Triumph and tragedy…

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This has been an up and down week so far. It started with elation and the news that my bike racing son had won his first ever race after 9 years of trying. Sadly we weren’t there is to see it, and online live timing is a poor substitute. I can though imagine his grin and fist pump as he crossed the line – move over Valentino Rossi! Huge determination over those years, a lot of hard work and some tears have flowed. David is 29 next week – but like all parents he still seems a lot less than that to me! How can he have done these things? Well he has!

Tragedy came with the news affecting the family of a close colleague here at the council – it’s in the papers – I won’t repeat the details. There is no worse news anyone can receive than the death of a child, and our thoughts are very much with the people concerned.

At times at various race circuits over the years my heart has been in my mouth and David has had his fair share of serious “offs”.  One in particular a few years back. But he has always come through. And will never I think (or is that fear?) loose the bike thing….once bitten. And with a Honda in my garage who am I to preach?

What I do know is that whether it’s the adrenalin rush, the sense of achievement or something completely different I never see my son more animated or engaged than when he is doing something he absolutely loves. We often speak of passion in our work. How can we recreate the passion of a dedicated sportsman for his game in the mundane reality of  the workplace? Maybe we do see it when we are lucky enough to be involved with something we really care about and feel will really matter to someone. Something that will make that difference.

A lot of the time in local government services we do in fact achieve that contribution, it’s just that we sometimes don’t see it ourselves. It’s just the job,. We lose sight of the outcomes for others from our work. In fact some of the most important things in our communities happen as the result of things that council workers do everyday. Let’s try a bit harder to remember that each day, and grow the passion for our work that too often we only see shown in other places.

And on to the election. I am reckoning on a 24 hour day starting tomorrow morning and ending at some point in the early hours of Friday at the Saltire Centre in Arbroath. And no – I don’t do 3am gym! It’s where we count the votes and I am the Returning Officer! The good news – I get a bacon roll at 8 in the office to set me up for the day…..don’t tell!

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Snow storm….

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Because I am now officially an old bloke I often reflect on times gone by. At the weekend I was thinking about how much the routine of work has changed over the last 20 years or so.

In the late 1980s and into the 1990s I worked in the Education Department at Suffolk County Council. Each Friday the admin team would put together a folder of the “blue copies” i.e. a carbon copy (under 40? go and look it up) on very thin blue paper of all the memos and letters that each member of the management team had sent out in the previous 5 days. This folder would then do the rounds of the management team over the next week. Some of us even read them! The idea was we would all be sighted on what was going on. So a week after someone had written something (literally written it and then had it typed by a colleague in the pool) I would know about it, unless I had been directly copied the original letter or memo, which would arrive the day after it had been written or sent.

And then it all changed.

When email came along we could all write to anyone and copy everyone – and we still do. I seem to recall the number of letters of complaint I got doubled over night thanks to Alan Sugar and his Amstrad PC. It became so easy to write to an officer, several councillors and an MP now you didn’t have to write or type them out, and pay for them to be copied and posted. And the same was true inside the council with the advent of email. We still behave that way – we cc and bcc freely and sometimes unnecessarily.

Worse still, sometimes we – and I don’t excuse myself from this office etiquette failure – behave as though sending the email means the matter has been dealt with. I might have sent it at 645pm on the Friday of a bank holiday weekend, but that email means “I have done it!” regardless of the problem it causes for a colleague first thing on the following Tuesday morning.

The result is the snow storm. Umpteen emails everyday with maybe 1 in 4 being needed, or at least so it seems. Priority management  – a phase invented in the stone age I think – is now more important than ever as without effective priority management we will all surely drown? But what do we mean by priority management? For some correspondents it means they won’t get a reply. It means some things won’t be done – at all. It means that time and energy will go on that which matters or makes a difference. Is there anything wrong with that?

For bike racing followers – my son David got a 2nd and a 3rd at Cadwell Park last weekend on his Yamaha R6. We’ll not mention the two DNFs in the other two races that weekend! #prouddad