Future Events

Re-designing business - but which business are we in? - June 2024

The early-Summer meeting of the Deming Alliance will be held on Thursday 6th June 2024 at Nettle Hill, Ansty and we hope that you will be able to attend. There will be two sessions: 

Morning session: Creating regenerative businesses and organisations – inspired by living systems

With Sarah Spencer, founder of Think like a Tree and Think like a Forest

We associate forests with growth, creativity, diversity, connection, strength and resilience – characteristics that make for healthy, vibrant, productive businesses and organisations too.

When we model our business and leadership practices on living systems, we move away from the mindsets of the past – mechanistic, consumer, extractive and reductionist, towards the new nature-inspired, creative, expansive and regenerative ways of living, being and doing. The businesses of the future will unite people behind a common purpose with benefits for all, adopting the principle of ‘creating life and creating conditions conducive for all life to thrive.’

This invites leaders to discover the potential that is awaiting to be released (within themselves, their teams and organisations) and explore nature-inspired concepts such as ‘letting-go’, succession evolution, emergence and getting comfortable with complexity.

A regenerative, nature-inspired approach also accentuates our relationship with place, perhaps adopting a bioregional approach, and with the seasons, identifying areas where we can learn from nature’s cycles to enhance our projects, team cultures and product and service offerings.

In this talk Sarah will share how transitioning to regenerative practices demonstrates a path to living and working in ways that are aligned with the rest of Life, and presents a way we can transition beyond the crisis-driven present into a regenerative future.

She will share some of the key concepts in the inner and outer journey that regenerative leaders and teams are invited to step into as well as Think like a Forest’s unique regenerative frameworks which have been developed over her many years of living, working and learning regeneratively.

Sarah also invites participants to regularly connect with other living beings (nature), to move beyond theoretical systems-thinking into the deep connection and learning that transforms our place among species.

Tags: #StayingInBusiness #Customers #ThinkLikeATree #Purpose-Led #LivingSystems #Legacy #HappyWork

Afternoon session - From dissatisfaction with the 'current state' to Business Architecture and continual improvement. Tim Manning.

Having explored the ‘socio’ aspects of organisations in the morning we turn our attention to the ‘technical’ aspects of organisations as socio-technical systems, with a talk by Tim Manning on the emerging discipline of Business Architecture and Target Operating Model design.

A common challenge for organisations is to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Business Architecture seeks to fill this gap, through the design and implementation of a strategically aligned ‘Target Operating Model’. Tim will talk about the major influences that have played into current practice, such as Systems Thinking, The Resource-based View of the Firm, Deming and IT Enterprise Architecture, and move recent developments. He will then present a case study to bring out some of the key features and challenges when applying the discipline within today’s organisations.

\Tags: #DoingGoodWork #SurvivalIsOptional #BusinessModels #EnterpriseDesign

To close, the speakers will lead a review, drawing out challenges and learning for us all, and encouraging us to take action.

If you wish to attend, please advise us at brianwleeming@gmail.com

How HR can be an agent for change and better business - 17th Sept 2024

The late-summer meeting of the Deming Alliance will be held on Tuesday 17th Sept 2024 at Nettle Hill, Ansty and we hope that you will be able to attend.

Session details: How HR can be an agent for change and better business - Perry Timms

It unusual in mainstream western organisations for us to think of HR as the originator of change; more commonly in roles of keeping us current with personal development; on track against legal obligations; and ensuring fair play, often after the fact. 

Join this session with Perry Timms to re-imagine the roles of HR, as an enabler, visionary, and wise friend in making sure we are in the right business, do things right first time, and crucially change the way work is done so that all our people (including supply chain and customers) flourish.

Perry’s company PTHR is a certified B Corporation, and as author of Transformational HR, and The Energised Workplace, Perry doesn’t just talk the talk, he demonstrates it - so this session will bring hope to everyone who gives their energy to an organisation and wants to see it do well. He will refer to the works of key thinkers including Russ Ackoff and Dr Deming along the way, and case studies to illustrate the range of different HR roles, and how they lead to greater happiness and effectiveness. Who wouldn’t want to see those in their workplace?

Tags: #Organisation #TransformationalHR #DoingOnlyGoodBusiness #SelfManagement



To close, we will hold a review, drawing out challenges and learning for us all, and encouraging us to take action.

If you wish to attend, please advise us at brianwleeming@gmail.com

Past Events

The role of questions and data in better business performance - Mar 2024

The Spring meeting of the Deming Alliance was held on Tuesday 26th March 2024 at Nettle Hill, Ansty, with two sessions.

Session One: The role of Data in Business Performance management: Data beats experience and opinion everytime! - David Anker

David explained why we need to use an evidence-based approach to measuring performance; and how that helps to improve governance in healthcare, policing, rail or telecoms services. David is a founding director of Lightfoot Solutions, a consultancy that produces ‘SfN’ (Signals from Noise) software and supports its users in the collection, use of data and taking appropriate action.

