The end of the beginning

Worthing pier

I’ve written about what we are doing on strategy / not strategy and I’ve come to write more about it again a few times but backed away as it didn’t feel ready, but we are moving into a new phase of the work now and making it more open internally and I feel a bit more ready to do a bit of thinking about it in public. Its not fully formed – but that’s the point of working in the open – you share things while they are in pencil – before they are fully done.

So far, we have been in a process as an organisational leadership team across three areas:

  • Thinking: What are our ambitions and priorities and how do we organise them? We have ended up with a plan rather than a strategy here for anyone who was interested in the strategy / not strategy conundrum
  • Feeling: What kind of organisational behaviours and leadership do we need we want to have?
  • Doing: How do we want to organise ourselves to get stuff done? This will be both about ways of working but also about organisational design

We are moving constantly between these 3 strands and working ‘in pencil’: getting feedback and iterating as we go along. One of the reasons I feel ready to write a bit more about it is that we have started the staff engagement work to test and improve what we have doing. That feedback has meant we are re-organising what we are doing a bit and then we will be ready to feed this into our budget and service planning processes to give us a rolling 3 year plan.

In practical steps, we are using a mission framing to describe our ambitions and our next step will be to create roadmaps for these. These will be supported by service plans so we can show the join between missions and our frontline delivery. It will all be underpinned by a set of principles of who we want to be as an organisation ; participative, adaptive and resilient. All of this to be done iteratively and as visibly as possible – we are just designing our next round of staff engagement now.

The principles are a key component here; how we do something is as important as what we do. All of these are ‘inside out’ principles – I want is to apply them internally and for them to be true for staff as well as for our communities. I’ll write more about each of these but as a starting point – this piece on why we can no longer afford to be efficient is a good start.

The approach we are developing has provenance from a number of places; action research, agile/digital practice, systems practice and increasingly mission driven innovation. But we are trying not to make it a mess of ‘isms’ and instead a coherent description of how we do things round here. We will need to keep working on that – staff feedback has been very clear on accessibility of language and there is much more work to do there.

Sharing this more widely internally means we are now moving out of the thinking into the doing phase – starting to look at our draft missions and testing them against the pressures of service delivery. This means planning and prioritisation – and we are looking at this as how we make sure we get the right people focused on the right stuff at the right time to create a sustainable rhythm for the organisation.

We are currently spending a lot of energy creating ‘mission control’ which Paul Brewer is leading, and describes as “well organised, realistic programming” which is designed to bring together our service and mission planning work but also to drive a quarterly review and prioritisation rhythm through the year. We are prototyping and testing this with our budget and planning process this year – with the reasoning that you don’t create something new in old ways.

Our next big test of our work will be to bring the political agendas of our two councils into the process and test that we can demonstrate the delivery ‘join’ here. We have been working on this in parallel and so the join is definitely there – but it needs developing and testing to make sure that we are set up to delivery the political priorities.

I’ve been in post just over 6 months now (or 12 if you count the interim period) and this feels like a bit of a milestone personally. It feels right that we are moving into that doing phase – supported by the feeling and capacity building that we have been doing- as we adapt our way towards our new plan. Lots to do of course – but it also feels good to be rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it.

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