Process, Place and Relationships – The purposeful Smart City – by Jane Eckford, public servant and industry mentor

In preparing for the Wind Up and dissolution of Scotland’s first New Town, East Kilbride, the chair, Mr J Allan Denholm, reflected on the achievements of the New Town Development Corporations, with words that have much resonance today. 

‘The measure of a mature and successful community is its ability to sustain growth and support the aspirations of its people throughout periods of change and challenge as well as in times of stability and prosperity …

‘…It is people in every part of this community who have created East Kilbride’s success and whose hands its future will lie’.

The New Town model had been based on land and property development to meet housing needs over-spilling from Glasgow but more than this, to provide community infrastructure, social cohesion and employment opportunities through inward investment.

 It provided places for people and business to thrive – a platform of place based and harmonious participation from a wide variety of stakeholders with the purpose of building ‘good’ and sustainable growth. It was a model of working, using many different levers and capabilities, skills and viewpoints, to marry lofty policy with the practical, physical delivery of a new town which served the common good. It influenced many of us officers who were embarking on our own public service careers. And it certainly remains part of the local government policy through to delivery model of local place shaping governance.

It was those final words about people which seemed the most poignant and important for people like me, a corporation employee, and and who also part of the community we were serving.  Our work felt personal ….and it was personal.

That annual report of 1994 certainly captured all the big, high-profile economic development successes of EKDC but the real yardstick of success was really how the people of East Kilbride felt about each other and the place.  

Since that point I have been, and will remain, a flag bearer for ‘emotional connectedness’ we learned as part of that journey – and for designing people ‘in’ and not ‘out’ in increasingly digital or technology enabled service or policy solutions.

Now, following the trauma following  the Covid-19 pandemic, we see the need to create community platforms of a different kind.  The emergence of Smart City solutions for urban spaces, a next generation on from the green field development corporations, provides new possibilities to improve how we live – but only if we take great care not to export across into the new future, all the old biases, injustices, prejudices and labels, that the algorithms might project from our past and flawed structures.

And only if we take great care not to use digital capability to govern by remote control without real, sincere, empathetic human engagement to negotiate ongoing change.

The past is no longer a good indicator of what will come.  Patriarchal organisational strategies based on past performance will not readily accommodate emerging questions.

A definition of Smart Cities is currently  ‘an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. 

Key dimensions of current Smart City capabilities focus on Smart Energy, Smart Transport, Smart data, Smart infrastructure, Smart mobility and Smart IoT with sensing and reporting devices being attached to existing urban infrastructure. 

Using anonymised data there are some wholescale insights which can be made about behaviour and use.  Indeed the current narratives supporting Smart Cities centre around driving more efficient use of resources and reducing cost in comparison with current behaviours. 

The current narratives around design of Smart technologies to understand homelessness, as an example, are really interesting in this regard with rationales ranging from reducing demand on hospitals, social care and other services to being able to track individuals movements to providing help at park benches, to connecting homeless people with hostels and help via mobile and smartphone technology.  

But whilst we are demonstrating ‘capability’ it might be a good time to discuss ‘purpose’.

Referencing the Scottish New Town model of community connectedness I would ask how kindness, dignity and compassion can characterise our decision making and actions – some key values to underpin a just, inclusive and fair society.

In my mind there are some key questions which might be usefully debated including;

  1. Can technology platforms include the capability to develop emotional intelligence, empathy and connectedness of people?
  2. Is  our emotional connectedness to place important or necessary for thriving communities?
  3. Who owns data and insight in a democratic environment, and how do we all ensure it is deployed for the common good.
  4. What degree of empathy and interpersonal skill do we need to see in those developing new technology to reduce the level of marginalisation of people across society

The EKDC Chair observed over 30 years ago that ‘…there is a danger that high profile, international and national flagship projects will become the yardstick by which community success is measured’.  This seems to be a highly prescient challenge for us all now.