See https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/MBE-02-2020-0035/full/html

Tags: #Evidence-based #Data #Services #SystemThinking #organisation

Session Two: Asking Powerful Questions, and Coaching Mindset - David Shaked

David encouraged us to move from deficit-focused (e.g. What went wrong? and Who’s to blame?’) to strength-based (e.g. ‘What went well?’ and ‘How often?’) - a change that produces remarkable shifts in culture, and results including how we feel about our work.

Inquiring into what we already HAVE ACHIEVED, what we WANT, what is POSSIBLE, and what we CAN DO are foundations of more powerful coaching, which opens up a multitude of new possibilities, hope, greater motivation and deeper engagement. David showed how when we think, question and coach others in these ways, we become more effective leaders! He produces the 'Powerful Questions' podcast see: https://www.almond-insight.com/ideas/and ran a great session in 2013, introducing us to Appreciative Inquiry.

Tags: #Strength-focus #Questions #organisation #Observation

To close, we held a review, drawing out challenges and learning for us all, and encouraging us to take action.

Thinking the unimaginable: changing organisational practice for lasting impact - Feb 2024

The Winter meeting of the Deming Alliance was held on Thursday 1st February 2024 at Nettle Hill, Ansty. There were two sessions:

Session One: Interview with a Mystery Practitioner

Our morning with Paul Hollingworth firstly focused on why in the 1980’s with a huge mortgage and a young family, he quit a highly paid job using industrial Time Study etc methods, and switched to consulting with clients and deploying Deming’s teachings? The answer was that he had been to one of Dr Deming's 4-day seminars, and seen much greater effectiveness beckoning. 

Along that path he made several trips to lecture and consult for the fledgling Russian Deming Association https://deming.ru which remains active with heavy industry and agricultural clients. and positively infected hundreds of staff and clients with the same messages.

We persuaded Paul to talk about his relationship with some of his long-term (>10 years) clients, in which he has always demonstrated Deming's principles for continued shared learning and improving the way work is experienced, as well as performed, all the while teaching and promoting better management thinking to produce joy in work

Deming Alliance nominated Paul for the Deming Medal given by the American Society of Quality https://asq.org/about-asq/asq-... which will be awarded to him in May 2024. He is only the 4th winner from the UK since the Medal was first awarded in 1979.

Session Two: Improvisation - Ketan Varia

What an unusual and fun workshop! Ketan asked us to suspend our professional stance as ’the expert’ and instead to engage in the moment. Mainly standing up we were encouraged to respond to simple instructions, and to not analyse or reflect before acting.

DA Improv 2024 02 02

Remembering how to act in the moment we giggled whilst attempting to mirror another person’s movements; challenged our coordination when passing visual messages around a group; and saw many different interpretations of “Cross the floor from A to B" from skipping and rowing to bum-shuffling.

Small groups were tasked to select an object around the room and to invent short stories about why they were special: retelling these again brought all-round appreciative applause and much laughter. This experiential session was fun yet raised our awareness of the value to be gained by using play in otherwise serious situations such as work.


To close, the speakers led a review, drawing out challenges and learning for us all, and encouraging us to take action.

Creating an improvement culture using BTFA, plus a Deeper Dive into AI - Nov 2023

The Autumn meeting of the Deming Alliance was held on Tuesday 14th November 2023 at Nettle Hill, Ansty and there were two sessions:

Session One: Creating an improvement culture using BTFA - David Bovis

David provided a practical and accessible bridge between applied neuroscience and the challenges that leaders face, such as change, strategy deployment, culture, disengagement, stress, burnout etc and describes himself as a ‘Neuroplastician’. He explored use of the Believe-Think-Feel-Act cycle (BTFA) model through engaging activities, discuss the benefits clients are seeing, and answer questions. BTFA details how change occurs in the human brain, and is key to creating a performance enhancing culture from the leaders Beliefs and subsequent Actions. This work links our emotions with brain science, to help us think rationally, access effective language, and thoroughly understand the ‘People’ part of the ‘People-Process-Systems’ mantra. Notably BTFA is compatible with, and expands the reach of Dr Deming’s SoPK in the areas of Psychology and Theory of Knowledge. 

Slides from the event are available here: BTFA Deming Presentation to Share

David is recognised by The Institute of Organisational Neuroscience https://www.ionforum.org and in recent years has joined forces with Levent Turk, previously Europe country president with Toyota Manufacturing. Together they created an online education program teaching BTFA to global change leaders in organisations like GKN Aerospace.

Session Two: A Deeper Dive into Impacts and opportunities from AI - James Crawford

This session followed on from James and Ketan’s popular but brief teaser at our September meeting. He explored how the much-hyped Artificial Intelligence tools change what we can do, and where they can raise new issues. James introduced the most famous AI tools and help us start to explore what they could do for us. 

