I hope this is what is occurring..
..a tactical withdrawal is the most desirable form of retreating. It is a planned retreat to improve upon current battle conditions; or to gain a tactical advantage.
..but I have a sneaking suspicion it is more like..
..a rout is a chaotic and disorderly retreat of forces from the battlefield, which usually occurs when troops are asked to do too much, are outnumbered, or have been flanked and/or encircled.
If you are reading this there is every chance that you know I have been preaching the gospel of working in the open — particularly in public service — for years now. I have given talks and written blog posts and even flirted with writing a book. Of all the principles of modern ways of working it has been the one I cared most about and pushed hardest as I truly believe it is the one that accelerates cultural change more than anything else.
Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that it is just no longer a fight worth having within todays Civil Service as a supplier at least. For years it felt like there was a common journey taking place across the public sector to a change of attitudes that if not always totally supportive of this idea of more openness would at least tolerate it and find room for it.
That has completely changed now. Just another casualty in the massive disruption to the ‘State’ here and elsewhere — and in the grand scheme of all the chaos not that important for many people I am sure. It is hard for me though as I invested a lot of energy into this.
We are back to the days of ‘command and control’ from Press Officers determined to manage messages and paranoia at seemingly every level of staff about the fabled ‘Daily Mail test’. Even the most vanilla project is subject to scrutiny and teams are nervous. I have a certain amount of empathy but honestly I do find the pace of retreat to ‘closed by default’ frustrating at times.
Official government blogs are now a sea of blandness (with occasional bright spots hidden away on Github Pages or elsewhere) and the era of honesty and sharing failures as well as successes has definitely passed. The #weeknotes warriors still carry the flame and there are still great writers sharing their personal experiences and learnings but at a team and organisation level it has been totally neutered (there are of course some exceptions that prove the rule.)
Anyway maybe things will rebound after the nightmare that is the ‘B’ word resolves (one way or another) and it isn’t like I’ll stop being me. Thankfully people like Monzo are creating new standards for openness in other sectors so it isn’t going away but for now at least I am retreating from my stand from a professional point of view — back behind the ‘paywall’ it all goes — just enough in the open to pass a Service Assessment. Better than nothing I guess but still feels like a loss.