Local Government Transformation Masterclass: Delivering transformation and measuring impact - How do we know we’ve transformed?

22 November 2023

Clare Rowley, Head of Transformation – Lincolnshire County Council


  • As well as being a Head of Transformation, Clare is also the deputy chair of the LGA’s Transformation Network. 

What is essential for you when setting up a programme? What do you typically look to measure throughout the programme’s lifespan and how do you go about it?

  • Lincolnshire’s transformation programme was developed to bring some of LCC’s most high profile projects together, to give far greater visibility, corporate oversight and confidence that benefits are being realised. 
  • The way benefits are identified and measured had to be robust; rigour and challenge had to be applied in identification of benefits and impact, and clear definitions created. Recognised that there will be those projects that will see financial ROI and those that won’t, where it is the right thing to due to impact on our workforce and our communities. This is balanced through benefits and impacts being considered at the very beginning, when understanding what the problem or opportunity is, and then really understood and baselined through that business case creation.
  • On the closure of a project; benefits that haven’t been realised will be assigned to a responsible owner to follow through to realisation.

As deputy chair of the LGA’s Transformation Network, what have you heard from colleagues, that works well when delivering transformation projects and measuring impact?

  • Change management has been a frequent point of discussion in the Transformation Network. 
  • There is often a feeling there isn’t the time or capacity for change management, by colleagues outside of the transformation services.
  • Engagement is essential from the beginning for successful transformation.
  • Projects need to be collaborative; we need co-production to get buy-in and we need to take people on the journey. Where this has happened, we see successful project delivery and a real understanding and ownership of impact and benefits.
  • A clear understanding of skills, governance structures and toolkits help to manage change for transformation, however the most important things are conversations across the organisation at multiple levels. 
  • Communities of practice within local government help to share good practice and lessons learned. 
  • Case studies to learn from are also key. 
  • Quick wins have been reported to be important to build confidence in transformation.
  • Messages won’t get across to everybody all of the time, but using all communication channels is key to ensure messages are shared as widely as possible. 
  • The ‘Change Influencer Network’ in Lincolnshire has been key to embedding the change we need to see through the transformation projects and tracking the impact of this through case studies, surveys and feedback.  
  • Recent lessons learnt session has had good engagement and has been a supportive experience. 
  • Join the LGA transformation network

If you could change one thing within the local government system that would improve your day to day work and transformation projects – what would it be?

  • Upskilling and better of understanding of what it means to be a Senior Responsible Owner(SRO) and Project Sponsor to ensure activity is well led and effectively delivered, With an understanding that change management isn’t just an addon but a key function of every project and programme of work.

Tom Alexander, Director, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Can you tell me what is essential for you when setting up a programme? What do you typically look to measure throughout the programme’s lifespan and how do you go about it?

  • Usage of Mark Moore’s strategic triangle is a good way to prepare for a project or programme and then understand both what can be measured and what should be measured given the nature of the project and the culture of the organisation(s) involved. 
  • It’s important to be excited about projects and understand how others can be engaged. 
  • Value propositions are important for benefit communication. 
  • Project management methodology shouldn’t be applied to just anything, context is key.
  • It’s important to know the capability of the people who are doing the work. 
  • Not everyone knows what an SRO does, including people who have previously been SRO’s. 
  • What is the authorising environment like? Do you know who can give permission and who is likely to say yes or no? 
  • Once you understand capacity and authorisation levels you can then investigate measurements.
  • SRO’s should ask themselves what they need to do to enable their team and which members will need additional support. 
  • Form will follow function. Always think POSIWID (Stafford Beer) – “The Purpose of a System Is What It Does” – not what you think it should do.  And so counting the right things is key.

You have worked at three councils in transformation portfolios and within the private sector at Red Quadrant. With all that experience in mind, why do you think local government often finds it so difficult to realise benefits and track impact? What are the common pitfalls you have come across and how have you dealt with them?

  • Compared to the rest of the public sector, local authorities are good at change, we’ve been doing it for the previous 10+ years. 
  • The overriding issue is that upgrading is confused with transformation.  Improving an app to be a more efficient version of itself is not likely to be transformational on its own whereas changing people’s role might well be.
  • Power and direct decision making is often in the wrong place, officers need to be given the opportunity to share power with residents but have to be better and demonstrating to Members why this is beneficial and how it will align with democratic mandate. 
  • Internal systems need to be improved and bureaucracy lessened to allow for transformation at pace. 
  • Too much attention is given to how to run projects, not on delivering benefits to residents.
  • Perfection shouldn’t be the enemy of the good.
  • We should always be looking at what’s essential in a project and what is a nice to have.
  • If you can’t explain what you’re doing to a resident then you shouldn’t do it, you should be able to explain the value. 