To close, the speakers led a review, drawing out challenges and learning for us all, and encouraging us to take action.

Tags: #AI #Deming #Systems_Thinking #BTFA

Challenges for Organisations from their Environment - Sept 2023

The theme for Thurs 21st Sept was Challenges for Organisations from their Environment, and what a day we had! This highly interactive triple session was co-created by the speakers, whose flexible way of working together allowed us to cover a huge amount of ground on the day. This was a first time for us and a style we will repeat.

James and Ketan opened our eyes to the pace of development in Artificial Intelligence, and did well to answer so many questions in just 60 minutes. The follow-up session in November is sure to have many impacts on how we consider our own roles and methods in asking and testing questions, not only in desktop research. For instance the incorrect use of other people’s work or ‘plagiarism’ is hardly a new problem, AI tools may spread the temptation more widely; or help us to do a better job of finding and attributing what we glean, so the balanced view may not be a one-way street. 

Angelique reviewed her comparison between the Corporate Rebels work on organisational design and Deming's much earlier works: she found a very strong fit between the two, and using live surveys to gather our answer to questions, explored how we felt about AI; and what has been holding back modern organisations from tackling changes arising (such as AI) from ‘out there’.The final phase was for us to create ‘elevator pitches’ in which we could reflect some of the common strengths identified in talking to our CEO’s. This exercise was challenging and frenetic - and brought out some amazing and funny scripts that taught us much about our historical tendency to ask questions, rather than to propose a compelling idea of change, leaving the details for roll-out!

Taryn and Rob outlined how Mayden use ‘Agile’ within their bespoke culture to accomplish software development, and we quickly learnt that their style of Agile feels quite different from that of most other developers. At Mayden, each team decides which tasks are achievable inside the next sprint of work (usually 2 weeks) - and usually do this without approvals or vetting from senior/managers. That discussion alone went far deeper than we had anticipated. 

Hats off to all the speakers, who closed by reviewing the day, pulling out strands of learning and asking participants ‘What are your Take-Aways’? and ‘What will you do differently/tomorrow?’ -these brought out many valuable insights including: ‘Experimentation is essential for Success’ ‘Prepare my elevator pitch - and prepare myself to deliver it’ ’Time and Effort are not synchronous - so with vision and openness (to mistakes and risks) great shifts can be accomplished’, ‘Advocate a self-managed team approach for organisations exploring AI’, ’Need that 60 second lift talk story on Deming principles’, ‘Use Timebox in our organisation’ ‘We need to hear from (more) organisations that have made the shift from Command and Control to high-trust, high-autonomy ways of working’ and ‘Fail more often'

Tags: #AI #Deming #Mayden #Systems_Thinking #Performance #Context #Agile

Language as a System: parallels with organisational life - June 2023

The theme for Deming Alliance event held on Tuesday 13th June 2023 at Nettle Hill, Ansty was: Language as a System: parallels with organisational life. 

Rita Baker led the Morning and Afternoon sessions and approached a subject we all recognised, yet from a very different standpoint.

Having taught English in the context of international working to thousands of foreign students she has identified learning patterns and methods that sympathise with our brains. 

Many of us have been taught some foreign language (-or other skill) by reference to its structure (grammar): when we might more easily have built upon similarities rather than difference; and getting involved through metaphor rather than ‘getting hung up’ on the grammar. 

Making connections between how we learnt our first, and subsequent languages led to more ‘whole brain’ ways for the acquisition, practice and embedding of new habits. The language practices, social and relationships skills Rita demonstrated were fun, and markedly easier to use than the common ‘learning by rote’ and highly-structured presentation styles of both language and business schools.

Drawing deeply from decades of praxis, this was a very enjoyable and powerful day, with strong resonance for how we all can better arrange our education and organisations lives.

Rita Deming Workshop

Developing highly productive workplaces where all are valued - March 2023

The theme for Mar 2023 was developing highly productive workplaces where all are valued - there were two sessions:

Let’s create Happy Workplaces - Henry Stewart

Working from first-hand experience, Henry helped us to appreciate that ‘People work best when they feel good about themselves’ is not a glib a mantra but achievable, from eating into the vast untapped proportion of waste in conventional work.  He cogently probed, questioned and convinced us that we urgently need happier workplaces for the knock-on benefits in staff retention, flexibility, development of skills, and greater productivity.

Together we explored some of the design choices that staff and leaders must both confront; asking whether our work ‘Avoided mistakes, or Celebrated them?’.   Did we ‘prefer Freedom, or freedom within Guidelines, or being Told what to do’? and crucially ‘How would your organisation be different if the focus of leadership was making people feel good?’ we saw how much simpler those choices become when everyone is deeply engaged. There is need for leaders to adopt a wider range of styles, shifting their balance away from Diminisher roles, towards being Multipliers of capacity, freedom and fulfilment.

