Monthly Archives: May 2015

I Don’t Like Thursdays!

Not really. Although I suspect Kate’s not so keen on them as the last two have been all nighters – the elections and then something called the CEO Sleepout.

Night Fever

On the election front, you should all have had some time now to digest the national and local results. If you still need to check out what’s what, then there’s plenty of information here:

Also, the election for Leader and Deputy Leader has taken place and Cllrs Sir Albert Bore and Ian Ward respectively will be filling those two positions again. The Cabinet has also been appointed too and details can be found here:

You’ll notice that there is a new Cabinet Portfolio for Neighbourhood Management and Homes, which Cllr John Cotton will be responsible for. And there is a new Cabinet Member, Cllr Paulette Hamilton, who takes up the reins of Health and Social Care.

The number of Scrutiny Boards has reduced to five (NB This is subject to formal approval at the Council AGM on 19 May). The change follows a review of governance earlier in the year which sought to address the recommendation in Kerslake Review that we should have fewer such boards.

So, some changes to the start of this Municipal Year.

Real Life

CEO Sleepout

Away from the elections and their follow on, I was one of 36 local chief executives (plus one Bishop and one famous former-player) who spent a night out on the terraces at Aston Villa to raise awareness about homelessness.

Firstly, and I know everyone says things like this, but it was a real eye opener. We hardly had it tough – it was for one night only, we all had good gear, and there was good company to keep us going – but we did get a glimpse of just how bloody awful it is to be out on hard, cold concrete on a chilly night with no real way to get comfortable or sleep for any length of time. A very small inconvenience for us compared to the reality that the truly homeless experience.

Secondly, you have been amazingly supportive and, literally, unbelievably charitable. And, true to my inability to quit whilst I’m ahead, I am going to ask one more time for you to part with your cash. Believe me, you don’t want to be sleeping on the streets. Help me do a bit more to help those who have no choice at the moment but to do so.

To give, click here:

To find out more, click here:

Thank you.

Next Time

I think it will be opportune to update on progress with our Organisational Improvement Plan and the wider Future Council Programme, especially in advance of the next visit by the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel on 11 June.

Also, a few thoughts on devolution, combined authorities and all that jazz.

Ciao for now.


Breaking News!

Whist waiting for my next blog and an update on our improvement journey, please follow this link to find out about how the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel intends to conduct its next monthly meeting on 11 June which it is going to hold in public in the Chamber, here in the Council House.

Elections and Future Council – a busy week


whatsapp screengrabThe next few days (pretty much like the last few weeks) will almost certainly be dominated by the elections – Local and General – and my attention will be fully focused on them given my Returning Officer duties. The elections team, led ably by Rob Connelly, has been working pretty much 24/7 of late to ensure that everything goes well up to and on the 7th and, in advance of the big day, I would like to thank him and all his colleagues for their commitment and hard work: it’s very much appreciated.

And you can show your appreciation too – by voting. The Polling Stations will be open from 7.00 am until 10.00 pm this Thursday, so there is plenty of time to cast your votes.

And if you want a novel way to add to your election watching, why don’t you download WhatsApp onto your mobile ‘phone to catch all the Birmingham action. The link’s here:

Once the download’s complete, you can register for all our bulletins and, of course, the results-by-the-minute on the night itself. WhatsApp the message BRUMVOTES to 07593 166117.

There’s more information about #BrumVotes15 on our website. Just go to:

Future Council

Of course, it’s not all elections and our change programme, Future Council, continues to develop.

Last Friday (1 May) many of you came to the “soft launch” of the proposed replacement to the Performance & Development Review (PDR) system. The new approach is to be recommended to Cabinet later this month, but I was pleased to share the thoroughly reformed framework which we are calling MyAppraisal.

I think it’s fair to say that PDR won’t be missed. It was the internal issue that filled my inbox when I first arrived a little over a year ago, and its reform was, I think, the first promise I made to you all. Well, it’s nearly here and, between us, a much simpler and effective system has been put together.

We’ve spoken enough over the last 12 months for us all to know that MyAppraisal has been designed to take into account our focus on purpose, people and pathways and it fits completely with the values that, together, we’ve worked on since the Big Conversations kicked off last summer.

