Category Archives: Governance

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and Behaviour Change

A photo of a dog being pulled on a leadBehaviour Change of both the public and public services was a recurring theme in discussions at our event on The Future of Governance: Effective decision making for current and future generations. In this post, Chris Bolton looks at the challenges ahead and how we can get to grips with them.

“The real problem isn’t creating the vision for the future, it’s leaving where we are now…”

I’m not sure who said that, it might be a combination of several things I’ve read and heard over the last few months, in which case, I’m happy to claim it.

Key to the success (and the biggest problem) of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (WFG) Act are the very carefully thought Five Ways of Working (long term; integration; collaboration; involvement; and preventative). They all describe something that most people with a disposition towards a civilised society would find hard to disagree with. They are logical, sensible and most will agree with them. Possibly the best way to start a mass movement for change, find something that everyone can agree on.

The problematic part rests with human behaviour. As I see it there are broadly two things working against the Act; The System and People.

  • The public services ‘system’ is a complex beast that will respond in unpredictable ways to the behaviours of the people operating within it.
  • The changes in behaviour required by the Act are a seismic shift for many. The current behaviours have been developed over many years and are reinforced by organisational hierarchies and professional status.

It’s a huge challenge (and topic to discuss in a 1000 words) so I’ll try and illustrate my points under three headings:

  1. Correlation is not causation (it’s complicated and complex),
  2. It’s always been about behaviour, and
  3. We need to ‘Nudge not Yank’.

Correlation is not causation

If I could wish for one behaviour change around WFG Act it would be for decision makers to recognise that not all situations are straightforward with obvious answers. A few specific situations are, but many of the challenges we face around the WFG Act are complex (diabetes, multigenerational economic inactivity etc.).

Often the type of analysis used to supports decision making falls into the trap of mistaking correlation for causation when seeking ‘quick-wins’. For example, a successful economy will have a proportion of manufacturing businesses that typically operate out of industrial units. A fact.

It does not follow however that by creating lots of ‘industry ready’ buildings, manufacturing businesses will automatically appear in those buildings and create a successful economy. My colleague, Mark Jeffs, wrote an interesting article about ‘correlation not being causation’ which is sometimes called ‘cargo cult’.

The complex challenges of the WFG Act require decision making behaviours that; recognise complexity, accept uncertainty, the willingness to test different solutions, fail, learn the lessons from failure (out in the open), learn the lessons and move on. For decision makers who are ‘driven to deliver’ and ‘meet performance targets’ this can be a significant behavioural challenge.

It’s always been about behaviour

A phrase for you to ponder on, Hyperbolic Discounting (I can say what I like now, most people will have switched off).

Basically this is a human behaviour where people have a tendency to prefer more immediate payoffs rather than things that happen later on. This is to the extent that our future selves would probably have not made that decision, given the same information. This is also referred to as current moment bias or present bias.

This behaviour hasn’t just been invented to cause problems for the first of the WFG Act Five Ways of Working, Long Term Thinking. It’s been part of the human condition for thousands of years. If you are a prehistoric hunter gather with a lifespan of 30 years, long-term thinking probably isn’t high on your list of decision making behaviours / life skills.

There is frequently a tendency to ‘blame’ the political cycle of elections for short term thinking in public services. This might however be something deeper in human behaviour, a cognitive bias towards the short term. You can learn more about Hyperbolic Discounting in the 1997 paper by David Laibson in the Quarterly Journal of Economics.

We need to ‘Nudge not Yank’

Thanks to Professor Dave Snowden from the Cynefin Centre in Bangor University for developing the thinking around this.

In essence, lots of Public Services have ‘done’ behaviour change to service users over many years. Things like programmes to reduce smoking, wearing seatbelts in cars or even 5p plastic bag charges are ‘done’ to people.

Whilst many of these behaviour change initiates have had huge success, there are a different set of issues around may of the WFG Act challenges, for example the growth in Type 2 Diabetes. The approaches need to be more subtle and based more upon understanding were people are ‘disposed to change’. If people aren’t ‘disposed to change’, any initiative to change behaviour can run into full resistance or things like malicious compliance with unintended consequences. (I’ve written about this previously).

