Wednesday 17 October 2018

Lessons from a week in the twilight zone

You learn a lot about life, culture and habits when hanging around a children's hospital, says Brendan O'Connor

Illustration by Tom Halliday
Illustration by Tom Halliday
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

One day before he left the HSE, the day after he got permission to exercise his share options as a director of a US healthcare company, Tony O'Brien announced the setting up of a culture unit in the HSE, which will be led by the head of the HSE Values in Action programme. On reading this, it was hard not to think of W1A, the sitcom about jargon-addled corporate dysfunction in the BBC, where the main character is the Head of Values, and one of the plotlines is the competition to fill the new post of Director of Better, with one of the characters noting that, "We do things well, but we could do them better than well".

Someone who works in the BBC told me that W1A is more of a documentary than a satire. And, indeed, we can all recognise aspects of our own organisations in there. The HSE is at pains to point out that the Culture Unit will be staffed from existing health service staff headcount, presumably conscious of the fact that the last thing anyone thinks the HSE needs is more managers.

Organisational culture, a notion that has been around for decades, has reached these shores and there are armies of consultants and change managers available to help you change your culture should you wish. The key phrase here is that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

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