Category Archives: Services

What is digital leadership?

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

Changing behaviour for better digital public services

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The Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office is running a seminar on Improving digital leadership and ownership. Dyfrig Williams shares how the work was developed in the post below.

Last year the Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office held an event on Redesigning public services: The strategic importance of digital. From our point of view, it was a very successful event. We had the highest satisfaction rates that we’ve ever had from any seminar, and our speakers also found it a useful way of socialising ideas around how they were developing their good practice. Cllr Barry Parsons told us that the seminar had been incredibly valuable to him, and I certainly found the workshop that he delivered with Carl Haggerty thought provoking – so much so that I subsequently blogged about it.

Our blog posts on the seminar were some of the most widely read that we’ve ever written. We also tested some new ways of working by developing personas with Y Lab to get the right delegate profile. This was successful in that we managed to attract staff who wanted their services to be more agile and responsive to user needs; staff who wanted to work across public service boundaries; and staff who see digital as an enabler of public service reform.

However we didn’t quite manage to access all of the delegates that we wanted. In planning the seminar we realised that there is a gap between people who may have the authority but who lack the expertise to enable digital services, and those who have the expertise but lack the authority. We hoped that the seminar would serve as an opportunity for decision makers to connect with the people who know how to make digital transformation happen. Unfortunately, we didn’t get as many decision makers attending as we had hoped.

Digital as an enabler

Digital is a key theme of our work over the next few years, so we’ve decided to change tack for the second of our digital seminars. We’re going to use an assets based approach to work with the skills that we have in the room and to look at how attendees can affect digital change in their organisations.

Paul Taylor from Bromford has written a great post on how organisations may stifle community creativity. In it he reflects on how controlling organisational environments can also stifle citizen and community strengths. This links perfectly with the thinking that we’ve developed.

My first few pieces of work when I joined the Wales Audit Office was on the theme of asset management. I remember thinking that it was a really dry topic, but it was actually a perfect introduction to the philosophy of the Good Practice Exchange. My colleague Ena Lloyd got me thinking completely differently about the whole thing – we weren’t looking for buildings that were equipped with flashy technology, we were looking for buildings that actively made public services and communities better. We were looking for better outcomes for people, not statistics. I remember really enjoying our seminar on Facilities Management, which I would have said was impossible a few months before. I facilitated a workshop by Charlotte Lythgoe of the Wales Millennium Centre, where she looked at moving beyond style over substance approaches into delivering real change.

A photo of a big building with wind turbines on the roof with a red cross through the image. Part of Charlotte Lythgoe's presentation on moving away from Eco Bling

Charlotte Lythgoe’s slide on moving away from Eco Bling

We’re looking to apply this thinking to our digital seminar. We’ll be looking at how digital can be an enabler for better public services, rather than an end in and of itself. We’ll be looking to equip changemakers with the knowledge and the tools to ensure that their organisations are fit for purpose in the twenty first century.

Kelly Doonan from Devon County Council will look at how some of the digital projects she worked on within the council and how she identified and worked with the power that she had to make change happen. I’ll be sharing learning from the Cutting Edge Audit Office project, which was developed to sidestep traditional organisation bureaucracies and power structures. We’ll also hear from Theo Blackwell of Camden Council about how they’re changing services to make them more effective and efficient.

The Good Practice Exchange are working on our first national study this year, which focuses on behaviour change. In the final session Chris Bolton will lead a discussion on how attendees can look to change behaviours and implement digital thinking within their organisations.

Feedback

As the above demonstrates, we’re an iterative project that builds on our learning as we go. The development of this seminar has been very much based on the outcome of our previous work. Much like the event itself, we are a work in progress, always looking to develop how we work in order to best meet the needs of our stakeholders, and most importantly, the people of Wales. This event is only happening because of the thoughts and ideas we received. If you have any ideas on how we can improve our work on this theme or any other, we’d love to hear from you.

How studying mitigates risk

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The Auditor General for Wales encourages well managed risk taking at Good Practice Exchange events. Ahead of the Good Practice Exchange’s work on well managed risk, Simon Pickthall shares some information on Vanguard’s approach.

