We’re in the process of creating a new organisational design and operating model that will better reflect and allow us to deliver on the ambitions of Our Plan (which I have written about here and you can read here).

We’re at an exciting but slightly frustrating point in the work where we have just completed the leadership design which describes – at a very high level – the future shape of the organisation and have got the first part of that in place – the frustration coming from feeling ready to go but without the people all there. We are in the process of recruiting to these roles so if you think this all sounds the right kind of interesting then do get in touch.

This means that the new leadership team will be looking at the design for their part of the organisation in a distributed process that we will guide and coordinate from a new function we are calling ‘people and change’ which brings together all of the ingredients of system change into one place. More on that as it develops.

The new design is going to have a few organisational shifts that we think better reflect what an organisation today – whether or not its a public sector one – needs to be. I don’t think any of these are unique to us – but I think the combination and the active use of our principles to get there probably is unusual.

The organisational design is formed around two axis:

  • Services: designed around the principles of good services and grouped around audience/customer
  • Capabilities: skills and knowledge needed across the organisation

These are then in service of two other design elements:

  • Capabilities / services connect in the delivery of our missions which is expect to be largely drawing on multi disciplinary teams
  • Our principles weave across and through everything creating (we hope) consistency about how we do things

We have not done a big piece on culture and values – but our work on Our Plan has defined some rules of engagement and the principles are a way of expressing ‘how we do things round here’ which is as good a description of culture as anything else (more here on my fear of laminated value lists). The principles are:

  • Resilient rather than efficient – I have written more about this here but in short – in an quickly shifting context your organisation and your people need enough head room to be able to adapt for the changing circumstances
  • Participative rather than top down which means giving people voice and agency
  • Adaptive rather than linear, with the ability to experiment and learn, building in capacity for change as a norm rather than a stop/start

I’m going to write a bit about each of these over the next few months and how they are intended to work together, but going back to the organisational design, the main big shifts alongside the principles are:

  1. We are creating a design which leans heavily on matrix working and multidisciplinary teams – including for core functions like legal and finance. We are working through the detail of this but the ambition is that all staff are clear on what services they support and which missions they are working on but also what professional families (or capabilities) they are part of. We think this will both be more cost effective but more importantly reflect our principles more effectively that a more traditional top down design which we have at the moment
  2. We want to make sure that we are putting our frontline services at the heart of what we do – and that includes bringing them close to strategy development and delivery
  3. We are assuming both that we will want to make extensive and creative use of digital technologies and also that we can’t afford – and don’t want – a large standalone digital team. We are therefore going to embed digital skills in a large range of job descriptions and have a significant upskilling programme over the next 2-3 years with the aim of making skills like user journey mapping or initial discovery work ubiquitous.
  4. We want to make a step change in our response to the climate emergency and so we are going to treat sustainability also as a capability which will cut horizontally across the organisation with a significant community of practice (as with our digital skills) to support our ambition here.

This design will rely on us committing as a whole to making multidisciplinary working work at scale. This is not a small ask of the organisation and something I have written about here before in the context of thinking about matrix working in different contexts.

This is very much a design born of a belief that we need to evolve our organisation thoughtfully but at pace because the challenges and opportunities we face mean we need to work differently -what has been encouraging in the work is that we are all starting to see a common approach emerging.

Its also a design born of complexity – as a shared service with two political administrations to serve we need to be good at looking in managing and fulfilling competing priorities and ambitions while losing our focus on frontline delivery.

We recently said goodbye to a much loved colleague who is retiring after being with the councils for other 30 years. I have to say I am a bit in awe of someone who has put in that kind of public service. We were talking, at the end of our election count which was very appropriately the last thing on his work todo list, about the vast change he has seen in the sector and that when it comes down to it the things that really matter are kindness and connection – it was a really important reminder about the need to put the human stuff right at the heart of things and I’ll be taking that thought into the next phase of our design work.

Original source – Catherine Howe

Comments closed