Is it actually a theory of change?

Theory of system change

We are now properly up and running with our strategy / not strategy work and clusters that I wrote about here are now starting to have a really productive conversation about the work they are doing now, aspirations for the future and the way in which we could organise ourselves.

We are about to add to that with some intentional ‘what if’ statements that will help us explore some of the design ideas as well as starting the budget build process for next year.

We are also about to design a first all staff workshop that we will deliver with teams (which is how we did our team charter workshops that helped us develop our approach to hybrid working) so that all our workforce has chance to input into the thinking. We have already started that process with our internal conversations about ‘fix the basics’ as well as asking people what we should stop doing – and those contributions are already being used.

Increasingly and as we develop our strategy and organisational design work I have been thinking two tensions in the work:

  • Firstly the relationship between system change and organisation structure
  • And secondly the relationship between what we do and how we do it

Both of these tensions contribute to our organisational design and the skills we need without our structures – but importantly also the way in which we use these skills and ‘how we do things round here’ which I think is a more useful enquiry than simply to talk about culture change which is done a lot alongside strategy work. Culture change will follow a really clear sense of who we are and what we are here to do – but best pursued with the principle of obliquity rather than head on.

To move this conversation on we are going to look to develop a set of design principles which will build on some of the work we have already done as a leadership team to capture our ‘rules of engagement’ around the strategy/change process but also help us as we start to work through our new organisational design.

I’ve captured some of my thoughts about the design principles here but the next step is for us to start working collectively on these in three different spaces:

  • The wider leadership community
  • The clusters
  • Take them out for staff discussion and debate so we can do this in the open

Once we have the budget landed then we will also bring this to members – and start to plan for how the political ambitions which will be clear after the May elections need to feed through and into our thinking. Because of this I am leaning more towards creating a theory of change rather than a detailed strategy as the outcomes we are aiming for will need to be set by members – but how we approach through goals with greatest effect really matters and that is what we are focusing on right now.

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