Unpicking the barriers to change – changing through experience

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i wish someone would do something about this

Photo by Phillirose – Flickr https://flic.kr/p/nV5A1y

I was in a conversation with Sara Cretney (Organisational Change Manager) and some senior colleagues recently about change and the question came up about barriers and what is stopping the people who are thinking differently from doing different?

I’m not entirely sure there is a single answer to this but one of the reasons I believe this is the case here is that given the climate we are in and the context and scale of change we have to embark upon the actual practical act of changing (not just yourself, but services) is really hard, especially if you haven’t experienced radical or transformation change before and lets face it most of us haven’t.

I’m not making excuses just highlighting a fact, so the conversation got into what we could do to resolve those barriers.

Sara and I used some personal experiences of attending practical events like XJamGov where the intense nature of the process challenges you within a very short time frame and introduces you to a range of tools and techniques which you can explore in practical situations and not in abstract and also test and develop new tools.

The more people we can encourage and nudge to attend and participate in these types of things to help them gain practical exposure and experience of new thinking and the doing of that new thinking the better in my opinion.

So what can we do about that?

Well it just so happens that Sara and I had already being doing some thinking around this with colleagues internally and externally – people like Martin Howitt, Lucy Knight, Dave Briggs, Andrea Siodmok and colleagues from Cornwall Council, Devon & Cornwall Police and a few others. We have also looked at work already done by others around this such as the work by Cornwall, Monmouthshire and the Policy Lab.

The idea is to create something which helps individuals discover and explore through experience. Actually shifting people from Thinking Different to Doing Different.

Sounds easier said than done of course – but we thought that there was almost an emerging range of experiences which could be built upon and developed further so it doesn’t feel like we would be starting from a blank piece of paper.

The early thinking is to look at how we can create a Change Academy – this would provide and facilitate an engaging experience around the following headings and themes to develop and grow people’s talents.

The Change Academy

Focus on Need
Key message: User Needs, not (Local) government needs
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Service Design
  • Service Blueprinting
  • User Journey Mapping
  • Personas
  • Ethnography
  • User Research
  • Service Jams

Whole Person, Whole Place, Whole System
Key Message: Focus on what matters
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Understanding and mapping demand
  • Tackling system conditions
  • Identify value and eliminate waste
  • Impact and measurement
  • Measures VS targets

Agile Projects
Key Message: Doing and Showing
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Minimum Viable Product
  • Doing not Talking
  • User testing
  • Lean Start-up

Data and Experience Driven
Key Message: Solving the Right Problems
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Data Stories
  • User Stories
  • Storyboarding
  • First hand Experience
  • Hackathons

Reflective Practice
Key Message: Coaching, mentoring and reflection
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Reflective practice framework (satori lab)
  • Coaching
  • Strengths and impact on others
  • Giving and receiving feedback

Enterprise
Key Message: Making change sustainable
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Social Investment
  • Crowdfunding
  • Co-opetition
  • Business models / business model canvas
  • Law, Finance, HR – Navigating through, not compliance to
  • Negotiating and selling
  • Marketing and Communications

Networked and Collaborative
Key Message: Better Together
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Digital Skills
  • Co-opetition
  • Relationships
  • Understanding networks and channels
  • Online and offline
  • Unconferences

Open by Default
Key Message: Open is better
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Data skills / literacy
  • Transparency
  • Data Frame
  • Privacy and Confidentiality
  • Reputation

Digital by Design
Key Message: This will happen / this is happening
Skills, development, learning and hands on experience of:

  • Digital Skills
  • Digital Infrastructure
  • Market Awareness
  • Opportunity
  • Prototyping
  • Experience

Now as I mentioned this is early thinking and we would welcome views and comments.

One of the aspirations I have is to link the Change Academy to the LocalGov Digital skills development workstream and this become a natural part of what we do and support through LocalGov Digital.

 

Further reflections from LocalGovCamp and about LocalGovDigital

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As you can tell I’m all for imaginative blog post titles :)


Anyway what I would like to reflect on is how I believe LocalGovDigital became more real, more present, more about the network and collaboration as opposed to the steering group at LocalGovCamp and how through the conversations at the open steering group I realised we had finally achieved what we needed to in order to make real and lasting progress.

Let me explain…

For me and for others LocalGovDigital as an unnamed network started at the very first LocalGovCamp and what made that so successful was it created new connections, new collaborations, new discussions etc but what we didn’t really focus on back then was creating collaborative outputs (OK, some were created and some people tried) but nothing has really appeared that has transformed a service.

When LocalGovDigital formally came together nearly 2 years ago now, we came together through a shared vision, shared values, shared aspirations and I guess at the time and more importantly shared frustrations.

