#p Appendix D
Interview with Celia 20.9.96
This was taken down by hand. Some of the questions and their place in the discussion are my best recollection when transcribing the following day. I tried hard not to lead with my own ideas on messy methods during the interview.
Celia is an ex-[scientist] and now a [manager] in an extremely large multinational company. I simply mentioned my interest in "messes" and she readily explained her current work, she needed no prompting:
Celia: I start with a vague idea. We as a group are there to make the company more effective in the way it manages its business support processes billing, accountancy, research etc. [not the actual business of the company].We have a vision that it should be simple/more standard/they should share/ should do things the same way. The question I ask is "What do we bring to the party ?" - its not just a classic "Save 10%". [They have] created a business which is a federation of units which report directly to the centre. How [do you] get a standard, sharing world when [they've] created 90 entities all with their own destiny?
We also believe its not right to manage business along functions.
Nigel: What do you mean, functions?
C: Like accounting, human resources, technology etc. [It] should be processes e.g. [looking at the process from] procuring to paying suppliers, from selling to collecting cash etc. Then for example "accountancy" [would not be a separate function but] would support the "process" to get over inefficiency in parts of the process.
First problem: you're looking at a corporation that's global - [which has]different types of businesses. [There are] capital intensive parts which [extract the raw product], with no customer contact. And labour intensive parts [selling the product at thousands of #[p272] outlets] with close customer contact. [And there are] geographical and cultural differences [around the world]. To change this function driven company into a process driven company, where do you start?
N: So, where did you start?
C: The world was too big. So we chose the UK - contains all the businesses of the large corporation [its like a microcosm].
We spent six weeks trolling around seeing what they did. [We had two areas]: (1) "What are we looking" at before we looked and (2) We looked at the accounting process and tried to understand the higher level processes, what bits of business do they support
N: What do you mean, higher level?
C: How did the "function" fit into the "process", everything the plant needed to buy. How did it work from someone needs x [through to] the engineering and design, finance etc.
We "process mapped" the engineer, accountant. buyer etc. We found these groups never talked to each other -they looked at their bits [for instance] the buyer would have this wheeze and cause chaos in accounts. All sites had pieces of best practice but never shared it.
N: So what did you do?
C: Brainstorming - we know what they do [in accounts], how do you figure out the best things? [We got] off-the-wall ideas - wild and wacky e.g. pay everybody once a year [then sorted out the nuggets]
We didn't really know what we were doing at the start. We didn't think of functions and processes. We just felt by doing something different we could take 30% out of support costs.
We spent days and days with management consultants, thinking about the right way to go about things. Function and process is not a new idea - it came from people's general knowledge that no one appreciated the full end to end picture.
#[p273] N: So describe how you dealt with this.
C: We were totally lost. [We had feelings like] Worried. What have I signed up for? Somebody knows the answer and they're not telling us. We're a smoke screen [for the leader] his hobby horse is "out-sourcing". There was lots of non-trust. What the hell are we doing here?
N: Tell me some more about how you actually did this.
C: For days we didn't have a clue what we were up to. Where do we start? How do we get into the project? Why hasn't someone defined this - it's half-baked?
N: What was [the teams] view of this mess?
C: A lot of conversation about what it could be we might be doing.
N: Did you see a structure in this mess?
C: Most of these conversations were in breaks, evenings and at the bar.
N: So there was a kind of informal process going on without the consultants?
C: In the formal work [we were] exploring business models and visions of how the company could be in 15 years time. So the process was to understand the environment of the company now and in the future. [We spent] a lot of time understanding how the company might look and figuring out how the support systems might fit in. We stepped right out of the "near term" box to the "far term" box. Thus if we could understand the destination then we could work out which road to start trolling down
N: You needed that formal structure?