A photo of Simon Pickthall from Vanguard Consulting

Simon Pickthall from Vanguard Consulting

We are facing unprecedented financial pressures, coupled with the practical implications of working more closely with partners.

In this environment, it is difficult to imagine taking well-managed risks. The contradiction of funding pressures necessitating being radical in our thinking, while funding pressures making radical thinking seem extremely risky can pull us in different directions simultaneously.

However, being radical in our thinking is not a risky endeavour if undertaken with good method.

We often find ourselves in meetings, discussing radical service design and implementation. These meetings are organised around monthly updates, and quarterly reporting schedules. Working parties are dispatched to work out the logistics and build the plan. The plan is scrutinised by different leadership tiers in different organisations.

This process is intended to mitigate risk, and cover all the angles. It can also feel like a very long time until anything is started. When it is started, it can feel not quite as radical as our original ambitions, and existing system conditions (budgets, procedures, policies and authorisation limits) can remain. This is argued to be to ensure risk is covered, but it also severely restricts the radical nature of our service redesign.

However, there is an alternative method – study the system as it currently works. This is often seen as merely information gathering, and just a precursor to starting our radical service redesign on the ground. Studying is, in fact, essential and, when undertaken using good method, gets truly radical redesigns off the ground much quicker.

The method by which you undertake the study phase is crucial, to avoid recreating the problems in the new system that exist in the current system.

Change starts at Check; a structured method for understanding the ‘what and why’ of current performance as a system. This builds knowledge of where and how to act. The model for Check (below) outlines the key data to be collected.

A diagram of Vanguard's 'Check' Process, which shows learning begins with customers

Customer/citizen demands on services fall into two broad types:

  • Value Demand: this is demand we want, that is of value to customers/citizens;
  • Failure Demand: demand caused by a failure of the system to do something or do something right for the customer/citizen.

Capability is a measure of how well the organisation achieves its purpose. Prior to any decisions being taken about changes to the work, knowledge about current capability must be established. The study of Flow and System Conditions involves collecting data about how easy/difficult it is for the customer/citizen to get something done and how the system currently operates. The logic of the current management thinking is revealed and the impact of thinking on performance is clear. All of the data collected during Check is used to build a system picture to describe the ‘what and why’ of current performance.  Thus, uncertainty and risk are designed out of the change process.

The system picture developed in Check helps in the formulation of a plan to take action on the system in a way that will deliver predictable performance improvement. At this stage, leaders are in a position to make an informed choice about whether to move to the next stage – Plan.

This next stage involves a period of experimental redesign using systems principles: designing against demand and understanding the value work informs all decision-making. The objective is to drive out waste and establish perfect flow.

Using the Model for Check, therefore, we can not only understand crucial data, but also our existing system conditions and logics that constrain the current system. In addition, studying also provides the required information to make any radical service redesign less risky – studying reveals the obvious difficulties in the current system, and provides a set of principles to be used in the new system. The service redesign becomes, then, a test of a hypothesis, rather than a leap into the unknown. It is a leap of fact, not a leap of faith.

The time taken to understand this study phase can vary between systems, but a good overview can usually be obtained over a course of a few days. As such, when the leaders undertake this study phase, they experience the key issues that they will need to tackle and build a desire to change the system quickly.

Given this, rather than spend time in meetings discussing the plans for radical service redesign, as leaders you can get into the work and apply the model for Check. Very rapidly you will have understood your system, and built a plan for radical change in thinking and therefore service redesign. In addition, this will be a plan based on knowledge, not faith – a far less risky approach.

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.

Simon.pickthall@vanguardwales.co.uk
07951 481878
www.vanguard-method.net

Frontline Futures: changing behaviour and empowering people

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How do we ensure that organisations work together to provide the right service in the right setting, with better outcomes for frequent users of public services? Dyfrig Williams spoke to Melys Phinnemore to learn from the Frontline Futures Programme.

