Wednesday, 21 May 2014

IKEA effect for improvement projects

The IKEA effect is the tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they assembled themselves, such as furniture from IKEA, regardless of the quality of the end result (Wikipedia definition).

Unfortunately the same effect appears in many improvement projects I encounter, no doubt due to the same issues. After the investment of over coming the complexities of getting the thing working, the emotions involved, the panics, the restarts, etc etc, it's inconceivable there could be anything better. It's also inconceivable to throw it away and start again or replace it within living memory.

If the project has a great result, then that's just perfect. However, where the result is less than good, it's this IKEA effect that comes into play and makes the problem difficult to resolve. It's also known as inventoritis - when we fall in love with our inventions and lose the ability to customise them on the basis of feedback.

Do check your improvement work today. IKEA effect?


Monday, 19 May 2014

The outdoors is my preference for a classroom

My job title of "Senior Explorer" might surprise those who expect the more formal Director, or President, or Consultant - but it more accurately explains what I do.  I tend not to direct, preside or consult - but I do explore... Most importantly, I am spending more and more of my time with my clients in the wonderful classroom called the outdoors. It's a marvelous antidote to Powerpoint, fluorescent lighting, stale air and aching backs.

Sometimes a short walk around the grounds of the hospital is enough, or a half hour stroll through the neighbouring streets can get the minds shifting into another gear. Or we can be a bit more ambitious and go for a walk into the Chiltern Hills or around the grounds of a National Trust property where I can lead a small group through some high level and detail of analogies in organisational change. There's a great deal to learn from plants, insects, the weather, trees etc. - and that's before the bodies have loosened up and the brains have been given permission to be a bit more creative.

Appleacre Adventures is a division of my company. If you're feeling really adventurous I can lead you on a two week expedition through the desert in Namibia - or maybe an overnighter on canal boat reflecting on the large scale change theory and practice of the Victorians and the applicability of their principles for the public sector in 21st Britain will suffice for you... Or maybe you'd prefer a few hours of guided personal reflection "on the hoof"?

What I've learnt is that outdoors, the quality of the learning and the radicalness of the thinking is significantly increased.  And it's not just a walk - for those of you who know me - I've invested a great deal in ensuring I understand how to leverage the benefits of outdoor learning.

Monday, 12 May 2014

When over efficiency means less productivity

I was, at first, speechless when I heard about an NHS friend who spend part of her work days perched on the edge of another colleague's desk because there wasn't enough space for her to work. I hadn't heard about the Government Policy, introduced in 2011 that for administrative areas, there should be only 8 desks provided for 10 people - this is called Agility working. Huh?

You can read about this cost saving exercise here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-property-strategy-cuts-millions-in-costs If you want to see the NHS business case document on how it is built into cases then you can find this here (item 23): www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/.../11/five-cse-bus-mod-chck-lst.docx 

Now I am all for cost saving and inefficiencies but there's something not working if someone is trying to do their job balancing their laptop on the corner of a desk, wires trailing, knees wrapped round edges etc. Apart from anything it's not respectful.  I'd not put up with it, but then, even in the administrative areas of the NHS, there's fear and concern for jobs.

[sigh]

I've not blogged for a while. I was waiting until I had something I really wanted to say.  I think it's time to speak out and to speak up. So I'm going to start doing just that.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Paper: The concepts of scalability...

A new paper is out which looks at the concepts of scalability - what is meant by it and how to health promotion interventions consider scalability.

"Increased focus on prevention presents health promoters with new opportunities and challenges. In this context, the study of factors influencing policy-maker decisions to scale up health promotion interventions from small projects or controlled trials to wider state, national or international roll-out is increasingly important. This study aimed to: (i) examine the perspectives of senior researchers and policy-makers regarding concepts of 'scaling up' and 'scalability'; (ii) generate an agreed definition of 'scalability' and (iii) identify intervention and research design factors perceived to increase the potential for interventions to be implemented on a more widespread basis or 'scaled up'. A two-stage Delphi process with an expert panel of senior Australian public health intervention researchers (n = 7) and policy-makers (n = 7) and a review of relevant literature were conducted. Through this process 'scalability' was defined as: the ability of a health intervention shown to be efficacious on a small scale and or under controlled conditions to be expanded under real world conditions to reach a greater proportion of the eligible population, while retaining effectiveness. Results showed that in health promotion research insufficient attention is given to issues of effectiveness, reach and adoption; human, technical and organizational resources; costs; intervention delivery; contextual factors and appropriate evaluation approaches. If these issues were addressed in the funding, design and reporting of intervention research, it would advance the quality and usability of research for policy-makers and by doing so improve uptake and expansion of promising programs into practice.

Health Promot Int. 2013 Sep;28(3):285-98. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dar097. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Business learning from walking: 7. What to do when you reach your goal

Every project needs a plan of what to do when the project reaches its goal.

When I've finished a 14 mile walk I need to know how and where I'm going to rest my feet, dry off or warm up depending on the weather, going to get a meal etc.  The end of the walk is the not the end of the entire process. Just as I'm unlikely to organise a dinner party for the evening of a long walk, I'd like to know when I end a project that there's going to be a time of rest, recuperation and celebration.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Business learning from walking: 6. All time is not equal

You've seen the plans that show a pleasant linear progress of tasks that are planned to be completed as a constant pace over the duration of the project. We know that plans are not the change process itself but we still tend to think of things happening over time in a nice equal and fair sort of way.

To understand how all time is not equal, take a walk up your nearest steep hill. A mile on the flat might take you 20 minutes to walk. Add in a quarter of a mile uphill and you could end up adding ten minutes to your time to walk a mile. Add in a grassy field with no clearly marked path and a broken stile and a mile could end up forty minutes. Alternatively, add a field of nervous cows and you may run through it, matching an Olympic qualifying time for a mile.

Change projects are no different. While the measurement of months stays the same unfortunately the tasks, even if simple, may end up taking far more time than expected.  I good project management adage is to look at the final plan and add in 30-50% extra time. Then go back and check where this time may be needed.

Timing is not the same as pacing. When walking, it's good to know your own pace - how many steps it takes to cover a certain distance. This is an individual measure. In projects, it's useful to agree as a team the pace for certain tasks and then from that build up the overall timescales.