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If you’re unfamiliar with strategy, have a meta-conversation

V – so Adrian, following on from the previous blogs, perhaps you could bring us up to date with the work on the mental health strategy?

M – don’t tell me, some terrible meetings and nobody understands your tortured genius.

A – of course.  But actually, maybe you’re right – perhaps I do spend too much time complaining, particularly about how meetings are run.

V – well perhaps you could just outline what’s actually happened first?  Then we can consider some sort of critique, but maybe keep it positive.

A – OK, well there was a second meeting of the action group.  They asked for agenda items in advance, which was good.  I emailed a couple of suggestions and they were included.  In my email I also mentioned the need to produce an action plan, but noted that someone had already been deputed to produce one.  In fact that person wasn’t at the meeting and there was no report on progress.  Instead it was announced that after the meeting, two people would sit down and produce the presentation that the Health and Wellbeing Board had requested, which would set out an action plan for the next few years.

That presentation was sent round about a week later.  I replied in some detail on it, copying everyone in, suggesting things that should be changed.  I subsequently heard that two others had replied but not copied everyone in.

There have also been a few one-to-one discussions about it.

So we wait to see what the response is.

V – hmm, doesn’t sound too bad, though maybe not ideal, but it’s a bit hard to tell.  So do you want to give us your critique?

M – your very ‘positive’ critique.

A – I won’t say too much about the meeting.  It was more focussed and there was a reflection session at the end, which I think was good.

I think ideally there should have been some discussion in the meeting about the action plan and the presentation, even if some people were then delegated to actually produce it.  To be fair, perhaps the chair was trying to avoid lots of general discussion not getting anywhere.  And even if the first draft of the presentation wasn’t perfect, I suppose there was opportunity to suggest changes by email.

V – So standing back and trying to learn the lessons, perhaps seeing this as an example of co-ordination and partnership working more generally, what do you think should have happened?

A – I think there should have been more of a focus, from the first meeting onwards, on what the group was supposed to be doing – which was to develop an action plan for the next year or so.

V – that’s still quite specific to this particular situation.  Any more general lessons?

A – well, I suppose it would be to have the meta-discussions.

M – I don’t believe it.  Not ‘just get on and do the job’ but ‘meta-discussions’, whatever the fu-

V – Mal!

M – whatever the devil they are.

A – I suppose all I meant was that if you’ve got a task which is new, difficult or not within the expertise of the group, it makes sense to think about and discuss what you’re trying to do and the best way to do it.

M – from the pretentious to the bleeding obvious in one fell swoop.  Is that the best the tortured genius can come up with?

A – well, yes, I suppose so.  I’ll keep thinking about it, but yes, that’s my main learning point this time.  And maybe it’s not so obvious, since a group of quite senior and capable people didn’t actually do it.

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