grabber today. This one a National disgrace that has been known of for years. This is the conclusions of catastrophic failures of management detailed in Ockenden report. Also see here, the BBC summary outlining the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. This is twenty years of negligent leadership, no doubt set against a backdrop of chronic underfunding. Funding however can be no excuse. I am tempted to see this as a twenty year reign of outrageous intimidation and deceit. Worrying in of itself, but it is not standalone to this one Trust – or should we say the antithesis of the word trust.

“The reasons for these failures are clear,” she said. “There were not enough staff, there was a lack of ongoing training, there was a lack of effective investigation and governance at the trust and a culture of not listening to the families involved.”

BBC report dated today {here} quoting the enquiry leader, the remarkable midwife come archetypal bastion of wisdom, Julie Ockenden

This behaviour by this Trust, is absolute failure of the stewardship we demand. Whether they see it coming or not, this must prompt wider change. No leaders gets to say “I didn’t know”, or “I was badly advised”. Not when babies were needlessly dying, and senior people still refused to look, listen, or believe the findings of 8 separate expert opinions, or the bravery and tenacity of the bereaved.

No to delegated accountability

In my opinion, these two very different leadership failures bring us to the same place. Accountability stays at the top, irrespective of whether each and every leader who came and went from this Board of Trustees chose to look. Regardless of whether a PM chose to ask the most basic of questions, and opt to rely upon the defence of “I didn’t know”. And let me be clear, I think Boris did know and does know – but that needs not be debated if we can simply call out the failure in his claims that he at no stage asked.

It is the same with the Board of Trustee. Theirs is the final decision, based upon visibility of any information gap they are prepared to accept. Theirs is the behaviour permitted to turn a blind-eye or to scapegoat staff. Theirs was the opportunity to act and ensure risk, internal control and assurance were functioning as they should. This is the trust we put in them.

I have offered a detailed argument as to why accountability as a concept is best understood if it is deemed only ever upwardly visible {here}. If seniority is permitted to deflect accountability this is when behaviours are free to become distanced from risk, trust can be abused, and visibility intentionally obfuscated. Focus can be distracted toward secrecy, decision parameters hidden, poor leadership rewarded as if good. The solutions are already available, these answers are not new. Existing management theory exists to enable this, with just a modest tweak in making accountability anchored, whilst responsibility moves.

These are the fundamentals of our leaders being our chief-administrators, and being responsible for the control environments that we all rely upon. I sometimes wonder if the administrative realities of leadership are somehow forgotten by some, or perhaps never learnt. There is a reason that the MBA qualification in management has administration attached to the name. There is reason that high office is called the Administrative function. Accountability lives here, whether understood or not.

Let’s get back to managing our leaders – accountability is to blame

We may well have made faith our modern scapegoat, and Armstrong’s arguments in her 2014 book is compelling. I would venture further still. 21st Century political leadership, and indeed invisible and unaccountable leadership in all forms, must be reframed. They are not scapegoats, they are rightly to blame. Failing to acknowledge this is making a scapegoat of us all.

The sucker punch

Hidden malevolent intent

Surprise attacks are effective because they take advantage of situational dissonance, i.e., actions by one party not anticipated by the other. Without offering much detail of events, I attempted to give this some thought across three media events that caught the headlines yesterday.

  • A slap in the face
  • Poison served as peace
  • Safe harbours no more for employment law pirates.
P&Ouch (created via MSWord)

Here I attempt to talk in terms of all three within categorical parameters I am using elsewhere to described project relationships

v | b | t

Hopefully familiar to anyone reading my blogs regularly, these are the interrelationship variables that represent a shared or separate set of interests namely, visibility | behaviour | trust. In the surprise move, we have:

  • One party disguising their intent (visibility | behaviour)
  • The other party perceiving no threat from the first (trust)

Additional factors in play

This gives me cause to revisit other factors in play in assessing threat. These are factors I have identified previously in the context of projects. Each seems to apply equally well here.

Influence – as Action Potential

Think of this as the spectrum of possible behaviours of each of the two or more parties. Typically dynamic, and therefore changeable over time. These are matters such as intent, motivation, belief, by which one party may find reason to choose or feel compelled to direct their energy. In neuroscience this is Action Potential. It is measured at cellular or neuronal level, but perhaps is an apt description between situational actors as well.

Right arena, right rules

In each of the three examples here, we have a definable space, and conventions that apply. The examples here:

  • confines of a spotlight;
  • a banner of truce;
  • legal employment frameworks deemed to be breakable rules.

But if we have the wrong arena in mind, we may have the wrong rules to apply. This highlights the importance of perspective or modal clarity.

What this additionally highlights is a threat to one actors safety, enabled because the wrong arena has been assumed. In these examples:

  • a single safe spotlight becoming a shared stage;
  • a table of negotiators but needing to see a wider arena concealing snipers, poisoners, or media spin:
  • a marketplace as a transport operator but finding safe harbour no more

Control environment

We have the perceived safety of a control environment therefore proved false:

  • A comedian’s sanctuary to say anything without reproach;
  • Rules of combat that may not prevail under a banner of diplomatic truce;
  • Legal rights of employees, legal expectations of ship owner and port authority.

Dynamics of change

To which we can then revisit influence and the appropriateness of control. Perhaps these two factors can be linked as situational awareness. Influence as an observable variable, positively or negatively directional towards self-interest or shared goal. To which the assessment of totality of range of possible behaviours, and appropriateness of controls can then be compared.

v | Behaviour as covert action | t

I need to now extend the range of behaviour. Not only is self-interest vs shared interest now possible. We now have shared interest defaulting to self-interest deteriorating to intentional harm of another. This requires visibility to be intentionally obfuscated and an illusion of trust to be maintained. This means we can have completely the opposite of full information i.e., [-1, 0, +1]

The hidden truth

Together these factors in each arena seem to help explain what was perceived versus what transpired. And how combative aims were concealed. By breaching the perception of trust we have a means to consider a bigger range of action potential as hidden intent.

Accordingly, when there is covert (as opposed to overt) action potential, this is beyond a poorly shared truth. This is concealment, and acting within a lie. Self-serving, self-justifying harm.

Is it too much to suggest in a caveat emptor project world, we occasionally fit this expanded mould?

One more?

And what of today’s headlines? Knock-knock Prime Minister. Plenty of eyes are now looking behind your door.

Plato – The Republic

Still reflecting in Plato’s cave

Essays not withstanding, I managed a revisit to Plato’s “The Republic” this weekend. This passage caught my eye:

“the object of our legislation…is not the special welfare of any particular class in our society, but of the society as a whole; and it uses persuasion or compulsion to unite all citizens and make them share together the benefits which each individual can confer on the community; and its purpose in fostering this attitude is not to leave everyone to please himself, but to make each man a link in the unity of the whole”

Plato – The Republic – Book VII pp242

Watching the news, and ignoring political overtones, these words seem to reflect yet to be learned truths…