Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Project End

I arranged a school visit today for Dave from Head Office. Morag came along too. It’s a likeable school with a likeable Headteacher and an exquisitely creative approach to teaching poor kids from a sprawling council estate on the fringes of a culturally barren city in the North East of England.

All boxes ticked.

Dave is a thoroughly decent, uncomplicated, chap. I’ve always admired his straightforwardness: family car, wedding ring, sensible haircut, Blue Harbour wardrobe. Dave, to his credit, can be relied upon to tell the truth.
Morag had rewritten the agenda for the day – so that I could talk through the creative highlights of the current programme with Dave over lunch at The National Clay Pipe Centre. She would then get strategic with Dave in camera elsewhere.

Thankfully, Dave’s straightforwardness won out and he got strategic over lunch.

‘The consultation process will begin in June and we are planning to issue redundancy notices in July.’

I had been preparing for this moment and remained unfazed. Morag went very red in the face.

I suspect that she would have preferred to have the power of the redundancy knowledge in her back pocket as leverage for several weeks. She could then maintain her approach of going out to meetings all day every day, after an early morning ‘high importance’ email to me overhauling my priorities and To-do list with an urgency that wouldn’t be out of place in a war situation.

In fact, she observed last week that what I needed was a war map with miniature schools and artists in place of tanks and warships. This was in order to plan and monitor our work. I countered that she would derive much more enjoyment from a war map. I stopped short of suggesting that it should be housed in a bunker – a considerable distance from the office.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Battle of Message Drift

I was at the final Programme Meeting for the organisation the other day. It was, as ever, at Lovely Space in St Pancras. There wasn’t much enthusiasm on show at  breakfast – most of those present knew they were earmarked for redundancy.

The theme of the day was how to best capture the evidence of all the good we have done in order to leave a legacy which makes the case that the good work continues in some new guise in some new, more sympathetic landscape at some point in the future. It is basically the premise of Christian faith and we were being asked to pray, but I was looking at the faces of unbelievers at the breakfast table.

We were asked to moderate some project evaluations and hold up small placards reading either ‘Met’ or ‘Not Met’. I was feeling more Craig Revel-Horwood than Len Goodman and waved ‘Not Met’. We had to handwrite our own ‘Not Met’ signs – as there were none available on the table top. I felt like such a maverick.

We were presented with a changed agenda for the day. The National Director had re-jigged his schedule in order to join us in the afternoon – to avert, I suspected, what I had heard described recently as ‘message drift’. He was planning to float around the tables during the ‘reflection’ session. I could imagine his presence clearly – glasses perched on head, eyes closed for deep reflection before smiled words of encouragement, agreement and marvel at the truly original expressions of programme reflection from toadies hopeful of a glowing reference to accompany their imminent P45. I could imagine it all so clearly I didn’t really see the need to wait for it.

I claimed childcare and wandered around the shops for a couple of hours. I bought a very fetching shirt in MUJI. They appeared to be exclusively playing the Smiths, so I tarried a little – enjoying my brief spell off-radar. The boy on the checkout opined that The Smiths touched people for nostalgic reasons. For true influence, he rated The Fall. He told me that the manager didn’t let him play The Fall. I was unsurprised, but commiserated nonetheless.