can sometimes be difficult to think of the most appropriate name to describe a
piece of work which is cross-cutting and complex. My experience of working in support of change
in complex systems across public services has certainly confirmed this.
first began my work on this when I came in to the Scottish Government on a
secondment in 2010 and, when the Christie Commission published its report in
2011, I was asked to lead the support of our development of Collaboration and
Participation, as expressed so strongly by Christie.
This resulted in the formation of the Collaborative Leadership Development Board, spawning workstreams on Public Service Collaborative Learning, Skilled Workers: Skilled Citizens and Employee Engagement. There was even a Colloquim! Thislater developed with the Scottish Leaders Forum Workforce Development Group and the overarching title Workforce Scotland to describe all of the strands of work, all committed to drawing collaborative capacity across public services and co-design and delivery of development support.
little further down the line there was a move to form a larger Division within
Scottish Government which would draw together several strands of activity
around development, participation and collaboration. We thought very carefully about what the most
appropriate collective description for this work was, and alighted upon Ingage, and old Scots word which means
to engage with clear purpose.
time our work has continued to evolve, learning all the time about how we need
to work differently to support change in public services and help to bring
about better outcomes for people and communities.
is part of life and a big part of our work, but changing our name quite so
often is probably not helpful!
With a significant growth in interest in our work on Collective Leadership and a strong recognition that this approach is one of the key components in addressing the complex challenges we all face, we have now confirmed our new name as Collective Leadership for Scotland. This should now replace all of our previous names, and incorporates work on:
Building our Capacity for Collective Leadership
Growing our Ability to Work in Complex Systems
Sparking Creativity and Innovation
Connecting the System to More of Itself
Working out Loud and Sharing our Story.
are a collaborative partnership which reaches right across public services,
with a small core team based within Scottish Government, currently comprised
Janet Whitley, Collective Leadership Team Lead
Karen Lawson, Collaborative Learning Lead and Chief Fire-Starter
Keira Oliver, Collective Leadership Research and Evaluation Lead & u.lab Scotland
Reflections on our Perseverance event with Margaret Wheatley
How do we persevere in times like ours, when nothing is clear and everything keeps changing? How do we stand our ground when the only constant is our values, beliefs and mindsets? Keep on reading to learn more about our two-day Perseverance learning event with Meg Wheatley in October 2019 as well as for information on our brand-new residential programme with Meg in March 2020.
Wheatley, writer and practitioner in systems
thinking and leadership, over 130 leaders from across public service and beyond
explored what it takes to persevere in times like ours – and (likewise importantly)
– what does not deserve our perseverance. Over the course of two days filled
with insightful teachings, inspirational stories and collaborative group exercises
we worked on the skills needed to stand our ground and keep leading with
in Organisational Behaviour, Meg’s approach includes Systems Thinking, Theories
of Change, Leadership and the Learning Organisation and believes in the idea
that “real social change comes from the
ageless process of people thinking together in conversation.” Her expertise
therefore perfectly complements Collective Leadership’s vision and mission of initiating
positive system changes through collaboration across public services and the wider
Meg opened the event by defining
Perseverance. Perseverance is the persistence and effort
required to do something and keep doing it till the end, even if it’s hard. It
is to keep going with clarity about why you are doing what you are doing. Perseverance is not giving up. Yet, Meg
reminds us, that Perseverance differs from Resilience.
Whilst resilient people can withstand pressure and bounce back over and over
again, persevering people know what they stand for and who they serve.
“People who Persevere learn how to deal with Fear, Aggression,
Failure, Criticism, Betrayal, Exhaustion & Despair” – Meg Wheatley
In order to retain the capacity to lead with clarity, persevering people apply skills to overcome obstacles and even emotions which prevent them from staying on course. Inspired by Meg’s illustrative teachings and inspiring quotes from her book, participants then got together to identify the skills needed to persevere. Rather than looking at textbook examples, Meg urges us to look at our ancestors and even ourselves, and explore how we have remained steadfast and capable in difficult times in the past.
