This is my last weekly blog for the moment on organisation design. Simply counting up the number posts, about 450 (early on I wrote more than one a week), since I started in September 2008 doesn't yield much in the way of information. It shows I've been reasonably disciplined and productive to keep at it.
So I've just spent an hour or so cruising my own website and getting distracted by stuff that once caught my attention and has totally slipped from my memory. I'm intrigued by some of the titles and content. I've just sent off for another copy of the article 'organisational horseholding' that I mentioned back in 2008. The URL is defunct and I can't find my copy. I think I picked it up before I had a Dropbox account so it is probably on one of my external hard drives. (Dropbox was established in 2007).
I haven't paid any attention whatsoever to any site analytics but today I just checked. I have been getting around 1100 visits per month over the last year and between a third and a half are repeat visitors. When I said a couple of weeks ago that I was going to stop writing at the end of the year I was surprised by how many people contacted me to say how much they'd enjoyed it and it had given them useful information. That gave me pause for thought and I wondered if I should a) say I was taking a sabbatical and would be back 'soon' or b) say I'd changed my mind and would continue. But I'm not going to do either. I'm going to do something different.
Someone asked what I'd gained from the blogging experience. I imagined myself filling in a performance review or personal development form on the topic and giving some narrative on what goals I'd met or success criteria I'd achieved in the course of the 5+ years. But my blogging has not been about 'performance' (and most of my readers will know that I am not a fan of performance management systems), it's been about my enjoyment of writing and my curiosity on stuff related to organisation design. So why am I giving up on it?
Recently, I read a great sentence in the novel Americanah. The main character, Ifemelu, is a blog writer who reflects that 'the more she wrote, the less sure she became. Each post scraped off yet one more scale of self until she felt naked and false'.
Like Ifemelu I've used the blog for observations on what I see going on. In doing this I've discovered that the main value of it is to develop my own thinking through writing. For me it's a powerful learning tool that I thoroughly enjoy – why else the books, articles, and papers?
Over the five years I've been writing it I was mainly an external consultant working with a variety of organisations. Now I have a permanent role as a UK Civil Servant – still in the organisation design field but within a sector I know not much about – not least because I've lived so long in the US – and one of the things I'm rapidly learning is that government is a sector very different from the private sector.
This is where I'm discovering that what I've known about organisation design from past experience isn't sufficient in current experience. I don't feel 'naked and false' like Ifemelu but I do feel that to do the job effectively I must accelerate my learning about government. It's not enough to read Civil Service World, the Gov.Uk blogs, and The Economist sections on Britain and hope to soak things up. I haven't got time for this kind of approach. I need to study UK government in a more intense and systematic way, and this is what I'll be doing instead of writing the blog.
I have managed to overcome my instinct to enrol for a 2-year part-time MSc in politics. Instead, I've enrolled in a term of weekly evening classes which I hope I take more seriously than the last set of evening classes I did which was GCSE Maths. (I also hope that I understand politics more than I understand maths). And I'll supplement this with the London School of Economics series (free) on British Government.
My question is – can I reinvent myself as a civil servant who successfully helps re-design government? How would you set about this task? Should I blog about the re-invention experience? Let me know.