Simon Pickthall from Vanguard Consulting led a workshop on how to redesign services across different organisations at our event on Designing effective services for frequent users. In this post, Simon looks at how we can work together to improve the services that people receive.
This question is a very common one. Often, people have been trying for years to encourage partners to work together to tackle common difficulties. However, these efforts are often very frustrating, and time-consuming, despite most people recognising it is a sensible idea. In addition, solutions and approaches that have vast academic support over many years are often not taken forward by organisations.
There is a key reason why trying to persuade others to do something different is very difficult – our assumption is that we need to persuade people through rational means.
Examples of rational approaches are reports, meetings, classroom sessions, slideshows, workshops, conversations, etc. They involve talking to another person and trying to persuade them to do something, or stop doing something. These approaches are extremely common in multi-agency discussions, where schedules of meetings are used to take forward thoughts and plans.
The difficulty with rational approaches is that you are either preaching to the converted – making them feel patronised, or annoying people who don’t agree with you. If somebody does not agree, no argument, quantity of data, or research will change their mind. I am sure we have all experienced this during our lives.
An alternative approach is to be coercive – ‘do this or you will receive punishment, more hassle, etc.’. Equally, ‘do this and you will get a reward’ is a form of coercion.
The difficulty with coercion, is that people will only do what they need to do to avoid the punishment or get the reward. You have not changed their viewpoint or created commitment to change. As such, progress can be extremely slow, with very little momentum.
An alternative, more effective way of helping people agree to work together, is for them to share, what we call, a normative experience. A normative experience can be described as experiencing something directly for yourself. For example, running through a series of case files from various organisations showing what it feels like for a person to go through our systems. Visiting people in their home to ask them about their experiences of our various systems is also powerful. For those interested in the origins of this approach, it’s worth reading ‘The Planning of Change‘.
The advantage of normative change is that people tend to have an emotional reaction to what they see and experience. This sticks with them, and produces a powerful commitment to change. As such, the priority of the multi-agency approach becomes higher, as the individuals wish to solve the problems they have witnessed.
Therefore, commitment to the obstacles to multi-agency approaches are tackled more swiftly. Of course, it is important that those with the authority to tackle the obstacles in each organisation undertake the normative experience, and you have a proven Method to undertake the changes that are needed once everybody has agreed. It is no good taking people on a normative experience without a Method to solve the problems they discover. The website below is a great start in exploring Method. In addition, the book Responsibility and Public Services by Richard Davis is a clear and informative blueprint in taking this work forward.
Given this, you may wish to reflect on your strategy for encouraging multi-agency buy-in. You may want to explore moving from attempting to persuade people rationally, to designing normative experiences for the leaders involved. This may have a dramatic effect on the pace of change.
Change Thinking – Change Lives
Simon Pickthall worked in the public sector in Wales for many years before forming Vanguard Consulting Wales in 2007, working with the renowned management thinker, Professor John Seddon. Simon has been fortunate to have worked with many leaders to help them understand their organisations using the Vanguard Method – and improve them as a consequence. Simon was privileged enough to work on the Munro Review of Child Protection, and is committed to helping the public, private and third sectors transform public services in Wales.