Category Archives: People

Episode 4: Behaviour Change Insiders

More details are available at the Wales Audit Office, Good Practice Exchange Podcast Page

In Episode Four:

Professor Dave Snowden explains his ‘Nudge Not Yank’ approach to behaviour change. Using narrative to identify where people are currently, their disposition to change and small nudges that will help then move. (2.45 – 8.15 minutes)

Andy Middleton talks about Minimum Viable Competency in key areas as a requirement for decision makers involved in trying to implement behaviour change as part of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. (8.20 – 21.10 minutes)

Professor Dave Snowden explains his Ritual Dissent Method.  Used to rapidly develop robust solutions that will stand up to examination in the real world. (21.15 – 27 minutes)

Moving from outputs to outcomes

Mark Jeffs @markjeffs75, from the Wales Audit Office, has blogged for us ahead of our Moving from outputs to outcomes webinar on May 16.  Read on to find out more about what matters, rearranging the deckchairs and evil kittens…

Everybody loves outcomes.  We all want them. Well – we want good ones at least.  So if we all want them, what is the problem with getting them and focusing public services on delivering them?

This blog offers some personal thoughts on these issues ahead of a webinar that the Good Practice Exchange is hosting in May.

The context – why do we need to shift from outputs to outcomes?

It is a complicated story but broadly, the mid 90s onwards saw a growth in the use of targets to manage the performance of public services.  Generally, these targets were set centrally and based on measures of outputs (how much we do) and how quickly we do it.

Since then, there has been something of a backlash. Many critics argued that the targets had ‘perverse incentives’.  That is, they encouraged people to do what was necessary to meet the target rather than do what was necessary to improve the lives of the people using services.  Also known as ‘hitting the target but missing the point’.

Against this backdrop, the last decade has seen increasing calls for a shift towards ‘outcomes’: to focus public services on ensuring they make a real difference for people.

There is a big value for money issue at stake.  Can it be ‘value’ for money if we spend a lot of money delivering outputs that don’t make people’s lives better?  The true ‘value’ of public service ultimately lies in improving people’s lives. With austerity set to continue to define the public service landscape, the shift to a focus on outcomes can help to move our discussions from doing more with less to making more of a difference with less.

The opportunity: really transforming our services based on ‘what matters’

The great opportunity of shifting from ‘outputs’ to ‘outcomes’ is not about measures at all.  It is about changing our thinking and the way we deliver services.  To shift towards a model that starts with people, the lives they lead and the lives they want to lead. In short – real ‘people centred’ services.

There are reasons to be optimistic. The language of ‘what matters to people’ is increasingly common in public service. Not least in the context of Wales’ approach to social services which is based around the notion of personal outcomes and what matters to people.  More broadly, if you look here in Wales at legislation such as the Social Services and Well-being Act and the Well-being of Future Generations Act, alongside a range of policy documents on public service reform, a new vision of more personalised, user-focused public services is emerging. It involves:

  • Rethinking the relationship between frontline staff and service users (co-production) to focus on improving people’s lives
  • Reshaping the relationships between services / departments (real collaboration around people to give holistic support)
  • Developing the management/ leadership thinking to see the role as enabling the learning and change needed to improve lives, rather than monitoring numbers/ performance

The issue of what outcomes to measure is secondary to the underlying behaviour, cultural and systemic shifts implied by this vision.  If we start with understanding what matters, we can then work out how collectively we can organise ourselves (as public services working with individuals and communities) to help people achieve the things that matter to them.  From there, we can identify ‘outcomes’ measures that are rooted in the lived experience of people’s lives, rather than abstract idealised imagined conditions of wellbeing.

That is not to say that this is easy.  There is a big technical challenge around how you measure personal outcomes and make them consistent and meaningful at different levels (service/ organisation/ nation).  By their nature, personal outcomes are . . . personal.  They are different and inconsistent.  I worked on the Auditor General’s Picture of Public Services 2015 report. In that report we flagged the approach developed by the Scottish Joint Improvement Agency: a framework for linking personal outcomes through consistent categories that are tailored to individual circumstances.  The Joint Improvement Agency gives examples of how these can be aggregated through different levels from the individual to national outcomes.

The risk: superficial changes (or rearranging the deckchairs)

There is a risk that public services respond to the pressure to focus on outcomes by doing the bare minimum. The simple way to shift to outcomes is for public sector leaders to replace existing output targets and measures with a new set that uses more ‘outcomey’ language.

There are many reasons to be sceptical about an approach that is essentially the result of a discussion about measurement amongst a relatively small group of senior leaders.  The questions I would pose to those adopting such an approach are:

  • What is the evidence that these are the right outcome measures – how do you know they really reflect the things that matter to service users and to the wider public?
  • What are the links between new measures and the plans to change the real experience of providing and receiving services?

