Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Designing social media impact; a challenge for healthcare improvers

Social media is the in thing in healthcare organisations - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. These systems have been around for 5 years or more but are now catching on in healthcare as they are seen as a method for sharing messages quickly and a way to bring diverse and segregated communities together. And this works well.

The challenge is to integrate the use of social media into the mindset of the quality improver.  The Improvement Model asks three questions - all of which are relevant for social media use:

  1. What are we trying to accomplish?
  2. How will we know its an improvement?
  3. What changes can we make that will result in an improvement?

If you're starting out using, say Twitter, and you're in a healthcare quality improvement role the have a think about:

  • What do you want to achieve? What is your purpose in using Twitter? Do you want to discover new info from others, link to others, use the media as a broadcast system, raise awareness, raise your own profile... etc? You need to have a purpose.
  • How will you know it's an improvement? In the Twitter case, how will you know whether you are reaching your purpose / objectives and in a way that's better than what you do now? It really helps to think about this.  How will you measure your progress? How will you learn? Will you be using an analytics system to learn about what works (classic PDSA processes work very well for understanding how Twitter can work for you).
  • Linked to the measures above, how will you maintain your learning and continue to get better and better at using Twitter?

In my experience it's best to thing through purpose and practice as part of starting on the social media road. An online social media account where nothing happens tends not to be a good strategy.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

David Whyte: The workplace poet and loaves and fishes

No celebration of poetry in the workplace can be complete without including David Whyte. He has decades of experience of bringing emotion into the workplace - but importantly, does this with respect  dignity and the understanding of employee and organisational processes.  I wasn't quite sure which of his stunning pieces to incidentalnclude in this blog. In the end I have chosen the one I use the most.  

David Whyte shares his poetry via his website. It's a great resource.  You may find this is an interview by Maria Seddio with David Whyte useful background.. I like it because it probes the why he does what he does and gives an insight into his caution and delicateness in bringing poetry to the workplace. [PDF]

Loaves and Fishes
This is not
the age of information.
This is not
the age of information.
Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.
This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.
People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.
  -- David Whyte
      from The House of Belonging 
     ©1996 Many Rivers Press

How do I use this in the workplace?

This is useful for provoking deeper discussion about social movement and language. How one word, one short sentence, once moment - can create a shift in mindsets of others.  It's also about the difference between information and words that move people.  A good exercise with a group using this poem is to consider their own language and they own use of words. What are they commonly using? What evidence do they have of hyperbole and how effective is this?

The poem is not as straightforward as it looks and some people may read into it and feel quite different perspectives from others. It's important to listen to and respect these differences.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Poetry for the theorist: Poetry Month April 2013

If your interest in poetry in the workplace is broader than checking out a few poems, then there's an excellent Afterword to a book that is available as a PDF. It covers the history of poetry in the workplace, contains poems to illustrate the descriptive analysis and overall give a well rounded exposition on the topic.

I've not been able to find out the source of the PDF as I found it rather serendipitously. If anyone knows please leave a comment on this blog.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Poetry Month April 2013: Workplace Safety Poems

Safety? Poetry? You must be mad, I can hear you thinking. But no, there is such a thing and such a poet. Don Merrell specialises in writing poems about safety in the workplace.  Poetry has the advantage of appealing to the emotions. Safety at work is not only about check-lists  board papers, risk assessments and significant incident reviews. It's a mindset - and mindsets are about beliefs and values - which in turn are emotional factors.


I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care;
I had the time, and I was there.
But I didn’t want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before;
If I spoke up he might get sore.
The chances didn’t seem that bad;
I’d done the same, he knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked by;
He knew the risks as well as I.
He took the chance, I closed an eye;
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
Now every time I see his wife,
I know I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear;
But isn’t’ something you need to share.
If you see a risk that others take
That puts their health or life at stake,
The question asked or thing you say;
Could help them live another day.
If you see a risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say,
“I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.”

How do I use this poem in the workplace?

