Catherine Howe

Jan 9

3 min read

In which there is always more work than you have time to do

There is always more work — the challenge is really in how you decide what not to do. This is particularly true in local government where we can’t chose not to serve a particular group or delivery a particular service — we are here for everyone.

We are doing work on planning and prioritisation at the moment and its really bloody hard. Everything has a claim on our attention and we are working in complexity where no one thing can trump all the rest.

Where we have landed is in clustering our work (more on the clusters here) and then giving each cluster a focus for the next 6 months. Each cluster will prioritise the work within the clusters and we’ll then examine the consequences of that, unblock where we have created pinch points (perhaps between clusters) and then reflect on it at our next planning session — the intention being to get into a quarterly cycle with this work. We need to work through how we manage the impact of this on core services like legal/finance etc but our intention is to look at that in our next quarterly planning session.

As we develop this process we expect to develop the tools we use to do it — but we are keeping it deliberately relational / conversational for now as we build our ability to have the difficult conversations which this kind of process brings with it — we want to have those conversations rather than hide behind forms or in shadow conversations where the decision doesn’t happen in the room. We believe this is central to how we want to work and who we want to be.

This quarterly planning / prioritisation happens alongside the annual planning cycle of things like the budget and the 3–5 year cycle of a strategy / goal setting process — the intention is that the quarterly rhythm makes is able to be adaptive but that the longer rhythms give us chance to reflect and take a step back. Its work in progress but the intention is an adaptive organisation where the work is prioritised where it happens and not in a top down way — but that we have the ability to ‘see’ the whole organisation and be able to deal with competing demands in the open.

We also have a thread of work called Stop! (Yes — with the exclamation mark). This is a chance for us to take a good look at all manner of things and work out if it still has value, whether we are taking the right approach and also whether we have got our boundaries right and whether we ought to be doing it at all. I’ll try and write about this separately as its throwing up some really interesting conversations and I hope creating a sense of space — or at least its possibility — for the organisation.

Stepping back the fact is, while that you can prioritise to your hearts content, we are in a volatile deficit position which means demand will always outstrip supply and we can no longer afford just to be efficient. We will need to make some hard choices. This is why shifting to an asset based approach and becoming focused on prevention is essential as is community wealth building to create sustainable assets that nurture community infrastructure — we need to find and connect with the abundance which I believe is there if we can create the conditions to work with it. We will not be able to do everything we want to do as an organisation — but thats ok — we just need to be good at the bits that only we can do and work to the best of our ability with partners and communities who can do the rest.

Originally published at https://www.curiouscatherine.info.