QA | 23 May 2013
Thoughts, ideas and reflections from the Head of Customer Experience at QA
Department of Health heads back to the floor.
An article in The Times this week indicated that mandarins at the Department of Health will be required to spend time in the healthcare environments they devise policy and targets for, with a view to finding out more about how the health service can become patient led and patient focussed. Senior Civil Servants, from the Permanent Secretary down, will be expected to spend at least a month a year over the next six years, working in the health service, performing manual duties including supporting the catering and cleaning teams in hospitals. Failure to do so will result in being overlooked for promotion.
This effort to close the gap between the ivory tower of Whitehall and the day to day lives of public sector professionals and their patients, is welcome, in my view. Having begun my career at The Home Office, I have experienced first hand how remote the policy makers and legislators can be from the front line. This distance prevented us from accessing the expertise of the front line, those who deal with customers, clients, citizens every day, leading to, at best, a rather vague understanding of what matters and, at worst, implementing policies and procedures that actively work against the outcomes we aimed to deliver under the banner of ' a safe, just and tolerant society'.
The recent reality programme, Undercover Boss, reveals that much can be learned from getting closer to employees and customers. Although many organisations have specialised roles that could be hazardous for Directors to take over for a day, taking opportunities to job shadow or participate in front line service delivery affords leaders a unique perspective on how systems, processes, policies as well as behaviour are inhibiting the business from delivering exceptional customer service . Sometimes, the fixes are simple - realising there are not enough of the right kinds of tools or resources to do a good job. Others reveal more complex challenges, such as the lack of commitment to organisational values amongst third party suppliers or contractors.
Do you have a job shadowing scheme in place for senior leaders? What interactive actions do you take to ensure that the customer's point of view is driving and informing your strategic decision making? Are you accessing the invaluable information that comes from interacting on a daily basis, with your customers?