Posted tagged ‘development’

Use the staff-Force

June 22, 2012

What better way to end a week of posts reflecting on the wider context for local government than to reflect on the local government workforce?  Well, we couldn’t think of anything either, so here goes.

Like many service industries, and indeed like most organisations in existence, local government is almost entirely dependent on the quality of the people who work for it.  Whilst it is not universally the case, generally those councils who contain and retain the best staff deliver the best services, and the converse is just as true.  This poses the sector a number of inter-related challenges.

Firstly, the local government workforce is getting older and local government has struggled to attract and retain the calibre of new recruits to leave people confident in the future of the industry.  On the one hand this has resulted in staff who are increasingly experienced in their field, but of course holds the danger of a potential lack of innovative new ideas coming from people new to the sector.

A key point of ingress for these newcomers has for the last few years been through the NGDP programme.  However, it has become clear that this excellent stream of talent appears to have been dammed, with fewer councils taking on graduates as well as investing in their training and development.  This short term quest to save a few pennies promises to cost many, many pounds in the future.

Secondly, whilst local government staff are not, relatively speaking, badly paid the recent attacks on the pay and conditions of council workers has damaged morale and has the potential to put people off joining the sector. (more…)

So you’re having a project?

June 8, 2012

So you’ve found out you are expecting your first project – congratulations!

Bringing a new project into the world is not something that everyone gets the chance to do, and most who do have fears and worries about how it will turn out. Will I make a mistake? What will others think of it? And how will it affect my relationships with others?

All of this is entirely natural and to be expected. Initiating, developing, delivering and evaluating a project is a complex process, although if you spend some time thinking it through in advance and reacting as it grows you will find that complex needn’t mean it becomes complicated.

There are a thousand books out there advising how you should go about nurturing and growing your project to ensure it is all it can be, and that you too have grown as a result of your experiences. Rather than repeat this advice in its entirety, here are some of the things any project parent should consider.

Project conception

Here’s a fact that few talk about: Conception is not always straightforward. You might look around you at others who seemingly show off their bouncing new project ideas every other week, appearing to have no difficulties whilst you struggle and over think your way to a stand still.

Project ideas sometimes appear out of thin air, but more often than not they are the result of serious preparation and planning. Bringing the right people into the room is the first place to start, as it often takes more than one person to conceive.

These groups should plan out how they can take the tiny sparks of projects which exist in every one of us, bring them all out and stir them around a bit before seeing which (if any) will take hold and grow into an embryonic project. At this point more is better, as there will be a significant rate of non-growth for reasons outside of your control: if you are hoping to conceive then keep throwing your sparks out there and mixing them up as often as possible with as many other people as you can and sooner or later one of them will bear fruit.

Incubation (more…)

Revolution/Evolution (delete as applicable)

February 28, 2012

Surely evolution is less painful?

Many moons ago we ran a post which began with the immortal words “‘Never throw away your old drain-pipes”.  these words rang loud and clear in my mind recently when I sat in on a workshop/meeting looking at how my local authority would reshape some of its central functions.  With changing times, less money and a different political environment it was felt that the time was ripe to begin to reassess the way in which the council organises itself behind the scenes.

The last time they attempted such a process was back in the days when LAAs (Local Area Agreements for our younger readers) were the order of the day and LSPs (Local Strategic Partnerships) were springing up all over the place.  A suitable arrangement of all of the various forums, groups and organisations (not to mention the more dominant personalities) was made, and they spent the next half a decade or so delivering their workplans, albeit at a diminishing rate of returns.

Sitting around the table I found myself on I discovered I was joined by many of the people who were around in those days, and indeed who helped to set up those very structures now up for discussion.  They were wonderfully frank in their assessments, sharing that they thought at the time they had got things right but now saw the errors of their ways; this time they were sure they knew what went wrong, and had come up with a foolproof plan to guide structures for the next six or seven years.

None of them saw the irony embedded within their words and plans.

Whilst I wasn’t personally around for previous discussions all that time ago, I feel confident that there were similar people sitting around a similar table, all saying that they were actually pleased that the policy framework was shifting as it allowed them to address the failings in the even older system, and that now they knew exactly how things should be done.  It’s very much like a local government version of an infinite fractal loop. (more…)


February 23, 2011

Just waiting for the arrival of the 9:22 train

I was once invited to speak at a local government conference; I’d been doing some interesting work and someone somewhere thought I might be the perfect person to speak in workshop number 7 at some wonderfully specific conference.

I was absolutely thrilled and preceded to annoy my wife, my colleagues, my pets and even my car stereo by alternating between boasting and practising for my big moment.

Little did I know how monumentally insignificant my big moment would be.

You see, conferences in local government are a very odd thing. People from across the country cough up £100 or so (well their council’s do) and trek half way across the country to hear from ‘experts’ in the field about what it’s happening in their little part of the sector.

These conferences always seem to follow the same pattern: