We recently brought together a collection of high-level public sector leaders, at the first ever GovTech Leaders Breakfast Club, to discuss why culture is vitally important to transformation and change management.
Hosted in a private dining room at the Sea Containers at Mondrian in London, in conjunction with Agilisys, the event kicked off with the opportunity for participants to get to know each other over breakfast, before discussions were instigated by the excellent chair for the morning – Sophie Devonshire from the Caffeine Partnership.
Using her experience of leading change and business development within private and public sector organisations, Sophie steered the conversation through four key areas, starting with why putting in ‘people preparation’ time and effort early in the transformation process – which includes clear communication – will reap rewards later in the journey. The need to develop a deep understanding of internal culture and what makes people want to embrace transformation was also discussed.
Motivation for change
One attendee – Rosie Hatton, strategy delivery lead at the Parliamentary Digital Service – commented that it’s crucial that transformation leads work hard to discover what motivates people to be able to sell the benefits of change.
Nuria Madrono, business change lead at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, added that there’s a need to plan change and engage people early, and how a good place to start is to talk about technology as an enabler. “How will it transform people’s working lives, for the better and from a personal perspective, because not everybody responds to the same benefit,” she explained.
Rob Driver, head of public sector at techUK, added that all too often the process is the focus for transformation teams, rather than the real focal point which is developing an appetite for change. He said that it’s always better top focus on what you’re trying to achieve and then explaining what that will entail and why it will benefit people. Explaining outcomes is vitally important.
Slow down to speed up
Conversation moved through why it’s good to ‘let the outside in’ and to utilise tech that we use in our day-to-day lives to enhance staff buy-in, before moving on to the need to sometimes ‘slow down to speed up’. We’ll discuss both of those topics in more detail in a future article of key takeaways gathered from the Breakfast Club.
Doniya Soni, principal policy officer for digital and STEM skills at the Greater London Authority, and Rebecca McCaffry, associate technical director at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants then sparked comment about the role of change agents and digital champions to help ‘sell the transformation story’.
Tej Dhall, head of ICT at the Competition and Markets Authority, commented that while change is hard, it can also bring people together, especially when change agents are involved. Providing an element of choice also gives people a sense of ownership, he added.
The need for training on new technology was discussed, with Caroline O’Sullivan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Defence, making the very valid point that leadership shouldn’t be overlooked – they need to be trained too.
Further topics debated on the transformation culture theme included the need to normalise change, how to accelerate the rate of change and how to get a position of ‘digital by choice’. The overriding need for security also came up in discussion, as did the need for organisations to sometimes go their own way to deliver transformation that’s effective for that individual organisation.
Reflecting on the event was Tim Pitts, managing partner at Agilisys, who was also in attendance. He added: “Today, given the complex challenges facing the public sector, delivering successful transformation is essential. This breakfast club offered a great opportunity for the group to debate why, when embarking on a digital transformation journey, the cultural side of change is vitally important to success, highlighting the need to focus on people, not just technology and systems. For nearly 20 years, Agilisys has been helping public sector organisations adopt new technologies to enable transformation and change. We therefore know what it takes to embed a culture of innovation and change across the whole organisation in order to maximise the potential of digital tools, whilst empowering employees to adopt new ways of working in the process.”