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Where has all the bureaucracy gone?

Posted: 10/06/20

Observations and learning on Leadership during Covid-19

Where has all the bureaucracy gone?

Covid-19 has changed how many of us work - restrictions on movement, the liberation of not having to move, implementing guidance, desperately awaiting guidance, not knowing who to ask, there being no one, but ourselves, to ask.  

Over the last few months we have spent a lot of time listening to, reflecting and planning with people from across our leadership programmes about how they and their teams, services and organisations are learning and adapting.

If the different ways that we now work are not recognised they are likely to begin to ebb away. It might be argued that the more traditional people who come from a place of fear are seizing back control. If we want a better future, we cannot allow that to happen.

We thought that it might be useful to share some of our observations. It’s not a definitive list, after all its just a list which is rather like a form and when is the last time that a form changed anything!  Conversations and actions are a different matter ….

  • People and communities (that might be a place, group or team) are rich in assets, knowledge and ideas. The best decisions have been made by people about their own lives and communities.
     
  • Where statutory organisations have invested time and resources in communities they have found those communities to be effective partners (perhaps it would be more honest to describe them as leaders) in identifying and supporting people in need and distributing resources. And more impactful than the large and well publicised national initiatives. 
     
  • Many people have shown great courage in the decisions that they have made and the actions they have taken. This has required them to know what they stand for and to be brave enough to risk failure. This has flourished in organisations where values and courage are actually welcomed rather than just words in mission statements.
     
  • What previously would have taken months or even years has taken days or weeks. Having a strong sense of purpose and not having to battle so much bureaucracy has helped here but this is more down to determination, setting aside entrenched working practices and territorial attitudes and building on established relationships.
     
  • Organisations/teams that have started with trust have thrived. This might be people deciding how they want to be supported (the services they want), making decisions at work or whether as a provider they need to invoice for extra equipment or hours. Trust has bred trust and creativity.
     
  • Listening to people and communities to understand what has made a difference has allowed some organisations to identify and disinvest from services that are unwanted and/or ineffective and invest in what is wanted and delivers.
     
  • Rarely does bureaucracy increase creativity or quality. Reducing bureaucracy and processes has worked. Especially when this is an ongoing quest.
     
  • People, and the organisations they are part of, have thrived better where there is an understanding of the importance of self-care. Common themes are getting enough sleep, physically moving, keeping hydrated and taking time off. With horrendous workloads it can be brave to take a day, or even a few hours off but the people who have done so have reported that they then make better decisions.
     
  • However well we have moved to physically distant ways of working, some conversations are so much better in the same room over a cup of tea.

Author: Bill Love

With Jacqui Sjenitzer, Julie Pointer, Madeline Copper Ueki, Jenny Pitts 

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