The power+systems model in action: Bristol City Council

Public sector consultancy and PSTA delivery partner RedQuadrant shares a case study in service transformation

You may know Barry Oshry’s power+systems insight into organisations – the way tops, middles and bottoms predictably behave?

The tops hold a lot of the responsibility in organisations and make the strategic decisions, but they don’t necessarily know what is happening on the ground; here, the bottoms are trying to do their job but have decisions and orders passed down to them. Meanwhile, the middles are juggling the wishes of the bottoms whilst attempting to please the tops above them with good results.

I saw this theory coming to life in our work at Bristol City Council. For four months, we worked with 60 senior practitioners – working on the front line (though often managing others), the so-called bottoms. Then, on review day, we brought the bottoms, middles and tops together in one room for a whole day. When we initially started working with this group, a lot of them felt overworked, unsupported, powerless – very typical experiences of the space. The group that was now sitting in the room was completely different. They felt empowered, united and optimistic about the future. This came about through our development work with them, through a real commitment of their managers, and from just bringing them together as a team.

The last piece of the puzzle was creating a conversation between the different levels – a ‘time out of time’. By letting the team listen to each other’s feelings – not stories or examples, but real experiences – we created an understanding of how it felt to work at each level, what problems they were handling, and how that made them feel. We created a safe environment where people could talk honestly, and people were in a position not to judge but to listen. This resulted in a room full of neither tops, bottoms or middles, but instead a room full of people who were all working together to make Bristol a better place.

If you would like to discuss the above project or any similar opportunities, then please contact Hedwig de Jong at


HM Courts & Tribunals Service, customer directorate planning and delivery support

Public sector consultancy and PSTA delivery partner RedQuadrant shares a case study in service transformation

The justice reform programme is one of the largest public sector transformation programmes in the UK.  It involves profound changes to how justice is delivered and involves approximately £1billion of investment in change on the basis of major future savings.   The programme will involve a halving of the number of courts in the UK and consolidation of telephony and case processing from local centres to large regional centres.  The aim is an administrative system that is more efficient and effective for all stakeholders and which fully exploits modern digital technologies.

In late 2016 RedQuadrant was invited to provide specialist customer insight support to the programme in identifying opportunities for the successful digital transformation of the justice system.  Later RedQuadrant was appointed, after a competitive tender, to provide a package of support to the newly formed Customer Directorate team.  This included developing an operating model for this new team and a delivery model for implementing customer driven delivery within HMCTS overall.

In addition, RedQuadrant team helped the Customer Directorate prioritise its tasks and develop a team vision and work plan.  RedQuadrant then went on to provide support to the Customer Directorate in establishing a new Key Performance Indicator (KPI) set for HMCTS as a whole.

This project called on a wide range of skills in a fast-moving environment including business analysis, stakeholder engagement, communication planning, skills transfer and team development.

Streamlined Leadership Programme: Metropolitan Police Service

Public sector consultancy and PSTA delivery partner RedQuadrant shares a case study in service transformation


The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) commonly known as the Met is London’s police service: the biggest in the UK and the largest city force in the European Union, ensuring the safety and security of a thriving political, economic, cultural and technological capital. London is a global city with an ever-changing population that is expected to reach 9 million by 2020.

Alongside policing a geographical area of 620 square miles across 32 boroughs, and 140 police stations, the Met has a significant number of officers and staff in specialist crime, investigations and operations. The Met has responsibility for protection in royal, diplomatic and parliamentary matters and is a significant presence in the national response to serious and organised crime.

The Met has 31,075 police officers – around 25% of the England and Wales total, policing 14.6% of the England and Wales population and dealing with 20.6% of all crime. The Met continues to become more efficient through a significant change programme which has to-date delivered £573m in savings. An additional £423m in savings are to be made by 2021.

It was as part of this change programme that RedQuadrant were invited to work with the Internal Design Delivery team (managed for the Met by their strategic partners Deloitte’s). Our role was specifically in relation to the Streamlined Leadership Programme, focused on delayering of the Chief Inspector rank within the MPS.

Our team brought expertise in areas of change, design, leadership, process facilitation and engagement. We each worked directly with a number of the 22 or so operational command units, and supported at business group level each team of in-house change leads. The objective was to support them in providing 3 options for chief officers to select a preferred design for further high level work and presentation to the Management Board. The next stage of the programme would be then shaped by the decision of the incoming new Commissioner.

An outline design approach and principles were to be delivered, with activities adapted to support local context and interdependent changes. We worked with each unit to facilitate 3 workshops addressing successive design reviews and analysis. The units examined roles and responsibilities, skills and organizational impact and, finally, enablers to move towards a delayered organisation.

The challenge

One of the main challenges was the breadth and complexity of the organisation; not only the day to day policing units but the numerous specialist units operating both overtly and covertly for example the Protection Command Unit (Royal and Diplomatic protection), the Firearms Command Unit and the Homicide Unit all meeting the complex and diverse needs of a city with a population of over 8 million people.

