The back story of Wellbeing Teams

Last week I posted on Linked In that I was re-reading Bernadette Jiwa’s excellent book ‘Story Driven’ and was planning to using this framework with Wellbeing Teams. This is the bit that I found the most difficult because it is personal and vulnerable. So I have taken a deep breath and posted here to ask for your comments about how I could improve it. Thank you, in advance, for any suggestions and comments. 

It was two books, and on on-line programme called the Seth Godin’s AltMBA which led to Wellbeing Teams.

My Dad died when he was 53. As I approached my 50th year I started to ask myself,

“If, like my Dad, I only had three years left to live, would I still want to do the work that I am doing now?

My career started with Occupational Therapy,  and then Learning Disability services in social care. For the last twenty years I have worked as a trainer and consultant. Twenty years of projects, courses, conferences, a masters, a PhD, advising the Department of Health, writing DH guidance and sharing what I have been trying and learning through twenty books. I have been immersed in a world of person-centred practices,  personalised care and support planning, personal budgets and personalisation (I am clearly attracted to work that begins with ‘P’). I have supported different ways of thinking and working, and helped to show what these could look like in practice through. I hope I have had a positive influence in some way, but if I only had three years left would I do more of the same?

One of the two books I read around that time was Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’. This powerful book challenges the way we support older people and think about end of life. As a consultant I had worked in home care, care homes and hospices and his words resonated with my experience. I wanted to contribute to better ways to care and support older people at home. How could I do that?

The second book had part of the answer. This was a book recommendation from a fellow student on the AltMBA, Susan Basterfield. It was  Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux. It introduced me to how organisations are evolving, and that the leading organisations of the future, called teal organisations, will have 3 things in common – bringing the whole self to work,  focus on purpose, and self-management. Immediatley I wanted to make that change, and for us to evolve as a team. I was CEO of a H S A, a small, international, health and care consultancy team, and the book led us to become a self-managed team. I stepped down from being CEO and over the next two years we learned how to self-manage.

One of the examples in LaLoux’s book is the self-managed organisation of nurses called Buurtzorg, in the Netherlands. It employs over 12,000 nurses, who all work in self-managing teams of now more than 12 people, supported by a coach. There are no managers. They have with a small HQ of around 40 people with no director of finance, no HR director, no marketing team. Against all measures of success they are highly successful.

Atul Gawande’s book helped me focus on the change that I wanted to be part of, supporting older people. LaLoux’s book, and the story of Buurzorg helped me see another way to organising support, through self-managed teams.

The AltMBA helped me have the courage to ‘get skin in the game’. This is a phrase attributed to Nassim Taleb who berates how most academics and consultants (me being one of them) did not have anything to lose for the ideas they propagated. This is a controversial view, but it struck a cord with me. In my time as a consultant I have learned that when it is someone else’s organisation, where I am not responsible for their finances, their registration with CQC or reputation, naturally, there is only so far you can go. I have learned that to go to the edges of what I want to test and learn, the risks that I want to take, it could not happen within someone else’s organisation. So I needed to start my own, and this is how Wellbeing Teams started, to answer these two questions:

Could we actually do what we had taught people as trainers and consultants in H S A? Could we implement the person-centred practices and deliver person-centred care to supported older people to live well and be part of their communities?

Could we be part of demonstrating a new way to support older people through self-managed teams?

My purpose, my ‘why’ evolved to be “ to innovate, demonstrate and inspire change in health, care and community, where everyone’s wellbeing matters”. Wellbeing Teams is how I am trying to do this