Archive for June, 2018

Leading and managing change

Monday, June 25th, 2018

I went to a number of events last week which centred on leading and managing change, and they have set me thinking. We had an excellent event for our elected Members on Tuesday, during which we discussed the digital and People Helping People programmes. I then spent a fascinating morning presenting at an event for Staffordshire digital businesses with Alun Rogers, Co-founder of Risual, one of our fastest growing digital businesses. Lastly, but by no means least, I sat in on the event on Friday for our Change Champions in County Buildings.

These outwardly very different events all had a common thread, namely how to lead and manage change in a large and diverse organisation such as our own.  We all have a different appetite and readiness for change, and the first trick, if there is one, is to bring those less happy with change along without slowing down the pace.  Recognising that those who fear and resist change are usually doing so out of a wish to protect themselves and the organisation is a good start for leaders.  I have found that it helps enormously in bringing them along on the journey.

Most senior leaders have risen through organisations in the modern Western Model because they are content with uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity; those who prefer to stay in the operator level often prefer clarity and certainty.  In every large organisation, there is a level at which the leader must take the strategic uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity and translate it into tactical clarity and certainty. I sense that level sits at the Wider Leadership Team in Staffordshire County Council, and that is why I’m investing so heavily in bringing them into the planning process for our strategy and MTFS.  The sessions that we have had have surpassed my expectations and hopes.

As we work towards what is an exciting, but frankly uncertain, future, we need to be agile and confident to keep up with the pace of change.  We will achieve that much more effectively by communicating, listening and understanding.

Conducting a Peer Challenge in Gloucestershire

Monday, June 18th, 2018

I spent last week in Gloucestershire as part of the Peer Challenge for the County Council. This is the sector-led improvement programme, organised by the Local Government Association (LGA), in which a group of serving politicians and officers are invited to act as critical friends to offer advice and observations on how they are doing as a local authority.

I’ve done quite a lot of visits and inspections in my previous career, and this was a variation on the theme – very constructive and at the same time, very thorough.  We will be receiving our own Peer Challenge in September and, after this last week, I’m looking forward to it. The key is being open and honest. The team are drawn from organisations which are facing similar challenges to our own, and will, if my experience is anything to go by, learn as much to take home as they offer in advice.

Gloucestershire are a similar authority to ourselves. They’ve had some problems in their Children’s Service in the past 18 months, and are working to solve them, but the background challenges of rising demand and difficulty recruiting and retaining good quality social workers are similar to ours. We had some fascinating discussions about how to achieve our aims in a constructive manner. On the positive side as something to take home to Staffordshire, their ambulance trust is doing some very interesting things with their fire service and adult social care service, with a level of integration that is highly impressive. One always learns something.

County Show, Future First Events and Childcare Success

Monday, June 4th, 2018

It’s been the week of the Staffordshire Agricultural Show and it was a great pleasure to spend a couple of hours walking around the stands and watching some of the judging of the animals in their competition classes.  Coming from a farming background, I spent a fair bit of my youth at such events with my father, and it is very good to note that “our show” has retained its agricultural feel, demonstrating that farming remains a vitally important part of our economy.  The county council was well-represented, with 3 separate activities and stands.  The Fostering and Adoption team were there with their brightly coloured minibus, spreading the word about our Children’s Service and the constant need for more committed carers for the most vulnerable young people.  Closer to the farming industry were our County Farms team who were getting a lot of interest from those who would like to get into farming but don’t have a family connection to get them started.  And lastly, but by the look of the crowd around the stand, certainly not least, were the Animal Health Team in the main building with the stock pens.  It was a good day out, and the length of the queues and the crowds in the showground suggested that it is a popular one.

On a different tack, next week will be the first in a series of Future Search events running over the next few weeks. These events are an opportunity for you to understand and influence where we’re headed as an organisation and explore how you’ll be supported and rewarded in the future as the role of local government continues to change.

I would urge you to sign up for an event in your area.  They simply won’t work as well as we would like without our combined efforts.


Lastly, it was a delight to receive a thank you letter from The Right Honourable Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education, in recognition of our success in providing 30 hours of childcare.  Not only have we achieved the highest level of participation in the West Midlands, but Matt Biggs, Laura Ballinger and their small team have managed to multiply the effect by engaging with employers as well as parents and childcare providers.  The result is that families are accessing the childcare that they need to get better and better-paid jobs, and, at the same time, get more time together.   It really is quite inspirational and humbling, and is down to the careful and innovative work of a small number of local government officers.  Who says you can’t make a difference?