February might have been a short month, but it feels like a month where change has been a strong theme in many ways, both at work and outside work.
In Kent the month began with a proper icy blast of sub-zero temperatures and then gave us a week of snow to break up the meteorological monotony of weeks of rain. The month has ended with some lovely sunny and warm days which have brightened things up. The arrival of snowdrops and daffodils certainly gives a sense of a change of season approaching.
As a cyclist, swapping from a winter bike with grippy tyres to a summer bike with narrow slick tyres this morning felt like a seasonal milestone, especially as it was my first ride for a long time not in full winter clothing too.
At work, it’s been an interesting four weeks too. There’s a sense of pace and momentum in our businesses continuing from January which is great to see. I did some really interesting strategy work looking at operating models for the group, refreshing my knowledge of the operating model canvas as a tool for evaluating and exploring operating models – and its relationship with value propositions.
We’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about how we manage change. As a group that’s growing rapidly through organic growth and acquisitions, we need to develop a strong competency in how we manage change.
We’ve been experimenting with new approaches to facilitate teams dealing with change. I’ve known the value of coaching for a long time, but have often felt that some coaching approaches failed to really get beyond a superficial level – looking at what people did (or didn’t) do at work but not really helping them understand why they felt or acted in a certain way.
I was really interested to be introduced to James Gairdner at Heresy Consulting (thanks to Tim Deeson and Alex Wright). In conversations with James we’ve explored the psychodynamic approach in psychology and its relevance to teams working with change.
Based on the work of Sigmund Freud, the underlying premise of approach is that the way we think is driven by things beyond our conscious level of thought. For me it starts to offer a way of understanding deeper motivations than many cookie cutter executive coaching frameworks.
We’ve been experimenting with the pyschodynamic approach to helping a team through change and the early indications are positive, so I’m looking forward to iterating further to help us build our change competencies in the future.
Another project I’ve been working on this month is looking at what our need for physical spaces might be in the future. We’re keen to consolidate numerous London offices into a single location, but we also want to be bold in our thinking about types of work and their relationship with the physical spaces in which we work.
We’re sure that we won’t be reverting back to some of the more traditional “fixed desk” models of offices where presence in an office represented work. A hybrid home, client site and collaboration space model is probably our expected mode of work for the future.
This means being very careful about what a new physical location might need to look like in future – rows of fixed desks as the core physical feature of the space seems obsolete. It’ll be interesting to see what options emerge for new kinds of workspaces that maximise the value of time that team members spend in the same place, maybe one day a week or even less.
As we head into March, there are numerous professional and personal transitions that face us that we need to prepare for. Children are heading back into school in a few days time which means new challenges and opportunities for working parents.
The move out of lockdown and into new patterns of work is one that I don’t underestimate. In the UK we’re heading closer to this transition and while we’ll be pleased to move beyond the challenges of extended homeworking, we should also recognise that change is hard to get right and the post-lockdown phase is just that kind of change. We shouldn’t let the fact this is a positive step mean we forget it’s another new transition that we need to navigate carefully with our team members.