In March 2007 Capital District Health Authority (CDHA) in Halifax, Nova Scotia took on a planning process called Strategic Quest. A significant component of Strategic Quest included public participation in an unprecedented way, shifting the shape of awareness and thinking at Capital Health. The results were revealing and the impact continues to reverberate throughout the organization today, strongly influencing ongoing public participation in a number of areas and inviting collaborative leadership as a strategy to accomplish many of its goals.
One initiative I was involved with where Collaborative Leadership was an essential part of the process was Infusion: a gathering in November 2008 of 70 leaders from across North America, in our local community and within Capital Health, convened to inform what bold and unique leadership development within Capital Health could look like.
The planning process for Infusion, championed by Lea Bryden and led by Shape Shift Strategies, invited and modeled collaboration, shared leadership and shared responsibility. A diverse group of people from across Capital Health were invited into the planning process. Many identified the planning process itself as a leadership development opportunity as they experienced collaborative leadership in new ways, stretching beyond their original assumptions about how and what they could each contribute to this unusual event.
Achieving clarity of purpose was the first task. It required a significant investment of time – several meetings. It was a difficult task because there were multiple overlapping components all alive and unfolding as we were in this planning process. We stayed in the conversation until sharp clarity was achieved and then rest of the planning process unfolded rapidly because it was guided by this clarity of purpose. We also actively worked with Theory U in the planning process and for the event itself.
The planning process always had a forward momentum, even when people missed meetings. As they came back in, they found their place in the process and continued to contribute constructively. They could step into and out of the flow of the process without having to back track and rehash decisions made when they were not present.
The two day Infusion event drew on the talents of everyone on the planning team. Invited guests: leaders from a vast array of backgrounds, many of whom were leadership consultants, were asked to bring their knowledge and expertise in a participatory way. It was at times a challenging field to hold. The team was able to hold its ground as we went through the fire of chaos, adjusting design in the moment and holding space for some anger and frustration that unexpectedly arose within the group because of the collaborative leadership we had been growing throughout the planning process.
Infusion did not end in a nice tidy wrapped up bundle and Lea Bryden, myself and the team were good to leave it that way while taking away the gems that guided the development of My Leadership – a truly unique leadership development initiative inside of Capital Health with a bold vision and goals that has since had 500 leaders complete and won a number of regional and national awards.