Tag Archives: sustainability

The writing’s on the desk!

Melin Homes’ white board desks have promoted positive behaviour change, saved money and resources, and also improved Data Protection practice! Ena Lloyd blogs below on the story behind the desks.

I recently popped up to see Trisha Hoddinot at Melin Homes after Mari Arthur from Cynnal Cymru said what good work they were doing on their Car Scheme. Not only saving money and achieving positive sustainability results, but also showing some early signs of positive behaviour change too.

When I got to their office, I noticed all the desks in the Sustainable team were white, and on closer inspection, there were lots of written messages on them too! So I had to ask what the story was. Turns out they were white board desks. I’ll share information on their car scheme in a later blog! Here’s Trisha’s story on the white board desks.

A photo of a Melin Homes whiteboard desk, with writing on it

A Melin Homes whiteboard desk

We are the Sustainability Team, formed in February 2016 to capture what Melin Homes was doing in terms of sustainability in order to get the best out of everything we do. We wanted to lead by example, show things are possible and demonstrate that as a team, we could be totally paperless. We had no excuse, we were a brand new team – an innovative, but realistic team. We didn’t expect teams to go paperless overnight (we have less restrictions than some teams in terms of external auditing and record keeping), but if every team did a bit of what we are doing, it would really make a difference.

What we’ve done differently

Here’s how we’re encouraging others:

  1. Every month we advertise the top three teams who have reduced their printing on our internal TV screens.
  2. We’ve changed what we buy. All future Melin Homes desks will be white board desks.
  3. We make people think. There are laptops and tablets in every meeting room so that people can log on to make notes, share meeting agendas on screen and access documents, instead of using pen and paper.
A photo of Melin Homes staff using their whiteboard desks

Staff at Melin Homes using their whiteboard desks

We decided to use A4 sized whiteboards instead of post it notes and paper for notes, and purely by accident, we discovered that our white desks were in fact whiteboard desks, which can be used for ‘to do’ lists or notes for when you’re on the phone. Our excitement was not initially shared by everyone, but within 2 or 3 days less enthusiastic colleagues were coming around to the idea and asking for whiteboard markers so that they could join our revolution! Our customer contact team also use whiteboards, which not only reduces paper usage but also helps Data Protection as notes taken on calls with residents can be noted while the call is being resolved, but wiped out immediately after.

How we did it

For us, the only way to do it was without exception, no excuses, no printing and no notepads. When we meet with others and are given papers, we scan and save them on our team system and destroy them. One challenge that we did have to overcome involved one of my colleagues, who was updating information from our contractors onto a database. Historically, they would print one document off while updating another one on screen. To resolve this, we connected a second monitor.

A photo of a Melin Homes staff member using two monitors to save paper

A Melin Homes staff member using two monitors to save paper

What are the benefits?

The benefits are much wider than the environmental benefits and the financial savings on paper and printing costs. Staplers, pens, scissors, etc. aren’t needed now and our desks are much less cluttered. The added benefit is the opportunity to remind people that we are paperless when they ask to borrow a pen.

What learning would you share with others?

My first piece of advice for others on becoming ‘paperless’ would be that you should not enforce a massive expectation for change on all staff. It will alienate people immediately. It’s better to set the challenge and lead by example.

You should also use every opportunity to reinforce what you want to achieve. Whenever a member of our team attends an internal meeting, there is always a member of staff who apologises for having a paper and pen with them as they feel guilty. We don’t have to mention anything, but we always welcome the opportunity to remind people that we are Melin Homes’ first paperless team.

You do need to be aware of external meetings. I always feel the need to explain to others why I am using a phone or tablet to make notes, so they don’t think I’m being rude and texting friends or checking social media.

If you are positive about making the change, you can work around it. Good luck!

How Swansea Council undertook a scrutiny inquiry into their culture

Logo of the future of governance: Effective decision making for current and future generations

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act requires organisations to go beyond tinkering at the edge of services into wider cultural change. Dyfrig Williams looks at what can we learn from the City and County of Swansea’s Scrutiny Inquiry into their corporate culture.

Culture is one of those intractable topics. When a problem is cultural, it means there’s no quick fix, no one process to tweak that will automatically help organisations to improve their work.

The good side of this is that it means that organisations tend to go beyond tick box solutions when they identify cultural issues in order to deliver real and lasting change. The bad side of it is that sometimes cultural change is seen as being so difficult that it doesn’t get done at all – the problem is too big to get to grips with.

So when I heard about the City and County of Swansea’s Scrutiny Inquiry into their Corporate Culture, I was immediately interested.

