As I sit down to write this month’s reflections, it feels like a month in which some sort of corner has been turned – a sense that we’ve moved into a new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
Sure, there’ll be passionate debates about whether lockdown was eased too early and whether the approach taken was right. The sense of community unity and support that defined the earlier stages of lockdown is rapidly disappearing in England, to be replaced by a far less cohesive, more individual-focussed behaviours.
As I reflect on the bigger themes behind the UK’s response to the pandemic, I keep coming back to centralisation and my belief in the latent power in decentralisation in effective organisations.
As a country we’ve taken a highly centralised approach to dealing with the pandemic. We’ve not taken advantage of established local public health teams with deep expertise in their local communities, instead preferring centrally procured and rapidly stood up teams.
Local community leaders haven’t had access to accurate or timely data about what’s happening in their areas, preventing them from taking decisions about how best to deal with the local challenges of Covid-19.
In a crisis strong leadership is important. And having worked in local public services for 10 years I know it’s far from perfect as a system.
But the broader mistake I’m seeing is to assume that leadership is a top-down activity with power centralised in the few.
With decentralised thinking, autonomy, information and accountability, more effective leadership can emerge across an organisation, country or community. Pushing decision-making as close to the frontline helps improve decision-making quality.
This progressive thinking about how agile organisations can best respond to fast-moving situations has been really lacking in our country’s handling of the past few months.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with the founders of The Panoply and company CEOs to help design an operating system for the rapidly growing group. Decentralisation and how to dissipate decision-making power has been part of that work too.
Defining how we work together and decentralising autonomy to empowered and entrepreneurial CEOs, while getting the benefits of working as a group, has been at the heart of my thinking.
I’ve enjoyed the intellectual challenge of defining and iterating the system, working closely with other people in the group and learning about the work of other group companies. Over the coming months our focus shifts to implementing the system, building relationships and learning to work together in new ways.
At GreenShoot Labs my growth role has been all about scaling delivery teams this month. We’ve been hiring at scale, both contract and permanent roles, in technology, conversational UX and product strategy.
It’s a fascinating time to be involved in conversational AI applications and I think the next couple of years will be a rapid growth and maturing period for this technology.
As I write these notes, it’s clear to me that the past few weeks have been an increasingly positive time at work after the shorter term focus since lockdown began in March.
I’ve been learning rapidly again, having new experiences and meeting new people – all things that I was keen to do more of as I moved on from my previous role. I’ve also had to face a few new challenges which has helped me develop professionally too.
I’m looking forward to much more of the same in the coming months.