Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The NHS could learn a thing or two...

[Originally published on the Aspley Consultants website]

We recently looked at the Hillsborough affair and commented on its relevance for those of us interested in organisational learning.  This article, from the Telegraph newspaper, raises some similar points about the reluctance of some hospitals to be open and honest about when things go wrong, thereby reducing the chance of lessons being identified and, subsequently, learned. (For information on lessons learned, please follow this link to the Lessons Learned pages on the Knoco website).

Clearly, few organisations like to ‘wash their dirty linen in public’ and discretion should indeed be used when deciding how much information to share with others.  Nevertheless, all too often, the fear of potential legal consequences is used as an all-encompassing blanket ban on sharing any information at all.

This results in hiding that which should be revealed (i.e. poor performance, malpractice, mistakes), rewarding that which should be punished (i.e. obfuscation, deceit, cover-ups) and punishing that which should be rewarded (i.e. honesty, openness and self-criticism).

Most people usually behave in ways most likely to serve their own interest.  So, unless we look at the rewards and punishments (both formal and, crucially, informal) that seek to manage performance, true learning will continue to be the exception and not the norm.

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