«People Matter: A hermeneutic exploration of reflective practice and facilities management Melanie Bull A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of ...»
Brushstrokes discussed the previous management within the department, who just drove for targets and achievements but did not allow for any ways of thinking differently. This felt, from my subjective interpretation of the language he used and his body language when he spoke about it, like quite a bullying environment with a need to just keep your head down and get on! Post the change of manager he stated Now I think they have come to a time where we have got to reflect and we have got to do it better and better and better and I think we are starting to reflect more. I think people, if they get under these umbrellas where they don’t have to do it; it just gets sucked out of them. I am sure we all want to reflect. We all want to do things better the next time don’t we, but I think sometimes when you are not allowed to you just get it knocked out of you. (Brushstrokes – face to face interview) Interestingly the organisational behaviour appeared to be based on an autocratic management position, with little encouragement for innovation and change. The language, based on Brushstrokes perception and my own interpretation, lends itself to downtrodden workers who don’t want to stand out for ‘fear of retribution’. This must have had a huge impact on Brushstrokes and his colleagues during the old manager’s reign; impacting on motivation and empowerment of the staff.
As Basil Fawlty discussed reflection from a management position, he draws on honest communication and a “truer reflection”. He recognised the need to empower his staff and to withdraw some of the control. He was open about his own changes in behaviour and this came from a deeper self-reflection where he recognised his own strengths and limitations and in doing so aimed to try to stand back more and trust his staff to carry out their roles.
Perhaps you create a safer environment so that you get a more honest exchange of communication and you know even though you are further removed from the process than you were, you are getting truer reflection of what is going on around you or what your people are doing. (Basil Fawltytelephone interview) The other issue that was discussed was reflection during times of change by Personnel Penelope; she felt that it was the responsibility for the organisation to reflect and also to understand the emotions of the people engaged during the change and the levels of trust and engagement from the staff during this time.
I think it is a constant thing with change because you are constantly having to adapt, the interventions I suppose, and what we do. We have to try and get the Organisation to reflect as well on how it has been for them. We try and bring things in like giving feedback and try and put the mechanisms in to make it, to actually get people to formalise this reflection and think about things and then feed that back in. I think there is a lot of suspicion about it and I think people are worried about providing, again because it is a bit of soul bearing isn’t it? And I think when you are going through a very difficult time people tend to be a bit guarded about their feelings and their emotions. I think that is a barrier as well.
Well, I think they are worried about showing any kind of weakness, because they feel that they may be judged and I think there is a period of when you are going through a very difficult change period that the trust starts being eroded and I don’t think people feel comfortable about being honest about their feelings.
Again, they think they might be judged or somebody might hold it against them.
I know I hear ‘ it will be selection, a redundancy exercise type of thing, if I don't say I am on board with this that will be seen as a negative and I will be the first out the door’. So, I think there are all these sorts of things people feel.
(Personnel Penelope – telephone interview) If people are feeling threatened by risks of redundancy, or have had no clear communication from the organisation; how can the organisation expect them to communicate openly and honestly; and in reality, it can’t!
Vince and Reynolds (undated:1) stated in their paper that reflective practice should not just be focused on the individual but should be embedded as good practice within the management and organizational structure. “Reflection is an essential part of the day to day life of managers, not a disconnected, separate activity but central, supported by structures and the culture of the workplace, affecting decisions and choices, policies and activities and the politics and emotion associated with them. The belief being that this is an integral part of management and leadership. As we have seen from the social actors this is not something that is embedded within their organizations, although as Brushstrokes stated there has been a shift following a change of management.
To engage in reflective practice in the workplace there has to be some form of a safe environment so employees feel able to be open and honest and this theme discusses this further in relation to blame culture.
3.2 Blame Culture Some of the social actors actually used the word “blame culture” within the interviews, and I found this an intriguing concept that I had not considered. To encourage staff to be more reflective and to allow a safe environment to be able to be honest about mistakes and to learn from them can again improve the future practice of the organisation. Sgt Chef discusses not only his personal use of reflective practice but also the engagement with his team, whereby it has become a lived practice (Dewey, 1933) in their daily roles.
I would say a lot of it was probably not because I was practicing reflecting but a lot of it was a conscious if I cock up am I going to get my arse kicked? Sorry to use that terminology. But yes, I probably was reflecting but more on the blame culture side rather than now I reflect for the work and not for the fact I might get in trouble for it. So yes, I probably did do it but not to the same extent. I use it as a tool now rather than before it was if I do that next time I might not get my backside kicked, whereas now it is a tool I look at and really analyse what we are doing and the way forward.. (Sgt Chef – face to face interview) His first comments related to his own practice, and evidenced the changes in his approach in that initially it may have been more about being aware of getting into trouble in the workplace, however now his focus is more on understanding the mistakes made and the ways forward. There was definitely a shift in his approach and how he can improve. In the next statement he focuses on the change to his management approach and also then how this has impacted on the organisational behaviour of the team. So referring back to the beginning of this section, drawing on a non-reflective manager from Brushstrokes, there appears to be a strong link with the views and practice of the ‘management’ and the environment to create a reflective and reflexive culture.
