Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been fortunate to work with a fantastic organisation called Here. As one of Easier Inc’s first ever clients they will always have a special place in my affections and I check in regularly with various members of the team there. During a recent catch up, they shared how they have taken work we did together and turned it into a simple toolkit for getting the most out of projects. I asked them if they would mind sharing their work and, I’m pleased to say, they were happy to oblige.
The team write…
“We are the Circus Team; a team of three people, that was set up to enable the development of wholeness, connection to purpose and self management at Here and in the services in which we’re a partner.
Here is a not for profit social enterprise that creates public health services and solutions which are shaped around the needs of individuals. One of our Primary Care innovations (Workflow) has improved the lives of over 6 million people across the UK.
Over the years, projects in the Circus Team have varied widely, from supporting the organisation to re-clarify its purpose and develop a new visual / brand identity to offering training in mindfulness, leadership and collaboration skills. You can find out more about us and our work Here.
About a year ago, however, we found ourselves spread thin over a very wide portfolio of projects (almost 50 when we actually stopped to list everything we were involved in!). It was taking a long time to complete things and sometimes projects were just fizzling out. Each of us in the Circus Team was predominantly working on our own projects and colleagues in the wider organisation told us that, although they could see that we were busy, they weren’t clear about what we were doing or the impact we were having. Fortunately, in July last year, we met Andy Brogan from Easier Inc.
With Andy’s help we began by stopping and making visible what we were working on. Andy challenged us to imagine our projects backwards from 100% complete, articulating the concrete differences we hoped to see as a result of each project, instead of working from a broad, open-ended intention or purpose. The rigour this brought was hard work at first but we quickly found that it helped us to clarify our thinking, focus our efforts and move from juggling too many things at once, to having a clear “main effort” around which we could build momentum through many small, well-coordinated, strategically placed steps.
Following on from this, we have adopted some really simple practices, such as continually asking ourselves, “What’s the smallest thing we could do next to help us learn more about how to achieve our outcome?”.
We have learnt a lot about being really disciplined - staying with what’s been committed to during short, focused periods of action and being ready to adapt our larger plans once these have revealed new and significant learning. It’s teaching us how to manage the seeming paradox of being adaptive, flexible and learning-led yet stubborn and resilient enough to see things through to completion.
Adapting the Easier Inc. principles that Andy shared with us to our particular context has also required us to learn how to balance project work with ongoing business-as-usual commitments. For the most part, this has involved making what we are working on (and what we are consciously not working on) really visible. It has also required us to work at maintaining transparency and trust through simple structures for having honest conversations; something that Easier Inc’s ‘Confirmation Practices’ approach has helped us to do.
We now also use Confirmation Practices as the basis for our reporting. For example, we have a monthly shared reflection session as a team, then we make a video highlight to update others. This has proved to be much more useful for both us in the Circus Team and for Here's governance teams.
Following on the heels of our success with, and enthusiasm for, these new ways of working, we’ve made one of our key current projects to clarify, articulate and spread the toolkit of practices we are now using. This includes supporting others at Here to use what we’ve learned from Andy and from others, so that people across our organisation can be more effective, creative and impactful in our shared work together. To that end, we have created written resources that describe key aspects of how we have learned to work together for the greatest impact and today we thought we’d share some of these with you too. We hope that you enjoy and benefit from them.
Una, Paul and Briony - The Circus Team”
Zoe Nicholson, Chief Executive of Here, shares her story about re-designing the Memory Assessment Service in order to deliver what's truly important to people with memory difficulties - marking the beginning of a new approach to helping people across all services.
Peter Devlin, GP and Director of Clinical Leadership at Here, reflects on the theories of systems thinking and generative listening and the real world experience of doctor / patient consultations.
The Here annual report 2015-2016, reflecting the organisation’s journey and achievements and sharing questions that Here’s leadership feel are important to now ask about our health care system.