Further challenges were cultural in addressing a flatter organisational structure and effectively losing a rank which held significant experience and skills.  The whole organisation is implementing waves of change driven by national policy and legislation, pressures from the public, new threats, technological changes, and public spending constraints. The ‘bottom-up’ approach to delayering (tasking teams including those in affected rank and role to initiate the design review work) intended to secure active engagement but also meant most people had no direct experience or knowhow in relation to the task.

What we did differently / innovations in our work

Sarah Johnston led this project which involved the RedQuadrant team working with the OCUs on a facilitated face to face format as well as supporting them via e mail and phone. The sessions focused on the efficiency and effectiveness of the units and followed a prescribed pattern of vision and objectives.

We assisted the Met with their vision of reform and rank structure to empower staff, increase trust, improve decision making and reduce bureaucracy. This presented several challenges and our flexibility and understanding of their needs was critical to the programme’s success.

We applied the design principles set by the Met to assure and test our joint activity:

  • Lean structures
    • Aim to improve spans of control and increase supervisory ratios
    • Take account of College of Policing and Police Performance Framework
    • View statutory requirements associated to rank
    • Consider pan-MPS responsibilities and risk
    • Not design significant increases at Superintendent rank
  • Increased empowerment and improved decision making
    • Allocate tasks to the appropriate role in the organisation
    • Enable decisions to be taken at the most appropriate level
    • Streamline the number of steps in approvals process
    • Create an accessible leadership group
  • Reduced demand
    • Take opportunities to reduce demand to support a streamlined view
    • Identify none value add activities
    • Align ways of working with business groups across London
  • Measurable benefits
    • Keep measurable against programme objectives
    • Develop an organisation design for each business group
    • Remove Chief Inspector roles from MPS by summer 2018

The outcomes

Key outcomes were:

  • Each of the 22 OCUs were able to put forward an appropriate number of options for streamlining their areas of business
  • There was a close examination of a wide range of processes in key areas
  • A co-creative approach in working with the MPS meant that challenges were made, trust and openness built, and tough questions addressed
  • The enablers required to implement delayering successfully were fully identified and closely reviewed during the QA stage – informing the on-going change programme
  • Implementation of next steps, new structures, inter-linked changes in other aspects of the organisation will now be more cohesive
  • Our work and the team’s outputs enabled the MPS to take a close scrutiny on risk and resilience and supported top level decision making
  • Workload management issues were looked at (though not directly in scope) – along with a wide range of hard and soft systems, processes, skills, policies, etc.

Added value

  • Coaching relationships developed with a number of change leads with RedQuadrant associates providing guidance, support and challenge to help certain individuals and groups build their resilience
  • Skills were transferred to internal change and business leads as part of the project
  • RedQuadrant worked closely with Deloitte to refine guidance, etc
  • RedQuadrant shared some of our extensive knowledge and experience of demand management

The way forward

RedQuadrant have identified a number of positive ways forward to support and strengthen the new structure and introduce enablers:

  • Consulting on design, development and implementation of the delayered organisation – ensuring cultural, systemic and performance challenges are supported
  • Change team coaching – supporting the on-going direct ownership and involvement of change leads and restructuring/reforming units
  • Developing the ‘future Inspector’ as a key role ensuring sufficient uplift in strategic leadership. We have in the past for another force provided career coaching around the introduction of A9 using a model we have developed (for both those staying and moving on)
  • Targeting other ranks to ensure that broad leadership development and the positive outcomes from flatter structures can be realised
  • Enabling the whole organisation to influence stakeholders who will need to adjust to the new structural shape
  • Review the principles and processes adopted and propose improvements in specific areas with promising client leads – e.g. in the professionalism area, (HR, training, championing standards), and with empowered team leadership for modernised operations aligned with new hubs and localities.
  • Support and challenge around demand management


Disability services: Metropolitan Borough of Dudley Council (2016-present)

Public sector consultancy and PSTA delivery partner RedQuadrant shares a case study in service transformation

We carried out an opportunity assessment across Dudley council’s adult social care directorate annual spend (£110 million) with the aim of identifying potential efficiencies.

We prioritised areas of spend identified through a resources diagnostic and a cultural audit with staff. We developed eight business cases including a greater focus on outcomes within the assessment process and reviews of care packages, revised approach to NHS continuing healthcare and section 117s and investment in targeted prevention services. We ran a series of eight cultural workshops in different localities with staff across the Dudley region and identified current values, beliefs and behaviours and the priority areas to work on. By engaging teams, we were able to recommend a series of workforce development interventions that were designed to improve skills and kick start cultural change.

We are currently project managing the implementation of an all-age disability service for Dudley as well as developing strategies in relation to autism, physical disabilities and employment for people with disabilities. We are also supporting the council in the implementation of the local Multi-Speciality Community Provider programme.

