Posted tagged ‘change’

It’s the people stupid

May 28, 2012

Are they truly smiling or just complying?

How many times have we heard the spiel from a consultant or a new Chief Executive promising us that a new structure, new way of working, new computer system or new approach to reviewing the local authority will deliver the savings or improved service we need?

The answer of course is many many times.

As regular readers of this blog will know we are generally fairly sympathetic to this approach. Too often local government is trapped in the belief that we should just continue to do things the way we always have and there is a lot to learn by considering problems from a different point of view or by applying sensibly thought through management tools and techniques. At the same time we get trapped in our management silos and forget that the main aim of the work we do is to serve our customers.

Indeed, sometimes the change is useful even if it is not perfectly designed as just the act of changing things can be beneficial.

However, over the past few months I have been reflecting on the changes we’ve tried to make in our local authority and the one deciding factor in each case of success, and indeed each of failure, has been the people involved. Perhaps, the hardcore systems thinkers amongst you will be shouting at this screen that if that is the case then we’ve obviously chosen the wrong solution to implement or simply not done it properly. My observation is based on nothing but anecdotal evidence but to me it seems that the people involved, especially at management level, are just as important, if not more so.

This should not be a surprise really. We all know who the really good people are in local government and have a pretty good idea who the poor ones are too. However, what was a surprise was how absolutely the staff involved influenced the success or otherwise of the work.

This has a few different elements:

(more…)

Prince Harry (Otherwise known as PRINCE 2)

March 23, 2011

An improvement over PRINCE 1 (William)?

One of my welovelocalgovernment colleagues put up a blinding piece about stifling creativity in local government. Unfortunately, the areas he was criticising are nearly all areas I work in. Develop a pro-forma? Check. Created a Steering Group? Check. Filled in timesheets? Check. Introduce Project Management software? Half-check. Been on PRINCE 2 training? Aha, success! One piece of creativity destruction that I have managed to avoid!

But, if I’m honest this simply isn’t success on my behalf.

I’ve never been on PRINCE 2 training because my authority wouldn’t pay for it; I wanted to go but just wasn’t allowed.

To use my colleague’s framework; I wanted to stifle my creativity but wasn’t allowed to reach my full stifling potential.

So, assuming that the central argument was more or less correct, why was I so keen to go on this piece of training and develop the PRINCE 2 skills?

(It is probably worth explaining here that PRINCE 2 is a methodology for managing projects. It stands for Projects in Controlled Environments and was specifically designed for use in the public sector. It is widely used throughout local authorities in the UK)

A simple argument would be that I wanted to make myself more employable. That is part of it but I think that probably misses the central point of why it would make me more employable:

I wanted to be PRINCE 2 qualified because everyone else in local government was getting the qualification and everyone is using it. PRINCE 2 has become ubiquitous across local government and those without it are, in many roles, often seen as behind the times.

In one of my previous authorities you couldn’t move without running up against someone who was PRINCE 2 qualified. From the admin assistants to those who put together Government bids to people managing small projects in the council to scrutiny officers (who ‘managed’ scrutiny reviews) to those building whole schools the one thing that united them was a PRINCE 2 qualification.

Some authorities sent their whole management team on courses (anywhere between £750 and £2,000 per person) and declared boldly that they were ‘PRINCE 2’ authorities and were going to run their management teams with just exception reporting, Gantt charts, well kept risk registers and updated PiDs. (if this is verbal garbage then I can only apologise: Google is probably the answer)

So why PRINCE 2?

(more…)

Locally social

January 25, 2011

If Bob Hoskins thinks it's good to talk, that's good enough for me

Last week I took part in the #lgovsm tweet up.  For those of you who haven’t had a look, it sees anyone interested in how social media can be better used in a local government setting all logging on to Twitter at the same time and talking about a central topic.  By adding the #lgovsm hashtag they can all then track the same conversation and respond to each other.  @loulouk started this a while ago and it’s sparked many a fantastic debate.

Social media is a topic close to my heart.  Communication is an area that has always fascinated me, ever since I realised that with a tonal change, a shrug of the shoulders or simply a….. pause, the entire meaning of words can shift and change.  Growing up in a world getting to grips with IT meant that it was inevitable that these fascinations should merge, so with venn diagrams all over the place I find myself in the enviable position of ‘doing’ some social media as part of my job.

The funny thing is, I don’t get it personally.  I don’t want to tell people meaningless snippets of information, nor do I want to always share my opinions on a given topic (understanding as I do the near permanence of anything published on the web).  But for local government, for me the possibilities seem endless. (more…)