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At the watering hole

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Thursday, 6 June 2019

At the watering hole

Sir Trevor Longstay frowned. “Is ambition the right word?” he asked.

Martin Plackard looked at Beverly Heaver, NHS Blithering’s chief transformationalist.

“According to the focus group, ‘ambition’ is the word that resonates most strongly with clients at the wellbeing centre…” she began.

Sir Trevor stopped her. “Clients? Wellbeing centre?”

Plackard rubbed his hands solicitously. “What we used to call patients and the hospital, pre the rebrand, Sir Trevor. But please bear with us. All will be revealed in our presentation.”

Sir Trevor blinked slowly, like an elderly lion at a watering hole sensing the approach of easy prey.

“Do go on,” he said affably.

Bev Heaver needed no further encouragement. She described how several months of workshops, focus groups, and unconferences, led by a small army of ambassadors and change agents had arrived at a new identity, mission, vision and values for what used to be known as the hospital.

Her words were accompanied by a series of slides that appeared to have been drawn in crayon by a class of seven year olds.

Dr David Rummage, keen to get the carnage under way as soon as possible, asked a question.

Heaver looked puzzled. “I don’t know what you mean by winner,” she replied.

“For the colouring competition,” Rummage said.

“We can take that one offline, David,” said Plackard with a thin smile.

Blithering’s head of branding, communications and putting people at the heart of things, continued: “Thanks, Bev, for sharing the results of the engagement programme. Some really incredible insights to build on,” Plackard said.

He singled out the workshop on working with marginalised communities for particular praise.  Locking the delegates out of the event before lunch had not only been “a really teachable empathy moment” but had saved a small fortune in catering costs.

At this, Sir Trevor signalled his approval by briefly lowering a bushy eyebrow.

Rummage’s face clouded over. The antelope were getting away.

But he was reassured as Plackard seized the clicker, leapt to his feet and started the second half of the presentation, entitled Learnings and Next Steps. A pleasurable noise, somewhere between a purr and a growl came from Sir Trevor’s direction.

Plackard explained how the outputs from the engagement phase had been processed by the expert panel comprising himself, Bev Heaver and a branding consultant who specialised in values. The consultant could not be here, he added due to “other commitments” – namely the start of a prison term for fraud and tax evasion, though Plackard wisely chose to omit this detail.

Plackard flicked through a few slides of key messages and high-level findings before unveiling the new “ident” for Blithering’s crumbling district general hospital. Another purr from Sir Trevor as Plackard displayed the new logo for the Blithering Wellbeing Hub and the artist’s impression of the new Longstay Walk-in Centre, a cluster of Portakabins at the far side of the car park.

It was going a bit too well for Rummage’s liking, but he knew Plackard wouldn’t let him down. He didn’t.

“What’s that thing, Plackard?” asked Sir Trevor.

Plackard zoomed in to show a large sign at the hospital entrance bearing the message “Ambitious to serve the community”.

“I don’t see anything that says ‘hospital’,” said Sir Trevor, pleasantly. Rummage perked up. He started an imaginary Land Rover in which to retire to a safe distance.

“Exactly,” said Plackard. “All our focus groups told us that the word ‘hospital’ has negative connotations. People associate it with illness. That’s why we’ve got rid of all the other signage for A&E, radiology, outpatients and so on.”

“I see,” said Sir Trevor. He read the words on the slide aloud. “'Ambitious to serve the community' - it sounds like a slogan for a soup kitchen.”

Sir Trevor looked pleased with his joke and looked around to check that everyone else was too. They were.

Plackard looked delighted. “Great minds, Sir Trevor. The people’s kitchen is one of our other ideas,” he chirped. “We’ll get to that in the community inreach section.”

In Rummage’s mind the Big Beast of Blithering was on its feet, but keeping low and creeping forward. The antelope were still blissfully unaware of the imminent threat.

Bev Heaver started to list the core values the team had deconstructed to co-imagine the mission statement. Plackard started to draw a large red triangle on a flipchart. Sir Trevor Longstay was perfectly still, but poised and ready. A casual onlooker might have mistaken the slow parting of his lips for a smile. 

Rummage wanted to look away, but he couldn’t.

Wildlife editor: Julian Patterson

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