Local Government Transformation Masterclass: Transformation operating models and approaches

1 February 2024

Spotlight presentation: Clare Evans, Associate Director Transformation, Tewksbury Borough Council

This summary captures the essence of Tewkesbury Borough's transformation journey, outlining the strategic location, political shifts, transformation initiatives, operational improvements, and the focus on future challenges and directions.

Tewkesbury Borough overview

  • A small Gloucestershire district located at the northern tip, spanning southwards towards Cheltenham and Gloucester.
  • Population of 94,000 across 45,000 households, strategically positioned along the M5 corridor.
  • Hosts multinational companies, experiencing significant growth as one of the fastest-growing boroughs outside London.

Strategic challenges and responses

  • Facing financial challenges amidst rapid growth, necessitating innovative approaches in service delivery and demand management.
  • Recent political shift from a Conservative majority to no overall control with the Liberal Democrats as the largest party, prompting new council leadership and plan formulation.

Transformation initiatives

  • Acceleration of transformation efforts post-2020, moving from a lack of a structured approach to a focused strategy.
  • Establishment of an in-house Business Transformation Team to lead projects, initially composed of 5 members, now expanded to 13.
  • Specific emphasis on digital transformation, intentionally separating it from IT to prioritise customer and business needs.

Operational improvements and strategy

  • Introduction of digital platforms and agile methodologies, focusing on customer engagement and service simplification.
  • Utilization of “monday.com” for project management, enabling a clear overview of ongoing and upcoming projects.
  • Adoption of MoSCoW prioritisation to ensure timely project launches with minimal viable products.

Financial and cultural impacts

  • Significant savings and funding generated, enhancing service delivery, and reducing demand.
  • A shift towards a culture of engagement, innovation, and digital preference within the council and community.

Ongoing challenges and future directions

  • Balancing the investment in the transformation team with the achievement of financial benefits.
  • Emphasis on improving data use for better service delivery and proactive measures like flood response planning.
  • Aiming for a high-performing organisation by focusing on customer engagement, process simplification, and strategic use of data.

Key principles and approach

  • Digital-first approach where possible, ensuring accessibility for all users.
  • Encouragement of change and innovation, leveraging data and insights for decision-making.
  • Continuous engagement with stakeholders to foster buy-in and participation in the transformation process.

Spotlight Presentation: Georgina Evans-Stadward, Service Director - Strategy, People and Performance, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

This summary captures Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council's strategic and operational transformation journey, highlighting the key components, methodologies, and outcomes of their "One Council" programme.

Overview of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council:

  • A small district borough council in North Staffordshire, operating within a two-tier system alongside Staffordshire County Council.
  • The council employs approximately 450 staff members, benefiting from agility and close-knit operations due to its small size.

Transformation journey

  • Initiated the "One Council" programme during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, leveraging the crisis as a catalyst for comprehensive digital and operational transformation.
  • Aimed to transition from project-based improvements to embedding continuous enhancement into business as usual.

Strategic approach and drivers for change

  • Utilised the pandemic-induced shift towards digital operation as a learning opportunity for future enhancements.
  • Leadership discussions focused on retaining beneficial changes post-pandemic, identifying areas for improvement, and conceptualising a "Dream Team Council".

Key principles and operational model

  • Developed drivers for change based on financial challenges, changing demands, and the council’s strategic aims.
  • Established principles to guide the transformation, ensuring services align with strategic outcomes, efficient resource use, and enhanced customer experience.

Implementing the transformation

  • Emphasised digital improvements without excluding non-digital users, aiming for systemic rather than progressive changes.
  • The operating model was re-evaluated to focus on customer support, strategic planning, and internal support services, adapting plans based on data and feedback.

Operational model components

  • Leadership and management capabilities, enhancing digital customer interaction, creating a one-front-door customer service model, and forming a multifunctional team for on-the-ground responses.
  • Strategic brain for ongoing strategic alignment, demand management, and operational efficiency.

Agile methodology and cultural change

  • Adopted agile methodologies for continuous improvement, starting with minimal viable products and evolving through iterative development.
  • Focused on cultural transformation to empower staff, encourage innovation, and align with the council’s values and strategic objectives.

