5 themes setting the direction for Government Transformation
With five weeks to go until we bring together 150 senior Civil Servants for the Government Transformation Summit, it’s a timely opportunity to consider the biggest issues and themes that public sector organisations are tackling in 2022.
Challenged to deliver improved outcomes for citizens against a backdrop of limited budgets and resources, transformation leaders must find new ways to create value, share best proactive and collaborate. Looking across the 20 discussion table topics that we’ll be exploring at the summit, I see five major themes that look set to shape those conversations and set the course for public sector transformation more widely.
There’s an ongoing need to consider the nature of public sector leadership, both in terms of what it means for government agencies and also the leaders themselves through their technical and ethical competence, and capability to lead government service delivery in the digital world. That then plays through into what these future delivery models look like, what our future leaders look will look like, and how those new people and process elements can be aligned to work together.
Scaling up delivery
The public sector is now well versed in the concepts of agile design, user-centred design and iterative ways of developing services. But unless you can scale them up to deal with 30 million taxpayers, two million people on various forms of benefits, millions of pensioners and so on, these services just can’t deliver the required outcomes for citizens. So it’s great that the Government Transformation Summit roundtables will facilitate conversations around how we deal with scaling up technology in the public sector to meet the huge social and economic demands that the government inevitably faces.
Transformation within government
Both of those ideas around leadership and scale are key enablers for the third theme that stands out for me, which is transformation within our government organisations.
It's important to make that distinction between the different dimensions of transformation. There’s transformation across multiple agencies, which includes changing and redesigning the machinery of government. Then there’s transformation within (typically within a department or agency), which involves productivity, automation, efficiency and user-centred design.
Transformation means exploring future delivery models, asking what do transformation strategy and operational transformation mean for individual departments? How are you going to reshape them? How are you going to be able to deliver self-service in a way that citizens and residents want? What does transformation really mean within your organisation? It's not about swapping out laptops for newer laptops - that's about end-to-end service redesign - transformation strategy is how we do that and what the outcomes will be.
Transformation across government
We've spoken many times about silos and how we get round the big, monolithic Whitehall departments, which mean very little to the average resident, who just wants to be able to do what they need to do to get on with their lives. So the need for cross-government functions, joined-up services - the “Amazon-ification” of government for want of a better description - can unlock the how and why of departments working better together. Isn't that what user-centred design is really about?
Workforce of the future
If those four main threads are about how the machinery of government is going to work, there’s a fifth thread running through that looks at the workforce that’s needed today and in the future.
That emphasises the importance of diversity within our workforces - they should absolutely be reflective of the populations we serve. It adds to the recognition, the empathy, and the collaboration within communities to be able to ensure that we're delivering services that are truly inclusive in a fair and equitable fashion.
In terms of skills, it’s not just about digital capability. We need to ask what kind of skills are required to engage with our residents to deliver services successfully. How do we move away from that view of the Civil Service being full of university graduates (far from the truth, in my own personal experience). What more can the Civil Service do to learn to engage with the very people it's there to serve, and ensure that's reflected back in those workforces that are delivering services?
These themes give us a multi-dimensional view of the way Whitehall will need to move forward to meet the needs of residents. Itn fact it’s not just Whitehall - it’s also the wider public service working with local government, the NHS, voluntary organisations and with communities to make public service delivery the success that it deserves to be for the residents who are, after all, paying for it. I’m hugely looking forward to exploring these ideas with my public sector colleagues on 22 September at the Government Transformation Summit.