For me, the biggest risk of this approach is that it does not lead to the kinds of changes we need to see.  Instead, we get superficial changes.  The new outcome measures form part of a new ‘strategy’.  There will be a new overarching delivery plan, departmental action plans and underpinning service delivery plans.  Frontline staff may look at all of this paper once (at most) and then get on with the business of providing services much as they always did.

The other big risk is that changing from numerical output targets to numerical outcome targets risks creating the same perverse incentives and behaviours.  Instead of chasing outputs, service providers chase numerical outcomes with unintended consequences. This concern is articulated in Toby Lowe’s ‘kittens are evil’ critique.

The baby and the bathwater

It is essential to emphasise that the shift from outputs to outcomes is one of emphasis.  There should be no sense that output, activity and timeliness measure no longer matter. They do.  They are vital for understanding demand and capacity and planning the delivery of services and systems.  Nobody could argue that we should stop measuring and caring about how many people come into and out of hospitals and how long they wait for treatment.  The issue is how much emphasis we place on these measures and how much they should drive behaviours.

So what are the key messages on shifting from outputs to outcomes:

  • The shift to outcomes is about so much more than measures and indicators – it is a different way of seeing and providing public services that starts with people’s lives and what matters to them in their lives.
  • As well as service delivery, shifting to outcomes means a shift in the role of management as enabling and leading practical changes rather than monitoring numbers and chasing targets.
  • When it comes to measures, the idea of a shift ‘from’ outputs to ‘outcomes’ may miss the point – it is about the right balance of information to understand both what is happening in the system and how well the system is doing at making the lives of people and communities better.

 

 

“Action more than words is the hope for our future generations”

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, has spoken many times before on why the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 is an opportunity for us all to measure what matters, not merely what can be counted. Sophie blogs ahead of the ‘Moving from outputs to outcomes’ GPX webinar…

The title of this blog is the latter half of a now well-quoted sentence said by Nikhil Seth, United Nations, on the passing of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act as law in 2015. I use it often in speeches and presentations, as the full quote suggests that Wales is world-leading in adopting such pioneering legislation. But it is “action more than words is the hope for our future generations” that really strikes a chord with me.

For decades, we have been stuck in ‘reaction’ mode, dealing with crises in the here and now. At the sharp end of providing public services, this is understandable in keeping people and organisations safe. It has followed that we measure what we have done – count the people seen, record the number of people dealt with, and place arbitrary timescales and pressures on ourselves – if only to make things happen…to create action. But is it time we question if these actions have been the right ones to take?

People often tell me that the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act has given them permission to question what we have always done. Placing the sustainable development principle at the heart of what we do as a public sector in Wales means thinking differently and acting in a way that allows current generations to meet their needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. To do this, we must think long-term, considering the impact of what we do now on future generations, working together in a joined up way as we seek to prevent problems from occurring or getting worse and involving people in our communities in working towards the seven national goals.

Measuring our impact in a traditional way is not going to allow us to do this. In order to do things differently, we must measure different things. Traditional performance measures are often what are imposed on public bodies by others and rarely reflect the nub of the issue or help us to understand how to prevent the issue from occurring in the first place. Behind the measures to provide a statutory assessment within 5 days, to respond quicker to a call or to deal with an issue in a month’s timescale are real people, just like us and our families. We have lives intertwined with many public services, we have several factors influencing our well-being and too often, we face a confusing negotiation of complicated thresholds and conditions to access services. Many of which are driven by the measures public services have set themselves. Rarely do we ask ‘What matters to you?’ Or ‘What would help you the most?’ Rarely do we measure how well we have done in improving someone’s well-being.

In my recent report, Well-being in Wales: the journey so far, I have given my reflections on how public bodies are moving from doing simple things to leading the way in sustainable development. The guidance to the Act says sustainable development must shape what you do, how you do it and how you communicate (via reporting) the difference you are making. In reviewing the first well-being statements published in April 2017, it is not yet clear how organisations are making sense of their duties and how this relates to other legislation, their corporate objectives, business planning and day-to-day business. An annual report should be integral to the work of the organisation and the sustainable development principle should not be ‘bolted on’.

Communicating this change is important. In annual reports and future well-being statements, public bodies must explain how far they have taken steps to meet their objectives, how effective these steps have been, how they are tracking progress and how they are adopting or adapting new ways of demonstrating progress. Outsiders to organisations, like you and I, need to understand what have they done so far? What does it mean for me? Where do they want to be on this issue in the next 5, 10, 25 years and beyond? How are they going to get there? How will I see improvement in my local area or life?

Many public bodies and public services boards (made up of Chief Executives and leaders of the local public sector collaborating together) are now considering how they communicate the change they are making. This will take time, but I am encouraged to see an exploration of different way to define impact and monitor progress. Action definitely speaks louder than words and my advice would be to measure what matters, not merely what can be counted.