In Western corporates, managers are expected to act as the Experts, bringing a deluge of requests to Approve items at multiple stages, however in reality they often know less about the detail than do their staff, a structure which breeds micro-management and stagnation.  
Things are quite different at Happy, where it is usual practice to sketch out a desired change with the staff who will make it happen, and to pre-approve resources within agreed limits.  Tip: an example is the Happy canteen - if you visit Happy, be sure to look there. 
And amongst the successes we should soon see that our people are moving to tackling tasks which give them greater overlap between doing things that they enjoy, and  those that they have become good at doing - what Dr Deming labelled Joy in Work.  Speaking of successes, Henry told us that since he stepped away from ‘being the decision-maker’ in favour of facilitating teams and individuals, their profitability has increased sharply.  
Here’s to more Happy Workplaces!

23 Mar Deming happy workplaces managers opposites CC 16 9 ratio

There's also a great video available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJQ0tLtGck8

Tags:  #Productivity #Happiness #Joy_in_work #Organisational_design #Self_organisation




‘Making the most of everyone’ - Richard Gold

Explaining the title, Richard challenged the common tenet that work and play should be kept separate, with an assertion that when ‘Work, when done right, is the adult at play’ results include better work, dialogue, and team work.   This is partly because when we use the pieces to models or metaphors for the intangible world, we express our feelings more fully, including what we are concerned about, desire, and can offer; and make a more compelling and shared case for them.

Despite my long forgotten childish attraction to Lego, it had never occurred to me to use it in the world of work - yet when we practiced the ‘Playful Principles’ the ways in which it can help us to think without judgement, communicate, and solve problems together quickly became clear.   Amongst a string of exercises we learnt something about ourselves, our fellow participants, and the effectiveness of a multi-media approach to design, story-telling, having fun, and how silence can help focus the mind.   When using a simple structure for the playful sessions, we were strongly encouraged to work from a deliberately simple brief, such as build a tower from a base plate, green and yellow bricks, and either a flower or a flag’ with the test ‘-is that sufficiently unclear?’

I saw first-hand how application of Richard’s easy to follow Playful Principles changes the landscape of working in groups, and particularly valued the tenet of unquestioning validity of each other’s models and stories - that everyone’s perspective is valid.Around each table we experienced the joy of deep and private concentration whilst in the building phase; being unconditionally accepted and understood in the explaining phase; followed by open discussion of what surfaced - all in deep contrast with familiar struggles inside modern organisations to garner ‘airtime’, parity and respect for ideas and resources; and the many ways in which most meetings are dysfunctional.  Having the felt and shared feelings within this environment, we had begun to experience the integration of playfulness into more rewarding work habits: these are key ingredients in the creation of psychological safety, which underpins the operation of high-performing teams.   Hence play and work can be employed in a symbiotic relationship that helps us and our organisations to grow stronger and by becoming places to think and share ideas, to be more rewarding for all.

Deming seminar 30 03 23 handouts

Tags:  #Problem-solving #Learning #Playful #Neuro-science #Releasing_potential

How digital transformation and talking with customers help business to thrive - 7th Feb '23

The theme for 7th Feb 2023 was How digital transformation and talking with customers help business to thrive and there were two sessions:


Deming goes Digital - Michael Pattinson

In this session the insights piled up quickly, ranging from recognition that the pace of change is still accelerating ‘It (digital transformation) is not about the IT, but about the people and their attitudes’ and 'Organisations that have successfully tackled this orient work less around Projects than Products' - and that re-orientation affects the very existence of separate departments such as IT. Michael spoke eloquently about how making full use of enterprise technology can provide deep opportunities for service design; and to practice our first steps, we had fun deploying Design Thinking.

N.B. presentation notes were distributed only to the 7 February audience.

Using the Voice of the Customer - Alan Clark

Alan described the need to listen to the VoC, saying that like icebergs, this feedback remains hidden until we specifically ask for it.  However when we do, it provides ‘the difference between success and failure’. Using well-chosen examples, we were helped to see what satisfying and delighting customers mean; choice of techniques to gather customer inputs, uses of VoC in strategy. Alan suggested that we should learn from 'treating mistakes as sources of treasure', in cycles of improvement that can lead to VoC being used to re-shape product and services alike.

Tags #Survival #VoiceOfTheCustomer #CustomerExperience #Success #Kano

The slides from the presentation are available here: Using the Voice of the Customer to Initiate Process Design

Turning organisational issues into opportunities for improvement - Nov '22

Our last meeting for 2022 took place at Nettle Hill on Thursday 10th November 2022 and the theme for the day was 'Turning organisational issues into opportunities for improvement'.

Morning session - ‘Conflict management’ with Ketan Varia

Any kind of change to something better will often involve conflict. We need to understand it and use it to our advantage. Ketan's talk examined conflict and considered ways to manage for positive outcomes. We also spent time to understand our (natural) conflict styles, consider other styles and their strengths and weaknesses. There were exercises and interactions to help support the theme. Ketan leads Kinetik Solutions, a UK based consultancy that specialises in business transformation, change management, innovation and process excellence in operational settings. The company has delivered work to several large organisations including ADP, Barclays Bank, British Airports Authority, Hertz Cars MITIE and several public sector organisations including the NHS. They have worked globally across five continents.