Organizational culture and career development in the British civil service – trends, patterns, and lessons for leaders in enabling flourishing organizations – Neil Reeder

Public sector organizations have been affected in many ways by the current pandemic. Some effects are obvious, and relate to newly developed capacities such as food provision for those with vulnerabilities. By contrast, changes in mindsets among those employed by public sector organizations are less evident. Nonetheless, as the UK (hopefully) sees off the pandemic in the coming months, an ability to maintain morale and productivity among public sector staff will be vital, and that in turn is greatly dependent upon staff perceptions of career development.

In doing so, lessons can be learnt from research on organizational culture and the way it can support and hinder career development. A recent paper in the academic journal Public Money and Management (paywalled) provides insights into that question by analysing responses to the British Civil Service People Survey between 2010 and 2018. This blog sets out its broad approach, and key findings.

As shown below, 2010 was a low point for career development, but by 2018, roughly half of respondents agreed with the statement “There are opportunities for me to develop my career in [my organization])”, and a similar amount agreed that “Learning and development activities I have completed while working for [my organization] are helping me to develop my career’.  

Our analysis has examined the patterns of organizational culture that show the closest links to that improvement in career development between 2010 and 2018.

The starting point (which draws on research on organizational culture, public management, and moral ethics[1]) is to set out major aspects of organizational culture, and identify seven specific perspectives within them:

  • the degree of empowerment, which can vary from a highly centralized culture (low empowerment) to a loosely centralised one (high empowerment);
  • the focus of attention, which may be inwards (in line with William Beveridge’s saying “The besetting sin of civil servants is to mix too much with each other”), outwards towards Ministers, or outwards to citizens and respecting diversity;
  • attitudes towards different sets of priorities – individual “ego” goals (salary and promotion prospects), family-friendly work-life balance practices, peer group goals relating to the team and the organization’s overall mission;
  • attitudes to risk and change, which may be hostile, cautiously positive to change, or indeed show a radical willingness to embrace innovation.

Our next step was to calculate scores on these aspects of culture[2], as shown below, with scores potentially ranging from 0% (lowest possible) to 100% (highest possible).

All scores increased between 2018 and 2010, with the most prominent changes occurring for mission (up 13 percentage points), and empowerment (up more than 11 percentage points).

A key question is how these trends are likely to have affected career opportunities. The paper uses statistical analysis on 71 civil service organizations for 2010 to 2018, examining variations across organizations (cross-sectional analysis) and over time (time-series analysis), with both approaches giving similar results. The bar chart below shows results gained by using the former technique. It shows the extent to which 1% changes in different aspects of organizational culture in turn lead to changes in career development, and to learning and development.

Each of the various themes have differing effects on career development prospects and learning and development opportunities (results for the “Positive to change” and “Teams” themes are not given in the above chart as they were not statistically significant).  

It is probably no surprise that a culture stressing pay “adequately reflecting performance” and job being “sufficiently challenging”, as per the self/individual theme, can be positive to career development. However, an outward looking perspective, is almost as important. Furthermore, the theme most positive for career development is commitment to the mission, as shown by a proportional factor of 0.64, given that all other themes have a proportional factor below 0.4.   

Also notable is that improvements to self/family detracted from the career prospects score by a factor of 0.33, though there were signs of a positive connection to learning and development (that specific result was not, however, statistically significant from zero). In other words, a tension between work and family seemed easier for civil service culture to overcome with respect to training activities than for actual career opportunities.

Implications

In the Civil Service during the period considered (2010 to 2018), there has been a noticeable change in key features—in particular, a greater sense of mission, and decentralization of power. That represents a step towards the ethos outlined in Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful”, which aspired to creating ‘lively, autonomous units, each with its own drive and sense of achievement [profiting] from the convenience, humanity and manageability of smallness’.

