People and processesChange ManagementHow do you create an appetite for risk?

How do you create an appetite for risk?

What can public sector organisations do to create an appetite for risk? Here’s what a couple of the panellists at the recent Civica Exchange event had to say on the topic.

For leaders of public sector organisations, risk is necessary. Continuing austerity and pressure on services means that transformation is a must – and a workplace without risk is a workplace stuck in a rut. Yet, for many employees, risk is something to be avoided – and it can make them feel uncomfortable.

With this in mind, what can public sector organisations do to create an appetite for risk? Here’s what a couple of the panellists at the recent Civica Exchange event had to say on the topic.

Caron Alexander, Director of Digital Shared Services for Northern Ireland Government: “I think we are actually all risk takers as we all get involved in transformation, albeit some people are less likely to take risks than others. The starting point is to understand the level of risk that you want to engage in and then break it down into manageable chunks.

“When it comes to developing a new service, for example, you’re empowering the people who work together to actually do something in a different way. If you work in bitesize chunks and small pieces of value creation, it’s easier to take bigger risks because you’re not going to fail big. Failing in small ways, quickly, allows you to learn and move on and helps to develop a culture of creativity and ‘comfortable’ risk taking.”

Girish Solanki, Head of Digital Change, Leeds City Council: “Fundamentally, we don’t like taking risks at local government level and it’s a difficult thing to manage. So, what we do at Leeds is to try and work with the service and bring them with us on the journey. We help them to take small steps while also looking at case studies of how other people have already done it.

“It’s difficult to introduce wholesale change – there’s just not the appetite for that level of risk – despite us having to make change happen against the backdrop of budget cuts etc. so you have to be sensitive. It’s tough when we talk about robotics, AI and technology that is truly transformative. We know that it will change people’s roles. We know it will remove responsibilities. We’re looking at robotics for a large admin area that involves 10 people. How do you speak to these people, so they support your plans and remain engaged?

“Communication has to be spot on and you have to be clear about why you’re taking the steps you are, why you value them as employees and how they’ll be upskilled to ensure they benefit from the transformation too. This has to be repeated across an organisation wherever a process is being updated.

“In Leeds we’re also lucky to have the Smart Cities office where the University works with us on some joint objectives for the city – single health records, connectivity across the city and innovation, for example. This helps to as you can share resources and provide some external impetus. The message isn’t just coming from within Leeds City Council.”

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