We’re hiring! Be at the centre of RedQuadrant

RedQuadrant is looking for a ‘hub’ person, to lead our bid support and admin coordination, working directly to Managing Partner, Benjamin Taylor.

It’s an initial one-year contract, £28-32k with room to grow, remote for the foreseeable future, really at the heart of growing a business – ideally it would be someone with

(1) bid management

(2) admin/operations management, and

(3) consultancy/public sector experience

…but what’s important is hard work and passion to be part of what we do and help us to grow. Please share to anyone who might be interested!


More details:

Full time, remote working for the foreseeable future, initial twelve-month contract with three month probation period, potential to become permanent.

Role to commence first half of May.

£28-32k with room to develop.

You will work directly to the Managing Partner and liaise with service leads and consultants, acting as the reliable centre of the business. This is a role at the heart of a great organisation, with the potential to grow with us and be a recognised and valued leader.

RedQuadrant is a radical, ethical public service transformation consultancy which has survived and thrived in possibly the twelve hardest years for UK public services in living memory (including 2020), and which leads and supports the Public Service Transformation Academy, a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to building capability for public services to transform themselves. Please check our websites for more.

We need someone extremely well organised, solid, capable, and hard-working to run our bids, oversee our operations, and co-ordinate flexible hourly admin support and possibly interns and graduates, as well as linking to our small finance team.

The primary task is to provide solid backing to our bid process from opportunity review, supplier portal, framework, and compliance management to bid development, submission, and contract signing. This involves working with our service leads and expert independent consultants, and being on top of our existing material, prior bids, and compliance questions, outlining and quality assuring content, and directing process. An appetite for organising the complex and a will to win are critical.

Alongside this runs knowledge management (in Microsoft 365/SharePoint), tracking of other business leads, and maintenance of pipeline and monitoring. None of this is solo work – but you need to be the coordinator and the unfailing central point of reference for bid leads, consultants, and administrative assistance.

The secondary task is to grow into ensuring that the business runs smoothly and works dynamically to increase impact, reach, and profit, freeing the Managing Partner from operational responsibilities and working together to create new opportunities.

#bidmanagement #consulting #publicservices #operations

RedQuadrant are planting a tree for every person in every meeting (and carbon off-setting, and doing both on behalf of the Public Service Transformation Academy)

The long headline says it all really 🙂

We are happy to partner with Sustainably.Run to plant a tree for every person at every meeting.

Here’s a little video they made on what we are doing to help our meetings, and our organisation, contribute better to sustainability.

For more on this and what else we are doing, go to https://meetings.sustainably.run/show…

we also contribute to https://cotap.org​ To sign up yourself, go to


Learning never stops: The Days After – a learning community to build back better – our Government After Shock event on November 17

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.

You must sign up in advance at http://bit.ly/BBBAfterShock to attend – you’ll receive a Zoom link

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 benjamin.taylor@publicservicetransformation.org 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 benjamin.taylor@publicservicetransformation.org

Digital Service Design: Five Laws of Success

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]  

  • They 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.
  • They 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.  
  • Their solutions 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 solution.

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 later decisions.
  • 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 it’s interesting:

  • 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 targeted well.
  • 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 elsewhere.
  • 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 Power

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.  

Gerald indulging his love of hill walking, taking a ‘leap of faith’ from Eve to Adam on Tryffan, Snowdonia.

[i] 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.

[ii] Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Richard Buchanan. Design Issues, Vol. 8, No. 2, (Spring, 1992), pp. 5-21

[iii] Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. HORST W. J. RITTEL and MELVIN M. WEBBER. Policy Sciences 4 (1973), 155-169 

[iv] PWC. Champion for Digital Inclusion:  The Economic Case for Digital Inclusion. October 2009. Page 47. Table 12: Average costs of transactions in different channels

[v] 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.

[vi] Channel Shift: Realising the Benefits. Dr. Gerald Power.  

Kim Curry – Compassion, care and reconstruction

Now published in the Municipal Journal, Kim Curry with Benjamin Taylor

Kim Curry is a former Executive Director and DASS, experienced interim and retained Visiting Professor at Falmouth University.