There are many implications of such a shift in culture for career development, especially since this vision is easier said than done. In moving towards meeting the challenges of the pandemic, morale and productivity among public sector staff will be vital, and without a culture that empowers staff, that maintains their sense of mission, and that provides an outward-looking perspective, prospects for the future of public services in the UK may be bleak.

…………

For the full analysis see the academic paper “Organizational culture and career development in the British civil service” by Neil Reeder, Associate of RedQuadrant. The paper is available at www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09540962.2020.1754576


[1] Cameron and Quinn’s Competing Values Framework; Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions; James Wilson’s analysis of bureaucracy; New Public Management theory; ethnographic research by R.A.W Rhodes and social psychology perspectives described by Jonathan Haidt 

[2] The process here entailed (a) calculating the weighted average score for a given indicator, taking into account the proportion of overall civil service employment at each organization, (b) allocating relevant indicators from the People Survey to relevant themes of organizational culture, (c) calculating the average score among the set of indicators that represent a given theme.

“34 doughnuts”: what the world (well, Twitter), wants to tell the UK government about recovery

Responses to @JACattell tweet re: United Kingdom’s ‘renewal’

Article by RedQuadrant finance lead Joanne Peters, with assistance from Benjamin Taylor and Vinay Débrou.

On 15 April, James Cattell (a pioneer in #oneteamgov) and part of the Systems Unit in the UK Cabinet Office (https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/systems-unit) – posted this tweet: https://twitter.com/jaCattell/status/1250357135428521984

The tweet, which was sent entirely in a personal and unofficial capacity, read:

I work in a central government team that’s helping build a strategy for the United Kingdom’s renewal after we’ve recovered from #coronavirus.
Who should we be listening to?
What questions should we be asking?
Where has this approach (not) worked well before?
Please share!
This received 1,800 retweets, 1,600 likes and over 1,500 replies.

Vinay Débrou (https://vinaydebrou.com/), a member of the PSTA’s learning community, https://www.publicservicetransformation.org/2020/04/the-days-after-a-learning-community-to-build-back-better/, and the Yak Collective (https://www.yakcollective.org/projects/dont-waste-the-covid19-reboot/), volunteered to parse the replies into excel we have been able to do some analysis of the replies. The raw scraped data from this analysis (public data scraped end April and cleaned 10 May) is available here: (https://www.dropbox.com/s/n3iikj0lt8q4gzv/2020-06-02%20Replies%20Data%20to%20JaCattell%20Tweet%20JP%20analysis%20v0.5BT.xlsx?dl=0)

“>at this link (Excel format).

Here are some key points and thoughts from the analysis:

• The most-cited single theory, approach, or recommendation is around Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics (https://www.kateraworth.com/), centred around ‘humanity’s 21st century challenge… to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet’, with a total of 34 references.

• Many of the tweets are from special interest and lobby groups promoting their causes in this context. Not all will be relevant but rather a chance to pressure where a door into Whitehall might be thought to have been opened. Does this indicate that there is not much opportunity for people to have their say and for these groups to get heard at the moment in what is a centrally led response and the focus is on crisis management?

• This along with politically motivated responses and an element of abuse limits the overall analysis.

• There are many links to research, think-pieces, agendas and blogs and it is apparent that so much thinking is already out there or being done at the moment which is relevant to the current situation which can be harnessed. This could be grouped into themes for further research. In particular, Kate Raworth features in the wordcloud with over 20 mentions and also in the analysis of most-liked tweets, suggesting that there is breadth and depth of support for Doughnut Economics as a lens or framework for renewal.

• This Wordcloud analysis of key words with over 20 mentions is useful and emphasises where the sentiment is.

JACattel tweet wordcloud

• ‘People’ has the highest number of mentions followed by ‘listen’ suggesting that there is a call to focus on developing policy and ideas with consultation and involvement of people. ‘Ask’ is also a similar trend.

• ‘Communities’, ‘economy’ and ‘government’ all present equally in the response, interesting as it indicates a balance in perspective and also ties in with the varying theme of a systemic transformation (covering environment, climate, economy, society, finance, business etc.)