“In persevering, we need the unshakeable
confidence that people can be generous, creative & kind” – Meg
Vital skills we discovered are to face reality, remain faithful to
our purpose, work ethically together, and restore sanity where we can by
maintaining an “unshakeable confidence that people can be generous, creative
and kind”. We have to learn to take nothing
personally, even though we experience the feelings associated with our work
personally. As a leader we have to ask ourselves the question: “who do we
choose to be – and who do we choose to be when things come undone?”
Some of the practices we then worked with individually, and
together, centred around:
attention to relationships: critique everything
based on its impact on relationships and when things get harder, bring in more
Looking at how we respond
when things go wrong: if through blame, we can
miss our contribution to the issue. How
can we hold each other to account ethically rather than blaming?
Restoring proper thinking
time: how much time do we give to thinking, reflecting and learning
from experiences? We need to make and protect the time regularly which could mean saying no to taking on
more at the expense of good work.
Linda Hunter’s beautiful drawing below perfectly illustrates how we as leaders have to act in order to keep our head over the water. Drawing on the theme of ‘water’, the illustration shows a person swimming against currents, representing ours and other people’s exhaustion, aggression, criticism, betrayal, failure and fear. We have to learn to work our way through them, keeping our head above water – all the while knowing that the currents will change again and accepting that we could fail. Check out Linda’s Blog here if you would like to see and learn more about Linda’s art for Collective Leadership.
After this inspiring
morning and afternoon, Meg left us with three questions to contemplate on:
What is the work I am currently doing that
deserves my perseverance?
What is the work that needs doing? This
work might not necessarily be the work that I feel called to or passionate
Am I the one to be doing it? Do I have the skills and allies to
meaningfully contribute to it? Is the timing and other conditions right in my
“Ethics is what we do when we decide to belong together”– Meg Wheatley
The next day, the groups came together once again to unravel
what challenges they currently face in their leadership and which skills would
give them the capacity to face them. Having been reminded of the importance of
connections, emotions, other ways of knowing and the impact of relationships,
which is often missed when measuring what matters in our activity, we rethought
how deeply rooted our connections are and how we can collectively
reignite our passions and work better together.
Topics in the group discussions included the ‘Dundee Think Global, Act Local initiative’ (for more information read up on Darryl’s blog here), how to have conversations that cross divides between polarised viewpoints, creating and embedding opportunities for Collective Leadership across our public services, supporting strategy and sustainability of an ethical business model, developing “kitchen table” conversations and many others.
Event attendee Manira Ahmad, Head of Local Intelligence at NHS NSS, says the “kitchen table” conversations released her “inner super power”:
“#DwellingMind – little did I know when I started the short yet insightful journey in the company of Meg Wheatley and a group of 130 leaders from across the system, I would have ended having opened up heart, mind and soul to my own inter-connectedness and my hidden creativity. I had been harbouring an inner super power which flourished when connecting across generations around a “kitchen table”. How transferable was my ability to have open dialogue in my homely setting into other environments? Well, I found out through the passion of others that we are “one”, our existence does not stop and start at work or home, or indeed is not defined by a job title. Our humanity is what makes us US, what makes me ME and my relationships provide me with the much needed endorphins to focus on what truly matters.
The importance of focusing our minds in getting “back to basics”, it seems so simple yet we have collectively made ecosystems so complex that without this additionally we don’t feel a sense of belonging. Making the systemic more attractive than the simplicity. Though I do see around me a new wave, the rise of Courageous Leadership. Individuals that are keen to connect the system to more of itself thus allowing the growth of ethical behaviour.”
“The time of the lone wolf is over”
together to progress on challenges exemplified Meg’s assumption that “Joy comes
from working together as good human beings”, and is not dependent on external
circumstances. This resonated especially well with participants as the feedback
on Twitter illustrates.
Margaret shared with us, some
of the commitment of being what she calls Life-affirming Leaders or “Warriors
for the Human Spirit”
We commit to not adding to fear and
We create good human community with what
we have with whoever is here
We rely on joy arising, coming from
working together, not dependent on external circumstances, in selfless action
We require a good sense of humour!
