In this article, we address the culture change needs of complex public sector organisations as they change, scale and/or merge.
Across the public sector the rapid introduction of merged organisations such as multi academy trusts, PCN’s, unitary authority councils, NHS departments, and other overarching bodies has brought promise of joined up working and additional investment, to many public sector services nationally.
A promise that both demands rapid change and forecasts wins that mask the resulting pain points.
These initiatives also require a rapid shift in business practice and partnership working, that we can most closely compare to a merger or a scale-up in other sectors. Outside of the public sector, both of these can lead to failure when not handled correctly and so the change is often heavily invested in, in terms of support.
Supporting culture change
Typically, a predicted organisational shift in culture at this scale is accompanied by a redesigned board culture, a plan or policy for wider team culture change and the intentional adoption of organisational behaviours that bring the resulting ‘team’ together.
In reality it can feel like 2 (or more) organisations, striving to create a single culture.
We must not underestimate the challenge this brings to those in the new entity.
When we look at blended families, out in society, where people started out by loving each other (not being pushed to join up). Divorce is more common than success, with the primary reason stated being “parenting”. It is not a huge leap to see that the management style of organisations can clash when boards come together. We hear stories of leaders in conflict and even competition emerging about which team are best led, best paid etc. For all parties, this is costly as the entire system fails to recognise the opportunity to come together through joined up change, rather than resentful concessions.
For this reason, we are sharing 7 approaches that address the connections between people, which underpin growth and success cultures at scale.
7 Free ideas / tools for Organisational leaders.
We regularly work with partnership boards and managers to establish organisational cultures, through connected and trusting bonds at the partnership level and eventual culture spread to the wider team.
Here are a few of the key ideas we have been repeatedly asked to provide or seen the need to draw on in our work.
They might surprise you, as there is often too much focus on processes rather than the relationships between people that underpin these.
Due to the broad diversity in this space, I will refer to these joined up organisations as partnership boards. A term I use here to refer to management teams, across department leadership teams and actual business partners or boards (e.g. primary care).
1. Adding in Team Building Space to your Partners’ Board
Partners have to build meaningful relationships and it is imperative that they create space to do this. Think of a partnership as a polygamous marriage, as it is not far off a marriage in terms of contract law. All parties have to work at the relationship, including clear and shared values alongside relationship building.
Click here to read how get started on creating this type of space for your team.
2. Learn to notice success and strengths.
We hear all too often how organisational meetings are problem focused without the cultural habit of celebrating each other. Imagine never complimenting your spouse? This is a regular experience in many public sector organisations and once appreciation is communicated, the effect is immediate and the appetite for more arrives.
Click here for 4 easy steps that will help your team to feel valued, by each other.
3. Always meet with the intent to notice each other’s experience.
Our most popular article by far, across all
sectors — the value and method of ‘checking in’ at the start and end of meetings. Don’t dismiss this as a seemingly small and fluffy idea, read the article and be surprised by how big the impact can be from such a simple addition to meetings.
Click here to be persuaded on the value of a simple check-in.
4. Ditch the idea that you don’t have time for team building
Whenever we are commissioned to support partnership boards, we ask the entire partnership to meet us for 2 hours per month. It is the most effective screening tool we have for boards who are serious about change versus those who aren’t. It is also feasible, we have worked with partnerships ranging in size from 8 to 26 partners — all meeting us in a single workshop… and many choosing to keep this space as a permanent culture shift.
But we recognise that this is a hard sell, so here is the rationale that can help those who are stuck in the ‘not enough time’ mindset.
Click here to find out how team time creates capacity in organisations.
5. Learn to be healthy at work and home
Partners and board members are famous for working long hours and burnout is increasing for GPs and managers, on top of already high rates pre-COVID. Learning as individuals and a team to be healthy outside of work — in terms of being able to let go of work worries, is critical for board functioning. Don’t underestimate the value of this… partners who ruminate about work all night suffer relationship issues and resentment at work, as work starts to feel like the cause of all problems.
Click here to discover approaches used by high stress professionals to quickly drop work and return to life.
6. Explore the Psychological contract with all partners
Partners give and expect different things. Some want to lead, others don’t . Some want to develop specialties, others want to hone their skills. Some want innovation, others want predictability.
Much of this is unsaid and creates issues, often in board meetings.
Learning to understand the contract we imagine we have with our partners (and the managers) is so critical to organisational functioning, especially given the rate of change that occurs in many public sector organisations.
Here is a primer to help you consider what needs exploring at the 1to1 level, or wider level in whole team building spaces.
7. Learning to have conversations that are missing
Organisations function entirely through conversation and in many partnership boards, some of the critical conversations that bring people together and create unity are missing.
Here is a method for working out what is missing and adding it in.
Share ideas with the board and feel brave enough to play with them.
Don’t try them all at once, take the easiest ones first!
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If you need help, you can also contact us directly.