Leadership Lectures – Reflecting on ‘adaptive change’

lecture-2Last week we were fortunate to attend a lecture at St Peter’s Hospital from Jocelyn Cornwell, Founder and Chair of the Point of Care Foundation.  Following the presentation, we asked Laura Strafford, Head of Library & Knowledge Services to write a blog on the subject.

Laura’s blog is below and we think it raises some excellent questions about leadership and improvement and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

This was the first in a series of the events and we were delighted to have Jocelyn launching our Leadership Lectures with a talk on ‘adaptive change’.

Jocelyn drew attention to the distinction between two types of change; technical and adaptive.  Technical change is about applying known solutions to solving problems; whereas adaptive change needs new learning through collective intelligence and action.  This is the sort of change needed for improving care quality and patient experience.

As leaders we need to encourage and enable adaptive behaviour, so that we cross the boundaries of professions, specialties or hierarchies and join together in finding solutions.

One of the barriers can be the gap between the blunt and sharp end of organisations that Jocelyn described.  It’s important for us to reflect on how wide this gap is within ASPH and to understand the challenges of those in the middle (who are squeezed from both sides).


Bringing people together to find solutions and new ways of working reduces this gap.  The challenge is how we make ‘space’ to do this within our busy work environments.  As leaders, how can we encourage this within our teams?  Jocelyn also highlighted the importance of asking “What can I do, here and now?”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and disheartened by the big picture and sometimes concentrating on that ‘one small thing’ can help.  She made the point that we don’t need to achieve excellence every time.

In the Q&A following Jocelyn’s presentation, concerns were raised over being too reactive to patient complaints and the need to shift to a more proactive approach to patient experience.  This can only really be achieved collaboratively through adaptive change.

Finally, Jocelyn highlighted two case studies which demonstrate adaptive change in practice.  Both are from the Patient and Family Centred Care (PFCC) project published by the King’s Fund.

They use a ‘shadowing’ tool for experiencing and understanding what happens along a patient’s pathway.  If you’re interested in co-production and co-design of services, then take a look at the King’s Fund PFCC toolkit.

So at the end of our first lecture I think there are two key questions for us to reflect upon:

  • Firstly, how can I support staff through the process of adaptive change?
  • And, secondly, what support do I as a leader need, to lead adaptive change in my area?

The Leadership Lectures are about creating time to start conversations and reflect on our own leadership behaviours.  If you have any other thoughts you’d like to share, ideas for future discussions or possible speakers, do let me know.


Laura – @LauraStrafford

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