The title of the newsletter would sound better in French: ‘la rentrée’ – a season in France when the State re-awakens after its long summer off and the supermarkets are filled with bargain notebooks and pens – the ones that are all squares and no lines. It is much more than ‘back to school’ and money off school shoes.
On Leadership & Management in Business
Shoes are on my mind because I have been reading the latest book by John Timpson of Timpson Shoe Repairs. The book talks about the reasons for the survival of Timpson Shoe Repairs when so many other larger and equally well-established companies have gone to the wall. The high street is a pretty spooky place if you think about it filled with the ghosts of retail chains – ou sont tous les magasins ‘d’antan’? as François Villon would have put it looking at the C15th retail scene. The British Shoe Corporation was once the Colossus of the high street with 26% of the shoe trade. All gone. Timpson Shoes itself has bitten the dust. You will have the ones you miss in mind – was it Timothy White’s? Mac Fisheries perhaps? John Collier? Salisburys for a nice bag? All this is very timely as corporations crash and burn.
The Timpson answer to the question is not 42 but 28 bullet points on p186. My own take on his survival is that John has kept things under his control – no external shareholders, no private finance companies to keep happy. He bought the company back under family control and runs it the way he and now (other son) James wants. Timpson Shoe Repairs can do their own thing. This is refreshing as we watch so many managers struggle with the new demands for accountability and transparency while trying to innovate. Compare the ease with which a private retailer shuts shops and 100s of them with the long drawn-out agonies of the post offices closure programme. Are there not better ways to manage public change especially with failing institutions?
There is a Department of Health Consultation out on this very topic about the best way of coping with failing NHS providers as they move, in the careful parlance of the document, from being ‘underperforming’ to ‘seriously underperforming’ to – the horror! the horror! – ‘challenged’.
At least the problem is being faced up to which is always an achievement in the NHS that bulky leviathan where change and innovation mean that institutions and managers are often ‘challenged’. And what politician wants to be associated with closure of services the voters want? In this complex environment, the race goes so often to the small and fleet of foot who like Timpson Shoe Repairs know their business and their users and can make things happen.
On Leadership, Management & Innovation in Health Services
Which is why 2nd September was such a good day in Leeds for Andrew Craig and our client the Motor Neurone Disease Association. The Association has developed a new product called the Year of Care (YoC) Pathway Commissioning Tool in two years which more than meets the challenges of World Class Commissioning.
Andrew had the pleasure of representing M-A-C at the Motor Neurone Disease Association Year of Care Pathway launch and “thank you” event at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds earlier this month. It was well attended by mainly Leeds PCT and Leeds Social Services people and also people with MND and carers who had helped with interviews, focus groups and general validation of the draft pathway we undertook there. Mick Ward, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Development across the PCT and Adult Social Services, gave the main speech and was excellent. This is just the kind of joint leadership that is needed to make progress for people with long term neurological conditions across the health and social care cultures. He committed the PCT and City Council to being in the MND Year of Care early implementers group so we shall be seeing more of him in the next twelve months. He related the YOC to the World Class Commissioning competencies and stressed the leadership, service transformation and market development aspects inherent in WCC. Clearly he sees the bigger picture. Andrew said he couldn’t have written it better himself! The Association has produced the ‘Learning from Leeds’ report by M-A-C as a 4 page colour brochure with pictures which looks terrific. Lunch was good and it was sunny and warm in Leeds. What more could one want?
For a flavour of the MND Year of Care pathway see the snapshot and read the press release
We will be putting more details about this work which we are proud to have been associated with on our website in due course. For more details of this event and an earlier one at the House of Lords as part of the NHS 60th Birthday celebrations, see the MND Association website.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a Professor of Palliative Medicine said at the House of Lords event that
“This is one of the most important documents for patient care I have seen. This is exactly what the new NHS needs, a practical working tool to help achieve patients individual choice and improve their quality of life.“
Well done MND Association and while it may be strange to make a comparison between this terrible condition and shoe repairs, both achievements come from doing the best you can for your customers/users when you can with the resources available to you. Of course that will always involve other people – whether partners in PCTs and local Councils or staff and managers – but someone has to take the risks and do it first.
Survival often means not following the herd.
The challenge is to find the right leader and I will leave you with the definition of leadership given by the anonymous bard or bards who have handed down the text of The Wanderer, one of the most plangent and moving Anglo Saxon poems on the theme of ‘ubi sunt?’ mourning the good times in the past and musings on the qualities that make for success.
Wita sceal geþyldig A wise man must be patient,
ne sceal no to hatheort He must never be too impulsive
ne to hrædwyrde, nor too hasty of speech,
ne to wac wiga nor too weak a warrior
ne to wanhydig, nor too reckless,
ane to forht ne to fægen, nor too fearful, nor too cheerful,
ne to feohgifre nor too greedy for goods,
ne næfre gielpes to georn, nor ever too eager for boasts,
ær he geare cunne. before he sees clearly.
Bonne Rentrée and if Anglo Saxon verse is too cutting edge for you, take a look at our September post on how the Health Service and others are using the new social networking technology. One for your LINk perhaps?
P.S. We have been asked how to retrieve old blogs now that we have moved to the new style of presentation. These are all still available. The answer is on the right hand side of the blog page – try this link