#Blogtober: What OD means to me

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18 / 10 / 2014 12.01am

By Byron Currie

#Blogtober Day: Saturday 18

Organisations are made up of people.   People make organisations.  So defining OD in the NHS for me is quite simple.

It’s about developing a group of people so that they are more able to deliver the vision, mission and strategy of their organisation, maximising the psychological and emotional contract with employees, simultaneously enhancing and modifying their skills, so that we consistently give the best patient care (or support to front line health workers) possible.

OD is everyone’s business, their key business.

In testing financial times, it is crucial that all NHS boards and staff see OD as a lever to maximising organisational potential, which means for the NHS improving the health and lifestyle of all citizens, and in turn helping to improve society. For OD to be successful, it cannot be left to the few OD specialists to wave a magic wand that leads to sustained organisational improvement. No. It is the responsibility of all employees at whatever level to contribute to the development of their organisation, in a systematic way that maximises their energy and creativity.

I recall a really successful OD intervention.  I have previously worked within a regional organisation that had a centralised HR offer. Electronic Staff Record (ESR) was managed centrally and payroll services were offsite.  Colleagues had no real time electronic data on their personal or payroll, and managers had to manage the team’s performance, attendance, training and development plans etc through a range of electronic or paper based systems.  HR were required to respond to most basic of employee enquiry because the employee and manager were not empowered to have individual or team based data to inform their personal, operational or strategic plans.

I was part of a project team responsible for the implementation of self-service ESR to employees and managers. The project identified a range of benefits of the implementation. However the most impactful one wasn’t one that was identified during the project development phase, but soon became evident after implementation. It was quickly recognised that the implementation of self-service ESR led to significant step changes in how people behaved and were managed.  For example:

  • managers were better able to plan their work activity around people’s planned absences from the workplace, as they now had access to real time attendance data
  • managers took more ownership of supporting long term sick employees back into the workplace, or putting improvement plans in place for those staff that had high levels of short, uncertified sickness absence
  • employees, who now had to request training and development courses through the IT system that then alerted their manager of this request, were now having conversations with their manager, rather than the HR team, as to how the training would be beneficial to meeting their objectives
  • as employees now had access to their full payroll and expenses record, colleagues became more knowledgeable in understanding the data on their payslips, and more confident in approaching payroll direct regarding pay related queries, thus freeing up some of the operational responsibilities from HR.

I was also part of an organisation that was responsible for developing local services and facilities for local people.  The organisation only seemed to work with established and relatively secure community groups and local service providers who may not have had a full and detailed knowledge of the area, and appeared to have little connection with the residents too.  On one occasion, the organisation arranged an event to get views from organisations and residents of the local area on how to best develop particular services.

Delegates from the “established organisations” were invited to present first, and their content appeared to be very out of touch that it irritated many of the delegates who were listening.  Some of the delegates spoke passionately about events that had recently happened which conflicted with the original presentations.  The facilitators were completely unaware of the context and were clearly caught off guard… big time…which had significant ramifications for the reputation of the organisation.

On reflection the design of the event may have been OK, but clearly the facilitators hadn’t fully prepared and were unaware of the historical and cultural context, and had not thought how to manage related conflicts during the session.

  • Nothing changes if behaviour doesn’t change – never forget the power of your personal behaviour in demonstrating the changes you wish to achieve.
  • Co-create your OD strategy fully utilising the knowledge, feedback, skills and energy from your staff.  Include feedback from your patients, customers, stakeholders, and your trade union partners.  Use both qualitative and quantitative data sets.
  • Don’t forget about the learning and sharing opportunities that networks and partnerships provide. There are many organisations doing fantastic work in and around health and social care.  Develop and maintain a healthy and varied network of people and organisations in and around the NHS.
  • Be mindful that traditional Performance Management systems usually prioritise business objectives above developing people and organisations.
  • Ensure you maintain your work-life balance, so you have time to relax, recharge and to feed your creativity.

Byron Currie has been the Head of HR and OD at the NHS Leadership Academy since July 2012. He has held a range of leadership positions in the public and private sector since 2000, and within the NHS since 2008.  Byron is a Fellow CIPD and holds an MSC in Strategic HRM, and can be contacted via email address.

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