CEO’s Blog – 22/07/2019

I Want Change

I have a “Banksy” on the wall of my office.  Ebay said it was genuine, and so it must be, even though it was only £12.50!  Anyway, it is a picture of a homeless person begging, holding a sign that says “Keep your coins, I WANT CHANGE”.

The guy holding the sign really does want change, but generally speaking, change of any sort is often not so welcome.  After all, it’s human nature for us to like our “comfort zones” and when things have to change we either don’t like it or worse, try to resist it.  However, over the past 11 years I have been at The Bridge Trust, I have noticed, and indeed therefore have had to deal with, changes seemingly on all fronts.  Changes to the profile of homelessness, changes to funding, changes to regulation and legislation (particularly in welfare), cultural and attitude changes, changes in technology and so on.  These changes are all external to the charity, but all have put pressure on us to change internally; our training, practices and procedures, business model, attitude and so forth.

I have come to accept that not only is change inevitable, but we should actively be seeking it out rather than trying to hide from it; try to be “ahead of the curve”, so to speak.  After all, if we can do that then there is an opportunity to shape the change that is going to happen.  Ideally, we should be looking all the time to see what changes can be made to make ourselves “better”.  “Better” can mean many things including being more effective, more efficient, more economic, providing more or providing something different and so forth.

I’ll give you a very small example if I may?  About 18 months ago The Trust stated our ambition to reduce paper in the office.  Our first project was to rid ourselves of endless paper invoices, which were passed from person to person to check and authorise before being paid and filed away in a growing number of lever arch files.  We now don’t have a single piece of paper involved in the process from start to finish.  Apart from the positive impact on the environment, we now work more flexibly and efficiently as we can access and perform any part of the process from anywhere we may be, as long as we have a smart phone, tablet or PC to hand.  Last year I authorised an urgent payment when I was sitting on the beach!

Looking for change is often about challenging things – challenging what we do, how we do them or whether we have to do them at all.  We have all heard the phrase “it’s always been done that way”, but these days, probably more than any other time, things can often be done better, and often with the use of technology.  Yes, I know many of us are technophobes at heart, but again, just because you don’t like or even understand these things, should not mean we should shy away from them.  On the other hand we shouldn’t get wrapped up in doing things just because they are the latest trend.  Several years ago I looked into upgrading our office phone system to “voip” technology.  There were lots of advantages to this and, “everyone” I spoke to seemed to be extolling its virtues.  However, after seeking sensible (and trusted) advice, and getting costs, this simply wasn’t needed for us, so we didn’t change.  However, as things have moved on I am now looking again at this technology as in the future the Trust may need to re-model our way of working that a voip system could help us facilitate.

Even the service we offer to homeless people should be constantly under review and open to be changed.  For example we anticipated and have now seen that more homeless people have mental health issues.  We therefore changed our support methodology a little and gained additional training to recognise and deal with mental health.  We are now much more aligned with “wellbeing” and understand what that means and how our working practices can affect the wellbeing of residents and staff alike.

So, what is your attitude towards change?  Are you a “it’s always been done that way” sort of person or are you someone who wants to survive what the future has in store – because no matter what it is, it will involve change.