If you could change one thing within the local government system that would improve your day to day work and transformation projects - what would it be?

  • Story telling is just as valid as counting volume when demonstrating impact.

Nicola Topping, Strategic Transformation and Change Lead, Sunderland City Council

Can you tell me what is essential for you when setting up a programme? What do you typically look to measure throughout the programme’s lifespan and how do you go about it?

  • The Transformation arm of Sunderland is made up of 32 programmes. 
  • Codesign is essential, using a combination of Prince2 and Agile methodologies. 
  • A panel discussion with internal experts on realisation of transformation programmes, monitoring of impact and realisation benefits has been useful. 
  • When starting a project centring on the original scope is important, especially when delivering several projects from elsewhere. 

What approach, principles and model have you adopted to measure impact in Sunderland? How do you balance ‘soft’ benefits and efficiency targets to sustain services?

  1. Customer voice is heard.
  2. Right service and staff in the right place, at the right time.
  3. Intelligence, insight, and evidence led.
  4. Enable people to be independent and resilient.
  5. The council doesn't always have to be in the middle of things.
  6. Grow community resources and enable people to use them.
  7. Make best use of technology.
  8. Innovative and bold.
  9. Work together as one organisation.
  • It’s important to tie all activity back to finance to demonstrate hard benefits.
  • Projects need tracking throughout the lifespan and beyond to achieve real benefits realisation. 
  • In a targeting operating model, it’s important to be customer centric, ensuing that all services and systems match up across the council. 
  • Being honest with all stakeholders and to cut through barriers is essential to clarify authorisations levels and empower officers. 
  • Skill levels shouldn’t be assumed, for example in Sunderland refuse collectors weren’t connected digitally and needed upskilling in this area to take advantage of digital offers. 
  • The best use of technology is to rationalise systems that you already have and strip them back to their core requirements.
  • Tinkering around the edges of the system won’t produce the necessary change. 
  • A problem statement is necessary to work out what you’re trying to deliver.
  • Priorities need to be rationalised to make clear the key priorities. 

If you could change one thing within the local government system that would improve your day to day work and transformation projects - what would it be?

  • Collaboration is key, we should be winning hearts and minds and working together. 


Q: We have set up a transformation delivery unit this year and are at the point of developing delivery plans and pulling together trajectories from each area. We are currently looking at the cost of care packages but a lot of it is around baseline data. How do we better understand this?

A : It’s important to understand who’s giving you the unit costs, to ensure these are an accurate measure. Before getting too much into looking at care funding calculators you could see if there’s anything off the shelf that would do the job. You should also try and understand the drivers of cost before worrying about trajectories. You could also map the journey, to understand the problem and have an end to end map of the social care pathway. 

Roundtable discussion

  • Lots of the projects are about the 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle financial split. 
  • All of the tools will only get you so far, at some point you need to get directors onboard. 
  • A change in senior management has a huge impact on how councils work, with directions and governance changing. 
  • A lot of councils find benefit realisation to be a sticking point to transformation. 
  • Some councils are looking to bring services back in house but are struggling to show the benefits of this in the short to medium to long term. 
  • We sometimes focus too much on the end benefit of a programme but not the small benefits during the lifespan. 
  • Data quality is a key issue, with this having huge impacts on how data is measured. 
  • Some councils developing data and business intelligence strategies have had this fall under transformation.
  • Cross service working could use improvement in some councils, with some cases falling through the cracks, this can be exacerbated by using external suppliers. See our previous notes on working with strategic partners.
  • Commissioned services often don’t know what decisions they can make and need to be given the agency to deliver services. 
  • Working with the Adults Board is key to bringing together relevant stakeholders, as we all have a safeguarding responsibility.
  • A lot of internal stakeholders feel they are already lean and don’t think transformation will lead to further savings or benefits, even if this is demonstrably not the case.
  • We need to be honest when things aren’t going well, not everything can be RAG rated green all the time. 
  • Asking specific questions about different aspects of a service can bring out things that can be transformed.
  • It would be interesting to know how many organisations have an onboarding matrix.
  • One delegate recognised many of the challenges shared – specifically the 'can you just'; the 'we just need to deliver' tasks at last minute and not having the space upfront time, to understand what the project is trying to achieve……A council responded, 'We now plot all our change initiatives with Savings on Y and Complexity score on the X, then we would expect bottom left quadrant to be BAU, moving to the right supported BAU to fully transformation led on the right- useful visual display and helps aid conversations about resource prioritisation'.