Over 100 days in the heart of the first COVID crisis, the learning community to build back better in the days after worked together to try to make sense of things. Over 120 people who care about citizen and community outcomes came together to learn together. Organisations and spaces they came from included housing associations, charities, health, police, local and central government. And a really interesting smattering of international people, transformational linguists, systems and complexity thinkers.
The journey of the group has included:
focus on ‘what will we face in the days after’ – appreciating the multivarious and overlapping challenges scenario development to consider the possibilities of what will result… which was not immediately inspiring
open space development of key focus areas – from new forms of leadership, to the revolutionising of adult social care commissioning
digging into the scenarios and asking ‘what do we want our new future to be’?
third horizon thinking to consider what potential realities we can spot and seek to bring through into the new world identifying the prospects for radical rebuilding in the days after, and developing a full vision on ‘what we want to be valued’ in the days after
identifying barriers to the achievement of the vision – and how we can model and share these values, and the shared collaborative learning process which led to them
along with ‘spin-off’ events on post-crisis communications, ‘five worlds’ for place-based working, and deep engagement – connecting, reflecting, sensemaking
This session will pick up the threads of ongoing connections and learning from our community, develop our connections and welcome new members, and lead into the key Government After Shock questions:
What do we need to leave behind?
What do we want to keep?
What should we do differently?
The event takes places on Thursday 17 November 2020, from 1-4pm UK time.
This is part of the two-day OPSI Government After Shock event, which continues on 18 November.
Home Click here for more on Government After Shock as a whole
History of the group
Our original inspiration was phrased in this way:
We’ve been dynamic in dealing with the crisis – amazing things have been achieved.
How do we learn from these breakthroughs?
Things are still chaotic and confusing! And will be for some time as the ramifications continue.
How do we make sense of things right now and for the future?
How do we prepare for a real reboot in ‘the days after’ the crisis?
Three special ‘spin-off’ events have been held:
Communication: continuing past the crisis, engaging citizens – Risks and opportunities in the post Covid-19 world – with Amanda Coleman, former head of corporate communications, Greater Manchester Police. Slides and video etc at: https;//bit.ly/communicatingpastcrisisafter
Five worlds for place-based working – with Alan Burns, RedQuadrant’s future operating approaches lead. Slides and video etc at: https://bit.ly/fiveworldsplaceafter
Deep engagement – connecting, reflecting, sensemaking – with Anne Bennett and Penny Shapland-Chew of RedQuadrant, Roger Duck of Mapsar, and Amaranatho Robey, the Playful Monk. Drop an email to email@example.com if you’d like to find out more
We would like to thank all the participants, particularly those members of the core group who took the time to develop the thinking, structuring. learning and products of this unique community.
To join the group.io group and WhatsApp, which will continue, and to hear about next steps beyond this group, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerald Power, RedQuadrant’s customer-led transformation lead
This is an update of a piece written for the Chartered
Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) several years ago. Since it
was written a lot of things have happened. Access to the internet in the UK is now
near universal with Ofcom stating in summer 2020 that 98% of households have
access to fixed line internet speeds of at least 10Mbs although a stable 13% of
households are not online. Smartphones have overtaken laptops or tablets as the
device of choice for accessing services and 79% of UK adults personally use a
smartphone. [i] The
coronavirus pandemic has also forced rapid shifts to virtualised and digital
service delivery models that had been in planning for years. However, many
local and central government organisations have not yet fully exploited digital
in their delivery models and are anxious about the investment and risks. This
makes it all the more important for Local Authorities to look at how to design,
procure and implement digital services successfully. The ‘laws’ below are an
attempt at a simple summary of good practice and emphasise the value of using a
variety of independent providers do deliver digital transformation rather than
a single supplier. I am also very happy to work with Bloom helping Local
Authorities access the kinds of specialist expertise they need to deliver
really effective digital change.
Law zero: Digital transformation is a wicked problem
If the laws of thermodynamics can have a ‘zeroth’ law, a law
so obvious and important it was initially overlooked, then there is zeroth law
of digital change and it is that digital change is a ‘wicked’ problem, you will
recognise the properties of wicked problems which are as follows: [ii],[iii]
don’t lend themselves to linear service design techniques and can only
truly be evaluated as a whole design rather than the sum of separate parts. This
means it’s very likely you will have to work iteratively and apply different
approaches to different stages of the digital transformation process,
potentially working with different stakeholders, suppliers and subject matter
experts at each stage.
don’t have clear boundaries as they are often parts of larger problems. Issues
such as back office systems architecture, layers of legacy and bespoke
software, ever changing delivery models and customer behaviours all shape the
problem of digital delivery. You will have to accept that defining boundaries
becomes part of the design process and you may still be doing it at
implementation and beyond.
