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Learn with Plackard: How to speak Weasel

 
Thursday, 7 March 2019

Learn with Plackard: How to speak Weasel

Martin Plackard is universally acknowledged as the foremost public sector communicator of his generation. Here he provides a guide to the most useful terms every NHS communications professional should know.

Strategy

Vision – what good looks like and what better might look like in future, ideally captured in a clear and concise vision statement running to no more than two sides of A4. Make sure you have sign-up and preferably buy-in from all stakeholders.

Mission – what you are urgently planning to aim to facilitate or enable. May contain pledges and ambitions. Should not include promises or dates.

Commitment – may be firm, strong, lasting or unwavering. Everything you do should underline or demonstrate it. A preliminary commitment is a useful first step leaving room to change your mind later.

Purpose – the ultimate aim of every strategy. Something we should all aspire to (see also achievement).

Transformation – state or act of imagining incredible benefits that will materialise in the near to mid future.

Sustainability – what all transformation funding ends up being used for.

Roll-out – how all new programmes, campaigns, policies, IT systems and changes to services are introduced. Start with an initial roll-out and progress to the regional or national variety. For large-scale or long-running programmes organise your roll-out in waves.

Geography and travel

Landscape – uncharted expanse of space suitable for stakeholder mapping exercises, reviews and surveys (see also journey).

Place – very approximate measure of size not to be confused with an actual location. A place is smaller than a system but larger than a locality.

Direction of travel – means of expressing intended course to an implied end-point or destination. Usually but not necessarily synonymous with forward (see also towards).

Towards – indispensable term conveying momentum and strategic intent.

Journey – something we’re on or may soon be on together.

Roadblock – unforeseen circumstance that may lead to long detour or in extreme cases an abandoned journey. (Note: You are not starting again but building on the success of your last journey).

Engineering and construction

Underpinning – the parts of your strategy or programme that people don’t need to see but like to know are there. Underpinning beliefs or principles may be used to convey robustness in the absence of credible evidence or a solid rationale.

System architecture – use to confer orderliness and coherence on the sprawling mass of ill-fitting and incompatible parts responsible for commissioning, regulating and providing services.

Support chassis – sometimes even system architecture needs further reinforcement. One or more support chassis may be rolled out as required.

Overarching – largely decorative rhetorical feature advertising your primary goal. Note that too many overarching ambitions can make the programme top-heavy and unstable.

Silo – mass storage unit for vested interests. Aim to break them down but not before moving their contents to another suitable location (see delivery vehicle).

Delivery vehicle – something has to deliver the outcomes and benefits of transformation. They won’t move themselves.

Editor: Julian Patterson

julian.patterson@networks.nhs.uk
@NHSnetworks

 
Nicole Druce
Nicole Druce says:
Mar 08, 2019 09:28 AM

I don’t understand how this "tongue in cheek" comms is supposed to help with the motivation of staff or the NHS as a whole. If the time spent writing this blog was spent highlighting REAL achievements, collaboration and progress I would applaud the Editor's efforts. However, as a fairly new employee to the NHS this satirical messaging does nothing to change the elements of the organisation that needs to be challenged. It simply provides a vessel in which the echo of "oh well...it's always been done this way" is allowed to fester. If this type of communication was published in private commerce the editor would be sacked for bringing the organisation into disrepute!

Julian Patterson
Julian Patterson says:
Mar 08, 2019 11:21 AM

Thank you. I always look forward to my first "he should be sacked" message of the year

Anonymous says:
Mar 08, 2019 12:07 PM

Sigh.

When I joined the NHS (my first job was in 1990) people were still allowed a sense of humour. On the grounds that happy people who can laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of much of the bureaucracy we're expected to shoulder are, in general, merrier team-mates and the workplace is a happier place. And happier people are more productive.

That's obviously the wrong way to motivate people. I shall put hair shirts and whips on order this afternoon, along with a bit of dry bread and rainwater collected from the rainbutt for suitable snacks.

richard askew
richard askew says:
Mar 08, 2019 02:21 PM

A very informative article - I always wanted to know the difference between vision and mission. Now I know I pass it on to all my friends. Thank you

Jon Collins
Jon Collins says:
Mar 08, 2019 02:50 PM

This is satire?
*deletes presentation*

Anonymous says:
Mar 09, 2019 08:38 PM

Time and again parody has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to speak truth to power and shine a little light on some of the worst excesses of health service management.

They do say when everyone in the organisation thinks the same you can be sure no one is thinking.

Essential reading for all those NHS communications colleagues aspiring to be more than a cheer leader for national policy makers.

The Nuffield Trust - Essay collection October 2018
Doomed to repeat? Lessons from the history of NHS reform.
www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/files/2018-10/learning-from-history-web.pdf