«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
In relation to blame culture or being able to “own up” to one’s mistakes I have not found this a difficult area. I have always been happy to hold my hands up and admit my shortfalls or errors. I feel this comes from my upbringing (nurture) when I was always encouraged to be honest about my wrongdoings and to never lie. If there is a consequence to my actions then so be it! However, I am aware that for other people this may feel to be a risk dependent on the organisation they are engaged with.
This reflection has helped me to locate my preunderstanding of the themes from a personal perspective to be able to declare personal position and potential bias in relation to my own interpretation of the text.
Theme 1 Reflective Practice in the Workplace In this section I will explore the area of how reflective practice is used in the workplace. As previously discussed in Chapter 1, there is a dearth of literature in relation to facilities management and reflective practice, and whilst the professional body, British Institute for Facilities Management, discusses this as being a skill for facilities managers, there were no papers drawing on the use of reflective practice in facilities management in the workplace. Drawing from my narrative and from theory in relation to reflective practice, I will explore the following areas: The use of reflective practice in the workplace and the engagement from the interviewees, how they initially felt about reflective practice; the perceived impact using reflective practice has had on their service delivery; the potential risks of not engaging in some form of reflective practice;
and finally the perceived importance of reflective practice.
To aid the narrative discussions, Høyrup (2004) discussed the need to be able to understand the differences between levels of reflection and also to understand organisation learning and the links between the two. Moon (1999) stated there was no common and agreed upon concept of reflection but Høyrup focuses on the need to not necessarily define reflection but to distinguish between the levels of reflection, drawing on individual, interactional and organisational. Van Woerkom (2003) views of reflection are drawn around the individual reviewing an experience, and refers to this as the reflective practitioner, however individuals can reflect together in an organisational context and this type of reflection is important for teams. This is also an area that will be explored throughout the four themes, as I want to understand whether the social actors have engaged their teams in reflection at some level and whether this becomes embedded in their social interaction (Høyrup, 2004).
To draw further on the discussion of reflection and critical reflection, Mezirow discussed critical reflection in relation to not only understanding the task itself, but also understanding the premise of problem solving. It involves a “critique of the presuppositions on which our beliefs have been built” Mezirow (1990:1).
There is more concern with the why we have behaved or carried out a task in a certain way. The deeper exploration of self. Høyrup (2004:445) believes that ‘reflection builds the bridge between individual and organisational learning.’
1.1 The use of reflective practice in the workplace
As part of the interview discussions and the emailed questions I asked our students whether they engaged in reflective practice and if so whether they could give some examples. The first examples lead to the use of reflective practice to focus on improvements within project work and/or how they delivered a service.
In my previous role as a Facilities Manager I was involved in a lot of project work so I would most often be involved in reflective practice either at the end of a project, reflecting on any particular failures or successes that occurred or at the beginning of a project - reflecting on any similar work that has previously been undertaken which could guide future decisions. I would also reflect on situations and interactions when conducting staff appraisals for my team. (DO – Email question response) I reflected on how I managed a recent moves project. I have found by reflecting on how I go about my job gives me the time to think things through more thoroughly. I think this is important to highlight how to improve and do things better for the future. (JH - – Email question response) Following the re-structuring of the repairs team in 2011, the facilities Management team was formed, the very first project that was given to the team was the refurbishment of the current training room, there was no brief on what was required, however I was project lead on this and used the skills I had learned and carried out the refurbishment… there was a number of problems that we did not envisage … since then the FM team has carried out over 10 small office refurbishments with success, this has been achieved through me using my reflection skills and looking at how I projected managed the very first project and how I managed the whole process but more importantly how I felt as a person and project leader, and how my actions effected the project in general. (MP – Email question response) … you are using your experience reflecting back and you are saying we did that this time, it worked. Last time it worked, let’s do it again or that didn’t work last time, let’s revisit it and see how we can plan it better. (Little Boy Blue telephone interview) From the four respondents above it felt that reflective practice was used as a productive tool to aid learning from mistakes and to understand how this could be improved for the future. Reflective practice appears to be a practical tool which can be applied to understand how organisational practice and processes can be improved moving forward. This links to Dewey’s (1933) concepts in relation to defining the problem and thinking ahead, therefore drawing from observation and investigation and leading to three areas, formation of a guiding idea for action or a plan; playing the new ideas with others, such as within the team; and then testing the idea in action (Høyrup, 2004). Boud et al (1985) refer to reflection as a process that links experiences (and this could be emotions, behaviours as well as processes) and a commitment to action, which again as discussed by the social actors above, appears to be the route that has been taken they all appear to have reflected on a situation, either individually or with their teams, and decided on a way to improve. Within this process Boud et al also refer to the need to attend to feelings. The need to allow for time is crucial as well, to allow distance from the experience. Interestingly one of my email responses stated that they actually planned time in their diary for the purpose of reflection.
I use it daily, a 1 hour session scheduled in my diary to take time out to reflect on work issues. I find it a really effective way of working out root cause of issues, outcomes and ways of making improvements for future. (LT – email response) Referring back to Schön’s (1991) concept of reflection in and on action, the above appear to be reflection on action, having taken time away, as Boud et al (1985) would agree with, to reflect on their actions and the implications of them to then gain some further understanding to be able to make the changes.
