The art of a productive life is being willing to readjust constantly to ever-changing surroundings. So, as we deliver improvement and transformation in our organisation, the wider world refuses to stop turning. But in the midst of all of this flux we must remain constant in our unswerving commitment to ensuring that Birmingham, and everyone who lives, learns, works and plays here, thrives.
Some changes we can and should anticipate, but others will surprise us (Brexit anyone?). And that is why we – the council and partners around the city – need to have the flexibility and agility to respond rapidly and positively.
Ensuring that we have this capability and a focus on the future is, in good part, why we created our Future Council programme. It was always intended to be more than just the means of harnessing and coordinating the three significant and important improvement journeys relating to children’s safeguarding, education governance and the corporate health of the organisation.
Our long term ambition is to create an organisation that has a shared purpose, values and supporting behaviours, thereby creating a culture in which making a positive difference every day to people’s live is the start, middle and end of all that we come to work to do.
To channel the purpose and values we also need an organisation that has a clear vision and a mutually-reinforcing set of priorities, priority outcomes and design principles that everyone is working to – and ensures that all our resources (human and financial) are fully aligned to deliver against these. And, crucially, we need to be an organisation that can work collaboratively with our partners around the city, regionally and UK wide.
And, whilst we have made important progress with our improvement plans, we still have some distance to travel before we fully realise the wider ambition of being a sustainably high performing ‘council of the future’.
The first phase of the Future Council programme is reaching a conclusion and it is clear that we have largely established the foundation for the next part of our journey. My thanks go out to everyone who made a contribution to this work; you have helped to ensure that we are further ahead in our partnership relationships, our workforce planning and development, our support service approach to delivery, our operating model thinking and our work with communities.
Our next challenge (and it is one that we all need to share in again) is to build on the progress already made – ensuring that we are all signed up to the Whole Council approach to change. This will mean that we take the purpose, vision, priorities and priority outcomes and link them via a ‘golden thread’ to our organisational design principles and the key changes we need to concentrate on – our Big Moves.
Over the summer we will be re-testing our purpose, values and behaviours to ensure that they still have strong currency amongst us. At the same time, the Leader and Cabinet, collaborating with the other group leaders, will review and reset our vision, priorities and priority outcomes to ensure they fully align to Cllr Clancy’s ambitions and mandate. And, importantly, we’ll also be working closely with our partners to get these right for Birmingham.
We will push forward initiatives such as the creation of a workforce Improvement Hub which will provide us with the professional learning and development, support and capacity to harness all of the great ideas and innovation around the council and bend them to delivering the council’s vision, etc.
We have proved that we’re not short of ideas and we’re hungry and ready to learn from others:
But we also recognise that we need to coordinate and shape this great work against our own vision, priorities, priority outcomes, design principles, big moves and, of course, available resources.
The Hub will have four key elements: a ‘change academy’ (for example, providing learning and training in demand analysis, lean systems thinking, etc), an innovation lab, an ideas exchange forum and an improvement team. I’m really excited about this development and we’ll be sharing more information about the Hub over the coming weeks and months.
We will, of course, also need to stay focused on ensuring that we deliver against a very demanding set of budget savings.
So, the next phase of building a council for the future is in large part about:
- creating a culture that has focus on the basics (purpose, vision, priorities, priority outcomes, design principles and big moves);
- supporting collaboration within the council and with our partners;
- actively encouraging change and innovation (the Improvement Hub); and
- committing, first and foremost, to the people of the city.
This will undoubtedly take time so we want to use this summer to work with as many of you as possible to explain how we can make this happen and get your views on what you think this should be like when we get there.
This work is not something the strategic directors or I can do on our own. It’s also not something that can solely be owned by a project team. It is a goal that we will all need to share and work towards and, when we do, then we will know that we have created the council of the future.
The Golden Thread
Purpose: the reason our organisation exists
To make a positive difference every day to people’s lives.
Vision: our ambition for the city of Birmingham and the council
“In the face of austerity, we want everyone who calls Birmingham ‘home’ to have a happy, healthy life here.
We want everyone to have access to a decent affordable home, a good job, a great school for their children and extra help if they need it.”
NB Under review over the summer.
Priorities: these are the six key areas that we are focusing on to deliver the vision:
- A strong economy
- Safety and opportunity for all children
- A great future for young people
- Thriving local communities
- A healthy, happy city
- A modern council
NB Under review over the summer.
Priority outcomes: these are the measures set out in the Council’s Business Plan.
NB Under review over the summer.
Design Principles: these are the ‘rules of the game’ but which will help us to design the future shape of the council.
- We will work with partners to take a whole system approach, with citizens and neighbourhoods at the heart of our decision making
- We will target our resources on our key priorities and outcomes using evidence to inform our decision making
- We will promote the independence of service users and also enable them to step up and be part of designing solutions
- We will operate as an agile organisation, through our workforce, commissioning, procurement and delivery models
- We will use our strategic assets to leverage economic growth and investment across the city
- We will make transparency and openness our default position
Big moves: these are the major change initiatives that all of us will be driving forward in the weeks/months/years ahead.
They will be agreed over the summer but are likely to include such programmes as the children’s trust, health and social care integration, waste and recycling, etc.