I was working in the office today and noticed that grass was growing on the roof of the next building. The first thought that came into my head was, “You are not supposed to grow there!” Then I began to think about it. Well, because the grass didn’t know that it was not allowed to grow there, it just grew anyway. And, you know what, it’s been able to flourish! The mower has not been able to get to it, so it’s flourishing and even has developed seeds to propagate and grow even more!
Then I began to think about my friend Graeme Finnie. He’s been responsible for leading/enabling a coaching project in Secondary Schools across all 30 of Scotland’s Local Authorities. A small project (by Scottish Executive standards), but not insignificant. Graeme began with the pretty general remit of building capacity in our schools, wrote to each Local Authority informing them that funding was available for if they would provide a two page document stating what they would do for the money, and what outcomes they expected to get. As an outsider, it seems to be quite a different approach to normal SE projects, which (for good reason around value for public money) require much more evidence in terms of outcomes, and in fact often predetermine the desired outcomes from the centre!
Im not sure how Graeme did it, but the project went ahead with this frame. Also, Graeme hired a small group of consultants (of which I was one), termed thinking partners for the project. These people were chosen because of their skills, diversity of approach, and their ability to work in partnership. The role was to support the project. This was another innovative approach. Instead of erstwhile competitors all burrowing away in their own offices dreaming up proposals which will have met client needs to a lesser or greater extent, Graeme got us all in a room!
We were up for this unusual way of working, and one of the significant outcomes from my perspective was a far richer creativity and innovation as we all jammed around what will really help make this project fly. Our creativity was multiplied, and Im sure this had an impact on the project.
More importantly, the projects in each Local Authority have blossomed. From early on confusion (what do you mean you want me to write my own outcomes for this), the professionals in the Authorities have come to make statements like; This has been fantastic. We have had the freedom to experiment and develop our own ideas in partnership with (the trainer); to This was a bit confusing at first, but now I see it as liberating! Its a pity more SE run projects didnt follow this route!
And the outcomes? Well… the rich tapestries of the projects speak for themselves. From the ends of Scotland, people have been engaging in applying coaching/mentoring skills – developing a coaching ethos, using training, coaching pairs, and action learning to mention only three.
And you know what, no-one told them they couldn’t grow there!