Old friends and new beginnings

I shall be catching up with an old friend over a quick bite to eat later this week, although she won’t thank me for the description, so best keep it to yourself.

Baroness Greengross – septuagenarian independent cross-bench Peer and Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission – was also one of my first bosses, back when I was not long out of College and working at Age Concern (now Age UK).

As is often the case with first bosses, she made quite an impression on me. “If you can’t bring an organisation around to your way of thinking,” the then Director General used to tell me with typical forthrightness, “start a new organisation!”

It’s certainly bold, and I can sometimes appreciate the sentiment behind it. Don’t worry, I’m not about to do that, yet!

In fact, if anything, I prefer a more collaborative approach. Such has been my main motivation behind the first-rate regulator initiative, which has sought to be as inclusive as possible, gleaning ideas, input and best intentions for the College’s future vision and purpose from across the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions, the animal-owning public and RCVS Council and staff.

The results of this work are rapidly taking shape, with a new draft strategic plan for the College discussed in detail at a full-day Council workshop in September.

Providing a framework for the next three years, the plan recognises the wisdom of John F Kennedy when he said “efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”. Clarity of purpose and vision alongside a focused plan of action are vital components to any successful organisation, old or new.

John F Kennedy ((Image courtesy White House Press Office (WHPO) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

John F Kennedy: efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction

With this very much in mind, we have identified five main areas around which to develop plans for improvement, namely: our identity, our service, our infrastructure and foundations, relentless delivery on our core functions and how we can develop our leadership role within the profession.

I was delighted with Council’s response to the latest draft, and the remarkable degree of support they have given it to date. Subject to any final changes, I will ask Council to approve the strategic plan at their November meeting, after which work will start on our operational plan for 2014. I look forward to being able to share the full details with you soon.

The October Committee meetings, together with VN Council, got under way this week, and it’s a pleasure to welcome a number of new RCVS and VN Council members to the team. Newly elected VN Council member Amy Robinson attended her first meeting yesterday, along with new lay members Sue Proctor, Dominic Dyer and Alison Carr, and I shall be showing new RCVS Council members Tom Witte and Kit Sturgess around the building and introducing them to colleagues later this week.

The opportunity to have a good look around Belgravia House is not reserved to just Council members, though. We have one of our ‘Meet the RCVS’ days next week and another planned for early next year, so if you would like to come along and find out more about what we do, please drop a line to our Events Manager, Fiona Harcourt on f.harcourt@rcvs.org.uk. You will be very welcome.

In addition, we are holding a special Meet the RCVS day for those thinking of standing for election to RCVS or VN Council on 10 December. Again, contact Fiona for more information.

Similarly welcome, but having to sing rather louder for his supper as a guest speaker at Belgravia House next week, will be David Smith, Human Resources Director at Asda when the company rose from virtual bankruptcy in the late 90s to number two in the UK supermarket league and number one best place to work.

Having lunchtime guest speakers every couple of months is a staff initiative and one I’m all too happy to support. I hope listening to the experiences of someone like David will help provide the encouragement and generate the enthusiasm we are all bound to need when embarking together on the College’s new beginnings.

A turnout for the books

We started last week with some very encouraging news. Turnouts in the RCVS Council and VN Council elections were both significantly up on last year (25% and 67% respectively) and, in the case of VN Council, the highest on record! I’m delighted with these results because they indicate increasing levels of engagement with the profession.

Interestingly, all members on both Councils who were standing again were re-elected, and in both cases, the highest number of votes went to younger and ‘unknown’ candidates. I think this speaks well for endorsing the direction in which we are heading, as well as embracing the need for a continual renewal. If you voted, thank you, if you didn’t, we will try to do more to convince you that it’s worth your while.

Whilst Electoral Reform Services were counting up the votes, the Senior Team spent Monday at the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill for a full-day meeting to focus on our organisational purpose and to begin to think about our goals and targets over the next three years. It proved an inspiring setting although, sadly, the chocolate exhibits were not for consumption.

Last Wednesday we met with the BVA Officers and discussed everything from the RCVS Charitable Trust and Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine, to the First Rate Regulator initiative and possible changes to the Practice Standards Scheme.

As you can see from the photo below, the BVA President Elect, Robin Hargreaves, has an interesting way of persuading the RCVS President to see his point of view – he obviously doesn’t know that Jacqui is a dab hand with a knife!


Robin Hargreaves persuades Jacqui Molyneux to come round to his way of thinking

We’re now approaching the end of a very full-on week of Committee meetings – always a challenge for even the most passionate of bureaucrats! First up was the Audit & Risk Committee last Wednesday and three-and-a-half hours of looking at year-end accounts for last year (hearing that must make you quite envious of my job!).

Last Friday we had the Legislative Working Party with plenty of discussion around how we should change our Charter. There were some obscure, but very entertaining, discussions around the Crimean War and the RCVS involvement in allowing more horses to go into battle!

Then, this last week, we’ve had the quadruple whammy of VN Council, Education Policy & Specialisation Committee, Communication & Public Affairs Board and Planning & Resources Committee. There have been no major decisions to make this time around.

This is the last round of Committees under the old regime, with the new Operational Board coming into being in July, with smaller Committees and clearer lines of decision-making.