Southwest London Strategic Health Authority Evaluation

We did a pilot Strategic Magic for St. Georges National Health Service Trust (a 5,000 employee hospital) and The Southwest London Strategic Health Authority. Below is the evaluation produced 5 months after that pilot.


Peter Homa, Chief Executive, holds the view that there is an urgent need to invest in a leadership programme in order to achieve the transformational change required by the Trust. This will equip St. George’s to better tackle immediate challenges and also achieve the vision for the future. Twenty-four participants took part in a residential leadership programme held at Hartsfield Manor from the 27th ­ 30th July. Whilst the majority were from the Trust a number were invited from partner organisations in order to reflect the reality of commissioning and providing health in this part of South West London. The programme was facilitated by Ron Donovan, an educator, coach / mentor for senior executives on both sides of the Atlantic. He had worked with the Trust on developing Creating Our Future in February and has also undertaken follow up work with the Executive team. The Workforce Development Group at the Strategic Health Authority made funding for this pilot available.


The purpose of this document is to offer evaluative insight into the programme, its benefits and the perceived impact on participants and the organisation overall. It is principally qualitative in focus and takes into account comments made at two follow-up sessions held with participants in September.

The leadership programme

Prior to attendance participants collected 3600-feedback information on their leadership style and a briefing letter clearly outlined the expectations and demands of the programme. Described as ‘intense but enjoyable and tailored towards usefulness’ the programme provided time for an in-depth exploration of approaches to leadership, and an individual’s impact on others. In addition there was time to learn leadership skills and periods of individual and small group reflection with an opportunity to identify and make progress on personal goals. The programme’s timetable ensured there was very little ‘down time’. As might be expected, a first day run through of personal expectations revealed wide-ranging views. There were those who saw this as a great learning opportunity and others who felt high levels of scepticism about the programme and its promises from the perspectives of both content and also style.

Feedback at the end of the programme revealed high levels of participant satisfaction coupled with a strong belief that it held the potential to instigate major change in the organisation if made available to a larger number. The ‘off-site’ and residential nature of the programme is one of the key features and seen as an essential component. It is not possible to run this at the same time as having participants ‘distracted’ by other activities.

Findings from the follow-up sessions

Participants were asked to consider what they felt had been achieved since the programme and as a consequence of the event, whether or not they would recommend it to others and what in their opinion had the most impact. Two thirds of the participants gave their feedback and the results of these sessions were unanimous in the agreement that these or similar programmes must be made available to a much larger number of people at St. George’s and key partner organizations. Key areas identified were: -


Huge benefits have been recorded as a consequence of the programme with ‘mutual respect’ and ‘joint working’ being particularly highlighted. One participant said that he had now seen the more ‘human’ face of others and a senior clinician stated that he had never done anything in his prior training that really prepared him for a leadership role until this programme. St. George’s participants said that they now talked more and a brief ‘face-to-face 30 second encounter’ could avert the need for fully blown and hard to organise meetings. The programme was seen as an excellent way to ‘get to know’ people and equip all with the people skills they needed to do their jobs more effectively. In addition, having participants from partner organisations had resulted in better collaborative working for those involved in a very short time.

Interorganisational benefits

A number of participants drew attention to the value at the time and strengths since, of having colleagues from partner organisations attending the programme. This recreated the day to day life of the organisation with the necessary links, trust and relationships that enable communication and speeds decision-making. Colleagues from PCT’s, other areas of Primary Care and the SHA became known for both what they do and also who they are. A number of participants from St George’s see this as a huge benefit.

Confidence and learning

More than one participant drew attention to the increased confidence they felt in being able to discharge their leadership role as a direct consequence of the programme. One likened it to three days of intensive ‘group coaching’ and an excellent way to learn. Another participant said that it was not possible to ‘rationalise’ all of the learning but that they had left with an increased sense of passion about the organisation and the difference they could make.

Would you recommend it to others?

The response to this question was an overwhelming ‘yes’. Whilst we had some discussion over the precise nature of events the majority view was that a residential programme is essential and it would not be possible to achieve the benefits in less than time allocated to this programme. One participant stated that it was ‘disappointing that you have to go away to open up’ and went on to strongly support this approach. Another qualified their ‘yes’ by saying that the programme should be ‘rolled out’ and there was an agreement that this should be started soon and done quickly to build on the existing momentum and therefore bring about a real change in the effective functioning of St. George’s and its capacity to deal with the very real current issues, provide the necessary business focus and address future challenges.

Personal Reflections

Participants were asked to capture the real essence of the programme and its impact and these are a selection of the responses: -

‘It was fantastic personal development for me and has great potential for impact on St. George’s’

‘An effective way to change working relationships, change attitudes and increase respect’

‘We can use this to build on the cultural change that is beginning to happen’

‘This really moved our relationships with others and holds out great potential for the future’

‘People are now much better at listening’

‘In order to do my job properly I have to get to know people ­ this achieved that goal’

‘It improved accessibility and understanding between people’

‘We have to take developing our leadership seriously ­ doing nothing is not an option’

‘This was a first tiny step’

‘Since attending the programme people now make time for you’

‘People are now listening’

‘You cannot lead forward pieces of work in isolationÉthis (programme) is a must’

‘So much of our work is about relationships between people ­ we have to understand that’

‘The work we do here in St. George’s is personal ­ so we must pay attention to those aspects.’

‘There may be other ways of achieving these resultsÉbut I am not sure what they are’.

A worthwhile investment?

Participants have identified a number of personal, team and organisational benefits deriving from the programme. They believe these will help them function more effectively and support a culture where as a more aligned organisation they will work more effectively on even the most difficult problems.


Leaders have a significant role to play in creating the environment in which others can perform effectively and thrive. A clear focus on leadership development at St George’s can help create the precondition for the Trust to address the longstanding challenges it faces, such as finance and relationship building. It then becomes part of overall solution or recovery process. One simple investment question is whether to ‘pay now or pay later’?

Attention also needs to be given to sustaining the enthusiasm generated by these programmes by building in some ongoing support / coaching / learning sets in order to achieve the desired transformational change.


The programme should be made more widely available as recommended by participants. The Trust should therefore aim to commission a series of ten leadership programmes based on the model evaluated. Three should be undertaken before the financial year end with the remainder run between April and December 2005. They should be subject to ongoing evaluation similar to this and a six month appraisal to review overall impact and effectiveness.