Organising flexibly – who’d have thought it

It’s interesting how a couple of different approaches have emerged in the immediately (and perhaps not-so-immediately) relevant world in response to external change and general turbulence/uncertainty.

A colleague and friend in the health inequalities chunk of The Department tells me that their bit is taking a very flexible approach to teams, units, and what would otherwise be organisational silos. It’s plain, and acknowledged, that health inequalities is a very ‘cross-cutting’ topic that inter-acts with all sorts of other bits of health policy locally. So, to be able to respond to this, and the uncertainty that’s necessarily involved with the development of joinedy-up responses to the various aspects of health inequalities when linked to other issues and initiatives, the overall team will form, reform, and form afresh around what needs doing, rather than around and in more-or-less predefined teams.

 Now across in the eHealth setting, it seems that a different approach is being taken, where existing & (maybe later) new participants will be going for posts/roles in defined teams – there are four sub-components within the current configuration, with a number of roles within each.

Now there’s probably as much uncertainty in this latter domain as in health inequalities, where things gradually need to be clarified more or less in parallel rtaher than serially. And there’s at least as much of a cross-cutting element.  Taking a rather ‘organisational chart’ rather than ‘project team’ approach has some immediate effects.

Take – just as an example – the question of whether the ‘Design Authority’ is to have a severely technical remit, or is to have a broader one. Opinions differ on the preferred scope, of course, depending on whom you talk to, but what seems more certain is that the organisational chart approach surely tends to force the pace on the decision on the scope, whereas some might see that a more evolutionary approach might be advantageous. At another level, it does seem to run contrary to the flexible deployment of folk (within a geeric team) that has been one of the characteristics of our national IM&T Programme work thus far.

What is interesting is the different apparent reactions to more or less the same level of environmental turbulence. What is also interesting is that it is the Civil Service that is taking the more flexible, project team-oriented line, while it seems to be the consultants who are working from the organisational chart. Who’d have thought it?

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