Everything is Connected: Thoughts on Leadership in a time of crisis

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Jun 25 2020 Blogs
Cath Sloan, Head of System Transformation

Anyone who has ever caught a train from Platform 14 at Manchester Piccadilly Station will have seen the large scale art installation, ‘Everything is Connected’ by the British artist, Peter Liversedge. Originally installed in 2016 for the headquarters of an urban regeneration company, it now adorns the Warehouse Project live music venue.

Through my work supporting North West health and care systems, I often use this image as shorthand for the systems thinking and collaborative leadership skills needed to implement new models of integrated care. It helps leaders to recognise that they are part of something bigger than themselves, to appreciate that the connections, relationships and changes they make are connected to and impact upon the systems, organisations and people around them.

However, as we are now in the third month of lockdown as the new reality, I am struck more than ever at just how relevant and insightful ‘Everything is Connected’ really is.  From the way the virus has rampaged our hyper connected world via international travel, to the recalibration of human relationships from face to face to virtual, to the on-going economic repercussions and the long term impacts on the climate, mental health, education and health inequalities.  There is no part of society that is unaffected to a greater or lesser extent by this virus and the health crisis it has caused.

In my conversations with leaders from place based care systems across the North West, they describe a health and care system response to COVID-19 which has demonstrated that ‘Everything is Connected’ even more profoundly than any of them could have predicted.

One conversation in particular really struck a chord with me.  A director of an integrated partnership described how organisations, agencies and sectors came together to put a system-wide response in place to support vulnerable residents.  The first step in their response was connecting the data and intelligence from each part of the system to enable them to identify which residents needed support.  Prior to COVID-19, data sharing was one of the biggest barriers to truly understanding the needs and aspirations of the population.  Within days, there was real visibility about which residents required what kind of support from which part of the system.  The really interesting thing was that this shone a light on a whole section of the population that was previously not visible but had real needs and requirements that could only be met by connecting the various parts of the system together.  The system was then able to respond holistically, addressing vulnerability, food provision, welfare, prescription collection and support with self-isolation and shielding.

This has had a profound impact on the way the partnership is looking at its model of care in the future.  It is now widening the way it looks at its population, their needs and ambitions and how it can connect them beyond the traditional ‘health’ and ‘care’ services to live healthy, happy and fulfilled lives.

This reminded me of the 3C model AQuA often uses in its transformation work; this model from Welbourn and Fathers (2012) describes effective behaviours for system leaders.  The ‘Be Curious’ behaviour and the 3 skills that sit under it, seem particularly applicable to the example I describe above.

Leaders had to be open to recognising that they might not have a complete picture of their population and be curious enough to explore how they might get this. It was only by drawing on the widely diverse perspectives of the constituent parts of the system, connecting the data and intelligence, that a group of vulnerable people could be identified and their needs met.

As we start to ease our way to a new normal, leaders, more than ever, need to maintain their curiosity and continue to recognise that ‘Everything is Connected’.

KX Learning Labs

Our weekly series of webinars will cover a range of topics and have been developed to support you during COVID-19 and beyond. These short sessions will run at 4pm every Tuesday for 45 minutes and will be split into 4 series. The webinars are free and open to anyone working in health and care.

Our next session will focus on embedding our learning from COVID-19 to support leadership development.

If you would like to join us for this session and/or future sessions, please register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kx-learning-lab-series-tickets-106341755052

You can watch the previous sessions here.

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