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.

Continues at the MJ: https://www.themj.co.uk/Compassion-care-and-reconstruction/218808


Tackling domestic abuse by challenging perpetrators – rolling out Drive. Domestic violence: Changing the conversation from asking ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ to start asking ‘Why doesn’t he stop?’

By RedQuadrant consultant, Claire Bethel

RedQuadrant has successfully worked with two police forces in the last year to carry out feasibility studies into the roll-out of DRIVE[1], an intensive intervention for perpetrators of high risk high harm domestic abuse. The Home Office announced £10 million of funding in the Budget this year for interventions working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. This includes £1.1 million for implementation of the Drive project to expand it into new areas. Any Police and Crime Commissioner in England and Wales can apply.

Domestic abuse is thought to cost in the region of £66 billion a year in England and Wales[2]. Although both men and women experience abuse, it remains a gendered crime, more commonly inflicted on women by men, with at least 27% of all women experiencing partner abuse since the age of 16[3]. Traditional approaches to tackling domestic abuse in this country have for years focused on providing support to victim-survivors and their children. This has changed in recent years with recognition that, if we are to stop domestic abuse in its tracks, we have to do something to challenge the behaviour of perpetrators of high risk or serial abuse. Failing to do so allows them to move from one relationship to another, wreaking havoc until the victim-survivor manages to get away or the authorities take action.

Support is frequently provided by local agencies in the form of refuges; providing sanctuary in the victim-survivor’s home (eg: strengthening locks, installing stronger doors); a range of criminal justice measures and helping victims to seek safety. Much of the caseload of a Children’s Services Department is taken up with addressing the consequences of domestic abuse – frequently leading to child protection plans or, in extreme cases, children being taken into care.

It was recognised that criminal justice interventions punished the offender but did little to change their behaviour which is frequently entrenched, stemming from adverse childhood experiences, including witnessing domestic abuse in childhood. Evaluation of traditional perpetrator programmes has been inconclusive, with high rates of recidivism by participants. Concern that this approach, whilst both worthy and necessary, didn’t help to address the behaviour and mindset of the perpetrator led to greater efforts to find a longer term solution.

In response, a number of programmes have been developed to tackle the root cause of domestic abuse perpetrators’ behaviour. DRIVE, developed by a consortium of voluntary sector organisations[4], aims to tackle high harm and serial perpetrators by challenging behaviour and preventing abuse. This is a truly multi-agency approach, relying on collaboration between police, voluntary and community sector, local authority, housing, probation and many other agencies. An evaluation of a pilot project found that it has led to the number of participating service users reducing their use of each type of domestic violence and abuse behaviour – for example, physical abuse reduced by 82% and sexual abuse by 88%[5]. It is a three-pronged approach consisting of engaging with the perpetrator, supporting the victim and using disruption to penalise any ongoing abusive behaviour.

A RedQuadrant team, with a range of expertise on domestic abuse and interventions to address it, has worked with two Police and Crime Commissioners – one urban and one in a more rural area – to evaluate the effectiveness of their DRIVE pilot and to examine the feasibility of rolling it out across the whole police force area. Taking both a quantitative and a qualitative approach, our work has involved interviewing a wide range of stakeholders to find out their views on what difference a pilot of DRIVE has made in their area; an economic analysis into the costs and benefits of the scheme and potential ways of rolling it out, and an analysis of their initial findings to see if these were likely to match those produced by the original pilot being evaluated by the University of Bristol (spoiler: it does).   

[1] http://driveproject.org.uk/

[2] Oliver R, Alexander B, Roe S et al, The economic and social costs of domestic abuse, Research Report 107, Home Office, January 2019.

[3] Smith et al, 2012, cited in NICE guideline, Domestic abuse and violence: multi-agency working, page 28.

[4] Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance.

[5] Hester M, Eisenstadt N, et al, Evaluation of the Drive Project – a three-year pilot to address high-risk high- harm perpetrators of domestic abuse, University of Bristol, Executive Summary, January 2020, page 2.

