Sunday, 23 January 2011

Plenty of change – but not so much change management

If you are a healthcare professional, manager or support staff, working in the NHS right now, I can’t think of anywhere along the patient pathway that is a comfortable place to be.

I’m not aware that any of the uncertainty, fear and general conclusion is yet impacting directly on patient services, but of course it won’t be long before it does.

Behind the scenes, the butterfly effect is poised to wreak its worst. I looked up chaos theory and found this definition (Wikipedia)

Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions; an effect which is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect.

The well known concept is that if a butterfly flaps subtly her wings somewhere far away, there will be a breeze felt the other side of the world.

How can we define the effect of mammoth change affecting 1.3 million employees, implemented with indecent speed and apparently little management guidance, or preparation for the way forward?

We can be sure that the frantic flapping of wings emanating from Andrew Lansley (UK secretary of state for health) will be creating some serious turbulence somewhere along the line.

So far, rather than a tsunami of activity – there is an eerie silence, as bewildered people struggle to perform their daily tasks, unsure if they will have a job by the Summer, and if they do, wondering what the framework for that job will be.

At the headquarters of one major Primary Care Trust, staff have been advised that it will not be possible to book meeting rooms for the whole of March. Why? Because the rooms will be used for over 300 people to be re-interviewed for their jobs. How much constructive work will be achieved by those weary souls between now and then I wonder? This will not be an unusual scenario throughout the UK.

On an individual basis, some managers are doing their best to guide and support their staff. But what about organisational change at the highest level?

Yet again I find myself in the uncomfortable position of making a political point. Like many others I suspect, I am bitterly disappointed that the coalition government  seem to be adopting change management methods with the subtlety of a vampire in a blood bank.


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