Did you see this BBC report of a study claiming retirement can be bad for your health?
I am struck how many of my ancestors never made it to 60, after years of working in hazardous environments like coal mines, factories or agriculture (or battle fields). Now there is a new problem of finding meaning in later life it seems. But, if older people do paid work for longer then some ask “what about having enough jobs for younger people”?
Talking yesterday at a family event I was struck how far those there who were in their 70s
1) Loved not working – and wouldn’t want to go back to it!
2) But they had found many other things to keep them active (from making furniture, improving their golf handicap, learning Italian, going for longs walks, helping younger and older relatives etc). Many of these were seen as projects. By the way, I notice that those who are independently wealthy at a younger age tend to keep working – with many projects on the go (from new business start ups, learning to paint, writing a book, funding a restaurant etc.)
Much of this ‘project’ approach involves happiness ingredients (helping others, paid or unpaid, counting your blessings etc.) – as outlined in this previous blog
One colleague reflecting on the BBC article and the conversations about it notes that a fashionable question at the moment is ‘what makes us human?’ Maybe a good answer might be “Projects” (paid or unpaid, it probably doesn’t matter).
Did you notice we didn’t blog last week?
Did it matter?
Do tell us…good or bad ….
[…and for those who are missing something, here is a great talk by David Attenborough we recently attended - launching an important partnership of conservation organisations working to avoid any new 'gaps' in the world's biodiversity.]
If the last blog was a bit down beat…what about this to sandwich it between the one before on positive energy and this on happiness (to add to our Business Briefings and Blog on the topic before)….
These are practical tools to help life you from the left hand (negative energy) side of Liz Millers 2 x 2.
The impact of the Francis inquiry in health care in the UK continues to reverberate. We like the very practical things (speak – act – lead) that individual doctors are being encouraged to do by a bunch of their peers.
And in a recent blog we posed the question of what can be done– and offered a teaser of an example to learn from…
We think the improvements that have led to a reduced nuisance of dog fouling is due to a number of ‘nudges’ that make it easy for people to do the right thing, every time.
Looked at through one of our favourite frameworks – SPP- there are a number of things that have helped sustain progress in cleaner streets and parks over the last few decades:
There was change in three dimensions:
1) STRUCTURE change – by laws to regulate some action, set a path and direction – with prosecution of (human) offenders
2) PROCESS change – town planners listened to local people and put in dog poop bins and systems to empty them+++
3) BEHAVIOURAL pressure for personal responsibly – from other dog walkers to do something pretty unpleasant with a plastic bag (even when no one is watching)
So, how does this help in thinking about getting rid of the mess in health care? For example, on improving compassion in health care, I think there are things to do at all three levels:
a) STRUCTURE: Promoting leaders for their values (plus thorough regulation of professions too)
b) PROCESS: Investing in the capacity for bottom up staff and patient led improvements – leaders listening and helping
c) PATTERN: Building a cultural campaign amongst staff for calling unproductive behaviour by peers on the wards, etc. This is something that is pretty hard for many to do – and not for just when others are watching. But it is essential to get beyond the sort of verbal ‘window dressing’ (“we are here for the patients”) that can happen in ‘noble purpose organisations’.
I walked over a verge in the dark the other night and realised I no longer worry about what I might stand in like I did when a lad delivering papers during early winter evenings. It reminded me again of this inspiration for health service improvement post Francis. An example based on 3 levels of ‘nudging’ – structure, process and pattern of behaviour. A model on what has helped eradicate dogs mess on the streets.
(btw, I think the process improvements of the bereavement system (with the one stop shop approach to cancelling passports, driving licences, etc) is another example of a study of success change/improvement with the SPP framework in mind: new integrated IT system, more time for registrars and a willingness of staff from hospitals to town hall to help make it work for relatives….but maybe that is another blog…)
You may have seen our recent blog and our book idea on Noble Purpose Organisations. We have had a great response. However, please do pass on the idea to others you know…and please say if you want to get involved.
Our intention is to write an entertaining and personally practical book – full of ideas for people to put into action in whatever role you have in a NPO (from volunteer to trustee, admin to CEO).
We want to do it with a really positive energy too….and on the importance of a positive stance, have a read of this.
In a recent blog we talked of how we use photos routinely now. Have you spotted the scrolling photos on our new website? What do you reckon of them? Most are by our colleague David. Have a look at a few more of his photos here– we hope you agree they are truly stunning shots.
We do believe that the 100 year old phrase ‘ a picture is worth a thousand words’ is right – and tend to use a visual illustration on most pages of documents or slides we write.
A more recent twist from Daniel Pink is ‘a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures’. We agree with the power of an illustration, narrative, analogy…the range of presentation device is endless….like a long winding road through a rugged mountain forest, like the crashing waves of the ocean, like…you are the artist, the sage, the architect…with your colleagues as the band, the travellers, the troupe.
Pictures and metaphors;
Frameworks and Stories;
Theory and narrative;
As business partners, we first started working together about 20 years ago when both doing futures work, Phil first in health care and Ross in telecoms. Scenario Planning is a method that was popular then, following the early successes at Shell . As a technique it has been in vogue ever since, through the peak fads in Y2K planning, it is now soothing leaders in austerity and turbulent times.
