April 2009 restarting my career working for myself
This may sound like a cliché but it really is the case that leaving the haven of a large organisation and starting to work for your self is in equal measure terrifying and exhilarating.
Going in to work with your place in a large organisation secured within some form of organisation chart means that, every day you at least start off knowing what you are meant to be doing and who with. You are located and people understand their question when they say. “How is it going with your work at X?”
Now people say to me, “What are you doing now?” That could have been a question that made sense in any of the large organisations I have been working for in the last 40 years, but people sort of knew what I was doing because of my title, the name of the organisation and the world around me in that organisation.
And whilst some people may not like that I really do. I really love organisations. They make the world go round (OK I know Galileo would have some contest with that and a while ago I found out that he was generally right) and they achieve all of the plusses for mankind.
So I miss that.
But when you are working for yourself you set your own mission statement and your own goals and that is also a lot of fun. It is liberating not to have to clear your mission statement with every aspect of the hierarchy.
This is the third time I have set up on my own. In 1997 I left Islington Council and became a consultant working for myself in the exciting days of the new New Labour government in 1997. Then in 2005 I left my job as Special Adviser at the DH and set up on my own again.
So the mechanics of the experience and above all the emotions of being your own organisation are not new.
The times though are.
Generally I think management consultants badly let down public sector client organisation. At the moment all public service organisations need very large scale and deep change programmes. To survive, let alone thrive, in the recession public service organisation are really going to have to attack the recession rather than simply sink into it. They often go to consultants to help them carry out these massive changes.
However at the same time public service organisations are very ambivalent about the pain and difficulty of the changes that they know they need to drive through themselves. Do we really have to do all this? Wouldn’t it be better to sit very still and let the whole thing blow itself out?
So many contracts for change start off with wanting and needing big changes, but as the work actually starts the client organisation sort of says, could you manage all this change by doing a bit less change? Its all got a little difficult. We will pay you the same, but can you deliver a bit less.
Too many consultants say yes and the process of negotiating down the extent of change leaves the organisation as vulnerable as it was at the beginning.
The times we are working in now need a great deal of accelerated change and there must be no negotiating that down.
So my mission statement for this part of my consultancy career is to be clear that there needs to be and will be a lot of change from the work that I do with individuals and organisations and if organisations don’t want that, then it is probably best to go somewhere else.