FERF UP YOUR LIFE!

Standard

The following guest blog post is from Dr Clarissa Chase , an ST5 trainee in paediatrics, at Southampton General Hospital.  Clarissa conceived a positive reporting system called “FERF”. The story of FERF is below:

CgqEu-iWgAAUiC0

It seems almost every day that a negative healthcare story makes its way into the headlines; missed diagnoses; missed opportunities; repeated failings that suggest a lack of learning from previous serious incidents.

While the issues raised by these stories may be significant, the articles rarely present a balanced account. The distorted information is presented for maximum impact and consequently effects public perception of us all.

As healthcare professionals, we have no right to reply or publicly defend these cases. As we are in the business of preventing harm and striving for clinical excellence it is difficult to know how to manage such misrepresentation. Not least because the barrage of negative press stories and distorted perceptions of NHS care must be having a negative effect on the morale of our workforce.

I don’t think anyone would deny that learning from mistakes is essential.

Reviewing failings, whether in the form of a formal inquiry or simply personal reflection, is necessary to identify hazards or risks and target improvements to address these and prevent any recurrence. Patient safety is paramount and we have a myriad processes to direct our focus at this; adverse incident reporting forms; patient complaint processes; the National Reporting and Learning System to name but a few. All these processes have been designed around identifying adverse events. Perhaps we are guilty ourselves of propagating this endless focus on the negatives, thus further perpetuating dwindling morale.

A 2007 survey for Hospital Doctor suggested 69% of doctors in the UK reported falling morale. The reasons for this are likely to be complex and varied, but might at least in part be a result of a relentless attention on adversity, both within the NHS and in the wider public forum.

So what if we turned that on its head? Redress the balance and recognise that it is as important to learn from the things that go well; the good things we all do every day that get little or no recognition: instead of learning from an example of incorrect care of a post-operative patient resulting from poor handover of information on arrival to the ward, identify the cases where the handover is exemplary and evaluate what makes it so, in order to encourage the process to happen in this way each time. Identify the details of specific positive examples, use them to educate and we will all learn from good practice.

Positive reinforcement is a well-recognised concept first described by psychologist BF Skinner that describes the reinforcement of a specific desired behaviour using a reward; a positive event that follows a particular action will reinforce it and make it more likely to happen again.

Putting this into context within the NHS would seem simple: if the reinforcement takes the form of specific positive feedback, for example: ‘I think you managed that consultation well – you involved the patient in the decision making and summarised all the information clearly’ then we will start to recognise all the things that we all do well every day, while we emphasise what works well and, in so doing, ensure continued good practice. The side effect of this process might be to increase morale and confidence. It will change the way people think about one another and build a stronger team.

I remember an incident as a junior registrar in 2012 when one of my consultants was admitting someone unexpectedly to the ward after clinic. As I was the registrar covering the evening shift she came and found me and took me to the clinic room to meet the parents and their baby. While we were in the clinic room she explained the reason for admission to me, in front of the parents and explained her proposed plan for overnight. I was then able to accompany the parents to the ward and introduce them to the ward staff. It struck me that her actions had a big impact on the very anxious parents. They clearly felt reassured that the discussions had both happened in their presence, and involving them.

Two other things struck me that day: 1) did my consultant realise the positive impact of her actions and 2) what a shame that I was the only person around to learn from her brilliant practice. I wanted to find a way to recognise, emphasise and learn from positive events.

And so the idea of Favourable Event Reporting Forms (FERF) was born. The concept was simple: a paper reporting form to identify positive practice and the individuals involved that could be filled in by any member of the team. A multidisciplinary team would then review the forms monthly and the learning points for each of the events drawn out. These learning points would then provide feedback both to the individuals involved, and to the rest of the team. The individual would receive a letter from the clinical leads of the team. The event and learning point would also be summarised and displayed on a noticeboard for staff, patients and visitors to see, as well as being discussed in Mortality and Morbidity meetings and education sessions.

The FERF initiative has been extremely well received in many different clinical areas. As well as enabling learning from positive practice, FERF provides a mechanism for individual professional development and has increased morale among all members of the multidisciplinary team. In addition to being used by patients and relatives and for patients and relatives, many have commented on how pleased and reassured they are to see both examples of positive practice and learning from positive practice.

