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Monday, 29 October 2012

The Open Channel Newsletter October 2012


Welcome to The Open Channel
Newsletter October 2012
We are delighted to welcome you to the latest edition of The Open Channel Newsletter.

The Open Channel is a venture borne out of a passion for supporting change and our belief in the strength of people and organisations. Janet Dean and Steve Loraine are senior practitioners in public sector service delivery and work collaboratively with private sector, voluntary and community organisations.  Do contact us to find out how we can assist you to manage your change challenges.

Led by Janet Dean and Steve Loraine, two highly respected and experienced independent public service advisers, The Open Channel has a fresh and highly cost-effective approach to helping you lead and manage change. We understand the challenges you face and appreciate the financial constraints you cope with.
Our approach is based on the view that people and organisations are inherently strong and capable and that supporting your strengths in times of change is a particularly positive and a more sustainable way to lead and manage.
If you are a public body, private service provider, voluntary and community organisation or social enterprise, you will find the services we offer just right for your needs.
We report on our Leadership Development Programme for a County Fire and Rescue Service, where we are using a mixture of executive coaching, action learning and strengths models to develop the leadership capacity of the Service.
Find out how we use the SOAR strategic planning model to assist clients to create appreciative strategies and how this powerful approach to planning can benefit your organisation.
Following publication of the Joseph Rowntree Report on Creating a Dementia Friendly York, The Open Channel is partnering with AESOP Consortium to offer Accelerated Learning Programmes on this topic.
And we offer some reflections on recent experience in helping a local authority review its approach to performance management

We have been working with a County Fire & Rescue Service for a number of months, supporting a team of senior managers in their leadership development as the Service navigates the inevitable and challenging consequences of public services reform and resource cuts.
Our work has involved a series of individual executive coaching sessions and strengths profiling feedback; personal development action planning; action learning group sessions and senior leadership event.
The executive coaching sessions have been set in the context of the demands senior managers face in leading complex change and how a team of managers can work collaboratively, supporting each other to achieve individual and mutual goals.
In addition, the learning set sessions have provided a group setting where the collective talents and strengths of the team are brought to bear on shaping and leading organisational change.
As the individual and group sessions took place, another element was added - the Strengthscope profiling tool. This is a powerful model that provides individuals with a high quality report accurately identifying their top seven strengths in a work setting. With this knowledge, the leaders optimise their strengths through the activities they carry out in their own functions and in combination across corporate, strategic projects.
The feedback from the managers about the value of the coaching has been highly positive and their managers, i.e. the Service’s Principal Officers, have commented on the productive change that both the coaching and action learning have made to the strategic outcomes the team is achieving.
Tellingly, the Service also used the Strengthscope profiles to assist it in making decisions about the reallocation of functions and strategic roles to each manager during a recent service re-alignment. This is the first time we’ve seen the model used in this way to help guide a leadership team in the alignment of its members’ strengths and the Service’s activities. We will encourage the service to share their learning from this innovation when they are ready.

For many years now SWOT has been a popular strategic planning tool for teams and organisations. This model has provided structure and focus to future planning conversations in organisations across all sectors. What’s noticeable though about the model and how it’s used is that, whilst at first sight it’s a 50/50 split between negative/positive elements, in practice we find that the conversations tend to focus overly on the negative elements, i.e. weaknesses and threats and less on the positive elements, i.e. strengths and opportunities. So much so that the proportion of the conversations was towards 75/25% negative/positive, concentrating on problems and deficits, tending to drain energy and lacking a compelling preferred future. 
Now there is an alternative; SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results). SOAR is a strategic planning framework with an approach that focuses on strengths and seeks to understand the whole system by including the voices of all the relevant stakeholders.
Focusing on strengths means that SOAR conversations centre on what an organisation is doing right, what skills could be enhanced and what is compelling to all of those who have a stake in the organisation’s success (and not just its leaders). Also, when you use SOAR, you needn’t abandon SWOT, because SOAR and SWOT have a ‘both/and’ relationship, i.e. SOAR leverages the strengths and opportunities from SWOT as a foundation and then adds Aspirations and Results – the critical connection between our imagination and the innovation of implementation.
We have used SOAR with Boards of Trustees, leadership teams, divisional teams and strategic partnerships. When people use SOAR they see the ‘whole’ and their part in delivering the vision. This is how SOAR creates greater alignment and energy to move quickly to implement strategies.
For more stories about SOAR and how to use it to create and deliver your strategies, then contact Steve Loraine

The Open Channel Newsfeed

Dementia Without Walls Project Report Published
Following a year- long action research project, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published its report ‘Creating a Dementia Friendly York’ this month. Led by Janet Crampton of AESOP Consortium and Janet Dean of The Open Channel, the report was co-authored by AESOP Director Ruth Eley.

Whilst using York as a Case Study, the report draws examples from across the UK and the world to make the case for a dementia friendly approach. Janet Dean’s contribution in developing the Four Cornerstones Model which uses Place, People, Resources and Networks as a way of understanding what communities need to do, can be applied everywhere.

To help local authorities and their community partners across the public sector and in business, culture and the voluntary and community sectors to make fast progress in making dementia friendly communities a reality, AESOP and The Open Channel has developed an Accelerated Learning Programme for senior decision makers. Over the course of six months, participants can combine their own experience with practice from outside and use the Four Cornerstones to develop their local action plans.

At the moment, the Accelerated Learning Programme is being offered to interested pilot authorities who need only fund part of the cost. Please contact Janet Dean if you would like to be considered for the Programme.

Janet has been working on a project for a London Borough advising on Performance Management in Housing and Social Care. Here she reflects on the conversations she has had with staff at all levels in the organisation.
‘When you ask people what Performance Management means to them, there are as many answers as there are people – no wonder it’s hard to find a way of making it meaningful.  Some people think immediately of systems – data in, information out at best. But there is seldom one system; if there are many, they often don’t speak to one another, and if you put in bad data, bad information will come out.
Some people talk about process – who collects what, where it goes, how it is communicated and understood. It is not uncommon to find that processes don’t wire round the whole system, they may go so far and fizzle out. People at the sharp end who are inputting data, sometimes don’t recognise it when it is presented at the top. It’s hard in this case to get everybody to buy into the process.
Others emphasise the culture – are people interested in performance, do they want to improve, and are they genuinely trying to work across the organisation to make it happen. How are service users and the public involved, can they influence performance directly? Are elected members interested in the same issues as people delivering services, and do they all want what customers want?
My feeling is that data and even information (i.e. analysed data) are not going to help without knowledge – this comes when we communicate what is happening, and understand it in the same way. But even then we can find ourselves in the same loop. Improved performance comes from wisdom, learning from our practice, doing more of what is good, what is going well, so that we do less of what is going wrong.
In our experience people often start with what’s going wrong – at The Open Channel, our emphasis on strengths means that we will ask you what is good and help you to understand how to make it even better.’

You can keep up to the minute with The Open Channel through our blogs and Twitter feeds. We engage with our clients and stakeholders at @janetdean and @steveloraine and via Linked-in. Check out the links in this newsletter, visit our blogs or add us to your favourites’ lists via www.theopenchannel.co.uk

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