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Mental Health 2018 - azzur

We had a chat with Lorraine Flower from azzur ahead of Mental Health 2018, to discuss her offering ahead of the conference.

Who are azzur?

azzur are a leadership and organisational development consultancy, which means that we work with leaders within organisations and with the collective organisation as a whole. Our focus is to help them look at and think about how they can be even more effective than they already are. Often this means we are supporting them through cultural, behavioral and organisational change.

Our core purpose as an organisation is to help ‘conscious leaders create the new era of work for the greater good’ and we do this because we believe that great leaders and great organisations will change our world for good.

Specifically that means we look at things like culture and values, leadership style and behaviours as well as leadership capability. Our work often extends from the most senior leadership team/Board right the way through to first line management. One of the consistent factors in organisational success in our experience is leadership mind-set – how do leaders perceive their role, their responsibilities and their relationship with the wider organisation and wider stakeholders/communities.

We also help with the wider people aspects of organisational development, so thinking about things like how engaged people feel, how well the communication strategies and approaches are working and the extent to which everyone feels able to bring their best to work (often called engagement). We feel it’s important to be really clear on some key questions such as ‘How employees feel within the organisation, the extent to which they feel like valued and are they able to play a full part in the way the organisation functions?’

That's really a growing and big issue for most organisations because people increasingly want to feel like they, and their contributions, matter. One of the key challenges for most managers and leaders in organisations is how to help people really feel like they've got as much freedom and trust as possible to bring their best game into the workplace however apparently simple or ‘basic’ that person’s job may seem.

"We work with leaders within organisations and with the collective organisation as a whole. To look at and think about how they can be even more effective than they already are."

How can azzur help the health sector?

The work that we've done to date in supporting the Five Year Forward View strategy is in helping organisations to look at the system within which they are functioning. So, in terms of mental health, looking at the other agencies that they are working with, the wider population outside of the main health service element itself. And, of course, the NHS is working in this multi-disciplinary fashion anyway and this has already been well articulated in the Mental Health FYFV strategy. But as we know, the Five Year Forward View and the interdependent nature of the working aspirations, trying to get to a place where people are capitalising on the best possible resources at the right point of service, is a big challenge.

One of the reasons it's such a big challenge, is because it requires a big shift in mind-set. And in the way that leaders and all members of the organisation think about the boundaries within which they're operating. Where our work would particularly be focused would be in helping the leaders and the people within the organisation to think about the shifts they have to make.

This means issues like thinking about how and where we have control, if indeed that's even something that is real. How do we put in place the right ways of working as well as the right physical systems that allow us to access the resources not just within the individual units but to realise the combined value of those resources? That might be money, that might be people, that might be quality of thinking. It's thinking about that multi-dimensional aspect of ways of working. Our work helps facilitate the thinking and elevates people up and out of the day job and into designing a system that really leverages all of the different resources and all of the different capabilities that exist. That will help the NHS pound go further, because instead of having duplication in siloed and boundaried ways of working, it will free up resources, ensuring that each pound is working as hard as possible.

Some of the key challenges include addressing how people are measured and targeted, exploring attitudes and mind-sets around control, authority and decision making and the sometimes ingrained nature of/lack of flexibility of thinking. It also brings in some of the very current work that's going on in organisations around agility and systems leadership - being able to work in a more complex environment, with faster but also focused thinking. The ability to move quickly but to move in the right way, to take a risk and be prepared to fail and though, for the NHS, this is a tricky area of discussion, it needs to be embraced.

Is there any work you’ve done recently that you want tell us about?

We did some important work with the NHS right across the South West region, bringing in a lot of this work in terms of thinking and shifting of mind-sets for leaders. It was a series of events with 60 or so leaders at each one coming together to really try and push through the limits on their thinking and practices. We're all limited, of course, but we can push through the boundaries of limited thinking with others’ support to define new ways of working. In many ways it was 101 level work because it was fairly early on in the Five Year Forward View thinking but it had a very positive effect because it was building on the work that was done in a theoretical sense by the Kings Fund to create a more practical expression for the South West region.

Not an NHS example but a case study with Great Western Railway. And as anyone who knows anything about the rail system in the UK is aware, the industry is somewhat lumbering and heavily traditional and yet needing to make massive change to cope with the demands it is facing from a growing passenger market. In many ways, it has a lot of similarities, actually, to the NHS in that the traditions go very deep, and people are very passionate about their place within the industry.

The work we’ve been doing with them over the last three or four years has been about bit by bit, helping them to become more aware of the intangible parts of the system within which they operate - I could only describe it as the ‘space’ between the physical things. By that I mean, a lot of the behaviours, the attitudes, the mind-sets, the relationships, the trust building and communication – all the factors that enable leaders to work in a more transformational way.

What would you like to tell the attendees in advance of the conference?

Well, we'd like them to come and talk to us if they're interested in working out how to translate a clear sense of purpose through into a high performing organisation. Helping people in their organisation to translate their already deep sense of meaning into realised impact, value and a daily sense of ‘we are doing a great job’.

This requires a way of working that is agile, fast and trusting. A way of working that really recognises the power of each and every person and the collective and the leaders responsibility to facilitate this contribution.

"Helping people in their organisation to translate their already deep sense of meaning into realised impact, value and a daily sense of ‘we are doing a great job’.”

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