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A lot goes into planning the Visits programme – can you tell us a little bit about how you identify the right visit for Q members?

It’s about a learning edge. We focus on insight outside of what’s commonly known about Quality Improvement. For example, when we considered GSK as a visit location, it wasn’t the adoption of lean techniques that drew us in, it was the way the it uniquely blended Lean, Six Sigma, Project Management, Organisational Development, Engagement and Learning. Through doing so – and sustainably spreading the approach over such a huge, disperse organisation, – rich vein of learning has been created, which members of the Q community wouldn’t ordinarily be able to tap into through their own networks.

It’s about finding that sweet spot where novelty meets credibility.

Our challenge is to continually find sites that offer that type of learning – presenting something new – whilst demonstrating approaches that have been successful over the long term. It’s about finding that sweet spot where novelty meets credibility. Fortunately, as the Q community has grown, Q members are suggesting sites themselves, and we’re busy narrowing these down to the ones where hosts are able to provide that learning edge and are willing to collaborate with us. It has to be a win-win. A win for Q members and a win for the hosts. It’s a significant challenge, but a rewarding one.

What have been some of the highlights of the Visits’ schedule over the past year?

Too many highlights to convey, but there are memorable moments which immediately spring to mind. One of those was when we visited Mayden, a software company specialising in Agile. They put on a fabulous programme: a mix of theory, interaction, and a Go See. As part of an interactive session, the organisers picked up Elon Musk’s ambition of building a hotel on Mars. Q members did this in teams, designing and building the hotel using lego, applying Agile techniques. I’ll never forget the buzz in the room, the sun shining in, the smiles. It was one of those moments of true flow: effortless learning that you can feel in the air, like the charge of an impending storm. That was a great day.

I’ll never forget the buzz in the room, the sun shining in, the smiles. It was one of those moments of true flow: effortless learning that you can feel in the air, like the charge of an impending storm. That was a great day.

Another memorable visit was at Northumbria, where we explored experienced-based co-design. As our hosts shared personal experiences and emotional ‘trigger’ films of patients’ experiences of care, I sensed people opening up to the power of what was to come: that they would get to experience interacting with patients, with staff, immersing themselves in the organisation. This wasn’t show and tell, it wasn’t ‘role’ play, it was real play. The nervous energetic apprehension in the room as they set about this was as palpable as the energy when they returned, full of stories of what they’d seen, of what they’d done, of what they’d learnt.

There are so many other stories, of memorable moments, too many to share here and we’re extremely grateful to all of our hosts for their generosity and hospitality.

What we can we expect over the rest of this year from the visits programme?

We’ve got some exciting visits coming up before the year is out. In October we do a two-day Lean study tour, with Nissan and Tees Esk & Wear – a unique opportunity to see principles in a manufacturing environment, immediately translated into a healthcare setting. Then we have a visit in November to Sheffield, where our focus will be on relational leadership; how to lead significant change across organisational boundaries. In December, we visit the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, that draws open best practice from industry whilst helping Health Organisations improve their safety and effectiveness. So, a busy latter half of 2018, which we’re hugely looking forward to.

The two-day study tour in October is set to be a highlight of the Visits’ calendar this year – what should people be expecting to take away from the two days?

Our study tour to Nissan and Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust will give Q members a unique opportunity to learn about adapting Lean ideas from industry to improve healthcare. Q members will see The Nissan Way in action in a world-class production plant alongside visiting a mental health and community provider organisation which is ten years into a journey of adopting Lean thinking as its management approach.

By putting these visits side-by-side into a study tour, Q members can compare and contrast how lean concepts are applied within manufacturing and how they have been translated into an NHS context.

Delegates will share their learning and experiences through discussion and debrief sessions, thinking about how they might apply this within their own organisation.

Can you give us a sneak-peek of what to expect from the Visits plan next year? Are there some particular visits you consistently hear members ask for?

Next year’s programme – forming as we speak – will be a mixture of repeat visits and new locations. We’re conscious that the Q community was exponentially growing when some of our visits took place, and therefore some people have been denied the opportunity to attend, so we’re reviewing the visits which participants rated most highly and plan to return to those sites.

I’m cautious at this stage of revealing too much about next year’s schedule, as talks are in the early stages with many sites, but suffice to say that we will be spreading our wings both geographically (potentially visiting sites in Scotland and Ireland) and organisationally: we have our sights set on technology giants and global energy suppliers, and that’s just in the first half of the year, so watch this space!

Do members consistently ask for specific visits? The short answer is no; we have thirty-six suggestions, overwhelmingly unique. Machine learning is an area that’s been proposed a couple of times, so we’re keeping a close eye on sites that are developing in this area, sites that may be progressed enough within the coming year, to have achieved that point of credibility I spoke of earlier.

2019 feels like it’s going to be an exciting year!

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