Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Labouring on with #Team56? How to Rebuild Trust When It Is Broken

This post looks at how and why I've gone from SNP proponent to detractor within the space of a year. I also include some suggestions regarding how the results of the #VoteYes campaign might be replicated.

Twelve months ago today I started to write about the Independence Referendum. I was blogging in support of the SNP/VoteYes and the first post detailed why I was Getting Political About Education. During September and October 2014 I wrote over 30 posts in support of the SNP.

Using principles from the adoption of technology, I made a few predictions and assessments that proved to be accurate. Here are a few examples:
Two days after the general election I saw a tell tale sign that suggested to me that the SNP was heading for the first of Jim Collins 5 stages of decline: Hubris.

“When you are at the top of the world, the most powerful nation on Earth, the most successful company in your industry, the best player in your game, your very power and success might cover up the fact that you’re already on the path to decline. So, how would you know?” Jim Collins, How the Mighty fall

If the referendum was repeated I wonder if I would vote the same way today, I certainly would not be as supportive of a party that has squandered some fantastic opportunities because they chose to focus on playing party politics.

Now they are failing our students in education and don't appear to be supporting our educators, so I'm going to get political about education 12 months on from writing my first post in support of #VoteYes.

FELTAG and National Testing
Around the same time I started to write in support of the SNP I was questioning where Further Education Technology Action Group (FELTAG) was focusing their attention (See The Problem with FELTAG).

Today I feel that the SNP's decision to test primary school children will end up with similar challenges, and for the same reasons.

The idea of primary assessments does not appear to be very popular with educators... educators who perhaps supported the SNP and who, like me, feel that the party has not lived up to expectations.

When it comes to issues like reducing the attainment gap, getting the culture right is vital... and may not include a culture of MPs/MSPs saying "This is what we are doing... now get on with it," especially not when educators are saying "What?!... this is rubbish! We won't support this!"

There are rumblings of Scottish educators boycotting this program, meanwhile back at Westminster David Cameron is rolling out academies when the results to date are questionable (Although not in all cases as I detail in Academies... It's all about the Culture).

NB The reason I got excited about #VoteYes was because of the potential there was to improve attainment and reducing the gap, ironic or what!

All this is going on after there have been similar concerns raised with the roll out of "The Curriculum for Excellence," not to mention all the recriminations regarding the drop in literacy rates.

Something I find quite interesting is the difference in approach between the kind of collaboration with the grass roots efforts of the "Yes" campaign, compared with the top-down "This is what we are doing" dictate from Holyrood.
Image result for malcolm tucker shouting
Post Election Customer Relations? Blame me I voted Yes...
There were plenty of hearts and minds won over 12 months ago in education (and other sectors) with #VoteYes... but there appears to be little effort to get buy-in with this initiative. I highlighted this issue at the end of my Why SNP Domination was Inevitable post.

"This process could be used in many areas of Scottish society. The SNP benefited from the kind of process that major technology companies utilise, so they know it works. When I'll be impressed with the SNP, or any other party, is when they decide to use these principles in other areas, not just politics.

If any politician (from any party) wants to know how to continue to take advantage of this process in politics or, ideally, apply to other areas, especially in education, you know where to find me if you have any questions."

Impressed? Needless to say I am not! From advocate to disillusioned in 12 months, or within 4 months since the General Election.

Dickensian Deprivation
If we look at the worthy aim of "Raising Attainment and Improving the Gap," and consider Andrew Mawson's observation that:

"The real tragedy is that, broadly speaking, the areas of deprivation in the UK have not shifted a great deal since Dickens Day, and any talk of a new approach of the kind I fervently believe would work has led to nothing but lots of strategizing, meetings, papers, conferences, seminars, websites...and when the money runs out, there is nothing left to show, no tangible results and so, of course, the show moves on." Andrew Mawson, The Social Entrepreneur 

It's reasonable to assume that this initiative is unlikely to succeed. In my opinion, part of the reason for this is because the initiative will be ripped up and tossed aside just as it's starting to show promise...Why would this happen? Because the latest MP/MSP looking to climb the greasy pole will land the education portfolio and will want to "stamp their authority" on the department, so may replace this with something else.

This changing of the guard might be due to the existing education minister being incompetent/caught up in a scandal/does something the "leader" or whip doesn't like, so gets "shuffled" to the back bench. Politics! The only job in the world where "sacked/resignation" means that you get to keep your £75,000 wage + lavish expenses.

