The UK is in a housing crisis. With too few homes in the right places and ever-increasing house prices and rents, it’s time for a radical change in the way we provide housing.
As the Government’s housing accelerator, Homes England is tasked with intervening where the market is failing to support the government’s mission of delivering 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. To achieve this, Homes England is on a journey to transform to become an exemplar of a 21st-century public service organisation. For the last year, we’ve led a transformation programme for Homes England, working together to help them achieve their ambitious goal.
In our first week working, we were providing advice for a small piece of software the digital team was developing. A year later, we’ve made significant steps forward to help the organisation understand how it could deliver its services under their new operating model. From providing some advice to working on organisational change at scale — what’s happened?
Building the service blueprint
Looking at change through three lenses — service, organisation and technology — our aim together was to move towards being a service-oriented organisation. To show where Homes England is heading under a new operating model, we developed a service blueprint, outlining a new approach to future service delivery and ways of working.
You can only lead what you see. Without focus and clear direction, it’s easy to get lost in the noise of activity. The service blueprint helped bring to life what the future ways of working and operating would be, supporting the organisation to focus efforts and resources for change.
Services that reflect needs
Our research has helped Homes England understand the need to change the way services are delivered; away from single-funding programmes and policy initiatives to services tailored around the needs of markets, places and partners. The organisation needs to understand what their partners want to achieve in a place or a market and provide the right services to support them.
As a start, we recommended changes to the language around their services. Moving away from acronyms and jargon and renaming services around user needs. Instead of HIF (Housing Infrastructure Fund), HBF (Home Building Fund) and AC (Accelerated Construction), partners could ‘Get funding’. Instead of jargon like derisking, unlocking and disposing, partners are looking to ‘Find & buy land’.
Homes England are now embarking on the journey to clarifying their services, which will help them to rethink how they are set up to deliver. Siloed funding programmes had created a siloed culture. Looking at services from a customer journey perspective allows the organisation to rethink how they are structured and how they approach service delivery.
Putting people at the centre and the magic of drawing humans
With Homes England on its transformation journey and a new strategic plan, there are a lot of questions. “What does this mean for me? How will my team work in the future? How does this affect my department?” We all love a good strategy deck, but it’s often hard to imagine how strategy translates into the reality of day-to-day roles and responsibilities.
To help employees understand what the changes would mean for them, we created storyboards. This simple design approach showed the future experience and ways of working in a visual way, turning abstract concepts into understandable and actionable things.
For example, showing what a multidisciplinary team at Homes England could look like and how they would operate. It’s the magic of drawing humans. This approach triggered valuable conversations around the organisation. Helping people to understand changes meant that they could provide challenge and feedback.
Less talking about change, more experiencing change
When we arrived a year ago, service design and agile were new concepts at Homes England. Since then, the organisation has made a huge progression in understanding that ‘being digital’ is not just about implementing new technology. There is now the clear ambition, understanding and eagerness to become a design-led, 21st-century organisation.
How did we get there? It’s quite simple. We let people try it.
Infusing FutureGovers into the Homes England team, we were able to actively involve people across the organisation in new ways of working. Beginning with the digital team, before widening to the change team and wider organisation, we introduced agile methodology and design-led approaches. Together, we started creating an open learning culture (encouraging people to share their work, make decisions in the open and share lessons) and engage staff at every level through things like show & tells and away days. Instead of just talking about change, we helped people experience it.
Laying the groundwork for a design-led organisation
Working together with Homes England, we’ve been able to understand and start addressing the unique challenges to rewire the organisation. Rethinking how services are delivered and described, putting people at the centre and enabling staff to join us on this journey have all been significant in starting to change the organisation.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but the foundation is in place for leadership to scale design-led approaches for the whole organisation and continue building a 21st-century exemplar organisation, ready and able to disrupt the UK housing market.
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This post is part one of a three-part series on our transformation partnership with Homes England. Next, we will share how we approached technology, followed by organisation-wide change.
Organisational change with service design: lessons from Homes England was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.