Recycle or Waste?

I received a call last week from a client who wanted me to help her out with a small task. The Trust is about to embark on a major consultation which will result in redundancies.

The HR Director wanted me to look over the consultation paperwork to ensure that it was fit for purpose: in otherwords to ensure it captured everything that needed to be said, in the right language, and succinctly. The HR team had already spent some considerable time pulling it together, and due to the importance of this document, the HRD wanted one last person to look over it before it was finalised.

As I reviewed the paperwork, I cross-referenced certain sections with past consultation papers that I have either written or collected (those which I felt were well written & offered something that I might be able to use in the future). I have written scores of consultation papers in the 12 years that I have worked either in or alongside the NHS and I have quite a bank stored on my hard drive.

And yes, the NHS has been opening and closing wards, reconfiguring services, making people redundant for this whole period….just not at the scale it is at present.

And that’s when it hit me. For years I’ve been recycling the same old document. Each time I get it out, I dust it down by making sure it’s relevant to that particular change programme and is up to date with current legislation.

But the fact is that there are 100s, maybe even thousands of other HR professionals in the Trusts across the country doing exactly the same thing. We’re all investing a lot of time developing bespoke and individual consultation documents for what is essentially a generic document.

Is this the tip of the iceberg? How many other generic documents are being developed and adapted locally? Has the NHS generated a cottage industry in HR documentation?

I’m not sure that I’d support centralisation, but surely there must be some way to bring efficiencies into the system. And for once, I don’t have the answer to this particular problem. Do you?

Learning From French Industrial Relations

I was at an event with a client last night celebrating the success of a major project that I have been involved in over the last few months.   I normally don’t like such events as they are usually attended by an “interesting” array of individuals turn up to drink the wine & fill themselves up on canapes.  I much prefer impromptu, informal celebrations.  

But I decided to attend as I am really proud of the work that we’ve achieved together to make this project a success.  And as predicted, although I have been heavily invovlved in the project, I only knew about 15% of the people in the room.

As I was gathering a plate-full of canapes a man turned to talk to me:

“And what brings you here?”

Although I groaned inwardly, I embraced the moment:   that simple question lead to an interesting conversation.  

The man was a partner from one of the consulting companies I have working with.   He had not been involved in the project, but he was aware of some of the challenges I had faced on the project – particularly in relation to the trade unions and staff engagement.

He shared with me the experiences that he’d had working in France:   the trade unions have a particular ritual that accompanies any major change, including mergers or TUPE-type scenarios. 

The staff KIDNAP the boss for 3 weeks and lock him in his / her office. 

It’s all part of the peacock-display as they protest their objections to the proposed plans.  And after the 3 weeks, it’s business as usual and the changes are made regardless.

Apparently, it’s such a common occurence that some management consultancies are now recommending that this 3 week interruption is actually factored into the road-map.

Which leads me to think:  with the current challenges facing the NHS accompanied by the increasing amount of union unrest, we could find ourselves in a similar position.   In a pragmatic move, should NHS Trust start factoring into their PRINCE2 gant charts time-delays caused by collective grievances, ballots and industrial action?

I don’t think that I’ll be advising any of my clients this particular to factor this into their planning just yet, but it’s worth thinking about (just in case).

PS – I’m not sure if it’s a true story or not, but thought it was one worth telling.