I would argue that to achieve the sustainable behaviour changes required by the WFG Act it is better to facilitate and nudge people in areas where they are ‘disposed to change’, rather than ‘shove’ or ‘yank’ them in areas where they aren’t.

That also represents a behaviour change for many people who will be involved in the delivery of the WFG Act.

Are we doomed?

Probably not, but there are some significant behaviour changes required to successfully deliver the WFG Act and we shouldn’t underestimate what is required.

Here are my Top 3 Tips for anyone involved in decision making and governance associated with the WFG Act:

  1. Accept that lots of situations will be complex and will require a ‘probe, test, fail, learn’ type approach before deciding on a solution.
  2. Surround yourself with people who have a different point of view and different experiences, and listen to them. It might help overcome Hyperbolic Discounting and a number of other cognitive biases (have a look at my post on The Ladder of Inference) for more on this.
  3. When trying to influence behaviour change look for areas where there is a ‘disposition to change’ and nudge there rather than trying to ‘shove’ or ‘yank’ people in the direction you think is best for them.

Telling the WE Story

In this blogpost Dr Rachel Hughes, Head of Insight at Sport Wales, looks at why she thinks telling the WE story is important for Wales’ wellbeing.

I’ve had the privilege to work alongside some great people in helping to shape the forthcoming shared learning seminar on The Future of Governance: effective decision making for current and future generations. Many of us in the Group have not worked together before. We came together for a shared purpose, looked at things through different lenses, and have developed a seminar, which we hope, is creative and stretching. Central to the seminar, as Alan Morris articulated in his recent blog, is understanding and developing behaviours that unlock our resources in far more creative and sustainable ways.

Through OUR work, WE have listened and looked for the emerging entity. WE have asked ourselves, what do WE want to happen here? What’s best for US, all of US? What’s OUR next step? WE have consciously tried to help seminar participants look for the unseen threads that connect US all. To tell the WE story; the story of possibility.

The cover of The Art of Possibility: transforming professional and personal life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin ZanderIf any of you have read The Art of Possibility: transforming professional and personal life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander then it’s likely that you know what I mean by telling the WE story. If you haven’t, I highly recommend reading it. This book sparked my thinking about where we’re at as a leadership team in Sport Wales – our behaviours, our connections, our development, our possibilities – and the unfolding of these in the context of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Typically when we work in an organisation, we naturally view the world from the inside looking out. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act encourages us to also have an outside-in perspective. To see things through the eyes of others – of (potential) collaborators, of service-users, of citizens, and most importantly of future citizens – and to look at what is possible. In order to do this, we need to shift our operating system; the matrix that guides our behaviour.

In Sport Wales we are trying to do this in two interconnected ways.

The first is about understanding and measuring our impact, and telling the compelling story (of sport). We’re using theory of change to help us with this. Through workshops over the coming months, we’re looking to draw out the theories of change that link our key activities to key outcomes for both sport, and Wales’ wellbeing.

In doing this, we recognise that there could be a tendency for us to slip into process-mode and not consider that whilst results are the outcome, people (our behaviours) are the source.

So built into this work is the opportunity for us to both pause and reflect on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And to develop a new lens through which we will be looking at things. One that incorporates the wellbeing goals, the ways of working, and for us, the DNA of sport (the things that need to be considered in order for someone to be hooked on sport – motivation, confidence, opportunity and resources, awareness, and the experience). This lens should have citizens at the centre, and will help us have an outside-in perspective.

The second is concerned with developing our leadership team. We know that our (leadership) behaviours determine results, and we are giving this increased focus. Importantly, not as individuals, but as a team. This is where I have found the WE story most helpful.

The WE story “points to a relationship rather than to individuals, to communication patterns, gestures and movements rather than to discrete objects and identities. It attests to the in-between. Like the particle-and-wave nature of light, the WE is both a living entity and a long line of development unfolding.” And in essence, this is what we’re moving to as a leadership team.

WE need to practice being US. US as a leadership team in Sport Wales, but also US, all of US in Wales, for the wellbeing of future generations.

By telling the WE story, each of us becomes a conduit for this inclusive entity. It points the way to a kind of leadership that is based on the courage to speak on behalf of people and for the long line of human possibility.