• ‘Local’ also features, perhaps reflecting the recognition in local networks that have proved critical in the response so far.

• If the replies which got more than 20 likes are analysed into themes, the overwhelming area of interest and support is sustainability and wellbeing. This has 3 times as many likes compared to the second most popular, ‘listening to people’.

jacattell tweet top issues

There are some key points arising from this:
• There is a strong feeling that people from across society need to be at the heart of the next steps.
• There is broad support for a more sustainable model generally underpinned by economic reform (though the theories and approach vary).
• A focus on interdependencies and transforming the system as a whole, particularly linked back to varying approaches to ‘sustainability’.
Alongside these, ‘listen to people’ and ‘ask for help’ seem to be the key recommendations for renewal.

We will leave it to the reader to determine whether anything from this input in response to an unofficial, personal tweet. made it through to the UK Government’s plan to rebuild, published on 26 May.

What it has been like working through the crisis in local government

A RedQuadrant consultant writes

Lots of different experiences of the current lockdown, even in the same LA! I thought I’d share mine.

Thank God for ICT software being hosted in the cloud. Without this, contact centre staff would probably have had to come in to keep essential services going. With this, the majority of the council can work from home.

We have never been so busy, and this is in an already fast-paced council. From setting up Covid-19 assistance packages in partnership with the voluntary sector, to weekend working. From thousands of new benefit claims to working hard but sensitively on collecting business rates and council tax money owed so people don’t get into avoidable debt. To organising all of the payments of grants to businesses, under a political spotlight. From government directives changing twice daily on the above. From huge local and national political scrutiny on how we are supporting people to stay safe – both colleagues and customers – nothing matters more. Reviewing transformation work and deciding it should all still go ahead, and working hard to meet the timescales. From seeing colleagues’ spare bedrooms, kitchens and children, and cuddly toys from the most unexpected of people! Daily briefings to be delivered early each morning on the impacts on customers and residents. Increased productivity from homeworking. Benefit claims paid on the same day. Contact centre volumes up but answering times down. Everyone pulling together for their council and place. Server and software issues, timelags on video calls between speech and face showing colleagues laughing while you’re delivering bad news.

I honestly can’t think of anything anyone has been asked to do that they have refused. No wondering where someone may be and if they can make your meeting – we are all at home working with shared diaries. Wonderful team working and across services. Job roles, employment status and hierarchies less important than making things happen and removing barriers. Compassion and humanity for bereaved colleagues. Sickness down, annual leave down – all hands on deck.

We have never been so busy.

Building on newfound trust – The future of Adult social care – by Charley Maher

The social care workforce is amazing.  It is responding to the current challenges with passion and selfless dedication.  As hospitals are stretched beyond capacity and every single bed is needed, the social care workers are supporting with rapid discharges whilst ensuring the safety of individuals.  Discharge to assess and hospital social work teams are working constantly to ensure beds are available to support the fight against the Coronavirus. Local authorities are mobilising their social care work force to respond to these challenges and are supported with the changes in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which are intended to enable authorities to prioritise resources.

To enable local authorities to respond to the most urgent and serious cases, most of the duties contained in the Care Act 2014 have been temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, under changes to adult social care which are contained in Schedule 12 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.  Local authorities are already experiencing an increase in demand from vulnerable people and whilst battling the challenges of hospital social work and discharges to support an overwhelmed NHS, councils are being proactive with the early identification of people potentially most at risk and looking to create prevention and early intervention strategies to avoid further crisis.  Many local authorities are using targeted support models and identification tools to help them identify and engage with people to provide information, advice and support.  We can see volunteers, charities and third sector organisations coming together to respond to the crisis; food banks, befriending services, distributing packages, sharing creative ideas to reduce social isolation, etc.  People are uniting to battle the crisis.  Organisations are unifying.  We are trusting one another and relationships between sectors are strengthening.  The third sector are proving, beyond doubt, the massive value they add to the community. 