#[p274] C: The formal structure didn't seem terribly relevant at the time. In retrospect it was very helpful. Because you can go from vision to reality and back. [But] that wasn't a plan- it just happened. To understand what were about we had to understand the greater context of the "subject" - the company and where its going. Unless you understand the strategy its very difficult to find part of that.
We got a picture of where the company is. The next phase was brainstorming. We decided its got to be process rather than function. [So we used] brainstorming- that's quite a structured way - and out of that fell: we carved finance function out and put it into different processes. It fell out.
[Celia then described a proprietary approach they had used with the consultants for looking at the issues]
... [but] you can't get into this because something's holding you back. So they go for "What are your worst fears?" for example: "I don't know what this projects all about"; "I don't believe in this anyway"; "I'm probably going to be made redundant next week". Then with no constraints [you can get into] brainstorming "What could be done?" Don't analyse, just create it. Then go into action plans of what's possible. That's useful when you're there and you don't know what you're doing.
[We often felt like] we'll be here till Doomsday, we're not achieving very much . Yet the company is behaving the way we visioned - lots of teams have taken this on (that's a compliment) but they don't recognise it.
N: And now?
C: Were back to square one again. What's the team for? Is this a useful role? What should we be doing? We don't know what the questions is (except that we should exist and cost £2 million).
Should it be a nursery for project managers? An (almost) internal ??? function - look at the process. Are we culture changers? Promote sharing, peer support - the glue that keeps the 90 businesses together, to promote federation.
Now the costs have gone down, we don't know how its happened, [but] we must have done something. Its a way of working - culture change. In the past people were rewarded for being "innovative" and "different", but that wasn't adding value to the #[p275] company. For example two separate projects were working on a customer data base [and they weren't communicating although they were pretty identical]. Now it's focusing on "What's the same?" That's the culture change. So now people from this team are being approached by project managers
I've had to go through all this anxiety - I could easily have fallen flat on my face. I had no authority [to do it this way]. Now we find the sites are talking to each other more, sharing good ideas.
#[p276] Interview with Mike 24.9.96.
Mike is a [fellow professional]. He knows me very well as friend and counsellor. Flushed with enthusiasm from my "successful" interview with Celia (i.e. an interview that confirmed my views) I was sure I was onto another winner. I asked him if he would agree to be interviewed. I said I was interested in experiences of dealing with messes, situations he was unsure of, where he didn't know what to do, what the problem was.
Mike: This jobís like that. I had staff for the first time. The first thing was the office was a complete mess. Cleared that out. Had a filing cabinet full of dead files. As I was clearing the room up [I was] putting validation posters around the wall. (A) There were emotional things like putting up posters and making the room my own - I was feeling quite low in confidence, I didn't know if I could do it or not. And (B) getting the files sorted out, beginning to structure my world.
I did a lot of thinking at the beginning. There were quite a lot of ongoing things - I just had to make sure they were ticking over. I went to the university to get some books from there and sat down and tried to think what the fundamentals of the whole thing was.
Found that I did a lot of networking
Nigel: What do you mean?
M: Subscribed to a lot of journals and associations like the library association and community mental health materials.
I avoided some problems I possibly shouldn't have done - I thought I could get through the first year without sorting them out.
N: Did you have a clear plan or...
#[p277] M: First step was to work out what we should be doing - I needed to get a plan.
N: What was happening to the job in the meantime?
M: A lot of it was getting on. In some sense the plan for me was more long term than immediate - partly just wanting to do things my own way and wondering if what we were doing currently was the right way to go
I chose to have that time to plan. I came from a department where they always said there wasn't time - I felt they were choosing to not do it. I was doing it without a plan and working it out by doing it
I wanted to do more theatre education work - to really engage young people not your usual agit-prop, engage them at an emotional level. My feeling is that this is going to be very trial and error- thinking about it, trying it out and go away and re-vamp it. But I still want some kind of plan at the beginning.
N: Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't have a clear idea of what you wanted?