Call for action – build on trust in adult social care

By RedQuadrant consultant Charley Maher

In my blog in April I discussed how, because of COVID-19, local authorities have experienced a significant increase in demand for packages of support and an increase in people requiring support in the community as they lost access to their informal networks of families, friends and communities.  To enable local authorities to respond to the most urgent and serious cases, volunteers, charities and third sector organisations have come together to respond to the crisis; food banks, befriending services, distributing packages, sharing creative ideas to reduce social isolation, etc.  Organisations unified as we started trusting one another, and relationships between sectors are strengthening.  This newfound trust has resulted in quicker and smoother solutions to immediate need as we see conversations between individuals and those who know them best. We can see communities, volunteers and third sector organisations being trusted to engage and respond with people they know.

There is the question of how councils will cope in the post-COVID world of adult social care, with the increase in demand, in business as usual community reviews and in people who use services? My suggested answer is to build on these new approaches of trusting providers, trusting care agencies and third sectors who have existing relationships with people.  If we can trust them in a crisis, can we extend this trust into the future thereby extending and continuing this sense of community and togetherness we see now?  As we utilise the resources and knowledge these organisations and providers have to respond to the crisis, can we see this as a new approach to implement in our services and practice? Can we simplify processes and remove some of the formalities and structures that serve as time-consuming and potential blockers to true conversation-based approaches?

Before the Covid crisis, we did some work with a London borough to research, coproduce and test a model whereby the third sector was able to carry out some of the statutory functions of adult social care. A public consultation with people who used services, carers and families were open to the concept, with reassurances around training and quality assurance with the local authority maintaining oversight and responsibility.  Ongoing consultation with the third sector demonstrated an appetite for providers and voluntary organisations to be more involved in the statutory functions and the belief that doing so would improve outcomes for individuals that use services. Piloting, with high levels of face to face training, ongoing support, point of contacts for advice and training,  provided evidence of the capabilities of the third sector to produce person centred, strengths based assessments and reviews with individuals which resulted in creative support plans and increased use of community resources as opposed to the default approach of formal services.

Public consultation and provider engagement and piloting shows us it is possible to develop and build on trusting relationships with care agencies and the third sector.  The COVID – 19 crisis has shown that local authorities have turned to providers and the third sector to support them and it has been this joined-up approach which has helped meet the increased needs.  Yet we can still see some hesitation around continuing with these trusting relationships.  Why?  Assessments and reviews are statutory functions.  They are important pieces of work with individuals which require skilled conversations and person-centred interactions, a broad knowledge base to encompass,  direct payments and financial considerations. And ultimately Local authorities remain responsible for these functions therefore it is understandable there may be hesitations around using providers and the third sector to complete them. The question then became; how do we reduce these uncertainties and support the development of these relationships with providers and the third sector?

As we suggested in the previous blog, this would require training and upskilling of voluntary and third sectors: the Care Act is clear that those undertaking assessments and reviews should have the skills to do so.  We have created a qualification specification with clear learning outcomes and training modules to as part of an accredited qualification to upskill providers, care agencies, and the third sector across adult social care. Before we progress this any further, we would like to engage with local authorities, providers, commissioners who are potentially interested in making greater use of the third sector for assessments and reviews: we are interested in working in a couple of areas to refine and develop the work we have undertaken to date on qualifications in this space.

What kind of leadership is needed in public services and how localised will it need to become? Stephen Moss

Output from groupwork at the second ‘build back better in the days after’ virtual round table.

The days after – a learning community to build back better – join now: www.publicservicetransformation.org/2020/04/the-days-after-a-learning-community-to-build-back-better

Reflections of the ideas expressed: Stephen Moss, Senior Consultant, RedQuadrant

In our second build back better in the days after session as part of an online gathering using ‘open space’ methodology, an interest group formed around this question:

What kind of leadership is needed in public services and how localised will it need to become?

