Just walk out of your job

I always wanted to work for myself. Back in the day when I was trying to be a scientist (really) I talked about setting up a consultancy with my mate Dave.

Actually that would be have been quite a good idea. Dave had many of the right qualities for someone who wants to make a success running their own business.

I do not.

I did run a small business with someone. Like many things in my life it was an unusual businesses proposition. Essentially a global energy giant wrote us a large cheque once a year and then we went around making them feel bad about it. When the attraction of this palled for them we wound the company up and laid a bunch of people off. It was an experience I found very difficult and it put me off employing people.

Running a company is very different to working for yourself. It’s a social act for a start. Other people are involved in a shared enterprise. Even if you are the boss you are part of something larger than yourself.

You are “Ben Proctor from X” ((You probably won’t be “Ben Proctor” from anywhere but you get the general point. If you are Ben Proctor let me say “howdy”. I would say “what a coincidence” but let’s face it you probably picked this blog because of the name of the author. If not I apologise. Great name buddy!)) rather than “Ben Proctor the slightly awkward” There are people to argue with about the milk rota, to shout at, to have illicit affairs with ((I’m just floating options here, not speaking from experience)).

So what was it that drew me to self employment?

I never liked doing what I was told. I do not like having a boss (even though I have had some great bosses over the years).

I do not like obeying an arbitrary set of rules or undertaking tasks that I believe will not help, are not well thought out or will get me covered in jam I really hate punching the clock or just being at my desk because it is the time when people have to be at their desks.

Anyway in my head freelancing is associated with freedom, with throwing off the shackles of bureaucracy, with sticking it to the man.

So when my job started to get tough in 2008 naturally I began to think about going it alone.

I was working in local government. I had rather enjoyed my work but we were in the throes of being merged with other councils. I didn’t fancy my chances in the new council. There was nothing interesting to do in the old council ((Nothing interesting for a man of my temperament. My colleagues were fully engaged in the fields of protecting vulnerable people, supporting the economy and looking after the environment.)). I began to float around the offices pale and wan. I would sigh heavily. Ennui ensued.

My colleagues, of course, faced similar challenges and they dealt with them in three main ways
1. Getting on with it. Doing the job they were paid to do to the best of their ability and waiting to see what turned up.
2. Applying for other, better jobs in other, better places.
3. Drinking heavily.

Freedom called to me from the landing.

And there was the possibility of getting a dog ((My leaving gift was a dog basket. Dogs and their strong link to failing at freelancing might be something we return to)).

Social media in interoperability

Exercise Forward Defensive 2012  (41)

Over on the Open Eye Communications blog, Mike Alderson has been raising questions about a new(ish) publication: “Joint Doctrine: the interoperability framework” which has been published by the grandly titled “Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme”. Essentially it’s a manual that makes it clear what all the blue light services should be doing at an emergency.

The foreword explains it like this

“This guidance focuses on police, fire and ambulance interoperability in the early stages of the response to a major or complex incident. Its purpose is to provide emergency service commanders with a framework to enable them to respond together as effectively as possible.”

It seems to me (with the disadvantage of never having to be an emergency service commander) to be clear and sensible. It eschews the use of Bronze, Silver and Gold (terms that are applied in variable ways within organisations) to talk about Operational, Tactical and Strategic. This is the form used in Scotland and if we are going to adopt it in the rest of the UK I shall do a happy dance.

It emphasises the need for things like common terminology between emergency services. Progress has been made in this regard in recent years but we’ve really got to keep pushing. A fundamental principle of safety critical communication is clear and common terminology, this is just as important between tactical commanders as it is between an ambulance crew and the control centre.

So good stuff and should be read across category one responders.

But what Mike was pondering was the issue of social media and where this sits in the framework. The document does mention social media (which is a positive development) but it places it very much in the context of a transmit channel.

“An option may include deploying resources, briefing the public (mainstream and social media) or developing a contingency or emergency plan.”

(Section 2.5). This is included in part of the guidance on how agencies should jointly plan.

And a specific task for the tactical commanders is given as

“Provide accurate and timely information to inform and protect communities, working with
the media and utilising social media through a multi-agency approach”

(Annexe D)

I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with these points. Except to say that briefing the public is probably not an option to be considered but a task to be allocated. It reflects, I think, a sense of where senior figures in blue lights are: they get that social media is important and they see it as an important aspect of warning and informing the public. They are not wrong, except that it’s not just a tool for telling people things.

Mike adds an additional layer which is using social media as a source of intelligence. This seems to me to be vital and non-trivial.

Services may gain direct intelligence about the incident from social networks (though processing this data into usable information in real time may be a significant challenge).

The public also gains intelligence from social networks. They do this whether or not the emergency responders choose to brief them. The crowd can often create good quality information pictures but it can get it horribly wrong and it can be influenced by rumour and malicious uses.

Mike asks

“So does the commander (at whichever level) need a social media monitor at their side or someone more engaged, that can not only provide the intelligence, but who can respond, engage, advise and reassure”?

This work needs to be done and needs to be factored into operational, tactical and strategic plans. Does this mean an army of social media gurus being recruited? Probably not.

I’ve seen good examples, especially within the police service, of operational staff fulfilling these roles very effectively. A challenge for the future is how we deal with the large volumes of traffic and how we ensure that all agencies are comfortable with what is being mined from and published into online spaces.

We need to consider how resources are deployed. At present we would split the role described above between an intelligence cell and a media cell. There’s no reason why this could be combined into a comms and analysis cell.

Maybe that could be factored in to a future edition of this framework?

Image is Exercise Forward Defensive 2012 (41) by kenjonbro used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0