What we’ve learned from 2020

Even without the global pandemic, 2020 has been a tumultuous year. In the UK, we’ve stumbled our way out of the European Union. The worldwide Black Lives Matter movement has challenged the way we think about race and about our own colonial history. And we’ve become ever more aware of (although, sadly, not necessarily more inclined to do anything about) the damage that we’re inflicting on the world around us.

So as the year comes to a close, it seems timely to reflect on what we’ve learned from the last twelve months. It’s tempting, of course, to simply put our heads down and get the hell out of 2020 as quickly as possible. But it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to draw back the curtains tomorrow on a new world of pandemic-free sunlit uplands. And so we need to learn what we can, in the hope that it will help us better to deal with the year ahead.

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The power (and peril) of routines

I like my routines. For things that I do regularly, I have a set way of doing them and I do them the same way each time. I know how long it will take me. I know it works. And I don’t need to spend time reinventing the wheel. My wife takes the mickey, of course, especially when my routine is interrupted and I temporarily lose the ability to function. But, by and large, my routines work.

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If you knew the answer, what would it be?

If you knew the answer, what would it be? As a trained coach and someone who spends a lot of my time helping people to get to the bottom of organisational challenges, this is one of my all time favourite questions. On the face of it, sure, it’s nonsensical. But when wielded carefully, it can be liberating, enlightening… and oh-so powerful.

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When targets miss the mark

Whether it’s government administration or corporate strategy, it’s invariably only a matter of time until the subject of performance targets rears its head. From market share to how quickly you get seen in the emergency department, we have a target for that. The irony, though, is that setting a target can actually make is less likely that we’ll achieve what we want to achieve, rather than more. It’s the law, in fact: Goodhart’s law.

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Understanding project constraints

There’s no such thing as the perfect project. Because the perfect project would come with unlimited time, unlimited resources and a big yellow ribbon to tie on top of it when it’s done. But even the best projects run into constraints. We need to identify, acknowledge and consciously manage these constraints. Otherwise, they end up managing us.

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