A complementary question was merged with the first to stimulate the discussion:

What future culture, leadership attributes and governance is going to be required for local authorities where large scale remote working is a new reality?

example Jamboard – brightly coloured post-it notes on a white background

The discussion was conducted online via zoom in a breakout room with participants with a range of perspectives on public services. The main points were captured on a ‘jamboard’ – a virtual whiteboard set up to support the group discussion (sidebar). This blog builds on the discussion.

Four broad themes of leadership capability emerged:

  • System leadership of place
  • (Leaders) willing to work with community empowerment and sustainability
  • Relationship-based leadership
  • Safe working: psychological and physical

This blog expands on the post-its (highlighted in italics) to define a place-based, relational leadership approach emerging from the lockdown.

System leadership of place

Street level support networks eg Wigan What does this mean for how we lead? How do we lead on a strengths-based model?

empowering communities and families to support parents and children

Public service leaders need to create a different relationship with communities in the places they serve. This suggests greater emphasis on asset-based approaches to development and building capacity in local communities to strengthen local support networks and economies. Assets include people, physical natural and build environments, knowledge, businesses and goodwill. Studies such as ‘Born in Bradford’ point towards the need to create ‘community readiness’ to tackle local social issues impacting safety, health and well-being.

In places like Wigan, this is also about re-defining the social contract between local authority and communities it serves and how decision-making and power are distributed. We have seen during Covid many examples of people and their communities creating new support networks for more vulnerable people. We also cannot yet measure the impact of lockdown on health outcomes in local populations; we have seen health inequalities cruelly exposed, and the collapse of many SMEs and increases in unemployment on the economic horizon. In this time of transition then, public service leaders have little choice but to let go of power, regroup to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable and look at how to work with each other and their communities in new ways.

(Leaders) willing to work with community empowerment and sustainability

The discussion here focused on local authority leadership however the principles apply to public services in general, as the focus moves on to what is needed in a locality.

Willingness for LAs to do things differently and focus on empowering communities – Need right skills and values to do this

Understanding communities and building relationships

Local authorities as facilitators of services not delivering services

Leadership capabilities across the system/place – values based

Developing leadership across the locality – in the community as well as public services – means identifying with the needs and aspirations of that locality. This can be an essential part of building capacity in the community to care and to resolve important issues locally – care for the elders, dementia-friendly places, sustainable local economies and climate emergency responses, resolving anti-social behaviours. As leadership capabilities are developed everywhere, creating a coherent shared view of the priorities for that locality becomes central to community development, the role of commissioning and the coproduction of services that are relevant for the population there.

Focus on relationships at all levels – trumps structure

This means collaborating to make change and improvement happen irrespective of formal organization structures. Good relationships between all parties at a local level will drive better outcomes than formalized structures created  to ‘leverage coordination’ but where relationships misfire or lack trust and incentive to collaborate in innovative ways. Much time, energy and resources can be spent on ‘form’ – structuring coordination and complex governance – but the key point here is to pay attention to behaviours and interactions between people as the driver of alignment and cooperation to work effectively on complex local needs. Inevitably this will also lean into changing power dynamics implied by structure and organization boundaries and who decides on how funding is used locally.

Relationship-based leadership

A consequence of this approach is that public service leaders take a more relationship-based approach to leadership. To do this, Public Services leaders, often leading as ‘expert’ leaders in their field, need to shift their own locus more to the wider needs of the local system. Essential to this shift, they need

Reflection time needed to step back from crisis management

the psychological and mental pressures of complexity and the syndrome of ‘over responsibility’ felt by public service leaders is exacerbated by a funding and professional expertise operating model that leans into crisis management as a default setting. Reflection time as a leadership practice, creates the mental and emotional space to change the leadership approach to one that is more relational:

Move from ‘fixing’ to enabling – leaders have to believe in doing things differently and (be more) relationship based

this represents a shift to a non-hierarchical/non-patriarchal model of leadership, moving away from the dynamic of control and rescuing – moving towards enabling the strengths and capabilities of others to be seeded, nurtured and grown. Leadership is distributed through the local system and decision making is far more localized.

