It has been a busy year. Not just for me, but for us all. Across the public and voluntary sectors, there have been legislative changes to understand, new strategies to develop and implement, stakeholders with whom to engage, staff to manage and funding cuts to cope with. And when things are this busy, it’s all to easy to focus on the here and now. But now, more than ever, it is important to take time to reflect on the past.
When we plan, we make assumptions about what will happen. We try to figure out what we know and what we don’t. Will things happen as we expect? Will our actions have the desired effect? Will other people respond as we hope? Is there something important that we haven’t though of?
All these are things that we have to contend with on a daily basis. And whether we’re managing a small team or delivering a massive project, we make our plans, respond to changes as they happen and try to make the best of things.
And when that work or project is done, we thank our lucky stars that it went OK and move on to the next thing. Or we accept that it didn’t work so well and label it a learning experience. What we rarely – if ever – do is sit back and think about why things went well or why they did not.
We don’t assess how good our plans were or whether things happened as we had anticipated. We don’t consider whether or not we had thought of everything we would need to do. And we don’t think about what we could have done differently and whether this would have changed the outcome.
If we do not reflect on what we have done, then we cannot learn. And if we do not learn, then we cannot improve. Building in time at the end of each project or at periodic stages during ongoing activities is not an indulgence; it is an essential part of doing things well. We are never going to do things perfectly, but we can at least try to learn from our actions and to get better over time.
So as we approach the end of the year, it is perhaps worth taking time to reflect on the last twelve months and what we can learn from them. Because it looks like things are going to be just as busy in the year to come.