System OD: Round Table and Tweet Chat

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Dec 05 2022 News

Aqua’s experience of supporting integration in complex health and care systems for over a decade led us to ask what role OD can play in the context of dynamic systems rather than individual organisations.

What is System OD?

We convened a Twitter chat #SystemOD and System OD round table this week to explore the question. The panel described system OD as ‘building the collaborative system of support to a system trying to collaborate’ and thought it complemented, but differed from, organisational OD in several ways:

  • it develops trust and relationships between system rather than organisational stakeholders and these relationship form the foundation for driving social and behavioural change
  • it enables a mindset shift from an organisational scale where the strategy is about health and care to a whole population scale where the strategy is about local people’s lives
  • it recognises and embraces the human dimensions of complexity, and the difficulty in anticipating the impact of any actions in this landscape.

We asked panel members Debbie Sorkin, National Director of Systems Leadership, Leadership Centre, Caroline Chipperfield, Director of Leadership Development and Delivery, People Directorate, NHSE and Mike Farrar, Management Consultant on System OD to briefly explain what System OD means to them, and where this conversation should go next.

How can System OD assist in integrating health and care?

  • Facilitate relationship building amongst multiple different system groupings and as a #SystemOD tweeter said, ‘making space on the dancefloor for diversity of thought’.
  • Champion a changed world view which includes local people as assets in facilitating change with health and care.
  • Build capability in the system workforce with a blend of system leadership, change management, quality improvement and human factors behaviours and skills. Organisations collaborate in providing training and development for system staff and local people e.g. Leeds Health and Care Academy.
  • Cut through the complexity by recognising that transformation happens because of lots of small changes, facilitate learning opportunities and celebrate people’s achievements.
  • Develop leaders in complex systems to become ‘system transformers’ with the skills to tackle topics such as health inequalities and social justice which may be very different to organisational leadership topics.
  • In some systems there is a history of relational discord, system OD can help people explore what our panel termed ‘system trauma’ and take constructive steps to unite around common purpose and collaborative action.
  • Recognise that system work is rewarding, hard, messy and sometimes bruising. Provide psychologically safe spaces for system leaders and teams to connect, show one another compassion and loving support and provide access to peer review, peer learning communities and coaching.

What’s next?

Our System OD panel concluded that System OD can play a major part in shaping the culture and effectiveness of integrated health and care systems. At Aqua:

  • we’ll continue to provide system OD support to health and care systems across the UK
  • apply learning from system OD in other sectors through forums such as ODN Europe

If you’re an advocate for or working in system OD and interested in joining a community of practice where we can learn, share and develop in this emergent field please get in touch:

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