Dear Acting Up,
What will 2018 bring you this year? Last year saw some subtle but key changes happening - I don’t know whether it is because I have changed or whether my marketing has become better at promoting the Acting Up Story, but it seems that there is an appetite for our way of doing things. I’ve been thinking that I should re-name our process, ‘Get a Room’ - not because we are referring in anyway to something lewd, but simply because with us people talk. It’s amazing how few opportunities operatives have to do that, how seldom they are asked to express their feelings about the job, how it is run and how vital it is in promoting trans organisational sharing of information and knowledge. That all sounds pretty fancy but the Acting Up process is anything but fancy. All we do is provide a stimulus and a framework for therapeutic and useful conversations to take place.
Last year and this year both began with SSE. We have been up in Caithness working with the workforce at Spittal where a Substation is being built to deliver electricity to an ever growing Scottish population. The job has it’s usual pressures… in fact pressures should have a capital ‘P' there because it seems to have become a character on almost every site we visit, dominating everyone’s thoughts and affecting safety and wellbeing, schedule and efficiency.
Pressure is born to a particular set of parents - to someone who has priced the work too competitively and to another who has designed a project without taking into account just how long things actually take. This is not a happy family. This reflects a Carillion-esq potential situation; it is the curse of our time. Only when companies start to address their procurement process will we see things improve. Margins and timescales need to expand to reflect the realities of life and the truth of the actual job. This means listening to the frontline. Competition can be a wonderful thing, but too much pressure can destroy the goodwill and the extent to which people feel able to connect and communicate. Pressure can destroy health and safety, wellbeing, profit, companies. I am reminded of the children’s poem about the horse shoe nail; "For the want of a nail the shoe was lost, for the want of a shoe, the horse was lost, for the want of a horse the battle was lost, for the want of a battle the kingdom was lost... and all for the want of a horseshoe nail..."
As with any relationship, taking time to sit and talk without pressure is the key to success. SSE are very focussed on this working value, but are their subcontractors? Undoubtedly some of them are, but as the trades and multiple disciplines splinter into ever smaller fractions, the pressures, the profit margins and the close-to-the-wind nature of running small companies which are desperate for work, struggling with cash-flow and facing endless cutbacks at the bottom of the food chain, basically results in mental health problems and reduced safety.
Last year we created a Wellbeing session which we have run with AMEY, Jotun and SSE. Now that we have worked the session several times, we’ve made the changes we think make for a really good conversation around mental wellbeing. Suicide rates are 3 times higher in construction than in any other industry so this is one chat we all need to be having. Our Wellbeing session is called Fear Factors. Last year we also took our [Story Gathering] Gail’s Shoes session and our [Dealing with Difficult Characters] Below Par session to MOL in Budapest. So far this year we have been running Below Par with Amey Highways in Scotland and with Shell their refineries in Scotland as part of their Stand Down days. In 2017 we began our 12 month journey with AFI Group and travelled twice a month to their plant hire depots around the country - we are finishing year one with them in April and year 2 is made up of our E-Learning library which hardly anyone knows about because I have been so busy delivering the live stuff that I haven’t had the time or inclination to do much in the way of pushing it! I think I’m too hooked on the amazing nature of our face-to-face work - which seems to throw up so much and feels way more vibrant than any e-learning ever could (even if our Acting Up World platform is a really funky and engaging library of e-learning films and interactive Q&A). It was great to build Acting Up World, but I keep forgetting to sell it!
Coming up next in this first quarter we’ll be running 10 Below Par sessions with Bombardier Crewe, working closely with Jason Anker at Proud 2B Safe delivering leadership sessions and delivering more sessions for AMEY. I’m thinking too that a sexual harassment session would be a good thing to have to offer our clients… I’m already writing it in my head… perhaps a kind of Gail’s Shoes type stimulus, but with her clothes on this time! Something that raises the dust on the ambiguous nature of spirited behaviour versus when it goes wrong. Our delivery style remains focussed on upbeat and quirky. The sessions are always fun and energised. But the messages that emerge from them are about as serious as it gets. We’re still loving our strap line, which is as true in 2018 as it was in 2017: Speak Human, Change Culture. Says it all really.
Keep up the good work Acting Up. Life would be a lot less interesting if I didn’t have you.
Acting Up Founder