Sunday, 21 August 2011

Strategic Thinking in Cheshire and Cello gets a new Soul Mate

Monday wasn’t the best day of the week for me. It was the start of what turned out to be an exhausting week, and the day ended with unexpectedly finding one of my female colleagues (and friend) had taken up smoking again. So I was more than interested in reading a piece in yesterdays Telegraph newspaper reporting on some recent research involving women’s belief about the seriousness of lung cancer. Lung cancer is the cancer that kills most women in Britain. The survey revealed that most women thought that 40% of sufferers would live for 5 years after diagnosis, whereas the real figure was only 9%. Smoking remains the biggest cause of lung cancer. That so many women are still smoking is amazing. This study appeared to suggest an almost state of denial being adopted by many women of the consequences of their choice to smoke.

And smoking was still on the agenda by Thursday when I drove to Cheshire to work with a group of mental health service providers on helping them to think more strategically about where they wanted to be. I went to work with the Executive part of their Trust Board. Two of this group smoked, and the time spent together was definitely punctuated by many so called ‘therapeutic smoking breaks’. While all staff are banned from smoking on any part of the Trust premises service users are allowed to smoke in designated areas. This approach sparked an interesting side debate about what message this sent in terms of promoting health and wellbeing across the Trust.

However, it was a lovely venue to hold a retreat and the group worked well over the two days in developing their understanding of the difference between strategic thinking and strategic planning – the latter activity was one they were very good at doing. Unnervingly (for me) it was my analysis of the mental health world that was up for scrutiny – presenting an expert veiw in this kind of context is always a difficult situation to find oneself in. The conversations were, however very interesting. And as a group, they reached a consensus over what the strategic direction and intent was, only late on in the afternoon. But they got there and that made the second day a very productive one.

For me it was a real privilege to work with such an interesting and informed group of practitioners. Some definite opportunities for further collaborative work between the Trust and the School were identified. Driving back on Friday afternoon, although very tired, I felt in a very good place, and once again thought how fortunate I am to have such opportunities. It has made me more determined to try and ensure that others have similar opportunities to both grow and develop personally and contribute to the development of the services we prepare others to work within.

Yesterday, my youngest brother arrived. He and his family were to spend Saturday and today here before returning to the lost city of London. His two children were a delight and in turn, delighted Cello, who as always, is always up for as much attention as he can get. By late afternoon, my brothers daughter had formed a real bond with Cello and they were inseparable.

The children went to bed asking for the 100th time when were they going to get a dog. I certainly don’t envy my brother the drive back to London!