What does it mean to be 10?
The following is a transcript of Claire's speech to the team on the occasion of PPL's 10th birthday party for staff in November 2017
I have always been wary of anniversaries – time is a language that we use to structure the world around us and is, innately, personal. For what we say this morning to mean anything to you, we wanted to create for us all a shared understanding of what 10 years feels like, and that is why I wanted us all, today, to have in our minds a shared idea of what it means to be 10 years old – our own personal experience.
As most of you know, when we founded PPL 10 years ago, I had a new-born baby which turned out to be excellent forward planning, as I have a supply of actual 10 year olds to remind me what it feels like to be that age. There is a lot that they say about transition - they say they know they are no longer children, but that they aren’t yet fully grown up. They are really excited about what is ahead for them, but also nervous. Most notably, 10 year olds don’t look back – they don’t say ‘I remember when I couldn’t ride my bike’; they talk about what they ‘can do now’ and what they ‘want to do next’.
My 10-year-old photo is one of me and my friends lying flat on our backs with our legs in the air, all weighed down by 1980s style roller skates. I remember the day clearly – I remember having the mad idea of lying down on the ground, and of enjoying the feeling of strength in my legs when I realised that we could hold the skates in the air, and the little ones toppling down because they couldn’t do the same, yet. Some things don’t change.
I suspect that, when you saw your 10-year-old self, you saw reflected back some things that you still recognise as core to who you are – the beginnings of yourself, built up over early childhood and still growing now. I suspect you also saw how much had changed – the things that you worried about at 10, your clothes, the parts of you that you had tried out and then left behind.
PPL has been many things over the past decade, but it has an essence which has been, and will always be, part of its story. PPL is, at its heart, an organisation that believes that the world can be better, and that making things better, even a tiny bit better, is a prize worth winning. PPL is also born of the belief that we do those things best and most effectively when we connect honestly and authentically with each other. This applies to our partnerships, our clients, the world around us, the patients we impact and our colleagues.
PPL, like all of us, is not perfect. PPL has made us all extremely proud to be part of it and to lead it; it has also frustrated and disappointed all of us on occasion. That is not its fault – PPL is learning and growing all the time, as are we all.
When we started on this journey, some of you were still in school, Blair was Prime Minister, we were at the heart of Europe, it was pre-Olympics and even pre-the financial crash. Person-centred care was still a novelty and integration was a nice idea. Hard though it may be to believe when we see how far is left to go, but we have come a long way and already made a difference – as a team we have changed more and done more than most people ever do, and we want to do more still.
The PPL of the past 10 years has been ours – all of yours and your colleagues on the tree. The PPL of the next 10, 20, 30 years will be the one that we build, along with the fellow travellers and colleagues that we haven’t even met yet, all mixed in with the inevitable surprises and opportunities that we can’t even begin to image.
Our partnerships, our lovely new offices and our core belief that we can make things better, give us a fantastic place to grow from, and we will bring the rest.
10 years brings a lot of memories and anecdotes, but it also brings perspective. I have a sign on the wall at home which reads ‘These are the good old days’. It is one of my favourite things in the house – a constant reminder that the days we are in now, that rush past in a haze of activity, deadlines, happiness, sadness – a whirlwind of noise – are the same days that we will look back on with nostalgia - blurring out the complexity and seeing only the moments of real life within them. And that is the insight I have taken away from the decade of leading this team. There will always be good days and bad days, good projects and bad projects, good clients and bad clients, lovely colleagues and ones who drive you mad. All of this is simply the stuff of life – these are just our days, and our role is simply to fill them with purpose, optimism and connection.
Thank you for all the steps of PPL’s journey that you have already filled with purpose – it wouldn’t be what it is, or be able to do what it has already done, without any of you and you have all, in different ways, already made your own mark within it. On PPL’s behalf, Simon and I want to thank you and, in the spirit of the growth mindset, we look forward to continuing to work together from now on to make PPL even better, to create even greater impact for our clients and to be even more ambitious. If the last decade tells us anything, it should be quite a ride!