While striving for clinical excellence we should recognise and celebrate our successes, learn from one other and from the hundreds of brilliant things we all do every day. If we change the way we value each other perhaps we will change the way others view us too.

Lessons from excellence in trauma leadership

Standard

My name is Chris Turner and I am a consultant in emergency medicine.

In the transfer window of 2011 I found myself with the quite unexpected opportunity of joining the team at University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire. This was both exciting and simultaneously daunting; exciting because UHCW was in the process of becoming one of the 3 West Midlands adult Major Trauma Centres, daunting because it came with a reputation for excellence which I wasn’t at all sure I could live up to. As the starting date approached I became a little more anxious. Surely they wouldn’t be all that good? After all we had all had similar training and all had the same post graduate exams and life support courses.

Anyhow, the day came when I started. I settled down into the miasma of new systems and became lost in the process of learning a new job. That is, until the trauma call went out. Fortunately, I was not running the call and as such was able to watch. I settled against the back wall, happy that my lack of height would be a further defense to exposing myself as a charlatan in resus, whilst secretly hoping that I might recognise the process and feel that it was not out of reach.

What I saw was far worse than I had imagined.

Gary Ward walked in, took control of his team, ensured everyone knew their role, was happy with it and felt able to contribute. He then delivered text-book trauma leadership, creating, at its core, a small oasis of calm in the otherwise frenetic environment of a busy resus. Dialogue flowed back and forth, team members were addressed by name and there was consistent clarity of purpose. The patient had their primary survey and initial workup in less than 10 minutes, making it into the CT scanner in less than 12. I was horrified, this wasn’t just good- this was outstanding.

I decided that I would watch a few more traumas being run; after all, Gary came with a reputation for excellence and perhaps I could find someone with a more realistic level to aspire to. The next person I watched was Caroline Leech. Once more I stood in the background and watched as, in a slightly different style, another masterclass in initial trauma management was delivered. Over the next few days and weeks I watched as Rob Simpson, Louise Woolrich-Burt, Jim Davidson and others each brought their own style to the basics of ATLS/ETC to create what felt like amazing teams from groups of disparate individuals. They did this rapidly, succinctly and in a way that allowed the whole team to feel valued. The sense of being out of my league only grew.

At some point, I realised that there were things that each was doing that appeared to help the team to come together. From discussing with the trauma team leaders however, it was also clear that they were not quite sure how they did it “It’s just my style” and “I just do it how I do it” being amongst the replies I received when I asked about this.

Just asking the leaders wasn’t going to get the answers I was looking for. So, working alongside Dr Amy Randle (then an ACCS trainee), we developed an anonymised qualitative questionnaire that was distributed to members of the multi-disciplinary trauma teams. We asked what they liked, what they didn’t like and whom they thought was the best trauma team leader. We received over 100 replies and they are summarised below.

Positive attributes:

positive

Negative attributes:

negative

It may seem odd, but seeing this written down has been a great help. It has provided a structure to consider our behaviours and to think about the atmosphere we create in real time. But we did much more with this- we used it to form part of our peer review process and have had collective discussions so that everyone can learn from each other. By describing both the good and the bad we have given clarity to the behaviours that encourage and inhibit excellence.

And the best trauma team leaders?

Well, Gary Ward :garyand Caroline Leech:carolineBut now we know their secrets…

Chris Turner, April 2016

chris

Learning to care

Standard

The following guest blog is from Mike Clift.  Mike spoke at our meeting in January 2016, on the topic of Compassionate Healthcare.

 

I was asked to write this blog shortly after presenting my compassionate healthcare work at the Learning from Excellence workshop event in late January. Nearly four months later, I’m finally doing it. I’m as prone to procrastination as anyone but this time some significant life events genuinely got in the way of writing this, and those events have given me more reason than usual to reflect on the journey I’ve been on with this work and where I am now.

At the time of the workshop I was just finishing-off an MSC and three months into a new job where I was directly managing a team for the first time. Two months later a young relative died after a two-year struggle with cancer. Shortly after that, my relationship broke down. Before you stop reading – don’t worry! I’m fine and there is a point to these perhaps uncomfortable disclosures. For a long time I was living with things in my life that are no longer there, which has cumulatively given me more head and heart space overall, but rapidly put me in a fairly unexpected place of reflection rather than fairly constant action. I’ve had big emotional investments come to a form of close while I’ve had to maintain my levels of focus and emotional engagement in a newly formed role managing a newly formed and growing team who need my guidance and strength if I’m to do this new job well. As with anything, I can’t claim to have done that perfectly, but without some of the skills I’ve partly learnt as a result of the professional journey I’ve been on with compassionate healthcare, I may have done it much more poorly.

