The NHS is a huge organisation. Even at a local level, individual Trusts, Foundation Trusts and CCGs are extremely large. Given the sheer number of interactions every month there are going to be things that go well and things that could be done better.
When we get feedback a number of things tend to happen. If it is positive then it hardly gets any attention. If it is balanced then we tend to focus on the negative aspects. If it is negative it gets a lot of attention and usually follows some formal process or protocol.
The tendency tends to be to focus on the negatives. Of course everyone would love to have positive feedback all of the time. Yet this is not reality in my experience. People will give feedback for a whole host of reasons. Most of the time you have no idea what has prompted them to respond in a particular way.
What difference would it make to your organisation if all feedback positive, negative and balanced was analysed with a view to using it to improve? I am sure that it would make a huge difference to how people react to feedback in the organisation. It would more than likely encourage people to deal with things at the time the feedback was received. It could well be used to showcase and highlight all of the good work.
So what might be needed to create an environment where people welcome and learn from feedback?
Genuine commitment at the top
Whether it is fair or not, the commitment to learning from feedback needs to start at the top. There needs to be real buy-in and support from all the senior team, no matter what discipline they belong to.
Demonstration of the top team commitment
It’s really easy to say there is real commitment to learning from feedback. Demonstrating it is very different. By actively asking for feedback and then acting on it the top team re-enforce the fact that it is real rather than artificial.
Publicise success stories
In Board papers, internal newsletters and other documents that might be in the public domain, highlight success stories. There are so many of them around.
Share the learning when things go wrong
Mistakes will be made. The important thing is that they are not made over and over again. When things don’t go to plan by all means investigate. Also go one step further and publicise the key learning points in very simple language.
Accept that things will go wrong
You can plan for 100 eventualities and it will be something else that goes wrong. Things going wrong are just part and parcel of organisational life. It is the way in which you respond that makes the difference.
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