Ken Jarrold On management solutions

Published: 19/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5919 Page 25

Q I have a management colleague (on the executive board) who, although knowledgeable about internal strategy, seems woefully underinformed about quite basic health policy. I do not think he even reads a newspaper.How can I make him better informed, without being too obvious?

A Your colleague is very fortunate to have you watching his back. It is great that you want to help rather than drop him in it. The first step is to find out if he reads HSJ. I have been reading it for 35 years. Even though I have been fortunate to have direct access to policy information from the centre, I never miss it.

Another very useful source is the briefings published by the NHS Confederation - they are well presented, relevant and brief.

If your colleague enjoys the social side of life, see if you can get him to a conference - the Institute of Healthcare Management or NHS Confederation. Some of the sessions should stimulate some interest in even the most insular. Good luck!

Q I am an ambitious middle manager in my mid-30s.

Is there any point in me studying for a masters degree?

A Yes. It is really important you do this. Shortlisting is often a bit of a lottery and it helps to tick some obvious boxes. A masters is one of them. Think carefully about the type of masters that you go for and get advice. There is now a huge range available.

If distance/open learning suits you, do not forget the Open University Business School. Another possible approach is to choose a course that allows you to relate your studies closely to the work you do. An action learning approach works well. Look at what is available from the leading health service management centres.You will find something to suit. Do it before you get too much older!

Q I know people who have left their normal jobs to have portfolio careers, doing training, consultancy and project work.The freedom seems attractive and for the moment, at least, they seem under less pressure.But it seems quite a big step. Is there a safe way to dip my toe in the water?

A It all depends on your circumstances. If you are dependent on your own income this can be a very risky business.Many people are tempted by the portfolio option because of the lifestyle and apparent freedom. It is also easy to be misled by initial offers of work.

Remember that there will not be a regular monthly payslip.You have to earn your way every month and into the long-term. It is also important to think about how it will feel not to be working in a team but waiting at home for the phone to ring.

If you are still keen, two factors could help to reduce the risk. First think about working with an established team of consultants or set up your own. The team may find it easier to secure work and will provide company. Second, think about a part-time job to provide transition and security. If the portfolio life takes off you can give up the part-time job.

Ken Jarrold is chief executive of County Durham and Tees Valley SHA.

Please send your question (in confidence) to nick. edwards@emap. com.

If we print it you will receive a free copy of HSJ 's Leadership at Every Level toolkit (price£95).