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Tension 6 – status & control vs listening to everyone

This blog is part of a series of reflections by the Re-imagining Healthcare SIG. Here Matthew Bell shares his thoughts about the last of six 'tensions' that surfaced during his efforts to create organisational change.

So, the final tension. Increasing participation, working through open processes and making everything more transparent, and talking about Reinventing Organisations could be seen as a direct challenge to managers and individuals that hold power. One good friend, who works in a military style environment gave me clear feedback – you never break the chain of command!

Whilst open conversations include managers in the discussion, it bypasses them as the primary relationship within teams. Also, the process that I followed did not assume the management team as the location for the final judgement about what would happen. Increasing participation can feel dangerous and unaccountable. Who is making a decision and who is accountable if it is a collective process that reaches conclusions and judgements. If you were being blunt in assessment of this, you might ask who we can blame if something goes wrong.

I believe this tension lies at the heart of the changes as we move to a more adult-to-adult relationship between people at work. It affects everyone. From those looking to managers to make a decision on their behalf, to the managers who hold their status as central to their own personal identity – we need to be more patient. These are people and lives in the middle of this, and collectively there is a massive shift to make – and I absolutely hold my own actions and behaviours as part of this. There are actions I took that within the existing context of how control was distributed that could have been more sensitive to the impact on certain individuals.

In any change process there will be a range of different responses. The more critical views were predominantly by those in power and this was something I did not specifically address. I thought that I would have time to create enough positive change to be able to demonstrate and show rather than trying to explain more conceptually.

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