Category Archives: Services

Changing behaviour for better digital public services

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

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

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

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

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

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

Darllenwch y flogbost yn Gymraeg

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

Developing personas for a user focused service

How can personas help to ensure that projects are user focused? Dyfrig Williams reflects on how they’ve been used for his work on acquiring data effectively.

An image of personas for Performance Audit staff

As part of my Cutting Edge Audit work, I’ve been working on a test project to gather data for auditors so that we can work more efficiently.

I’ve blogged before on why I’m really interested in the digital delivery of public services because of the relentless focus on user need. This focus isn’t new to me – my previous work on citizen engagement made it clear to me that properly involving the people who access services at an early stage results in a service that is effective at targeting its resources.

Now that I’m four months in to a six month project you could argue that I’m leaving it a bit late to start on the practical part of the work. But in my public engagement role I heard time and time again that staff that didn’t involve people properly delivered their work according to existing preconceptions about what people wanted or needed. I was determined not to make the same mistake with my work, so I developed personas for the main users of data to ensure that we are focusing on building something that people would actually find useful.

Personas are representations of different types of customers or users. They answer the question “Who are we designing our work for?” They help to align strategy and goals to specific user groups. As we’re testing this work with the Health Performance Audit Team, I developed personas ranging from Performance Support Officers to Audit Managers, as well as complimentary work with members of the Financial Audit Technical Team and a Financial Auditor working on the frontline with health boards.

Where to start?

I was quite excited to start on the personas so that I could see how my public engagement mindset fitted with digital practice. My colleague Louise Foster-Key, who is the Digital Comms Officer at the Wales Audit Office gave me a few pointers from her work on the Wales Audit Office Intranet, and I also looked at wider good practice. There’s a great post on user personas on the Office for National Statistics’ Digital Blog, but I ended up basing my work on the Government Digital Service (GDS)’s Guide to User Stories. I had a punt at using Trello, but as this was a largely solo exercise (and it was only a small project to manage) I didn’t find it to be as useful as I expected. Instead I used Xtensio, a free(ish) tool that Louise recommended to me.

I stuck with the GDS format as the structure of my user stories, which I put together from interviews and emails with staff in key roles:

  1. As a… (Who is the user? A biography of the person accessing data)
  2. I need/want/expect to… (What does the user want to do?)
  3. So that… (Why does the user want to do this?)
  4. It’s done when… (This is the GDS acceptance criteria, which is a list of outcomes that you use as a checklist to confirm that your service has done its job and is meeting that user need)

Has it been useful?

By talking to auditors in depth about each of the roles that I’ve mapped, I’ve got a much better understanding of their work. This will be useful to me far beyond the lifespan of the Cutting Edge Audit project, as I look at how the Good Practice Exchange can work more effectively with audit teams, especially the Health Audit Team, who volunteered to work with us on this piece of work.

The main use of the personas will be to sense check our work and to ensure that the purpose of our test matches what our auditors want and expect. Now that they’ve helped us run through some hypothetical tests, we’ll use their thoughts to avoid scope creep for the first stage of our iteration.

Their thoughts will also be incredibly useful for my section of our final report. It’s been said that “The pen is mightier than the sword”, and in this sense we as the report authors have all the power – it is us who provide the recommendations for future priorities. This work will ensure that my recommendations are grounded in the realities of our staff’s day to day work.

The final personas are now online and have been split into two sections because of the limitations of the free version of Xtensio. The first set of personas are based on the Performance Audit roles, and the second set include personas based on the Financial Audit and Technical Team roles.

These personas now give us a level of expectation for our work. If the test fails, they give us a rigorous criteria to examine our output against, and a clear vision to check our delivery against. On the other side of things, should the work (as we hope) be a success, we have an opportunity to think about whether personas can help us to be more focused and responsive as we ensure that public services really are delivering value for money for the people of Wales.

Acquiring data for a cutting edge audit office

How is the Wales Audit Office working to ensure that it provides audit that’s fit for the future? Dyfrig Williams blogs below on his work with the Cutting Edge Audit project.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on the Cutting Edge Audit project, which looks at how the Wales Audit Office can challenge our existing use of data and technology and assumptions that we normally take for granted. We’re thinking radically about how we might use new technology to transform the way that we work.

