Weeknotes s1 w3 w/e 12 June

Welcome back.

This week the ONS released statistics which show that production dropped by a record 20.3% in the UK in April. I think it’s fair to say this is unprecedented, if not entirely a surprise, given the impact of complete lockdown on the economy. Two decades worth of growth wiped out in one month. I started work two decades ago and it’s genuinely strange to think all of that has been evaporated. I am not sure how we have a conversation about this though, as I am mindful that being too alarmist is not helpful to confidence and gross, and the usual platitudes of this being sobering is somehow inadequate to the task. The scale of rebuild required is immense of course. I know there is much talk of rebuilding the economy — looking at the circular economy, moving away from an addiction to growth but it is going to be hard to change our way of thinking. Jobs without growth. That’s the equation we would have to make work — I suspect that jobs will come first in the rebuild and not the longer-term structural change, but only time will tell. I just hope that housing associations can play their part in that debate.

In a similar vein, I have been giving some thought to the potential for a new sustainability strategy, recognising the importance of not just decarbonisation but the wider cultural changes we need to make to address the issues of climate change. There’s an obvious link to decarbonising our homes, of course, but wider areas such as understanding the footprint of our technology, and understanding the footprint of our supply chain to consider. There’s little point in just shifting the problem. As with so many points, the channel shift is as much cultural as technological, and the debate is going to be a big one.

Our first conversation with the Board beckons in coming weeks and we have been putting some thoughts together. In the spirit of trying to think how to engage with colleagues in this (how do I pick the collective brain), I am going to run a virtual workshop next week in a slightly experimental style to see what comes out. Will share with you how that goes! But having attended various external meetings this week I am hopeful that structure it well then good stuff will come.

I’ve been helped with my kid’s school work this week in thinking about our footprint. We have both been keeping plastic use diaries. Its been a worthwhile exercise for both schooling and work. I’ve not got a plastic straw habit, I’m pleased to report, but there’s a lot more packaging down to food and snacks in particular than I realised. It’s adding up, quietly, whilst my attention is on other things. As is my kids. And I’m WFH, and should that change, I think it would only get worse. What gets monitored gets managed.

I was undertaking an assessment process with the Board this week and it was pleasing to see we made a simple collaborative tool work effectively. All we were doing was sharing a document, but it made a real difference to the process. I expect that the nature of the Board Member role will change profoundly as a result of Covid19. It’s interesting how the patterns of interactions will change — in my NED roles too I am noticing that there is less barrier to entry to arranging meetings outside the normal cycle and acting in an agile way. I wonder if the monthly/quarterly structure put around governance (which comes back from where — the 1950s? maybe earlier, the Victorians?) was holding us back. And maybe the way we report to Boards in written format needs to be updated to consider that.

I’m pleased to say I have had some positive feedback about the short videos this week — and the ultimate compliment — colleagues are now doing their own off their own back. Weirdly I don’t find it as toe-curling as before, although I still talk too fast. It is strange what you can get used to — with a bit of practice. Due to an impending maternity leave we have done a bit of thinking about how we celebrate each other, and devising some simple tools, and I have been putting together some plans to celebrate the completion of a project. Its all about proportionality and developing a personal touch, even though we are remote working. Will let you know how my project celebration goes.

I’ve set myself a (lightly held) goal of not holding any meetings beyond an hour this week, and I think it has been working, without undue discipline. I’ve got some (possibly controversial views) that it is about the preparation beforehand, but really in our world now more than ever long meetings are something of an indulgence. I’ve made a few mistakes (embarrassingly I managed to miss both an external meeting I had agitated for and my kid’s music lesson on Thursday!) but I do think it is about being more intentional about the choices made on synchronous and asynchronous communication. And to praise the thoughtful and properly considered written word. I will make this something of a focus for next week.

There is also a need to review what data we use to manage the business. If you can’t see a colleague to ask them — how should we be more evidential? If our risks change, surely our KPIs change? This is a massive topic of itself, and something I think will be a theme in future weeknotes.

I have valued both a much better working environment (a new desk, which is absolute bliss) and my external network this week. Have been listening and reflecting much on equality and diversity generally and what an appropriate response is to BLM and the challenges in our communities and barriers to access. Am hoping to take this into the workspace next week.

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