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2013 – A Year of Change

Thursday 12th Dec 2013 - Kate Hodkinson

"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Alan Watts

This quote from the British Philosopher, Watts, always reminds me of some of the best ways of dealing with change, particularly when it is frustrating and seems to be overwhelming. The change for GP practices this year could very easily have fallen into these categories – of being overwhelming and sometimes even nonsensical, yet managers are held accountable for changing the practice in line with many external and sometimes some internal pressures. In my experience, the practices that cope with change the best are those that have already got some of the fundamentals right internally:

  • Planning – managers take a proactive approach to planning. They recognise that it is not always the “plan”  or the final output that is the most important thing, but the planning process that is really valuable. That involves the whole team being involved in looking at the internal and external situation and constantly reviewing what you are doing and how you are doing it.
  • Communication – so much time can easily be lost when the grapevine and the rumour mill start working overtime. Change often results in this due to the dilemma faced by managers in picking the right time to inform people what is happening and degree of detail people need. In practices where the existing channels of communication are already well development, integrating more information can happen quite easily.
  • Trust – communication helps to breed trust and trust is absolutely essential when a business is facing uncertainty. Consistent behaviour from the manager and taking time to value and respect the team as individuals also helps to contribute to this.

Managing a well motivated, competent and confident team is easy – especially when facing challenging times.

What about 2014?

We would all be naive to think that a long period of stability was waiting for us in the New Year. Even some of the changes that we thought were here to stay are changing again – CQC inspections, GMS contract changes and there will be the usual round of developments coming from the CCG, legislation and best practice guidance. The Christmas and New Year break is a brief opportunity to reflect on this year and start looking forward into the next. However, there is a need to maintain a degree of realism about the situation. Remember:

“A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other.”

Good planning is what turns a vague idea into a meaningful and realistic achievement. So the New Year resolution for next year:

Make time for planning...

But remember that according to Peter Drucker

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

Taking control will be hard work and require a large amount of personal energy, perseverance and commitment. It requires managers to reflect upon them self frequently and to change their own behaviour , to develop tolerance and understanding of others and to acquire the communication, tact and diplomacy skills that might be seen in the job description of a peace negotiator.

On the positive side ...

Change brings with it opportunity.  Great things happen when people are given the chance to make their own decision about how best to tackle problems. GP practices are  the closest the NHS gets to its patients and is in the best position to understand their needs, respond to them effectively and act as their advocate in the wider system. This makes general practice invaluable to the NHS. Of all the changes that the NHs has gone through over its sixty five year history, the patient is the only constant. Patients value and appreciate general practice and recognise the great service they receive.  As small organisations, individual GP practices can change and adapt far quicker and easier than other parts of the NHS. As opportunities appear, a well managed practice can  take quick action to take advantage of new services, monies available for projects or resources. A well motivated team, that has trust and confidence in the manager will be willing to take on new challenges .  Creating this type of environment, is where managers need to concentrate their efforts and that might mean changing the way they operate. Maybe a practice manager’s New Year Resolution list should look something like this:

  • I will listen more and talk less
  • I will let people know when they are doing a great job
  • I will try to avoid finding fault with things and look for more positives
  • Give myself credit and a pat on the back when it’s due
  • Reflect on myself  and if what I’m doing isn’t working – I will do something else
  • Do anything else!
  • Take a tip from Steve Jobs – Focus on Less ( delegate more)
  • Find failure fascinating – I will take time to reflect on what needs to be different next time

These actions could replace the usual list of:

  • Lose weight, drink less, exercise more etc – that rarely materialise into anything concrete.

Most importantly remember to keep a positive mental attitude.  Remember:

“Don't worry about the world coming to an end today.  It is already tomorrow in Australia.”

Charles Schulz

Your team will look to you for inspiration. My key tip to managers going into 2014 would be –get to grips with planning. It is one aspect of management that could really make a difference to a successful future. Thornfields, specialises in providing high quality, relevant and interactive training to managers and staff in the primary care sector. Dealing with change and planning for the future is a key focus for any manager or partner. Thornfields offer number of courses that can help primary care mangers deal with this:

  • Fit for the future
  • Business Planning
  • Practice Developing
  • Preparing for CQC inspections

For a full course list visit the Thornfields website. Plus you can stay up to date with Thornfields by following them on twitter, simply follow @Thornfields_fpm


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