There has been a lot of positive feedback of the event. Please also have a look at some of our Twitter feedback below and read through Darryl’s blog post on LinkedIn here.
This leads me to the question, in this time of disruption and confusion, what can we do? […] Tapping into our inherent kindness and compassion we put out every day, listening to each other with respect. That is in a little way what I hope to bring closer into reality with Emerging Dundee: Act Locally, Think Globally, and a Local Currency.
Darryl Gaffney du Plooy
Margaret is coming back to Scotland in early March 2020 to host a training programme for a small cohort on “Life Affirming Leadership:Developing the Skills of Insight and Compassion”. If this sounds intriguing to you, take a look at the information and application form here (we expect there to be a lot of interest so apply soon if interested!).
The Dialogue Community of Practice offers Core Concepts training, where we focus on Dialogic Principles. Dialogue is an effective way to hold discussions and approach difficult situations in the workplace. It can help to get to the root of complex issues and allow people with differing opinions to think and work more effectively together.
The Dialogue approach can create a better understanding of perspectives. It requires individuals to know and share their own views clearly and importantly, understand and work with other people’s points of view. The balance struck can lead to new and innovative solutions being co-created. Dialogue and emotion are inextricably linked. Dialogue helps you notice reactive patterns and impact these have in the workplace allowing you to work more effectively with emotion.
We are excited to announce that Donata Caira will be facilitating two sets of Dialogue Core Concepts workshops during 2019/2020.
Cohort 1: 17th December 2019 and 14th January 2020.
Cohort 2: 6th February 2020 and 19th March 2020.
Both sets of workshops will take place at the Scottish Health Services Centre, Crewe Road South, Edinburgh, EH4 2LF.
Unfortunately, both cohorts are now full. To register your interest in potential extra future dates, please click here.
For further information please e-mail Mark Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or visit our website here.
What does it take to lead in times like ours? Deep Perseverance.
How do we respond to the global climate emergency? How do we create a more successful country with opportunities for all that increases the wellbeing of people living in Scotland? How do we recreate our public services so children grow up loved, safe and respected so that they realise their full potential?
Scotland’s ambition for its future, as set out in the National Outcomes https://nationalperformance.gov.scot/ is inspiring. We know that doing more of the same but quicker and smarter is no longer the solution going forward but how do we change our engrained patterns of behaviour? When the scale and complexity of the challenges can feel overwhelming, how do we look after ourselves and others in a way that allows us to take positive and perceptive actions?
The ability to persevere in those most difficult of times requires intensive and deep personal work that can be difficult to attend to sufficiently. In particular, the need to cultivate the skills and practices to:
use systems thinking to explore relevant interconnections and potential consequences of policies and actions when working collectively on complex problems
maintain composure and stay present in difficult situations
maintain a stable mind that enables less reactivity and wiser responses
act with compassion and insight
deal with situations of high conflict, polarized positions and strong emotions.This will be the theme of this two-day event. It will be experiential, stretching and perhaps challenging at times but it is designed to help sustain you in your important system change work. Throughout the event, you will work on your own challenges and questions and also hear from colleagues and peers on how they have been making changes within their systems. More details will be released over the next few months. Spaces are limited so book yours now here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/deep-perseverence-for-collective-leadership-tickets-63248743695
If you have any questions, please contact Keira at Keira.Oliver@gov.scot
For anyone who is interested in exploring mindfulness there is a new collective mindfulness network initiated by Workforce Scotland. At our first meeting in May we started to discuss some big issues around what a mindful nation would look like (including national minimum income, connections with rights based approaches/equality, whether education was fit for the changing world – automation – and what the workforce might look like in the future, how to breach social divides – we didn’t come up with all the answers!!), a mindfulness charter, mindfulness in the context of self-preservation and in how we treat one another etc.
I found it really interesting and thought provoking.
The description of mindfulness on the NHS website can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mindfulness/
You may also be interested in the work of a Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group. Two reports were published based on their work.
