Archive for December, 2017

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas

Monday, December 18th, 2017

It almost feels too early to be wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, but Christmas Day is only a week away. This year has flown past, and I don’t think that it’s just because I’m getting older. On a personal level, 2017 has been dominated by our self-build project,  for the house that we’ve dreamt of for many years.  After over 20 houses in our military life, it’s a delight to live somewhere which we’ve designed and built ourselves. That it’s in a town like Stafford with so much going for it is an added bonus.

At work, we’ve achieved a huge amount, and as I’ve written on a previous occasion, when you’re climbing a mountain, just occasionally it’s all right to stop and admire the view. We achieved the office moves in Stafford more smoothly than I’ve seen anywhere before, and we’re well on our way to smart working. There’s more to do of course, but we’ve made some key steps on the journey.

We’ve had our share of elections this year, and I’ve had my first experience as a Returning Officer. It was a lot different from my last election experience in Afghanistan, but just as entertaining. The General Election left us in no doubt that Parliament will be focussed on Brexit for the appreciable  future, and that local government will have to fill the domestic agenda even more than usual. It’s exciting but not for the faint-hearted.

2018 promises to be as varied and interesting, with our strategy being rewritten and published, more to do in Health and Care, and a myriad of change projects which will be required for us to keep up, and stay ahead, of the emerging agenda. The only that I can be sure of is that Staffordshire County Council has the right people and the right attitude to achieve success. So before we launch into the New Year, please take some time to relax with your friends and family.

Thank you for everything that you have done and continue to do.  I look forward to seeing you in 2018.

Senior Managers’ Conference, and a thanks to our highways teams

Monday, December 11th, 2017

We had our Senior Managers’ Conference last week. As always, we had a focus for the event; this time it was the county council’s new strategy for 2018-2022 that we’re working on for implementation next April. If you haven’t signed up already, there is still time to book a place at one of two Connect Events taking place this week.

The present strategy is very good, but, I would note that we haven’t regarded it as a living document as we might have done. In essence, it hasn’t been redrafted since it was written in early 2014 and it therefore does not take account of Brexit for example, or the changes in government policy since 2015. We’ve put our effort into delivery and specifically into linking the Delivery Plan to the MTFS. That has been very successful, and I’m happy that we are hitting our targets across the business more consistently than we did before. We now need to link that granular attention to detail to our strategy.

We undertook a couple of exercises to look specifically at two of the enablers – digital and People Helping People. There was some really good feedback from the tables and a greater understanding at the end of the event of what was required of us.

I also trailed the work that SLT have been doing on values. There is more to do, and I’ll report on this blog more fully in the coming weeks, but it’s a key component of the top enabler – our workforce. As all speakers made clear, we are a people organisation and we simply won’t hit our targets without our committed and engaged staff.

SLT did an exercise on Monday on the subject of values. It was a fascinating activity in which we each selected one of our colleagues for a mission to Mars, who embodies our core values. We then described individually why we selected that person. I won’t mention who each director chose, but the really interesting thing was the commonality of qualities that those individuals possessed.  We’ve worked that down to six values, and the interesting thing is that the vast majority of us are already living them, walking the talk as the Americans put it.

As I say,  more to come on this and an opportunity for everyone to contribute towards setting our new values, but it was an uplifting and reassuring session.

And finally, a special mention for our highways teams who were out round the clock over the weekend gritting our roads in some very challenging weather.

The Digital Revolution

Monday, December 4th, 2017

We seem to be making real progress on the Smart Staffordshire work, in which the county council is working with our universities, businesses and the Staffordshire public sector.

This last week saw two events, the latest in a series in which there is a commitment and energy that I’ve not seen in this area before. The first was a digital leader’s forum to summarise progress to date and plan next steps, and the second was a meeting of the Staffordshire Hundred, held in the offices of one of our leading digital companies, Risual.

I listen to many presentations about smart cities, and how that will revolutionise the way that we live. If I’m being really honest, they are a bit “techy” talking about sensors in your bin to tell when it needs emptying, and sensors in your bike lamp to work out where you’re getting delayed on your commute.

Both, and many more using location data from your mobile phone, are absolutely possible today and will undoubtedly save time and money, but I believe that they are examples of limited ambition.  If the digital revolution is genuinely a revolution, the biggest opportunities and challenges remain in the human sphere. We need to have the appropriate skills to operate and innovate in this world, and the infrastructure which supports the development. Therefore, the question in my mind is: having got ahead of the curve on Superfast Broadband in Staffordshire, what is next? Is it 5G mobile telephony, Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), or some other technology?

If you’ve got a view, I’d love to hear it.

Better skills will improve our knowledge, which in turn will make us more confident to accept a culture that welcomes data sharing as part of life. It is interesting to note that I’m receiving about 5 emails a day at the moment offering to help me with my General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) problem, laying out the threats and dangers of not getting it right. The only problem is that it isn’t a problem. GDPR clarifies data sharing – we will have to make changes, but it is a good working knowledge of it, not fear, that will get us into the right place.

It’s the human dimension of digital that need our greatest efforts at the moment – skills, entrepreneurship and innovation.