Afternoon session - 'Liberating structures' with Ben Simpson and John Morgan

  • Group conversations in organisational life are often characterised by one or more of the following:
  • The HiPPO effect (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion affects the decision)
  • Minority of voices dominate the majority of the available time
  • Are unequal (i.e. one person presents, everyone else listens)
  • Are too heavily structured and stifle creativity and emergence
  • Have little space for reflection (individual or collective)
  • Not psychologically safe – people fear speaking up

In this session we explored and practised some liberating structures, designed specifically to unleash contributions and latent innovations waiting to be discovered. Liberating Structures are licenced under the creative commons.

Understanding Variation and De-Crapifying Work - Sept '22

The theme for Tues 20th Sept 2022 was Understanding Variation and De-Crapifying Work, and was two-fold: firstly to understand how we can understanding and manage variation, and how we can make work better. There were two sessions: 


Helping business to understand and manage variation - Omar McCarthy

When business people experience variation in results they can often treat this as arising from human (operator) error, and as a result mis-direct their improvement actions. Since we can not ‘Know what we don't know’ a vital prelude to initiating substantive change is to gain insights that point us to other causes, and lead us to change our thinking. Omar discussed how a leader in manufacturing raises visibility of this problem and prompts the organisation to tackle variation by adapting their approach to problem solving and applying some of Deming's teachings. He has channelled this across the manufacturing sites, through business processes and the engagement of management, where talk of variability and how to get to grips with it is the 'new normal’ priority; and ensuing improvement activities are guided by cycles of measurement and testing. Take-aways included how the experience of improvement efforts in ‘Big Pharma’ is achieving tangible business benefits; and how these might fit with your own settings.  

Omar is Lean Director at AstraZeneca, a global research based Bio-Pharmaceutical company. He has also worked in financial services, and trained in statistics. Amongst his current specialisms, he is Global Lead for Process Robustness, and led the development of the AstraZeneca framework for Problem-solving in Operations. Omar is keenly interested in how organisations can benefit from viewing themselves as systems, focusing on high-value learning, retention of key skills, and seeking the next steps in improvement.


De-Crapifying Work - Colin Newlyn

Our speaker argues that we urgently need to ‘De-crapify Work' - because, for too many people, the experience of work is crap. Does that ring true for you? Even if you are lucky enough to answer ’No’ can you say the same for everyone else (including supply chain and customers) you deal with? Colin notes that levels of employee engagement are pitifully low, that a majority of employees would change jobs tomorrow if a better opportunity arose and that our workplaces are awash with apathy. All these are denying the creativity, innovation and collaboration that organisations and the world need, to address the challenges and opportunities we face every day. See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/decrapified-workplace-colin-newlyn/ 

This epic waste of human potential is why: stress, anxiety and depression are at record levels and continue to rise, also people are dying from work-induced stress-related illnesses, including burnout and suicide. In de-crapifying work, Colin insists that any of us can take action now to improve their workplace. His lines of action include encouragement for us to recover the pleasure we get from doing good work well, and to 'Release our Inner Pirate’ and to ‘Make Good Trouble’ at work. He highlights a need to provide 'Visions of Better’ ways to operate, such as the Pirates example and Laloux on self-organisation. And he powerfully challenges the widespread management misconception that managers raise performance best by steering, controlling and ‘managing people’. Key questions included: Why is work crap for so many? What can we do individually and in teams to effect change around us? What could a de-crapified workplace look like? What are the systemic changes we need?

Colin Newlyn has studied, worked and consulted widely around coaching, leadership and culture, and has a varied background ranging across infrastructure, economics, and financial services.

To close the day our speakers led a discussion with participants of what they have noticed and learnt, and asked “What does this change?"

Understanding ourselves and healing organisations - June '22

The theme for Thurs 9th June 2022 was Understanding ourselves and healing organisations: firstly to better understand what we value most, and secondly to place our organisations on a cycle including crisis and renewal. There were two sessions:

Change, Values and Us - Jackie le Fevre
We can all benefit from understanding which values we hold dear because they are '-our ideas of what it is most important to experience in life and how we want life to turn out for a person like us in the end.'  Stress, even distress, can be experienced when we encounter a mis-match between our values and those claimed or operated by a group we spend time with. Some of you will remember Jackie's first session 'The role of Values in business, life and decision-making; and how we can stay true to them' in 2016.  Then she took us on a journey of exploration, describing how deeply held our personal values are - that they are secreted along with layers of behaviours and beliefs, so only rarely identified or discussed. Jackie's continuing research has moved the subject along, and in this workshop she will delve into the dynamics of the values to be found in any organisation. This session was designed to affect how we understood our place in the world, our own well-being and how we related to work and voluntary activities!

