Posted tagged ‘trust’

The absurdity that is “flexitime”

May 22, 2012

A missive regarding the unhappy commencement of my employment

Dear Mother,

I am writing to you after experiencing my first day at my new office. The sights I have seen, the horror, the chaos; I scarcely understand the system before me and how any success is achieved here in local government. It may be of a shocking nature, but I feel I must share all I have seen to warn you, lest my younger siblings ever harbour secret desires of joining me in public service.  I shall take you through my initial lessons in turn; be warned however, that you may wish to sit before reading further, lest your weak constitution get the better of you.

To begin with, when I arrived I was greeted and informed that a bowler hat and monacle was not “required attire”. I struggled with this concept for a period of time, but eventually agreed to acceed to their request and dress “smart casual” (note to self: discover what this actually entails and whether or not coat tails are truly “casual”).

After this came the biggest shock of all: I was introduced to the concept of “flexitime”. I do hope I do not cause you distress by using quotation marks so freely, but I feel this issue requires such flagrant overuse of these grammatical devices.

Apparently, through “flexitime” staff work the hours to which they have been contracted: can you imagine such a thing? If they have agreed and signed up to deliver 36 hours of work each and every week, this “flexitime” arrangement allows them to do just this. But that’s not all.

“Flexitime” is apparantly a shortened form of the words “flexible” and “time”, and mixes these two issues somewhat strangely. It allows staff to take a flexible approach to their work, resulting in them potentially not sitting at their desks at every moment of the day (statuory recommended meal and relief breaks notwithstanding of course).

Can you comprehend such a situation? If staff have arrangements in their lives which would benefit from a more flexible approach to organising their hours, then they are encouraged to do so. Madness! This sees some staff arriving at eight in the morning and leaving at four o’clock without a by-your-leave or query from the security staff, whilst others arrive at the ungodly hour of ten in the morning. Ten o’clock! By such a time Mr Godfrey would have been at his desk for some time in the office back in the village. (more…)

Manage to lead

March 26, 2012

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Peter Drucker

And with this simple quote, shown up is one of the fundamental flaws in the way we value the people who work in local government.

Having been through restructures in the past, I am well versed in the intricacies of the average process.  The team or service undergoing the changes invariably ends up reviewing their structure charts, placing new teams together and rearranging workloads before or after assigning a manager for them to work with or to lead on their projects and keep things moving in the right direction.  Those higher up this chain get paid more, those lower down get paid less.

But why is this?  Why do those who sign off the leave cards for others, and who record progress via 1:1 meetings get paid more than those who actually do the work, those who make the contacts and those who lead the agenda and projects to where they need to be?

There seems to be an underlying assumption often made that leadership and management is intrinsically linked and that you can’t successfully do one without doing the other at the same time.  On many job descriptions for managers at whatever grade is the ability to lead and motivate others; how many of us are truly inspired by those immediately above us?  If you are one of thee then you are in a privileged position, as many simply are not.

However, many of us do find this inspiration from other colleagues we work with.  Some of these will be more senior than us, some more junior and some our peers.  I for one have been lucky enough to have had one or two inspirational managers, have been enthused by more junior staff and worked alongside some who have pushed me to be better than I  thought I could be before.

I’m sure I’m not unique in having known many of the exact opposite, those who’s jobs may or may not have been to inspire me but who didn’t for whatever reason.  Some of these have been superb managers, who have provided exactly what I needed when I needed it and allowed me to lead myself in my own direction. I didn’t hold this against them, in fact for me this was equally as important a stage in my professional development. (more…)

Why Chelsea should never run a local authority

May 23, 2011

When comparative success is not enoughFootball is a behemoth. It influences the moods and lives of millions, and has more money sloshing around it than a NHS IT project. Over the past twenty or so years it has developed from a passionate sport to a global business, where politics have as much impact as at any town hall.

Recent events at one major club are catching the headlines right now, with the story breaking as this one is typed. Chelsea have sacked their manager Carlo Ancelotti after a trophy-less season, citing their high levels of ambition and the lower than expected performances over their campaign.

So how does this in any way relate to local government?