M: I know for example in health ???? never meeting targets - in fact, going the wrong way. To be honest I have no idea at all what to do - that's partly true. My thought is I'm hoping no one asks any questions about that and I'm doing things for the sake of appearances. In a sense I'm avoiding the question.
N: In a totally different sense?
M: The "motivational interviewing" [a recent course Mike had been on] influenced me a bit - how you can't get through to people on a logical level - just that reminder.
N: I'm thinking of the situation where you don't know what the question is or if there is a question.
#[p278] M: With [our department] generally we don't know what to do - spend time getting into place a lot of systems, information, finance, to find out what we need to do. We haven't got the equivalent of an R. and D. department, like a long term thing.
In terms of not knowing how to buy a house - I would ask someone. Just sit down and think, ask someone or read something.
N: The situation I'm thinking of is one of limited time and fuzzy problems and you don't know how to start.
M: I offered [help?] to a school. I had some general aims on what we could do. That I could sit and discuss with the others.
I suppose there's lots of times when people asked me to do things and I think I couldn't do that but I found I could . There was lots of things I could draw on. I feel I've got a good - I feel a bit disempowered today - on the whole I have a model of what motivates human beings, from co-counselling and I have other models of change [not like] knowing something very difficult like getting a nuclear power station to work, I have a lot of theoretical models to draw on.
N: Like co-counselling etc.?
M: The idea of whether or not the control rests with you. I suppose I have a belief about the control being within me - not with first aid or car maintenance, but in my own field.
N: Do you draw on other things than theoretical models - anything else you fall back on?
M: I've lots of practical things , handouts etc.
N: Do you have any everyday routines?
M: I fall short of [having] co-counselling [ideals]as part of everyday life
N: I mean more humble, fumble about things
#[p279] M: Like keeping going and plugging away. Like a good team can play badly and win - keep going if you've had a bad day. Not so much muddling through (like you said last time) as keeping going. Like Connors and Bjorg - he would follow him to the ends of the earth. He had the most determination, he just kept going.
I do pick things up and follow things through, it's systematic for example if I see something in the papers I'll cut it out and send it off. When odd chances present themselves, just picking up on them. At work I try to be systematic. I am quite a disciplined person - but I find it a bit of a strain.
N: It's not muddling through?
M: In some ways I see the department muddling through and I'm quite critical of that. In one sense I could use it [but] they're incredibly amateur - unsystematic and lacking in theory. You could also be muddling through - be very brilliant and do a good job because you know what you needed to do through experience. When I talked about being disciplined it seems to lack warmth. I sometimes think I'm too disciplined. Perhaps it would be nice to do things well, just know things well and get on with it.
#[p280] Comments from Rene E. on a final draft of the thesis, 21.1.99.
Rene is an educational psychologist in my service. I asked her to make any comments she wanted to, and in particular, to consider whether the questions raised in chapter 11 section 15 on research strength were appropriate. Emphasis is as in the original.
Thank you. I have thoroughly enjoyed your work and feel much enhanced and enriched by the rich tapestry you weave.
From the very beginning, before you mention it overtly yourself, I had registered to myself that this is a very honest work. If only one word were allowed to sum it up, that would be it, honest. Further descriptions could include: moving, all-encompassing, deep, thoughtful, real, human and laugh-out-loud funny. It has pathos and bathos. In fact, it would make a really impressionable Channel 4 movie. Yes, I do work like that, for a lot of the time, although I stand in admiration of your own rigour and strong commitment to your practice and the exploration of your practice. You have at once struck a chord, plus shown me your way, which in turn gives me heart for my way, as well as teaching me new ways I can try. This is certainly a validation in my book!
To turn to your questions in chapter 11: Yes! is the answer - Iíve just realised that what I have written above covers them anyway.
[*]* and [**] Added in December 2001 and nor part of the original thesis:
I have made some small changes to these two interview transcripts to
further protect the identities of Celia and Mike, now that the thesis is
becoming more public.
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