Being at the very start of our journey to share climate week notes, the members of the delivery management team have been looking at where we can make immediate changes to how we’re already working, which we can then build new approaches on in the future.

My immediate thought, when asked to write this blog post, was, ‘I have no idea what to talk about’. I find it incredibly difficult to see any significant impact that I can have in minimising or reversing the damage still being done to the climate across the entire world over a period of centuries. It’s a trap that it’s easy to fall into when engaging with a distant future or a monumental challenge. Holding onto the existential threat posed by climate change can lead to hopelessness and avoidance.

So how do you even start tackling a problem that you’re hardwired to ignore?

Finding somewhere to start

It’s times like these that I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a team of brilliant delivery managers whose work reminds me every day that the value we bring is helping teams and individuals keep their eye on the prize, even in the most challenging circumstances or changeable contexts: it’s not necessarily about the impact we have today, or even tomorrow, as individuals. It’s about the cumulative impact we can collectively achieve in the future.

And so I think the role of delivery management in supporting our climate response starts with our foundations, the core of what it means to be a delivery manager at FutureGov — helping individuals, teams and organisations to deliver change by creating the conditions for us to succeed. It’s about ensuring we’re driven by purpose, not just urgency, and that our bias for action ensures we’re getting into the ‘doing’ space as quickly as possible to learn, adapt and increase the impact we’re able to achieve.

I know that going back to basics is neither imaginative nor groundbreaking, but it always gets the job done.

Taking action against the climate emergency quote

What we’re going to do now

This is where our climate response can benefit from the agile approach we take to all of our work, using the regular rituals and rhythms to break down big problems into manageable chunks and to help us hold the accountability for making change happen as a group:

  1. Introduce a repeatable activity to our project kick-offs that take teams through a step-by-step process to identify opportunities to support our clients’ climate agendas alongside project delivery. We need to make sure we’re matching our ambition to that of our clients, to constructively look to the future where we can, and to focus on immediate problems
  2. Ensure that each of our projects has a couple of checkpoints over its lifetime in which we think about the sustainability of the impact we’re trying to achieve — one of those things should be climate change. As always, this will vary from project to project; it might be asking ourselves ‘How do we want this service to be thought of by users in 10 years time?’, or assuming the uptake of a product beyond our wildest expectations to practically work through the implications of it scaling multiple times, or simply dedicating regular retrospectives to thinking about the long-term impact and sustainability of the project. Think of it as a much easier and less extreme version of Danny Ellis’ Clock of the Long Now, his project to build a clock that would continue to function for 10,000 years without human intervention which he conceived to constructively engage with a future that feels both distant and uncertain.
  3. Dedicate regular retrospectives to thinking about the long-term impact and sustainability of how we’re running all of our projects. And I’m not just talking about using less Post-it notes (although it’s definitely a good thing for the environment that we’ve been forced to go cold turkey). We should, for example, consider how we use all of the top-notch remote working skills we’re acquiring to reduce the amount we need to travel to conduct research and workshops. Or we might look at how we take advantage of the population’s increased familiarity with video calls to open up the participation in our show-and-tells beyond the immediate project team because involving users and the wider community early and often leads to a greater uptake of products and services and so much better use of resources.

So what’s next?

Like Ale and the service design team, we believe we have an opportunity to learn from our work supporting different organisations respond to the challenges they face. As many people far cleverer than I have been writing for a while now, we know that crisis is a catalyst for behaviour change. The climate emergency we’re facing together is no less a crisis, just playing out over a different time frame.

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