Saturday 5 December 2020

Apart from Covid & Brexit, What Should We Be Thinking About In 2021?


Things are in a better place than we might have hoped for-there's a vaccine and it might be the game-changer we've been hoping for. This, combined with more effective "Test, Track and Trace," has the potential to bring us to a much improved situation. But there's a "but," (isn't there always?). What have we learned and how can we apply it in a world that will have changed?

"Bright Light! Bright Light!!" (Gizmo-Gremlins 1984)

It feels that the Covid Pandemic has shone a very bright, focused beam on some residual flaws in the way we "do" things. Flawed processes and assumptions have been exposed at a time when public trust in traditional institutions has declined. That said, whatever assumptions we may hold, there is an understandable "By their deeds they shall be judged!" element to the manner in which faith and trust of all kinds is experienced. That's important because it informs future decision making.

Taken form KPMG's November UK Economic Outlook the above extract assumes that unemployment will be around 7.8.% by May 2021 with a full year effect of around 7.2%, the impact is likely to be felt disproportionately in the 16-24 year old group. As I write these numbers, I have to remind myself that what they are is one thing, what they represent is another. They represent for some, economic destruction and a collapse of hope and this can and has, been the seedbed for immense anger and challenge to the status quo.

Q: Why are scientists that develop vaccinations sad? 

A: Because all their work is in vein (Boom-Tish!!)

One of the areas I had in mind with the "Bright Light" comment concerns "Collaboration." It is here it would appear, that the global scientific community has put the political community to shame. You don't get this far, this quickly without collaboration on a grand and focused scale. 
So, what do we learn from this?

To face the challenges ahead, we must collaborate, locally, regionally and nationally and this will mean working to a set of core values that embrace what can be done rather than reinforce previously held and hugely unhelpful, local, regional, national and assumptions and beliefs. There will, as discussed in the KPMG article, be a shift away from traditional work patterns and therefore, the service/hospitality industries that support these long-established processes: they will become something else and we need to be ready.

We should learn from what works and ask if there are ways of developing those collaborations that "could do better," developing learning conversations as we do so. There is an opportunity for significant realignment of Education,Training and Wealth Creation, one that provides pathways that might exist in some areas and require development in others and as they do so, give voices and opportunities to local communities and the potential to connect and collaborate with others.

Communication styles, content and media are an essential consideration in reaching out to groups where the impacts of change are most keenly felt and as I consider this, I reflect on the sentiments of Eric Berne, a Canadian Psychiatrist and author of "The Games People Play", a lead figure in the development of Transaction Analysis. He said that we should

"Write (communicate) in a manner that was accessible to the average eight year old-or take another look"
 (My take on his words!) can this sound advice inform approaches to communication and community engagement as we travel forward on an as yet, uncertain road?

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Sheena Easton Sings

 Do you remember this? The song "My Baby Takes the Morning Train" Released in 1981 it sings to a time that doesn't exist anymore and some of you might give a resounding "Good!" in reply.

But there's a but. The song speaks to some pretty much embedded assumptions about work, life leisure and relationships-a sort of musical cultural folklore, one that has continued to speak to our expectations and assumptions and I'm going to suggest that for many, its narrative continues to do so

There have been changes, of course there have and I'm going to suggest that the political/cultural shifts we've seen are about to be diminished by the impacts of the Covid 19 Pandemic and what it might mean for us, the way we live, the way we work.

I wanted to find out about the WFH (Working from home) experience and made a few 'phone calls to have a chat with people known to me for some time. I've taken a few themes form those conversations and have brought them together here

  • "Last March and before lockdown, people were pretty sure that radical change was on its way 

  • The manner in which leaders and managers communicated their expectations regarding distribution of work and leading on regular “health checks” (emotional well-being as distinct from “supervision”), has had a significant impact on morale and connectivity 


  • Working from home positives 

      • Help with child-care 
      • Able to concentrate on tasks-a distraction free environment 
      • Ability to structure working day to include “well-being breaks” 
      • No time “lost to commutes” 
      • Making a contribution to reduced carbon emissions 
      • Out of the day to day presence of unduly aggressive managers 


  • Working from home negatives 

      • Work is my only escape from loneliness 
      • Challenging home relationships 
      • Pre existing conditions have re-emerged as a result of Lockdown & Working from Home 
      • Health concerns for relatives 
      • “Zoomed Out” demanding meeting schedules 
      • Absence of work based social contact 
      • Absence of work-based learning/development opportunities 
      • A keenly felt absence of informal, work related conversations and connectivity 
      • Email misunderstandings 


Some conversations considered the opportunities presented to us by the prolonged gap in day-to-day workplace attendance. The layout of working environments and how we organise ourselves in high intensity workspaces, discussion spaces and recreational zones. Are we able to look at the opportunities to reconsider design, taking into account the potential for a reduction in the number of people present in the workplace at any one time? 

I'm interested in how "true and real" the above is. It's important-today I have learned that Unilever are trialling a 4 day working week in New Zealand-"Wellness matters! Yet when I look at the above list, there are significant shouts that tell me that things are not well and we need to start to build an alternative story about work, our expectations and its relationship with life in its broadest meaning.

I'm happy to extend this conversation and work with those who would like to find out more about their teams' expectations, hopes and fears.

Sheena Easton's song might now describe a piece of history we're happy to leave behind but we need to consider the spaces we're creating and the assumptions that inform them. I fear we are in danger of a reaction that reinforces messages we should refuse to revisit, we need to come up with another story!

Please note-I have nothing against Sheena, she worked with Prince, you don't get there by accident!