As a guy who is endlessly curious about the world, one of the great joys of working for myself is the sheer variety of organisations I get to visit. I’ve blogged before about working with organisations with a real sense of heart, living by their values and trust me, it’s a real joy when you work with companies that are clear about what they stand for.
Last week I was at The National Archives at Kew. I’ve done a variety of things there, mainly around Mental Health and we were having a catch up meeting when one of the attendees gave me a copy of the in house magazine so that I could see what people had said about workshops I delivered. However, I was transfixed by the front cover – it had an address from the new “Keeper” (Chief Executive in modern parlance but they still also use the historical title). He was really clear about what he expected from people in the organisation and also what he would do to support that. Even more than that though my eyes were drawn to the values they espouse.
“Integrity, Possibilities, People”
I want to break down what intrigued me about each word.
Integrity – I guess this is fairly self explanatory but it’s interesting that it’s the first value. Absolutely clear from the start. I presume there is something about the factual nature of the work they do there which puts a heavy expectation on the ability to be correct and truthful. They hold all our records after all. During my work with the organisation though it’s been clear to me that integrity is very much apparent in the way they’ve dealt with me, even simple things like paying invoices have been done well.
Possibilities – This was one which may surprise you. As an organisation devoted to historical record the archives are actually very forward looking. They are keen to see new ways to connect and interpret their collection. They have regular “lunch and learn” sessions for staff on a wide variety of subjects. (Recently I was there on the same day as Lucy Worsley). They are also keen to connect the diversity of their knowledge with real world applications, changing how we think about the past and how that may inform the future in new and interesting ways. It reassures me that the civil service are so innovative.
People – Considering the records are in / on every conceivable type of recording device / medium – paper, canvas, audio, microfiche, computer records, photograph etc etc the archives are very aware that their work is about the people, for the people. I hear them talk with great affection about the general public who use their facilities. Case in point they don’t depersonalise them and use the term “service users” as so many government agencies do these days.
Internally, they are about collaboration and supporting each other but not in a stuffy way. A quote from their detailed values document “We do some serious stuff, and we do it seriously well. But it’s done a lot better when there’s a bit of laughter about.” – To give some sort of idea, their Intranet is called “Narnia”
I love that an organisation as complex as The National Archives can be really clear what it stands for. So simple and so elegant.
What would your three words be?