Achievements and impact

  • Achieved a reduction in incoming phone calls by over 24 per cent, indicating successful demand management and digital adoption.
  • Recorded a 28 per cent increase in citizen account sign-ups, demonstrating greater public engagement with digital services.
  • Saved 6 per cent of the overall budget, equating to £1 million a year, confirming the financial effectiveness of the transformation efforts.

Witnessed improved staff engagement and buy-in, highlighting a significant cultural shift within the organisation.

Spotlight Q&A

Can you talk a little about how you've evidenced the value of the team?

Evidencing value has been challenging but achievable with tools like engage software, which aids in process mapping and measuring impacts such as officer time or financial savings. A critical part of the process involves capturing current operations ("as is") and desired outcomes ("to be"), which helps in measuring improvement. However, capturing initial service operations accurately has been a learning curve, and measuring customer satisfaction is an area of ongoing focus.

How have you managed to track benefits and evidence savings?

The organisation uses a benefits tracker to identify time and resources spent on processes, aiming to identify and eliminate waste. This involves detailed mapping of processes and understanding where efficiencies can be made, sometimes through digital solutions. Additionally, a systems approach has helped identify duplicate contracts or systems across teams, enabling cost savings and more efficient resource use.

How does cross-organisation prioritisation work to ensure resources are allocated to impactful changes?

Through systems thinking and a holistic review of the operational model, the organisation encourages teams to see themselves as part of a larger whole, facilitating the redistribution of tasks where it makes sense. This approach helps break down silos, encouraging a more collaborative environment and ensuring resources are directed towards areas with the greatest impact.

How do you ensure engagement across the organisation, including from teams less inclined to change?

Leadership buy-in at all levels has been crucial. Regular briefings and updates on the transformation team's work, coupled with successful internal projects that directly improve staff experiences, have helped build trust and engagement across the organisation.

How did the handover from consultancy to the core team go?

Despite initial concerns, the transition was successful. The consultancy helped skill up the team, and as their involvement decreased, the internal team felt empowered to take ownership and adapt processes to better suit their specific needs, ultimately flourishing in their new roles.

What organisational development interventions have been most effective in driving cultural change?

Leadership support has been pivotal, alongside fostering an approachable, friendly, and open culture within the transformation team. Defining organisational values, missions, and working principles has also been crucial, enabling a focus on well-being, culture, and creating a positive work environment beyond just financial savings.

Roundtable discussion: Notable Practice Highlights

Barnet Council

Barnet Council shared insights into their procurement of a new CRM system and the need to integrate systems with existing IT infrastructure such as those used in Children’s Services. The focus was on ensuring seamless integration with existing children's services platforms like liquid logic, underlining the importance of finding solutions that bridge these gaps in unitary authorities.

Norfolk Council 

Discussed the shift towards a continuous improvement model inspired by private sector practices. By emphasising the need for cultural shifts and greater buy-in across the organisation, also highlighting the journey from a traditional agile project management approach to a more nuanced, ongoing improvement process.

Kingsland in West Norfolk Council

Brought a perspective of change from their experience across the NHS and local government, stressing the importance of flexibility, communication, and cultural adaptation in transformation efforts. Kingsland in West Norfolk Council advocated for building a network of professionals to share transformation strategies and successes, underscoring the collective challenges in health and social care integration.

South Tyneside Council

South Tyneside Council's shared their transformation journey, focusing on establishing solid organisational foundations post-COVID, raising concerns about the procurement of IT systems and the potential for councils to collaborate more effectively to ensure value for money and better service outcomes.

Epping Forest District Council

Epping Forest District Council provided insight into getting the balance between governance and operational efficiency in transformation projects right. They highlighted the importance for a dialogue on creating a more supportive framework that doesn't hinder progress, alongside a collective effort to stay ahead in IT and technical innovation to attract top talent.

Summary and Conclusion

The discussion underscored a common theme: the need for adaptability, continuous improvement, and collaboration across councils to tackle the shared challenges of public sector transformation. Each contribution provided valuable insights into the practicalities of navigating change, emphasising the collective endeavour to enhance service delivery and operational efficiency in the face of evolving demands and constraints.