Patrick Hackett: Working Together Charters – Actions speak louder than words
It’s almost a year since I wrote my Viewpoint blog – Slowly emerging from upheaval – an opportunity to do things differently.
In it I talked about what we’d learned during COVID-19 and the importance of using this valuable knowledge and wisdom to develop new ways of working. So, one year on, how are we doing?
PS Hybrid Working
I firmly believe that our PS hybrid working pilot has been a huge step forward. When we launched this back in June 2021, I said it was an experiment, that we’d be discovering the possibilities and pitfalls as we went along.
There is much more for us to know and understand but we have listened to your feedback, refined our approach, and as of 1 September 2022, PS hybrid working has moved from pilot phase to business as usual.
In other words, PS hybrid working is very much here to stay.
The challenge now will be getting the balance right between what works for our University and our community of students, staff and stakeholders; what works for teams; and what works for individuals.
We also need to think carefully about the kind of working spaces we will need on campus in the future so we can provide you with places to work which embrace technology, social and collaborative working spaces and are inclusive for all.
We’re currently carrying out a space feasibility study in the John Owens and Christie Buildings to see how we can adapt some of our oldest buildings – we will keep you updated on progress later this year.
You can be sure that we are still listening and learning and are always keen to hear your thoughts, please comment below or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Documents and consumption
I’ve noticed other things I mentioned in my blog, like having shorter documents and lowering consumption, have begun to take effect. I’m pleased to say that the volume and length of reports coming to the various Governance groups I’m part of have reduced significantly. I’d be keen to hear from you about whether that’s the case for the groups you’re part of?
It still feels to me like we have too many meetings. I’d ask you to take a close look at the meetings you’re part of and ask yourself:
- Is a meeting necessary or could we achieve the same outcome by working on Teams or in a different way?
- If a meeting is the only way to get things done, do I have to be at it?
- Are we clear about what the goal of the meeting is and are we recording actions and outcomes?
Mixing online, hybrid and in-person meetings continues to make a positive impact on our travel spend and environmental footprint and we have made a permanent reduction to our travel budgets across PS Central Directorates as part of our long-term commitment to lower consumption.
Working Together Charters
I think we can all agree that issues like meeting and email overload and stopping activities that no longer add value, remain stubbornly difficult to shift. Sometimes these are caused by less than optimal processes and structures which we’re addressing with our transformation and change projects.
But they are also the result of some aspects of our culture which are deeply engrained and will take time to change. Fortunately, I believe that each of us taking a few small actions to change our behaviours and ways of thinking, can and will, have a huge impact.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start to make a difference to long-standing challenges, which is why we’re now asking all teams across the PS to develop their own Working Together Charter – whether you intend to work in a hybrid way or not.
These Charters will lay out how you want to work together as a team. As a Professional Services Leadership Team (PSLT) we could have written a list of rules and behaviours for everyone in the PS to follow.
But I don’t think that ‘top down’ approach would have worked – especially when so much of what we need to change is about continuing to build on the trust and empowerment many of you talked about in the PS hybrid working survey, which we carried out earlier this year.
Instead, we’re asking all PS teams to develop their own Charter using some really helpful guidance and templates and thinking carefully about aspects like technology, ways of working, communication and collaboration and inclusion – all of which can have a direct impact on our well-being.
We’re asking teams to complete their Charter by 30 September 2022, but I recognise that some areas, like those involved in our big transformation programmes, might need a little longer. That’s ok, I’d rather you take your time to work together to produce a Charter everyone in your team can pledge to support, than rush something through that just doesn’t work.
Introducing the PSLT Working Together Charter
We created this as a team by having a number of conversations, sometimes difficult and challenging but always respectful and constructive, until we arrived at a Charter we all felt able to sign up to and act on consistently.
I put our new Charter to the test a couple of weeks ago when I went on leave and pledged not to continue working in the background whilst I was spending time with my family. I delegated responsibility to PSLT members who acted as my deputies and this definitely helped me to feel like I was having a proper break.
I’m not saying that by having a Charter everything about the way we work will suddenly be perfect and we must all have the courage to call out actions that we think go against the promises we’ve made in our Charters.
I firmly believe that by making a pledge to ourselves and our colleagues we are taking a huge step forwards.
As they say, actions speak louder than words, so I’ll be keeping you updated on how PSLT is getting on.
Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer