Self-organised teams: a person centred approach for all

Welcome to a new regular staff update on our move towards working in self-organised teams.

I’ve been asked quite a bit recently about where we’re at with this and how things are progressing so in this first update, I would like to share three things with you:

Why we’re making changes to the way we work across Thistle

Valuing your contribution

We know that providing person centred support is a highly skilled craft and requires people with strong values, who are empathetic and motivated to work with people to achieve what matters most to them. Thistle staff demonstrate these traits on a daily basis and I regularly hear accounts of people going above and beyond their normal duties in order to provide the best support possible for people we work alongside and for each other.

I feel strongly that we should continue to invest in your skills development and provide more opportunity for you to use your skills and experience to have a say in how you carry out your role. I want you to know how much your contribution is valued and recognised and I believe self-organised teams will create the conditions for this to happen. You will have:

Person Centredness for Everyone

Person centredness is something that everyone can, and should, benefit from. It shouldn’t matter whether you are a person who receives support; a family member; a member of Thistle staff or a volunteer.

The foundation for achieving this is to continue developing a way of working that supports us to build positive relationships with one another. Through the move to self-organised teams we will be encouraging, supporting and training people to more consistently and confidently have ‘Good Conversations’ with each other that:

Highly Effective Team Working

Whilst many of the conditions that support this way of working have been developed at Thistle in recent years, there are also things that we will all need to do differently to achieve the benefits described above.

We will need to work in highly effective, self-organised teams. Teams will be supported with new tools and processes, including:

We’re also learning from other organisations who have successfully worked in this way. You may have heard of Buurtzorg, the Dutch neighbourhood nursing organisation that has successfully developed this way of working over the last 10-15 years? We’ve been working with Buurtzorg to develop our own way of self-organised working. If you would like to know more about them and how they work, just follow this link.

What’s been done so far?

At the end of March 2019, ten 'pioneer teams' from Supported Living joined a development programme supporting them in the transition to becoming self-organising; this will run over the coming months.

We have appointed coaches to support the teams. The coaches are our Thistle Learning team (Steve Coulson, Julie Gardner, Ross Grieve, Linsay Graham) who have been joined by two additional coaches (Catherine Dempsey and Christine McCall). You may remember a recent communication about this.

We are now in a ‘test and learn’ phase. It’s called this because we recognise that we don’t yet fully understand all the detail of how self-organised teams will work in practice. So, we’re taking the opportunity for the pioneer teams to work with people we support and their families to:

During the recent training days with the teams I have been so impressed by the level of commitment to the people we support and their families, and by the significant experience and skills that the teams are bringing to this initiative. It is a real pleasure to be working with staff who are so positively engaged in delivering support for people.

This is an exciting time in the evolution of Thistle, as we work together to shape the future of the organisation and to continue to develop pioneering, person centred support.

Next steps

Learning from this initial phase of work will shape developments over the next 3-4 years.

More teams will be invited to take part in the programme towards the end of 2019/early 2020.

Each month, I’ll give an update on Thistle’s intranet and by email about what we’re learning, how the teams are getting on and what the next steps are.

I would very much welcome your views, comments and questions about our move to self-organised teams whether in person or by email. Our IT team has kindly set up a dedicated email address for this, so do contact me at You’ll see from the email address that our aim is to make at least some updates vlog rather than blog…

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes


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