Partnership Meeting – 15th October 2012

15th October 2012, 4.00pm, and a lively group of leaders at all levels of their organisations, and from all sectors of the economy, met at the Science Park in Oxford for another in Thames Valley HIEC’s popular Innovation Seminar series.  This time the subject was the perennial and thorny issue of large scale mobilisation to support change.

All the standard leadership literature emphasizes the importance of staff engagement in delivering change.  Easy to say, harder to do.  The seminar drew on recent research, carried out here in the Thames Valley, about the cultural and organisational issues which are more supportive of, or more resistant to, innovation and change.

Our first speaker was Dr. Pavel Ovseiko, of the University of Oxford, who presented his research into “Organisational Culture in an Academic Health Science Centre” which examined the competing cultures in clinical academic staff variously employed at the University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.  This work found the cultures to be very different, with the NHS culture overly reliant on rules and hierarchy while the University culture tended to be more rational and team-based.  But Pavel went further than this, because he asked all his respondents what their ideal culture to support innovation would look like.  Irrespective of where they worked, generally it was felt that the culture of both organisations would need to move more towards being even more team based and far more entrepreneurial if Oxford is to develop a successful AHSC.

The implications of this work, given Oxford’s unsuccessful bid for an AHSC in 2009 and their renewed hopes for 2013/4, was not lost on the audience.  The theme of culture and change was then picked up by the second speaker, Rachel Wakefield from the SHA, who presented aspects of the research she recently commissioned into successful large-scale change across the South of England.  By looking at what worked, the study was able to draw on recent and live case studies of best practice to address the question of how to move from a less desirable culture to one which is supportive of innovation and improvement.  Her findings were framed in the context of the NHS Change Model which has been launched since Rachel completed her work.  However, her findings fully corroborate the emphasis in the Change Model on creating a sense of shared purpose, which has to be renewed throughout the time of change; and of mobilizing wider engagement through an active attention as to why the change is relevant to the different contexts and work of many different stakeholders.

Fundamentally, as the audience discussion bore out, all significant change is achieved when the core values that unite people are emphasised rather than the structural differences that divide them.  No one in the audience was naïve enough to think this would be easy, and there was an interesting discussion on early signs of the CCGs ability to mobilise engagement, or not.  It was agreed that this debate is to be continued over the next few years, though who knows yet, how and where a local forum for such debates will find a home.

The following presentations are available from the event:-

Organizational culture in an academic health centre – Pavel Ovseiko

Review of Large Scale Change: The Journey So Far – Rachel Wakefield

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