This month the Harvard Business Review printed an article posing the question “When should we work with rivals?”
Reading this particular article, I found myself reflecting on over a quarter of a century working in the field of supporting staff to understand behaviour. In that time, we’ve developed strong relationships with many of our commercial rivals. Timian originally worked with many of them in the late 1990’s when helping develop the BILD Code of Practice and we continue to work with them to this day.
We work in a field that is hard to easily define. We provide crisis management, physical interventions, positive behaviour support and ethical approaches to people who are in crisis and often the most vulnerable in society. We have a common goal of treating people with dignity and valuing them as individuals.
Clearly, ours is a niche field where collaboration is important, but we also have to be careful not to jeopardise our respective businesses as well. The word used in The Harvard Business Review is “co-opetition”
Our collaborations are nothing new. We were involved at the start of the BILD Physical Interventions Accreditation Scheme. This included a group of twenty plus training organisations with a smaller, core steering group at its centre lead by BILD. This scheme came about due to the horrendous techniques many people were being taught to manage people in their care. Common strategies ignored communication needs and focussed on controlling people. This culminated in a move by the government to create a framework that regulated training organisations to deliver appropriate courses to people supporting those in care. Those early days demonstrated the real need for collaboration for the purpose of shared knowledge and creating credibility for the scheme. After the scheme was launched, some of us became assessors and some piloted the first wave of accreditation.
There needs to be some clear setting conditions so collaboration can provide us with a win-win for all involved. We need a common goal; a compatible ethical base and we need to trust each other. On our Timian courses we discuss relationship building in the first chapter on core values. This chapter looks at the formula for making positive healthy relationships achievable.
We need Trust, which can only really be created with honesty, respect and dignity. The key ingredient to letting this trust develop, is time. Time is where we can establish that we are serious and consistent. The same applies to gaining the trust of the people we support.
We don’t just teach this as part of our training, we believe it is beneficial to develop healthy relationships even when it might not always appear to be the obvious thing to do.
This brings us to our current collaborative group of five training organisations. We have all known and trusted each other for many years. We understand the training provided by each of our organisations has the goal of supporting the most vulnerable in society using the least restrictive approaches.
This can have real benefits for the people on the receiving end of services. For example, the training Timian provides for an organisation supporting an individual may also receive services from other organisations. That organisation may in turn have received training from a different training company. It’s important when this happens, that any strategies we put into place must be consistent so that they benefit the person being supported.
Past to Present
The rivals we partnered with to help develop the BILD Code of Practice are still around, regularly supporting each other to identify potential risks or potential benefits. Recently the BILD Code of Practice was replaced with the Restraint Reduction Network guidance and the BILD ACT Certification. This new certification was designed to encompass areas such as Mental Health, Elderly Care and Education, not just the narrow field of Learning Disabilities.
Having been involved at the very start of the previous system, we were very aware what a monumental task this was. Unlike the previous scheme, the current scheme wasn’t as collaborative, and this has been reflected in some of the teething issues involved in the roll out. Some of these issues could have been addressed at an earlier stage, if the process had been more of a partnership. However, this is not about blame, this is about learning. As discussed during Chapter One of our training. This learning requires trust, respect, dignity and honesty. Once they are in place, mistakes are just that, mistakes.
James Hourihan BScEcon, MScEcon, PGCertLDIS, FRSA
Timian Learning and Development delivers BILD ACT Certified, RRN Approved training courses and previously was a BILD PIAS Accredited training organisation.