Is Housing fit for the future? The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Cymru have undertaken research on where the housing sector is and where it needs to be, because service delivery is taking place in a rapidly changing environment. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act means that public services will have to work together in a different way too. Not only that, but there’s much less money to go around, and the financial footing of Housing Associations is less secure now that Universal Credit is paid directly to claimants instead of housing associations.

Huw Vaughan Thomas, the Auditor General for Wales repeatedly talks about the need to take well managed risks. The above situation is one such situation, where housing associations cannot continue to work in the same way.

What is Frontline Futures?

CIH Cymru developed Frontline Futures to help organisations to work differently in this changing environment. It‘s a practical course where learners identify, plan and develop a change project for their organisation. The programme is attended by a mix of about 3 or 4 people per organisation and typically this might be a number of frontline workers and a supervisor or line manager. They each identify and work on a change challenge after learning about the theory behind change. The programme is based over 5-6 months for a day a month. CIH have run two cohorts so far, which have looked at changing behaviour, practice and mindset.

Melys Phinnemore and Penny Jeffreys are working with CIH Cymru to develop and deliver the programme. They are particularly interested in leadership and cultural change. How can we enable people who access social housing to be the best that they can be? And how can we get staff, whose behaviour may have inadvertently taken away people’s independence, work differently. Supporting not advising by having coaching conversations with people?

Melys says that parent child type of caring or advising conversations very rarely change people’s behaviour. Saying “ I need to advise you that if you don’t stop doing this or start doing that ……you will or could become homeless” rarely leads to a better outcome. Neither does doing things for people, like filling out forms. Our helping behaviours don’t empower people to take control or encourage people to develop confidence in their own abilities. Our legacy of helping has meant that typically people will expect their social landlord to sort out noise nuisance and ball play where as private home owners do this for themselves.

Melys feels that frontline workers need to be empowered to use their discretion so that they can free up and target their resources based on need and take the well managed risks that the Auditor General describes.

What does all this mean in practice?

Melys shared an example with me of how changes had been made at Gwalia by a frontline worker. When a house became void, materials within the house were disposed because of health and safety guidance, whether they were useful or not. This rationale would have been enough to stop many projects, but this frontline worker set out to prevent this waste and developed a recycling project. She organised people to become patent qualified so that they could test and recycle electrical goods. When it was suggested that the Housing Association would be liable if anything went wrong, she worked on developing disclaimer forms. There is now an exchange shop supported by community volunteers which is thriving and not only are there savings from landfill many tenants’ are having a better start with semi-furnished homes. Early indications suggest that one of the side benefits has been some of the hard to let properties are now full and turnover at these properties has reduced. Gwalia are now looking at whether there may be an opportunity to expand this approach and even maybe develop an upcycling scheme.

How do we get people on board with changes in service delivery?

The above example clearly shows an empowered staff member that’s making tenants’ lives better. It’s early days, but staff have changed the nature of the way they talk to tenants. How can we help this change to happen within our organisations?

Melys mentioned the use of Johnathan Haidt’s theory about the elephant, the rider and the path, which is handily summarised in the video below. Haidt says that in order to enable change, you need to think about the rational system, the emotional system and the external environment.

The rider represents the rational system, which plans and problem solves. The elephant represents the emotional system that provides the power for the journey. There is a power imbalance here, so changing behaviour is difficult. The path represents the external environment. The two are more likely to complete their journey if you remove obstacles that stand in their way and it’s as short as possible. Haidt recommends that you:

  1. Give direction to the rider, so that they know where they are going
  2. Motivate the elephant, so you need to tap into emotion
  3. Shape the path to allow for easy progress.

Melys says that you have to empower and support people to make a change – give them the power to make incremental change through small initiatives that they can take ownership of. Once they’re party to the design and development of the initiative, it takes off. They can’t be part of the solution if they don’t understand the argument that’s being made. Having encouraging coaching conversations with staff help empower them to go back into their organisations and lead change.

