«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
My understanding has grown from the use of the narratives and my reengagement with the literature, I found it interesting to start to see some similarities and understanding between the social actors in relation to their experiences, and perhaps even the change of perspectives in relation to reflective practice. I found I wanted to re-explore the definition from Bolton (2010:xix) as most of the narrative linked quite strongly with the engagement in reflection in that we have to be prepared to "relive or review the experience" and be able to "replay from diverse points of view". This very practice based view does feel lived through the narrative, however the concept of values and "we are what we do" didn’t come through as strongly in this area, however I have kept this concept on board as I explored the personal development theme.
Student reflection allowed them to see things differently from a personal and organisational perspective, and this may result in them wanting to do things differently in the workplace, but it felt that this could be blocked by the organisation culture and potentially blame culture which will be discussed as part of theme 3 within the exploration.
The next section will explore the use of reflective practice in decision making, and again draws firstly from the text and then from the literature to try to engage in a deeper understanding.
Theme 2 Reflective Practice and Decision Making The previous section has drawn on the usage of reflective practice within facilities management and the social actors’ views on the use, some of the benefits and the importance of engagement with reflection. The next section will focus on the use of reflective practice in decision making. This theme developed from the initial engagement with the text as this area was explicitly mentioned by several of the social actors, however this was not an area that I had explored with them. When re-engaging with the literature there was much discussion about emotion in decision making (Benson, and Dresdow, 2003; Holian, 2006;
Skordoulis and Dawson, 2007; Swan, 2008; Lakomski and Evers, 2010) I had initially placed emotions within the personal development section as I felt this was related to their personal development, but I felt that there needed to be some discussion of emotion within this section.
This section begins with a discussion of decision making skills and the impact of reflective practice, drawing on the text from the social actors and also Holian’s (2006) framework of decision making to aid the interpretation on decision making with recognition that this is not based on a process but relates more to skills and abilities.
2.1 Decision making skills and the impact of reflective practice
The responses from the email respondents was just related to how they use reflective practice as there was no specific question on decision making, this was evidence they supplied to show how they had used reflective practice in the workplace. The email response from GJ recognised the changes in their approach to decision making and how it led to actions and focused on not just their decision making but also the actions that had resulted from this.
… my answers to questions or actions seem a lot more balanced and differ slightly if I had not reflected on what had happened in the meetings, peoples’ actions, responses and attitudes (GJ - email response) As evidenced below GA recognises the removal of blinkers; and this evidences a growth in skills level, they would have previously been more focused on achieving the task, based on the rules from a very ‘legalistic’ position. Again, I felt CD would have been in a similar position, but using reflective practice in their decision making has made them more rounded in the view of the bigger picture and also their own self-awareness. ‘I think reflection has made me look more at the whole picture rather than heading off 'blinkered'.....Which is something I would accuse myself of doing in the past.’ (GA – email response) … it has enabled me to take a step back from making a snap decision into looking at the impact of such decisions and reflecting upon any other options, their consequences and weighing up the alternatives against my initial thoughts… therefore reducing the effect of not getting things right first time and having to make changes post implementation. (CD- email response) VG actually has reflected on her decision making and recognised the growth in confidence and emotion management and appears to have drawn herself out of the “Worried” position into more of a “Navigation” positioning as evidenced in Holian’s model in Table 5 (2006). ‘Reflective practice has meant that I am more able to take a step back from the situation and take a more pragmatic and objective view of the positives and negatives within each situation. I'm a calmer person now and tend not to panic as much about things.’ (VG – email response) Holian (2006) discussed two categories of decision making, ‘black and white’ and ‘shades of grey’ as summarised in Table 5, drawing on her five modes and where these evidence themselves in decision making. The model breaks down
further to levels of skill and these included:
Judgement: recognition of level of information needed considering both the people and the context Integrity: decision making based on personal values Courage: being confident in choices even if it requires some risk Humanity: Open and honest behaviour being prepared to engage in feedback and learning Holian’s (2006) research created a model to attempt to understand the impact of using various skill levels in relation to the modes within the workplace.
Although she draws on emotional intelligence, she has not drawn particularly on the use of reflective practice in decision making. I have revisited the text to see whether there were any signs of one or more of the modes used by the social actors from their discussions. I would note that this research has not focused on decision making and reiterate this is a theme that has emerged from the text and therefore, this model helped to gain some understanding to the social actors’ thoughts in relation to their own practice of decision making. Having been back through the text, one of the key areas of learning from their discussions was that due to the use of reflective practice, “Humanity” became a lived skill and was evidenced in the majority of the discussions. This model has given me some insight into the text, and by using the model from a more interpretive angle, as I have not focused on necessarily how decisions were subsequently made following their reflections, this only provides me with another way of understanding and interpreting my actors’ voices; and is not a critical view of the model itself.
In relation to her Entrepreneurial mode, several actors, as evidenced within this section, have commented on their more balanced approach to the consequences of decisions, but being able to look to the future as well, to understand how elements could be improved, drawing again on Verdonschot’s (2006) view of innovation.
Some of the social actors have drawn on the negative aspects that they presume relates to their reflective practice, in that they felt they spent too much time there or now prefer to take time before they react.
