What kind of transformation could you unlock by digging down to underlying purpose?
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What’s the purpose of your organisation, or service? are you sure?
I often help people to get to grips with transformation ideas, looking for real innovation. And I keep coming back to a case study of work done by my erstwhile colleague Garath Symonds FRSA.
It connects two things:
- asking what are we really here for?
- thinking deeply about how to achieve that.
Garath was faced with making around 25% savings in an already-stressed youth service over less than three years. This was even harder because he wasn’t given free rein — there were certain political priorities that could not be changed.
It was achieved, without closing any youth centres, by a combination of widespread consultation, deep understanding of current provision, engagement with the voluntary sector, and innovation. Some felt that the service improved as a result.
Certainly some of the results speak for themselves: a 60 per cent reduction in youth unemployment, a 90 per cent drop in youth offending and the eradication of youth homelessness.
The point I want to make here is that by stepping back and asking ‘what are we really here for?’, there was one big unlocking insight: this isn’t one service, but four or five.
Management of youth centres is different from street youth work, is different from apprenticeships for young people not in employment, education, or training, is different from transport and activity organisation — and many of those were better provided by the voluntary sector than by the council.
When we look at the real underlying purpose of a service or a business — what it *should* do, not just what it currently does, day-to-day, we might find that it should do more than one thing and that the parts don’t belong together.
And we might find that it belongs as part of something bigger.
Even my business does such a range of things that they don’t all fit together perfectly; I can see lots of transformation possibilities, if the time and opportunity were right.
But these questions are not asked very often! Perhaps because #management has enough work in — and is deeply invested in — the status quo.
Have you looked deeply, with stakeholders and customers, at the true purpose — or purposes — of your organisation or service? What did you see?
- This is written up in Leadership: commissioning works when you know what young people need, Garath Symonds, Children and Young People Now, February 7, 2011 https://www.cypnow.co.uk/opinion/article/leadership-commissioning-works-when-you-know-what-young-people-need
- and in evidence given to the House of Commons Services for young people — Education Committee on 9 March 2011 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmeduc/744/11030903.htm (also at https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/11728/1/744ii.pdf)
- and as an example of outcomes-based commissioning and coproduction at https://www.nefconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Commissioning-for-outcomes-and-co-production.pdf
- It is also referenced in ‘Transformation by the bucket load,’ Garath Symonds, in Public Service: State of Transformation Report from the Public Service Transformation Academy: https://www.publicservicetransformation.org/2019/03/transformation-by-the-bucket-load/