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Learning, Sharing, Celebrating 

I’m at the 2016 PPMA seminar with Meg Peppin. We’re here as guests of Sue Evans, the new PPMA President who has kindly asked us to facilitate some Reflect and Connect open space conversations on the fringe of this year’s seminar. I’ll come back to that later, for now though here are a few snippets, things I’m hearing and spotting which are making me think. (I’m writing this post on my iPhone, apologies for any typos).

Sue welcomed everyone to the seminar and encouraged us to Learn, Share, and Celebrate, really encouraging themes. Sue talked briefly of her experiences using Appreciative Inquiry to help bring these themes to life in her work, before introducing Neil Carberry, CBI Director of Employment Skills and Public Services, to talk about productivity.

Neil’s session was conversational – Nick Heckscher from Manpower posed a few questions to Neil before opening the exchange up to the floor. Here’s some of what I heard:

Central government productivity initiatives have one thing in common, consistent failure. If we are to improve productivity, raise output, pay more, and create a better working environment, it will succeed locally. Technology is not a productivity enhancement in itself.

If all you look for from your training efforts is a return on investment, you may improve what people do now, but you’re not preparing for the future.

We need to get better at sharing, data, resources, and power. How do we overcome our fears, our vulnerability? Be open, honest, get to clarity. Focus on how people are treated.

I found Neil’s session quite grounded. He focused much more in real work, and was reassuringly light on the usual management speak and lofty, disconnected ideals you frequently hear in an opening keynote.

Later we heard from John Henderson, Chief Executive of Staffordshire County Council. John took up his post in 2015, following a career in the army, and he spoke about confidence, organisational agility, and leadership. Leadership is largely the same, behaviourally at least, in the army and the county council. It gets talked about a lot more in John’s current role, ‘I’ve heard more about leadership in the past year, than the previous ten’.

Recently I’ve observed a tendency for people to lump HR and OD together. John highlighted organisational development as an important, distinct function, with a focus on thinking, and capability development.

John also spoke about visible leadership, using it to subvert hierarchy at times, and to see and feel experiences first hand.

And what of our Reflect and Connect conversations? So far, these have focused on big data. What is it, how do we gather, store, and use it? How can we make access to data open by default? How can we lower some of the bureaucratic barriers in organisations in order to pilot more new ideas?
Day one finished with a black tie drinks reception in a courtyard followed by celebrating the PPMA Rising Star and Apprentice of the year. This was followed by dinner, and the PPMA Excellence in People Management Awards.

A lovely day of learning, sharing, and celebrating.

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