Archive for February, 2017

Discussing Smart Working at the Senior Managers’ Conference

Monday, February 27th, 2017

This week sees the first Senior Managers’ Conference for a year.  We’ve deliberately postponed it until we have a really important subject to discuss.  This time, it will be on Smart Working, the over-arching title for the office moves in Newcastle and Stafford, and the transition to mobile working. I’m sure that you are aware that there is a huge amount of work going on to prepare for this, and most of you will have been involved, I hope. If not, ask your line manager what it means for you. In essence, I want us to become a more agile and confident organisation, and I think that this is the best way of achieving it. Key to that is a demonstration of the trust that we have in our colleagues. I want you to think of work as an enjoyable activity, in which you are valued and trusted, rather than work as simply a place. The material step in this is that the majority of people working in Newcastle and Stafford will be re-equipped with laptops rather than desktop computers. This will allow all of us to do our work when and where it fits into our lives – I’m writing this sat at home on a Sunday afternoon, which is a good time for me to clear my mind and think.  You will have similar factors in your lives, and I want to give you more opportunity to make the most of them.

If you get a chance, read the article in the Sunday Times by Sir Peter Wall on leadership by intent. He was my boss on a number of occasions, and I’ve got the greatest respect for him. We’re going to do some work with leading author and academic John Blakey called the Trusted Executive, which will involve a survey for members of the Wider Leadership Team and the Operational Management Team.  It’s on a similar theme, and all to do with building trust and mutual confidence in Staffordshire County Council.  Worth a read.

Delivering the Health and Care Sustainability and Transformation Plan

Monday, February 13th, 2017

It’s been a busy and mixed week, with a lot happening.  We had one of our periodic meetings of the Leaders and Chief Executives of all 10 councils in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday where we had a briefing on the Health and Care Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP).  It was a useful session, as all of the politicians and officers were clear of the scale of the challenge, and united in our willingness to get on with it.  There are no easy solutions, but I sense that the local authorities of Staffordshire are more united on this issue than in many other places.

I attended a conference on commercialisation to see what other councils are doing on the subject.  It’s a really important theme for the county council moving forward, from making sure we get the best value and performance from the contracts we have, to finding new ways of generating income, to help fund services such as care. There was a range of variations on a theme, and I left with a couple of useful ideas, but also with the reassurance that we are up with the leaders in this important field.  There is no silver bullet, and we are all getting more efficient in delivering the services, but I find that it’s always helpful to be self-critical and not become over-confident.

I spent most of Friday undertaking my Returning Officer training for the county council election in May.  It’s a fascinating role, and I learned a huge amount, including many of the pitfalls to avoid.  My previous election experience, providing the security for the first Afghan Presidential Election in 2004, while I was commanding the NATO forces in Northern Afghanistan, is probably not of much use in this context.

Moving towards life long learning

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

I’ve spent the weekend at the Staffordshire University strategy weekend, along with the other governors. It was a fascinating event, with discussions about where the university will focus next. In essence, the challenges are similar to our own, the changing landscape of work, and the opportunities of a digital future. I don’t think that I’m being especially far-sighted to suggest that learning in future will be a life-long activity, with people changing career much more regularly than our parents’ generation did. There is also the aspiration in the Government’s new Industrial Strategy to achieve a parity of esteem between vocational learning and academic study. As an institution rooted in the region, and with a strong vocational background, Staffordshire University is well placed to offer the right courses for our residents and more widely.

We have some amazing people in our midst, doing not only a good job but also doing selfless things for our communities. I wanted to bring our colleague Heather Farrow to your attention. Heather is an admin officer here at SEND Family Partnership, and she’s recently donated her hair for charity, to help make wigs for young girls with cancer and raise money for Katharine House Hospice. As a follicly-challenged man – that’s bald in plain language – I’ve got used to having no hair, but it is something altogether different for Heather to voluntarily donate her hair for charity.