Do something different

Source: NHE May/Jun 17

Jill DeBene, chief executive of Institute of Healthcare Management (IHM), considers what workforce optimisation really means and the importance of doing things differently.

We know that effective, values-driven management, with a strong culture of learning, is what delivers high-quality care. But do we fully understand optimisation? A typical definition is ‘make the best or most effective use of a situation or resource’. If everything is optimised, then there is no need for change. However, if there is room for ‘optimisation’ then something needs to change. Either the system, the teams or the individuals involved, but the common thread is that the workforce (whatever the definition) needs to do something different.    

As Einstein reasoned, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while expecting different results. 

So, what are we trying to optimise? 

Efficiency? Workforce wellbeing? Patient wellbeing? Patient experience? It is more than likely a combination of all these, but we need to be clear what combinations are optimal, i.e. what changes will achieve a win:win; for instance, when we improve workforce wellbeing by X, we see patient satisfaction increase by Y and costs due to absenteeism/staff turnover reduce by Z.  

Change is difficult 

We are all habit machines. The brain is wired to save energy and operate on autopilot; to repeat actions whether they are good or bad for us. Over the years, we have spent huge amounts on awareness raising, on training and on disseminating information. We’ve done this because we have assumed that a change of thinking transfers to a change of doing. It rarely does. Habits mostly prevent a change of thinking becoming a change of doing. So how do we become less habitual? 

Flextraverts optimise 

Flextraverts have a large range of behaviours in their toolkit (known as high levels of behavioural flexibility). In any given situation, they can choose to behave assertively or unassertively, to take risks or play it safe, to trust a person or to be wary of them and so on. They have the ability to optimise results for them and the people around them. Among many things, their wellbeing is higher and they are less stressed. If a person doesn’t have options they can’t optimise. So, how do you help people develop options and expand their behavioural flexibility? 

Helping people create options 

The way to help people become more conscious of, and ultimately change, their habits is to help them take small steps that are momentarily out of their comfort zone (their comfort zone expands as they step). People need help to start with, and employers need to understand that this is a process that focuses on helping people do anything different. When people do something different once, they’re significantly more likely to do something different again. The more people do something differently the less habitual they become, the better off they are personally and the more they help change systems and influence teams. 

At IHM we are working closely with Professor Karen Pine and ‘Do Something Different’ to ensure that our members are aware of their default behaviours and help them understand how to take steps to flip the script and do something different. We believe managers are more powerful when they know when to talk and when to listen. They are more tolerant of difference when they follow a ‘flextrovert’ approach. Our members have the opportunity of following six programmes that help them achieve this. 

Paraphrasing what Robin Williams said in the film Dead Poets Society, we all have the opportunity to stand on our desks to remind ourselves to see things differently.



Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

‘Unequivocal cries for NHS funding’ in Budget as public back tax rises

17/11/2017‘Unequivocal cries for NHS funding’ in Budget as public back tax rises

Taxpayers across England, Scotland and Wales would be willing to pay more tax in order to fund the NHS, research has revealed. When surveyed, ov... more >
Scottish NHS accused of deliberately leaving positions vacant to save cash

17/11/2017Scottish NHS accused of deliberately leaving positions vacant to save cash

Some Scottish NHS bosses have reportedly been deliberately leaving key positions vacant to save money. Speaking to MSPs at Holyrood’s ... more >
Stamped London health devolution deal to focus on NHS property sell-off

17/11/2017Stamped London health devolution deal to focus on NHS property sell-off

A deal to give London unprecedented devolved powers over health and care has been signed by officials today. The agreement includes calls fo... more >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

A new paradigm for public health

10/11/2017A new paradigm for public health

Heather Henry RN MBA, Queens nurse and chair of the New NHS Alliance looks into the issue of health inequality in the NHS. Health inequality is like the many-headed hydra of Greek mythology: no matter how many heads you cut off, the beast of rising illness is still coming to get you. It’s time to reconsider the weapons we use to slay the hydra. It´s time to think about whether we need new ones. Both academics and ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >


Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >
Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

02/10/2017Scan4Safety: benefits across the whole supply chain

NHE interviews Gillian Fox, head of eProcurement (Scan4Safety) programme at NHS Supply Chain. How has the Scan4Safety initiative evolved sin... more >
Simon Stevens: A hunger for innovation

25/09/2017Simon Stevens: A hunger for innovation

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, knows that the health service is already a world leader when it comes to medical advances – ... more >
Improving care at the touch of a screen

08/08/2017Improving care at the touch of a screen

When it comes to dementia, having a calm and safe environment can have a substantial impact on a patient’s quality of life. NHE’s Jos... more >

last word

The Refugee Doctor Initiative

The Refugee Doctor Initiative

Terry John, co-chair of the BMA & BDA Refugee Doctors and Dentists Liaison Group and chair of the union’s international committee, talks about a brilliant initiative that is proving mut... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

health service focus

Release full market value against surplus and decommissioned assets

14/11/2017Release full market value against surplus and decommissioned assets

Advertisement feature: Oliver Pearson, sal... more >
Women power usage and uptake of myGP®

18/10/2017Women power usage and uptake of myGP®

Advertisement Feature: Lemarie Moses, prod... more >