I enjoyed attending the fourth Improvement Training event last week with another cohort of the Council’s Third Tier Managers. I took the opportunity to remind colleagues about where we were in 2014 in the eyes of Audit Scotland as they undertook their Best Value Audit of the Council –
- we had no consistent corporate methodology for supporting the organisation to focus on improvement;
- we couldn’t evidence in a cohesive way our plans to secure improvement on service delivery performance;
- there was an absence across the whole organisation of an understanding of and skill in the business of improvement;
- our governance structure of committees very much focused on past performance rather than on plans for improvement; and
- as an organisation we had no cultural symbols that evidence a focus on improvement.
Reflecting on where we now are, I explained at the event that performance and improvement now sit within the ‘modernisation’ strand of our Shaping Aberdeen How We Do Our Business Programme and since 2014 we have
- formally adopted an improvement methodology as a Council;
- formally introduced an improvement methodology into the Local Outcome Improvement Plan of Aberdeen’s Community Planning Partnership as well as into the developing locality plans;
- created the Ideas Hub which recently celebrated its one year anniversary capturing staff ideas for improvement;
- deliberately put the word improvement at the heart of our cultural triple aim ambition of improving on customers’ experience of the Council, our staff experience and our use of resources;
- within the 2016/17 Directorate Service Plans, begun to identify plans for improvement;
- recognised and celebrated within our internal staff awards improvements in the areas of customer experience, staff experience and the use of resources; and
- of course, up-skilled Third Tier Managers in improvement through their attendance at a three-day learning event.
So I’d hope you’d agree that a lot of progress has been made. However, there are a number of things still to be done and I guess, in the spirit of continuous improvement there should always be something else to do! Immediately on the horizon
- a thorough review of the plans for improvement to be included in the 2017/18 service plans incorporating evidence gathering to ensure that staff and customer ideas for improvement are being taken on board;
- the continuation of the roll out of the training; and
- encouraging even more staff to engage in using the Ideas Hub and getting more pace into the conversion of ideas into developed improvements.
Whilst I’ve described the improvement agenda as a workstream within our modernisation agenda, we have to also remember the transformation strand of How We Do Our Business. There is no hard and fast line between improvement and transformation. Improvement to me feels to be about doing what we’re currently doing better. While transformation seems to be about doing different things. Of course we have to do both!
I fully recognise that everyone is very busy and probably have more to do than you have time for. To generate ideas for improvement will take energy and effort beyond the day job and it will mean that we’ll have to have an attitude of saying yes to ideas for improvement or transformation rather than saying no.
So, while we all play our part in running the Council, we must also all play our part in changing it and own the delivery of the changes.