are never right or wrong just better or worse. There are so many possible solutions to
digital problems in terms of process design, system hardware and software choices
and configurations that it’s probably impossible to find a ‘best’ design. This
makes it really important to be able to work in an Agile way and understand
when you are near enough to optimal to stop throwing effort at the design
This is all critically important as it means that linear
approaches to design, procurement and implementation typically won’t work well
or won’t work at all. This influences every step of the journey from the
initial analysis of the problem, through business case development and specification
setting, to procurement approach, to implementation and then transition to the
‘new normal’ for service delivery. But, none of this is new and the tools available
for ensuring you deliver the intended outcomes for wicked problems include:
ICT system auditing. This is an essential early
action and specialist suppliers can now use quite sophisticated software based
approaches to automatically audit your data systems and architecture. This is
often much more effective than the traditional lists and spreadsheets sent
around an organisation as it provides direct evidence of what’s being used how
and when. They often provide very useful insights into things like licence
usage, traffic levels and key interfaces very early in the process simplifying
Systems thinking. This can help you describe
complex processes and digital systems in simple enough ways to gain design
insights and can help from concept to implementation. Expert support is typically needed; but once
you have the systems models they can be invaluable in communicating with
stakeholders, making decisions and navigating change.
Benefits based requirement setting. This links
to systems thinking and is typically essential in pushing commissioners or
sponsors to actually define the benefits they anticipate in a way that can effectively
drive a procurement process and design.
Law 1: Business cases
and benefits realisation remain essential
Project teams can became so overwhelmed by the complexity
and uncertainty of a major digital change project that they became victims of the
‘magic numbers’ business case for digital which goes something like this:
Digital must be
cheaper and better. Firstly, we have lots of guidance from Central Government that
tells us how much cheaper and better it will be when services are digital and the
Government Digital Service (GDS) will tell us how we need to go about it. Secondly,
the private sector has gone for digital in a big way with retail, banking,
insurance and most other things you can think of. QED it must be impossible not
to be more efficient when you invest in digital. [iv]
However, this is not far from the Elon Musk/Gnomes business
case. While that’s amusing it’s also true that many large central and Local Government
digital change programmes have failed on this point, assuming they can
generalise on the benefits of digital. [v] However, if you have accepted Law zero and
taken appropriate action it should always be possible to create a business case
based on outputs and outcomes that is agnostic of the technology or design. Calculating
savings from channel shift is something I have previously written a paper on and
although it requires effort it is relatively simple. [vi]
It should also be noted that the business case tends to define the tendered
requirement and that it’s remarkably difficult to change that requirement once
a contract is awarded. It’s also likely that good suppliers will not bid if
your tender requirement does not make sense to them. Again many organisations
have been down this road already and means of ensuring you get the business
case right include:
Coaching. Really big change projects can often
be like nothing your teams have ever encountered and so it can make sense to
call in coaching and specialist technical support to coach your team through developing
the requirement and the business case.
The ‘Red team’ approach. One of the best
approaches is to call in external scrutiny at key stages in development of the
case. If you have a big organisation these may be mostly internal. If you are
smaller you may need to appoint external scrutineers.
This can seem ‘over the top’ but when you consider the costs
and risks associated with even modest ICT projects, up-front investment in
getting the requirement, business case and procurement right rapidly repay the
investment. This is something the NAO is always hammering home to Central
Government, invest early and get the requirement right.
Law 2: Map the journey but don’t get lost mapping the whole world
Journey and process mapping is of course a critical part of
any digital change programme without which the whole value proposition and
business case can collapse and that’s why some much GDS guidance on mapping
user needs exists. There are many tools are available which can map journeys
and processes to improve usability and improve the chances of internal and
external stakeholder support. However,
this kind of work is expensive in terms of time, effort and cash so it needs to
be targeted so you map what you really need to map and ignore the rest even if
Demographic profiling and user skills assessment
offer ways to accurately estimate what proportion of service users and your
personnel could complete a process online. There are many good providers of
this kind of support, it should not be expensive or take very long for most
situations and can be incredibly useful in identifying and managing risk if
Process and journey mapping techniques allow
accurate representation of the ‘as is’ and potential ‘to be’ process options in
forms that allow easier analysis and comparison. However, beware not all mapping is equal and
you need suppliers who can work efficiently and effectively focussing on the
journey steps that matter most to delivering outcomes.
Cost mapping and experience mapping techniques can
identify opportunities to optimise the balance between improved customer
experience and cost savings.
In all these areas there will be opportunities for
developing skills in-house as well as a need to call in external skills as and
when needed. It’s also vital to do this at the right points in the process so
it shapes the requirement development, design and implementation stages.