Need some examples? The Healthy Schools agenda took some 15 years+ to develop and had 85% of schools signed up, but was swept aside overnight... as was Every Child Matters and National Indicators and was replaced by "The Big Society," where is this Big Society today?

Need a Scottish SNP example? Merging FE Colleges as a cost saving exercise? College Merger Fails to Deliver Savings or Boost Education, based on the conversations I've had it with my FE contacts, it's certainly succeeded in disrupting the culture!

In the 1980s old style apprenticeships were scrapped in favour of Youth Training Schemes (YTS) only for "Modern Apprenticeships" to be back in vogue... but not before the valuable network and system of companies and mentors had been tossed aside and lost.

Imagine the difference that the old style apprenticeships would have with "Unslumming" deprived areas, resolving issues with NEETs, Youth Unemployment and the attainment gap?

Hands up if you think that assisted places could help play a role with improving the attainment gap? What genius decided to put our kids education in the hands of the political classes?

These politicians clearly know what kind of job they do in education, how else would you explain why they enroll their own children at independent schools... which might be the equivalent of members of Apple's senior management team using Microsoft or Google PCs.

Culture! Culture! Culture!
I've read a number of times recently about Scottish educators threatening industrial action for various reasons, mostly relating to pay.

When relationships get so bad that it leads to strike action, it impacts on the dynamics around social norms and market forces... and it takes a long time for trust to be built up again.

Dan Airley looks at the long term effects a lack of respect can have in these 2 worlds that we live in "social norms" Vs "market forces."

If we follow Dan Airley's argument, it might even be argued that the loss of trust between teachers and policy makers from the 1987 strike action has had a lasting impact.

During these strikes teachers worked to their job description and lots of extra-curricular activities that were organised via social norms were affected ie "I'm not staying behind to take XYZ club because I don't get paid for it and/or it's not in my contract."

In September 2015 we find educator-political relations on the verge industrial action.

Seriously! How successful is forcing a poorly thought out idea going to be if employees who are not feeling valued or if they feel their views are not respected?

This course of action might be permissible for any of the other political parties, but it's pretty inexcusable from a group who have demonstrated they know how to manage a fantastic grass roots campaign.

What's the difference between "Yes Scotland" and "Yes Educators"? Well one might fuel the egos and line the pockets of self interested politicians... and the other would show that educators were valued and their views respected. So where's the incentive for MPs with the latter? Maybe there isn't one.

How to Rebuild Trust When It Is Broken
Two days after the election we saw #The45Plus, a hashtag that represented the 1.6 million people who voted Yes in the referendum was replaced with #Team56... the 56 MPs who were headed down to Westminster to fight over where they sat and picking up their £75,000 + expenses.

There was also some changes with photos on MPs Twitter profiles, from candidates in their constituency with supporters... to member of #Team56 replacing them with pictures with their leader under the Forth Rail Bridge. How significant is this? Read Adam Grant's book "Give and Take" and you'll find it's quite telling.

Never mind the 1.6 million who got us here, we're #Team56 Now
In my opinion these are all signs of the first stage of an organisation in decline: Hubris. Need more examples? Go check the Twitter feed of this list of GE2015 MPs and see how many times any reference for "Constituent" or "Constituency" appears (That is where it does not involve a photo opp for our humble "I'm in politics to make a difference" MPs).

Any time I scroll down this list there can be a distinct lack of constituency issues on MPs Twitter feeds, but plenty of "Look at me, look at me" stuff and/or petty Westminster playground "He said, she said" antics going on. People don't have jobs and need food banks, but politicians are arguing about where they sit and the importance of Westminster's tradition of no clapping? Get a grip!

I'm not sure if I will vote SNP in the future, they appear to be on a mission to fit in at Westminster by being the same as the rest of the political classes.

With the exception of the odd rant when the news is on, I don't get involved with any political discussions on social media. The SNP, along with the rest of the political classes have lost my trust.

Rebuilding trust is something that other parties are needing to focus on. I've mentioned a number of times that the practices of community managers would help with this;

Trust, when broken, is nearly impossible to re-build. That's why you must delicately handle the re-building of trust, doing everything you can to recover and create new patterns of engagement. via How to Scale Trust and Relationships

It is with regard to these "new patterns of engagement" I'd like to focus some attention.

How can I Help?
I have been invited to meet with five senior MPs a over the last few years to discuss various projects that I have been involved with. These have been pretty senior people too... including a visit to Number 10.

Each and every one was a complete waste of time! I have found that there is a tendency to be told one thing in these meetings regarding how we can progress ideas and time scales for following up on our meeting but then hear... Nothing at all.

