How I guided a leadership team through a service redesign process, creating strategic alignment and improving relationships
A council leadership team with a remit across connectivity, sustainability, transport and the environment requested my support to guide them through a redesign of their functions.
The request was driven by changing customer needs and marketplace, coupled with historic and likely future budget changes and gaps in service delivery, plus capacity potentially in the wrong places.
There were many risks of not redesigning, including:
- some team members ‘held’ in temporary seconded posts
- the potential for the right things not being done while the wrong things might get done
- duplication of effort
- job satisfaction impacted with confusion and tension
- and the likelihood the service would not deliver against the council priorities and vision.
The purpose of the work was to ensure the team was fit for the future. The focus was on ensuring that skills and knowledge were used effectively across the team and that capacity was in the right place to achieve their vision & objectives. A secondary objective, to create a cohesive leadership team with a shared direction, was agreed at a first workshop.
Four workshops were undertaken following the kick-off meeting, with additional work by the team in between. The work took place over the course of five months.
Naomi Stanford’s Organisational Design Model was used to guide thinking and structure the work. This meant that a holistic approach was considered, rather than just jumping to a structural solution, which was the natural first place the team wanted to focus.
As a result of the work, the leadership team is now clear and joined up on strategy, with a clearer understanding of each functional area and how they are, or need to be, connected. They are agreed on a high-level action plan to work with colleagues to address issues and build on strengths.
From a structural perspective, no major changes were required, meaning the workforce was not subject to a knee-jerk, costly restructure that would not have achieved the required results for the service.
Relationally, the leadership team report being at their best ever in terms of ways of working, levels of trust and collaboration.
How I partnered with senior leaders to develop a healthy, high-performing team, collectively leading their workforce and shared agenda
A new-in-post, internally-promoted Director in a large county council had inherited a solid leadership team with a history of delivery and performance. Previously their peer, he was energised and driven by his new role, yet couldn’t quite put his finger on what was missing when working with his team.
Initially wanting coaching and help to pinpoint that elusive element, we agreed I would work collaboratively with him and his leadership team, taking facilitative, coaching, critical friend and expert roles to achieve a healthy, high-performing team.
Initial activities were to gather and relay insight from direct observation, 1:1’s, facilitated workshops and a desktop review of organisational data. The role then changed to the provision of expert advice and guidance, together with process facilitation and critical friend roles to the director and his team. What emerged was a change programme which harnessed and engaged the whole workforce to create a healthy, high performing environment for the directorate.
Using Myers Briggs Type Indicator in 1:1 and workshops, the team experimented with and agreed new ways of working that played to all their strengths and preferences. Strategic planning sessions culminated in a clear, aligned high-level delivery plan for the directorate. It also led to clarity around the shared leadership role and requirements needed to deliver against this.
Once the senior leadership was more aligned, this was shared across the service with a call to action around system and culture change. Self-organised groups were given sponsorship and advocacy by the senior team to work on issues they felt passionate about. Kotter’s 8 stage change model was used to guide the work and measure progress.
Initial priorities identified by the workforce included:
- annual all-employee conferences
- succession planning
- skills audits and supporting development planning
- flexible and agile working
- improved engagement by key people with the internal communications team to shape key messages and campaigns.
Working with the director, we additionally identified that diversity was a key issue for the department, so created initiatives focused on the most imminent priorities:
- developing a Workforce of the Future to address aging workforce and succession
- Women in Leadership as identified through workforce data as a key gap
- and widening diversity within the senior team decision-making mechanisms to address the issue of an all-male, white, middle-aged leadership team.
The directorate outperforms all other departments across the council for all other workforce metrics such as engagement while delivering on their financial, strategic and operational targets. The work continues to evolve and grow, engaging more of the team members. The workforce has been integral in shaping the council’s first ever People Strategy and delivery plan.
Directly attributable results include the retention of key individuals, improved leadership, confidence and morale. Workforce data and anecdotal feedback evidences that the department has the most positive environment within the council.
How I shifted a large, traditional county council to lead with purpose, agility and accountability to drive improvements in organisational performance
With more than 30,900 employees, this county council was one of the largest local government bodies in England, providing a host of public services. Budget restraints made it necessary to reform and modernise the council from a slow-moving and overly bureaucratic council to a high-performing, customer-focused and innovative one.
The culture was one of acceptance of lower performance and the status quo. There was no clear focus on priorities and purpose. Leaders and managers lacked a sense of urgency, accountability, pace and passion for delivering the highest service levels.
Working as an Internal Consultant, my initial task was to create a focused, accountable, aligned and passionate senior leadership team able to lead large-scale transformational change and achieve a high-performance culture.
Through the work, this widened to include all leaders and managers across the council, over 3000 colleagues, with a focus on achieving sustainable change through a rigorous and integrated process across organisation, team and individual levels.
Initial diagnostic work was undertaken to create a case for change and gain leadership buy in, resulting in a three-phase programme to achieve improvement in key organisational people and business metrics.
The initial phase, focused on the senior leadership team, their direct reports and the next tier of leaders, was designed in partnership with an external culture-shaping organisation. We used an approach linked to Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze: Change: Freeze change theory, combined with behavioural change achieved through personal insight and mindset shift.
The second phase focused on transferring competence to an internal team and developing leadership advocacy for system-wide integration, with a roll out to the next cadre of leaders and the wider management population.
The final phase placed significant focus on workplace application and reinforcement to create new habits, achieved through a framework of management development, reinforcement messaging and alignment with strategic planning and council processes.
The engagement with external partners defined the principles that would guide the council to be well managed and to deliver greater value more efficiently to the 825,000 people it serves: focus, pace, delivery, trust, doing more and better with less, and passion.