Let's work together. Let's not....

Don't really want to work with you but can't say so. Don't really want to be at this meeting but darn't say so. Don't see what's in it for us but better not say so. Don't agree with you but it would prolong the debate to say so. Don't even like you. The this last point may seem unprofessional but in my experience of joint working the biggest factor in determine success is the personal relationship.

You get to a certain level in the organisation and you realise you are spending a disproportionate amount of time in meetings that no one wants to be at, that participants think is not best use of their time and very little is achieved. I would go further than that and say nothing is achieved, positions are restated, we agree to differ, a game of my budget cuts are bigger than yours is mildly diverting, a chance to correct the impression created in the media or point out that the latest restructuring means not sure who will be responsible for what by the next time we meet.

If this sounds too negative all I can say is that as a senior manager in a large social services department I spent way too many whole day get togethers with the senior management teams of NHS trusts and a large part of my working week in regular strategic meetings with partners to say nothing of the joint conferences which fail to agree a common set of priorities or a shared vision in anything but the broadest sense.

You had to go to show willing and a commitment to joint working at a strategic level if your senior management team was not well represented then you lost in the game of its not our fault.

The local mental health trust senior management team was totally dysfunctional so we redoubled our efforts. The acute hospital trusts trust thought we were too peripheral to their business to bother with although they all routinely blamed us for all delays in hospital discharges.  Primary care trusts wanted to talk but not much else.

I came to think that this was not about how to make strategic interagency meetings work but whether we needed them at all. My boss came to the same conclusion, the away days and joint senior management team meetings were discontinued, the director had a regular informal one to ones with the chief executive of each Trust to "touch base" and the relevant senior manager met with their operational counter part as and when.
So let's work together but let's not see so much of each other.

Blair Mcpherson former director,author and commentator on the public sector www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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