CQI Blog: A Master Class in Engagement

Author: Susannah Clarke

Susannah ClarkeIn this blog for the CQI, Susannah Clarke reflects on her experiences attending a speed awareness course and the valuable lessons learned!


I’ve been speeding. I’m not proud.

Mitigating circumstance? I was somewhere new, didn’t know the speed limit and I was late.

Imagine my delight when I was offered the opportunity to take a Speed Awareness course, rather than points and a fine. Great, that will save me some money and won’t impact my insurance premiums.

At no time did I ever consider the implications of my speeding on others, if I was to cause an accident or be involved in an accident because I couldn’t stop in time. My driving speed was all about my convenience i.e. getting where I wanted to be when I wanted to get there, and avoiding being caught therefore not paying a fine.

The process of booking the Speed Awareness was a high quality, easy to use, online system which allowed me to take it locally and at a time that suited me – perfect.
I spent the next few weeks as the source of good banter. My friends laughed at the idea of me sitting in a room with the other naughty children, having to sit through 4 hours of being told off.

They asked if they could video my reactions for future amusement.

It wasn’t what I expected.

When I left the Speed Awareness course, I had changed. Now my priorities are different. When I get in my car my goal is to arrive at my destination safely, without causing harm to others, on time. On time is still important, but not the most important factor.

“There is a big difference between Fear or Intellectually understanding, and doing something about it” after Peter R Scholtes.

Previously my driving speed was based on Coercion or Rationality:

  • Coercion (Fear) – I knew if there was a speed camera, a police car or a mobile speed check, then I needed to slow down to avoid penalty. BUT as soon as they were no longer present, in I would choose to go faster, particularly on open roads and motorways.
  • Rationality (Intellectually) – I understood that there was a greater risk of having or causing an accident if I went fast, but I didn’t really buy into that and thought that my other skills such as observation would probably kick in and help me avoid an accident, plus I wasn’t going THAT fast!

So what did the Speed Awareness course do? It engaged me. I want to do something about my speed now because I understand the need to change. The tutors were great, they understood that to date neither Coercion nor Rationality had worked with us. Their approach was to engage us, we learned about our assumptions and myths and they made the future clear and attractive so that we want to drive within the speed limits.

So I offer my congratulations to the police force and the organisations they work with to deliver these courses, for a high-quality, transformative experience. For understanding that if you put a group of people in a room, who are not performing to the required level, and you dictate to them, threaten punishment, offer financial penalty or incentives, it may have a short term impact but it isn’t sustainable. What you offer is a Master Class in driver engagement.

Engaging people in change is a process.

Engaging people requires thinking about, planning and organising – P-D-S-A. It may take some preparation, but the results are rewarding for all. Engaged people have real energy for change and are prepared to evangelise and act as your advocate.

Has the learning from this course been sustainable for me? My sense is that the awareness and understanding I now have has had a bigger impact on me than paying a penalty would have done. I can’t tell how long this will last so like all things I could probably do with a regular, engaging reminder, but that’s another story!

Yet all this time, my creativity and innovation were without any structured thinking. I had a technical capability and natural creativity, and yes, we were given a structured method by which to run the experiments and write them up, but my thinking approach was largely unstructured.

About Susannah

Susannah Clarke is a Managing Partner with PMI. This is her second blog for the CQI (Chartered Quality Institute).

If you have any questions for Susannah, please do get in touch.

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