Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Planning and culture

Culture is a fragile thing, especially in a new organisation which is still feeling its way and working out where the boundaries are. So it was interesting to see the effect on staff of a planning process run on behalf of Mrs Assad by some management consultants who were responsible for much of the early organisational shaping of the Trust.

As often happens, the first workshop, intended to clarify the purpose and process of this exercise, in fact left everyone more confused. Most people understood that this was being done in order to create a consistent planning template for 2008/9. In the event, it became clear during follow-up meetings with the pair from Roland Berger that they saw this as the actual planning process itself, for which no-one was properly prepared. The whole thing was pushed through fast (consultants being expensive people to have around) and the result was unsurprisingly a set of "plans" to which nobody was prepared to commit.

All of this could be passed off as part of working life, but the approach taken by the consultants was - in my view - counter to eveything we are trying to nurture here. They treated the whole exercise as one in which they could order and instruct, as they were working on behalf of the CEO. No account was taken of the real work that still had to go on. Meetings were called at short notice, delayed, rescheduled. Anything that did not fit with their idea of what a project's plan should include was changed until it did, or excluded altogether. The opinions of staff who are actually delivering the results, meeting the beneficiaries, managing the projects was treated as if they meant nothing. Again, little wonder that people looked at the result as something they had little ownership of.

All this has a debilitating effect on the organisation. It champions the outsider over the home team, it distances the staff from the CEO and undermines their faith in her, and it adds to a growing level of over-work that is starting to make people question their commitment to the Trust. It no longer feels like a shared enterprise when this sort of thing is happening. Hmmmm.

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