  • Learn how to access and change our own values
  • Contribute individually to doctoral research into different methods of values elicitation
  • Hear how story-telling can help divine the values a group is using
  • Discover how storytelling and core values can be dovetailed to strengthen culture.


How an ecological model of organisation makes sense of a turbulent world - Alan Clark

Alan’s workshop shared insights from David Hurst’s book ‘The New Ecology of Leadership: Business Mastery in a Chaotic World’, with activities to help us consider its meaning in your context. To quote Hurst, the Ecocycle is: “…an ecological mental model of organisation and change, which…is dynamic and embraces change in both space and time.” The model involves 8 stages that organisations find themselves in, and twin traps that are best avoided. The challenge for management is to stay in the ‘sweet zone’ between the two traps. We worked through several questions:

  • What are my feelings about the Ecocycle?
  • Where is my ‘organisation’ on the Ecocycle?
  • If we are not in the ‘sweet spot’, do we want to be? -and what might be our first steps?
  • And if you don’t act, what is likely to happen next?

Through group work Alan uncovered the traits and skills necessary to cope in these phases, and what that means for the development of leadership.

Leadership in Healthcare - Tues. 29th March 2022

  • Morning sessionThe Art of Rock-IT Science. NHS Surgeon and systems coach Simon Dodds returned to share more insights from applying systems engineering to operational designs in healthcare settings, aka HealthCare Systems Engineering 'HCSE’.  Members, and the wider public hold the NHS dearly and in an unspecific way are proud of the services delivered; yet they also ‘know’ that europe’s largest employer is heavily fragmented and inefficient.  Alongside the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic added to operation of the NHS there were also great opportunities to apply fresh thinking. 
    This session continued from Simon's session in November, when he delighted us with a game that showed the damage done when deploying mistaken assumptions in scheduling work - see https://www.improvementscience.co.uk/blog/?p=5898 which he calls ‘carveoutosis’ Amongst his many educational roles, Simon was the coach and designer of pivotal new service designs to tackle Covid-19, such as the DriveThruCare patient self-referral system (2021) and the Systems Engineer for the COVID Referral Centre installed in 2020 in record time in a car park at the National Exhibition Centre.
  • Afternoon sessionThe virtues and challenges of trusting your workforce to do the right thing. Paul Jansen of Trust Works led a session exploring his thoughts and experiences of applying self-management to healthcare settings, including bringing the highly successful Dutch 'Buurtzorg' healthcare model to the UK.  He has a wealth of examples showing how dramatic the improvement can be, as massive improvements to how the work feels for patients and the staff delivering care; retention of staff; and that costs also fall sustainably.  
    Paul addressed the prospects for self-management within delivery units, contrast the opportunities and difficulties faced by traditional management styles contemplating such change; and describe new roles for managers as coaches, problem solvers and dissolvers of bottlenecks. Paul spends much of his time consulting with those interested in learning how to deploy self-management, so he has a finger on the appetite for change.

If good leadership is good for business, why are most managers mediocre? - Feb 2022

Ed and Emma introduced us to the ‘Blue 4’ behavioural leadership style that instils more productive traits. They were refreshingly relaxed over the sometimes contentious issue of separating definitions of ‘leadership’ and ‘Management’ -since few if any of us operate wholly in either one role.

Leaders who adopt Blue 4 exhibit an advanced ability to juggle both Concern for setting Direction; and Concern for People (which includes supply chain), leading to higher performance.   An ideal preferred position then is to be in the Blue Zone (see diagram) rather than zig-zagging between the zones.

Blue 4 styles

Next they led us through a revealing exploration how our preferred stance (or range of styles) affect our judgement and interactions with colleagues, in situations such as problem solving, giving feedback and entrepreneurship.   It follows that we should look into how our behaviours link into the ‘organisational climate’ of the business, and its performance. 

Emma suggested that unbidden, we may not be recognise our own basic or 'angry person position’ such as “When I’m in a good/bad place I am usually x/y…” and from that to steer ourselves into a more productive segment.  And an example was that it had made it easier for them to ‘Deal with Young People’ by “Connecting before Correcting” - helping them to move to a thinking/reflecting space, instead of a(another) Confrontation.

Successful customer centred projects need more than just project management - Feb 2022

In Louise Ebrey Hill’s workshop we explored several views of skills and roles, as the building blocks for change:

  • The disciplines needed to make change successful;
  • The differing skills, processes, tools and approaches that successful people bring to these roles;
  • How this changes across the stages of project delivery, and where the roles sit in both temporary projects and the ‘Business As Usual’ organisation;
  • Why it matters…what happens when the right people with the right toolbox, skill-set and mindsets are not in the right roles or the right places in the organisation at the right time in the project lifecycle;
  • How well we articulate these needs in attracting people;
  • How changing our approaches to diversity (including backgrounds, cognitive & neuro-diversity and experience) affect the success of change initiatives.