When I present I often stress that to maintain and develop your compassion you need improved self-management of your thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness is a core skill in many approaches developed to do this, such as compassionate-mind training and acceptance and commitment training; and over this challenging period I drew on my growing skill in being able to draw my wandering, distracted mind and heart back to the present moment and the person in front of me, whether a member of staff, a patient or anyone outside work too. My final MSC module was an assessment of the impact of a conference on compassionate healthcare I led on in March 2015. My conclusion was that inspired and enthusiastic staff then need ongoing opportunities to learn further and practice the skills that were highlighted, including mindfulness. I created a big bang but only sketchy plans for the ongoing evolution. I was lucky. I coincidentally learnt meditation and mindfulness a year or so before my compassion journey started and have practiced them ever since, which has become another welcome piece of synchronicity between my personal and professional life.

My real challenge now is having learnt how to successfully engage an organisation with this work, I now need to work towards providing staff and students with accessible, ongoing opportunities to learn the skills which I’ve benefited from and have made me a more resilient human being. Whatever life throws at us as healthcare workers, we still need enough heart to offer our patients and the staff that need our support and guidance but some of us, like myself, need to learn how to do it better first and healthcare organisations and the leaders and managers within them can do more to provide those learning opportunities.

 

Michael Clift

RN: Child, MSC

On sincerity

Standard

This morning I opened my email inbox to find two unread excellence reports. The first was from a consultant surgeon. He had reported excellence in his theatre staff for staying late to finish some cases. The patients had benefited from this sacrifice and the consultant surgeon wanted to say thank you. He could have gone to each individual and said thank you directly – perhaps he did – but he chose to make it more formal by reporting this through our excellence reporting system. The second report was from a nurse who had cited the Chief Executive Officer of the trust for excellence in dealing with a particular issue in her department.

Both of these reports were essentially a formal notification of thanks.  At first glance neither of these reports contain much ‘actionable intelligence’. These are just thank you letters between members of staff. All very nice, but where’s the learning?

The key to these reports is their sincerity.  The excellence reports require free text entry, so the reports are written in the words of the author. There is no forced categorisation; no drop-down menus. Just free writing. This allows the sincerity to shine through. The reports are delivered verbatim to the reported staff member. So the theatre staff and the CEO will soon be receiving the same copy of the reports I read this morning. What will their reactions be? How will they feel?

My bet is that they will feel appreciated. Appreciation is different from reward. Appreciation is being positively noticed (or not being ignored,  depending on your perspective). This taps into intrinsic motivation and makes us more likely to want to repeat our actions. Reward, in contrast, is an extrinsic motivator; a carrot, from the stick and carrot concept. Reward works to a point, but ultimately we tire of these motivators. Reward and punishment are management concepts from the industrial age, and they are now outdated.

Don Berwick recently wrote an opinion piece about eras in healthcare. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/mobile/article.aspx?articleid=2499845 He proposes that there have been two historical eras in healthcare: era 1, characterised by professional trust and prerogative; and era 2, characterised by accountability, scrutiny, measurement, incentives, and markets. He suggests that it is time for era 3: a moral era. The article contains nine suggested changes to move to the next era, one of which is to protect civility. Berwick writes, “Medicine should not…substitute accusation for conversation”.  Whilst this may seem obvious, the truth is that it is often forgotten in reality.  Under pressure, civility is often one of the first things to buckle.

How can we protect civility?  A starting point would be to encourage a culture of appreciation for our colleagues.  “Thank you” and “well done” are usually followed by positive dialogue which can form a strong foundation for learning how to improve.  Indeed, the recognition of good practice is likely to increase the prevalence of further good practice.  It may well be the simplest quality improvement intervention there is.

Adrian

Thoughts from the Critically Careful Forum

Standard

On 22nd January I was privileged to attend the first national Learning from Excellence event hosted by Dr Adrian Plunkett at Birmingham Childrens’ Hospital.  As a former West Midlands paediatric trainee who has rotated through BCH PICU twice I was aware of the fantastic work Adrian and the team had undertaken and had witnessed first hand the positive effects this had on staff.  On joining the Paediatric Emergency Medicine team at Leicester Royal Infirmary I was keen in some way to introduce the learning from excellence philosophy.  This idea complimented the Critically Careful Forum which Dr Gareth Lewis was already running in the department.