Melys also referenced Simon Sinek’s TED talk on inspiring action, where he suggests that you should start with a clear purpose and outline your cause. He says:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it… Why is it important to attract people who believe what you believe? Something called the Law of Diffusion of Innovation.”

In the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, innovation relies heavily on human capital and must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain. Sinek describes how changes aren’t embedded until a tipping point – the early majority won’t try something until someone else has tried it first.

A bell curve graph that illustrates when people adopt new innovations, from early innovators to early adopters,early majority,late majority to laggards

A graph illustrating the law of diffusion of innovation

Frequent users of public services who regularly contact organisations make up a significant proportion of the demand on services, which amounts to huge costs in terms of time and resource. CIH Cymru’s practical approach to learning and development is leading to financial savings and improved public services. It’s been fascinating learning about the changes that are being made, the theory behind them and most importantly about the empowered staff and tenants that the programme has produced. The Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office is currently working on a national study on behaviour change, which will share examples where public services have changed behaviour effectively. If you’re changing behaviour or the way that you allocate resources to frequent users, we’d love to hear from you.

More information about the Frontline Futures programme can be found at the CIH Cymru website at www.cih.org/cymru/frontlinefuturesprogramme.

Keep Wales Tidy and Gurnos Men’s Project: Delivering social, economic and health benefits

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Keep Wales Tidy are known for protecting our environment. However you might not know that they work in other ways to make our communities better places to live. For this post, Ena Lloyd talked to Jake Castle about the Gurnos Men’s Project.

I hadn’t realised until recently that the Keep Wales Tidy office was across the road from our Cathedral Road Offices in Cardiff.  I caught up with their CEO Lesley Jones, as I wanted to know more about the Gurnos project, which is about supporting men into employment. Were there also some health and social care benefits? Lesley said that it would be helpful if Jake Castle, the Senior Project Officer blogged about this really rewarding project that he is leading on.

Here is what Jake shared about the project:

I am the Project Officer for Keep Wales Tidy in Merthyr Tydfil. I work with community groups, schools and individuals to carry out practical environmental projects. One of the most rewarding (and often entertaining) of these groups has been the Gurnos Men’s Project.

The Project was formed two years ago to give a group of long-term unemployed men on the Gurnos Estate the opportunity to get together and take part in a range of activities to help improve the community and develop their own skills and learning. It merged new and existing Keep Wales Tidy volunteers and links to Communities First. At that time, over 90% of the people that were engaged with the local Communities First cluster were women and so there was a clear lack in provision and support for men.

A photo of 6 men who are working in the woods on Gurnos Men's Project

Gurnos Men’s Project

The group soon became dedicated to their work and carried out regular clean-ups, gardening and school grounds improvements. They also take part in basic reading and writing, horticulture and countryside skills courses. I meet with them every fortnight to help plan and deliver local projects and with the help of Communities First we regularly review their activities to ensure their own needs are being met while serving the wider community. I was pleased when I recently secured funding to organise formal training for the group; the combination of their ongoing dedication, hard work and this training has had such positive results.

As no one in the group had taken part in any accredited training for many years, they were all anxious about being tested. It was important that I support them and select appropriate training, six men have now successfully achieved NPTC Level 2 in Safe Use of Brush Cutter and Trimmer Operations. This formal qualification is hugely valuable as it doesn’t expire and the skills gained have helped to improve the confidence of the group and the standard of the work in the community.

All six participants (shown in above photo) are keen to pursue grounds maintenance work as a form of employment;

This has been great for me. I’ve been out of work for a few months now and this is the kind of work I’d like to get back in to. I know this ticket will be needed for loads of jobs and it shows I’ve been active and trying to better myself.

Antony Dunn, volunteer (shown second from the right in the above photo)

The group have been visited by elected representatives and were hugely grateful for the chance to talk about how the work and training had boosted their self-esteem, helped them manage mental health problems and alcoholism, provided them with lots of skills and helped the wider community. The wife of one of the group who is suffering from dementia also spoke of how the group had been a huge help to the both of them, easing the burden on the health and care systems.

