Déjà vu, all over again.

June 7th 2012

I am a nervous passenger generally, but my anxiety rises to a whole new level when we go on the motorway.
My coping mechanism is to work on my computer to avoid spending the whole journey gripped in a panic that we are about to crash into the lorry ahead. The upside is that I get time to trawl through my documents and keep calm. Meanwhile, the driver (usually my husband) is able to concentrate on the road, rather than having to continually threaten to throw me out. The downside is that I come across speeches, articles and blog entries which all smack of Déjà Vu.

This week was a case in point, as I found myself preparing a speech on leadership in the sector and a presentation for some funds to help us grow the business. As I began the process by finding similar speeches for inspiration, I was shocked to discover so many of the issues facing us today were exactly the same as far back as 2007. I know they say that change takes time, but this seems excessively slow.

So I thought it might serve as a fun game, as we head into the Jubilee-free weekend, to remind ourselves of the state of play and key issues back then, to see how much if anything has changed:

  • Universal child care was inadequately funded
  • It was felt that children should not go to school aged four (a sentiment supported by the Children and Young People Select Committee and National Primary Headteachers Association)
  • Ofsted was looking at its approach to inspection
  • I was arguing that Children’s Centres should be a hub for intergenerational work, with young and old learning together and developing relationships that could help achieve community cohesion
  • We were awaiting a Government re-shuffle
  • A Two Year Old Pilot was in discussion
  • Unhappy economic times were beginning, and talk of solutions and sustainability were beginning to quietly emerge
  • We had just taken our first group of apprentices called NEETs
  • Action for Children and New Economics Foundation produced a fascinating report called Backing the Future, setting out a plan to save the UK taxpayer £486 billion over 20 years and dramatically improve social wellbeing
  • According to economic analyst Rob Grunewald, (video here), if Government invested substantially in parenting and enriched daycare, they could expect a rate of return (in monetary terms) of between 3:1-7:1, and 17:1 by the time the child reaches 21years. He explained that social benefits were also significant, with a reduction in crime and prison, better educational attainment, healthier adults and reduced levels of obesity and a reduction in welfare dependency
  • The Cambridge Primary Review was challenging the notion of school readiness in their final report, reminding us of what Froebel said 250 years before – namely that Early Years was not a time to merely prepare for school, but a distinct phase to be celebrated and enjoyed in its own right
  • Remaining stubbornly high, child poverty was on the rise despite all attempts to reduce it – including provision of flexible work opportunities, training, childcare, improved incentives and investment in child benefit
  • Limited funds were available to provide a quality workforce, including employing many more graduates
  • Transitions to school were an issue

Peter Drucker said that management has no choice but to anticipate the future. Well then, we better start looking at the past, because the blueprint is already there. And as a leader, it’s probably wise to get organisations fit to manage the continual challenges that are not easily solved and are more entrenched than we could possibly imagine. Learning from experience is not enough.

Therefore, I’d suggest that one solution may be to create a learning organisation that can flex and re-shape, according to both the fast and slow pace of change. Consider the following ten steps, and maybe in this instance a bit of repeat, recall and déjà vu will be a good thing:

  • Learning is incorporated into everything people do
  • Learning for learning’s sake is encouraged and celebrated
  • Teamwork, creativity, empowerment and quality are fully supported
  • Staff are trusted and encouraged to choose and take decisions
  • People with different job titles learn together
  • Coaching relationships are promoted to enhance learning
  • Learning is an integral part of meetings, work groups and work processes
  • Everyone in the organisation has equal access to learning
  • Mistakes are embraced as learning opportunities
  • Cross-training is encouraged and staff that learn a broad range of skills rewarded
  • Continuous learning is considered a shared core value of the organisation

Do you agree with the above?  Let me know what you think in the space below.