Tag Archives: agile

Not upheld and partially upheld complaints: Getting to grips with complicated situations

Not upheld and partially upheld complaints usually occur when dealing with complicated situations. How can boards and staff ensure that the process is fit for purpose and built around the complainant? Dyfrig Williams and Ena Lloyd reflect on learning from the Good Practice Exchange’s Complaints Seminar.

Back in June we held a seminar on Embracing Complaints. The reason why we wanted to hold the seminar in the first instance was following a discussion with Nick Bennett, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. We got talking about the increasing number of complaints that they have been receiving, which led to Nick making a great presentation at the event on the cause of this and why the number of complaints are set to rise even further. It’s well worth having a look at the Storify for an overview of Nick’s points.

An image of Chris Bolton's Tweet, which shows the increasing trend of complaints to the Public Service Ombudsman for Waqles over the last five yearsJane Dale, Head of Organisational Learning at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board raised an interesting question at the event about not upheld and partially upheld complaints. Where a Health body believes that the correct care has been delivered but the patient feels that they had a bad experience, feeding the information back to a disappointed complainant can be challenging. It can also be difficult to present the information effectively to Board members to encourage strategic improvement. Do boards find it difficult to deliver improvement when the learning may be around soft skills instead of hard processes? It can be difficult to apply that learning and put it into practice across an organisation when it’s not in a binary context of right and wrong.

For example following an investigation it may be found that the correct clinical course was followed however the patient may feel that the communication / explanations were poor. Staff on interview may state that they made every effort to explain the situation however the patient remains unhappy. The challenge is whether to classify this as a complaint that is not not upheld and to explain why or to classify it as partially upheld. If it is classified as not upheld the patient continues to feel aggrieved and not listened to. To uphold it implies something was wrong and staff find that difficult if they have made every effort to communicate with the patient.

Nick Bennett added, ‘if in doubt go for the learning point rather than the tick in the box’

Complex and complicated situations

Public services are delivered in complex environments. Simple processes may work for relatively straightforward issues, however when feelings and viewpoints are brought into the equation, no process can give simply black or white answers when there are shades of grey.

An image of the Cynefin Framework, which shows good practice should be shared in complicated situationsThe Good Practice Exchange’s work fits with the rationale of the Cynefin Framework. You may notice that we never use the term ‘Best Practice’. That’s because it implies that there’s one right way of doing things that will work for every situation. This may work in a manufacturing environment, but when the relationship between cause and effect is muddy like it is in complicated environments like public service provision, a simple one size fits all response is unlikely to work.

So how does an organisation develop and manage a complaints process when feelings and viewpoints need to be taken into account? The danger with any policy or process is that once it’s formed, it sits on the shelf without being put into practice. So success lies in making the document a living, breathing thing that is continuously updated and improved based on practice and experience. There may be lessons that can be learnt from Digital Design principles in terms of working iteratively. Principle five of the Government Digital Service Design Principles says:

“The best way to build good services is to start small and iterate wildly. Release Minimum Viable Products early, test them with actual users, move from Alpha to Beta to Live adding features, deleting things that don’t work and making refinements based on feedback. Iteration reduces risk. It makes big failures unlikely and turns small failures into lessons. If a prototype isn’t working, don’t be afraid to scrap it and start again.”

Has the process been designed with the complainant in mind?

As Alan Morris said at the event, the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act gives organisations the opportunity to look again at their culture. It gives them the chance to look again at old processes and to question whether they’re still fit for purpose. Does the process focus on the needs of the organisation instead of the needs of the complainant?

Participation Cymru’s National Principles for Public Engagement in Wales may help organisations to think about how they might make the process focused on the complainant. They can provide prompts for useful questions. For instance, is the process effectively designed to make a difference? How do you feedback to people and how will you learn and share the lessons to improve the process of engagement?

By blogging on this, we’d really like to get some responses on social media so that we can share ideas and approaches with Jane and all interested parties to help public services improve. And by recognising that a person’s emotional response is at the centre of such complicated situations, organisations can help to ensure that they’re on the right path of public service improvement.

Agile programme and project management

Leading Programmes and Projects / Arwain Rhaglenni a Phrosiectau

As someone who has never been anywhere near a project management job, there was a lot for me to learn at our recent Leading Programmes and Projects Shared Learning Seminar.

Lately, I’ve seen the word ‘agile’ bandied around like nobody’s business. Many of the GovCamp Cymru discussions were about how Gov.UK had changed the way that people interact with public services, with the tax disk and DVLA in particular getting lots of praise. Having followed the development of Gov.UK as it’s looked to simplify online access to public services, I was interested to learn more about its Agile approach.

Fortunately for me, I facilitated James Scrimshire from AdaptAgility’s workshop on Servant Leadership and Agile project and programme management. I’d already read about some of James’ workshops on Chris Bolton’s blog, so I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately there wasn’t a game of Battleships this time, but the workshop was a great guide to Servant Leadership.

I was confronted with lots of new terms at the workshop, but what struck me was that these were developments of ideas that some public service projects are already considering as new ways of delivering public service projects. At the Good Practice Team, we clearly recognise there isn’t a one size fits all fits approach. But given how empowering this method is, it’s certainly worth a look.

What I particularly liked about Servant Leadership is the power dynamic, as it puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform. It’s at odds with the traditional role of the Manager, where they keep the power to themselves. Listening to James discuss the concept, it struck me how closely this is linked to good staff engagement. It builds on motivating staff and ensuring that their voices are heard.

James Scrimshire of/o AdaptAgility

James Scrimshire of AdaptAgility

The Scrum Master’s role is to remove barriers so that the team can deliver the project aims. Although Richard Wilson’s presentation wasn’t on Agile, I could draw direct links between his points on the need for managers to empower the workforce and the Agile philosophy.

In case you’re thinking that Agile is strictly for digital projects, this blog by the Ministry of Justice gives plenty of food for thought. This post offers lots of scope for putting it into practice, from organisational change to recruitment.

Having had no direct experience of leadership myself, this session helped redefine my understanding of good leadership. Strong leadership isn’t about power and control; it’s about enabling staff to improve their programmes and their projects.