Why Citizens want Government to Raise their Collaborative Leadership Game

My husband’s Gran turned 100 last week.  Two decades’ working at the local hospital didn’t do her much good last year when she ended up to-ing and fro-ing between home and hospital over a fraught three and a half week period before eventually being put into residential care by private arrangement.

Gran's 100th BirthdaySocial Services ignored repeated calls from her daughters, only responding to them once they had made their own arrangements.

It is an all too familiar story – health professionals and social services not singing from the same hymn sheet.  The result?: Bed blocking; the family acting as a go-between, ferrying messages between the doctors and social services; an unsuccessful trip, as far as the Council was concerned, to the ombudsman to establish whether or not they had to pay fees for her care.  The stress caused to her two daughters, who spent an enormous amount of time sorting this out, was immense and their perception of the service offered remains poor, even though the Local Authority are now paying the full whack of top-up fees.

What will happen if I’m lucky enough to reach 100?  There is a better way.  What if the Council and NHS had worked collaboratively on this, designing services with the end user in mind.  This is possible.

If the two organisations had jointly created a vision to guide their organisations with a shared purpose, beyond the current silo mentality, the service seen by citizens could be completely seamless.  If time was taken to develop relationships between the two organisations to create a better understanding of each other, problem solving jointly, being receptive to other people’s ideas, building trust between them, both would have performed better.  There are tools, methodologies and recognised best practice available to help people from different backgrounds and silos to start working collaboratively.

The Social Services and Wellbeing Bill in Wales and the Care Bill in England, both currently at the report stage, will put a requirement on Local Authorities to promote the integration of health and social care.

Government is realising that collaboration between organisations is important – and not just between health and social services, but across all sectors of Government.

Last year, PWC’s Future of Government report suggested that governments of the future need to adopt new skills including agility, innovation, transparency and connectedness.

If you’re reading this in Wales you will no doubt have heard of or even read the Williams Review.  As well as the media attention grabbing proposal to reorganise Local Authorities, there were a swath of other recommendations – 62 in fact.  The report says that system leadership is required – getting all of the components of public service to work together towards the same aim.  The systems within public services will be changed, but this on its own will be insufficient unless leaders also refresh and sharpen their skill sets in line with the demands of collaborative working in networked systems.

We agree when the report says that to achieve collaborative leadership excellence 3 things need to happen:

1. Recruit leaders with system leadership experience

2. Train promising leaders with the right skills to work in this way

3. Celebrate successful system leadership

When we talk about leadership, we aren’t just thinking about Chief Exec’s and senior leaders.  Collaborative leadership skills will be required across the board, from team leaders and department heads to those in the most senior roles.

The system is broken.  There is a recognised need for innovation in the way we work, but people’s skills have yet to catch up.

If you’re interested in these issues you might like to come along to our workshop on 7th April in Cardiff Collaborative Leadership & Innovation Unpacked for hands-on learning that you can start using immediately.

By the way, Grandma had a fun and well attended birthday party, was pleased to receive a message from the Queen and is happily living in a residential care home thanks to the sterling efforts of her two daughters.

Jo is Co-Founder at The Satori Lab who work with government to re-boot organisational culture and improve innovation skills through carefully crafted learning programmes and longer term relationships.  See our website for further information www.thesatorilab.com

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