Vision is not enough
When I hear policymakers call for another strategy for adult learning, or public health, or social care, I wonder if that is enough. In my part of the UK, Northern Ireland, we have no shortages of strategies or plans; what we fall down on is implementation. Delivering those plans requires people to fulfil those grand designs.
Mission and vision statements, strategies and action plans alongside all the other paraphernalia of management form important tools in the delivery of social change, but after all the fine nuanced words and fine policy statements, its people who get things done.
Translation and interpretation
It’s our people who have to translate these often-lofty ideals into practice. Especially in this messy and complex world, where missions do not necessarily align, are not entirely coherent (or may even conflict), it’s our people who have to navigate the choppy seas of social change and put into practice what they think the fine words mean, while at the same time, being forced to deliver against siloed accountability and governance mechanisms that often strangle the opportunity for, rather than deliver, a better life for all.
What’s more, it’s our people who have to interpret the well-intentioned but siloed strategies and tasks and transform outputs into outcomes (or not). In doing so our people and our people managers are often left to determine appropriate priorities and actions and achieve outputs, while our people leaders across our ecosystem attempt to manage, as best they can, the lack of alignment and lack of coherence across social strategies and policies.
What supports are put in place to help our people and our ‘people-leaders’? The sad reality is often very little. They are left to do the best they can. No wonder so many leaders concentrate on doing things right rather than doing the right things.
Doing things right … Doing the right things.
It is often said ‘managers do things right, while leaders do the right things’. Managers focus on meeting targets and right across the statutory and non-statutory sectors they mostly do things well. But are we making progress to a better life for all our families, communities and society? As the first Healthy, Wealthy and Wise report shows, the evidence is clear; we still leave too many behind. Our people, practitioners and professionals are well intentioned but often not empowered or trained to focus on the right things – the things that make a real difference.
Devolution, Programmes for Government, outcomes-based approaches and emerging attempts to deliver social progress through our people, places and partnerships have given a new impetus to a more enabling leadership culture and approach, alongside the necessary more collegiate system and indeed ecosystem leadership.
Are traditional workforce development approaches up to the task of equipping our new organisational and people leaders? The evidence suggests not.
Innovative approaches to workforce development and ecosystem leadership.
Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: implications for workforce development recognises the above tensions and difficulties and calls for an innovative learning approach that enables our leaders and supports ecosystem leadership. It is an approach that helps our people to grow trust, build on each partner’s assets and co-design/co-construct continually improving approaches to delivering social change. Amongst a number of key features to nurture the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed to meet the challenges is the call for `Joint Practice Development`.
Joint Practice Development. Creating space for our people to learn by doing, together.
Joint Practice Development (JPD) is about creating space for professionals, practitioners and people leaders across our ecosystem to come together, learn together and act together, in a continually evolving and improving way. Practitioners from our traditional systems and social partners, our citizens, families and communities to come together through action learning sets, cross agency/sector discussion and action forums, in a way that values all and supports all to share and learn by doing together. JPD has the potential to transform our silos into systems, and our systems into an understanding of our ecosystem. It can achieve this by recognising and growing each partner’s expertise in a way that brings a new culture of jointly being future focussed, more engaging and collaborative in a way that drives continual improvement.
It’s about the people…
Joint Practice Development can help create a shared purpose and become a key element of our workforce development enablers to deliver inclusive growth and unleash the talent of all our people for the benefit of all. It can also help our people and organisational leaders focus on doing the right things, as well as doing things right.
I would be interested in your views or how this is being taken forward in your country.
Paul is a town planner by trade. He was a leading lay trade union official before becoming the UNISON Regional Education Officer. He was seconded by the Northern Ireland government to deliver workplace learning partnerships, focussing particularly on support staff who left school with few or no qualifications. For over 20 years he was a Commissioner with the Fair Employment Agency/Commission, the Commission on Human Rights and the N.I. Equality Commission. He was the N.I. Manager of National Health Service University and became Head of the N.I. Health and Social Care Widening Participation Unit. Subsequently, he became assistant to the N.I. Director of the NHS Confederation and a Consultant with the Health and Social Care Leadership Centre. He is a qualified coach and is currently vice chair of the Open College Network N.I. and a member of the N.I. Impact Forum.
You might also be interested in:
- Rethinking workforce development for adult educators (blog) - the first blog post in a series that focuses on the findings of the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: implications for workforce development report, written by Helen Plant
- Why adult learning strategies need a workforce plan (blog) - the second blog post in a series that focuses on the findings of the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: implications for workforce development report, written by Mark Ravenhall
- Self-reflection leading to different worldviews and a change in behaviour orientated towards social justice (blog) - the third blog post in a series that focuses on the findings of the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: implications for workforce development report, written by Vicky Duckworth and Rob Smith
- 21st Century Inclusive Learning Pathways (blog) - the fourth blog post in a series that focuses on the findings of the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: implications for workforce development report, written by Alan Sherry