However Schön does discuss professionals relying heavily on the ‘knowing in action’ which relates to their tacit knowledge, and can allow individuals to make a split second decision based on their previous experiences and perhaps this relates to the very practical application of reflection by the social actors in relation to problem solving.
The Enforcer (face to face interview) reflected on his own personal practice and recognised that it helps him to stay rational however, he did state ‘I think reflection is a great thing to do. I don’t think it is for all people, but if you are in to it then I think it is a brilliant thing to do and I really do enjoy it.’ Verdonschot (2006) takes reflective practice further to try to address whether reflective practice can aid innovation in the workplace, and from the views of the students, I would concur that having time and space to reflect on service delivery, or projects this can lead to changes of improvement, and therefore some innovation in the workplace. For FM as an industry, the concept of innovation is key, as most outsourced contracts now actually state a percentage of innovation is required every month. Equally, within Little Boy Blue’s comment there was recognition of what went well too and Verdonschot would argue that this is equally as crucial as recognising the limitations. Swan and Bailey (2004) from their research into emotions of reflection, refer to some managers using a form of reflection that they referred to as gratification reflection. As below ST recognises the benefits of noting not only the limitations but also their strengths.
Because it helps me see what weakness I have and it enables me to correct those weaknesses. It also helps me see my strengths as well; by combining the two it makes me better at my job which ultimately benefits my employer and me.
(ST – email response) Basil Fawlty acknowledged the reactive nature of FM, but equally the importance of engaging with reflective practice with his team. Whilst this could be considered as a quality review, the reflective practice is evidenced by him recognising the need to engage in this process.
There is strength in the operational stuff that we do, for the reactive stuff we do, for the planning stuff we do – you know, reactive stuff – absolutely vitally important because most of the time if you are reacting to something it is not planned, it is last minute and if it is an emergency ‘let’s crack it, let’s do it, but get it done’. But then, yes, take the time out and it is the hardest thing to do because you are moving onto the next thing, but what you need to do is stand back and get everybody round the table and go right okay, how did that go?
Who did we phone first? Should we have phoned him first or not, do you know, we should really have phoned him and then right okay, so if it happens again, it is not a massive great big book that you have written on a procedure but you have thought about it and if the next time a similar thing happens and the only thing you do better is phone the right person first; you have made an improvement. You wouldn’t have done if you hadn’t gathered round. (Basil Fawlty – telephone interview).
I felt that the above summed up perhaps how FMs see reflective practice initially, “I am too busy”; “don’t have time for that stuff”; “got to move on the next thing” etc., there could be a million and one reasons not to engage but the reality is above in black and white that actually having to deal with the situation in the moment is key, and decisions have to be made quickly sometimes, however, there also needs to be realisation that to prevent the same mistakes occurring the situation needs to be reflected upon to be able to change. In FM there needs to be a pause button somewhere to understand the deeper issues behind the problems. Interestingly as well, Basil Fawlty talks about this being a collective approach which is an area that will be addressed through later sections.
The other aspect that came out in the use of reflective practice was the difference in dealing with situations involving people (as opposed to process or projects) linking to more general organisational behaviour.
I have lots of examples where I use reflective practice. It can be a snap shot reflection after an interaction with someone and I think to myself 'did that go ok?' - yes or no. Was I fair there? - yes or no? Did I get what I needed there? yes or no. Depending on the answer and the importance of the situation will depend on if I give it anymore thought. (WE – Email question response) The response above lends itself to the view of Schön’s (1991) reflection in action and on action with evidence of both and also agrees with Swan and Bailey (2004) in recognition of interactions that went well.
I’ve recently become a Line Manager of a team of three. I now find myself in a lot of situations that I’m not comfortable with or experienced in. With this in mind I try to prepare for each of my meetings in advance and then try to reflect upon how the meeting went upon completion. The reflective aspect is particularly important to me, maybe more so that then initial prep as it helps me build a picture of future meetings with individuals so I can adapt my approach with them and better understand what drives and motivates them. (JH– Email question response) … it has become a big part of how I work and how I treat other people now. It is really strange, I never thought about reflective practice before I started my Uni course, and now it is something that I think about a lot and it is something that I am starting to do almost as second nature…previously I had just gone’ right, you are moving there’ and just done it. Now, I am going ‘okay, well how are they going to perceive it?’ and trying to think ahead and stand back and think if that was me, how would I feel about it? What would be my concerns? … you are going into meetings and you are coming from their point of view. You have instantly won them over. They realise that you are working with them and not against them. (Firecracker – Telephone interview) WE talks about being aware of interactions, and how their responses impact on others, showing an awareness of empathy and also a learned response in relation to how they are communicating with individuals. There is also learning from the perspective of being a new manager from JH and how using reflective practice has enabled them to review their own behaviours and to adapt their style. Firecracker talks about further consideration of people in relation to change projects and again the use of empathy to explore potential misgivings from the people that are being moved and allowing her to review the way the change is delivered and how the people are engaged; evidencing a more in depth level of reflection.