Posted tagged ‘consultants’

Inside out

September 22, 2011

How far on the journey are we?

When I was much younger I spent a wonderful autumn making some extra money through conkers.  It wasn’t big business, but having a conker tree in the back garden meant I had a steady supply when many of my friends didn’t, so I swapped enough money for the odd trip to the tuck shop for some un-treated conkers of varying sizes.  My friends could have gone and got some conkers themselves, or perhaps sourced an external supplier from another school, but my services were cost effective and efficient, I offered a guaranteed service and at the end of the day I shared my sweets with them, so everyone was a winner.

This delve into history came to mind today when I read news that Birmingham City Council’s legal services team have secured a major contract to supply 70 health trusts legal support at a cost of £8.8m.  This has precipitated the development of two brand new divisions – LSB Law and LSB Law Conferencing – which will deliver this work and the training to complement it, a huge task in anyone’s estimation.

To my admittedly limited knowledge, this has to be one of the biggest examples this country has ever seen of a public sector service offered by one Council being sold to other public sector agencies.  I have experience of internal consultancies, many of which prove very successful.  Where a specialism exists which one single team has developed and which other teams need, it is not unusual for that team to charge a modest fee to make use of this service.  Design, communications, consultation, audit, legal advice, training, research, print; all these and more are made use of in the internal marketplace (which we looked at ourselves some time ago). (more…)

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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?

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Here come the in-sultants

March 8, 2011

A good logo that sort of matches the story...

When I first started in local government one of my major bug bears was the fact that there were so many consultants operating within my council. It seemed that at the time every single council department had a consultant or two reviewing, implementing or otherwise prognosticating about the performance of one service or another.

My argument at the time was that if the council staff were good enough to do the job they were surely good enough to spend some time reviewing the service, if not of their own service (they might be too close to it) then certainly that of one of the other services in the council.

Flash forward a few (non-specified amount of) years and the craze seems to have caught on. Local authorities are falling over themselves to set up central teams of internal consultants made up of enthusiastic staff who are willing to take a short secondment into a separate team to ‘transform’ the council.

For ease of expression I describe these staff as in-sultants.

(more…)