So why did they set up the inquiry?

Councillor Andrew Jones, the Convener of Corporate Culture Scrutiny Inquiry Panel said that:

‘The topic was chosen because, as a Council our corporate culture underpins everything we do, from how we engage with our citizens and provide services to how we treat our staff and grow and develop as an organisation. The challenges faced by the reductions to council budgets pose a threat to that notion of a shared culture. We therefore as Councillors, management and staff have a shared responsibility to respond to these challenges by developing a can do culture that ensures the citizens of Swansea continue to receive the best Council service possible.’

Getting things right at the start

So what can we learn from the pro-active steps that the council have taken to identify ways of improving their culture?

When I spoke to Michelle Roberts from the City and County of Swansea’s Scrutiny team, she emphasised the importance of getting the parameters of the inquiry right at the outset in order to focus on the right areas. The rationale of the review was to ensure that:

  • The council has the right corporate culture to tackle the challenges it faces
  • They create a can do culture to help turn the city around
  • Staff culture is focused on empowerment, personal responsibility, innovation and collaboration.

It’s great to see how the council have ensured that the inquiry has an ongoing legacy by linking it to the work of Leanne Cutts, who’s their Innovation Co-ordinator. As the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act requires, they’ve looked at their long term goals, whilst also identifying quick wins and medium term objectives.

There are some eye-catching proposals that focus on the organisation’s people. They cover the whole staff journey from corporate inductions, mainstreaming innovation into appraisals and developing personal skills to avoid buying in expertise.

Failure

We’ve done a fair bit of work around failure over the last couple of years through our Manager Chris Bolton. This work has underpinned a lot of our information sharing and our focus on improvement. So it’s great to see that the council are looking at how they can move away from a blame culture, whilst recognising the external issues that make it difficult (I’ve previously blogged on complex environments and failure). If we’re going to meet the expectations of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, we have to be able to take well managed risks and build upon the lessons from failure, as Huw Vaughan Thomas, the Auditor General for Wales, discusses in the video below.

Where to start?

If you want to examine the culture of your organisation, it’s well worth taking a look at this Culture Mapping Tool that’s been developed by Dave Gray, and which The Satori Lab have been using in their work. The stated and unstated levers of the tool are really useful in terms of thinking about what drives the behaviour of public service staff and organisations.

At the Wales Audit Office, we’re working on our approach to auditing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. For us as an audit body and for public services generally, it means that we have to change. If organisations try to deliver the seven wellbeing goals through the five ways of working without changing what they do, they’re likely to fail.

The Act gives us the chance to do things a bit differently in Wales. In a time of austerity, we can’t deliver the aspirations of the act whilst tinkering around the edges and adapting what we currently do. For the people of Wales to get the public services that they deserve, we need wholesale cultural change.

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and Behaviour Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Correlation is not causation

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

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

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

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

It’s always been about behaviour

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

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

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

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

We need to ‘Nudge not Yank’

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

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

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

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

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

Are we doomed?

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

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

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

2016: The year of possibility

sunrise in North Wales

North Wales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tweet

Twitter – Gareth Bale

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

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

Using Information Technology to enable better public services

Effective use of Information Technology

Our shared learning seminar on Effective use of Information Technology was the first one that I’ve organised since joining the Good Practice Exchange at the Wales Audit Office. I’ve learnt a lot in terms of ensuring future events are run effectively, but also on the subject itself.

When we spoke to the Auditor General for Wales about the seminars, he was very clear about the role Information Technology can play to enable new ways of delivering services.

In the seminar I was particularly struck by how Information Technology is having a direct influence on service delivery in some organisations. I was fortunate enough to facilitate Andrew Durant’s workshop in North Wales, which looked at Powys County Council and Powys Teaching Health Board’s collaborative Information Technology service. It was interesting to hear how frontline staff of both social services and health are now better able to co-ordinate their work as they have access to each other’s work calendars.

This wasn’t the only session that looked at enabling better public services. I also attended Wendy Xerri from University of Wales Trinity St David‘s workshop on Green Information Technology, which focussed on the needs of students. Students were often forming endless queues to print their essays, but by focussing on the student experience they moved the essay submission system online, thereby streamlining the system for students’ benefit and vastly reducing the amount of paper that was being used.

As there’s such an array of public service bodies in Wales, it was no surprise that Information Technology approaches and equipment varied between each organisation. It’s clear that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach for Information Technology, but it was really heartening to hear how public service staff at our seminar were all looking to improve the effectiveness of their work.

Dyfrig