Posted tagged ‘transformation’

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:

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Job Evaluation

June 22, 2011

Jokes about Reindeers are not as funny in June

It’s a guest post day on WLLG. Today’s poster tackles an area of local government that few dare to tread but is becoming increasingly important; the job evaluation process. If you have a post you’d like to add to the blog please drop us a line at welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com but not before you’ve read this excellent post:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that equal pay is a good thing. But pay cuts in the name of equal pay aren’t readily accepted.

Enter the quandary of Job Evaluation.

The 2004 Local Government pay agreement obliged all councils to carry out JE. Roles are assessed and graded on factors including knowledge, mental skills, physical/mental/emotional demands and working conditions.

Some roles stay on existing spinal column points; some increase and some – inevitably –go down. Same is fine, up welcome, but a reduction in scale points, particularly for the low-paid and those at the top of their scale, can cause serious upset.

The mantra of JE is that roles are evaluated, not people. This is a hard fact for those potentially facing a drop in pay, with related effects on salary progression and pensions. While pay protection is usually offered, ranging from months to years, an adverse JE outcome can be a serious blow to individuals’ finances and wellbeing.

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Transformation through restructure

May 17, 2011

How many staff will fall?

May is here and many local authorities will have just gone through the first of what is sure to be a number of major restructures to take place over the next three or four years.

At the end of it almost 140,000 local government jobs that once existed no longer exist and a large number of local government employees find themselves redundant and forcibly retired.

However, there are many ways to skin a cat and this set of restructures has demonstrated significantly different approaches from different councils.

In fear of generalising (but doing it anyway) broadly speaking there were two approaches:

1)      The ‘protect our staff’ model

In this model every effort is made by the local authority to find their staff a job. Although the new service structures and job descriptions will be significantly different to what was being done by the current staff lower thresholds will be set to ensure staff are able to transition into the new structure.

Under this model there is no attempt to ensure the removal of ‘deadwood’, by which we mean staff that are not performing up to the level they should be. Nor is there any effort to bring new blood into the organisation through the creation of new posts. The primary aim is to limit, at all costs, the number of redundancies.

In one example I heard about the primary determinant of whether or not a member of staff would receive a job in the new structure was their salary. So, if you were ‘overpaid’ in the old structure that would continue and if you were ‘underpaid’ then tough. This disadvantages those on short term secondments or who are acting up into managerial roles (who tend to be newer in the organisation and keener to get on) and advantaged those who’d got high salaries by dint of spending a long time in the organisation.

This model reassures staff in the organisation during the transition and keeps as many people as possible in post. It assumes that the authority has consistently worked to develop talent and performance managed those staff who are not performing up to standard and that development programmes are in place for all staff going forward.

2)      The ‘we’ll design a structure and then try to get the best staff we can model’

In this model the council designs a structure that they feel will meet the authority’s needs going forward. All staff are told they are at risk of redundancy and have to apply for the jobs in the new structure. If the staff are good enough for the new roles they are appointed but if not the council is comfortable about going out to external recruitment.

In this model ‘deadwood’ is definitely gone and ‘slightly ok wood’ have to prove their worth in interviews.

I know of one council where a team of 15 was reduced to 10 and yet only 7 of them got a job with three posts being advertised externally.

The disadvantages of this model are that it is expensive; making a lot of people redundant is very costly, as is recruitment. It is also very destabilising for the local authority; staff feel under threat for most of the consultation period and subsequently you need to bed in a whole load of new employees.

It is also largely a one off trick; if the local authority has to do it too often then it is evidence of them failing in many other ways.

I don’t know which model is best but here’s my guess:

In one or two year’s time the authorities in model 2 will be far better off than those in model 1. Carrying staff who aren’t quite up to it might seem like a sensible option in the midst of a horrible series of redundancies but long term having exactly the right staff in post can only be of benefit to the authority and local people.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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.

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Takings things too far

November 13, 2010

My Council (as in the one I work for) are keen that we take the concept of visual management more seriously. The nifty slogan we are working by is: ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’.

Yesterday morning I wondered downstairs to talk to a colleague and spotted this:

What exactly is writing equipment?

Writing Equipment??? Really???

Surely, ‘pens’ would have sufficed?

And don’t you just love the fact that post-it notes have their own section!

It gave me a small smile which helped to pass a tough day