Managing by outcomes not presenteeism

represents a change in the ‘psychological contract’ with staff – focusing on helping people to succeed at what they do, wherever they may be working from (at home, in hubs and local places, as well as in the office). This assumes a maturity in relationship based on an adult’s responsibility to organise their time, priorities and schedules in ways they see fit; they are supported to do this if needed, but it is what is achieved – the outcomes of their endeavours that is important; working from home undermines habitual ‘presenteeism’ – and for that matter absenteeism, but this also requires a clear assessment of what people are trying to achieve and how that works in a ‘blended’ work place (home-based – office based – and place based working).

Developing leadership at all levels

creating agency and adult-adult working where anyone working in a local system can be supported to lead – essentially facilitating initiative, trust around a shared purpose, values and set of local conditions that support the aspirations of local residents and businesses. Investing in leadership development becomes place-based not organizational and is designed to meet local needs and solve local problems; participants come from all parts of the system.

Compassionate and emotionally intelligent leadership is essential

underlines the importance of  the reflection time needed to step back from crisis management – to make sense of what is going on and to ensure that the leader is not overwhelmed by feelings or the emotions of people they are leading in creating the conditions for recovery. As we recover from Covid 19 emergency responses and aim to build back better, creating the right conditions for working in new ways is an essential leadership role. The group discussion discussed what this means in practice:

Safe working: psychological and physical

Distribute leadership to ‘front-line’ and decision making – supported by new processes with governance

Less risk averse, innovative, citizen focused – how to safeguard staff in trying things. Leadership support is needed.

‘Experience strategy’ and leaders have to engage and ‘walk the talk’ with more staff working away from the office

Recognise and celebrate right values and behaviours in context

There are a number of trends influencing psychological and physical safety. If we take as a starting point the possibility that Covid 19 and lockdown has been psychologically impactful and possibly traumatic over time for staff and key leaders in local systems, then organization and place-based development need to be psychologically (and trauma)-informed. Reported increases in domestic violence and therefore adverse childhood experiences during lockdown, illustrates the tensions experienced by families which can of course also include employees of public services. We have known for many decades that any shift to remote working can shatter social networks that contribute to happiness, productivity and coping at work. Working in more relational ways is a trend in public services – children’s social care, education, homelessness and police services in particular are embracing ‘psychologically informed environments’ and ‘trauma-informed practices’. This requires organization and leadership practices that create the right conditions for this work to be done.

These two factors (recovery from the impacts of Covid and working in relational ways with more vulnerable members of society) require psychologically and physically safe environments to be created for all staff. Overlaying the points on the post-its above, we can see this is a critical dimension too in how leadership is developed to support these new ways of working.

Creating conditions for working in this way

Creating a ‘secure base’ for staff involves organization design and development that is based on the key elements of early development; that is creating a ‘holding space’ – where individual and collective anxiety is effectively ‘held’ and supported to differentiate the personal from the professional. In developmental terms, this is moving from dependence (working to instruction/prescribed standards) to independence (expert leadership based on what I have learned and trained in) to interdependence (working across boundaries in the system to achieve outcomes for the local population and service users). Without this progression we get co-dependence (and remote working can create this, and the crisis system described earlier encourages this) – which fuels demand, escalation and reactive strategies in a state of constant anxiety, over-dependence on fixing or being fixed and sometimes, constant engagement with ‘the authorities’ over a lifetime.

One outcome of co-dependence is conflict and/or avoidance across boundaries. Conflict can be both interpersonal and inter-institutional (often one reflecting the other) and leaders will need to develop the practices needed to work across personal and institutional boundaries to support collaboration whilst acknowledging the need to refresh and reboot relationships at every level.   Our highlighted points above can be a source of both liberation and anxiety, innovation and exploitation. Letting go and holding to account in adult ways are fundamental components of creating these conditions, in which feelings can be validated, the strengths of people nurtured, learning is valued and accountabilities are held from a place of integrity, without blame or shame.