Safety has an emotional angle and a poem like this allows a small group to discuss issues that might otherwise not be tabled in regular mtgs. I use this only in small groups so there is time and respect for listening to how it makes people feel. Do they have an example of when they "looked away". How did they feel? What might happen if they don't "look away".

Often patient safety is set up to be a systems issue - and it is. But it is also about individual mindsets and beliefs. This poem brings the individual to the fore and helps people understand their role in ensuring a safe process and workplace.

The issues are, of course, not about the poem, but about the workplace and what might be done to improve safety for all.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Poetry Month 2013: Dawna Markova

I heard Dawna Markova speak at the Systems Thinking Conference in the USA some years ago. It was two hour plenary session and it felt like twenty minutes. Looking back, it was a session that changed my life - and it did it through poetry. I came home and repurposed my life.

The poem that captured me is one that is well known: "I will not die an unlived life".  I've copied some key lines in this post but I urge you to look at this website which has the background to the poem and why Dawna wrote it. It comes from a book by the same title. Reading a few lines in isolation is helpful, but reading the whole book is life transforming.

I will not die an unlived life. 
I will not live in fear 
of falling or catching fire. 
I choose to inhabit my days, 
to allow my living to open me, 
to make me less afraid, 
more accessible; 
to loosen my heart 
until it becomes a wing, 
a torch, a promise. 
I choose to risk my significance, 
to live so that which came to me as seed 
goes to the next as blossom, 
and that which came to me as blossom, 
goes on as fruit. 

How can this poem be used in the workplace?

The intent of this poem is primarily about purpose - about renewing and regaining it. It's about not being a victim to circumstance. It's about "risking your significance".

I use this in coaching and small group work when there's a need to investigate "purpose" and reasons for doing what we do and being who we are. It helps with setting priorities and finding ways to identify passion.

Ultimately, the poem is also about humility and stewardship, so it's also good to use with leaders, to help them feel their place in their world.

The poem can elicit some very deep and personal feelings so I don't use it in large groups. Dawna Markova can do this because it's her poem and she's an amazing poet-professional.  I try to give the readers a safe place to feel its meaning.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

It takes courage to be positive in times of change

When is feels like someone has tipped all the water out of your glass, it's difficult to take the "glass half full" positive approach.  But if the glass was more than half full then maybe losing a little of the contents is right, as horrifying a thought as that may be.

I'm obliquely referring to all the changes in the NHS in England in the last few months. I found March a very depressing time to be on Twitter as the chorus of disapproval for change grew louder, and at times, more aggressive. In the end, the changes have happened. What happens now is a matter of attitude.

Complaining is easy. Coming up with the shift in mindeset that's required to make the changes work is far more difficult. I'm not prone to Bible quotes but there's a good one from Matthew 7:3 "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

The challenge for those complaining loudest now is to be sure that what they're complaining about is not something they have a part in. It's time to examine the fears that lie behind the complaints and to help those who see only the negative that there are patients and communities who want to make the changes work for them.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Poetry Month: celebrating poetry in the workplace

Graphic from grammar.dictionary.com
April is Poetry month.  For many, the last time they read a poem was in school, and even after class discussion they didn't really understand it.  I went off-piste on my academic learning a couple of years ago and completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University. It was a great course, notable for being practical - the academic-speak and theory was kept to a minimum. The aim was to turn out writers - and better readers.

Poetry is not "my thing" when it comes to creative writing. I have recently had returned to me the book of poetry I wrote as a teenager in 1979. Sheesh - the angst!  I do occasionally get my thoughts around a poem, but like may others who scribble their thoughts in verse, it feels too personal to share.

It's this same intimacy that draws us, as readers, to a poem. There's that feeling of instant connection when you read a poem and absolutely identify with the line you've just read. It's as though someone has said what you've been feeling - not what you've been thinking. Poetry has the ability to shine a light on those feelings we didn't realise we had.

Is it appropriate to bring poetry into the workplace? I don't see why not, and there is a whole discipline on this topic. And there are poets who specialise in this - David Whyte being my poet-hero.

Throughout April, I'll be blogging about poetry in the workplace, and sharing some of the poems that have meaning to me.