We’re at the start of this journey, one that will be in constant motion! I hope that by sharing our current thinking and approaches that this it will provide opportunities for debate, openness, further learning and sharing, and a narrative around US.

Here are some steps to help US practice :

  1. Tell the WE story – the story of the unseen threads that connect us all, the story of possibility
  2. Listen and look for the emerging entity
  3. Ask: what do WE want to happen here? What’s best for US, all of US? What’s OUR next step?

2016: The year of possibility

sunrise in North Wales

North Wales

What does good governance look like in the context of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act? Alan Morris looks at what the act means for Welsh public services and how the Good Practice Exchange’s seminar can help.

Wales is beginning to demonstrate its ability as a nation to work with what it’s got in a far more creative and sustainable way. Transition Towns, Fair trade, organ donation and the Well-being of the Future Generations Act are just a few examples.  We are beginning to figure what works for us as a nation, and often it isn’t what we have done before. Change, creativity and new ways of working also call for us to review our approaches to decision making, governance and assurance.

The WFG Act sets the bar high in its ambitious aspirations and, if those aspirations are to be delivered, there is a need for us all to fundamentally change the way we do business.  The Act will transform the way we make decisions and will require us to consider the implications of those decisions on future generations. This means re-thinking our approach to governance.

Public services have finite resources.  The word resources is often taken to mean money and when people talk about limited or diminishing resources what they mean is ‘less cash’. But the WFG Act asks us to think about resources much more broadly, including:

  • staff, including their skills, experiences and motivation;
  • buildings, plant and equipment;
  • knowledge and information;
  • the environment and ecosystems;
  • community resources, including families, volunteers and local organisations; and
  • less tangible ‘social capital’ such as good will and reputation.

But it’s in our gift to make the most of the way we work with all of these resources. The WFG Act gives us the ability to use these resources in a far more creative and sustainable way. And one of the keys to unlocking these resources is changing behaviour.

If we in the public services continue to look at things from the same perspective, then we run the risk of continuing to deliver the same outcomes. The Act provides an opportunity to look at things differently, do things differently and deliver better outcomes.

The WFG Act places a duty, and a challenge, on public audit too. We must understand and embrace the challenges and seize the opportunities the Act offers if we are to play our part in improving public services for the people of Wales.

The Wales Audit Office is currently considering the encouragingly high level of response by public bodies to the Auditor General’s recent consultation on how he should reshape his audit approach in response to the WFG Act. The Auditor General will be holding an event in the autumn, in conjunction with the Future Generations Commissioner, to share his views on what the results of the consultation mean for his audit approach. Both the AGW and the FG Commissioner will also take the opportunity to set out how they intend to work together.  More details of that event will follow in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, we are already beginning to work in different ways. For example, we are holding a shared learning seminar that will provide an opportunity for public bodies to explore the implications of the WFG Act, in terms of decision making behaviours and governance. The seminar will involve key decision makers from the 44 public bodies who come under the act in a very practical day on 6th July in Cardiff and 14 July in North Wales. We are working in collaboration with the WLGA, Welsh NHS Confederation, FG Commissioner’s Office, Centre for Public Scrutiny and the Welsh Government to hold an event that is different from, but also builds upon, the well-established shared learning seminars run by the Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Team.

The seminar will give delegates the opportunity to share and learn from each other in a, safe workshop environment. Instead of providing expert speakers or presenting case studies, the focus will be on enabling participants to share each other’s experience and expertise.  We will ask them to work through what decision making behaviours might help and what might hinder, as they seek to maximise their contribution to the well-being goals by applying the sustainable development principle.  We will also ensure that we capture ideas, suggestions and examples on the day and share this information widely online.

In years to come, wouldn’t it be great to look back at the year 2016 as the year when Wales took another important step along its journey to be an even more sustainable, joined up country. A key factor will be decision making that seeks to ensure that the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, by taking account of the sustainable development principle.

