I have not seen Mike for nearly 20 years! Mike was a Chief Superintendent at the time covering the city of Bristol. Going back 20 years, policing was militaristic in style – there was only one power; hard. Mike was different though. He understood soft power and demonstrated a brilliant collaborative style. He was an innovative, modern leader who knew how to solve problems through bringing people, process and systems together. He influenced the organisation greatly and introduced a balanced and ethical approach to improving the performance of the organisation. At the heart of this was two things:
- Great people engagement through collaborative leadership
- A structured planning, doing, reviewing approach with data as a golden thread
The fact that I feel compelled to share
this and still reflect on his style and practice, demonstrates to me that Mike
had a lasting leadership impact on me.
To experience great leadership is a gift
Move on 20 years and I want to focus again on the power of modern collaborative leaders and how they understand and treat data as a critical asset; a strategic imperative for any organisation existing in a complex globalised, rapidly changing economy.
To experience great leadership is a gift. You learn so much. One person that was always giving was Deputy Chief Sarah Crew. Sarah really knew the power of collaborative leadership and how important it was to tackle social problems that spanned a multi-agency environment. Soft power rules in complex scenarios. Sarah was also a champion for evidenced based decision making and ensured this was at the heart of every strategy, plan and meeting.
Collaborative leadership and analytics
So, when the opportunity for exploring what a modern analytics blueprint could be, seeing the solutions and linking them to critical problem areas – Sarah was right in front of the queue; leading by example, and pushing us all to work collaboratively across boundaries. She was a champion of data literacy. Sarah was also very clever, understanding that data was the golden thread that glued people, process and systems together. Her confident approach that looked to tin-open and create transparency in areas that traditionally remained cloaked in invisibility was game changing. Understand your business folks through fact – grind the reality into opportunity for change, Sarah empowered folks to do this for themselves. A confidence in exploring and using data to transform ways of working. The entire organisation was part of a collaborative approach – apps built by cops for cops.
And ways of working sure did transform and continue to do as I am writing this. Analytics being developed and used by the edge of the organisation – by those who are making the decisions and driving better outcomes for the public. It’s a very powerful thing enabling an organisation to take control of it’s destination through the use of data.
Another great example of this was during my visit to Morecambe Bay NHS Trust. Rob O’Neill and team have instilled some fabulous collaborative leadership in the development of their Analytically Powered Command Centre. The project started with a workshop where a cross section of operational folks were brought together to design new ways of working using analytics as the golden thread. I sat in the first meeting and was buzzed by the energy created through collaborative approaches and data. Recently, I went to see it in action and as I was walking down the hallowed corridors of Morecambe Bay with Rob, a nurse bumped into us and spontaneously said; “Rob, everyone is loving your command centre approach”. It did not disappoint. In a culture of compliance, it was lovely to see the Command Centre augmenting the challenging and time consuming processes and just making it easier for staff and better for the public.
Call to action
So, would the deployment of analytics have been successful using a monocular leadership lens? Nope, I don’t think so. The best ideas came from people working together, aligning the analytics to help them do their jobs better or to radically re-engineer new processes that would herald new ways of working. There were no ‘nice to haves’ – just essential tools to deliver insight and action.
So, what have I learnt from this experience? Public sector and healthcare organisations face an increasing number of problems that need the highest levels of collaborative leadership for continued improvement. Data is the glue, the golden thread that harmonises with collective leadership and creates an energy for transformation. The call to action is for all senior leaders to understand how they can lead the charge and create unparalleled shifts in public outcomes through analytics. Come join my mission.