It’s been a fantastic piece of work to undertake, which has really put that radical thinking into practice. The project’s being led by my colleague Steve Lisle, who is reporting directly to the Auditor General for Wales. This has meant that we’ve moved away from hierarchy into a much flatter structure. We’ve also been outcome focussed – we’ve been testing and prototyping as we go so that our risks are well managed and that we learn from failure.

I’ve been working on how the Wales Audit Office acquires data to give us deeper knowledge and fresh insight.

Data Maturity

data_maturityIt was helpful to think about Data Maturity when we were doing this work. Data Maturity is the journey towards improvement and increased capability in using data. Data Orchard have used this model (which I’ve nicked from a great post by Ben Proctor) of stages in an organisation’s development:

  1. Ad-hoc gathering of data in some areas
  2. Pulling data together centrally
  3. Starting to use data looking backwards
  4. Using data in real time to manage the organisation and move resources rapidly
  5. Modelling the future before making decisions to enable better decisions to be taken
  6. Modelling the future the organisation wants and working backwards to understand what needs to happen now to deliver that future

This is very much a journey for us as an organisation, but it has helped to inform my thinking. It’s helped me think about how we get to point 6, where we’re modelling the future that the organisation is working towards, and ensure that the things that I’m working on set us out on the right path beyond the lifespan of the Cutting Edge project.

My prototypes

I’ve been working on two different tests within this field. The first is an Open Data prototype, which has been more challenging than I expected because the Wales Audit Office is a secondary user of data. This means that we use data that is gathered by others, so we don’t always have the right to share it. I have managed to find a useful dataset though, so my next step is to set it free into the world and look at the challenges around how we can make it as useful as possible.

I’ve been putting the Good Practice Exchange’s principles into practice in this work by visiting other organisations to learn about the work they’re already doing because there’s no point reinventing the wheel. I’ve also been thinking about how we adapt rather than adopt their work to suit our organisational needs, because after all, a one-size-fits-all approach never works.

I’ve blogged before about why the public sector needs to start thinking about its approach to Open Data, and we subsequently ran a Google Hangout to look at why it’s an important topic. Hendrik Grothius has written an excellent blogpost on how organisations can start to publish Open Data, and it will be a brilliant starting point for me as I get to grips with this.

My second piece of work has been looking at how we enable our staff to make better use of data, thereby minimising the audit burden. I’m looking at how we can bring together data from public bodies in a way that makes it easy to access, open to everyone, and give us an improved insight into the performance of the Welsh public sector, and international comparators. I’ve been talking to our staff so that I can better understand what type of approach would be useful to them. I’ve developed personas to help guide our work in this area, which will shape the next phase of this work and ensure that my part of the final report is focused on user need.

Iteration

I’ll be writing future posts to share my approaches, what I’ve learnt and what I would do differently next time. We are working iteratively so that we learn from each development and how we can build on that learning going forwards. If those prototypes don’t work, we’ll be looking to learn from failure and see what the organisation can do differently in the future.

At all our Good Practice Exchange seminars we hear that public services can’t continue to work in the same way in these austere times. It’s been great working on a practical project at the Wales Audit Office, as we’re getting to grips with those same challenges and applying new thinking to our work.

Why we’re focusing on improving services for frequent users

A speech bubble with the title of Designing effective services for frequent usersWhy is the Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office running seminars that focus on frequent users? Dyfrig Williams outlines our thinking and how services can provide efficient citizen-centred public services.

The Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office decide on our programme of events based on the following criteria:

  • New legislation and other significant developments affecting public service delivery
  • Work undertaken by the Wales Audit Office
  • Topics that are identified through consultation with key stakeholders

In the case of our seminar on Designing effective services for frequent users, it was a combination of all three.

Legislation

If you’ve attended any of our recent seminars, you’ll have heard the Auditor General for Wales talking about how the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is a gamechanger for Welsh public services. Organisations are required to integrate and collaborate; to think about prevention and the long term; and to involve people.

The Social Services and Wellbeing Act reinforces this by focusing on people, wellbeing, prevention, partnership and integration. The current public service environment clearly supports public service delivery that centres on citizens. If you’re looking to revamp your service to meet this focus, then these acts provide a framework and a rationale for change.

