Monthly Archives: March 2011

Red Nose Day

However cynical we are, however syrupy it gets, however annoying the backing tracks are (who needs them? It is all poignant enough without the music) – pick up the phone or visit your bank and make a difference. One thing that struck me so hard: the dignity and respect shown to people. Vulnerable or disadvantaged people not treated as if they are worthy causes or “different”.

It is outrageous that people still have to make choices about which child lives or dies, about who gets the medicine, when there is so much abundance in this world. A good friend of mine who was Jewish and who was sent to a camp during WWII was given the “blessing” of being able to choose which of her children lived and which died, because she was a trained nurse and of use to the Nazis. Imagine that. Now imagine that it still happens because, despite all the money and abundance in the world now, the medicines that could stop these choices having to be made are not available to the ones who need them.

If you saw someone lying on the pavement dehydrated and in pain on your street, wouldn’t you stop and help? Why is it different if they are old and demented or black and in Africa?

Get dialling, friends. Your fiver makes a difference.


Get Off Your Butt

I have been reflecting on teams again this month. Our lives are made up of teams: families, golfing buddies, work colleagues, scrabble mates, rugby supporters, bands, crochet circles (very similar to crop circles but made by weirder people), spelling bees (which always makes me think of Samantha twitching her nose. If you were born after 1980 you  may not get that reference), and members of your Philately group.  Most of the generalisations we hurl at Work Teams in  our ManagementSpeak frenzy are true, and are also true of the other teams to which we belong.  Apart from the Misanthropes Group who have so far stubbornly refused to bond.

There is a team of teams that I know – trust me I know how ManagementSpeak that sounds – who have grown up a lot in the past few months. They are a team of teams because they are a cluster of teams who have different but connected aims and purposes, mainly around the delivery of Health, Substance Mis-use and Forensic services.  So, crucial and challenging stuff. For the services to function credibly and effectively they need to operate as single teams but also as an entity of teams who can complement and support the aims and functions of the others. This is more than just words and paper exercises: the lives and wellbeing of vulnerable people and their circles of support as well and the safety of colleagues depend on this working, and in addition they cost a significant amount of money to maintain. The cost is only supportable if the services deliver and self-support.

This team of teams works spectacularly well in a very challenging environment which is in itself going through a period of turmoil , so fair play to them. But they have reached the Plateau of Complacency which is clearly marked on the Map of Development in the Atlas of ManagementSpeak. Squint a bit and you can see it in the bottom right hand corner behind the Depths of De-Motivation. These are well-travelled paths plotted and mapped after years of experience and scrutiny and the loss of several fingers trapped in the spine of the book as it snapped shut in surprise and frustration. There has been blood.

The individuals who make up these teams have worked their butts off to bring themselves into a new era of social and health care and prepare themselves for  further developments as they happen. Some fell by the wayside, and that was quite right as they would not only have been very unhappy had they stayed, but they would have pulled the teams down with them and created huge risks to colleagues and punters. Some self selected, some had the door presented to them painted bright red with flashing lights around it, and the result was a better, more driven, more skilled less risky group.  But, butt, with the re-grouping has come the back-patting and self-satisfaction which can cause temporary loss of vision, dangerous when there are some deep and dark pitfalls on the immediate horizon. Feeling ones way is not sufficient, one has also to see and hear and smell the coffee.

After a few risky and avoidable incidents that could be trailed straight back to the Plateau of Complacency – the footsteps were as if trodden in the snow – I sent the following advice to the teams:

For a variety of reasons I think it is helpful to do a very Quick and Dirty recap of what has become a running theme in this department. The Completion of Tasks. Pauses for a drum roll………………………..

    • It is helpful to understand why things are done. In the structure in this department, on the whole I manage the outcomes and you manage the processes. Those are the things we are paid for. The buck stops with me if an outcome doesn’t happen, but if it doesn’t happen because you failed to manage a process that had been agreed and created, the buck comes whizzing sharply and possibly loudly back to you!!!!
    • Your colleagues have their own processes to manage and do not want to manage yours as well. If you fail to manage your tasks you are failing to support your colleagues. Any department stands or falls on its teamwork, especially small departments like yours. Short term you risk being unpopular, long term you put the service – your role – at risk.
    • If you are not completing a task, or managing a process, because you don’t understand what you have to do….ASK!!! Mostly your colleagues don’t bite (although I did once work for a nursing sister who lay on the floor and bit the carpet if we challenged her. She had a few issues….)
    • If you have a colleague who is failing to complete tasks, or manage processes, check out why. You have a  right to expect support and professional standards from your colleagues, and it may be that s/he simply needs a bit of clarity about what to do, or a hefty prod to do it. But only prod once…..after that a prod becomes a chore and then rapidly turns into a pain in the neck. If you try to work with a pain in the neck you will fall over.
    • If you don’t feel able to ask your failing colleague the question, ask yourself why that is. Is that person difficult to engage? Are you timid about appropriate challenge? This is an opportunity to learn as well.
    • If you need support to appropriately challenge a failing colleague, talk to your line manager. Failure to manage processes cannot be sustained in a successful environment. If the failure is sustained, it is not a successful environment. Fact.

Ways to succeed:

If you are genuinely struggling to manage your tasks and processes there are ways to improve. Most of which, I need to point out, are already in place…….

  • Check the diary at the start of each day or span of duty.
  • Check the diary a few days in advance as well so that you can plan.
  • Check your in tray ditto
  • Check the generic in tray ditto
  • Make a list
  • Ask for help if it is appropriate
  • Talk to colleagues about how they manage – if they appear to be succeeding they probably are, and if they are it isn’t by accident. They will have advice for you.
  • If that advice is hard to hear, tough!!
  • Last, but by no means least, GET OFF YOUR BUTT. If you still have tasks to complete you do not have time for a fag/tea break. If your tasks are complete, you have time for a fag/tea break. If breaks impact on service delivery they will be examined.

Finally, please do not say to me that you “will try” to get things done. I need a Yes or No, not an I’ll Try. If you can do it, tell me Yes, if you can’t do it tell me why and we will work it out. If you can’t do it because you are still on your butt, don’t insult me by telling me you are trying because you are not.

I will let you know next month how this went down. I have harped on noticeably about Butts and it is possible some may think I was talking out of mine. But, butt, this advice, basic and butt-laden as it is, works for just about any team you can mention. It boils down to:
  • Plan ahead
  • Think it through
  • Know how you fit into the project
  • Make sure you have the skills to do what you have to do to fit into the project
  • Communicate
  • Communicate
  • Communicate
  • Communicate
  • Plan
  • Plan some more
  • Communicate
  • Make sure your colleagues do all of the above

If you can do these, and you have a boss who supports these, building the steps up from the Plateau of Complacency will be made easier by the teamwork and support that drops out of them. You will soon reach the Heights of Achievement and looking back down at the Plateau behind you you will be astonished by the Fog of Denial that shrouds it, and by how dangerous and potentially terminal it could have been.

Let me know your own stories from your travels and travails and if you have any serious advice about getting people Off Their Butts and into the achievement zone………….

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