Sarah Jane Marsh, CEO of the first and only children hospital to be rated ‘outstanding’ by the NHS’ quality watchdog, was explaining how they had done it on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 21 February.
Marsh’s story is remarkable as eight years ago the Care Quality Commission had rated the Birmingham Children’s Hospital as substandard.
The secret to their success was to put children and families at the heart of everything they did and for the leadership team to actively listen to staff. As Marsh noted, staff always have had all the ideas needed for solving the hospital’s challenges; just that previously the leadership team hadn't been listening.
Marsh offered another important insight: organisations don't and can't have two cultures running simultaneously. Consequently, the way that the staff are treated by leadership, will also be the way that they then treat their patients. In order for patients to be treated with compassion, the leadership team had to treat the staff team with compassion too.
A day before the interview with Marsh, the principal of the Wesley House Methodist College, the Rev Dr Jane Leach was giving the Thought for the Day on 20 February.
Recounting a quote from John Wesley in 1786, “One great reason that the rich in general have so little sympathy is because they so seldom visit them", Leach went on to talk about the recent work in Cheshire to tackle the problems of poverty. In order to bring about lasting change, the Poverty Trust Commission, is brining together equal numbers of people living in poverty with people who have influence or decision-making powers on their lives.
The experience not only brought about change in the 'decision makers' as they increase their empathy for the lives and challenges of people in poverty. But their joint experience (at Partners in Creation we would say the ‘recombination’ of perspectives and ideas) makes new thinking possible. By working together 'Customer' and 'Professional' focus on solving the actual problems experienced by those on the ground.
The evidence from both stories demonstrates that even without extra money being available, to bring about significant and lasting change, organisations need to focus on 'people led change'. Bringing their people into the heart of decision-making, giving them the resources and support to identify their ideas, and ensuring leadership listens to them.
Leach summed this up beautifully with the following quote formulated in response to South Africa's apartheid: "Nothing about us, without us, is for us". It’s a slogan that we at Partners in Creation wholeheartedly agree with.
Find out more about Partners’ approach to ‘people led change’; including active engagement and co-production with your staff or the people you serve.