The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales has published ‘Well-being in Wales: the journey so far‘ to complement the Auditor General for Wales’ report ‘Reflecting on year one: how are public bodies implementing the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015?

Behaviour Change Insiders Podcast: Episode 2

 More details at the Wales Audit Office, Good Practice Exchange Podcast Page.

In Episode Two:

Chris Subbe  explaining the Wee Wheel introduced to reduce acute kidney injury for hospital patients (1.45 – 7.30 minutes).

Olwen Williams on the ‘Test no Talk’ approach to improve sexual health screening (8.00 – 21.30 minutes).

Links to resources mentioned in the podcast:

Chris Subbe blog, An audible patient voice and 1000 Lives Wee Wheel page

1000 Lives Compendium of Outpatient Improvement, report by Olwen Williams on : Self triage innovation in sexual health services – Test no Talk.

Behaviour Change Insiders Mewnwelediad Newid Ymddygiad

BCI_final

This is the first of six podcasts we are piloting on the subject of behaviour change in public services.

The podcasts have been created from a series of three behaviour change festivals that we helped deliver at Bangor, Swansea and Aberystwyth Universities during 2016/17.

Our aim is to use some of what we learnt about behaviour change to share knowledge.

Most of the talking will be from people who have delivered behaviour change, are experts in the field or both.

This is a pilot of a new way of working for us. Please expect things to change as we as we go along, as well as some learning from our mistakes. If you have any feedback on the pilots please let us know in the comments section.

Thanks very much.

In episode one:

Rupert Moon – on working with rugby players at Rugby Gogledd Cymru to develop behaviours that went beyond the playing field.

 

Professor Judy Hutchings – on the KiVa anti bullying programme in schools. Learning from Finland on how taking a whole school approach can change behaviours and reduce bullying.

 

Links to resources mentioned:

Bangor University KiVa Programme: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=KIVA+Bangor&gws_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=t8WPWq_XN4GLgAb_8qqYDg

Rupert Moon on improving wellbeing  https://www.wao.gov.uk/events/housing-and-sport-improving-wellbeing-and-providing-better-value-public-money

Mewnwelediad Newid Ymddygiad

Dyma’r cyntaf o chwe phodlediad rydym yn eu treialu ar newid ymddygiad mewn gwasanaethau cyhoeddus.

Mae’r podlediadau wedi’u creu o gyfres o wyliau newid ymddygiad rydym wedi helpu i’w cynnal ym Mhrifysgol Bangor, Prifysgol Abertawe a Phrifysgol Aberystwyth yn ystod 2016/17.

Ein nod yw defnyddio rhywfaint o’r hyn a ddysgwyd am newid ymddygiad er mwyn rhannu gwybodaeth.

Bydd y rhan fwyaf o’r siarad gan y bobl sydd wedi cyflawni newid ymddygiad, yn arbenigwyr yn y maes, neu’r ddau.

Cynllun peilot yw hwn, nid ein ffordd arferol o weithio. Disgwyliwch i rai pethau newid ar y ffordd a byddwn hefyd yn dysgu o’n camgymeriadau. Os oes gennych unrhyw adborth ar y cynlluniau peilot, rhowch wybod i ni yn yr adran sylwadau.

Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Ym mhennod un:

Rupert Moon – yn trafod gweithio gyda chwaraewyr rygbi yn Rygbi Gogledd Cymru i ddatblygu ymddygiadau a aeth y tu hwnt i’r cae chwarae.

Yr Athro Judy Hutchings – yn trafod rhaglen gwrth-fwlio KiVa mewn ysgolion. Dysgu o’r Ffindir ar sut y gall dull gweithredu ysgol gyfan newid ymddygiadau a lleihau achosion o fwlio.

Dolenni i’r adnoddau y soniwyd amdanynt:

Rupert Moon, Gwella lles.  https://www.wao.gov.uk/cy/digwyddiadau/tai-chwaraeon-gwella-lles-darparu-gwell-gwerth-am-arian-cyhoeddus

Prifysgol Bangor KiVa Rhaglen: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=KIVA+Bangor&gws_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=t8WPWq_XN4GLgAb_8qqYDg

Wales Co-Operative

Casey Edwards @casey_walescoop from the Wales Co-Operative Centre @WalesCoOpCentre has blogged for us about how housing co-operatives are helping to build resilient communities.  The North Wales leg of our #WAOADM event is next week.

No two housing co-operatives are the same; it’s not a one size fits all approach. Co-operative housing is about communities having democratic control over decision-making about their homes, neighbourhoods and communities. It is a flexible and innovative approach to ways in which we meet the housing needs and the aspirations of local neighbourhoods. Co-operatives can be developed in either new or existing housing and can cover a range of tenancies.

The Co-Operative Housing Project was established in 2011 and is managed by the Wales Co-Operative Centre, and supported by the Confederation of Co-Operative Housing. The project has helped to deliver over 130 homes across Wales and is supporting the delivery of many more by developing expertise in different co-operative models and providing advice to developers and co-operative groups.

I joined the Wales Co-Operative Centre in May 2017 as the project advisor and have realised it takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get these schemes ‘shovel ready’. All of the housing schemes have developed in contrasting ways and adopted different models, from the different ways in which schemes were instigated and funded; how individuals came to be involved; to the size, nature and tenure of the housing co-operative. So does all of this hard work actually pay off?

Being part of a housing co-op is about more than just having an affordable roof over your head. It is about being part of a support system, helping yourself but also taking the responsibility to help others in the wider community. Read about how Luana, at Loftus Village Association, is helping to bring the community together through organising events and social activities.

Examples like this also show how living in a housing co-op can also help to tackle isolation and loneliness, especially amongst the vulnerable and the elderly. Co-operative communities form close bonds and look after one another; that feeling of being part of a community which is hard to come by in the 21st century. Haydn from Old Oak Co-Operative shows how being involved in the co-op has helped him grow in confidence and take on responsibility within the community.

Living in a diverse, supportive community also gives people the chance to share knowledge and skills with each other, that maybe they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn living in more traditional environments. As part of the development of the co-op, tenants are involved in a rigorous training programme which includes topics such as co-operative principles, governance and housing management. They learn new transferrable skills which can help them improve their employment status or give them the confidence to change career. Our scheme Ty Cyfle is empowering young people to manage their housing independently, learning new skills along the way.

This self-help and self-responsibility approach to addressing housing need is having a much bigger impact than just providing affordable homes, it is creating self-sufficient, resilient and healthy communities, which can reduce the demand on wider support services.

Living in a community-led housing scheme can offer the kind of support that public services are increasingly finding it difficult to provide, often in a more personal and cost-efficient way. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act has now placed a duty on public bodies to think more about the long-term; to work better with people, communities and each other; to prevent problems and to take a more joined up approach. Co-operative housing is doing so already.

The seven wellbeing goals compliment the seven co-operative principles developed by the International Co-Operative Alliance, which all co-operatives should adhere to. They both emphasize the importance of developing attractive, viable, healthy and sustainable communities, that maintain, even enhance the natural environment. A democratic and fair society with an economy that generates wealth, without discrimination. A society that enables people to fulfil their potential no matter their background or circumstances. A society that provides employment opportunities and education and training for a skilled workforce. A co-operative society that highlights the importance of social and cultural wellbeing.

Co-operative and community-led housing can be a part of the solution to the housing crisis in the UK. But more than just a quick fix, it can be a part of a long term sustainable option to providing affordable homes and creating resilient communities.

The Wales Co-Operative centre offers support and advice to any new or existing organisation wishing to develop co-operative housing. We can provide access to experts’ advice about co-operative housing and we can provide skills and development training for members of a co-operative. We have recently developed a Co-operative Housing Pilot Toolkit, developed to help community groups, housing associations, co-ops, local authorities and others in the initial stages of considering how to develop new co-operative & community-led homes. Take a look.

More information on co-operative housing and what support is available can be obtained from the Wales Co-operative Centre on 0300 111 5050 or at co-op.housing@wales.coop.

Leaving the Good Practice Exchange

After four years at the Wales Audit Office, Dyfrig Williams will be leaving the Good Practice Exchange team on 11 August. Below, he blogs about his time with the organisation and where he’s off to next.

A photo of Dyfrig Williams at GovCamp CymruI’ve been interested in public service improvement since starting my career at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, and this job has felt like getting paid to do my hobby for a lot of the time. I’ve been able to combine my personal interests, where I’ve attended events like GovCamp Cymru and LocalGovCamp, with my professional life where I’ve worked closely with both internal and external stakeholders in order to really interrogate what good public services should look like in the twenty first century.

Working with legends

I joined the team from a public engagement background having worked at Participation Cymru for three years. I’ve never lost the belief that public services work best when people have an opportunity to shape those services that they access. In some senses, it’s been really fascinating seeing how developments in technology have pushed that even further in recent years. Whichever sector or service you’re working in, there’ll usually be someone at an event that you’re going to who will be talking about the implications of digital for your work. And with that comes the inevitable focus on user needs that is the basis of successful digital services.

There are so many things about the job that I love, not least that it’s never failed to challenge me. That challenge has sometimes come as I’ve often been a generalist working with specialists to share their story. It’s sometimes been an intellectual challenge from social media, where this job has helped to connect me to people who are doing great things and are pushing the boundaries of what they do. And sometimes it’s been the supportive challenge of my colleagues, who are a fun and amazing bunch of people to work with. Thanks Beth, Chris and Ena, you’re legends! I’m going to miss your company and lunchtime leftover feasts.

