Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Day at the Opera

On Monday 7 July we attended the annual NHS Organisational Development conference - DoOD. This saw 200 staff from the NHS gather to look at the issues and direction of organisational development (OD). It was a great event, which featured Professor Michael West and Dr Pat Oakley as keynote speakers. It was good to meet or re-meet colleagues such as Paul Taylor from NHS Employers, Karen Dumain from the NHS Leadership Academy and Dr Maxine Craig from Sunderland University. We were happy that colleagues from our own organisation, LCH could also join the conference.

We were to present the after lunch session on 'Finding Our Voice'. We did this work with Tracey Gray, Head of Head of Education at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals and her daughter, Victoria. Tracey shared her personal and professional story of vulnerability, growth and finding her voice. She then introduced her daughter as her inspiration and 'rock'. Victoria emerged from the back of the room and started to sing from 'Carmen'. Victoria is an opera singer and went through the audience singing. She then, from the stage, shared her story of vulnerability and finding her voice. The audience were then invited to find their voice and Victoria led us in singing the chorus from the opera, 'Carmen' by Bizet.

We spoke to the audience about how we can create the cultures to find our voices and support staff to grow. We started to outline what good OD work looked like. There were three things OD practitioners could do and were doing. The first was visibility. To go out into the highways and byways of the service and talk and engage with staff. To be a presence that offered options, hope and possibilities. The greatest thing we can offer another is our own self and an OD practice that doesn't offer this has both missed the opportunity and lost the heart of the work. The second was vision. The call was to let a vision inspire us and then let others hear our passion and catch the fire. Movements for deep cultural and organisational change will not emerge from weighty documents but where individuals and groups see a vision and ignite it in others. The third was making the space for the voice of the staff. OD practitioners had to be able to create a positive circle and invite others into it for the OD dialogue to start and spread. This work created the ever increasing circles, like a rock thrown into a pond, drawing in more hearts and minds into making compassionate OD a reality. We then spoke of how we can create the cultures where OD can flourish and grow. 

The basic message was that culture doesn't fall ready made from the heavens. It is constructed and made by all of us and therefore we all hold in our hands an awesome power. We can create the best or worst cultures. Every time we open our mouth we create culture. Every time we act we create culture. The challenge was to be the best people and staff we can be. We might sometimes miss the mark but our work for best practice and best culture would bear fruit and make these things start to happen. 

It came down to - if we want the most inclusive and supportive cultures we need to be truly inclusive and supportive. We need to make the difference every day for the better. We ended by asking the audience to talk with people on their tables about what conversations they should have 'to make the difference for the better' in their practice and services.

We ended by offering the acronym OPERA as a sign of great OD work.

   O - Open to Possibilities

   P - Persistence

   E - Emotion and Passion

   R - Receiving and Giving Feedback

   A - Awareness of Self and impact on others

When we think of the conference this was what resonated in the speeches and also in many of the private discussions too. OPERA is an OD charter. It calls us to be what we are and can be. To be flexible to options and opportunities. To not see organisational life as a static fixed entity. To see, as Hegel the philosopher would, reality and organisations as in movement and development. To see life and where we work as dynamic realities which we can work in and direct. We can only be open if we are humble and create a space for the richness of others. We need to be a people of patience and persistence. Rome was not built in a day and cultures will not be changed by next Tuesday. We need to be a people of passion and commitment working for a cause greater than ourselves. The feedback and awareness are really key here. We are not called to be lone ranger figures riding into town to sort out the bad guys. We need a deep awareness of our own weak points. This is about 'us' not 'them'. This can demand radical honesty, deep and authentic self-reflection and the courage to start to change oneself. Big stuff really but then the best OD is transformation not tinkering.

The presentation had a quote from the great Dr Viktor Frankl - 'When we are no longer able to change the situation - we are challenged to change ourselves'. This is an interesting enigmatic statement. Maybe Dr Frankl was pointing to a secret but not stating it. The secret is - if we change ourselves the world will change and we will find that either the situation has resolved or we are able to deal with it in new and better ways. The conference was for us all about the power, potency and possibility we all hold in our hands. One person tweeted that she had realised she was holding power, potency and possibility as a result of her learning at the conference. That's the message and the means. We hope - we really hope - we can use these incredible energies wisely and kindly for this service that means so much to us. A big thank you to all who made this conference possible.

Steve Keyes, Head of Organisational Development, Leeds Community Healthcare

John Walsh, York Street Health Practice, Leeds Community Healthcare  

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