Training Primary Care NHS GPs Shuffle-up...

Most of you reading this don’t live in London but perhaps a lot of you will visit London for conferences and meetings. Some come for celebrations and special occasions, others’ll give it a wide-birth and never dream of visiting the capital.

What you’ll all know is, in the rush-hour, London is a helluva place and to be avoided at all costs.

Ignoring my own advice, I found myself on an underground train at the peak of the evening rush for home.

I’ve been on a crowded Tube before, but this was something else. A sardine would have felt claustrophobic. Cheek-by-jowl. Jam-packed. Synchronised breathing. A forced intimacy not often experienced in public!

It was so full that at several stops, where no one got off, tired commuters, thronging the station platforms, didn’t try to squeeze on. There were several attempts to close the sliding doors, as bags and clothing spilled out.

God-forbid there was an accident or we were stuck in the a tunnel. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

We arrived at the next station, our mobile sauna groaned to a stop and the doors dragged themselves open. No-one moved. Against the hubbub of the platform a single clear voice. A woman. I could just see her through the forest of arms, strap-hanging.

Short, slim, neat, athletic, page-boy hair. Tanned, smiling.

‘Please, would you all shuffle up just a bit, so I can get home in time to read my daughter her bed-time story…’

We looked at each other, we all smiled, some laughed, and we all ‘shuffled up’. She squeezed in through the door and I lost sight of her in the melee.

How did she do that?

She got on the Tube, packed to suffocation, we made room where there was no room. Why did we ‘shuffle up’?

Her secret was her narrative.

If she’d had said; ‘please shuffle-up’, we’d have collectively said, yer ‘avin-a-larf.

If she’d had said; ‘please shuffle-up’, I’m tired and I want to go home, in unison, I suspect the answer would have been… we all do…

What we’d experienced was a spectacular example of leadership. Someone, none of us knew, getting us all to act in unison, for a cause we could all identify with. We shuffled-up.

Who, on that train, hadn’t read a bed-time story, to their kids, their brother or sister?

Who hadn’t had a bed-time story read to them?

How many wished they’d read a story, when they had the chance and didn’t.

Who remembered the stories they were read… or perhaps, never read.

How many knew the opportunity was coming, if their plans and dreams were fulfilled.

A narrative matters. A narrative is a story and a story is the next best thing to the experience of the real thing. They are immersive and memorable.

The mum, the space on the train, the child, the bed-time story.

Management needs a narrative. What are we doing, what’s the point? It gives us the why. How does it touch my life?

Novelty, uniqueness…. a bed-time story, in the rush hour.

The narrative has to be something people want to share. Is it re-tellable? I’m telling you. You’ll tell someone else.

The narrative has to have a structure, a clear beginning and middle and an end… ‘so that I can read a bedtime story’.

Involvement. They call it immersion. Include details we can identify with… ‘little girl’… ‘reading a story’.

And, a call to action… ‘will you all shuffle up, please?’

In our world;

I’m doing this because I’m part of making our NHS safer, more efficient and it’s what I’d want if it was my money and for my family. Come and do it with me.

Management, its power to persuade, its ability to sustain, it’s talent to achieve, is all in the narrative.

So now you know…

… management by shuffling-up.

Contact Roy – please use this e-address –

Know something I don’t – email me in confidence.

Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.