Lou revisited her strap-line of 'Helping people find their natural home in projects and attracting a more diverse range of practitioners’ by examining the skills facets of change management, and how people can be slotted into roles that best suit their development.  

Using a serial view (a modified SIPOC chain) of how organisations engage with changes, she helped us to apply: Project; Outputs: Capabilities: Outcomes; Benefits realised: (contribution towards-) Strategic Objectives - to highlight the many areas in which skills matching are crucial to success.  From the perspectives of each project board; as knowledge management, or the retention of skills, Louise highlighted need for attention to be paid to maintaining flow along this chain; including feed-back to decision makers.

For example:-

  • Organisations fostering hundreds of change projects commonly suffer from a lack of alignment with their core purpose, and the coordination function to marshal skills towards the true priorities;
  • Those favouring selection from an insider pool with a focus on existing capabilities, often perpetuate skills gaps that cripple change management, leading to stagnation. 
  • When management focuses on a string of KPIs, it is quite feasible to inadvertently marginalise the benefits that projects have already declared, and to waste the resources lined up to deliver them.

Lou suggested that both parties generally benefit from our spending a greater proportion of our work lives building/extending our capabilities "Playing more inside the Box.” -which highlights the intrinsic rewards of work; ‘-being like a kid after opening Xmas presents' and improving retention of skilled people. 

Leadership in Healthcare - Tues 9th Nov 2021

Our face-to-face meetings at Nettle Hill resumed on Tuesday 9 November 09:30-16:30 - with the theme for the day being Leadership in Healthcare

The Art of Rock-IT Science. Surgeon and systems coach Simon Dodds returned to share recent insights from his work applying systems engineering aka to improve management in healthcare settings.  Alongside the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic caused to the NHS there were also great opportunities to apply fresh thinking. 

This half-day session leads into a second session on 29 March. Simon was the creator of the DriveThruCare patient self-referral system (2021) and the Systems Engineer for the COVID Referral Centre installed in record time in the National Exhibition Centre car park in 2020.

    This was a rousing return to what we have missed so much during the lockdowns, the opportunity to challenge the effectiveness of the status quo, to work together and to compare notes in friendly dialogue.

    From Spuddling to Stronger Decision-Making - Mar-Apr '21

    Across the UK there is a great appreciation for the National Health Service, particularly since its 70th anniversary and the Covid epidemic.  Boards need reliable information and clear prompts, upon which to make better decisions.  Yet within the NHS (and in business) the prevalent approaches to looking at performance data are two-point comparisons and traffic light ‘red, amber, green’ reports.  We recognise these are difficult to read, and tough going when trying to spot meaningful trends, let alone to make predictions.

    In this workshop Samantha Riley of NHS Improvement explored better ways for Boards to understand and manage the variation in results, and provide a sound basis for assurance.  This movement has proven to be very successful in strengthening decision-making or ‘governance’.  Sam’s small team have convinced half of the NHS’s 217 Trust Boards to adopt this approach, and are engaging with the remainder.  

    With a similar change overdue in industry, education and government, the field of application is vast.  Attention was placed on how executive members have been encouraged to adopt a different approach - without their needing to perform detailed data preparation, which others do on their behalf.

    This was an online event held on Thursday 25 March 2021 at 14:30 GMT and Thursday 1 April 2021 at 14:30 GMT.

    Slides: the presentation slide-set from the event is available by clicking on the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GKsUofW_k8yPL9QUvVhsU185aG8kYQLf/view?usp=sharing

    Video Recording: the video recording for the workshop event is available by clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/VhfUkUqv_QA

    Audio Recording: sound recordings of both events are available via the following links:

    SPC Tools & Training: further guidance and support information is available from the session, and associated materials at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hO8c4VEdblrKmEpz3h8ovb1nxl4SEr-c/view?usp=sharing

    Academic Papers: three papers are available containing useful thinking and guidance on the subject:

    Designing a Culture for Innovation - August 2021

    Culture guides the way staff behave when management is not intervening.  In this interactive 90-min workshop Peter Leeson asked 'What sort of culture do we need to allow innovation to flourish?', and 'How do we influence that?'

    An organisation that does not innovate is condemned to repeat the same thing until they are made obsolete by their competition or replaced by automation.  Staying in your groove means that the more creative and performing staff members will soon get bored and look elsewhere, while the younger graduates do not see you as a tempting employer.  Yet, many organisations insist on how we have always done things, follow the rule book, respect the process, and ask supervisors before improving anything…

    Imagine a culture in which improvement and change are the foundation stones.  You don’t have to invent new products. You don’t need to be Edison, da Vinci or Picasso.  You might “just” consider how to be more effective, improve the quality, reduce the paperwork, speed up the process.

