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Why is a raven like a writing desk or Why is scrutiny like yoga?


At first glance it does appear that I have taken a leaf from the Mad Hatter’s book and am asking ‘why is a raven like a writing desk’. Yoga, scrutiny, completely different you might say. Yoga is an ancient Indian spiritual practice with the aim of aligning the mind, body and spirit through physical postures.  Scrutiny is a function of a local authority where independent minded councillors contribute to policy and direction through evidence-based challenge.  However I hope on reflection there is more substance to the question, which may provoke more thought and discussion.

This post came about as I was struggling with what to write for my first ever blog entry.  I thought about talking specifically about some of the projects in hand, and realised that to anyone not well versed in the mystical world of scrutiny this might be jumping into the deep end.  At best a lot of splashing and at worst being eaten by a shark, metaphorically speaking of course.

I then thought about explaining to a colleague why I was enjoying going to my Tuesday lunchtime yoga class and I was struck by the similarities to conversations I had had about the benefit of scrutiny over the years.  My colleague’s attitude was ‘just go for a run; yoga is pointless’.  I have heard similar feelings directed towards scrutiny and I believe they originate from a lack of understanding either about yoga or about scrutiny.

So here are my ideas on why scrutiny and yoga have more in common than you might think:

1/ They can both be misunderstood

‘Yoga is easy – just lying down on a mat?’ ‘Scrutiny is about checking up on people isn’t it?’

No no no no! Beliefs like this are difficult to maintain if you have every gone to a yoga class or come to a scrutiny committee or task group.  In relation to both, practice really does show what each is about.

2/ They are both about the journey

Yoga is a quest for balance and harmony; scrutiny is a quest for improvements to local government services.

3/ Neither practice is prescriptive

There are lots of different ways to practice yoga, equally there are different ways that scrutiny can work. Committee meetings, task groups, spotlight reviews, single-issue investigations, workshops, research, round table discussions, witness sessions are all ways that scrutiny can inform recommendations.

4/ the more you do either one, the more your practice improves.

In scrutiny reflective working improves the way we do things next time. In yoga more practice brings greater flexibility and strength.

5/ The benefits of both are not always easily measured.

Please do not misunderstand this point. It is not to say that some benefits cannot be measured. In yoga, greater flexibility and strength can definitely be measured. Likewise scrutiny can demonstrate a tangible impact on how services are provided and on changes to policy. However to confine the benefits simply to those that can be measured misses the point. In scrutiny sometimes just asking questions about how things works prompts change and can also help to recognise where things are already working really well.


So why is a raven like a writing desk? Poe wrote on both of them

Why is scrutiny like yoga? For more reasons than you might have thought!

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