Law 3: You tend to
deliver what you measure
When learning to ski a good tip is to look where you want to
go and for this reason always avoid looking at trees or cliff edges. It is
surprising how many organisations attempt service re-design and transformation without
thoroughly understanding where they want to go and what they are looking at. Any
change manager or SRO will sleep much more soundly knowing that that monitoring
is in place that will let them know if change is occurring as anticipated. It may seem obvious but many organisations
fail to link existing and future metrics into their digital change programme as
a means of testing whether benefits are being delivered. However, getting these
metrics, KPIs and governance structures in place should not be that onerous.
Most Local Authorities have automated systems in
place to log contacts and transactions in near real time and typically the
benefits of digital lie in pulling contact away from old channels. Calling in
subject matter experts can help you harness these data streams to get effective
MI and KPIs in place and link them into digital implementation plans.
Calling in support on governance and project and
programme management can also be very useful, particularly if an organisation
is not experienced in managing major change projects and/or complex ICT project
and having external coaching can massively reduce risk.
This links to Law 1 and the fact
that even if savings and improvements are possible, they won’t necessarily
happen without close management.
Law 4. You normally have to push
Even if you have done your journey mapping and service
design well people won’t necessarily migrate to it without a nudge. Trials,
beta-tests, expert advice and design support will all help reduce risk; but
until it goes live you will not know how much re-work it will need to be fully optimised.
Many Local Authorities have invested in very good, highly usable digital
service delivery options only to fail by not promoting them effectively. Others
get it 98% right and then fail due to some small but very important problems
that block uptake and don’t get removed as things not working was not part of
the implementation plan. Approaches and
methodologies for moving customers to digital channels and optimising uptake are
well established and typically involve using existing touch points and channels
to promote the new service in a systematic way, essentially it’s a marketing
and promotion campaign.
Although no two Local Authorities will be identical,
it is always sensible to start by looking at approaches that have worked
Templates and methodologies are available for
planning a ‘marketing’ or ‘push’ phase of implementation to achieving an
accelerated uptake of new online services.
Techniques including focus groups, web analytics
and live web-chat can all be used to iron out problem steps in processes and
fine tune the user experience for digital services.
Law 5. Assisted Digital is better than no digital
There will always remain groups that are unable or unwilling
to engage online. Latest Ofcom figures imply a stable 13% of households without
a fixed broadband connection and 21% of adults not using a smartphone. However,
this should not block development of digital services as extensive support is
available for designing alternatives for those who cannot engage via new
digital routes. In reality the numbers who cannot use digital are probably
similar to the numbers who could not use paper without support due to language,
literacy or other problems. There are many well established approached to reducing
digital exclusion and meeting the equality of access obligation.
There are many providers that map both ‘not
spots’ in terms of internet and 4G/5G access and areas where literacy, language
and basic skills will be an issue. This can be very valuable in quantifying
problems, targeting support and engaging with elected members.
There are well proven partnership models for
digital inclusion using national or local partners which can offer broad or
much more targeted support. Having a proven model can again build confidence in
elected members and residents.
Expertise can be brought in to design digital
services that have the widest uptake possible through including more difficult
to reach groups in the service design.
About the Author:
Gerald gained a PhD from Manchester University and joined
the Ministry of Defence on its science and technology fast track programme. He
went on to specialise in change and benefits realisation with a particular
emphasis on the role of technology, skills and behaviour change in the
effective delivery of outcomes. During his career he has worked with The
Cabinet Office, DWP, DH, HMRC, HMCTS, DEFRA, DfT, Directgov and DCLG as well as
many Local Authorities implementing change. His most prominent role within
government before leaving to become a consultant was with the Cabinet Office
where he provided advice to ministers on the economic case for digital services
and on delivering cashable savings. He continues to work for clients on channel
shift and service transformation and is currently the service lead for digital
change with RedQuadrant.
Statista 2020, April 2020 UK data, 60% of people over 16 said their smartphone
was the most important device used to access the internet. ONS 2019 data, 84% of
UK adults had used the internet “on the go” in 2019, using a mobile phone,
smartphone, laptop, tablet or handheld device. Ofcom Communication Markets
survey 2019, household internet take-up remains
at 87%, and 79% of UK adults personally use a smartphone.
This was a famous Elon Musk quote in response to being asked for details on his
planned Mars colony project, essentially saying we don’t have a plan yet, but
we do at least know we don’t have a plan.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been much debate, and many intelligent articles written, about the need to properly fund social care. There has been a similar amount of discussion on ensuring parity for social care and the need to reform social care, among many other things.
As the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said, social care is not ‘a problem that needs fixing’ – but there is an opportunity to reset and reimagine using COVID-19 as the catalyst.
The presenting narrative about adult social care cannot be argued with or denied; it’s not even new, it has simply been ignored. If adult social care is finally to achieve the recognition and transformation that it deserves, and that staff at all levels have been campaigning for over many years, we must seriously consider the need for staff to come to terms with what they have seen, what they have heard, and how they feel about their recent experiences.