    Culture is not something that is imposed: it is something that grows, that arises out of habits, tradition, communication, stories.  Changing the culture is not like replacing a piece of machinery.  It needs to be designed, thought through, planned and implemented systematically.Within this workshop, some culture change principles and creativity will be considered; you will be encouraged to define your approach through a series of exercises – anonymously; you will have the option to review and learn from others facing similar issues.

    This workshop was developed by and facilitated by Peter Leeson, a chartered quality professional bringing you 45 years of global business experience, helping large and small organisations improve their working ways, culture, processes, communication, and, ultimately, the quality they deliver to their customers.  Peter is a recognised speaker at international conferences and a respected consultant and coach.

    This workshop took place on Weds 4th Aug 09:00 BST, repeated on Weds 25th Aug 14:00 BST.  There are a number of resources that Peter has made available: 

    As well as presentation content from the workshop:

    Culture Change Workshop
    Designing a Culture for Innovation

    You may like to follow this quick introduction at https://youtu.be/-aKg1fzHqSU to the ‘Miro’ online whiteboard system, used extensively in the workshop. The video of the workshop can be found online at  https://youtu.be/0JP5X3nEBBQ

    Peter can be reached for further discussion via https://bit.ly/OK-LetsTalk, and would very much appreciate any feedback either by email at: info@pleeson.co.uk 

    A new event in Deming Alliance's 'Out of the crisis; better management in a post pandemic world' series.

    Leadership for sustainable performance: creating a legacy - Dec'20-Jan'21

    Facing an increasingly complicated environment, managers and leaders can be dazzled by shifting boundaries at national and local levels, overwhelmed by the range of claims made for quick-fixes, and concerned over relationships between leaders and employees. This 90 minute interactive workshop was for managers and staff of public and private organizations to navigate the maze.

    Now more than ever staff at all levels need to know that leaders are well-equipped to identify the areas most needing improvement, steer adaption, and how to effectively gauge progress. David Anker taps his broad experiences of these issues, and share powerful practices to help leaders and supervisors compare forecast with results, and maintain traction on the 'big ticket issues'.

    Recording: the video recording for December 2020 workshop event is available by clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/4xQxVRYloNY 

    Recording: the video recording for January 2021 workshop event is available by clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/mbDFUhkSlHo 

    Notes: a copy of David's notes in PDF format are available here: Leadership for Sustainable Performance

    The Trust Equation - development workshop - Sept '20

    The Trust Equation - addressing a deep need in both modern business dealings and in wider society. Working from first-hand experience Jane and Mark Lewis created a 90 minute session to help us understand how trust works, and can be lost or built between players; to see: How to see when trust is breaking down? How does lack of trust affect us? What is needed to re-build trust?

    This session was help anyone, whether in non-profit or business situations or in civil society, to navigate the maze of relationships, which are fundamental to getting things done, persuading others to take a course of action, or re-examining how they view an organisation. Participants were encouraged to recall briefly two anonymous situations: one of a lack of trust; and the other requiring a high degree of trust, from any walk of life.

    This workshop took place on Thursday 24 September from 14:00 to 15:30 BST, repeated on Wednesday 30 September from 18:30 to 20:00 BST

    Presentation Material: the slides for this event are available in PDF format at: The Trust Equation 2020 slides

    There was also a trust questionnaire used in the workshop, which is available at: https://drive.google.com/file/...

    Recording: the video recordings for this event are available by clicking on the following links -

    Untangling motivation and performance - August 2020

    This event explored why we go to work, and how we can take pride in it. In today's shareholder society many feel that 'We have to work for the money' - yet is that all we have to look forward to? This workshop was both employees and employers tease out a mix of reasons for us to work; who values our contributions, and how individual and team performance link to more factors than monetary rewards. 

    This presentation took place on Mon Aug 3rd 11:00-12:00 (BST), repeated on Thurs Aug 20th 19:00-20:00 (BST)

    Presentation Material: the slides for this event are available in PDF format at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1d_RXvf6s_fxXSZBa2J0BKmFwoDrbYAJv/view?usp=sharing  

    Recording: the video recording for this event is available by clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/Rs1nXcUpBF8

    Change-enabled Organisations - July '20

    How is it that some organisations stay out in front of their competition for decades at a time without the need of "transformation programs" or episodic change initiatives? As well as being some of the most successful businesses they are also often regarded as being highly desirable organisations to work for. In this session we discuss these progressive organisations and our research that reveals the difference that makes a difference.

    This free, interactive web workshop with Ben Simpson and Denis Bourne was addressed to business leaders, board members and their advisers interested in ensuring that their organisations can not only survive, but thrive beyond the current crisis.  

    This was an on-line event held on: Tuesday 21 July 18:00 BST + 90 minutes, and Tuesday 28 July 1100 BST + 90 minutes.

    Slides and Materials: A comparison of change-enabled and non-enabled organisations is available to view on-line.

    Video: a recording of the presentation video is available to by clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/tMsOPM93YgM

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