Originally edited and published by www.digitalhealth.net reproduced here ahead of the Digital & Informatics Team at Leeds away day in July. Partnerships applies just as much to the team as it does to the age old ‘vendor’ relationship.
What do you need from the perfect dance partner? Someone with the same ear for a rhythm as you, someone that doesn’t tower over you, someone with strength and grace in awkward situations, someone who can stand up to a change in beat, or someone who will help when you miss a beat. All descriptions that a healthcare CIO needs to apply to building the perfect relationship with their commercial digital partners.
As an analogy does the search for the perfect ‘strictly’ partner help when picking the digital delivery partner, lets us look and see by considering the different ‘dances’ we have on offer:
Argentine Tango; is characterized by its hold embrace and complex leg and foot movements. It is an improvisational social dance that is truly a dance of leading and following.
Represented by a digital delivery partner that follows your every move no matter how complex the delivery is that you are trying to achieve. This type of partner, in the new agile environment of what is asked of digital in healthcare, needs to be able to improvise within a plan and deliver at a high speed, in a structured and planned manner. The risk with this kind of partner is that you as the digital leader either have to be leading the ‘dance’ at all times or if the partner wants to lead in this style of delivery they will be driving your organisation to their beat which comes with risk as your organisational goals and the digital benefits you are striving to achieve will have to be closely aligned to your partners throughout the relationship.
Ballroom Dancing; is a form of partnered dance that has pre-defined steps following strict tempo music, such as waltz, quickstep and foxtrot.
If your digital partner fits to this analogy then you have created a very structured but perhaps rigid partnership. Both you and your delivery partner know what is needed of you every step of the way; you are working closely on delivering against contractual elements that are clearly defined and well understood or at least a delivery plan that you have both worked hard on to ensure has wins for both parties included. The area of concern here would be the ability to react and work off plan together may take time. Creating the next steps in the new ways of working will not always meet the needs of a modern business change project, whilst that could be described as a failing the original plan will be delivered. This is ok if it is all that you need and therefore working in this way will be perfect for you both.
Contemporary dance; is not a specific dance form, but is a collection of methods and techniques developed from modern and post-modern dance
This style of partnership requires a true relationship to have been developed, one where a high level of trust has been put in place, after all you are about to embark on a journey that some will think is a little odd. Few digital delivery partnerships have been able to achieve the level of trust to work in this way, however if it can be put in place it will bring a surprising amount of success for both parties, a relationship that can be reaction driven and therefore drive an agile response to problems can be achieved through working in this way. The level of sceptism from the ‘audience’ though will be high for the success of the partnership and it is likely the partnership will be under constant observation from a governance point of view to test its validity as an ‘art form’. Conversations about delivery of digital in a post-modern world have been raised over the last couple of years a number of times, this way of working with partners perhaps is the way to see this come to a place where we, as digital leaders, can truly understand how this would work and indeed even what it means.
Jive; is a social dance that can be practiced to a broad range of popular music, making it highly versatile, which adds to its appeal. It is easy to learn and has simple footwork, making it accessible for beginners, but it is tricky to master.
Jive as an analogy for delivery partnership is perhaps best used for those quick partnerships that are only in place for the term of a single delivery focus. The partnership is easy enough to learn and create and is driven by the tempo of the delivery. No lasting commitment needs to be made to the partnership if all that is required is a successful and sharp delivery, but if this is to be maintained longer term and the pace of delivery kept up then a strict set of performance metrics need to be put in place to ensure the pace can be maintained longer term by both partners. A jive relationship will be tiring for all partners, a new level of contractual sustenance will need to be created to enable the relationship not to ‘flag’ as it gets tired of the pace.
Salsa; is in 4/4 time in two bar phrases with a pause on the 4th and 8th beats, which gives a quick-quick-slow rhythm. In classes a choreographed sequence is generally taught, but in practice it is an improvised dance.
Salsa can be described as a sales driven digital relationship. The initial excitement of the contract being signed and the new relationship created will give those early deliverables a focus; a shared impetus to deliver almost jive like, however without collective improvisation as the relationship matures the speed of delivery will slow down. This can be beneficial in creating quick wins and then moving to a more considered and managed relationship as long as the slowdown in delivery does not hit a stop. Improvisation of the relationship in after sales behaviour can ensure that this relationship continues to evolve and is successful.
Tap Dance; is an example of a non-partnered dance that is generally choreographed, with one or more participating dancers.
Going solo to deliver but in tandem with others is perhaps the best way to utilise this as a learning example. Maybe the Local Health and Care Record Exemplars (LHCRE) are a good example of five tap dances being performed around the country. Each of the cohorts will now be trying to create their own tap dance, the original choreography being provided by NHS England and the beat and shoes provided by NHS Digital and others. Each LHCRE cohort will be able to have an element of choice in the type of shoe and outfit they decide to wear but when the dance is the performance the music and choreography will have to be the same for the System of Systems approach to deliver across the country.
We need to be awake to the style of partner we are choosing for the dance, we need to be able to live with different ‘dance styles’ as part of our eco-system of partnerships as the same style will not work for each project nor each partner we choose. True success will come when we have picked the right partner for each type of dance we need to deliver and we know how to move seamlessly from style to style.
Grab your partners by the toe, let’s go do the Dozy Do, or as the legend that is Sir Bruce would say, Keep Dancing!