We all wanted to see something change, we wanted to think different and do different…so we tried a few things as a small group of people and called ourselves the steering group and it started to do stuff.

However one of the issues for me and others was that the capacity of those within the steering group was limited and therefore we decided (rightly or wrongly) to focus on small outputs, manageable and extensions of the “day job” as we were and still are all voluntary.

As time progressed more and more people recognised the value of the network and the collective voice and action of practitioners. We were a “Thing”, we were seen as formal when we weren’t. We needed and have started to understand what all of this really means and how we can make change happen.

LocalGovDigital has never been about the steering group, it has always been about the network, the people who do stuff, make stuff, change stuff, design stuff and share stuff.

The steering groups role was merely an attempt to do the following:

  • Mobilise the existing network, not grow a new one
  • Amplify the voice of practitioners, not simply share it
  • Make and do things instead of just talking and meeting
  • Be networked and collaborative instead of simply networking with each other

So the change I saw at LocalGovCamp this year was that people recognised they were the network, that we are all the network and if we collectively want to see things change we all need to help and give some time to make and do things differently. The steering groups role needs to change and adapt and that has to be about doing those things above and creating the spaces for people to come together to collaborate, to make, to do and share.

We also need to clarify our focus and that has to be about outcomes and not about specific products. I wouldn’t want to get into a situation where we are recommending specific platforms and saying implement that and you will see change as we all know that doesn’t work. However what we do want to do is support good stuff.

My colleague Martin Howitt summed it up very nicely recently, he said:

LocalGovDigital aims to support and collaborate with everyone in and around the sector. We want to focus on outcomes rather than specific groups or people.

That is to say that if someone builds or creates something brilliant and someone else does something similar then that’s brilliant too because we can all learn from it. It’s the learning that is important and not the product or the organisation that produces it.

So my final reflection is about my contribution – what is it I can do to help?

One of the biggest issues for me is the skills and capacity of those in the sector to make change happen…that isn’t to say there isn’t any capacity and skills, but it just isn’t always well-developed, doing the right things or focused on the right outcomes…so my focus is to look at how that can be solved in practical ways.

Reflecting on LocalGovCamp 2014 – Did that really just happen…

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I wanted to post a set of reflections after attending this years LocalGovCamp and fringe events which happened last week (20/21 June).

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Firstly I want to acknowledge the effort and hard work of Sarah Lay – given all of her work in the day job and outside I’m in total admiration for how she managed to make this happen.

Other folk who need acknowledging for there hard work, skills and all round goodness are:
Jon Foster
Phil Rumens
Sarah Jennings
Nick Hill

So back to the event and my reflections and in no particular order

Surprisingly a two day event actually worked, having the practical makers day and leaders summit on the Friday created a focus and energy which carried over to the Saturday even though the people were different

A major realisation that LocalGovDigital has always existed ever since the first LocalGovCamp – the continued support network, the peer to peer sharing, help, advice and collaboration has always been there since 2009, but not as formalised as we are now – we simply made it visible and opened it up.

It never ceases to amaze me how inspired I get from going to these events, there was a time when I felt like the sessions didn’t offer value to me personally so I often just floated around talking (reflecting) I essentially continued attending for the people and conversations – And this year it recaptured the energy, newness and enthusiasm of the very first event back in 2009 – I found the sessions were more stimulating and focused on what can happen now, not what might at some point in the future (in an ideal world) which shows that there is a shift towards a greater clarity of focus…however this was not always the case but you have to let conversations flow

There were more people who hadn’t attended than had previously attended which was one of the things we wanted to achieve. So I’m not sure exactly how we managed to do that but it certainly contributed to the energy and excitement. We also had councillors attending which was also a great success. We need more but we have found a way in which it worked and it feels like we can build on this momentum quickly as well

LocalGov Digital really came to life at this event, it felt like the network was active, present and greater than the sum of its parts. However we still need to effectively harness that and provide stronger leadership as a collective group of people. As Glen Ocsko stated in the open steering group meeting – “we need to grow some digital balls” – that to me means we have to find the confidence to really demand a new relationship, to state our expectations, to share our values and principles and state loudly that “We want, demand and can build something better”. I’m under no illusion that we will need help, but at least we can be honest about that.

Localgovcamp is really about people and places and it just so happens that there is an overt leaning towards technology and some even stated that they felt it was a technology event…we need to address this before we lose people…
For me though I see localgovdigital as being the change makers who can support and help enable a transformation around people and places to create value:

Our focus should be the whole person, whole system and whole place…

By.

- focusing on need
– being open by default
– adopting digital by design
– being networked and collaborative
– by doing and showing
– being evidence and data driven

All of this is underpinned by the democratic accountability which is one of our strengths.

