The ‘fork of real life’

Just before Christmas I had the pleasure of sitting down with an eclectic mix of “curry heads” to discuss how I might avoid falling back on a network of the “usual suspects” for the periodic “reality checks” that I know I’ll need if I’m to avoid disappearing up the “backside of my own self-importance”. (Apologies for the “” overload – and yet another reference to fundaments. There’s more to come by the way.)

Because life has been so frenetic since that evening, I haven’t really found the opportunity to take the reflections on board and attempt to arrange them into something tangible and meaningful, let alone utilitarian. But the autonomic bits of my brain have clearly been working on it and I think I have, as much by accident as design, discovered that I have already started taking on board three bits of advice.

Firstly, to go all Shakespeare on you (yes, that well known former resident of Greater Birmingham – ha, ha!), keep in mind a maxim that’s actually in “plain view” and, therefore, also hidden. Namely, “This above all; to thine own self be true”. In a world where you are not master or mistress – and be assured we are neither – don’t lose sight of what makes you tick. It’s precious and needs preserving through “thick and thin”. Unless, of course, you’re a sociopath.

Next, “go see”. At the risk of inflicting some “cod” lean psychology on you, “Doing The Gemba Walk” on a regular basis should be the “next big thing”. If lean purity isn’t your idea of fun, you can still promise yourself to get out a bit, look around and ask questions from a citizen perspective. Puts a day of meetings, emails and Council House conversations into context.

And the third tine on the “fork of real life”? Phone up one of your complainants on a regular basis. It’s illuminating and will stop you from simply signing off the letters or response without actually thinking that much about them.

And, to end, here’s something that I learnt from my time at Solihull – without the benefit of curry. Encourage your colleagues to create their own narrative about these things – and anything else that tells the tale of your values and your place. The power of stories is deep rooted in our learning tradition. Let’s preserve it.

“Onwards and upwards.”


This is the latest column Mark Rogers has written for the Municipal Journal in his capacity as President of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE). The views expressed herein should not be assumed to be those of the City Council.


Posted on February 12, 2015, in Articles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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