State of Transformation report 2018
The State of Transformation – it doesn’t have to be this way
Transformation. It’s one of those power words, like leadership, community, engagement, outcomes. They sound good, so they get added to ‘sell’ lots of initiatives or projects, but they are overused and often meaningless. So, over time, ‘transformation’ has become degraded. And besides, nobody really agrees what it means anyway – and everyone tends to see it through their own specialist lens – ‘Transformation is all about digital’, ‘it’s about agile and smart working’, ‘it’s about community empowerment’.
Except they don’t say it, because to them, it’s blindingly obvious, and they can’t imagine it meaning anything else.
So we began in October 2017 by surveying what transformation could mean in public services, and followed-up the mountain of insights generated by commissioning the think pieces presented in the report – and a range of case studies of transformation done well.
I should make the usual disclaimer that all opinions expressed in our report are opinions…
Both the report and case studies are free to download:
PSTA public service state of transformation report
I’m overjoyed at the passion that these pieces reflect, the vim and vigour in the face of the current challenges facing public services. With some common themes and common goals, from the failure of Carillion as a symptom of a deeper system malaise, to the need to engage with people as real, equal, human beings, you could be forgiven for thinking all the authors are drawn from a narrow ideological set.
Well, that’s true in a sense. They are all people who are passionate about public services, who have spent a long time learning some pretty painful lessons, and who realise that while there are no simple answers to complex problems, there is a mix of insight, compassion, and grit which will see you through. ‘Soft heart, strong spine’, as some Buddhists say. But, at the same time, there are Tories here and socialists, social workers and city lawyers, police officers, and social entrepreneurs who are running very serious businesses, not just adopting a fancy title. They share a passion, and with that passion comes some strong language and strong opinions.
And the collection of case studies that show successful transformation doesn’t require superhuman, massive minds – it requires patience, learning, openness, determination, and getting the details right.
Leaders now need to balance predictable, programmatic, sometimes very complicated technical change (optimising the use of resources, better procurement, waste reduction) with more complex, emergent, transformational, unpredictable change – prevention, enabling, getting it right first time – that necessarily involve co-production with citizens.
What we can see clearly is that getting better outcomes for communities and citizens demands leaders and practitioners work collaboratively across organisational and professional boundaries.
To work together more effectively, the different professions that serve the public must first recognise that they inhabit different worlds – different ways of seeing, ways of being, different power dynamics, different languages. Then they have to learn each other’s languages and create shared understanding. For example, social workers and technologists must translate sufficiently to ensure support systems are fit for purpose. Teachers and procurement professionals must understand enough of each other’s worlds to ensure schools are equipped cost-effectively. Creating the conditions for this to happen is perhaps the prime task of system leadership.
What is clear, here, is that public service transformation sometimes starts with door-knocking, sitting down with the mums at the adventure playground, or treating ‘hard to reach’, ‘excluded’, ‘difficult’ ‘clients’ and ‘service users’ as human beings. And it sometimes starts with just getting on with learning lessons, with making real the concepts that others only toy with, with doing the hard stuff, well. This means that those – particularly in leadership roles – who can’t make the journey to the new world, are helped – respectfully and with dignity – to move on. Those who have a narrow definition of ‘transformation’ – that it’s ‘all about’ digital, codesign, programme delivery, property, smart working, agile or any of a million other things, will be disappointed.
Each of these is in there, but in their place. Transformation recognises the value of all kinds of specialist expertise and methods – but knows that, in practice, each of these is insufficient on its own.
There are many disciplines contributing to transformation, from community engagement to customer insight, project management, procurement, process improvement to outcomes thinking, data analytics and digital and service design to innovation and more. So successful systems transformation is inherently and inevitably multi- and inter-disciplinary. Our mission is to bring these tools and techniques together coherently and accessibly to develop the capability of organisations to serve the public better.
These think pieces and case studies will often be read, first, as really inspiring – exciting, motivating, close to the true motivating factors for public service. And then you might think – on the other hand, why the hell isn’t all public service done like this? Whether it is engaging the discretionary effort of partners or frontline staff, or serious down-to-earth directive leadership that gets stuff done (or both), it is about cutting the crap, doing the hard work, and being really focused on outcomes. So, from complex partnerships to truly engaged codesign, innovation might not look like something blindingly new. It might or might not use the flavour of the month technology or legal form.
What is clear is that nothing really changes unless the rules of the game change. This report might not change fundamentals – but, at the very least, you might pick up something about a different language, a robustly pragmatic and yet idealist way of thinking. And that might be the most fundamental change of all.
Chief Executive, Public Service Transformation Academy & Managing Partner, RedQuadrant
Presentations: The Wigan Deal / Social Investment to support the delivery of outcomes
Wigan Deal video
Opening plenary / Closing plenary
|First breakout||Second breakout||Third breakout|
|The Wigan Deal as a model for place-based leadership. Session notes||What does it take to change culture? Session notes||Social investment as tool for transformation. Session notes|
|Developing a commercial mindset and income generation – lessons learned. Session notes||The art of the possible – using social value to achieve outcomes. Session notes||The art of the possible – using social value to achieve outcomes. Session notes|
|New delivery models – mutuals, social enterprise, joint commissioning partnerships. Session notes||Nothing changes unless public service practice changes – learning from how to change the frontline. Session notes||Developing and connecting to civil society and social action. Session notes|
|Relationships and collaboration as key to transformation. Session notes||The disabling state. Session notes||Being a transformation leader – transform yourself or be a victim of the system? Session notes|
|How can we explain outcome based commissioning to all levels of staff in a meaningful way. Session notes||If you had an extra 100 hrs or 100k what would you use it for? Session notes|
|Agile service manifesto. Session notes||Complexity. Session notes||How do we empower front line workers. Session notes|
|Inequality BME over-represented in looked after/justice/MH school exclusion. Session notes||User-centred design – share your experiences
|Communications. Session notes||How do we do inclusion? Session notes|