Thursday, 25 November 2010

Show your working (what this blog is for)

As any regular readers of this blog will likely know, I start a new role on 1st December as Assistant Director of IT at Bristol. In the expectation and hope that this blog will pick up some new readers I thought it a good time to set out what this blog is for.
It is a truism for all IT organisations that they don't communicate well. While there are pockets of good practice I think it has been a particular problem at Bristol. It's true of the IT department with its stakeholders and customers, management with staff, and different teams with each other. It's something we need to get better at, and this blog is part of a personal attempt to do so.
This blog represents my thoughts. It certainly does not represent any 'official' view of the University. Moreover it represents my thoughts at a particular point in time. I am always impressed by passionate but reasoned argument. As John Maynard Keynes said, "When the facts change I reserve the right to change my mind. What do you do sir?".
I think best when I do my thinking out loud. Some colleagues may have noticed this in meetings! I don't believe in the grand master working on a picture in deadly secrecy, putting it behind a velvet curtain, then unveiling it with a "Ta da!" flourish - at which point the patron mentions that he didn't want a painting at all, he wanted a sculpture. Rather I believe in the sculptor working in public. Mold the clay or chisel away at it in full view, draw inspiration from the outside world, take on feedback from whoever is generous to give it. Through this process of iteration we together produce the best possible final result.
As my friend the Physics examiner would say, "always show your working". A conclusion does not inspire confidence unless you show the process by which you arrived at it. As many people wiser than me have pointed out, an open conversation, carried out genuinely, delivers a level of trust amongst colleagues that a top down ivory tower model of leadership cannot.
I use this blog to discuss ideas. They may come from a conversation I've had, book I've read, or conference I've attended. I may not agree with everything the speaker/writer said, but found them interesting and noteworthy, and they started a thought process.
Thinking aloud in this way is for me the process through which half baked ideas are turned into something wholesome. If you don't like something, or if you do, please take this blog in the spirit in which it is intended. Above all, respond and help shape it. I'm available here, on twitter (@nick_skelton), by email, in the office, the corridor, & wherever. I look forward to hearing from you.

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