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Learn with Plackard: How to speak Weasel

 

Blog headlines

  • Social distancing the Longstay way
    27 March 2020

    We asked Sir Trevor Longstay, chief executive of the NHS Blithering University Hospitals Foundation Trust and commander-in-chief of the Blithering Covid-19 Taskforce to give us some practical tips on social distancing. Here he shares some of the lessons learned over four decades of leadership – not all of them relevant or epidemiologically sound

  • Nothing left to shift: fears grow over NHS paradigm supply
    12 March 2020

    The government has issued a stark warning that stocks of paradigms and other basic supplies could soon run out if NHS managers continue panic-buying.

  • Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up
    27 February 2020

    Taking personal charge of global pandemics is one of the perks of this job. I’m referring to coronavirus, of course, and I’m booked to appear on Sky News to talk about it.

  • Exceeding your expectations: the Blithering staff survey
    20 February 2020

    Staff at NHS Blithering feel listened to “at least once a year” and report that their expectations of taking part in surveys have been “met” or “exceeded” in the past 12 months.

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Tuesday
    7 February 2020

    The second in our series of privileged insights to the working life of Martin Plackard, the NHS’s most gifted communicator

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Monday
    30 January 2020

    First in an occasional series of glimpses into a typical week in the life of Martin Plackard, the NHS's most influential strategic communicator

  • A quick guide to quick guides
    24 January 2020

    Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

  • Towards people and impact
    17 January 2020

    This week the Royal Pharmaceutical Society advertised for a head of engagement and belonging. Such titles can be controversial – but not for Martin Plackard, whose CV features a number of leadership roles in the fields of impact, euphemism management and talent delivery.

  • National log-in reset will change everything
    9 January 2020

    This week the Department of Health and Social Care announced a £40m investment to make it easier to log-in to NHS computers. It’s a laudable aim, akin to fitting a keyless entry system to a Ford Anglia to make it go faster.

  • Martin Plackard’s top tips for making a difference in 2020
    3 January 2020

    NHS Blithering’s Martin Plackard MBE was recognised in the new year honours list for services to strategic communications and meaningful engagement. Here he gives his top tips for others who hope to make a very real difference to people, communities and their own career prospects in 2020.

  • My amazing Twitter year – by Matt Hancock
    20 December 2019

    It's been a fantastic year on social media for the secretary of state for health and the other thing. Here it is in very nearly his own words

  • Sustainability and transformation parties: mandatory guidance
    5 December 2019

    As Christmas fast approaches, system leaders are getting ready for so-called sustainability and transformation parties, the highlight of the year for those who enjoy kinky integration with strangers.

  • All the latest health policy news from the general **** campaign
    29 November 2019

    Because purdah is still in force, this week’s **** has been heavily redacted. Here are the main parties’ plans for government as set out in their manifestos. A full unexpurgated version can be obtained from **** Party HQ.

  • New outfit more splendidly integrated than ever
    21 November 2019

    The emperor has announced plans for yet another new outfit, amid claims that this one will be even more splendid than the last.

  • Purdah – guidance for professionals
    15 November 2019

    After Christmas and the HSJ Awards, purdah is Martin Plackard’s favourite time of year.

  • Tools honoured in Blithering awards
    8 November 2019

    The Blithering Celebrating Success Awards are always eagerly anticipated. Every November, they recognise the commitment and dedication of people who put other people at the heart of everything they do before going the extra mile in their shoes. They also reflect the passionate belief of the organisers, Spume Media, in an awards-led approach to healthcare improvement science.

  • Provisional findings of the interim report
    31 October 2019

    The programme delivery group at One Blithering, the emergent NHS Blithering integrated care system, has published an interim report containing the provisional findings of a year-long strategic review.

  • Toast
    25 October 2019

    "The biggest complaint about the NHS which is beloved by everyone is about the food, and the biggest complaint about the food is about the lack of toast.”

  • Plackard’s misdirection and a victory for old power
    17 October 2019

    In which no one can find Plackard's signposting event, an old foe returns from his past and Sir Trevor Longstay loses interest in compassion

  • Sir Trevor defends revolving door
    4 October 2019

    Sir Trevor Longstay has hit out at proposals designed to make it harder for failed NHS directors to get new jobs with no questions asked.

 
 
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