The extent of the impact of COVID-19 is not limited to the more obvious hospital crisis but extends to the community as peoples’ mental health and the impact of social isolation is being recognised as a major risk to people.  Many councils have identified that, as a result of the restrictions imposed due to COVID-19, there is risk of social isolation for vulnerable people who would normally access community-based support to meet their personal outcomes. It has long been acknowledged that ‘community life, social connections, and having a voice in local decisions are all factors that have a vital contribution to make to health and wellbeing’ (gov.uk) Much work has been undertaken over the years to develop community based support, ensure integration with people who use services and the local community, personalisation and breaking down barriers to those with disabilities, much of which has been halted by this unprecedented challenge. Support plans which have been codesigned with people who use services and include daily use of community resources have been placed on hold due to the new rules around social distancing and only accessing the local community for essential purposes. 

One of my first thoughts was for people with learning disabilities and the often-complex packages of support which blend formal services with community resources. By the very nature of some disabilities, routine and structure are everything.  These suddenly imposed changes to routine support to access the community, participation in social activities and attending volunteering and learning opportunities could be difficult for some people who use services to understand and may result in changes to behaviours. 

Let’s meet Fred.  Fred is 49 years old and lives in a shared living scheme with 3 other people who use services.  One of Fred’s personal outcomes is that he requires support to access community resources for physical exercise and mental stimulation. Once a week he goes to see his parents, both of whom are in their 70s with underlying health conditions.  Fred is currently supported to access the community with 1:1 support due to risks around road safety and a history of behaviours of concern.  The care and support provider receives contact from the local authority who provide information and guidance around community support for shopping, medication, how to stay safe, contact information in the event of an emergency etc.

The implications of COVID-19 mean that Fred can only go out once a day for exercise. He is unable to access cafes or see his parents.  Fred is unsettled and is displaying behaviours of concern which has made accessing the community difficult. Fred is spending more time at home and there are difficulties in his relationships with the other people he lives with as everyone is forced to socialise within the home environment for long periods each day. Fred now requires 2:1 support both in and outside the home. This becomes an urgent and serious case for which social worker support is required; a new assessment due to significant change in need, an increased package of support etc, etc. It is here that we find our new wave of crisis.  Because Fred isn’t alone.  There will be many, many people with complex needs who will struggle to adjust to these sudden changes and severe restrictions to their everyday life.  Social Care is faced with increasing demand due to COVID-19 so how are councils responding to these situations? TRUST!  Providers are contacting social care and reporting these changes in need and workers are trusting their knowledge and insight, they are trusting their existing relationships with people and that they know the individuals and what support is needed. Councils are implementing the changes to the support over the phone, recording the outcomes and trusting the providers to arrange and amend the support package to ensure the wellbeing of individuals.

The ‘lockdown’ rules present a risk of social isolation for many of us and as many of us will indeed struggle with isolation. For those people who require support and services, it would seem, the impact could be far worse.  However, councils are going further, by recognising the impact of social isolation to those people who are not receiving services, the people who are ‘managing’ with the support of family, friends, other informal networks or have very small packages of support.  What happens to their ability to cope when socialising is removed from their daily life? It has long been recognised that social isolation and loneliness is associated with a range of mental and physical health impacts: strokes, heart disease, weakened immune system, increased risk of falls, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety and suicide.

