How – and why? – did you first get involved in improvement; and what has been your journey since then?
I’ve always had a passion for helping organisations improve. I joined Accenture (or Andersen Consulting as it was then) as a graduate nearly 20 years ago. I progressed to become a strategy and change management consultant, first at Accenture and then later at IBM Business Consulting Services.
At my Trust, we have hosted colleagues from neighbouring Trusts who we met at our Q launch event
After a number of years of consulting and travelling extensively, I moved to work as a senior manager for one of my clients, improving their organisation from within. My role was very varied, and included managing global change projects, continuous improvement, and communications and culture change work – improvement was always at the heart of everything I did. I made the jump to the NHS after completing my MBA at London Business School, and moved to Taunton with my young family. It has been wonderful to have the opportunity to bring my skills to working on improvement projects that make a real, observable difference to patients in my local community.
What most inspires you professionally?
I am inspired and motivated by making a real difference – to patients and to my colleagues. Every day I ask myself if what I have done has made a difference. Improvement has never been more important for the NHS. The financial position of the NHS gives us a unique opportunity to truly think big and challenge the fundamentals of the way that we provide services. Now is the time to move away from incremental change projects on a ‘best endeavours’ basis, and professionalise the way that we deliver improvement in order to deliver true transformational change. We need to identify, nurture and harness the skills, passion and improvement experience that we have across the NHS and get the right people focussing on the right problems.
Now is the time to move away from incremental change projects on a ‘best endeavours’ basis, and professionalise the way that we deliver improvement in order to deliver true transformational change
Can you share a hard-won lesson you’ve learnt about what makes for a successful (or unsuccessful) improvement project?
My passion is creating a movement of “evidence based improvement” in the NHS. Evidence based medicine is well established, but evidence based improvement is new to most of us. So for me, perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learnt is how important it is to see what others have done, what worked and didn’t work for them, and what lessons you can learn from their experiences. At the beginning of every project, look externally and see how others have tackled your problem. Find out what best practice is in your area. Also ‘horizon scan’ – that is find out what is likely to happen in the future and what the art of the possible is? Often a quick search on google (or asking your Library service) will give you the details of other Trusts doing similar work, who you can then get in touch with. Or of course, use the Q network to find others who can help you. You really don’t need to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel.
My passion is creating a movement of “evidence based improvement” in the NHS
What change could we make that would do most to embed continuous improvement in health and care?
Improvement will only work if it is an accepted and expected part of everyone’s day job. It needs to be a part of doing your job, whatever role you are in within the NHS and become part of the fabric of the culture of the NHS. To make this happen we need to make it important, and give it profile. It needs to be part of our performance objectives. We need to keep talking about it. We need to coach and empower others to do it. We need to recognise and reward it. This is our responsibility as Q members.
Why did you join Q?
I have always felt that the NHS is missing a trick by not sharing knowledge and experience better. The combined workforce of the NHS is incredible, and there is almost always someone else who has been faced with the same challenge (or opportunity) and whose experience could help us, if only we could find them. We all share a common set of challenges, and are running similar improvement projects in parallel, in whatever part of the healthcare system we work. There is a fantastic opportunity for us to collaborate, and Q is a great way of facilitating these connections.
What new connections (and collaborations) have you made as a result of joining the Q community – and what have you learnt so far?
So far I have had the privilege of being able to contribute to the Q knowledge management strategy and share my ideas for the Q community with the Health Foundation. As a Q Connector, I also have regular contact with other Q connectors. At my Trust, we have hosted colleagues from neighbouring Trusts who we met at our Q launch event. I also have a visit booked to collaborate with Q members in a different region to learn more about what they are doing.
Can you tell us about something you’re currently working on (that Q members might be able to help with/feed into/learn from/contribute to)?
I have described my passion for evidence based improvement; indeed we have recruited a dedicated improvement librarian. I’d be delighted to hear from other organisations about whether and how they do this. I’m also currently doing a PhD into how management consultants are used within the NHS, and would love to hear with anyone with experiences of working with consultants in the NHS.
Note: you can learn more about ‘Q Connectors’ here.