It was the story of our journey and experiences with the Critically Careful Forum, the good and bad, ups and downs that I was able to share with the audience on the 22nd.  I am aware that running a regular ‘Awesome and Amazing’ style meeting in an emergency department for many will be common practice.  Unfortunately there was nothing being delivered locally to provide multidisciplinary education for our staff.  Originally this monthly meeting was slow to get off the ground however it has gone from strength to strength.  This is a little scary as there is a definite expectation now from the staff who for the majority attend in their own time.

Ultimately we reflect on what has always been a busy previous month in the department.   We highlight a selection of cases which traditionally have been some of the more difficult and challenging ones with relevant learning points.  We have noted that there have been struggles to fully adopt a learning from excellence approach due to the self-deprecating nature of many of our staff.  Even those working in a paediatric emergency department struggle with the concept that not every child gets better.  There is often a feeling of, “what did we do wrong?” or “what could we do better?” when the answer is “nothing!”

We are increasingly however pushing ahead with learning from excellence as it is these cases that we believe we have most to learn from.  In the past 6 weeks we have introduced a new sepsis bundle and last month saw evidence of its success.  A patient with severe sepsis was identified at triage, prioritised for senior medical review and transferred to resus where ultimately care progressed to PICU level support with intubation, ventilation, antibiotics, fluid boluses and inotropes within 35 minutes of the child arriving.  This care will be highlighted and discussed at length but we will also recognise the wider staff efforts; those that ‘stepped-up’ to maintain excellent care for the other children in the department.

In this way I feel we have been able to maintain staff morale at high levels during a busy and challenging winter period.  I believe that this is an under-recognised benefit of the learning from excellence process.

I hope I was able to inspire some in the audience with our experience from Leicester, certainly I came away invigorated with lots of great ideas I am already setting into motion to allow us to better recognise and highlight the great work in our immediate and wider team.

A teaspoon of excellence…

Standard

Our latest blog post is from Dr Gabriella Morley, a foundation doctor who carried out a quality improvement study at BCH, using excellence reporting as the primary intervention.

A teaspoon of excellence helps the medicine improve  Dr Gabriella Morley

I’ve been a doctor for 22 weeks now, and it sure has been a steep learning curve! But, you know what I’ve noticed most, during my short NHS employment, I’ve noticed that healthcare professionals go the extra mile. Day in, day out. Excellent practice happens all the time. Perhaps we take this excellence for granted, because it appears to me that it often goes unremarked. Of course, we should always be striving for excellence, and excellence should be happening daily in order to provide the best care we can for our patients. However, healthcare systems do not seem to acknowledge excellence, instead there is a focus on error, blame and mistakes. Being told off all the time is not good for anyone. It just does not motivate. So is measuring error the only way we can improve healthcare? Or, can we drive better care by measuring excellence too?

We wanted to test this idea, that excellence can help medicine improve, with a quantitative study. We looked at the drug chart documentation of antimicrobials against an audit standard in a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). An antimicrobial prescription which met all 11 audit standards was deemed a ‘gold standard’ prescription. We determined the prevalence of gold standard prescriptions both before and after a few weeks of ‘intervention’: positive reporting via the IR2 forms. These IR2 forms are a source of positive feedback which describe excellent clinical practice. The IR2 can be filled in by anyone and are passed on to the individual via the clinical governance team, creating a positive feedback environment.

In this study the IR2 forms were used as an intervention to detail the prescriber’s gold standard documentation – their clinical excellence. After this intervention we found that there was a significant increase in the number of gold standard prescriptions on PICU. This demonstrates that positive reporting can have an impact on clinical practice and could improve patient safety.

Measuring excellence can be done and, most importantly, reporting excellence can drive better care.

 

Some tips on AI from an expert

Standard

The following guest blog is from Dr Elspeth McAdam, Retired Consultant Child and Family Psychiatrist & Organisational Coach.  Elspeth’s blog is a reflection on her experiences of using Appreciative Inquiry in healthcare.

