I was delighted today to see an imaginative approach to problem solving being advocated by Pollyanna Perkins in the Guardian Society …. Yes, Pollyanna Perkins, that well-known director of adult social care for a large local authority. “She writes under a pseudonym” – No!
Team away days when people … walk and talk. Walking trips where they build relationships and get to know each other as people, rather than just, say, as the (expletive) Finance Department. I would argue that they not only walk, but (at least a little) walk in each other’s shoes, gaining a better understanding of other perspectives.
Pollyanna explains: “When we walk, we have to talk. Everyone comes with a list of four or five people with whom they need to talk to resolve an issue – usually people who hadn’t replied to their emails or phone calls or people with whom they are working on a particularly tricky issue. It is a really productive process – 50 managers having five conversations each, which if you converted into meetings and missed calls would take many days rather than three hours”.
Refreshing (literally) to see such an imaginative but simple approach and surprising in these days of “austerity” to risk the adverse publicity of “staff walking up hills instead of getting on with their important paperwork!”. Yes, these staff are being encouraged to leave the emails and the in-tray, to forgo the agenda-driven meetings and (shock, horror, probe) TALK to each other, one-to-one.
Face-to-face discussions can often achieve empathy and understanding of the real issues in a way that does not necessarily happen through emails or “standard” meetings.
Similarly, I am finding that it is the forward-thinking local authorities who are still prioritising creative approaches and making time for staff to get away from the day job and engage with peer support networks, experiment with social media etc.
When I first developed Whose Shoes? – a discussion tool to help people engage with the personalisation agenda in health and social care – I thought it would be the less “advanced” local authorities and care providers who would use this resource. I was wrong.
The leading organisations are the ones who embrace change and empower their staff to think through the issues in a way that genuinely “wins hearts and minds”. The ones who are not afraid to use imaginative approaches – a walk, a creative discussion tool – to help people relax and feel empowered to discuss the REAL issues.
By exchanging anecdotes and good practice, having time to tease through tricky issues, people build relationships and co-produce sustainable solutions.
A breath of fresh air!