I’m also leaving Wales, which means that I’m leaving behind an exciting time for Welsh public services and the Wales Audit Office. We’re one year in to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, which shapes the long term goals for Wales. As Nikhil Seth of the United Nations said, “what Wales is doing today the world will do tomorrow”. This is challenging and exciting for the Wales Audit Office too, as we grapple with what effective audit of this act looks like looks like.

Research in Practice

We’re also a year into the Social Services and Wellbeing Act, which again puts people at the heart of public service delivery. I worked with the Citizens Panel for Social Services in Wales (which was and continues to be one of the most incredible pieces of work that I’ve been involved in), which fed into the development of the act.

This experience will hopefully stand me in good stead when I begin my new role at Research in Practice as their Learning Event Co-ordinator. Research in Practice support evidence-informed practice with children and families. Here’s their Triangulation Model:

In my current role we occasionally get asked why good practice is a bad traveller (see this post by Chris Bolton for a brilliant riposte), forgetting that we’re implementing changes in tremendously complex environments. I really like how Research in Practice’s theory is grounded in practice and people’s everyday lives, and I’m excited to be a part of that.

I’m also really excited by the wide range of learning opportunities that they offer. One of our core principles at the Good Practice Exchange is that one size doesn’t fit all, so it’s great to see a project that doesn’t focus on training as the answer to all public service needs, as is often the way within the public sector. The way that they approach Change Projects in particular to identify solutions to specific challenges is fascinating.

And on a personal level, I had to cancel my interview last minute after my uncle had a heart attack to support my family. That they re-arranged the interview and gave me another opportunity speaks volumes for how people-centred they are, and I’m really looking forward to repaying them for the opportunity that they’ve given me.

Coming back to Wales

I’ll be coming back to Cardiff for GovCamp Cymru, which is the one day unconference about government and public services in Wales. I hope to catch up with a lot of you who have made my time at the Good Practice Exchange so memorable, and I look forward to catching up properly with my Wales Audit Office colleagues before I go. And thanks very much to you for reading my posts here over the last four years. I’ll continue to post on Medium, and please do stay in touch with me on Twitter so that I can stay up to date with the good things that you’re all doing.

Pob lwc with your work!

Trivallis: Changing culture within the frontline

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

In the third of a series of posts on the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Frontline Futures Programme, Dyfrig Williams spoke with Jonathan Tumelty of Trivallis to find out how they are empowering their staff to lead service changes.

At our recent event on improving digital leadership and ownership, Chris Bolton shared a slide that showed the vast number of business fads that had been implemented within organisations in recent years. It’s probably not surprising that some staff aren’t jumping for joy at the prospect of digital transformation being the latest change process that’s being implemented at their organisation. So how can organisations go about changing the way that they do business?

Richard Pascale's chart of (many) business fads, with Digital Transformation manually added

At Tai 2017, I spoke with Jonathan Tumelty about how Trivallis have enabled frontline teams to lead their service change.

What did Trivallis do?

Trivallis found that their teams were working in silos as they were grouped by job roles. Each area of responsibility would be informed by others, but this structure almost encouraged clashes and ended up with fraught relationships between different areas of the business. They decided to align their systems geographically based on the patches that they work in, but this was easier said than done as attempts in the past hadn’t worked.

Although Trivallis knew what their end goal looked like, they decided to hand control over how a geographical structure might work to staff by holding a series of meetings to shape the change. It started off as quite a light touch process through involving managers, then they had individual conversations with key influencers who were working on the frontline. Staff were given ownership and control of the process, and there was clear communication throughout.

What did this look like in practice?

Initially, staff got people together to map their frustrations, which was in turn affecting customer satisfaction. Employees undertook an exercise where they grouped post-it notes together, which fortunately echoed the initial thought process. They developed principles for these new ways of working with staff, with the managers only offering very broad parameters. Pilot teams were set up to test the plans that had been put together by staff, and they then worked to unblock barriers that they faced. In the first few meetings the staff were waiting for directions from Managers, but eventually they began to take control of the exercise themselves. Jonathan described the process like this video from a music festival, where one person starts the discussion, and gradually more and more people get involved. People who weren’t initially keen to take part ended up really wanting to be part of it.

From the staff feedback, Trivallis created virtual teams. Now all frontline services have been split up by areas, and the next phase is to build links between each team. The services are no longer siloed services, but a multi-skilled team working around an area. Jonathan said that this localised approach had been achieved without changing policies or any change in spending – it was all about empowerment and identifying power.

