«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
Reynolds and Vince (2004a) discuss the need to also recognise the importance of reflection and developing reflective skills in interaction with others. From research carried out by Rigg and Trehan (2008) in relation to a case study on an organisational development programme, they referred to facilitating learning sets specifically in relation to working with teams, they drew on questions that would assist with individuals drawing on workplace examples to consider how they could, for example, improve a team meeting including not only reflection and themselves, but also on the emotions in the room, and also the potential choices the individual has within the setting. This went further than the stages of reflection as recognised by Mezirow (1991) for example, but to a level that drew on wider emotions and power dynamics (Vince, 1996). I found this study to be interesting in relation to the engagement with others as discussed above through the narratives from JH and Firecracker, as they appear to be engaging with something similar to look at the more holistic organisational picture and to change their own behaviours.
Interestingly, whilst this is not a quantitative study, out of the 34 email responses and 12 interviews only two people stated they didn’t use reflective practice in the workplace.
In my current job role, I don't recall ever using reflective practice. With the work I do, there is not really any need. I just seem to change the way I do things each year automatically. Also as most of my work is looking for new contracts for mobiles and dealing with signing off invoices, I have never felt the need to reflect. (LP- email response) They have stated never feeling the need to reflect, however there is obvious learning being taken on board as they are making changes to their service delivery, and perhaps it is the terminology of reflective practice that they have not necessarily engaged with as opposed to having never used it. LP goes on to state … as explained, I do not recall ever using reflective practice. That is not to say that I have never used it, it maybe that I have just never recognised using it. Attending University has certain brought the need to be able to bring it into the workplace for the future. A lot can be learned by using this process as it can certainly help to pin point any actions that need to be corrected if a particular task has not worked. In the past, I think I have just decided something has not worked and then tried again. I have not actually sat down and thought it through, or wrote about why something has not worked.
The other person that stated they had never used reflective practice as highlighted below appears again, to give a definite no but then they go on to discuss using ‘lessons learned’ to improve. Interestingly, in trying to understand and interpret both of these comments from LP and DL, it draws me back to Schön’s (1983) ideas on reflection in and on action in relation to the individuals perhaps not perceiving this as reflective practice as they are doing it in the moment, or ‘thinking on their feet’.
I haven't, although encouraged my team to do so and explained the process of learning. We do reflect on practice in working terms, for lessons learned, as opposed to personal behaviours and skill naturally, but perhaps not formally.
Learning from experiences etc. (DL – email response) This concept of the terminology being alien as opposed to the practice would concur with the view of the Enforcer as he stated … reflective practice is something strange to me. I found it quite enjoyable when I got into it. You sit down and look at what you have done in a situation and you actually put the conversation you have had in your head on paper. I have actually done this for many years but never realised I was doing it. It was just me trying to improve in my mind, basically having an argument with myself trying to think what have I done wrong, what have I done right and how can I do it better. So I have been doing it unknowingly for many years, it is just basically reflective practice to me is going away and taking a long hard look at yourself and thinking right you idiot, what have you done right and what have you done wrong and being honest with yourself and learning. That is what it is.
Reflective practice to me is a method for me to basically learn and improve what I am and how I behave. (The Enforcer – face to face interview) Other responses have referred to having never used reflective practice until they had been engaged with the course.
Mel, I will be honest and say that unless I had actually come to Sheffield and started way back in 2008 doing the certificate, it is very unlikely that I would be using reflective practice now when I am carrying out my work and at the end of the certificate, I made it one of my personal targets (along with a couple of other things) to use and carry out reflection. (GA – email response) Only since I attended the FM course. Following studying, I used reflective practice on various issues I have dealt with. Following an activity, I have been able to take time to reflect on how well/bad the activity went – did I handle it well, could I do things better etc. (DT – email response) With both of the above responses there has been recognition that the teaching of reflective practice has encouraged them to use it in the workplace to try and make improvements to their own performance. Revisiting Edwards and Thomas’s (2010) question whether reflective practice can be taught, their discussions almost counteract this, in that they have engaged with the learning and are now drawing on reflective practice as a learned skill and also, as Dewey (1933) discussed, as "lived practices" to enable them to become more self-critical.
To further this concept some students discussed their perception of reflective practice when they first embarked on the course.
1.2 Perception of reflective practice at the outset of the course There were some interesting discussions with my interviewees in relation to their engagement with reflection and also their initial views on it being “soft and fluffy” or secondary to the course from the beginning and a change in view by the end of the course.
Fluffy stuff or … a pile of bullshit... Yes, I must admit I sat there and when I was told it was a really good idea to do reflective thinking, yeah okay what are you on about. But when you started doing it and you started reading back the information and I read some of the stuff I had written a long time ago, yeah and you think that is what I used to put down what I did…. (Sgt Chef – face to face interview) I thought it was a bit sort of touchy feely and you know FM is a sort of facts and figures and targets and that kind of environment really. I have never really reflected before … I thought that it would just be an aside to the real meat of the course and we did our first assessment about how we felt about coming on the course and I approached it in a way of oh just get it done and hand it in and then I have a tick in the box, I have done that… and I think a lot has changed in me because when the modules started coming and there were reflective pieces in there, I found those the easiest ones to get down on paper, because it was therapeutic at the time to talk about how I felt about things, particularly in the latter stages of my XXX career as well, it was good to write down what I was feeling so I could deal with it and have an action plan of what I was going to do about it. (Baywatch – face to face interview) Both Baywatch and Sgt Chef have now engaged with reflective practice and Sgt Chef to a greater extent that he has brought the practice into his team in their weekly meetings and he actively encourages his team to reflect during the meeting on the week they have had focusing on what went well and what could have been done differently to try and make changes moving into the new week;
noticing a distinct change in the service delivery level (interview transcript). He also stated that he has used reflection to help with his home life and his relationship with his daughter by asking her to reflect on her behaviours and to understand the impact she is having on others.
