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I have been very slow to realise how often I am wrong

December 10, 2009

I am very slow to get things. It’s a me thing, not a dad thing. In the last few months have learnt a few really important lessons. I am wrong about lots of things (not everything) and I am finding anybody who cannot admit that about themselves very, very annoying. So what? You say.
I have spent most of my working life in the public sector. Mostly having fun and trying to do my bit to get it to work better. To have a focus on leading the way, serving the customer, user, tax payer, what ever the appropriate label is at the time. Making a difference, helping people to enjoy their lives, get more out of what’s on their doorstep, feel and be part of a community, etc. All the apple pie stuff. Pretty much without exception I thought I was in the right place doing the right thing.
Over the last eight years the lack of the public sectors ability to change and actually DO all the above has frustrated me and on occasions made me very cross. Sorry if I was ever unreasonably cross at you, it wasn’t personal but it does happen.
There are lots of perfectly reasonable people in the public sector, many work very hard doing some pretty difficult jobs, most of which we wouldn’t want done by anybody else. That means you have to really want to be a social worker because you will never be well paid or celebrated, that’s just the way it is. The same applies to the basic back office paper pusher that make civil society function. Planners are celebrated by those who hate wind farms when they stop them and reviled by those who see the need at the same time. It’s a tough job and I doubt if there is a planner in the world who has not been on the end of a political lobby over almost every decision they make.
Its no fun, its not right but it is the cost of having some sort of functioning local democracy. We must never ignore it and always try to improve it.
For every hard working person here are 20 in employment “alpha state”, on auto pilot just getting to the end of the day to go and live the rest of their lives. Is that bad, no, there are even more flipping burgers and stacking shelves, driving vans, picking mail order items in a vast shed or answering the phone in an anonymous box, both in some middle earth, peri-urban ghost land.
What’s my point? Simple climate change, sustainable communities, real social justice will not be delivered by the public sector. As government department manger said recently “I head up sustainable procurement and I have 3 staff to help me. On the other side of the office is the sustainable policy team, there 40 of them. In government we can right policy but only you, the private sector, can deliver it”
So governments of all shapes and sizes, national, international and I hope local are in Copenhagen. There are a few reps from industry but not enough. It is those in the private sector who make, sell and sustain all things that we use that will solve all the above. We as consumers will influence them, as will regulators. Am I getting old or has the frequency of that word use in the lexicon increased in the last 20 years? But it will be possible to be in business and not change for at least anther 20 years. Probably not big business and defiantly not if you are a government contractor (the will be lots more of those as we search for even greater efficiencies) but there are many small and medium size enterprises across the northern hemisphere who have a poor safety record after 50 years of trying to kill fewer people at work.
I an amazing conversation this morning where we agreed that 30 years ago the cost of 15 deaths on a major construction project was an above he item. Today even talking about it over coffee would have serious career limiting effects in most companies.
Sustainability is not there yet but it is within reach. For me 2010 has to be less think and less blog and lots more DO. If you are looking for a new years resolution forget going to he gym or loosing weight, accept the fact that the collect of parts in the shed will never become the 1968 Triumph Bonneville or boat-tail Alfa spider of your dreams. Instead decide to do lots of little things, tidy out the shed, switch of the light, take the train, walk, ride the bike you found at the back of the shed (it just needs the tyres pumping up). For me its to get my business to put the same time and thought into environmental action as we do into safety. We believe in zero harm to people, mostly staff but anyone else we come across, mostly at work but we like people to come to office with all there fingers, no back injury, from 2010 we need to believe in zero environmental harm. Not only must we believe and practice 360 degree zero harm but so must our contractors.
That’s a big DO, should keep me out of trouble for a while.
Lessons learnt in 2009.
• I am wrong, so often its fun, so are you, admit it, its very empowering.
• Business will get us out of the hole we are in not government. Big or small they are better talkers than actors.
• Go hug a social worker, they won’t that you and they may prosecute you but why not try.
• Gotta Do not think.
What have you learnt?

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