training primary care NHS The pursuit of excellence

The pursuit of excellence.

Anyone, doing anything, will want to do it well. You’ll want to excel… or will you?

Excellence doesn’t come easily. It comes with a sacrifice. Family, time, relationships, sometimes money.

Excellence is tough. People are often reluctant to try. Good enough, is good enough for many of us. We are haunted by the lingering belief excellence is about ability. We take refuge in; ‘I don’t have the talent…’

Watch Rocket Man, Elton John’s biopic. A prodigy, a prodigious talent. He was born that way… but he still had to practice.

There are three things that mark out people and organisations that are excellent.

The first; know what the best looks like and then do it better. You can’t stumble into excellence. You have to go and find it and to do that you have to be curious.

What does good look like, what does excellent feel like?

When you go home, after a shattering day, slump on the sofa and you pour yourself a modest sample from the vineyards and quietly say; ‘I’ve have a good day, today.’

Err… the awkward question is; how do you know? How do you know there isn’t someone, on the other side of town, doing the same job as you, better? Be honest… you don’t. Or, you might be miles better than them!

Unless we are curious we will never know what excellence looks like. If we are curious we will share our best stuff and benchmark what we do… in pursuit of excellence.

Second; we have to be in shape. If you are an athlete, in pursuit of excellence, the courage to train until it hurts. If your pursuit is in management and organisational excellence, the same applies. It means the organisation has to be ‘fit-for-purpose’ and it cannot be unless it has courage.

The courage to to debate, be open, transparent and involve people.

Shifting power from the Boardroom… creating the time and space for good people to do great things.

It takes courage.

Shifting the fulcrum point of decision making by leveraging the skills and talent within the organisation, where the work is actually done.

Having the courage to ask the people doing the work, how it can be better, safer, fairer, quicker. Devolving power and influence to them, to make it happen… in the pursuit of excellence

Third you have to practice. Musicians rehearse, athletes, train, artists fill sketchbooks before they get to a canvass. That means they get things wrong, go back, do it again and again.

In the best of well run organisations, from time to time, things will go wrong. It is no great sin. The sin is not knowing, not learning and not fixing. An even bigger sin is not trying in the first place.

Put these three things together, curiosity, courage and accepting failure as a stepping stone to excellence, in a Venn diagram and the sweet spot, at the intersection, in the middle, is a glimpse of excellence. It is a coveted place. A place where you find great athletes, musicians, thinkers and high performers.

It’s rare to find it in organisations, rarer still in the NHS.

External pressures, politics, the environment, workforce and the unexpected, creates turbulence that, so easily, distracts the most focussed management and dedicated Boards.

In the NHS, the pursuit of excellence and the freedom it takes to even try, is hammered out by regulation, senseless inspection, financial constraints, political interference, noise and exhaustion.

Good enough, gives way to ‘that’ll do’.

Rare, yes… but I have seen it. Where the people who work there are liberated and free to make the improvements they see fit, give it a try. A place where there is imagination, creativity, alongside sound judgement… pursuit of excellence.

If this place were not a hospital it would be a symphony orchestra, if it were a team, it would be premier league, if it were an artist, their work would be hanging in the Louvre.

They are curious, courageous and prepared to give-it-a-try… in the sweet spot.

It’s Sherwood Forest Hospitals. Excellent.

Have a good weekend.

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Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Roy Lilley.