Now we meet April.  April is 78 years old and has been asked to self-isolate.  April would normally go to her local shops daily to buy food and get exercise. April is known in her local community and enjoys speaking to people, many of whom she has known for years.  April has reduced mobility due to osteoarthritis and has a history of falls. She has OT equipment in place to support her around the home such as a perching stool and grab rails.  April uses a walker to access the community. She likes to be as independent as possible and has a stand up wash every day and a minimal package of support for a bath and hair wash once a week.  Family help with cleaning and laundry and April goes to her daughters for a roast dinner every Sunday and to her son’s for dinner every Wednesday.  April visits her local library every Tuesday for a book club and attends a weekly coffee morning at her local church. April’s daughter takes her to church every Sunday.  Since self-isolating, April has lost her routine, her social interactions and has become depressed.  Since losing her opportunity for daily exercise, April is experiencing an increase in joint pain.  April’s community and family have rallied round, and food is delivered. Her family have provided an i-pad so she can video-call family members and see her grandchildren which April says has helped.  However, April’s carer has expressed concerns to the family and council around her mental wellbeing and some signs of self-neglect within the home. The carer describes some decline in April’s mobility, that she seems unsteady on her feet and the carer is worried that April is at an increased risk of falls.  The carer is not sure if April is eating or managing medication and she seems muddled.  The family stated they would be happy to support with personal care and would explore assist technology to support with medication however, they are unable to action this now due to self-isolation.  The council record the risks and agree to implement a daily visit to support April with her personal care and to prompt with medication.

Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, both case studies would likely have required a home visit from adult social care due to the change in need, however we can now see councils responding from a position of trust.  It is fair to say that this trust has come about from a lack of resources and a need for social care to prioritise urgent and severe cases, but the trust is there and it is resulting in quicker and smoother solutions to immediate need.  Moreover, gone are the delays in responding due to waiting lists and a need to prioritise risks.  Gone are the panels and other formal approval processes for funding.  Gone is the, often clunky, assessment and review documentation, which has been reported as a blocker to conversations and timely interventions. In their place we can see conversations between individuals and those who know them best.  We can see communities, volunteers and third sector organisations being trusted to engage and respond with people they know. We can see less demand for statutory services, formal processes and social care interventions.  Which means our skilled social care workforce can continue to respond to urgent needs within hospitals, supporting the NHS in this unprecedented crisis.

For the reasons identified above, it is likely that we will see continue to see significant increases in packages of support and an increase in people requiring support in the community as they lose their informal networks of families, friends and communities. The changes to the Care Act are reported to be in place for up to 2 and a half years, and therefore reviews and assessments are a power rather than a duty. However, reviews and assessments will need to be carried out- a function that was already stretched within adult social care.  So how will councils cope with the increase in demand, in business as usual community reviews and in people who use services? The truth is, we don’t know.  Many councils are not able to consider this as the respond to the current increasing demand. It seems the fitting answer is to build on these new approaches of trusting providers, trusting care agencies and third sectors who have existing relationships with people.  If we can trust them in crisis, can we extend this trust into the future therefore extending and continuing this sense of community and togetherness we see now?  As we utilise the resources and knowledge these organisations and providers have to respond to the crisis, can we see this as a new approach to implement in our services and practice? Can we simplify processes and remove some of the formalities and structures that serve as time consuming and potential blockers to true conversation-based approaches?

It would require training and upskilling of voluntary and third sectors as the Care Act is clear that those undertaking assessments and reviews should be skilled to do so.   It would require ongoing support and joint working.  It would require a unified approach and trust.  But we can already see that it is possible.

Author: Charley Maher, charley.maher@redquadrant.com

Charley is an experienced adult social worker who has developed into a highly effective Change and Transformation Consultant. Charley has experience of organisational change, while supporting Operational Managers to improve the quality of practice. Her most recent project involved helping a local authority design a new pathway for adult social care that incorporated third sector and voluntary organisations.

Time to wake up, listen and delegate to your people

Its day 8 of self-isolation and its starting to hit home how hard this will be; coughing child seems to be recovering energy and appetite but the number of stories of friends of friends on ventilators growing by the day and my parents and Rachel’s in isolation and its hard.

It’s totally clear we are not alone in any of this.  The families feel in a pressure cooker, the singles feel lonely and the new couples now locked in together are about the hit the fast forward button on their relationships.

