It started with a leadership course 14 years ago. It ended with a leadership course 1 year ago.
Somewhere in between I have spent almost 14 years working with the most talented, passionate people, and now my last day at Scottish Enterprise (SE) approaches.
It’s been the best of times, seeing what small teams of committed people can bring to work and to their relationships. It’s also been the most frustrating of times too. I can’t help but marvel at how I spent 3 years trying to move us over to digital signatures, but to no avail. Then Covid hit and boom, it happened. When the risk is high, politics is low.
But my time in SE isn’t just the last two very challenging years. It’s much wider than that and I’ve been reflecting on some of the things that cut through everything I’ve done. There are many but I’m going with just three things.
Passionate teams who are empowered to deliver
The early days of digital transformation were exactly that. Running design sprints with digital and operational staff and quickly making decisions to move us all forward. We always had a senior leader available on speed dial, or ‘0800 HELP’ as we called it. That really helped us cut through blockers quickly. Doing rapid experiments and then building quickly allowed us to get some companies onto an online account space within nine months. Those 15 customers could submit their financial claims online, and it brought the ‘right-first-time’ rate up from less than 10% to over 70%.
Similarly, I look at the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) and the work of the team to continue to make huge differences to manufacturers across Scotland. I was business development manager for 7 years and we were looking to grow and evolve our offering. We knew we needed something additional in our tool-kit around culture change, as that’s the bit manufacturers were telling us they struggled with the most. To cut a long story short, we looked at what exemplar manufacturers were doing to address that problem and brought elements of that into a new ‘Business improvement Academy’. Seven years later the team have run 39 different academies which have delivered over £14 million of efficiency savings.
Teams pointed at the problem space, with the right conditions around them, can do marvellous things.
Teams who trust each other
Funnily enough, one of the key things from the Business Improvement Academy was ‘the trust equation’. I am a science geek and I do love equations but the simplicity of this always strikes me to my core. When a team builds trust, magical things can happen. When trust erodes, it can be a dark place.
If I look at a fund delivered during covid, it shows this well. Two teams who didn’t know each other (Investment and Digital) but who came together remotely to deliver a fantastic online financial support package, focused on early-stage companies. Everyone appreciated each other’s strengths and deep domain knowledge, but also could openly challenge each other. Personally speaking, it was the best of the covid grants to have worked on. It was rapid, exciting, we iterated and learnt. But we did it as a team.
Teams who trust each other can work together through hard times and always come out the better for it.
Teams who look outward and learn from others
There is a saying across digital teams: ‘Make things open, it makes them better’. This recent blog by the Co-Op says it better than I ever will. I have never seen a case where sharing something and getting other people’s opinions hasn’t improved things.
Using design critiques, to help work through challenges. Doing show and tells to tell our story to others, and get their input. Being part of a wider network such as the Scottish Governments research meet-up’s or UX Glasgow. Working outside your own functional area. Publishing on our github and this blog. These are all about sharing learning and being open.
As a brilliant example of this, let’s talk about MIRO, the tool so many of now use day to day. But did you know that, thanks to one of our service designers, we now have two templates which are open to anyone the whole world over. The service landscape map template and the tube map. The landscape map has been viewed over 730 times and copied for re-use 70 times. The tube map has been viewed by 1400 people and used almost 300 times. How incredible is that.
There is very little that is new to humanity. Being more open ultimately helps you and other people. Its just the right thing to do.
So what next?
Scottish Enterprise has been a big chunk of my working life.
I’ve helped to grow the impact of the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) through building great partnerships and constantly understanding our customers needs and evolving our offering.
I’ve worked with and partnered with some fabulous people, inside SE and out.
I’ve also had the total privilege of leading the user centred design team. A team of incredible experts, delivering some amazing services, in an accessible and inclusive way. Thank you to them.
But now it’s time for another step. I’ve taken time, like my gorgeous dog Angus in this photo, to look at myself and reflect. So, its onwards to a new challenge.
More on that in the coming weeks.