Mindful Nation UK (October 2015)
The Mindful UK Report, the first policy document of its kind, seeks to address mental health concerns in the areas of education, health, the workplace and the criminal justice system through the application of mindfulness interventions. The recommendations in this report are evidence-based, sourced directly from experienced implementers, who report notable success in their respective fields and urge policymakers to invest resources in further pilot studies and increase public access to qualified teacher trainers.
Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace
This publication is primarily intended as a resource for those developing a business case for mindfulness training within their own organisation. It provides an updated summary of the research evidence, narrative rationales addressing different organisational needs, case studies and a range of toolkits to help with programme planning, implementation and evaluation.
The document has been developed by a volunteer working group convened by the Mindfulness Initiative and made up of champions from private sector companies including BT, EY, GE, GSK, HSBC and Jaguar Land Rover, supported by leading workplace mindfulness trainers and researchers. In response to the findings and recommendations of the Mindful Nation UK report, the group has tried to address the lack of publicly available information about implementing best-practice mindfulness training in the workplace, and encourages organisations to evaluate their programmes in order to develop the evidence base. It will be iteratively developed over time as capacity allows.
This year’s Fire Starter Festival ran from 28th January – 8th February. It’s a Scotland-wide celebration of learning events hosted by organisations across the country, from large public services to smaller groups, such as social enterprises and community organisations. Why does the festival have a fire theme? Well, the festival celebrates that creative, innovative energy that transforms who you are, how you work and the changes you spark among your colleagues or communities to help our public services change for the better. It might be a spark, glowing embers that fade and light up again, or a roaring hearth.
Last year’s Fire Starter got us buzzing about Year of Young People 2018 and soon after, our thinking cogs were whirring about how we could contribute in 2019 for the festival’s focus on Scotland’s National Performance Framework. This year we created a workshop using our tabletop Higher or Lower game to build a conversation around the framework’s strands about poverty and inequalities, communities and education. Read on for our thoughts and reflections on how it all went.
The event took place on 7 February, with colleagues at Bridgeton Library. Festival goers and local citizens were invited to play our Higher or Lower game, the aim being to test their knowledge and build a conversation about how we really understand what’s happening in our communities to achieve positive changes and reduce inequalities.
What we got was a fantastic, intergenerational audience of local children and adult festival participants. The conversation was captured by a team member using graphic facilitation skills, who noticed that young people in the audience clearly knew a lot about Bridgeton, and when it came to their local knowledge, they often knew more than the adults. Children seemed to get a confidence boost that their knowledge about Bridgeton often matched official statistics and they went beyond the numbers to discuss examples of how and why their daily lives mirrored or contrasted with trends. It was an eye-opener for the whole group and highlighted the importance of intergenerational learning for understanding communities.
It was a surprise for us to discover that the game works so well with a mix of ages. We think that the reason it works is because the game encouraged young people and adults to have a conversation about their neighbourhood that they might not otherwise create. We are using this learning to think about how the game can be played with other intergenerational audiences as part of our work.
“There are many ways organisations can put kindness into practice throughout their procurement stages. Many smaller/medium-sized organisations experience frustrations which include a lack of understanding of processes, with little or no human interaction – more often, communication is done via email and online systems. This approach places unnecessary barriers for small/medium organisations who don’t understand the functions of a larger organisations. My take-away messages were that the GCPH can contribute to kindness within procurement interactions by ensuring that all organisations we work with are aware of each stage of the process. Also, we need to be mindful when using words and terms that may not be widely understood outside our organisation.”
So, wherever you are in Scotland and whether you are a first-time festival goer or a seasoned participant, we’d encourage you to apply to host an event next year and support your colleagues to attend. We found hosting an event surprised and challenged us to think about how we develop our resources, like the Higher or Lower game. Whatever you get up to, in the spirit of Janet’s reflections, let’s be kind and speak to our colleagues in person where possible.
Would you like to be part of a team of Collaboration and Transformation Partners, working together across public services to support transformation for sustainable public services, influencing the future of Workforce Scotland and creating excellent learning opportunities?
What does Workforce Scotland offer?
