I became aware of Ashgate Hospicecare through a chance meeting with Matt Corbishley their Director of H.R. at a conference in London. Matt had been a very bright light in a very dull event. We had immediately hit it off and spent the day discussing how people might be truly empowered, how innovation really works, and what intrapreneurship in action might look like.

Matt is one of the most influential thinkers on the topic of people and culture that I have met (right up there with the legendary Perry Timms, the Uber Cool Cris Beswick, and my wonderful Dad who taught me everything any one would need to know about the dignity of humanity). He beguiles you with his enthusiasm, kindness and decency and educates you with his practical experience of transforming organisations. I will publish an interview with him in early 2018 look out for it!

Matt invited me to Ashgate Hospicecare in North Derbyshire so that we could share our thoughts and ideas in greater detail.

I love going to an organisation for the first time. With fresh eyes and heightened senses, you get the opportunity to experience the reality of their culture. Managers can lie to me about their strategies with high minded mission statements, their wall mounted values and slick prospectus but culture cannot be misrepresented. You can almost smell a culture on your first visit to a site, you hear it through the inconsequential chatter in the foyer or kitchen, see it in the unimportant interactions in your peripheral sight. Culture is the reflection in a mirror of an organisation showing its beauty and its imperfections. That is why I am on the whole unimpressed with strategy, have little interest in company transformation programmes but instead obsessive about culture and the institutional behaviours and attitudes I encounter in a workplace.

Driving in to the busy car park on one of those wonderful late summer days that you get in England where the sun is still strong the breeze warm but the flower beds hint of a changing season with their falling petals and leaves covering the paths and curbs, you immediately get a feel of Ashgate’s culture. Watching from my car you see the comings and goings of staff, families and patients.  You see staff walking with enthusiasm and purpose, you see families comfortable in being there, patients calm and welcomed by the passing employees. Walking into the Reception you are greeted warmly by smiling volunteer receptionists and as I wait for Matt, who is still in an over running meeting people smile as they pass, check I’m O.K., offer to get me tea or coffee.  You will never learn about culture in the boardroom, you wil always learn about culture sitting in reception. Even though Matt apologies for his tardiness when he comes to get me I am glad I’ve had the time to experience the real Ashgate Hospice in action and that it has proved itself to be authentic.

Intrapreneurship in Action – The Triage Service

Matt and ElaineIt is great to meet one Intrapreneurial leader in an organisation but it was clear that Matt wanted to finish our small talk so that he could introduce me to a fellow intrapreneur who was achieving something amazing in the Hospice. This was when I encountered the inspirational Elaine Green. Elaine, the Service Development Manager at Ashgate Hospicecare, is one of those people who have an immediate impact on you. Charismatic, crackling with energy, and possessing a laser sharp focus on what she needs to achieve. I reflected that if you cut Elaine open there would be Ashgate Hospice written right through her like a Blackpool stick of rock. Elaine without pausing for breath and with great clarity talked me through the challenges the Hospice faced and how the team are overcoming those challenges.

The Challenge

As we become an aging society and with continually improved medical interventions keeping us alive longer and longer, the pressures on the Hospice movement has never been greater. Add to that peoples increasing expectation of the service they will receive from care, tied to ever present financial constraints, the care sector overall can feel overwhelmed.

For some time, the Clinical Nurse Specialist Team had been under pressure to meet the needs of rising patient referrals; whilst continuing to provide a responsive service, with no structured approach for assessing the priority of patient referrals or visits. As numbers using the service increased, speed of response was adversely affected and staff workloads had the potential to be unsustainable. It was clear that something had to be done as all predictions suggested this problem would only worsen in the next few years. A full external review led by Elaine’s manager and service lead Claire Blakey, had already identified the case for change. However, as often happens, this work couldn’t start until extra funding had been secured to commence the project and fund the additional posts required. Once this was in place Elaine was successful in being appointed Service Development Manager and motivated by having experienced the challenges personally and her drive and determination was able to ‘hit the ground running’.  They could have taken a top down, command and control method of deciding on change. They could have sat on alone and invented a new future for the Hospice but that would have been unthinkable to leaders like Elaine and Claire or to this dynamic, people centred and Intrapreneurial organisation.

The Solution

From the start; team members and service users were fully engaged; including a continued partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, East Midlands LETB and an independent workforce profiler to diagnose the real issues and requirements for a future solution. Their aim was to collate evidence, develop and implement the most effective and efficient method to provide a more responsive service for the patient, carer and health care professionals. This resulted in plans for the creation of a Triage service that would be responsive, effective, structured and easy to use. The whole referral journey was mapped to identify duplication and more efficient ways of working. They not only focused on practical requirements but also peoples psychological needs. Documentation was reviewed, streamlined and new templates were designed to capture the clinical concerns and the patients concerns. By the end of this phase a process had been created to provide a robust and sustainable model ensuring it was patient led, responsive, with a consistent approach capable of growing and adapting to future need.

The Result

So far, this bespoke, holistic, structured and responsive process is achieving real results in dealing with physical and emotional distress and is increasing staff effectiveness and employee satisfaction. Feedback from Patients and Carers shows a substantial increase in satisfaction and the speed and appropriateness of response has improved. This in turn has provided reassurance and initial support and will form part of a wider evaluation capturing the qualitative approach to the service. Through continual evaluation Elaine is confident that improvements will continue.

I was very impressed on how Elaine had brought together such a group of the willing, made up of representatives from all those involved in the process and then through her skills keeping this group focused on achieving such a great outcome. I noticed things in Elaine I often see in Intrapreneurial Leaders. Great positive energy, relentless focus on an end goal and outstanding emotional intelligence.  I saw someone curious, who asks great questions, who listens intently, and who has a passion for learning from other sectors and then relating what she has learnt to Ashgate Hospicecare.

Some Closing Thoughts

  • If you have, even only a few, outstanding Intrapreneurial leaders you can achieve great things.
  • It is through having a wall less organisation that engages it whole community that real change happens.

Intrapreneurship does not only increase innovation. It improves everything including efficiency, customer service, and employee engagement.