The old English adage – “You learn by your mistakes” has been a travesty to humanity.  The more you go over what you did wrong, the more you become an expert in how to do the wrong thing! Each time you repeat the action/activity you automatically go through what your “body“ knows and you have to stop and think about what not to do.  By closely examining excellent practice, on the other hand, you are looking at what has worked brilliantly, so subsequently you may act in the same way. In-depth questioning about what made it work so well can help others understand how to repeat it.  Whilst going through these details of the excellent practice, the skills and abilities used should be identified, named and given to the person who accomplished it.  Once these skills are named and accepted by the person who performed them, they then become a resource to that person, as well as a learning item for the observers.

The other valuable resource that comes from Appreciative Inquiry is to DREAM.  REMEMBER EVERY PROBLEM IS A FRUSTRATED DREAM.  If you did not have dreams of good practice you would have no problems! So instead of dissecting the problem, have a dream about how you would like it to have gone. Remember to dream as if you are living it at that moment, so speak in the present tense.

For example:

Let’s dream, with all the staff present, about what an excellent ward round looks like. What is each of us doing; how did we prepare for it; how are we talking to the patients; how we teaching? What explanations are we giving the patients/staff/students etc?  Talk as if you are doing it in the now.  If you are working with a larger group, divide the group into smaller groups of 6, so everyone has a chance to speak their ideas.  Dream what an ideal hand-over and ward-round looks like.  Imagine it is now 2018, and all the current problems are solved.  What are we doing so well now?  When we follow this process, the past difficulties become part of the process of creating the dream.  This gives us new ideas from “the frustrated dream” to inform our “future-present”.  E.g. we learnt a lot from that, now we do it this way…  The more detailed the dream the more likely it is to be lived in the future.

What is AI? – part 3

Standard

This is the third of three blog posts about Appreciative Inquiry, from Simon Blake.

Many overviews of AI begin in the same place: AI started life within the context of a healthcare organisation. Through my attempt to gain an up-to-date overview of the presence and use of AI within healthcare contexts I have, though, managed to inadvertently become embroiled in something that doesn’t sit very easily. The perceived problem? So much of the relevant literature I have come across and read seems to come from authors with a nursing background. Resistance to any conclusion that doctors just don’t seem to do (much) AI drove me on – and in any case, this is backed by the certain knowledge that the early work on AI came from a researcher working closely with doctors in the US.

David Cooperrider’s founding work – a ‘conceptual reconfiguration of action research’ – centred upon a case study at a private (but non-profit) healthcare facility in the US. It’s worth reflecting upon why it was that he used a healthcare organisation – the Cleveland Clinic (CC). Other than the convenience of the close proximity of CC to Case Western Reserve University – where he was registered as a student – a long-standing relationship had developed between the two organisations (propinquity, perhaps?). This connection was driven by the innovative doctor-led and -managed co-operative structure that the CC had taken from the 1970s onwards. A number of other graduate students had already conducted their research projects at the Clinic. Indeed, Christopher Johnston suggests that it was the good fortune for Cooperrider of having his supervisor, Professor Suresh Srivastva, point him in the direction of another student’s study into the innovative doctor (physician) leadership at the Clinic, that inspired the development of AI.

 

But does this genesis provide an indication that healthcare organisations, and the ways that healthcare professionals engage in organising their work, are particularly suited to appreciative approaches? I have wondered what would have happened had Cooperrider conducted his research in an organisation in a different sector, say, an investment bank. Would we even have AI (at least in the form and spirit that we do today)?

Healthcare organisations are, after all, different in many ways from other organisations; private, public and Third sectors. In addition, hospitals are quite different from high reliability organisations, (despite some recent claims to the contrary). Although, clearly if arguably, there are also some similarities, traces, resonances, with other organisations, one commonality is the claimed relevance to them all of an appreciative approach. And the same line of argument might follow for the healthcare professions, too.

This is perhaps an obviousness, given AI’s roots in organisational development (OD). Organisations from any sector might consider and use AI in their OD processes. However, health researchers are now making a point of asserting a clear distinction in the use of AI as a research approach (as distinct from an OD tool). Suza Trajkovski, a specialist neonatal nurse and academic at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, asserts and demonstrates the power of AI as a healthcare research approach which moves beyond (negative) problem-focussed towards positive inquiries. Suza has devised a structured review of the usage in healthcare of AI as a research methodology. Her conclusion is that AI is an “engaging, inclusive, and collaborative” way of exploring issues pertinent to healthcare, especially so because it aligns neatly with the current health sectoral interest in the Safety 2 paradigm.