The power bases, including reward; coercive; expert; information; referent; legitimate

To go back to our recent Digital Seminar where we looked at digital leadership and ownership, Kelly Doonan ran a fascinating workshop for us on influencing change. Kelly shared French and Raven’s power bases in her workshop to help people understand where their power lies. It’s fascinating here to see how managers shared their legitimate power, whilst also harnessing frontline staff’s expert power from their delivery experience. It was great to hear from Jonathan about how Trivallis have made the work a success. If you’ve improved your organisation’s work by sharing power, we’d love to hear from you about how the changes that you’ve made have resulted in better public services.

How coaching can support better frontline decision making

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

How can coaching help frontline staff to make better decisions? Dyfrig Williams met with Owain Israel from Charter Housing to learn about how they’re helping staff to take ownership of complaints.

Charter Housing's logo: Their name written inside the outline of a house, with "housing people" written underneathHaving blogged about the Frontline Futures programme and the learning that can be drawn from it for frequent users of public services, I was invited to the Chartered Institute of Housing’s TAI event to find out more about how the coaching approaches have resulted in improved public services. I met Owain Israel from Charter Housing to find out how he’s putting the learning from the course into practice.

Dealing with voids

Before talking to Owain, I had very little idea about the role of surveyors in housing associations, but it was fascinating to learn more about how they improve the quality of housing. Owain’s work has a particular focus on voids, where the surveyor carries out an end of tenancy inspection to check out the property before it becomes void. This gives tenants an opportunity to sort out any issues before they get charged by the housing association.

As part of the old process, the surveyor would ideally go back into a property for a post-inspection after work has been carried out. However, they’re not always told when people will leave. At the Good Practice Exchange, we hear a lot about the process that people work to, without thinking about what the outcome is for people. Owain and his team have questioned every aspect of the process, including whether an inspection can be carried out instead of a void survey. Some contractors have only done work that has been identified in the survey, which means that other work that may be required hasn’t been done. This process has created accountability issues, with tenants occasionally being unhappy with results.

So how are Charter Housing getting to grips with this? One of the things that I really liked from Charter Housing’s work is that they’re looking to make lots of small changes, and also that they’re looking to undertake those changes incrementally. They’ve changed the survey sheet that they use and they’re looking at whether it’s always necessary to undertake a survey where the tenancy is in a reasonable condition. This means that contractors have more freedom to undertake appropriate work.

Taking ownership of complaints

The next step in the streamlining of this process is for surveyors to take more ownership of the complaints they receive. Currently, the Support Services Manager picks up complaints and spends one day a week dealing with them, which isn’t an effective use of their time. Part of the answer is technological, and Charter are giving surveyors the right information systems to get better access to data. They’re now running training sessions on the use of the system in order to upskill everyone.

The second part of this process is the human aspect, which is where the Frontline Futures course has really added value. Owain has been coaching staff so that they feel like they can deal with problems themselves without passing the issues up the hierarchy. These confidence issues fit with Jonathan Haidt’s theory on the elephant, the rider and the path, which Melys shared in the previous post. In this theory, it’s the emotional system that provides the power for the service improvement, not the rational system.

Owain’s been undertaking this coaching through meeting with individuals, where he identifies what support they need and what the blockages are. Owain hasn’t described these sessions as coaching sessions, to staff they are one-to-one meetings. These meetings have helped him to identify why staff are reluctant to make decisions themselves. He’s also used these coaching techniques within team meetings, where staff come to a meeting with a problem. They then reflect on how they’ve dealt with it in the past and looked at how they can resolve it. Surveyors are now speaking more openly about the issues they’re facing, they’re more aware of the appropriateness of their responses and they’re now taking ownership of similar queries and dealing with them themselves.

The Good Practice Exchange has undertaken lots of work in the past on empowering staff, including looking at staff trust, an essential ingredient to empowering staff. We’ve also been looking at how organisations take well managed risks in order to innovate, where we’ve found that safe to fail approaches are often likely to enable staff to deliver better services. I’ve got a book on moving away from command and control on my reading list, and talking to Owain has certainly made me even more interested in how coaching can help staff to move away from a strict focus on process to looking at how outcome focused approaches can result in better public services.

What is digital leadership?

A photo of a hand holding a compass with the coastline in the background

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@garrettsears

What does digital leadership look like for a public service? Kelly Doonan looks at the subject in advance of her workshop at our event on Improving digital leadership and ownership.

I’ve been thinking about leadership.

As so often happens several things have almost serendipitously come together giving me the opportunity to reflect on what leadership means and what good leadership could look like.

  • I’ve read several articles on leadership; specifically digital leadership and data leadership — links to all articles at the bottom of this post
  • I’ve received invites to webinars and conferences on leadership for digital transformation and innovation.
  • My organisation is examining and discussing leadership models through the lens of a new leadership charter introduced by our leadership team.

I’m also thinking about myself as a leader and what that should look and feel like; so it feels like a good time to bring my thoughts together.

What is leadership?

Firstly, I think leadership and management are two different things and, although I often see them used interchangeably, I want to keep them distinct.

