The Coach – lessons from…

OK – ironic for a trainer and coach to gain some valuable learning from lunch at The Coach.  The people who run Tom Kerridge’s newish venture in Marlow know a thing or two about people skills, service, team working, leadership – and excellent food.  Maybe one helps the other?

I had met Claire Kreigenfeld  and Nick Beardshaw (head chef) on Monday at the Marlow FM studio on Monday.  Felt drawn to see them in work action for lunch today…

The food reflects the team and how they are managed...

The food reflects the team and how they are managed…

Claire is Front of House manager.  I have always said that we can all learn a lot from the way restaurants work – or don’t.  (Some of you may even have witnessed my conference performance on the subject!)  Claire made me really think. She was behind the bar polishing glasses.  I suggested a managers work was never done…and she said “It’s no good shouting at them. Leadership isn’t that.  I’m just showing them what they should be doing without thinking”.  It is true that you don’t need to be able to do every job that your staff do to their level of expertise, but it doesn’t half help if someone isn’t pulling their weight to be able to show that you are happy to get stuck in too…

The team ethic is constantly there.  Everyone is quietly busy doing things.  There is no panic, and no rush.  It is a tight busy pub – with fine food (see Can Men Cook companion blog in an hour!). Food comes out of the open kitchen (another great and easy metaphor), and the server (which can be chef) says ‘food coming’ and everyone melts away to let the most important thing in the place pass through unhindered.

Two other things happened in our hour there.  Nick had to send something back into the bowels of the kitchen.  He is final assembler and arbiter.  “This is the second one of these I have had to send back.  What is wrong with it?”  he passed it back, and sous chef knew without being told, and just fixed it quickly. And the customer would never know.  This is quality control, performance management and leadership and attention to detail all wrapped up in 12 seconds of interaction.

And Claire quietly spoke to one of her supervisors.  We had an Americano coffee.  The milk hadn’t arrived.  I asked for it, and it was fixed.  “You will have to have a word with her (our original server). She misses some things.  Just a bit of sharpening…”

That’s why it works.  You can feel the passion about the place.  It is based on the fact that there are no grey areas – no boundaries for people to get soft in.  Everyone knows the standards, and they just do it, and love it.

So do I.

NHS Health Chat at The Kings Fund – Roy Lilley in Discussion with Mark Porter

Dr.Mark Porter, Council Chair BMA.- in conversation with Roy Lilley

Roy on his way in...

Roy on his way in…

Where to start? Well, Roy told a story of either Samuel Johnson or Pepys seeing a very sick patient in bed and saying that the best thing to give them was a good dose of Porter.  And that’s what we got…

(A quick aside that Roy also mentioned his mum having passed away – the duchess as all who read the e newsletter will know – and he was working even with that big hole in his life, “because she always said you must just get back on your bike”. There’s nothing more to say, Roy except say goodbye well, and remember the good times because that’s how people live on).

Background learnt? No-one in the family had been to University. Why medicine? Popular science on BBC, it seems…Attenborough, Civilisation, Desmond Morris’s Man Watching. This, in a week when the lack of scientific knowledge in news reporting had Prof. Brian Cox berating and then debating with John Humphreys on The Today Programme.  It does feel (vested interest – I’m originally one myself) that science gets either fictionalised or editors (all either PPE or English graduates?) give equal billing to opposing arguments when one has 99.9% of peer reviewed evidence and the other side has opinion dressed as fact. (e.g. Climate Change)

And that became for me a central recurring theme. As you know if you have been here before, this is my take on the evening – so is biased and opinionated – but here’s my personal highlights….

The young Dr Porter got involved in Medical Politics very early on.  It was seeing a poster held up by two junior doctors outside a London hospital saying “I have worked an 88 hour shift and now I am going to operate on your child…”. The campaign eventually worked (aided by the EC Working Time directive later), but I suppose he at least saw the power of words to move and engage people?

Is the BMA just a Trades Union? Well, that was 1970’s legal push. You couldn’t negotiate national pay structures without being one. The BMA had been a representative body for 140 years before then…but now every item on the news media says “The BMA ( the Doctors Trades Union)…That must be exceptionally frustrating.

Other controversies? Does the BMA have any influence? Well, governments don’t ask for inputs before legislation now. They consult on implementation problems.  Sounds like the BMA were very against The Lansley Experiment ….and have been proven correct, in my (and many other’s) views.  The Health and Social Care Act was an expensive failure, and continues to inform management decisions.

But what of the Managerialism that has grown like Topsy?  The BMA did push for Nurse and Medical Directors to be on Trust Boards. Roy worried about the potential to be conflicted – another recurring theme.  The pressure on Trust executives is immense – making whistle blowing even harder, I think.

Yes, the NHS is a complex system.  We talked all night in isolationist bites “The GPs.  The DoH.  NHS England.”  My view?  No one – but no-one – is taking a whole Systems view – a Holistic approach if you will. This is epitomised in the Social versus Medical care conundrum…evidenced in knee jerk condemnation of A&E failures, bed blocking, and GP access.  Do GPs need to be available 8 to 8, 7 days a week in their surgeries?  Probably not – most of the care is not urgent need led?  We already have 24/7 NHS. It is where you offer the service that is important to us users.

How can we magic up more GPs?  Dr Porter talked of stopping the haemorrhaging, the painfully skewed age profile, people not wanting to become GPs, the hate Mail (capitalisation fully intended). The carrots offered today by Secretary of State Hunt feel to me like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  As with everything else, we need to go back to patient needs and wants.  Like Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) – if we measure the wrong things, we will get the wrong results.