 

Others see the relevance in a slightly different light. For instance,Professor Bernie Carter in the UK suggests it is the “high degree of involvement, participation, goodwill and collaboration apparently engendered by using AI” that make it a good fit. From a US perspective, Nancy Shendell-Falik and her colleagues at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, assert that AI’s strength as a novel healthcare approach is because it is “evidence based (using people’s experiences)” as well as being focussed upon relationships. They deepen the connection drawing attention to AI practitioners’ abilitiy to encourage “people to identify, engage, and strengthen the core values and ‘‘life-giving forces’’ within the (healthcare) organization”.

These researchers have deployed AI in areas as diverse as exploring family-centred care in a neonatal unit, clinical handover within an adult care hospital, and multi-agency complex care service provision for children. The applications and uses by others of AI in healthcare extend across specialities and organisations from maternity service reprovision to outpatient cancer care service innovations. Trajkowski’s review identified only 9 research papers which detailed how they’d used the 4D cycle in healthcare, but her wider review unearthed over 750 published works (to the end of 2011).

Those ‘in the know’ might already have noticed that the selection of significant, recent ‘AI-in-healthcare’ research offered so far has all been authored by Registered Nurses. Indeed, in searching for and through the AI literature, there appears to be a subtle, yet discernible, ‘healthcare professions bias’. As you might hope and expect (given Cooperrider’s initial focus upon physicians) that doctors and the allied healthcare professions are also present.

For example, in the UK, a key study of AI use in the NHS, published in 2005, was driven by Dr. Alastair Baker, a London-based consultant paediatric specialist. Whilst the AI interviews were conducted by Baker, and the study indicates a noticeably greater involvement by nurses. However, the research analysis and discussion was rather mute on this professions issue. Two leading figures in the use of AI in healthcare settings in the US are Drs. Julie Haizlip and Margaret Pews-Ogan of the University of Virginia. They have been involved in a key project which has had a wide-ranging impact across a number of organisations – driven by research, medical education and training centred at the Center for Appreciative Practice. This has included the acknowledgement of particular features of medicine that necessitated adaptations to AI in order to enhance the chances of attaining a successful transformation of the culture across four key organisations. Internal AI champions and clinical change agents facilitated the moulding of language, expectations and infrastructure. A model for other healthcare organisations? Certainly, the thoroughness of their work is indicative of a balanced and realistic management of the potential for and actual resistance to the AI approach.

As with the earlier adoption of AI by many nurse academics and leaders, so more latterly with medicine. Recent applications address the reform of medical student education, identifying exemplars of patient transfer (sign-out) when designing new handover tools, and finding out best practice in medical professionalism when using social media.

Against the backdrop of continued resourcing, policy and other (political) pressures, is this the environment within which to take an appreciative approach to healthcare? Some would say most definitely “Yes!”. Recall Gervaise Bushe’s injunction that AI isn’t only about the ‘positive’. In addition, the time appears right to enhance the impact of AI through alignment with other approaches such as mindful inquiry, compassionate healthcare and narrative medicine, as well as incorporating it into other offshoots of action research such as co-inquiry. Drawing upon interesting work within community development, a critical AI approach may also be a ‘good fit’ in healthcare settings. Indeed, if you work within the healthcare sector, can you think of a reason why you should not be appreciative in your approach?

Simon Blake
November 2015

What is AI? – part 2: A brief history of AI

Standard

Here is the second in a series of blog posts from Simon Blake about Appreciative Inquiry.

A brief history of AI.

Charting the course of the development of ideas can be tricky.  Too heavy on the history and it might be too specific to communicate the broader and deeper lessons-learned.  Too much of an emphasis on philosophical ideas and then the detail – and engaging nature – of the historical narrative might be lost.  This short blog post won’t, then, even attempt to be a ‘complete’ history.   And, in any case, decent histories already exist.