Finally I had one of the best pork pies I think I have ever eaten in the old manor pub – Dave Briggs also had one and can testify to it’s incredible taste, it could only have been improved by adding a good strong cheddar and a quality pickle.

In conversation with Dave Briggs (Podcast)

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The good news is that today I managed to find some time in my diary to speak to the lovely Dave Briggs. The not so good news is that he recorded it and uploaded it as a podcast :) I don’t expect you to listen but if you ever wondered what a typical conversation between myself and Dave sounds like then check it out.

I could speak to Dave for hours and i’d like to get the opportunity to speak to Dave on his podcast again soon.

Dave also shared some links as part of the podcast over on his site.

#LocalGovDigital – A day with @GDSTeam

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Me, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore chatting at GDS – part of the LocalGov Digital Visit

On Thursday 10th April a small group of the LocalGov Digital Steering Group visited the GDS offices to share our journey, share our outputs, ideas and challenges and start a conversation around how we might be able to work effectively together moving forward.  We wanted it to be an open and honest conversation which I believe it was, we were very open about our strengths and vulnerabilities and also learnt and discovered new strengths and vulnerabilities through the day.

For some of the steering group it was their first visit so we had to take the tour and get the plotted history and detail about the journey not just of GOV.UK but of the Government Digital Service itself. It helped us all move away from just seeing GDS as a website and I think we all knew it was more but getting the low down on what they do helped us understand and see that they are changing and transforming government and that isn’t always easy and straightforward but it is possible. This resonated with the group as it is something we aspire to within a local government context.

I had put together a rough agenda to help focus the day but what was good was that it was far more conversational and discussion led then simply us “showing our stuff” and asking “so what do you think?”. I think it was a really good opportunity for us to share some of the ideas we have, some of the outputs we have created as well as some of the challenges we face. The conversations were always constructive, positive and focused on moving beyond the reason why we can’t to seeking opportunities around how we can.

We were also lucky to be able to grab some of Nicola Gill’s time and she shared some updates around digital inclusion which we feel is a really important area that we can work on and is something we feel we have missed out of our workstreams so we have agreed that we should have a workstream to look at how we can work effectively on this area.

We were also keen to understand and get some context around the Electoral Role as this is an area which links nicely with our focus on local democracy. Pete Herlihy kindly gave up some time to the group and also some additional time to some of the group who wanted to pick his brains about some specifics.

For me personally the whole day was a turning point for the group and I’d like to share my personal reflections

  1. We seemed to start the day slightly nervous and lacking in confidence and ended feeling energised and empowered even more to push forward transformation in local government. A challenge is how do we get others to feel as equally motivated whilst they are busy doing the day jobs…
  2. Thinking is no longer the barrier, doing different is the barrier and that requires strategic and political leadership to provide the focus and momentum locally in councils which has clearly been a success for GDS. We need to share stories of how people have worked around this to deliver success on the ground
  3. We should not underestimate the challenge ahead but we should allow ourselves to  get paralysed by it either. There are plenty of people who really want to help local government. We just need to start asking around and working better together to allow this happen and quickly.
  4. As a group we need to celebrate our informal strengths and understand and acknowledge the vulnerabilities more so we can be clear about who, how and why we need help from others.
  5. Influence is something that happens in conversations and we need to have more conversations
  6. Lets not get hung up on the website debate, transformation is so much more than a website. We need to as digital leaders take the conversation to the strategic leaders in our councils and get the conversation focused on transformation.
  7. We need to stop feeling like we are the poor cousins in this space. We should stand up and be proud of who we are and that we work in local government and we should expect to be treated equally and been seen as peers (even if some people think we are just practitioners) Tom tweeted this on Thursday evening and i think this sums up why I think we should be proud.

So what next…

The main action is that we agreed to continue the conversation in an open and honest way to develop trust between both groups. We also identified some areas initially where we thought we could both add value. We’re starting this by becoming one of the partner organisation’s to the Digital Inclusion Charter launched today (Monday 14th April). One of the areas we are looking at in the short term is some basic skills development for practitioners – basically a show and tell for localgov practitioners to learn some of the key issues and skills around topics like analytics, user stories and service manager training.

Overall I’m feeling really positive about continuing an active conversation with GDS and finding ways we can support each other to support local government through digital transformation, collaborate on tools to support practitioners day-to-day and for LocalGov Digital as a network to provide its knowledge to what they’re doing; a real two-way partnership of peer groups.

I’d like to finish by thanking Tom Loosemore and Benjamin Welby for looking after us during the day and being our hosts. Thanks also to Mike Bracken, Nicola Gill, Pete Herlihy and Joshua Marshall who gave their time to share what they were doing and to answer our questions and more importantly challenged us back.