RedQuadrant has been pretty good.

Perhaps because we are used to working remotely, working to crazy deadlines and in high stress situations, Fraggle rock is a familiar place to us.  However, not everyone is so lucky and I have had a few accounts from friends and relations of people crying through exhaustion, fear and frustration on work video conference calls.

The technology will be a life saver in all this; but it’s also a danger.  It can dis-inhibit very bad behaviours including micro-management.  When we meet face to face a basic human mechanism kicks in and we start to register the emotional state of the people around us; it’s hard wired into us to do this.  Working remotely massively reduces our ability to do this as does stress.  Not being in the same room as your team can make you less included to trust they are doing their jobs.

I am also seeing many new websites being set up without anything substantive behind them; it feels like magical thinking by senior leaders to imagine new websites can save us without people behind them.  Perhaps it’s just easier than large scale engagement and delegation.

That may sound a bit luddite; it’s not.  I’m saying that technology acts as a force multiplier.  It can help deliver good ideas and help bring people together and help people do more.  But, without the good ideas and good people and delegated authority there is no force to multiply.

So if you are a leader I think it’s time to wake up, listen and trust your people enough to empower them.

You can get in touch with me to discuss via RedQuadrant at gerald.power@redquadrant.com or DM me on twitter @geraldpower happy to chat and share

It’s not about the IT it’s about exploiting the social capital

Having spent weeks setting up a community volunteer network I didn’t think I might be one of the first to use it.  But, our daughter got a headache and temperature on Sunday morning so now its home school, sick child and self-isolation for fourteen days of comfortable – if fractious and nervous- confinement.

That won’t be the case for many other people without money, food or social capital.  The people I see down the soup kitchen, or who rely on the local food bank, who for a multitude of reasons are struggling in normal times will rapidly find the situation much bleaker than mine.  Some will literally be on the streets as it has upset their mental health to the point they can no longer cope. Many of them will be going to their council for support, now or very soon.

Its undeniable part of this will be about resources and technology.  I have heard many clients saying how utterly relieved they are that they had rolled out home working before covid hit or at least had enough to allow them to work now.  However, it’s also obvious that the tools alone won’t fix this and there is a need for intelligence and insight.

Having a litre of milk arrive on the doorstep 20 min after a whatsapp request yesterday certainly make me feel better.  There are no online delivery slots in my area.  Having two bags of shopping arrive this lunchtime courtesy of a neighbour made me really realise how much this will be about ‘localism’ and local grassroots networks.

Yes we will be using tech, but it’s not really about the tech.  It’s about people, relationships and solving problems.  If local government can tap into this massive bank of social capital the road ahead will be much easier to navigate. Now is also the time to act.  The sun is shining and it feels very odd.  That reminds me of the phone footage of the Boxing Day Tsunami.  When the sea disappeared many tourists wandered down the beach to look at the funny fish; they should have considered why and what was coming next and headed for the high ground.

You can get in touch with me to discuss via RedQuadrant at gerald.power@redquadrant.com or DM me on twitter @geraldpower happy to chat and share

Covid response – It’s change but not as we know it

Its feels a bit star trek this week in supporting Local Government ‘Its life Jim, but not as we know it’. There is also a great Spock/ Kirk bromance meme going around regarding self-isolation. 

That feels pretty much where I am with clients, the priority services are still the priority services, the opportunities for channel shift are still the same and the need to manage more demand to self-service is still a priority.   Its change Jim, but not as we know it.  Now it’s far more urgent.

Within days or weeks Councils are going to have to cope with far fewer personnel and potentially big rises in demand for support and information.  Given that most of what a council does in terms of customer contact is not safety critical it should be possible to brigade resources to make sure that those in most need do get support.  Also that councils support the pandemic response looking after key workers and their kids.  The big challenge is going to be driving down all non-essential demand and moving resources to generate enough head space to make this possible. 

