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Navigating Tough Waters

Posted: March 1, 2012

Two weeks ago, I announced the culmination of Phase One of the JCHE Reorganization/Culture Change process.  The process was launched at the beginning of September last year.  It involved extensive staff listening sessions where all staff gave input. We had a representative steering committee that tossed around ideas and sorted through feedback to guide the outcomes. They were supported by 2 task forces who analyzed our structure to pinpoint the issues that were  inhibiting job performance and/or satisfaction.  The breadth and depth of the participation was cumbersome at times but highly effective in eliciting fabulous on-the-ground ideas about how we can work best.

The first phase ended by an announcement of a modified reporting structure and the articulation our Principles of Practice. In addition to the reporting groupings, we also form communities of practice so that staff with similar concerns can together solve problems, generate creative ideas and share best practices. We are focusing on opening up communication and striving for maximum mutual support.

The benefit of a reorganization process that involved extensive front-line feedback is that it reflects so many people’s good thinking.  The risk, of course, is that while everyone had good input, we couldn’t do what everyone wanted on everything.  There is a natural disappointment that everything suggested wasn’t implemented.  We hope that overall, everyone can see their contributions in the outcome and we all commit to ongoing engagement and collective reflection.

Hopefully, it’s clear that:

  1. Everyone was heard.  Loud and clear.  I personally read every set of notes from every staff listening session, re-read them and helped consolidate them into shorter, easier-to-share pieces that ultimately formed the foundation of both the structure and the principles.
  2. Everyone wants to be heard again.  And again.  We will incorporate staff listening sessions into our annual cycle.
  3. We will become a community of reflective practitioners—meaning we will evaluate and adjust as we go. 
  4. The vast majority of issues raised in the listening sessions related to HOW we work together, rather than who reports to whom.  The Principles of Practice will be the governing document for us—and collaboratively, we will make these principles, the foundational one being mutual respect and mutual accountability, the reality of our work environment.

Phase II has already begun.  A CORE (Creating an Open, Respectful Environment) has accepted the challenge of implementing the Principles of Practice the operating norm for JCHE.  More on that and the principles themselves soon.

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