My definition of a manager is a position in a hierarchy whose role is to manage down and report up, and keep the current system operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. A manager is a command position that is usually removed from doing the work and so is unable to see the whole system.

There’s lots of information available about the roots of modern management arrangements — but essentially most public and private sector organisations are using an approach created around 1900 by Frederick W Taylor to deal with a specific set of problems in factory production during the Industrial Revolution, and it has barely changed since.

For me management is a time-limited idea designed to solve the immediate problems of:

  • a predominantly low-skilled and uneducated workforce
  • rapid expansion
  • large-scale industrialisation.

And it did that. It solved those problems so well that it’s become the dominant model across most areas of work across most industries — including people systems like social care, health and education. The problem is what was perfect for managing hydraulic pump production 120 years ago is not suitable for most organisations today.

Now we’re sailing the choppy, unknown waters of the Information Age and many people are calling for digital leaders and data leaders to captain the ships. We did need managers who knew about pumps and steam engines, and now we need managers who know about Blockchain and the cloud.

“Despite the fact that our current management beliefs date from the previous century, still the majority of organisations today operate with models that are inherited from a world that no longer exists. The models are already outdated, and surely not future proof. The era in which the command-and-control approach would bring you immense success have long gone.”

Corporate Rebels 2017

I believe it’s more useful to think in terms of good timeless leadership. So, in that case I need to explain what I think good looks like.

Eight steps to good

  1. I’m curious

A good leader wants to know stuff and they want to understand. They look for opportunities to learn more and they create opportunities for others to learn.

And the crucial thing here is that being a curious leader means that sometimes I will learn stuff that I may not like, or that may challenge my view. I will learn things that will unsettle me and will make me uncomfortable; and when that happens I must keep learning and asking questions anyway. In fact as a good leader I need to understand that this is when I am learning the most. A colleague expressed this as; ‘getting comfortable sitting in the why’. Be comfortable asking questions and not knowing the answers straight away. Be comfortable in a position of constant learning.

A good leader needs to be curious about the work they lead and spend time there to discover what is really happening. Is what you think should be happening? Why is that? And be curious about other systems and other disciplines. Go and have a look in another world and see what’s happening there. What do you learn from doing that?

Interestingly, I’ve met several managers who are curious in their personal life, but don’t bring that mindset or learning to work. So…

  1. Bring yourself to work

AKA be authentic. Being a good leader is not the suit you put on when you come to work.

This is really tough. Particularly for those of us who work in a culture which has a fairly narrow definition of a professional personality. If I had a pound for every time I’ve been told to ‘play the game’, or have been advised not to share my real thoughts on a subject or use my own words because that’s not the right professional approach, then I’d be writing this from my yacht.

Over time the cumulative effect of this is to let staff know the right way to act and the right things to say and eventually they stop bringing themselves to work and start bringing the character their leaders want to see. This is how organisational cultures are created and maintained. The consequences of this can be seen in staff engagement events or surveys where only positive things are said because staff don’t bring themselves to the process and the whole episode becomes a nonsense.

A good leader needs to bring themselves to work, and show everyone else that it’s ok to do the same. Which brings me onto…

  1. I’m honest

Although it’s languishing at number three, for me this is everything. This is partly being authentic, but it’s so much more. A good leader needs to be open and honest with themselves and with everyone else. Have a think about your organisation — do you see this? Do you do this? Does your organisation have a culture that promotes and rewards honesty? Measuring how honest your organisation is can be a very good measure of how mature your organisation is.

Again this is really hard. The behaviours have been learnt over a long time and for most managers they have been successful. Managers aren’t rewarded for being honest and they don’t see any value in it. What happens instead is empire-building where knowledge is power and openness is dangerous. A traditional command and control structure encourages dishonest behaviour — co-workers compete and and success is often framed as stepping over others.

Being honest with yourself and with others is the hardest thing on this list because it means making yourself vulnerable. My role involves being incredibly honest with myself, my colleagues and my managers. It means thinking carefully about how I feel and why. It means using the right words to give a true reflection of my thoughts and feelings, sharing my successes and failures and reacting honestly and kindly to other people’s. It means asking questions, challenging fairly and accepting fair challenge. And honestly, I feel exposed a lot of the time.

But it’s worth it. Being honest is a strength and the rewards are huge. I believe in the work that I’m doing, I am completely present in my role and my team, other people are sharing themselves honestly with me, and my relationships are based on trust and respect.

  1. I ask for help

If a leader is in a state of constant development and sets a culture of continuous learning, then in practice that means asking for help widely and often. And for me this is where the timeless element comes in. A good leader doesn’t necessarily need to know about digital or data or hydraulics or steam. They need to do the first step; to be curious about the work and spend time in it rather than removed from it, and they need to understand what they don’t know and where they need to go for help.