We provided a clear plan to achieve a balanced adult social care budget 2017-20 based on business plans for securing annualised savings of £5 million (which is currently being delivered ahead of schedule with a projected underspend in 2017/18)


#218, #224, #agile, #disability-service, #performance-management, #social-care, #transformation

Service transformation in social care: The London Borough of Bexley (2016-present)

Public sector consultancy and PSTA delivery partner RedQuadrant shares a case study in service transformation

As Bexley’s social care transformation partner, we have reviewed business and savings plans across £60 million of annual spend with the aim of identifying potential efficiency opportunities.

Projects have focused on improving contract management, devising and implementing revised transition pathway and rapid response service. We have used an agile methodology to help the council implement new approaches to outcome-based assessments and reviews of packages for working age adults.

We have provided challenge and support to the staff both modelling good practice and reviewing current practice within the service and to lead the re-design process. So far, we have:

  • Reviewed business and savings plans across £60 million annual spend in order to identify potential efficiency opportunities (10% savings identified and required policy changes now implemented)
  • Reviewed performance management of contracts and helped to implement a new approach including incentivisation of providers to reduce care costs
  • Devised and implemented a revised transition pathway with substantial policy and practice changes in relation to triage, joint working and joint care planning
  • Devised and implemented a revised rapid response and discharge to assess service in order to maximise effective use of resources and minimise DToCs
  • Reviewed arrangements for single point of access

#socialcare #transformation #agile #performancemanagement

#performance-management, #social-care

The Great Leap Forward

A blog post from RedQuadrant’s digital government lead Gerald Power

I had an interesting couple of meetings this week with a delegation from the Chinese Government. It also allowed me to listen in on a presentation from Matthew Cain of Hackney on their excellent digital work in a borough that has both the ‘silicone roundabout’ and some serious challenges with deprivation. It was a group of officials from the Chinese equivalent of local government wanting to learn about transformation and digital service delivery in the UK. I hope that I was able to give some insights into the journey the UK has taken from the turn of the millennium cool Britannia ‘e-is good’, when people thought posting a pdf. was an e-service, through to the age of smartphone service delivery and musing on ‘govtech’, ‘fintech’ and block chain.

However, a lot of the learning was on my part as I considered would it all have worked better if we had been able to take a strict top down centralised approach as the Chinese can.

No division between local government layers, no pandering to free markets and the ability to apply strict central control. Would that have made things much easier?

Having spent several years in Cabinet Office trying to herd the big fat cats of central departments and more varied cats of local government on digital transformation; being able to ‘tell’ people what to do was something that was initially very appealing.

It might have been possible to standardise much more of what local government does on line and offer much more in terms of common transactional platforms rather than issuing guides to best practice and a few digital building blocks from We might dispense with the slightly Alice in Wonderland process of 4G and 5G licence auctions and the strange way we fund our fibre backbone. God forbid we might join things up across layers of government!

However, by the end of the two days I came to believe that it was this kind of ‘telling’ people how to do digital – and in particular politicians telling people about technology and technologists telling people about user experience- that caused some of our biggest digital failures.

Not because of what the Chinese delegates said, my Mandarin is not exactly fluent and they were asking not telling, it was more about me describing our success and failure to them. I had lots of time to think about what I had said as it was translated. Talking about failed or troubled high profile programmes like the National Programme for IT in the NHS and the currently struggling Universal Credit. And talking about really effective services like online tax self-assessment, car tax and driving licences, that sort of sneaked the ball into the back of the net with little fanfare. Talking about the diversity of transformation in Health and Local Government.

It all made me think of my experience of big centrally and politically driven projects and how often they go wrong. If you ‘tell’ someone how to do digital transformation you had better really know how to do it and be able to communicate and manage that change at a really detailed level. Similarly if you let a huge project to industry you really do need to understand what you and they are doing. Because if you can’t you create a lot of momentum with very little control of direction or sense of ownership and that is very dangerous.
In reality transformative change is messy, dirty, complicated, amazing, satisfying and can only really be evaluated as a success by those using and delivering the services. The more cutting-edge, the more you have to learn as you go and the less well a rigid top down approach works. Standards, visions and five year plans are great to help guide transformative change, but ultimately you need intelligent, passionate and empowered people testing and learning. Like the coders in Hackney literally going into the street to watch applications being used by residents.

So my conclusion was that there is no easy answer to digital transformation, we just have to embrace the complexity learn to love learning and accept failing sometimes as part of that learning. It also has to be a dialogue that focusses on outcomes not dogma or technology.

The great leap forward will probably have to be a lot of small but significant steps.

One thing we did all agree on was that there was no sensible explanation for why nobody ever faced any sanctions over the fiasco of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

I am certain that in China they would have sent someone to prison for a long time; not necessarily the guilty party, but definitely someone.

#DigitalServiceDelivery #DigitalTransformation #Technology #Complexity #ITSolutions #eGovernment

#digital-service-delivery, #digital-transformation, #it-solutions