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Opinion

What strange times!

11th May 2020

I’d like to share with you a few very early findings from a rather special collaboration with Audit Wales (or Good Practice Wales as they were until 1 April).

I’d been thinking about this for a while but was galvanised in to action by this blog from Chris ‘@whatsthepont’ Bolton.  Chris and I have long worked with and been inspired by much of Dave Snowden’s work.

I’ve long found Dave’s work in the field of Complexity (Cynefin) and more recently Anthro-complexity fascinating; useful as a means of making sense of complex challenges; and giving me a narrative or turn of phrase I’ve found useful in giving words to my thoughts.  Dave has given his time to speak to five cohorts of Bevan Exemplars, an experience very few are likely to forget.

In his blog Chris eloquently makes the case for ‘capturing novel practice’ now… as it happens.

We’ve developed a SenseMaker® project.  Chris is busily working with the Audit Wales audit teams to capture experiences as they happen and is developing with me further collaborations across the public sector in Wales.  I’ve turned to my trusted network of fabulous Exemplars, many of whom have volunteered to capture briefly their experiences of ‘the Covid19 situation’.  It’s early days but Chris encouraged me to share some of the early findings… so here they are.

Most experiences are positive.  Notably, participants are positive about IT enabling services, working from home, working remotely, and being trusted to get on with the job.  Interestingly, you might imagine that all this Covid19 misery would be causing a lot unhappy experiences.  But, for the time being at least, the health system is disposed towards creating positive stories.

‘Rules, Guidelines and Processes’ and ‘Trained Intuition and Experience’ are far more likely to be guiding the majority of experiences than ‘Logic and Analysis’, which is playing a very marginal role.  This suggests that people are acting quickly and within the rules rather taking time out to review and analyse the situation at length before taking action.  For me, it’s an indicator of an ‘emergent’ system and an enabler of fast-paced change.

Maybe unsurprisingly ‘Personal Motivation’ and ‘The wider needs of society’ are motivating the majority of experiences with ‘The Organisation’s Objectives’ playing a marginal role.  It’s a shame that I didn’t do this before Covid19 so I could see whether there was a dispositional shift in this area, or is it business as usual?

The great majority of experiences have caused participants to change the way they see their Organisation, Team and Role.  Under different conditions, you just wouldn’t get this sort of response.  In change programmes (for those of us who do these sorts of things), it can take hours, days, or even weeks and months of effort to create a perception shift of this nature.  To move a group of people away from ‘nothing is possible’ to ‘anything is possible’, from ‘this is how it’s always been’ to ‘this is how it could be’!  If you want to change services, practices, methods or approaches… now is the time to do it!

All experiences were a response to here and now.  No experiences were the result of long term planning.  This is speaks volumes about preparedness, contingency and risk planning and reinforces earlier finding that ‘Rules, Guidelines and Processes’ and ‘Trained Intuition and Experience’ are the guiding force behind peoples’ current experiences.

The majority of experiences were felt to have scale and impact that would be significant and widespread, and remember that people felt positively about those experiences.  To take that extra step, the majority of people said that they would like their experience to become common practice (and some saying ‘definitely not!’)

About a quarter of experiences involved more than one organisation, which should be reassuring for those like Welsh Government or Regional Partnership Boards who are interested in integrated services and encouraging public services to collaborate.

Well… that’s it for now.  Early analysis has given some interesting insights, but they are by no means an indicator of the whole.  I hope that I’ll get another run at the data this week and get to share further thoughts.

Follow this link to share your experiences using the SenseMaker tool.

Stay safe.

Siôn Charles is Deputy Director at the Bevan Commission. He takes a particular interest in new and emerging sciences: co-production and Prudent Healthcare, behaviour change sciences, service transformation, complexity and systems working. He enjoys making sense of chaos, offering new approaches and perspectives to resolving old challenges and translating complex delivery requirements into simple actions

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