Better Serving Your Citizens - Embracing Change in Difficult Times

In this 1st article of our "Better Serving Your Citizens" series, this post highlights the real issues, experiences and changes required to enable Local Authorities to embrace change and deliver more with less whilst still better serving their citizens.

The publication of SOCITM's recent report Better Served: Customer access, efficiency and channel shift, highlights what needs to be done in the UK Public Sector before the considerable efficiencies available from customer management can be realised.

The need for change

In the current austere economic climate following the controversial Spending Review 2010, doing nothing is no longer an option for local authorities. Budgets have been slashed, but services are still expected to be delivered to ever more expectant citizens. To deliver more for less, change is inevitable and the true spirit of change management enables employees to express and apply their knowledge in a way that benefits each of them and the organisation. To create a better tomorrow, the whole organisation needs to be mobilised and this can only be achieved if the hearts and minds of employees are captured.

Corporate leadership

It is a well known fact that change starts at the top of an organisation with strong corporate leadership. Vision to improve the organisation from the perspective of staff and citizens will only achieve efficiencies when the organisation aligns its resources and inspires its staff to do their best work. Working closely with partner organisations to enable area based services to be delivered in new ways, through sharing back office services, buildings and assets will reduce costs and inefficiencies.

In my previous role as Head of ICT at North Cornwall District Council, we achieved top level commitment to ICT-enabled change. This was only possible through obtaining buy-in at the top of the organisation. Moving the Chief Executive to this position of understanding and buy-in took many hours of my time working through the reasons why eGovernment was not just about ICT. But the fact ICT was the enabling tool once the organisation had made the significant changes required to embrace new ways of working and delivering services.

A major overhaul in the management style of the Council replaced the entire management team. A new, flatter structure, with a new generation of service heads, who were empowered to manage, prevailed. 'Circles, not pyramids' became the slogan for change and management became much more responsive and flexible.

We developed new channels, such as our 'Out and About' service which included visiting 12 rural locations, creating a website with the facility to pay Council Tax online, and supporting tenants in developing their own information website. Our close partnership with other councils led to increased capacity, reduced costs, and shared knowledge and expertise.

The next episode in our "Better Serving Your Citizens" series sees us explore change motivation and making quick efficiency wins to improve efficiency journeys