Reflective practice has enabled me to widen the scope of my thinking with regard to the area under consideration; I have also requested this deeper thought process of my team. 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) As PO has discussed, she is attempting to engage and embed the reflective process within the team, but is also aware of her own shortfalls. Raelin (2001) would refer to her practice being within ‘public reflection’, which as Vince and Reynolds (undated:8) stated allows us to “become aware of judgement errors”.
The concept of ‘public reflection’ allows individuals to come together collectively to consider ways of improving without fear of being reprimanded. The idea is to create an open and honest, safe environment to allow options to be explored.
Therefore the reflection goes further than the individual and becomes an organisational norm. This concurs with the approach by Sgt Chef below as well, as he has embedded the practice into daily working life with his team. Also be reducing the need to create a scapegoat, there is a safe environment to learn.
What I try to do with reflective thinking is take away the blame culture. I think there is too much, I know the bosses say there isn’t, but there is. Who is the scapegoat? By reflective thinking we now do it as a team, so if I take my team at work and we are looking at a project doing health and safety, instead of actually just looking at the issues and the individual we look at what happened, why did it happen, how did we change it and how can we all learn from it and then take it forward. My guys are actually using that naturally themselves cos you can see the transformation from say, two years ago when I first tried to try and introduce it where they just said ‘the job has got to be done and get on and do it’ and now they take their time, and they look at the job and after the job you can actually see them over a cup of tea saying “What did you think XXX? How did that go? Maybe if we had done this last time we could have done this better”.
So my team are actually doing it without thinking about it now. It has been very, very useful. (Sgt Chef – face to face interview) I found this particularly interesting as this was not about self-flagellation but recognising the other influences that can impact on a job being delivered and not proportionately blaming it all on self! The above concurs with Reynolds and Vince (2004b) case study on a bid team, as they discussed where bids had failed the team did not want to “dwell on their failure” however this was due to the organisation not supporting reflection to allow learning. Subsequently, a change of approach was included by adding in a member of the team as the “action researcher” (Sgt Chef appears to have taken a similar role) and this aided the process, and allowed awareness of the politics internally to the team, and the wider organisation, thus allowing a safe environment to be able to be critical and therefore learn from the unsuccessful bidding process and to make the necessary changes. ”. The idea of reflecting with a team was reinforced by DN through her email response Working in an operational area, things often go wrong. Reflecting alone or reflecting with others is a useful way of determining if the procedure, action or resource should change. (DN – email response) In my conversation with Matron, she drew on the issue of blame, and the word came again out of the blue and I attempted to explore this further with her, to understand why she thinks blame happens, and how reflective practice reduces the “blame”.
I think none of us really like to accept blame and so now it is about being able to say it is not about trying to transfer blame, so it is actually saying that went wrong and actually the reason it went wrong is more about what I did and what I told you to do, rather than what you actually did. So, talk, how could we have done it better, how should we have done it better, how will we do it next time, why did we do it? It is about being open and honest, but not in an accusatory or in a blame way.
I questioned the use of the word ‘blame’ and asked whether she felt that using reflective practice lessens that need for blame culture?
Yes, well that is the way I have interpreted it, because I don’t see it as blame…The other one is relatively new, he is much younger, he is quite ambitious, when I talk to him and when we are going through the issues of what he is dealing with at work; I am conscious of making a really conscious effort of not trying to put blame on him and to try and encourage him to sort of learn by reflecting on what he was doing in order to improve how he approaches things in the future. He is young, headstrong and ambitious and so goes down that particular path… Possibly because FM is seen as quite reactive. Problem solving and lets just get the job done and I think I only have experience of FM in the NHS, and so I think there is an element of time to it, about actually having the time to do that because you hit one crisis and you hit another crisis and then you hit another one. So it is not as if there is much time. Whereas, I think that now throughout the NHS is very encouraging and looking at lessons learned, but that isn’t necessarily done in, people don’t necessarily look at that from a reflective point of view or from a reflective stance. So I guess it is probably a mixture of how things have always been, so it is legends isn’t it, ‘we don’t do that kind of girly stuff’. And time, and also I think that within the NHS they also quite like having someone to blame. (Matron - face to face interview) Matron, with a strong NHS background, draws more on the culture of the organisation here with the language stating the NHS likes someone to blame, although her approach with the team is to try to lessen the impact of this.