How Stonehenge can help managers

Summer has officially started. I celebrated that astronomical transition in Stonehenge. It was the first time I experienced the solstice in this magical place right from the sunset, through a freezing night and to the sun rise. Aside from enjoying the occasion it also got me thinking about how difficult and how easy organising such huge events can be. Let alone ensuring they are successful.

The first observation was about getting the basics right. Security, facilities, cleanliness are in this category. These are usually the most expensive but essential. And somehow you need to deliver the basics without them standing in the way of a beautiful experience. In other words, giving people peace of mind about their security without making them feel excessively controlled.

Immediately the role of HR policies and processes springs to mind. Are they supportive of better work experience? Should they be? Excessive bureaucracy is mentioned so often by our staff, especially the senior clinical cadre, as taking over the majority of their professional life. In Stonehenge they focused on doing what’s absolutely necessary and avoiding being over the top. At the same time everyone working on site was cheerful, happy to chat and keen to be there. The humanity was not restricted by the uniforms and procedures in the slightest.

The other success factor comes from the visitors themselves. Those who have been to the solstice before know that at some point the site turns from a spiritual zone into a party zone. This year, with 20,000 attending, was no different. What struck me was how mindful people were of each other. No aggressive incidents, no tripping over each other etc. despite the continuous flow of people and thousands of little party groups spread around the stones.

I think this was something to do with an awareness that individual actions can have an impact on the overall experience/outcome. This was an act of joint responsibility and leadership (without one defined leader) possibly because of the common purpose – to create and experience a natural occurrence together, in a spiritual and fun way. That included all those who formally worked on the site.

Inspiring shared purpose is the central behaviour of the Healthcare Leadership Model. There may be a value though in thinking what that shared purpose should be and what good feelings could be induced in working towards it (e.g. sense of satisfaction or belonging). It may then be much easier to inspire common goals and an awareness of how individuals working together can achieve so much more.


Agi Kertynska

Organisational Development Practitioner, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust

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