Having worked on the Swine Flu response in Cabinet Office I know what went on behind the scenes to muster vast capacity to do screening and prescription of Tamiflu online and by phone (remember that!) and stop GPs and A&E being overwhelmed and it worked albeit with a less deadly virus.  It was complex and it was really hard work and doing really quickly created a lot of challenges, but it was done successfully.  Perhaps because thing didn’t collapse people don’t remember it so much!

Anyway that’s what I’m working on this weekend for a large LA with my colleagues, how to re-work a contact and delivery model in a few weeks to give them the headroom to cope.  Feeling like 30% data and tech and 70% rapid change and communication. 

I just hope I can work out my own strategy on child care and looking after my parents and in-laws who are in self-isolation between now and Monday. 

If you need help on these issues contact me via RedQuadrant at gerald.power@redquadrant.com or DM me on twitter @geraldpower happy to chat and share

Introducing IT portfolio management

The central IT team at a large Government Department was aware that across the complex organisation many departments had the budget to launch their own local IT projects, which often duplicated or conflicted with other such projects.

The need was for a central way of knowing about and influencing the large number of such projects being started and underway, and they decided to implement an IT Portfolio Management process, to give them visibility and control over this group of projects.

They called in a large Consultancy, and I was appointed to develop the new Portfolio Management business process and tools, whilst colleagues built a spreadsheet showing all the currently under-way IT projects, and some planned future ones. This list showed clearly the duplicate or unnecessary projects already underway locally and was a revelation to the central IT team, so they began to highlight the duplications to the relevant department and function heads, in the hope of combining or stopping some of the wasteful projects.

Once the Portfolio Management process was developed and authorised, I then implemented it within a large function within the organisation as a pilot to test and refine the process, and to help spread the message about the need for the central IT team to be fully involved in the planning, prioritisation and approval of any new project.

The pilot went well and proved the value of the new process and re-enforced the key oversight and control role of the central IT function. The process was then rolled out to the rest of the organisation in a phased manner, which helped the overall IT function to develop towards being a world class function.

John Bridges
Consultant at RedQuadrant

If you are interested in finding out more about the work experience of consultants in our network reach out to consultantnetworkteam@redquadrant.com

Recognising ‘the script’

In business the one thing we rely on most is people, whether it’s staff, colleagues, stakeholders or clients. If they are stressed, fed up, feeling overwhelmed or unable to speak up it’s incredibly hard to engage them in change.

Whilst delivering workshops one thing has become abundantly clear to me. Everyone has a negative voice in their heads. It is never true. And it affects every area of your life, including work.

Whether it’s limiting beliefs about how much you can achieve, nervousness at selling yourself in interviews, feeling unable to challenge others or finding negative stakeholders difficult to handle, what I’ve come to realise it’s rarely the situation that causes the angst. It’s always that nagging voice!
If you’ve ever heard these responses to a new initiative – “Things will never change”, “Yes but…”, “It’ll never work”- then you’ll know exactly what I mean!

We call this ‘the script’ because it contains information gathered throughout life and when we listen to it it’s like we’re reading from a script rather than choosing how we would like to think, feel and act.

By learning to recognise the script we are able to see situations more clearly, choose better responses, and stop holding ourselves back.

In the workplace this can look like not feeling hurt by a colleague’s grumpy response, putting ourselves forward for an opportunity, enjoying our work, increased resilience, taking part in workplace initiatives, giving support to colleagues and being more open to change.

Even by teaching these concepts to one or two staff members I have seen the ripple effect as their renewed sense of purpose rubs off on others. Also, having common terminology makes communication easier. I’ve heard people say, “the script is saying…” which is much easier to say than “I’m feeling…”.

So, as you go about the rest of your day, see if you can recognise the script in any of your internal chatter and ask yourself, “Is that true? Would I choose that?” And be aware that those around you might be getting a hard time from the script too.

Kathryn Reay RedQuadrant Consultant