I mentioned in this post how this blog began; about how a speech given by someone several years ago entered my head and refused to leave. I didn’t give the proper credit at the time because of a combination of forgetfulness, shyness (yes, really …) and procrastination. Happily I can now redress that and am delighted to introduce Vinita Nawathe, Managing Director of the South West Observatory, as the person who gave shape to the vague ideas gibbering at the back of my brain.
Vinita’s talk was remarkable for me at that time for several reasons.
Firstly, she took what could have been a complex topic wrapped in jargon and reduced it to compelling statements about:
– how people relate to people;
– how we help each other to get things done;
– how we don’t need to know everything because somebody somewhere already has that information;
– how we each build with each other’s blocks to offer something far more likely to be useful.
Secondly, she affirmed my ideas about improving how I supported my colleagues.
And finally, she helped me realise that what I thought was just an incidental part of my role, was actually a job in its own right and needed to be described and promoted as such.
In short, I stopped thinking of myself who moved numbers around in reports because the government said we had to, and instead as someone who made the numbers tell a story about how we were doing and what we needed to focus on.
Thinking back to that talk and how powerfully it affected the way I worked, I wondered whether others had been similarly motivated. Are things getting better? I asked Vinita if she feels we have moved on significantly since then. Here’s her response:
“I believe the challenges remain and two-way translation is an underutilised skill-set in many organisations. It is getting more recognition in some quarters – e.g. studies on use of evidence in policy making point to the need for better and better analysis skills – and I think the civil service have gone some way towards recognising the core issues. However across local authorities, between departments locally and nationally, and between officers and politicians at all levels – locally and nationally, there remains, to my mind, all too often a disconnect between those that work with numbers oblivious to the purposes they could be used for, and those whose decision-making would be strengthened if they only understood the right numbers better.”
So, there’s still a need for jargonauts – good news for me. And there’s still a need to pull up the soapbox and make a fuss about how we communicate and report the facts in a way that suits the audience.