Managing Change And Programmes: Beginning A New Adventure
Social policy implementation ‘on the ground’ is challenging – though it may also be exciting and certainly well worthwhile. We can all learn from comparing our expectations with the reality which follows……
I start a new assignment today. It involves working with a public service multi-disciplinary team in a socio-economically ‘challenged’ environment, as they take forward a programme of services to meet local need. And, whilst they do this, the team have been told they must adapt and develop the nature of the programme itself so that, in accordance with new government policy, it becomes a more integrated and seamless provision.
That’s the way with nationally led programmes these days; and probably all for the better. But it does give rise to questions:
* How much development against how much change?
* How much adaptation of actual practice against just presentational adjustment to ensure that the service is used more effectively?
* How well equipped and resourced (professionally and materially) are those who must take forward the change?
* And…. will the intended recipients of the new, developed service find it helpful? How will we know if we’re providing the best we can?
I’m really looking forward to joining the team. They’re experienced and committed and will I know do everything they can to help me settle in and make progress. Agreeing what ‘making progress’ really means will I hope be an adventure in which we can all move forward together.
I shall in all probabality return on this website to specific policy issues at some point in the future, but for now I will make a few very cautious predictions about how I will learn from (and hopefully contribute to) the work in hand……
The first element of joining a team is the mapping – I’ll spend a while finding out in a bit more detail who’s who and what they do. Usually this begins to happen quite naturally in the course of actually finding out where things (the various venues? a desk? a phone?) are located. The practicals seem to take one also to the people.
Then there’s the analysis phase; are we all agreed that we have what we need? Who or what can plug the gaps – and to what extent? I know the team manager has already sorted the programme as it stands in considerable detail, but it will be interesting to swap notes with him and our colleagues about outstanding requirements for the anticipated changes ahead.
I’d guess the next stage after this will be consulting with others outside the immediate team; local authority decision-makers, other service providers, and of course with those who will be at the receiving end of the service. This is all so inter-related that it’s very difficult to predict how it will end up. But the main thing is to be clear about agreed objectives. Problems can usually be overcome if people know and are comfortable with what they’re aiming at.
And finally there’s implementation. At the moment details of what will be required of us all are still very outline; hopefully the government will give us rather more specific information and guidelines very shortly. It’s difficult for colleagues when they aren’t sure what’s expected, so that needs to be sorted a.s.a.p. (I’m never really certain those at the very top appreciate how difficult uncertainty can be for workers at the delivery face. Challenge is fine; destabilisation and all that follows from it may not be, from anyone’s persepctive.)
So there we go. A few predictions and comments for starters. I will of course steer quite clear of talking about details – that’s just for us as a team – but I’ll maybe return some time to say whether my expectations of process were on the ball….. Change is the order of the day, but it’s a relatively uncharted course in the practical sense for many who have to adapt to, and indeed deliver, it.
One of the best ways to learn is to test reality and the art of the possible against the expectational theory.
But whatever the shape of what we eventually come up with, I know that everyone on the project I’m joining for a while wants the best; and that’s a very good start.