Maybe the government should have asked the BMA for their ideas first?  The problem will always be that any solution, however well researched and implemented will always look like an economic fix rather than patient results and safety focused.  I think the BMA sounds like it can still offer great input here.  Mark Porter looks up for the job – and re-election will at least preserve a modicum of continuity!

#WILY weeks 22 and 23

Gosh – we are almost half way through the year, in real time.  Themes of my instant wake up thoughts of What I Learnt Yesterday – are proving illuminating, to me at least.  The discipline is quite enticing – a bit addictive.  It’s hard to stop once you have started!

Image result for Charles Kennedy

Saddest news was for the well loved politician, Charles Kennedy.  Seemed to be universally liked across the spectrum.  best result since 1920’s after he took his own stance against the Iraq war – speaking on the protest march.  A conviction politician who was incredibly articulate bright and flawed.  Some of his humour was scathing.  Like “Only Paddy Ashdown was a trained killer, of all the politicians I knew.  Mrs Thatcher is good too – although she was self taught”.  There were many quotes and much affection.  I suppose the metaphor for me is sticking to your core beliefs – and it is hard to work with people who don’t share them.  He was against the Coalition with the Conservatives.  Maybe he was proven right again, as I believe history will show with the Iraq war?

The FIFA debacle rolls on.  Some of you will have been in organisations that had similar things going on – perhaps not at that level.  But I bet when people resigned with that much circumstantial evidence of wrong-doing, they were escorted from the premises?  It happens.  So why is the man still in post?  Surely you don’t need 6 months for shredding? (Allegedly).

This story shows how ephemeral news is.  Kennedy was bounced off the front pages by the Blatter story.

Sport does give me pause for thought in organisational life too.  Seeing the obvious passion and sadness at the result, of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Aston Villa fan – makes you realise that passion is an important commodity.  I don’t think we have enough in work life, do you?

At work I was in awe of graduate candidates for a job in an information organisation.  They were all native Russian speakers – all from what was the old USSR.  All had been doing extra jobs in their time at University.  All spoke many languages.  Hard working, smart committed and highly impressive.  Great to see.  And a quote from Paul Chu at Windsor Speakers, “You can stay in your comfort zone, but you won’t find growth there”.  That could apply to each of us as individuals, or to whole organisations?  remember the quote “There are 3 types of organisation:  Those who make things happen; Those who watch what happens; and those who wonder what happened”.  The last will go out of business.  The middle majority will be OK, but not make the most of their opportunities.  The top 20% (it is nearly always Pareto 80:20 split in these things) will stand out among their competitors, and will end up household names – because they didn’t stay in their comfort zones.

Helped out with the DIY bit at my nieces house move.  Just commented that t is so easy to get gratification from the instant result and feedback you get when assembling furniture or putting up curtains.  If only more of corporate life was like that! Can we make it so?

#WILY weeks 18 19

It’s been a momentous few weeks.  Elections, sporty stuff, technology, holidays…and lots of learning from things that happen every day – because every day is a school-day.  (Which is ‘What I Learnt Yesterday’ is all about, of course)

The election result proved how hard it is to be a pollster in our more divided nation.  First Past the Post was designed for two major parties – and I cannot see any change happening like Turkeys wouldn’t vote for Christmas.  It does make you think about how we perpetuate some old ideas in our own organisations “because we have always done it that way”.  It may be time to reassess?  New members of a team are often really good at seeing things with fresh eyes and ideas.  This seems to last about 3 months – so ask them lots of times about what they think could be improved after a month or so.  You might be quite surprised at what you hear…

My final thoughts were about seeing and hearing the erudition of Nick Robinson on the BBC – returning for the election special after surgery for Lung Cancer.  Just getting on with it seemed to be his mantra – and he apparently wrote a book while convalescing for 3 weeks.  Doesn’t that make you want to just get on with it?  If you wait for ‘the right time’, you may be too late?

Volunteers struck me as the ultimate enthusiasts when visiting various places on holiday in Glorious Yorkshire.  There was one particular woman in The James Cook museum in Whitby who was an absolute joy.  It does seem to be a very British trait, volunteering.  Doing something for nothing – just for the joy of it – seems reward in itself for many.  She did tell us that James T Kirk, captain of The Starship Enterprise in the famous Sci Fi TV show, was based on James Cook.  Walking in the Yorkshire Moors and Dales was another eye opener – I do forget how beautiful our whole country is sometimes.  Also managed a tick on our bucket list – spied some Puffins at Bempton Cliffs (RSPB site – again, staffed mainly by volunteers).

Strangest place we visited was a cat cafe in Nottingham.  Just a fun place – and so out of the box!  It was very easy to forget the world and recharge your batteries in such a place.  No good if you are allergic, of course…

The joy of statistics – you can prove anything if you work at it.  Apparently, if you demolished Birmingham and rebuilt it 15 minutes closer to London, that would be the same costs as building HS2.  (Which saves 15 minutes on the journey to Birmingham from London).  I suppose it made me think again about using statistics to prove a point is just too enticing, and you can fit the figures to any fact you wish to prove.

Lots of food and family and friend gatherings – always good to remember the simple pleasures of eating and chatting (and commiserating each other over another football season of frustration!)

My favourite quote of the month? (Quotes always help you to think clearly, I feel).  “A little lemon juice makes everything taste better”.  I agree!