Carlo Ancelotti was the manager of that football club. He was responsible for developing the strategy for success and working closely with those responsible for implementing that strategy to ensure that his vision was transferred into action. He was scrutinised regularly from all angles, and worked with those who controlled the resources available to him. In effect, he was the Chief Executive of a local authority; in charge of an organisation worth several million pounds and trying to achieve the goals set out before him by those who pay the bills. (more…)

Do not feed the officers

March 9, 2011

Can we trust staff to problem solve?

There are two main problems when you are good at your job:

  • No-one appreciates how hard it is as you make it look easy
  • People expect you to go the extra league, not just the extra mile

I’ve come across this a little this week thanks to my frustrating inability to tell people that it’s not my job, and that they should work it out themselves.

As my team is involved with public engagement we have all manner of gadgets and toys built up over the years to encourage people to get involved.  From facilitation equipment through to online widgets, we’ve got access to plenty that other teams want.

Recently a colleague asked if they could borrow some of our IT equipment for an event they were putting on.  They had used it in the past without problems, so I said it would be fine and arranged for them to pick it up.  I even showed them how to use it again as a bit of a refresher, to be sure that they would be fine on the day.

Over the course of the next three days I must have spent at least 40% of my time with them for one reason or another.  Firstly they couldn’t work out how to do something simple, so I showed them and helped get it prepped.  Then they forgot how to run it, so I ran through two practice sessions with them.  They then couldn’t work out how to link it to a projector – that’s linking a laptop to a projector, nothing more fancy than that – so I showed them.

They then broke the software.  Perhaps that’s not entirely fair to say; the software stopped working whilst they were in custody of it.  Despite being no more than a regular user I then felt duty bound to try to get it working for them, and proceeded to investigate everything in my power to do.  When these admittedly limited options were exhausted I proceeded to get our glorious ICT helpdesk involved (after answering the requisite twenty questions of course) and spent about three hours on the phone to them.

None of it worked. (more…)

Clocking off from clocking in

February 17, 2011

Time for a change of approach?

I had a chat with my boss the other day.  It revolved around the amount of time I was working and my penchant for keeping a track of this by completing a timesheet every day.  This timesheet was a simple excel spreadsheet which tracked the numbers of hours I’d worked each month as I filled out my starting, finishing and lunch times.  Being a responsible sort I’ve got these dating back to my first week at the Council, and can pick out everything from long lunches to 72 hour weeks (rare but draining).

The chat with my boss wasn’t about seeing mine however; she told me to stop completing them.  Apparently I’ve now reached a level where the exact number of hours I work is far less relevant than the actual work I complete; effectively, I’m judged on outcomes not hours.

Since this chat I’ve stopped filling in those little boxes and noticed something: I’ve been doing slightly longer hours and feeling better about doing so.  Whereas before I would try my damnedest to stick to my 37.5 hour working week, maybe adjusting my start or leaving time by 15 minutes or so and clock watching as either rolled around, now I find myself arriving at and leaving the office when I’m happy with my days work.  And I feel better for this.

I get the distinct impression that I’m not alone here.  I have in all but writing been running my own team like this for some time, asking them to do their weeks work whether it takes them 30 hours or 45.  The relaxing of monitoring them and having them stick to strict times for starting and finishing has made them a more flexible and responsive team, happy to work longer when needed safe in the knowledge that this will come round to reward them when times aren’t quite so busy, or when they have personal appointments to be kept.

To put it simply, I trusted my staff.  I trusted them to understand the work they were being asked to do and to get it done, and I trusted them to be responsible about their working hours. (more…)


December 15, 2010

If we're all falling backwards together who is going to catch us?

As we near the Christmas period I have found myself reflecting on the challenges faced by Local Government once the dust of the local government finance settlement settles.

At the heart of the challenge seems to be a striking dichotomy; at the same time as local authorities are being asked to act more like the private sector the qualities that they most need are those most closely associated with the public sector.

To put it another way; as authorities move to become ‘commissioning’ bodies, set up trading accounts or join various forms of partnerships they are required to both embrace the ‘profit motive’ and at the same time enter into agreements with themselves and with other authorities that if they are to function properly rely to a certain extent on trust.