Audit work

Our colleagues in the Health Audit team approached us to put a seminar together on Designing effective services for frequent users as they were reviewing emergency ambulance services commissioning. Fflur Jones wrote a great post for the Wales Audit Office on joining a Welsh ambulance crew for a night shift, where she says that:

“The calls ranged from the routine to the extreme: from a caller that did not require any urgent treatment who had contacted the service for the third time that night to a patient suffering life-changing injuries as a result of a road traffic collision. I’m assured that the life of a paramedic is never dull…..

“Calling an ambulance is not always the right choice and other alternatives, such as pharmacies and out of hours services can get patients seen quicker and allow ambulances to respond to the cases where they’re most needed. It also taught me that the need for the public sector to work together to provide better services and to provide services for unmet needs and to fill service gaps is greater than ever.”

The Good Practice Exchange have been working on our first piece of audit work on behaviour change, where we’ve worked with Good Practice Wales and a range of other organisations on festivals in Bangor and Swansea. Behaviour Change techniques can potentially improve public services when there are increasing demands placed upon them by enabling people to choose the right service in the right circumstance.

The Wales Audit Office’s Picture of Public Services report also paints a stark picture of the challenges that devolved public services’ face. The report shows that public services have faced significant and growing financial, demand and capacity pressures since the previous report in  2011. Some of the headline messages include that:

  • Organisations are in a position where they have to take well-managed risks to deliver sustainable solutions to financial and demand pressures on public services
  • there are difficult barriers to overcome in order to radically reshape services, including political and cultural barriers
  • ‘What gets measured gets managed’ – public services are increasingly adopting ‘outcome’ measures, but there remains a tendency to measure and manage how much activity is going on and how long it takes
  • public services need to work together through the difficult choices to understand the short and long-term impacts for the public and other public services, and to mitigate those impacts where possible.

From a purely economic perspective, the case for change is clear. Public services will continue to waste valuable resources unless we work together, resources that could be better spent to provide services that people actually want.

And to me that’s the crux of it – more than anything services need to be fit for purpose so that they provide what people really want. On my last day of working for Participation Cymru, I wrote that working with the Citizen’s Panel for Social Services had been the most fulfilling work that I had ever done. Seeing people actively challenge systems that had repeatedly let them down because they believed that things could and should be better was incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic teams, projects and organisations since working for the Good Practice Exchange, but unfortunately these services are still the exception rather than the norm.

Working with key stakeholders

Every event that we run is developed in conjunction with a range of stakeholders, and this is no different. We’ll have speakers from local authorities, health boards, the Ambulance Service, Fire Service and the Older People’s Commissioner. More than anything though, the event will look to share good practice from delegates’ own experiences and will throw out issues that people are facing to the collective expertise at the event.

We’ll also be ensuring that the focus of the event is firmly on what people want from their services. When I was tasked with working on this event, I immediately thought of a workshop that Simon Pickthall from Vanguard delivered at our Reshaping Services with the public event. In this seminar Simon shared how traditional public service interventions had failed to meet people’s needs because inefficiencies were resulting from maintaining broken organisational processes. These inefficiencies become obvious when we think about how public services work – people are made to fit into organisational silos, instead of organisations working together to meet people’s needs. Simon gives a really good overview of some of what he’ll be talking about at 6:37 in the below video.

The Stoke-on-Trent case study in the Picture of Public Services report (p.108) is an example of the approach that Simon will share. But we won’t be telling people what to do or directing people to use particular methods. We don’t believe that one size fits all – we need to look at the good work that organisations are doing and think about how we might adapt those approaches to suit the needs of people in our areas. And if we can do that, then we’ll be better placed to deliver the best possible services for the people of Wales.

Ageing Well in Wales

Earlier this month, Bethan Smith attended the Ageing Well in Wales communities event in Bangor, hosted by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales. In this blog, Bethan shares her thoughts on the day…

The Good Practice Exchange team have worked with the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales on a number of occasions now, so we were delighted to be involved in the Ageing Well in Wales event.