MyAppraisal is only one part of a much wider set of changes that sit under the umbrella of Future Council and, within that programme, Forward The Birmingham Way

But it seems that for many of you it has a particular symbolism because, if we can deliver it in the spirit with which it is intended, then it will be the first significant point at which we can put the rhetoric of our refreshed values into practice.

MyAppraisal is specifically designed to ensure that we are supported (and, as appropriate, challenged) so that:

  • We put Citizens First
  • We are true to our word
  • We act courageously
  • We achieve excellence

At the two “soft launch” events last week I was asked about how we move beyond good words. My answer was simple. We wanted a new approach; we have jointly designed a new approach; we must now go and deliver it. It’s in your hands now as much as mine. Keep it simple; keep it clear; keep it open and honest; and keep it continuous. And when you need to, be courageous.

This is what you said we should aspire to so, through MyAppraisal, let’s deliver:

  • More openness, trust and accountability
  • Challenging and honest conversations
  • Active performance management
  • Support to develop in whatever way is best for the individual and the organisation
  • A more strategic approach to management and leadership development
  • Clarity of roles and clear messages throughout the organisation
  • A move from a blame culture to an empowering culture
  • A shift from command and control to personal responsibility and contribution
  • A commitment from everyone to the “offers” and “asks” that will be defined through the employee journey
  • Role modelling at all levels, especially JNC
  • Accepting that a journey won’t happen overnight but is still everyone’s responsibility to complete

Thank you,

Don’t be an App

Recently I was asked to speak at the PPMA annual conference about “the view from the top”. Unable to resist the offer to show off, I gladly accepted and, predictably, trotted out my usual cod-philosophy on the key essentials of present and future public service leadership. You know, values, values, values. Slay the heroes. Encourage networks not hierarchies. Blah, blah.

However, I also dabbled in an uncharacteristic bout of listening, aided by the fact that I was doing a double act with the Bard of Lewisham. One of the gems to fall from his sweet lips (not that I know them intimately, of course) was that, in our efforts to tackle those resistant to change, we should ask them how long they think it will be before they are replaced by an App. As challenges go, this sits up there with my wife’s former tactic of subscribing teaching colleagues who weren’t getting the hint about their unsuitability for her school to the TES classifieds. Subtle, or what?!

But both have a point. We need to recognise that the scale and pace of change are conspiring unkindly to expose our built-in obsolescence. Or, to mix my metaphors, the past is indeed, Mr Hartley, a foreign country. Public servants were born to deliver services. But for quite a number of us that’s changing – and changing fast. The leaders of organisations are finding that they need to reinvent both their (delivery oriented) mindset and their skillset as working in and across places demands a sophisticated repertoire of expertise in influence and innovation.

So, as I gaze out from the roof of the world (that is, the terrazza of the reduced hours Library of Birmingham) and marvel at the cityscape below me and think my profoundest of thoughts, I know that the first amongst them must be to ask myself “Am I fit for the future?”. In fact, I need to ask if I am fit for the present. This is quite challenging subject matter, not just on the mortgage repayment front, but also because we have to confront whether or not we personally have the willingness and capability as old dogs to learn new tricks.

So, it was refreshing for me to follow on my PPMA gig with a visit to the new ImpactHub Birmingham. Here a group of courageous pioneers are putting into practice what I suspect I preach; namely, that the revolution won’t be televised (or Tweeted, YouTubed or Instagramed). No, it will be shaped and led by those who turn up and open up their imaginations to the ideas and passions of the thinking classes. And the beauty of such people is that they are everywhere; in Digbeth; in Northfield; in Ladywood; in Nechells; in Sutton – and in the Council House of course.

So, as I consider and re-consider the view from the top, what I know is that it must never just be my view. I have the responsibility (and position) to make sure that it is built from many perspectives – including some that I know are invaluable even if I don’t fully understand them, let alone their potential.
As George Clinton should have said: free your (tight)ass and your mind will follow.

Don’t become an App.

Mark Rogers
President, SOLACE

This is the latest column Mark Rogers has written for the Municipal Journal in his capacity as President of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE). The views expressed herein should not be assumed to be those of the City Council.