Talking About the Problems Or Discussing Solutions

Being a leader or manager in any organisation is tough.  In the NHS and in healthcare generally it can sometimes be even tougher.  The sheer size and scale, not to mention the complexity of the organisations and media interest makes it even tougher.


Looking at a lot of what is written about the NHS and healthcare, there seems to be a big focus on the problems.  In any large organisation there are going to be problems from time to time.  Some will not be significant overall but others will be really significant.


Leaders and managers in the NHS are tasked with delivering results.  At the same time they are often given very little time to produce those results. In the ideal world it would be easy to deliver instant and sustainable results.  In reality this is not the way it is.


On the other hand where leaders and managers focus their attention can make a difference.  Ask most leaders and managers in the NHS and in healthcare more generally what the problems are and nearly every one of them will be able to reel them off.


Some of the problems might well be to do with structural arrangements which leaders and managers don’t have a huge influence over.  Yet there are other areas where there is significant influence.


So in your leadership and management meetings what’s the balance between time spent talking about problems compared to focusing on solutions?


I am sure that you will be able to take a stab at guessing the time split. On the other hand have you ever sat down and recorded and analysed how time is spent in leadership and management meetings?


Meetings are expensive to run in terms of time and energy.  Of course if there are problems you want to understand causes and hopefully avoid them in the future.  Ultimately however you want to find sustainable solutions.


So how might you get the balance right?


One option is to ask those who are attending meetings to come prepared with two or three ideas on how to solve the problems.  This provides the basis of stimulating discussion and building on the ideas.  It is a whole lot easier than starting with a blank piece of paper.


Another option is to encourage people to use good questions to understand the problems.  It is all too easy to fall into the trap of adding more to the problem bundle rather than understanding what the issues really are.


Try using time caps on particular issues.  If you are not making progress within a reasonably short period of time, chances are there is insufficient information to move things forward.  It’s much better to acknowledge this than waste valuable time.


Make sure everyone is aware of what is going to be discussed in meetings.  It will ensure they come prepared.


Don’t be overly ambitious.  The reality is you can only cover 2 or 3 things of significance in a meeting.  It’s best to accept this and do those 2 or 3 things well rather than 5 things poorly.


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