Capturing Learning from Your Organisations COVID-19 Response

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Jun 30 2020 Blogs
Elizabeth Bradbury, Director

In recent weeks I’ve heard many leaders talk about capturing learning from the tremendous work done in their teams, organisations and systems during COVID-19, and its timely to do this now as people will easily forget what action they took, in what order and importantly how they felt at the time. Here are 10 top tips I’ve found useful when undertaking learning capture exercises…

Be clear on the purpose
Are you capturing learning about innovations and changes with a view to sustaining what worked, capturing people’s experiences of the pandemic to inform cultural change or for another reason?

Agree the brief with your sponsor, and stick to it!
Who’s the sponsor (commissioner) for the work? It might be the executive team, Board or Governing Body. Inviting the entire workforce and/or wider stakeholders to get involved is very different to targeted work with, for example, divisional leadership teams or Primary Care Network directors.

Decide the recipient audience and output at the outset
Knowing this will help you shape the data collection e.g. an upbeat piece for the stakeholder newsletter, information for business cases or for a formal board report. Will the audience expect academic references and links to similar work elsewhere? Try using different styles in the feedback so the same material can be used in several ways. For example, a WordCloud to illustrate people’s feelings or the behavioural changes they encountered during Covid-19 can be a standalone output or part of a report.

Fig.i. Wordcloud illustrating feedback in an NHS Trust on workforce behaviours during COVID-19

Manage timescales
Cut your coat to suit your cloth! Avoid intensive engagement methods such as focus groups and interviews if you’re time pressured and go for online feedback such as surveys or virtual postcards with 2-3 questions. Bear in mind that open questions elicit rich feedback but take time to collate.

Keep safe!
Adhere to infection control guidance, this may necessitate virtual data collection.

Call a friend
For ‘live’ feedback work in pairs to ensure you capture the points accurately and can manage virtual interaction such as chat boxes and lively conversation. If possible, one of you should be external to the organisation, this helps with objectivity in the data gathering, collation and reporting. Also, because they don’t know the organisation, outsiders can often ask more searching questions.

Make it interactive
If you’re collecting feedback in real time, e.g. focus groups, pre-organise the open questions and running order. Apps such as Padlet and  Miro help engage people in the conversation, online white-boards and breakout rooms work well. For large focus groups you may need to send some prep material in advance.

Collate feedback into themes
Theme your learning capture feedback based on the original purpose and target audience. Ideas include theming around key innovations that people describe; theming around the changes enabled by innovations in practice, see Fig.ii. for the framework AQuA used in an NHS provider organisation; or theming around the recommended action for changes and innovations (Fig.iii).

Fig. ii. the action theme framework AQuA used in an NHS provider organisation

Fig iii. RSA’s approach to theming Covid-19 crisis response measures (read more here)

Summarise and present the findings
Check your original brief and the agreement about how results will be presented, and use an appropriate style. Beware scope creep, no-one has time for War and Peace at present.

Be honest and objective, most sponsors will want to hear the positives and what went well, and the ‘could have been better if’.

Check-in and look after yourself and others
Tune in to how you feel as you collect feedback. It might be a really uplifting celebration of people’s achievements; on the other hand you may hear some distressing stories that trigger a variety of emotions. Look out for your own and co-worker wellbeing and think about how and where you can access some personal support if required.

For more information and useful resources on leadership, visit AQuA’s Knowledge Exchange.

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