Workforce Scotland was developed through the Scottish Leaders Forum (SLF) as a collaborative network which works with public services to collaborate on complex, systemic issues in service of wider public service transformation. The Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services (Christie Report 2011) contained strong themes of collaboration and participation and these have been prominent drivers in our work since our inception.
Our delivery model works on the basis of identifying the skills and capacity we already have in public services, identifying together where these can best be applied and working together to provide opportunities for learning and development. We recognise that leadership occurs at all levels across our public services and very deliberately seek to offer opportunities which respond to this, thinking beyond the hierarchies and structures to focus on systemic issues of transformation.
We have developed our offer building upon relevant theoretical concepts, such as complexity, action inquiry, group dynamics, systems and relational leadership and these elements permeate our work.
How does Workforce Scotland work?
The principles of co-design and co-delivery sit at the heart of everything we do and there has been ongoing, regular interaction with public service colleagues and organisations through our growing suite of offers, our Steering Group and our events.
Workforce Scotland is supported by the Ingage Division within Scottish Government, with resources offered through a variety of routes, e.g. expertise, time, capacity, from across public service partners in service of shared development outcomes. The work we do takes various forms, but always has the opportunity to be initiated and led by partner organisations, responding to particular development needs or identified policy priorities, in the broad context of public service transformation.
Some of our Current Work
Collective Leadership – a structured 3-year programme to build capacity for Collective Leadership for Scotland
Facilitation Networks in Glasgow and Edinburgh – drawing together colleagues involved in facilitation to share and develop practice
Firestarter Festival – curating an annual Festival of Innovation and Creativity across Scotland
Dialogue Community of Practice – supporting theory and practice of Dialogue in service of more effective conversations
Scottish Coaching Collaborative – creating opportunities and a mechanism to share our coaching capacity across public services
lab (with MIT) – Prototyping a u.lab movement in Scotland for Social Change
Breakfast Clubs and Conversation Cafes in locations across Scotland
Mindfulness practice – Exploring how we can embed mindfulness practice in our leadership work
Leadership Exchange – a mechanism for brief exchanges to experience different perspectives
Workforce Scotland also creates a focus for thinking and learning about collaboration across public services, working out-loud and sharing our stories as we go, through reports, blogs, tweets and events and connecting with a wide range of diverse development activities offered through partner organisations.
What next forWorkforce Scotland?
We have learned a lot over the last six years about collaborative development across public services and are poised to build from this learning. We are also currently experiencing a high level of interest in our work, with the potential being seen to build from what we have achieved with Workforce Scotland to create a stronger and more sustainable model for the future. We are very keen to continue to engage with our colleagues and partners as we begin to imagine the possibilities for what Workforce Scotland can be next.
Workforce Scotland – Collaboration and Transformation Partners
At this important point in our development, we are keen to draw together a team of Workforce Scotland – Collaboration and Transformation Partners from across our public services. We are determined to make sure that the next stage of development for Workforce Scotland responds well to the needs across our sectors and that we take whatever opportunities we can to connect well and pool our resources and talent around key themes for delivery. The Workforce Scotland – Collaboration and Transformation Partners will play a key role in enabling this to happen.
The Workforce Scotland – Collaboration and Transformation Partners will remain employed and paid by their current organisation, but will be invited to offer time and capacity to support Workforce Scotland, in recognition that this will ultimately have benefits across our public services. The amount of time and capacity available may vary and will be confirmed on an individual basis. In the past this has ranged from near full commitment to a contribution of a set number of days per month or an offer to deliver a strand of work on an ongoing basis.
The Workforce Scotland – Collaboration and Transformation Partners may contribute in the following ways:-
Direct participation in multi-partner development activity for Workforce Scotland, with the opportunity to influence the future programme of work to create strong alignment with what is needed to support transformation across and within sectors
Leadership of particular development themes or strands of work, drawing in partners for co-design and delivery as appropriate
Hosting elements of Workforce Scotland engagement activities and identifying new opportunities to connect within and across sectors
Support for the development of new business models which would be compatible with the work of Workforce Scotland and which would help to support future growth and development
Active participation in Workforce Scotland national events.
