Them’s The Vagaries

Much vigorous paddling below the surface continues.

I’m continuing to work closely with the Independent Improvement Panel to ensure that its members feel confident in signing off our improvement plan on the 18th of this month. Key areas of focus at the moment for the Panel are the culture change programme, the reshaping of corporate services, the Birmingham leadership group, strategic planning (ie the council of the future and making the money go round) and strategic capacity.

Some elements of the improvement plan are already at the implementation stage. For example:

  • initial proposals have now been formulated to kick off the employment and skills initiative in East Birmingham and these will be available as soon as I have knocked them into a comprehensible document
  • proposed changes to the way HR is overseen politically have in the last week been reviewed by Council Business Management Committee and will be recommended for adoption at this Tuesday’s Full Council meeting
  • preparations are in hand for Elected Members and lead officers to be briefed later this month by the Boundary Commission on how the review of the size of the council and the number of electoral wards is to be conducted.

One of the big practical challenges we are working on is to calculate what level of (human and financial) resource is needed to implement in a timely and effective fashion all the workstreams and actions in the Future Council Programme – especially those that relate to our corporate governance recommendations (profess against which, as I’m sure you recall, will be reported on to the Secretary of State for Communities later in the year).

Under Sarah Homer’s leadership good progress is being made on this task, as well as the overall job of scoping out the entirety of the Future Council Programme which encompass everything we need to focus on as an organisation over the next few years. I expect next week to share, alongside my blog, the work-in-progress so that you can see what we think the programme needs to cover – and who might be leading on what.

Soon, I will also start publishing a regular, easy-to-read highlight report on the progress we are making across the board.

The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise

Meanwhile, other news.

On Thursday evening I attended the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives’ (SOLACE) Annual Dinner (thereby using up my quotient of capital letters for the rest of the month). The well-informed amongst you will know that this elitist group of ne’er-do-wells, colloquially known as the NJU, hasn’t always sought publicity for its existence, let alone the fact that it indulges in such extreme habits as eating.

But this year I’m prepared to own up to attending because it allows me to inform you that I sat next to some geezer called called Bob with whom, as an organisation, we became rather familiar last year. And, almost in front of my very eyes I witnessed the miraculous metamorphosis of a chrysalis Knight into a butterfly Peer as Sir Bob became Lord Bob. I haven’t actually checked the details (as an inconvenient truth would spoil a good tale), but I’m assuming it will turn out to be Sir Robert of Greater Birmingham!

Shoes For Industry

Also last week, I dared to engage in some professional development and went to listen to John Timpson speak – he of the heel, key and watch repair business and, most impressively of all, a serial foster parent.

I’ve heard him before on a TV programme, but in person Mr T was even more fascinating to listen to. And I was particularly taken with his approach to running things which he calls “upside down management”.

There’s lots of learning I could relate, but here are just three bits:

  1. Although he doesn’t call it this, he practises what Lean Systems Thinkers (oops, more capitals) call ‘Gemba’ – ie ‘go see’. He, and his son, visit every store every year to find out what’s going on.
  2. When recruiting, the primary focus – achieved mainly through the bizarrely brilliant use pictograms – is on understanding if a prospective employee will fit the organisation’s culture. As JT said, “I can teach someone to sole a shoe, cut a key, or change a watch battery; but I can’t teach them to be in tune with the culture”.
  3. Timpson’s run things by trusting the people who serve the customers. That’s why it’s called upside down management.

Well worth thinking about in the context of our Big Conversations. And, if I can get the slides he used, I’ll share them.


PS From next week, assuming it doesn’t require a revolution in Internet access, I have been asked to start doing more video blogs (with my favourite songs playing in the background). For reasons I fail to comprehend, some of you apparently would prefer to see and hear me give my messages. Perhaps you’re hoping I’ll be drowned out by the tracks!


Posted on March 2, 2015, in Future Council. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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