Join us to build further: https://www.publicservicetransformation.org/2020/04/the-days-after-a-learning-community-to-build-back-better/

Process, Place and Relationships – The purposeful Smart City – by Jane Eckford, public servant and industry mentor

In preparing for the Wind Up and dissolution of Scotland’s first New Town, East Kilbride, the chair, Mr J Allan Denholm, reflected on the achievements of the New Town Development Corporations, with words that have much resonance today. 

‘The measure of a mature and successful community is its ability to sustain growth and support the aspirations of its people throughout periods of change and challenge as well as in times of stability and prosperity …

‘…It is people in every part of this community who have created East Kilbride’s success and whose hands its future will lie’.

The New Town model had been based on land and property development to meet housing needs over-spilling from Glasgow but more than this, to provide community infrastructure, social cohesion and employment opportunities through inward investment.

 It provided places for people and business to thrive – a platform of place based and harmonious participation from a wide variety of stakeholders with the purpose of building ‘good’ and sustainable growth. It was a model of working, using many different levers and capabilities, skills and viewpoints, to marry lofty policy with the practical, physical delivery of a new town which served the common good. It influenced many of us officers who were embarking on our own public service careers. And it certainly remains part of the local government policy through to delivery model of local place shaping governance.

It was those final words about people which seemed the most poignant and important for people like me, a corporation employee, and and who also part of the community we were serving.  Our work felt personal ….and it was personal.

That annual report of 1994 certainly captured all the big, high-profile economic development successes of EKDC but the real yardstick of success was really how the people of East Kilbride felt about each other and the place.  

Since that point I have been, and will remain, a flag bearer for ‘emotional connectedness’ we learned as part of that journey – and for designing people ‘in’ and not ‘out’ in increasingly digital or technology enabled service or policy solutions.

Now, following the trauma following  the Covid-19 pandemic, we see the need to create community platforms of a different kind.  The emergence of Smart City solutions for urban spaces, a next generation on from the green field development corporations, provides new possibilities to improve how we live – but only if we take great care not to export across into the new future, all the old biases, injustices, prejudices and labels, that the algorithms might project from our past and flawed structures.

And only if we take great care not to use digital capability to govern by remote control without real, sincere, empathetic human engagement to negotiate ongoing change.

The past is no longer a good indicator of what will come.  Patriarchal organisational strategies based on past performance will not readily accommodate emerging questions.

A definition of Smart Cities is currently  ‘an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. 

Key dimensions of current Smart City capabilities focus on Smart Energy, Smart Transport, Smart data, Smart infrastructure, Smart mobility and Smart IoT with sensing and reporting devices being attached to existing urban infrastructure. 

Using anonymised data there are some wholescale insights which can be made about behaviour and use.  Indeed the current narratives supporting Smart Cities centre around driving more efficient use of resources and reducing cost in comparison with current behaviours. 

The current narratives around design of Smart technologies to understand homelessness, as an example, are really interesting in this regard with rationales ranging from reducing demand on hospitals, social care and other services to being able to track individuals movements to providing help at park benches, to connecting homeless people with hostels and help via mobile and smartphone technology.  

But whilst we are demonstrating ‘capability’ it might be a good time to discuss ‘purpose’.

Referencing the Scottish New Town model of community connectedness I would ask how kindness, dignity and compassion can characterise our decision making and actions – some key values to underpin a just, inclusive and fair society.

In my mind there are some key questions which might be usefully debated including;

  1. Can technology platforms include the capability to develop emotional intelligence, empathy and connectedness of people?
  2. Is  our emotional connectedness to place important or necessary for thriving communities?
  3. Who owns data and insight in a democratic environment, and how do we all ensure it is deployed for the common good.
  4. What degree of empathy and interpersonal skill do we need to see in those developing new technology to reduce the level of marginalisation of people across society

The EKDC Chair observed over 30 years ago that ‘…there is a danger that high profile, international and national flagship projects will become the yardstick by which community success is measured’.  This seems to be a highly prescient challenge for us all now.

“34 doughnuts”: what the world (well, Twitter), wants to tell the UK government about recovery

Responses to @JACattell tweet re: United Kingdom’s ‘renewal’

Article by RedQuadrant finance lead Joanne Peters, with assistance from Benjamin Taylor and Vinay Débrou.

On 15 April, James Cattell (a pioneer in #oneteamgov) and part of the Systems Unit in the UK Cabinet Office (https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/systems-unit) – posted this tweet: https://twitter.com/jaCattell/status/1250357135428521984

The tweet, which was sent entirely in a personal and unofficial capacity, read:

I work in a central government team that’s helping build a strategy for the United Kingdom’s renewal after we’ve recovered from #coronavirus.
Who should we be listening to?
What questions should we be asking?
Where has this approach (not) worked well before?
Please share!
This received 1,800 retweets, 1,600 likes and over 1,500 replies.

Vinay Débrou (https://vinaydebrou.com/), a member of the PSTA’s learning community, https://www.publicservicetransformation.org/2020/04/the-days-after-a-learning-community-to-build-back-better/, and the Yak Collective (https://www.yakcollective.org/projects/dont-waste-the-covid19-reboot/), volunteered to parse the replies into excel we have been able to do some analysis of the replies. The raw scraped data from this analysis (public data scraped end April and cleaned 10 May) is available here: (https://www.dropbox.com/s/n3iikj0lt8q4gzv/2020-06-02%20Replies%20Data%20to%20JaCattell%20Tweet%20JP%20analysis%20v0.5BT.xlsx?dl=0)

“>at this link (Excel format).

Here are some key points and thoughts from the analysis:

• The most-cited single theory, approach, or recommendation is around Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics (https://www.kateraworth.com/), centred around ‘humanity’s 21st century challenge… to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet’, with a total of 34 references.

• Many of the tweets are from special interest and lobby groups promoting their causes in this context. Not all will be relevant but rather a chance to pressure where a door into Whitehall might be thought to have been opened. Does this indicate that there is not much opportunity for people to have their say and for these groups to get heard at the moment in what is a centrally led response and the focus is on crisis management?

• This along with politically motivated responses and an element of abuse limits the overall analysis.

• There are many links to research, think-pieces, agendas and blogs and it is apparent that so much thinking is already out there or being done at the moment which is relevant to the current situation which can be harnessed. This could be grouped into themes for further research. In particular, Kate Raworth features in the wordcloud with over 20 mentions and also in the analysis of most-liked tweets, suggesting that there is breadth and depth of support for Doughnut Economics as a lens or framework for renewal.

• This Wordcloud analysis of key words with over 20 mentions is useful and emphasises where the sentiment is.

JACattel tweet wordcloud

• ‘People’ has the highest number of mentions followed by ‘listen’ suggesting that there is a call to focus on developing policy and ideas with consultation and involvement of people. ‘Ask’ is also a similar trend.

• ‘Communities’, ‘economy’ and ‘government’ all present equally in the response, interesting as it indicates a balance in perspective and also ties in with the varying theme of a systemic transformation (covering environment, climate, economy, society, finance, business etc.)

• ‘Local’ also features, perhaps reflecting the recognition in local networks that have proved critical in the response so far.

• If the replies which got more than 20 likes are analysed into themes, the overwhelming area of interest and support is sustainability and wellbeing. This has 3 times as many likes compared to the second most popular, ‘listening to people’.

jacattell tweet top issues

There are some key points arising from this:
• There is a strong feeling that people from across society need to be at the heart of the next steps.
• There is broad support for a more sustainable model generally underpinned by economic reform (though the theories and approach vary).
• A focus on interdependencies and transforming the system as a whole, particularly linked back to varying approaches to ‘sustainability’.
Alongside these, ‘listen to people’ and ‘ask for help’ seem to be the key recommendations for renewal.

We will leave it to the reader to determine whether anything from this input in response to an unofficial, personal tweet. made it through to the UK Government’s plan to rebuild, published on 26 May.