I wouldn't mind if I was told "This idea is rubbish" and heard nothing, but to have discussions like;

"Any suggestions you have, including those from your experience in the US in this regard, would be warmly welcomed." 

Then spend an entire weekend on a document with ideas but then hear nothing back... Well you kind of find that any trust will be broken pretty quickly.

Some random politician visited my son's school recently and during a Q&A session one plucky student asked "Why do politicians lie?"

The reply from this MSP? Let's bear in mind that his job is to debate for a living (a very good living indeed!) "Do you always tell the truth?"

What a reply! What a response to a group of school kids! It's OK to lie because everyone does it! What a role model!

"Why do politicians lie?" Because everyone does it! I wonder if one MP was taking liberties with their expense account if other politicians would do it too, then come up with the excuse that "Well, everyone else was doing it" if they were ever questioned about it. Oh wait a minute... Didn't that kind of happen already?

I wonder if this MSP ever chopped down any cherry trees when he was young "What? Who chopped down the cherry tree? What Cherry tree? There was never any cherry tree in the garden"

Something that we tell our kids is that "You don't treat bad manners with more bad manners," just because the political classes have been pretty ineffective in a professional and personal context in my work and life (so much so that I have given up even trying to engage with them), this does not mean that I won't help if and where I can.

Ideas for 2016 & 2019
My assessments for the SNPs success on the 7th May 2015 in my Why SNP Domination was Inevitable post was based on observations I spotted from September 2014.

When listening to all the commentators regarding the general Election result 4 months ago, who were saying "It will take 10 years for the Labour party to recover in Scotland" I was thinking "No it wouldn't!" It could be turned around by 2016... if they did things differently to the political classes usual methods, employing community management methods and "creating new patterns of engagement"

On 7th May I worked on a document with ideas for candidates for 2016, which was drafted in a coffee shop and I was sitting next to two people discussing the future of Labour, who were clearly senior members of the Labour campaign.

I mentioned to them "I'm working on a document that might help," the look of disdain that my comment was met with along with their dismissive remark was enough to make you wonder... "Will the attainment gap and the class system in the UK ever be addressed?" ...Not if there are any MPs involved, I thought to myself.

Anyway, here's some thoughts on what other parties could do between now and 2016 and/or things the SNP could stop doing to prevent hubris from setting in further: Ideas for 2016 & 2019 Candidates

(NB This was drafted between 7-8th May with the intention to tidy it up and add more info and analysis. This has not been done for the reasons detailed in this post. Any reference to days ie Yesterday/today are from these dates, and were prior to Labour's Corbin/Blarite split... or whatever people call the current in-fighting).

Obviously people are welcome to disagree with these observations and ideas, but if anyone feels they have merit... there are more where these came from.

Can the attainment gap be addressed? It is my belief that it can... but any solution is unlikely to involve the Eaton/Fettes old boys who roam the halls of Westminster/Holyrood.

Through sheer necessity MPs/MSPs don't feature with any potential solutions that I'm exploring. That's not to say I wouldn't welcome their input or involvement, but won't be holding my breath.

I'd be happy to discuss my plans and would be keen to collaborate with anyone... even politicians who I don't trust too much at the moment.

10/9/15 Postscript 
When opening the paper today two articles caught my eye:

1) Nicola Sturgeon Trolled for Welcoming the Queen...But don't blame me, I saw it coming a mile off and tried to suggest that leadership was needed to influence the post #VoteYes culture.
This article raises a host of questions whether we consider EdTech/educator relations or politics
  • Criticisms by educators that EdTech companies are profit driven and money obsessed
  • To what extent did being disgruntled and demoralised employees who felt undervalued with the merger play with this action? If lots, what was the cause of this? Politicians?
  • Staff appear to have worked within the rules regarding severance... Wasn't this the justification with MP expenses when the scandal broke? Indeed, 
  • Were staff taking the lead from MPs with their use of public funds? Whether with expenses, setting their own wages or the "We're in it together" 10% MP "entitled" wage rises Vs 1% for educators. These action don't exactly give the impression of "We're in it Together" austerity.
  • Given the expenses, cash for questions, correlation between party donations and peerages and employing family members... are MPs really in any position to condemn this action? 
All these guys did was set their own wages, which MPs do and their action seems to be within the criteria of the guidance provided.

Surely if anyone should be criticised it's the people who were responsible for putting these mergers together... But maybe that would prove to be a little embarrassing for politicians given that the cost saving exercise has not panned out and that this example doesn't help matters... So MPs do what they do best: Blame it on someone or something else.

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