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.


Posted on May 1, 2015, in Articles. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I really like this post Mark and agree with all. Yes, there is no hiding place for people not willing to move and change. I will make sure I don’t become an app though (heaven forbid!) and please note I am currently not downloadable (except for work anywhere in the council or it’s partners of course!

    Keep going ……… Fran Zain

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