However scenario thinking, as we prefer to refer to it, is often misunderstood. A few ‘truths’ that are important in our scenario work are shared below. In recent years we have ranged into Higher Education, revisited health systems and rippled through publishing, academic medicine, global health, IT in schools and conservation, in both the UK and abroad. We hope this knowledge and wisdom works for you.
1) There are three important timeframes to consider: the past and the present, as much as the future.
2) Always start with a clear understanding of the key questions you want (need!) to answer – question fanning is very helpful for this. Ignoring this stage is very common and leads to unfocused efforts. Take time to find out what others already know about your questions – through cascade interviews and web searching.
3) There are three ‘schools’ of futures work that trade under ‘scenario planning’: Predictive, Plausible and Preferred. For us forecasting trends isn’t really scenario work (through it can be jolly useful – and interesting, and wrong!).
4) So there are really just two sorts of scenarios: the possible and the desired. The Shell work is fundamentally about the ‘what if’ conversation that scenarios help with – prompts for conversations that explore trends in the key uncertainties outside of a group or organisations immediate control. The best example of a collaborative visioning process (that also explored undesired Scenarios) is still the Mont Fleur experience in South Africa 20 years ago – incidentally led by some staff seconded by Shell. This sort of ‘preferred future’ work prompts consideration of ‘why not’ and ‘what next’ thinking – it is about The WWW: what, who, when.
5) Scenarios are stories, pictures, metaphors: images of how the future might become – they may be written in the future, or as a narrative to describe the journey there. They are visual, in their use of diagrams and memorable through their names and slideware.
6) Allied methods are robustness testing, systems mapping and simulation. Two principles inform the judgment of which methods to use: what is best suited to understanding the question you want to answer and what pair or blend of methods provides the best ‘triangulation’. For example, behavioural simulation is very powerful in exploring the cumulative impacts of different individual interactions on choices in the short term. But it is much less good at answering what will happen with technology and demography over a longer period of time, for example.
7) Other tools to help teams move from thinking about what to do to getting stuff done (‘minding the gap’ between inspiration and implementation) are: strategic marketing, operational planning, continuous improvement, values into practice and staff engagement. These can play into a thorough Scenario Planning process by helping to inform answers to questions such as “what do we need to keep an eye on, what is robust to do now, what new skills do we need, what should we start researching, who do we need to influence or get to know”?
8) Fundamentally good scenario work is concerned with choices today. The futures we imagine are often merely a different way of seeing what is emerging today. The psycho-dynamics of the future are neatly explained by Arie de Gues (building on early psychologists such as Bowlby and Emery): he talks of scenarios as the ‘transitional object’ to help groups productively engage with the worries (anxieties) about today. Read more of Arie’s work here – where he packages many of the insights from heading planning at Shell in a set of memorable stories and illustrations.
9) Scenario work is fundamentally a learning process – reframing deeply held assumptions requires conversation. We like the emphasis of van der Heijden on ‘the art of strategic conversation’
10) There is a massive literature, some of which we have contributed to.
11) Be aware of what you know – and what you don’t. What is your content knowledge – and what process skills do you have to facilitate the process. Where do you need support?
12) Think about what you can get for nothing through the internet, such as this timeline and previous sets of scenarios.
13) There is a a competitive consultancy market servicing the clients that demand scenario work, but we are happy to collaborate too! Please ask for more tips and pointers, for example some fun futures cartoons and slides (eg The Spectrum of Futures Methods, and the Fan of Scenario types) and workshop tools and templates, such as in this earlier blog.
14) In commissioning any project or assignment make sure you know how much you want to spend – we do believe that the Parato Principle might have been invented with Scenario Planning in mind – you can get massive returns from relatively low cost investment with careful pre work with surveys, literature searches, Delphi consultations, interviews and VoxPops.
See here for Phil talking about the two sorts of scenarios at an event last year. Many felt he argues for the importance of ‘classic’ Shell style scenario work over the ‘preferred’ school. Do you agree?
Finally, why invest, why bother?…in our 20 years of working on strategy and organisation development we have yet to find a single method that achieves so much. Scenario Planning is a bit of Trojan Horse. It promises ‘planning’ and ‘analysis’ and ‘insight’ and also delivers improved individual capacity and skills (facilitation, presentation and thinking) plus improved and sustained interaction for team development: shared goals, productive conflict, increased trust and greater corporacy. For this reason our scenario work, more than anything, has shaped the sort of wider help we are able to give now. As one of us says: “It transformed me”. Might it transform you and your leadership too?
Following our last blog on planning perfect events, how far do you use a design team to help shape important sessions? We find them invaluable, especially when they represent a diversity of perspectives: senior, junior, different functions, enthusiasts…and also cynics. Their role is to work in the space between what is ‘pre-ordained’ by the sponsoring leader and make the best recommendations or decisions to improve the experience of the group that will meet in the venue (or online space) that has been chosen.
A great way to start the planning process with this sort of ‘max mix’ group is to ask: what are the best meetings we have ever been to and why; if this meeting goes well what will happen; if it fails miserably why might that be? If you are planning an event for a group that has regular meetings, it is worth reviewing the last or previous meetings with the After Action Review or the six thinking hats (page 15 here). Then you can carry on working through the 13Ps…