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Chatham House Rule

You may have attended conferences where it is stated that the event is being run under the Chatham House Rule. What is the Chatham House Rule? A quick search on Google will bring up the Wikipedia site:

Which says:

‘ When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. The rule allows people to speak as individuals and to express views that may not be those of their organisations, and therefore, encourages free discussion. Speakers are free to voice their own opinions, without concern for their personal reputation or their official duties and affiliations’

This is relevant for programmes of business change and for project work. If we are seeking to identify new ways of working, to encourage innovative and original thinking, it may well be important that the individuals involved do not feel constrained by the politics of their organisation, or that their own position could be threatened.

An example of this was a series of interviews I undertook with an organization who were seeking to change their ways of working, business processes and bring new life into their operation. It was agreed all interviews would be under the Chatham House Rule.

The first meeting was with the Chief Executive who proudly said, amongst other things, that there was a new policy to allow working from home, to introduce flexibility and improve work life balance. This would help retain staff and demonstrate that the Directors had trust in the team.

On meeting one of the senior managers, I re-iterated that I had been informed of the policy to encourage working from home, introducing flexibility (without referencing the source of this information). Unexpectedly I received a strong retort that whenever the Chief Executive was in the office, if someone was not at their desk, the Chief Executive was the first to start asking questions about where they were, what they were doing and why weren’t they in the office!

In delivering change we need to delve into the essence of what is said, and the reality of what happens. With the example just noted, the focus first needed to be on educating the Chief Executive on how their words on flexibility and trust were then, in the eyes of the employees, negated at the first opportunity.

At Touchstone Energy we are very experienced in programme and project delivery. When we work with you, and propose the Chatham House Rule, it is to protect the innocent, encourage open debate, identify real as opposed to perceived issues, and assist in ensuring that change can be successfully delivered.

John Chapman,

Programme Director

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