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Great Expectations – Johnny Marshall

As I boarded the first train of the day the rain was clearing, the dawn chorus was warming up and Leeds seemed a long way away. It may well be that all roads eventually lead to Leeds, but they seem to take a lot longer than the ones that lead to London. Still …. needs must and at least the section of my journey from Kings Cross to Leeds offers some protected time before anyone else has started work, to clear some unread emails in my inbox.

Shortly after leaving Kings Cross the train manager wandered through the carriage checking tickets as usual but sounding remarkably more cheerful, not the normal demeanour of a train manager out to reject any “Advances” that are for a different time! As he punched through my ticket I enquired as to the reason for his cheerful disposition; to which he remarked, “At my age waking up in the morning is a bonus!”. It left me wondering whether lowering my expectations might make me happier …. the train was running and on time! I felt strangely uplifted!

Leeds was drier and less blustery than home, which in itself was unusual and exceeded my expectation. It made the walk from the station up to Quarry House all the more enjoyable. Lowering my expectations seemed to be working. On the FDG agenda today was Organisational Development of NHS CB. Oh to be a fly on the wall …. I was buzzing!

The mood was very relaxed, if I had kicked off my shoes and allowed my toes to enjoy the resulting freedom I would not have felt out of place. However, it soon transpired that there had been a discussion on today’s subject matter the day before involving almost everyone else apart from me. Where was this going? Old habits dying hard? Unfortunately, I was unable to enjoy the invariable warm glow of indignation as the previous day’s discussion seemed to have moved the whole debate to a much more interesting place, or had I just lowered my expectations?

Despite this unexpected positivity it was still proving difficult to get a handle on what was understood with respect to the new behaviours that NHS CB required from its staff and how would these would be reflected across the whole of the NHS CB. First impressions last and the first experience that CCGs will have of local NHS CB offices could have a significant impact on the success of the relationship in the future, they have to be at least good enough to enable that. Whilst nobody in the room seemed to underestimate that challenge only time will tell whether anyone is prepared to shy away from it.

What followed was less of a self-fulfilling naval gaze on internal development, and more of a pragmatic journey through the need for new behaviours to be modelled from the top right from the start and agreement that actions should speak louder, and earlier, than words; watch this space.

Then Jack Welch joined the meeting with a conundrum that threatened to undo all of the good work. How do you approach the problem of those people who exhibit behaviours that are inconsistent with the values of the organisation but deliver the bottom line? The Fair Trade Coffee suddenly tasted a little less smooth. It turns out that Jack has had quite a lot to say for himself in the past including “Getting every employee’s mind into the game is a huge part of what a CEO job is all about. Taking everyone’s best ideas and transferring them to others is the secret. There’s nothing more important.”

We’ll have to wait and see what influence Jack has on the future of NHS CB as it reflects on its internal development whilst drawing on the insight of key partners and external influences to help shape itself. The trick will be to walk the walk rather than just talk the talk.

The bad news is that everyone seems to expect the NHS CB to trip and fall, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”, said Jacques? The good news for NHS CB is that with such low expectations it should make it much easier to deliver enough to make us all happier as a result. Perhaps our expectations should be greater?

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