Thursday, December 13, 2007

'Not Invented Here'

I was working in the North West of England on Wednesday as a facilitator at a large consultation event for the North West National Health Service.

I bumped into a good friend, author and business colleague Malcolm McClean who is the founder of the dynamic organisation Bear Hunt

During the event on Wednesday Malcolm came up with a wonderful expression that I will now steal and use in my work in healthcare (always crediting Malcolm as originator of course!)

The expression is: ‘Not invented here’

What Malcolm is driving at is the reluctance of managers and clinicians inside the NHS to welcome ideas from outside the NHS. He described how the NHS is producing various reports and documents about wanting to be a world class service.

Malcolm has been leading a fabulous initiative aimed at improving the mental health of young men by developing projects in partnership with professional football clubs in various parts of England – mainly the North West.

The project targets young men who are at risk of suicide due to mental illness. It has been a hugely successful venture with stories of young men whose lives have been turned around thanks to this project. It is an evidence based success.

Delighted with the way the project has gone, Malcolm wrote to all of the 302 Chief Executives of Primary Care Trusts in England asking them to consider the project in their own geographical area.

He had 7 replies. That means 295 Chief Executive could not be bothered even to respond to Malcolm.

And yet .... the NHS says it wants to be a world class service.

Malcolm has reached the conclusion that ‘Not invented here’ is an NHS syndrome.

I think he may well be right.

Apart from anything else – how come 295 Chief Executives do not have the decency to even acknowledge or reply to Malcolm's letter?

Despite working 35 years inside the NHS until 3 years ago I am still hurt and embarrassed by such bad manners and another sad example of how the NHS simply does not walk its own talk.


David Wike said...

Sadly, yet again, the NHS seems to be lagging behind the best of the business world. NIH (Not Invented Here) is a phrase that we started to use in the automotive industry more years ago than I care to remember. It can often be applied in situations where ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is an equally valid reason for taking a blinkered view.

Probably most of us have been guilty of both reactions at some stage in our careers; often when we feel threatened by those outside of our immediate environment. An evangelical approach to promoting change can be ‘scary’ to those on the receiving end. Coaching people to work it out for themselves so that they ‘own’ the change is always likely to be a more successful approach.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for the link - I've signed up on to the Bear hunt mailing list ..

NIH as an 'outsider I haven't heard that phrase before, there does seem to be great emphasis on the need to of invented .. so wonder if it is possibly the secondary appearance of adoption that is less favourable?

I agree with feelings about the letter's sad lack of response and also with David's comment that I'm sure would indeed safetynet more success if the support to implent & encourage were a responsive and competent one.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks David and Ruth

I am pretty sure it is not only the NHS where ‘preciousness’ results in managers thinking they always know all the answers. They believe theirs is the only way to do something because it has always been done that way (what an awful expression that is).

The greatest explorers in history discovered new lands because they believed it was worth trying to see if they could get beyond what was the perceived wisdom at the time.

I’m sure all organisations benefit by when managers keep an open mind and welcome challenges to the way they do things. Easier said than done I agree but the best way to make progress in my opinion.

David said...

We touched upon this notion of difficulty in change a few weeks ago. This example always reminds me of the George Bernard Shaw quote: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man." While the glass isn't half full at 2% of CEOs responding, it is a beginning. Once one of those CEOs adopts the new approach and proves it works, more will follow if for no other reason than competitive response. If "The Tipping Point" is to be believed, it only takes around 14% to tip an approach into success. Maybe 2% is a good start but, probably, most unreasonable people have left NHS (any come to mind?) to go out into the world and spread simplicity to others. Cheers to unreasonable men and women.

Trevor Gay said...

David – I’ve come across the GBS quote and I love that concept. It rings true in my experience of the NHS. The people who really wanted to make a difference and make change were often seen as unreasonable – and often seen as a bit odd.

I am a great advocate of the wise words of Margaret Mead the famous Anthropologist who said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”