People, bureaucracy and making things happen

The first few weeks of this pilot project have been all about making things happen. It sounds simple, but I'm fast discovering a few key rules of running your own business, social enterprise or charity:

1. Things rarely go to plan. Take for example (one of many) my 'next day delivery' PC which was supposed to arrive in the office last Wednesday. A week later I'm still trying to get it delivered in time for Thursday's training.

2. People need chasing. This is true no matter how willing they are to help or how much they want your services. Even your most dedicated supporters and useful contacts need you to chase them because your priorities, by and large, are not the same as their priorities.

3. Bureaucracy takes time. The larger the organisation, the more time you have to allow to get things done. Oh, and the more chasing too - see point 2 above. This doesn't mean you should give up on working with larger organisations. Just that you need to plan ahead and plan for things not going to plan - see point 1 above.

4. It's hard to make things happen. Really hard. Imagine trying to push something really heavy - like a car. Even though it's on wheels you still need a tremendous amount of effort to get it to budge in the first place. Once it's moving things get easier but you still have to maintain momentum or it will stop. This is what it's like.

The upside of all this is that once you get into the habit of making things happen, quite often you'll find that things start happening around you all the time.

One of my inspirations for going into social enterprise was Andrew Mawson, who established the Bromley-by-Bow Centre and wrote a fabulous book about it called 'The Social Entrepreneur'. This first-hand, lively account of crashing through bureaucracy to create something that turned around the lives of the people in his community proves that the social entrepreneurial method of 'learning by doing' is an effective way of making things happen.

I try to apply a little bit of his wisdom in all my dealings with people, bureaucracy, and even the barriers I unconsciously put in my own way.

As Andrew Mawson says: "It is important, simply, to be open and alive to possibility, to encourage people rather than to be suspicious of them, and to see the potential for success rather than the potential for failure."

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