Appreciative Inquiry’s (narrative) history has been captured in a timeline reaching from it’s genesis in David Cooperrider’s doctoral research project at a medical clinic in the US in 1980, through to the more recent globalisation of a movement.  Jane Magruder Watkins and others set this out in a succinct manner in their introduction to the development of AI.  They do, though, occasionally miss inspirational events.  A case in point is the first meeting between Diane Whitney, Cooperider and Ken Gergen in the early 1990s, which led to the founding of the still influential Taos Institute. This is related in Gervase Bushe’s recent fulsome-yet-compact article.  Here, despite collating together a number of fascinating historical events,  Bushe sets out some of the broader principles and themes of AI within a historical context.

Questions which have been addressed through the past 35 years of AI practice and development, and which still remain open, relevant and challenging for us to consider as part of the LfE project include:  Is AI a philosophy (perhaps, a way of seeing and understanding the world) or a methodology (a means to get at that meaning) or both?; Is AI just action research with a positive question?; Is AI an approach which can uncover the truth about what works in an organisation?  What are the dangers of ignoring the equally real obstacles to the growth of human wellbeing and potential?

As a history, AI’s contains elements which can be inspirational.  The more recent moves towards a globalised perspective, with emerging as well as developed nation practitioners finding their own nuanced understandings and uses for AI, are exciting and stimulating.  Such developments serve to lend further support to the social constructionist underpinnings of AI.  That is, that our meanings and understandings are co-created through our attempts to understand.  Although this can still sound contentious, it is a central tenet of AI that there is not one ‘truth’ out there somewhere, waiting for us to discover.

Tracing the history of AI reveals that unresolved tensions remain; between generativity and positivity, and between appreciation and problem-solving.  This relatively brief history of AI has thus far demonstrated a failure to resolve them.  But, the beauty of the AI approach – regardless of which nuanced form one prefers – is that this is in itself generative.

The next blog post from me will collate some of the key moments from past and present uses of AI within the healthcare context.  Whilst not dispensing with this past – indeed, drawing upon the issues and themes which have already begun to be highlighted – there will also be a look into the future of and for AI, and for the LfE project in particular.

 

Simon Blake

October 2015

What is AI? Part 1

Standard

Here’s a blog from Simon Blake, from the Learning from Excellence team.  This is the first of a series of blog posts about Appreciative Inquiry (AI):

The National Health Service we work within, use, support and care about has changed immensely since its foundation in the 1940s.  Perhaps it is proof positive that broad-based transformational change can and does happen.  Change clearly also occurs on a smaller, but no less significant scale;  on the shifts on which healthcare professionals work, and in the wards, units and departments that you lead, manage and operate within.

Lurking within many approaches which attempt to understand such change – whether it is incremental or transformational – is a persistent expectation that, for things to get better, we must focus upon and learn from our mistakes.  Further, such a logic of thinking seems to suggest that in order for us to meaningfully change we must break with the past and build anew.  You can guess where this is heading, yes?

For a long time, it has been evident to some that there is an alternative approach. Helen Bevan wrote in 2004 that instead of always focussing upon problems, by “asking questions and having conversations that were intentionally positive…(researchers have found), even in organisations with the greatest performance challenges, potential to transform them in ways previous unimagined.”. Helen is now the Chief Transformation Officer for NHS Improving Quality.  And it is in this role that she was recently part of the Challenge Top-Down Change Panel (a collaboration between the Health Service Journal, Nursing Times and NHS IQ) which identified Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as a key solution to engendering successful change in the NHS.

A key element of AI is that it doesn’t require us to jettison what we are currently doing, in order to create successful change.  Rather, as the Change Challenge identified, “the focus (of AI)  is on strengths, solutions, what is already working, what looks good, and what people want more of”.

At the heart of AI is a positive way of thinking.  A perspective which says that whilst healthcare professionals experience and attempt to workaround everyday problems, the seriously untoward incidents that garner the headlines are unique, infrequent and not everyday.  Empowering professionals to enhance their identification of and learning from these everyday successes requires a different way of thinking and understanding the work that you do.

This is the first of a short series of blogs about the appreciative inquiry approach.  It is but one approach among many which derive their energy and force from a positive psychological perspective and movement.  To understand a little more about the roots of this movement, and of AI itself, please dip into the next LfE blog.

Links:

Helen Bevan (2004) ‘What Works:  Appreciating Our Assets’.  Available from:  http://www.institute.nhs.uk/quality_and_value/introduction/article_1.html

HSJ/NT/NHSiQ (2015) Challenge Top-Down Change.  Available from: http://m.hsj.co.uk/5083743.article

Simon Blake

September 2015