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Plackard’s misdirection and a victory for old power


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Thursday, 17 October 2019

Plackard’s misdirection and a victory for old power

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

“How was your signposting unconference, Plackard?”

The question came from Dr David Rummage, medical director and joint head of commissioning at BlithCare, the NHS Blithering ICS.

Martin Plackard, BlithCare’s head of systemness and place, studied his colleague’s face for signs of irony. There were none.

“Excellent, David. Really good group, highly engaged, meaningful discussion, consensus on key aspirations, nice selection of pastries, agreement about high-impact actions and next steps…”

“…but only two delegates, I gather?”

Now Rummage was definitely smirking.

“That isn’t really a question is it David,” replied Plackard sourly. “If you must know, there was a mix up over the venues. To make matters worse, the people who did make it to the right place were directed to a Bev Heaver New Power masterclass in another part of the building by a confused receptionist. I nearly ran into them at lunchtime. They looked dazed so I gave them a wide berth.”

“New power can have that effect,” Rummage said. “I saw a film once about aliens who removed people’s minds with a device that looked like an egg-whisk, turning them into zombies. Bev’s students have the same stupefied expression. Nothing behind the eyes.”

Both men stopped as Sir Trevor Longstay entered the room.

“Plackard, this is Sleath, er, Barry,” said Sir Trevor. BlithCare’s executive chair winced slightly as he pronounced Sleath’s first name. Sir Trevor didn’t approve of the use of first names except with those he considered his equals. It was a rule from which he rarely deviated, not even when he addressed his wife, Lady Longstay.

“I believe you two know each other,” he continued. “I’ve asked Sleath to sort out the culture, make it more compassionate, that sort of thing. It’s his bag, apparently.”

Sir Trevor departed.

“Hello Plackard,” said Sleath. "Got any sandwiches?"

“Sleath,” said Plackard. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Old school tie

“We were at school together,” explained Plackard. “He was two years above me. Dreadful thug and bully. On my first day he cornered me in the toilets and gave me a dead leg. He used to make me give him sandwiches.”

Rummage nodded as he chewed his own sandwich.

“I’m sure he’s changed, Plackard,” he said, between mouthfuls.

Plackard looked doubtful.

“We’ll see,” he said.

Taken for a ride

“What are you passionate about?”

Barry Sleath looked around the room theatrically, but didn’t wait for an answer. Instead he talked for about 10 minutes about his “compassion journey”, a monologue crammed with self-congratulatory anecdotes delivered in the manner of a practised humble-bragger. Evidently Barry Sleath’s greatest passion was himself.

When his compassion journey ended, Sleath took a connecting flight to start his “fulfilment journey”, another lengthy narrative written by and starring Barry Sleath.

Before long, he said, they would all be on a journey together. A leadership journey.

“Come with me,” he said. “You too can have lived experience of success.”

Sleath went on to explain that the hierarchical management structures of the past – what he called “old power” – needed to move aside in favour of “new power”. Rather than being led from the top, organisations would be led from within, preferably from the edge, he explained. New power would work hand in hand with old power, decisions would be co-produced, problems co-solved.

“Put your hand up if you think of yourself as a leader,” Sleath said. Sir Trevor put up his hand.

“Only one hand? You’re all leaders,” Sleath declared.

Sir Trevor pursed his lips.

The oblivious Sleath ploughed on: “Are you ready for a team-building game?” he yelped, clapping his hands and emptying a bag containing string, short sticks, clothes pegs and sticky labels onto the boardroom table.

Plackard chanced a sideways glance at Sir Trevor, whose mouth was twitching. That twitch would soon be a snarl. Things were going well…

New Powerpoint

“I’ve never heard so much nonsense, not even from you,” Rummage said.  

Plackard didn’t know whether to look pleased or hurt, but he didn’t really care. Sir Trevor had terminated Sleath’s contract that afternoon.

“He wasn’t doing badly,” conceded Rummage, “until that new power business. I thought Longstay was going to ignite.”

Plackard frowned. “Perhaps I was wrong to suggest it,” he said. “I borrowed a few slides from Bev Heaver’s New Power Leaders course and gave them to Sleath. I thought they might help. Clearly I misjudged Sir Trevor’s appetite for collective leadership.”

Rummage looked impressed. “You crafty bugger, Plackard,” he said.

“Sleath wasn’t very pleased,” Plackard continued. “He was waiting for me in the gents, but he’s lost his touch. He went to give me a dead leg but missed and only managed to get me in the groin.”

Rummage grinned. “So where does that leave the BlithCare compassionate culture programme?” he asked.

“Sir Trevor says it’s on hold for the foreseeable future,” Plackard replied. “He doesn't think we're ready for compassion.”

Editor: NHS Networks