To provide some background, Ageing Well in Wales is a national Programme hosted by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales. It brings together individuals and communities with public, private and voluntary sectors to develop and promote innovative and practical ways to make Wales a good place to grow older for everyone.

There are 5 principles of the programme:

  • To make Wales a nation of age friendly communities
  • To make Wales a nation of dementia supportive communities
  • To reduce the number of falls
  • To reduce loneliness and unwanted isolation
  • To increase learning and employment opportunities

I could tell as soon as I arrived in Bangor that it was going to be a worthwhile morning. There was a real buzz in the room, you could just tell that everyone there had a real passion in helping improve the lives of older people in Wales, and the agenda for the morning highlighted the range of organisations that play a key role in achieving this. With the number of older people in Wales projected to increase, it was great to see so many organisations recognising the importance of supporting this particular community.

I was really pleased to hear the first presentation from David Worrall, British Red Cross, which focused on partnership working in Wales. Partnership working is so important if public services are to deliver the key priorities of the Ageing Well in Wales programme. In a time where budgets are ever decreasing, no single service has the answers alone, which is why we need to pull together and think differently and innovatively when it comes to service delivery.  A speaker at one of our events once said ‘we may not be cash rich in Wales, but we are resource rich’. Older people are a huge resource to Wales, we should be utilising the skills and knowledge they have when redesigning services. Their insight and knowledge is absolutely priceless.

cwvwcmyw8aa0jkb

A great example of partnership working that David shared was the Camau Cadarn initiative. The British Red Cross and Royal Voluntary Service are joining forces to launch a new three-year programme to deliver essential services to older people who find themselves in need of support to regain their independence. You can read more about the project on the British Red Cross website.

Another example of partnership working in North Wales was delivered by Pete Harrison, Artisans Collective CIC. Artisans Collective CIC offer a unique community facility in Prestatyn, where Artisans, Artists and Craftspeople display and sell their handmade art and craft items on the Old Library shelves. Not only that, but Pete and the team have increasingly become involved in community health and wellbeing in Prestatyn. They play a key role in the community working in partnership with various organisations to help signpost residents to relevant services. They are also involved in various initiatives helping to prevent social isolation and anti social behaviour in the town. They are now working alongside Healthy Prestatyn (an innovative model of primary health care) looking into social prescribing, and how their work in the community can assist this. After hearing Pete’s presentation, I went to visit the team in Prestatyn and it’s really clear to see how much of a positive impact they have on the community. This small facility gives groups of potentially vulnerable people a safe place to socialise and learn new skills. Pete has agreed to speak at our seminar on ‘Public Services working in partnership for better health and wellbeing‘ on 7 December in Cardiff, along with Alexis from the Healthy Prestatyn team.

Speaking of learning new skills, we also heard from Hilary Jones from the University of the 3rd Age (U3A). The U3A is an international organisation for retired and semiretired people providing educational, creative and leisure activities. Each U3A is made up of a range of interest groups where the members learn from each other in a friendly, informal atmosphere. The clear message from Hilary was that just because you’ve stopped working, it doesn’t mean you have to stop learning! There are opportunities out there for everyone. The biggest bonus from the U3a programme is not only the learning opportunities, but the friendships made and opportunities to socialise. A great example of a project which is helping achieve several of the key priorities of Ageing Well in Wales.
cwvyoyewgaaflyy

These three examples alone demonstrate the positive steps being taken by organisations to help tackle issues facing older people in Wales. There were many other examples shared at the event which I’ll be looking at in my next blog.

So for me, some of the key points I took away from the event were:

  • Going forward, working in partnership is key to help deliver the key priorities of the Ageing Well in Wales programme, to prevent demand on services, and most importantly to help older people maintain independence and quality of life.
  • Older people have a wealth of knowledge and experience which needs to be utilised when designing services – they are the experts, let’s work with them! This should be the case for all citizens, regardless of age.
  • There is a fantastic group of passionate, dedicated people within the Ageing Well in Wales network who are making huge steps in making Wales a better place for people to grow older. The challenge is how we help replicate those steps across all public services (not just health and social care). Something for the Good Practice team to think about when planning our work programme for next year.

I’ll be attending the second Ageing Well event in Cardiff on 15th December, so keep a look out for my next blogs!