The WFG Act is ambitious and raises high expectations. However, our football team has shown us that if we combine our talents in a team effort with effective leadership – we can perform beyond expectations. As Chris Coleman said after the game against Russia, geographically we may be a small nation, but if you judge us on our passion I think you could say we were a continent…’

Tweet

Twitter – Gareth Bale

We also intend to use social media to encourage discussion and awareness within the WFG Act community before, during and after the conference from across Wales. The hashtag for use in connection with any tweets sent is #WAOGov

There will be a series of blogs from the seminar partners over the next few weeks. Please get involved and share your ideas and views on developing effective governance for the future public services in Wales.

Have you got the right people on your board?

Governance

It’s been a busy couple of months for us here at the Good Practice Exchange. Far from winding down to the festive period, we’ve run events looking at issues for trustees and in governance. We’re now in the process of collating all the outputs together and making sure we get them sent out to attendees and shared through social media.

As a team we try and ensure that our events reach as many different sectors as possible, as we believe that there’s a lot that we can learn from each other. It’s a point that the Auditor General for Wales made in the opening session at the Trustees seminar – that governance issues aren’t confined to either big or small public service organisations.

Governance

It was fascinating to see common issues crop up at both the Trustees event, where the audience was predominantly from charity and community groups, and the Governance event, where people were mainly board members and staff from the public sector.

At the governance events I facilitated Grant Thornton’s session on ‘Approaches to governance from further afield’. In the discussion following the presentation we heard from delegates on issues of ensuring that the right people are on the board.

There are lots of resources on our Trustees Pinterest Board that relate to this. In 2013 Norma Jarboe’s presentation on Balanced Boards dealt with the topic head-on, and following up from that event we recorded a short podcast with Ray Singh from Velindre NHS Trust discussing their skills based boards.

At this year’s event Anna Bezodis from Wales Council for Voluntary Action and Alex Swallow of Young Charity Trustees ran a workshop specifically on having the right people on your board and succession planning.  There are some great points in the presentation on thinking about the skills available on your board. Vicky Holberry of Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham helpfully shared a training-needs-analysis, which can be used by organisations to identify skills gaps.

As ever, we can accomplish a lot by sharing and working together. We always share the delegate list with everyone who attended the seminar with a list of ideas people are sharing and things they’d like to learn. Hopefully the cross-organisational and cross-sector learning will continue, and we will of course share any good practice that we unearth along the way.

Dyfrig

Protecting your charity

Trustees Shared Learning Seminar

Our Trustees seminars are inspiring affairs. There’s nothing like working in a room full of people who are giving their time and expertise for free to make you realise there is a lot of good in the world we live in. Having worked in the voluntary sector for eight years before starting work at the Wales Audit Office, I’ve got a bit of an emotional investment in the sector too.

In the opening session of both days we heard from Mike Palmer and Chris Bolton talk about the Wales Audit Office’s public interest reports. As an organisation we really want to avoid the kind of circumstances where we need to produce them, so these seminars are our way of trying to prevent or reduce the likelihood of this happening in the future.

Trustees Seminar - Seminar Ymddiriedolwyr

I attended the Charity Commission’s workshops at both events, where it was clear that the best way to protect your charity is to have the right processes in place at the start. It sounds like an obvious message, but many people said that their focus was very much on the work of the charity, and very often the process tended to be forgotten about.

It was interesting to hear about the steps that organisations are taking to ensure that they manage risks. One trustee mentioned ‘the press test’ – how would their actions be viewed if they were covered in detail by the press? It’s a simple approach that encourages trustees to reflect on their decisions and to avoid making decisions in haste. The bottom line is that everything they do has to be in the best interest of the charity.

There was also discussion about inductions and training. Do trustees have a clear idea of what is expected of them? Have they been given the right information to enable them to get to grips with their roles effectively?

We had some fascinating discussions about what to do if something does go wrong. At the Cardiff seminar Rosie Stokes from the Charity Commission confirmed that using charitable funds for legal purposes is a valid use of charitable funds. It’s important that charities deal with issues effectively and rigorously if they want to protect their charity.

You can hear Rosie discuss the workshop in the above video, and the slides from the Charity Commission workshop are also online. It’s worth having a look at both so you can think about the messages within them and contrast them with what your organisation is doing. One of the key messages that came out of the event is that governing documents set out the aims and objectives of your charity. And if you’re working to those aims and objectives, then you’re far more likely to be delivering the effective services that your beneficiaries need.

Dyfrig