It was acknowledged that there’s a real value in the provision for these individuals. Supporting people into employment is, of course, the goal and we are all aware that this may be a long-term process. This model suggests that the interim period (before finding work) can also prove valuable in several other ways.

It seems to me that success for this group has involved a healthy mixture of skills that benefit the individuals, and activities that benefit the community – not forgetting the occasional structured activity for routine and enjoyment! The community benefit is hard to measure; it goes well beyond litter picks as it brings a reduced demand on our health and care services.

In my opinion, the Men’s Project can help increase employment levels and improve Valleys communities. The focus for us all now is to quantify that wide-ranging contribution.

There are many more projects that Keep Wales Tidy are involved in, including Blue Flag, Eco Schools, Green Key. All our programmes are available on our website.

Making services more accessible for people who do not speak English or Welsh

Logo

The Good Practice Exchange Team is running a shared learning seminar focusing on access to services for people who do not speak English or Welsh. So why are we holding this event? Rachel Harries, Wales Audit Office, shares our thinking on this topic…

If someone can’t speak English or Welsh and needs a translator to access your services, would you know what to do?

The 2011 census tells us that more than 80 different languages are spoken in Wales. At that time there were about 20,000 people living in Wales whose main language wasn’t English or Welsh, a proportion of whom said that they couldn’t speak one or other language fluently. People whose main language is not English or Welsh are most likely to live in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport or Wrexham council areas, partly because these are UK Borders Agency dispersal areas for refugees and asylum seekers. But every area of Wales is home to some people who aren’t able to communicate easily in English or Welsh; for example, people who use British Sign Language as their main language and all councils have committed to accepting refugees under the Government’s resettlement programme.

The number of individuals and families affected is relatively small, but they are more likely than the wider population to need to access public services, either because of existing health conditions that may be linked to their sensory loss, or because of traumatic experiences they have undergone before arriving in Wales. Even worse, difficulties in making themselves understood can mean that people aren’t able to access the services they need (and are entitled to) and they may reach crisis point before they come to the attention of the people who can help them.

From our initial research into this subject we know that this is a situation that some public services may face relatively infrequently, so there’s a good chance that some organisations simply haven’t prepared to respond appropriately. But we also know that there is a lot of good work that is already happening in specific areas and organisations. Our seminar on ‘Making services more accessible for people who do not speak English or Welsh’ is a chance to share good work and allow people working in public services to think about realistic, practical steps their organisations can take to put suitable arrangements in place.

The seminar workshops will cover three topics – digital inclusion, housing and health. We knew we wouldn’t be able to cover all the issues that this diverse group of people might face so we had to think about what would be relevant to the greatest number. Housing was an obvious place to start as a roof over your head is such a fundamental need; without this foundation, other services won’t be able to make much of an impact.

Health was another important area as people who can’t speak English or Welsh find it difficult to access healthcare – even though they may be more likely than others to need it. As a result, their health can deteriorate before they get treatment, which is worse for them and potentially much more expensive for the NHS.

Finally, we chose digital inclusion as there are many opportunities for organisations to use new technology to communicate with people who don’t speak – or read – English or Welsh proficiently. The widespread use of smartphones and developments in software designed to increase accessibility means that there are now simple and cost effective solutions available that simply wouldn’t have existed a few years ago.

Because the group of people we’re talking about is so diverse, the seminar itself should be useful to a broad range of people, but in particular we thought it would be useful to public sector and third sector staff who are

  • equalities portfolio holders
  • equalities officers
  • policy leads
  • website accessibility managers
  • staff responsible for developing or delivering services for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to the UK
  • staff responsible for developing or delivering services for people with sensory loss

If this sounds like you, you can sign up for the seminar for free and find out about some practical and cost effective steps you can take to make sure that the people who need them aren’t shut out of the services you provide.

How do we encourage buy-in to a multi-agency approach from partners?

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.

A photo of Simon Pickthall from Vanguard Consulting

Simon Pickthall from Vanguard Consulting

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.

Simon.pickthall@vanguardwales.co.uk
07951 481878
www.vanguard-method.com