The skill is not necessarily having the knowledge, but knowing where the reliable places to get that knowledge are. And listening to them. Again, how many managers do you currently know who ask for help? Who believe that the more they ask, the stronger they are? That really bench the strength of their peers and their team? Which leads me to the next point…

  1. I build the right team and I trust my team

A good leader builds the right team around them. And clearly this is not a group of people who always agree with them and whose job is to push reports and information back up to them — showing them exactly what they expect to see. A good leader should build a team that challenges and surprises them, that has strengths and skills they don’t have. A good leader supports their team to develop and grow.

When you’ve built/developed your team let them get on with the job you’ve employed them to do. Trust them. Last year I watched a 2016 The Conference talk by Zero Zero co-founder Indy Johar which resonated deeply. Johar said;

“Every human is a phenomenally powerfully intelligence machine, yet we all treat them as bad robots who won’t get it”

I also read an excellent post by Nials Pfleaging which discusses Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Y. In X thinking, managers think staff are unmotivated and undisciplined. Staff don’t really want to be at work and need to be closely managed through appraisals, one to ones, staff reward systems and IT blanket bans on Facebook. If you’re using these tools as a manager then you’re really telling your staff that you don’t trust them. And they know that’s what you think. In Y thinking leaders know that people are naturally curious and motivated and essentially want to do a good job. In that case the leader’s role is to create the right conditions for them to do that; to facilitate and to remove blockages.

  1. I stop and think

I was talking to a colleague who expressed discomfort at having reflection time in his day as; “I feel like I’m slacking off!” How have we got to a place where taking time to think and reflect about what you’re learning and what you should do next is felt to be deviant behaviour?

Good management is measured by constantly delivering products, plans and outcomes. We’re churning out stuff at a rate of knots with no time to think and understand if these are the right things to do at the right time in the right way. Organisations reward and promote a culture of constantly delivering artefacts with no time to reflect on whether it’s right. And, by extension, no chance to switch it off or adapt it if it’s wrong.

Many Agile and Lean processes have stages where the team must stop and think about what they’ve done so far before they can move to the next stage. An opportunity to test, challenge, question and change direction if need be. This is progress, but I don’t think it goes far enough.

Reflection is important to everyone at every level in an organisation and absolutely crucial for leaders. Taking time and making space to reflect on what is happening gives a leader time to grow, and develop self-awareness and maturity. Give yourself space to breathe, to digest, to pose difficult questions and consider the answers. Reflection is a strength.

  1. I do the right thing, not the easy thing

My colleague Carl Haggerty, talks about good leaders having ‘curiosity, compassion and courage’ and it struck me that we rarely seem to ask for bravery from our managers and we almost never seem to see any. I wouldn’t say that my organisation promotes and rewards people for being brave and for taking smart risks. Does yours?

As a great (and sadly fictional) leader said: ‘We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy’

Being a good leader means being brave. And I think that being brave often means operating from a place of love and growth and development, rather than a place of fear. It means making difficult choices, based on evidence, knowledge, understanding and compassion. It means admitting when you are wrong and developing resilience by learning from failure. It means being visible. It means being prepared to stand on your own if that is the right place to be. It means having courage.

And, being honest, this is the biggest area for me to work on as a leader. I’ve started identifying what my behaviours are and am currently working on some 360⁰ feedback.

  1. I lead

The most obvious and the hardest. A good leader must actually lead.

This is understanding that as a leader, change and development must be led by you. Leaders are the gatekeeper of change. I keep hearing and reading about empowering staff to be innovative; I’ve been part of sessions where professionals have talked about how they are going to change, and how they want to change their organisations. And the next year we’ve all sat in the same room and had the same conversations. Why is this? Why are brilliant, clever, talented, empowered and motivated people unable to make change happen in their organisations? I understand now that this is because change, real tangible change, must be leader-led.

The problem I think is that many leaders don’t see this. They believe they have a people problem — their staff just aren’t motivated enough, they don’t take the initiative enough, they don’t really want it. What if organisations don’t have a people problem; what if they actually have a leader problem?

So there you go, easy now innit?

Of course not. It’s really, really bloody hard. Current managers are living behaviours that have been taught and developed over years and years. They are operating in systems that encourage conformity and reward longevity.

Being a really good leader — being a really good anything — is putting yourself out there and that can make you feel vulnerable and exposed. It’s incredibly hard to be open, particularly when others around you are closed.

Part of the reason for writing this piece was to help me to answer the question: what sort of leader do I want to be and how do I get there?

I now understand much more about the sort of leader I want to be. And I’ve realised that I’ll never ‘get there’, that ‘there’ isn’t a real place and that assuming it is will halt my development. Being a good leader is about constantly learning and growing; it’s about being open and honest; it’s about being mindful and reflective; it’s about being purposeful and brave.

In fact, for me, the work of being a better leader is the work of being a better human.

Further reading