We recognise that this could represent a significant commitment, but also that this is an exciting point in our development work which provides a range and depth of learning opportunities for everyone who becomes involved.
If you would like to find out more about the Workforce Scotland – Collaboration and Transformation Partner role, please contact Janet.Whitley@gov.scot
Today, Anna Fowlie, CEO of SCVO shares her reflections on Workforce Scotland, inspired by last weeks blog by Janet Whitley. Anna chaired the Workforce Scotland Steering Group from 2015-2018.
Janet’s thoughtful reflection gave me pause to think back on my involvement in Workforce Scotland and the progress we’ve made over the last few years.
My involvement started with the unfortunately named “Colloquium” and then the first steering group, chaired by the inimitable Justine Curran, then chief constable of Tayside Police. Justine described it as knitting fog. While we weren’t totally great at concrete actions, some things did happen around collaborative learning, Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens and Employee Engagement. And we were united by a determination to change things.
My determination has always been to get people working in public services, whoever they were employed by, to feel they were working for the people of Scotland first and foremost and to sign up to a set of shared values (preferably those on the Scottish mace). We’ve yet to crack that nut.
How we’ve gone about things has always been a bit unorthodox, and I for one have always found the “kaftan of weirdness” a wee bit itchy and ill-fitting. It didn’t always sit well with colleagues across different sectors, but there were always a brave few who were prepared to give it a try. And that’s what we have relied on – people giving stuff a try. If it worked, great; if it didn’t, learn and move on.
Things are in a different place now. We might not have fully implemented the Christie Commission’s recommendations but we now have a much clearer focus on the citizen and an acceptance that the workforce has to be right at the heart of reform, not an afterthought. That’s got to be a good thing and I look forward to seeing more progress.
Janet Whitley, Head of the Workforce Scotland Team at The Scottish Government, shares her reflections on the journey of Workforce Scotland.
Very often there are things that happen in our lives that cause us to look back and reflect, reset our priorities and bring new energy around these. Some colleagues will be aware that I was away from work for a spell last year with breast cancer and that is certainly one of those triggers to think over what is important, what brings me energy and what is it that I enjoy doing.
“Transforming systems is ultimately about transforming relationships among people who shape those systems”
We know that we face a number of complex, wicked issues in Scotland, such as poverty, an aging population and climate change, and we know that no single organisation or agency will be able to tackle these alone. We understand that we must work collaboratively to affect change, and that this work is often complex, messy, unpredictable, and can be difficult to achieve. We know that creating the time and space to work collectively can be challenging. The day to day work can override our best intentions, and we can get stuck in our traditional habits and ways of thinking and doing.
In response to this identified need, Workforce Scotland has launched a Collective Leadership offer, building on our established Pioneering Collaborative Leadership programme. Collective Leadership is offered to cross organisational groups who are grappling with a complex issue and are open to learning and doing things differently. This offer includes:
Skilled facilitation to work with the group of leaders
Individual and team coaching
Opportunities to develop and share learning
We have been running a few information (taster) sessions about Collective Leadership so we can engage more widely with those interested in collectively tackling ‘wicked issues’ in public services. We’ve had lots of interest from a diverse range of colleagues: those in leadership roles grappling with very complex issues; those interested in how we can develop the facilitation capacity which is central to the Collective Leadership Offer; and those interested in our burgeoning faculty – who will help us develop a systemic model of learning and evaluation.
To get a flavour of what it’s like to be involved in this collective leadership work, we have modelled our approach through weaving in the theory with the practice. At our information and taster sessions we invite participants to:
use the theories and concepts to critically evaluate whether they are trying to address a complex rather than complicated issue;
try out formulating strategic questions which help us develop a sense of inquiry into their complex or ‘wicked’ issue;
think about who is part of the collective leadership around this challenge?
Our sessions are planned for a couple of hours but we have found that the interest in the work means that we are often staying on a little bit longer, exploring opportunities and next steps.
If you are interested in finding out more about this Collective Leadership Offer, please join us at one of our upcoming taster sessions: