Archive for May, 2015

Getting out and meeting new people

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

It’s been a fascinating two and a half weeks since arriving.  I’m continually struck by the enthusiasm and commitment of our people including several who have taken me up on my request to stop me and tell me what you’re doing.  Without exception, you’ve spoken with passion in a way that I haven’t heard for a long time.  It’s a humbling experience, I have to tell you, and it confirms in my mind that I’m going to enjoy Staffordshire.

I visited the MASH in Stone this week with Philip Atkins.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a place where police, social services and health professionals work together to keep children and families safe from harm. It was, for me, an example of something that is genuinely greater than the sum of its parts.  There is no “them” there; everybody is “us”. This brings about a common purpose that helps us to keep children and vulnerable people safe – frankly, it’s inspirational.  The building is not great, and we will work on making it a better place to work.  That might be as simple as getting a decent coffee machine, or somewhere for staff to relax away from their desks.  It’ll be more than worth the effort.

I spent a bit of time reading the analysis of the recent staff survey, and I have to say that it squares entirely with my first impressions.  You believe in the organisation, you’re proud of working for SCC, share its values and understand the drivers for change.  The problem is in the lived experience, in other words, what happens on the ground.  You don’t always see the values being applied and improving things.  Leaders are not visible enough, not explaining change and how it affects you. Our internal communications are not bringing you along on the journey.  It’s a big set of issues, but I believe that they’re doable.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the senior leadership team on our strategy, and I can tell you that the change is being managed as well as I have ever seen.  Clearly, from the results of the survey, we need to explain that to you more effectively, and I will take that on. Things are already happening to make sure we act on what you told us in this year’s survey. My only request to you is that you take a little time to fill out the next survey; believe me, it’s important, and I will use it as one of my major sources of information on how we steer the organisation.

Look forward to meeting those of you whom I haven’t already met.

Settling in

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

It’s been an excellent first week for me in Staffordshire County Council. Many thanks to everybody – members and staff – for making me so welcome. The large number of people whom I met during my selection process left me with a very positive impression of the organisation and the people. If anything, last week reinforced and increased this.

I’m getting to grips with our strategy and transformation programmes, in terms of learning and understanding. I’m particularly interested in commissioning as a concept, and I think that we’re on the right track, but in certain areas we have some way to go to connect the strategy with the services that people across Staffordshire make use of. That is, in my own experience, not unusual, and it is also not unusual that this should take some time – it takes leadership to build confidence and trust in new ways of working, if we are to bring people with us.

Talking of leadership, I’ve been struck by how often we in SCC talk about it – perhaps surprisingly, much more than in the Army which I’ve just left. For me, it is about getting people to do things willingly, with the emphasis on willingly. As I mentioned above, it’s about building mutual trust, respect and confidence between leaders and led. It doesn’t happen overnight – it’s difficult to establish and easy to lose.

My preference is to get out of my office as much as possible and meet you in your workplace; I’ve managed to get around HR and a bit of Place so far. As always, I always get much more out of listening to views and opinions in a relaxed environment than in a formal briefing. If you see me around your office, do please grab me and tell me what you’re up to – I genuinely want to know.