Smith (2001) discussed that mature leadership development students can often block reflective practice as a negative exercise and this needs to be facilitated properly to allow for a deeper understanding of what reflection is. Some of the interviewees (shown below) discussed the issues that it can be negative; it may become over analysis.
I think it has a positive impact but also I think it is a negative because you think about things too much. You think about ‘oh, no if only I had done that differently and what could I have done better there?’, and so you give yourself a lot more angst over things. (Personnel Penelope – telephone interview) Well, it all comes to beating yourself up doesn’t it! Well there is an element of that I guess, you know, as a person you think why did I do that, why did I do that?
We aren’t necessarily thinking. You would repeat the same question, it wouldn’t be why did I do that, it was because of X and I did that because of these other influences and this is how I could have done it and this is what would have been the outcome. So probably not in such a structured way, and probably with too much of the beating yourself up about it. (Matron – face to face interview).
This led to some reflection from my own position, and I can understand the perception that reflective practice can be perceived as leading to a downward spiral of self-flagellation; however, as I discuss with the students in the classroom there has to be a balance of recognition of positives and negatives.
This is often the area where the students find it hard when writing their reflective assignments, as we do ask them to focus on strengths and limitations, and the majority state it is easier to reflect on their limitations than their strengths.
Reflecting on this I can agree, I am not one to feel comfortable with discussing strengths or even accepting praise; so a question I need to consider is the engagement of students in the classroom situation and encourage them to recognise their strengths and be comfortable to state them? I felt this was an area that I needed to revisit during the discussion and synthesis section.
As discussed in the pre understanding there is a need to ensure the language is understood and as Smith (2001) discussed, mature leadership development students can often block reflective practice as a negative exercise and this needs to be facilitated properly to allow for a deeper understanding of what reflection is.
1.3 Changes in service delivery The above leads on to the discussion of impact on service delivery, and whilst this thesis is not looking for a ‘cause and effect’ reasoning, a lot of the interviewees or email responses self-reported differences to service delivery.
This respondent had not checked the details of a service agreement he was responsible for, as part of his management role As a result of this I looked back on the process to identify if there were parts of the process I could have handled differently to ensure this type of situation did not re-occur. I think through reflective practice I now am very conscious that I double check all information received from my colleges, before I process any orders or even reports. (WM – email response) WM identified learning through a mistake, and this is further discussed in the chapter in relation to blame culture and reflective practice.
A colleague was angry at the 'cost' submitted for works completed by a contractor that I had chosen and had requested a meeting with myself and our line manager. Our line manager supported my colleague up until I looked at the invoice and pointed out that my colleague was referring to the incorrect cost and in fact it was about a tenth of the cost they thought it was. As a result of this incident should someone junior to me highlight a gross over spend I would investigate thoroughly (i.e. check the invoice myself) prior to having a meeting with those involved. (SW – email response) There was evidence of some learning from the mistakes here, but I felt there needed to be deeper exploration into the negativity towards the team and or the individual, as it felt power related.
…recently I have been undertaking some big tender works and from the first one reflecting on what I did to get the tender out, for it to come back to be a little bit late on time, although I have met the deadlines. Just to make it a little bit easier, I have just put a new tender out and I reflected on what I had done;
thought that instead of just picking out the six contractors from the list I am given and sending it out to them, I would get the names of them, get their phone numbers and ring them up and have a chat with them and explain that I am sending out a tender and I need it back pretty sharpish… I spoke to all six and they have been really appreciative of it and it is working out a lot better than the last one did. So I have reflected on that as a pick out. (Brushstrokes – face to face interview).
Brushstrokes has reflected particularly on an experience to understand the strengths and limitations in order to make improvements. Evidence of reflective practice being used as a practical tool, but also challenging the organisational norms.
The cleaning company that we use aren’t fantastic...about a year ago I caught them doing about twenty minutes work and then sitting chatting for an hour and a half every night and realised that was why standards had slipped, picked up on it and things changed. The way I reacted, well I wasn't angry, but I was perhaps accusatory when I was complaining about it. I came across something today first day back in work that there might have been a problem one last night week when I wasn’t there and could I look into it and the way I handled it was quite different to the way I handled it a year ago. It was, I had learned – they had been very good and they had responded and the service had improved but I think I caused some friction with the cleaners themselves rather than the management and this time I tried to handle it a little bit differently, asking did something go wrong and was there a reason for this rather than saying why did you do that or why didn’t you? (Girl Friday – face to face interview) There are four examples which have drawn on reflection to recognise changes to their approach to work, the delivery of a particular process or even to adaptation of their behaviours to ensure the impact on service was minimal.