Missions of various sizes and shapes

Not long before Christmas we published ‘Our Plan’ which is the culmination of nearly a year of ‘thinking, feeling and doing’ and I am hugely proud of what we have created. It’s not a strategy – but instead it is a description of the kind of organisation we want to be and what we think is most important. I love the way it ranges from talking about kindness to generational ambitions around climate – and how it focuses on resilient, participation and adaptability. We launched it in a series of bite sized videos to staff and we are now moving into properly bringing it to life in the form of a new organisational design and 3 year roadmap.

In doing this work, one of our central concerns is how to balance the fact that as a shared service we serve two separate political administrations – but with one operating model and delivery team. That roadmap is going to have three connected strands to it:

  • Service roadmaps: these will be the ‘bottom’ up roadmaps for our services which show how they will evolve over the next few years and also show specific projects which may accelerate change in the service or support a specific mission
  • Mission roadmaps: these will show how we will address our big ambitions around people, planet and place
  • Creating our new organisational design: this will show the steps we want to take to change the organisation to be able to deliver Our Plan

The priorities from our two administrations will either appear (and be tracked) as milestones for the mission roadmaps (or perhaps missions in their own right) or specific service delivered projects. The mission framing is important to us for a number of reasons:

  • We needed an approach which could contain the ambitions and priorities of both of our Councils. The mission framing works well to name shared goals and outcomes – but then allows for differences in approach and priorities to meeting those goals. This is an area we will need to work carefully with to make sure that we succeed in a stable delivery environment that is still reflective and guided by the political mandates of the two administrations
  • We wanted to adopt an approach which would work ‘inside and out’ of the organisation – all our mission goals are bigger than anything we can achieve alone
  • We wanted to reflect our belief that big things are achieved iteratively and incrementally – and the mission approach allows us to state a big ambition and work towards it
  • We wanted to shift to a more long term / generational way of thinking

We’ve come to this very influenced by Marianna Mazzucato‘s work and the practical advice in Vinnova’s mission handbook . Personally – I have seen a mission based approach be incredibly powerful in the scientific context at Cancer Research with the Cancer Grand Challenges.

At the moment we are just coming to grips with the approach and the intention is to focus on a few things in parallel to get us started:

  • We need to do some work on getting the missions properly articulated and understood – at the moment they are shorthand for discussions we have had had over the course of the year and they need unpacking in order to be improved and to be more accessible. We also need to align which services will be most closely connected to delivering each mission
  • If we are going to really work inside and outside on these missions we need to open up the process of mission description and roadmapping as soon as we can. This is key to our participative principle and so we will form a plan to do that as part of this initial work. This means wider staff involvement and of course work with members and with community and other groups. This will be a build on the description workshop but probably a shorter format with an option for people to run the session themselves. The work with members is especially important as it’s their priorities which will inform where we focus mission work.
  • As we start the next phase of service planning we will ask all our services to reflect on and name what they want to put on the different mission roadmaps. Not all services will be connected to all missions – but we have designed Our Plan with the assumption that all services are connected to at least one mission set. We will do this after we have involved service managers in the description workshops so that they have something to react to in their service plans In all of this our ‘riskiest assumptions’ (to use agile language) are in two areas:
  • Whether we can balance out the longer term ambition that we are intending with the mission based approach with the the medium term we work in with the political cycle – as well as the shorter term planning cycle we are forced into by finances
  • Whether it is possible to serve two separate (and sovereign) political bodies with one delivery approach – even one which is designed to be pluralistic and a bit messy round the edges

The balance in these lies in our underlying assumption which is stated as our purpose in our plan – that we – as officers – are here to provide good and lasting stewardship for both Adur and Worthing, so that people and places can thrive. What that means plays out and is defined by the political process and then democratically decided – and so the adaptive delivery approach intended with mission and service roadmaps is there both to support the continuity of service delivery and long term ambitions of place at the same time as respecting and reacting to the political cycle we serve.

There is a lot to do here – and we are keen to make real progress rather than just create plans so we are diving into this work now with a view to using it to influence our annual planning cycle for next year and beyond with the medium term financial strategy. This won’t be a perfect process – but working iteratively we will be able to learn and improve what we do.

Finally – partly as a note to self – I am not sure I have found my way with respect to talking about this work here. It’s very much emergent from a process and there are a lot of stakeholders in that process. What you read here is very much my reflections on it – but as CEX I am more than a participant observer and clearly have an effect on the work. I’m going to try and ground myself a it more in an action research approach on this to help me navigate this – but with the hopes that we will work towards more participatory action research as we develop the work.

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