Whilst WE felt that reflective practice had ‘enhanced his working practice’ due to being more considerate of the outcome they have reflected that ‘at one point I felt as though I was reflecting too much on every decision and I was losing my edge as an effective decision taker and manager. Now I feel I have a better balance and utilise the reflection tool in more appropriate situations. (WE - email response) FM however felt that this has impacted on their ability to react and make decisions quickly stating I nearly always think things through before giving a direct answer and in some instances have not made a decision right away and have taken time out to make my decision. (FM – email response) This causes an interesting dilemma in facilities management, as quite often the environment is one of “reaction”; however, I don’t feel that having worked through the texts that making quick decisions necessarily improves performance, whereas taking slightly longer to consider can prevent the same mistakes happening again as JHE highlights below.
I used to just rush into things and not think about it. Now I take time to view things in a different way and not rush into silly decisions. (JHE – email response) Holian (2006) also draws on the concept of ethics throughout her research, and ethical decision making, and this was reiterated below by JH in the term he used as “fair decisions”; again drawing on aspects of Integrity and Humanity ;
although with the concept of “fair” there and “responsible procurement” that this is also Legalistic.
Reflective practice has enabled me to make informed and fair decisions for the XXX business. Previously I may have responded to difficult situations without taking to time to reflect, and in some instances this may have meant a less effective response. … I must make balanced and fair decisions for both XXX and the supply base, to ensure we maintain our commitment to responsible procurement. (JH – email response) Basil Fawlty also discussed the need to try to improve the skill of reflective practice and stated ‘The more you use it, the more experienced you get, so you get better at using it and using it in the right places. I think if you struggle with it at first and think I am overthinking everything; this is a nightmare, then persevere because you will just get better at it.’ (Basil Fawlty – telephone interview)
Benson and Dresdow (2003), refer to the need to make decisions in complex situations, but still with a focus on the individual (Holian, 2006) as opposed to the wider organisational context. They discuss the danger of a prescriptive form of decision making in that it can limit a wider thinking and just become action focused. This thought process reiterates some of the interview text previously in that they are taking more time to reflect on the option and make decisions from a more informed position. Their model draws on five elements of decision
Complexity Emotional Intelligence Learning Dialogue Systems Thinking Benson and Dresdow (2003) refer to self-awareness as a core component, along with understanding one’s own emotions, strengths and limitations. They also recognised alongside of the “self” there needed to also be understanding of the complexity of decisions and the need to discuss the ‘possibles’ and be prepared to engage in collaboration; interestingly this also leads to working with other people and taking a more humanitarian perspective (Holian, 2006).
Schumaker and Russo (2001:54) stated “managers must learn to recognize the limits of their own frames [or models]… and learn how to recognize and challenger other people’s frames.” Nutt (2002) discussed decisions being made quickly due to time pressures and then being imposed. Leaders need to expand their frame of reference and focus on discovery and collaboration – suggestions are that decision makers need Good self-awareness Awareness of the role of learning in decision making Systematic review of problems and recognition of the impact of emotions The need to use conversation to explore and manage the complex nature of decisions.
Thus avoiding pure idea imposition and allowing more time for discovery. Nutt’s (2002) thinking also reiterates my own understanding in relation to decision making and reflective practice in that there needs to be time to reflect on not only the past, but also the present and future, linking to Verdonschot’s (2006) concept of innovation and reflective practice, to enable any changes of practice moving forward. Firecracker’s text below shows her change in self-awareness and also in her ability to reflect on past and present, but also the future in trying to understand what will be achieved by the decision.
.. I used to you know make a decision and ‘right that is what we are going to do’ and off we would go, but now I do step back and think about it so when I do make a decision I have given it the thought and considered the options and then made a decision. It may take me longer to make a decision but when I make a decision now, I can back it up. I am not just saying ’we will do that’. You know I think I do reflect on what the outcome is going to be and how to achieve it now.
(Firecracker – telephone interview) As highlighted by the text below, these comments reiterate the need to create space for the reflection to aid the decision making and this feels like a very personal way of dealing with decision making as opposed to a defined model that has to be followed.
Professionally it [reflective practice] helps me as a decision making tool… I find if I make a point of using it and formalising it in my mind or on paper it helps me put things into perspective, analyse and assists in decision making by reflecting back on experience. (MB – email response) As per above, reflective practise has been key to my personal development by allowing me more control over my ability to deal with issues and incidents by slowing down my train of thought and recalling experiences (MBe – email response) It helps me take stock of where I am and what implications my decisions will have for both myself and for the contract (PH – email response) Decisions to be made are more informed as, as far as possible, all options are considered and this not only reduces mistakes but more importantly prepares the manager (and team) for the possible outcomes. Jumping in has led to poor decisions in the past and also misjudgements of others, however the environment I now work in enables me to be more reflective as I have more 'thinking space' (PO – email response) The above four extracts were all drawn from the email responses, and this is how the emailed respondents chose to outline how they use reflective practice, the key part of this being that they feel decisions are more informed, have taken account of the outcomes, and equally considered the consequences that their decisions will have on others.