Last week, we ran a bite-size learning event on change management in local government for local councils. It was a great opportunity to meet and chat with people in the sector and reflect on driving change in local government.
The free event was full, with people from over half a dozen different local authorities (and a couple of other organisations) across North West England.
Change Challenge Themes
First, we reflected on the common themes and challenges we face in local government around making change happen.
After the group had chance to discuss this, a range of common themes emerged including:
- Financial pressures. According to the LGA, over the last 10 years councils have lost, on average, 60% of their funding from central government
- Political uncertainties and national policies
- Challenges around leadership of change
- Lack of communication and consistency, and low staff engagement in change programmes
- Culture change was often cited as a major challenge
Is Culture Change a barrier?
Culture change is often a challenge in all organisations when it comes to driving change programmes. Our Managing Director reflected with the group around what this really means, as the term ‘culture’ means very different things in different organisations.
People refer to blame culture, risk averse culture, cultures of working in silo, so how do we define this?
It’s important to delve deeper into what this means. Lucy led an exercise to encourage participants to reflect in terms of the behaviours, symbols and systems in their organisations.
- Behaviours – what behaviours do you want to see? What behaviours do you see?
- Symbols – what do staff see in their day to day working life?
- Systems and processes – how do these drive the culture change that you want to see?
An example of this would be an organisation wanting to create a more agile working culture.
If this is the case, as well as wanting to see the behaviour change from staff, the organisation would also need to consider whether the systems and processes were in place to support this (for example ICT) and what symbols the staff could see. It is common in organisations to hold regular face-to-face, lengthy meetings – a clear symbol of presenteeism, not agile working.
We also talked about why people might resist change. We discussed people not wanting to let go, worries about basic needs (will I still have my/a job?), not having the right support in and not understanding why or how it will happen.
This outlined the importance of defining change properly and using co-design as a key technique to make sure you get the change right.
Does our discussion around change challenges ring true for your organisation? If so, we’d love to hear more about it.
We’re holding our next free learning event on 1st November 2019 where we’ll be exploring these issues in a bit more detail.