Monday, 23 March 2015

Sitting with Nelly

In (symptom of a much larger malaise) Bill Ridgeway put his finger on the nub of one problem. Certainly when it comes to inexperienced new graduates. Who can talk the talk, but unfortunately can't walk he walk. This is because they are still finding their feet. But they are sharp enough to watch their line managers and learn from their examples good or bad. Writes Mick Fitzgibbons.

Sitting with Nelly.
We used to call this management technique 'Sitting with Nelly'. A pejorative term used because while it was intended to flatten the learning curve, by working alongside someone else. It is really a term used to describe poor-quality learning experience about how to do the job by observing someone who has been doing the job for years. Its not planned or systematic, but instead is haphazard and variable. Although the junior might glean much of Nellie's expertise, he or she will also pick up all of her bad habits.

But sometimes learning from Nelly is achieved through a form of passive work shadowing, as an unintended consequence. This happens when a new member of staff take their queues for approval from their 'Quango mentality' manager. We called that 'Monkey see – Monkey do'. This pejorative term refers to learning which is achieved without a basic understanding of why. Its an act of mimicry, usually carried out with limited knowledge and is delivered with no concern whatsoever for the consequences.

A cull in staff numbers
Old habits die hard and they can persevere for much longer when they are spread through the simple continuation of a bad example. So the responsibility can't be laid at the door of the new graduates. Who are after all, short of experience and knowledge. Its not their fault that they have not worked their way up through the ranks. Much of the hands on experience was abandoned as worthless with the cull in staff numbers. Unfortunately, the cull never reached the right level. The management ethos and style cascades down from the top and when led by poor example its difficult to get rid of. Like bad publicity that hangs around much longer than good news. So it is with poor attitudes that are passed on to be experienced or perceived by Joe Public.

For years BW's attitudes to boaters were at best dismissive. These attitudes had been tuned and honed over many years. In their lies the problem, its endemic and engrained. Though we have seen the steady haemorrhage of the old guard over the last year or so. We are still left with 'Sitting with Nelly and Monkey see – Monkey do. There is still the quango dinosaur mentality in the ranks of the trustees. It's time for the dinosaurs to be culled and to become extinct once and for all.

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