Enforcement services are recognised as those public sector services that are designed around stopping people from doing something; littering, noise, anti social behaviour are good examples.
The services are always backed by legislation that defines the limits of what is acceptable, and those in the service often see themselves as having to ‘police’ or defend something.
Typically, for most services this is a warning, then a fine. Interestingly it is often the case that staff wear uniforms of some type.
Below is an example from a Food Safety Team from England, using a systems thinking approach to challenge their current way of working.
• Service improved from requiring special measures to excellent
• Service ethos changed from enforcement to helping
• Waste reduced by 75%
• Cost saving 24% overall
• Staff reduced by 2
• Nationally recognised transformation
• Customer feedback changed from suspicion to welcoming
When looking at food safety if you ask them what their job is, it is to
enforce food standards on restaurant owners.
They have the ability to fine, or even to take the owner to court, if they think it is appropriate. For the restaurant owner, the experience is never one that they enjoy - the officer suddenly turns up at my door, telling me that I am here to inspect you.
What Used to Happen
When the officer arrives, they put on a white outfit, and walk around the kitchen inspecting what they want to see. The restaurant owner just has to watch. And the officer usually has a list of items they expect to see; clean surfaces, training records & certificates, proof of inspections, and so on.
At the end of the visit the officer will go back to their office, and type up a reference document that lists all the items that failed the inspection. Each problem will include sections from the legislation, and a warning of when they should be completed. The tone of the letter is very standard and official - and the wording must be written assuming that the letter might be shown in court.
What They do Now
The same group of officers, after they have transformed their approach, did something very different. Firstly, they realised from a systemic perspective, that their purpose was to help restaurants create safe food - not to fulfil a pre-determined list of criteria.
Back in the office, there is the biggest change this is what has changed:
Have a look at these videos to experience what it was like
As an enforcement officer, it is now up to me to decide what I do and how I do it, for each situation I find myself in. It is great to be able to put into practice my knowledge, and help people.
In the office we have regular sessions, where we discuss what were doing, and what techniques we have learned. If any of us ever need help, all of us are there at the end of the phone - but the most helpful person is my manager.
Enforce principles of working:
Help me principles of working
The approach that was used was to take a team of inspectors and the manager through a series of tasks - they started by understanding what mattered to the restaurant manager. They also mapped out all the activities that they took to complete a visit, it was 134 steps!
They then set about experimenting with a new purpose - to help the managers create safe food. The team realised they had little idea how to actually do that, so they worked with one restaurant, and then another, until they had learned a new set of techniques and approaches that became their new way of working. They discarded those activities that they deemed not necessary.
Think of those public services that are 'enforcement' - that fine, chase, force people to do certain things. Imagine what would be the implications to the community if those services, instead of
we enforce became we help
The difference was so great, that an article was published by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. You can read it here.
I have always believed that we learn more from our mistakes, than from when things go well. Here is the latest example, see if you agree.
I dont think many who are reading this could have failed to notice the recent changes in Skype, on both phones and computers. What was that feeling like when you opened new Skype, after that update, you thought ... What?...
For me, I felt a sinking feeling, of dis-empowerment, of a removal of a control that I thought I had with my technology. My reaction was to go to a website, and vent my feelings by recording my displeasure... Did I feel better? No, and I am still resigned to the fact that technology Mistake no. 1 has occurred:
Mistake No. 1 - Never, ever do something where you push something onto an existing user, that you think they need because you are powerful.
The whole point of modern technology is that it is the ultimate consumer driven service - the power comes from what matters to the customers... It has to be the customer that has the power to direct the workflow or process or software experience. Break that rule, and it will be your downfall. Its easy to grasp, but for some it is a new mindset to get your head around, and that adjustment may not be easy as it sounds. I have never met a manager who has said that they do not understand customers, so it has more to do with approach adjustment, and as with many conceptual issues, it will benefit form outside help to assist the adjustment.
What do Microsoft do about this problem feedback that turned negative, when they learn that 'users' are not happy? What do Microsoft say in response? They answer that they believe that we will end up liking this, once we get used to it.
What is Mistake no. 1 based on? The premise that: We are not users, we are the ones that own the use of the application. So dont treat us as 'users', treat us as 'owners.'
Even though Microsoft wrote the software, its ours... Is this not the key principle behind the design of the user experience UX?
The next thing I read they said: We are listening to you. Shudder...
Ok, Mistake No. 2 - Dont listen to your customers, What this means is that listening to customers - we take some time out to listen, but what is going on in our minds is still focused on ourselves.
Forget listening, thats old hat, what you need to do is understand customers. Thats all any organisation needs to start with, every time, all the time. Its the most important thing you will ever do in business. Get that wrong, and your'e off in the wrong direction.
It is important to see the positive in negative things. So, for those in the service industry, this is a great lesson in what not to do. The learning opportunity is there to take, and perhaps avoid this ourselves in the future with UX and UI. And what of Skype, anyone know of a good alternative?
So youre doing some Digital project in your organisation? This approach is much more important to you, because you sometimes deal with issues that affect peoples livelihood. You need to ensure you don't end up putting in more barriers to helping people.
I recently saw some digital implementation in a council - its purpose was to save resources at the front end. I took some measurements of the results and I recorded an increase in work for the council!
This can be easily avoided by understanding customer, then
Measure the change in performance before and after. Second demand numbers - value and failure demand.
Is this phrase part of your corporate message?
Putting the customer at the heart of what we do
Is this simply replacing the previous corporate message, that replaced the one before that...
Are you ready to put messages asides and make this really work for your organisation?
I sometimes say to organisational leaders - this is like renting offices across the road, hiring staff and starting again. How would you do it differently?
Transformation is exactly this - and it starts with putting the customer at the heart of what we do. And it ends when every part of the organisation is supporting that - not in words, but in actions.
A public sector example
In one organisation the manager said that her staff all listen to the customer - she was passionate about putting the customer first, she knew that as a truth.
A week later, she said
"My staff dont listen to the customer, we dont pay attention to what matters to them, I am so shocked!"
What had happened, the manager has sat listening to a customer for 20 minutes, who was crying most of the time. The manager realised that policies and procedures of the organisation were what were in the mind of her staff when they listened to customers, and these procedures were used to respond to the customers needs. The answers were not what was needed to deal with the problem in hand.
It is like starting anew, and looking at the service or operations from a systemic perspective - its easy, but its difficult to do from where the organisation is today.
In the example above, the managers led and the staff replaced the rigid procedures with a looser framework. It allowed staff flexibility to do what was right for each customer.
The results were:
It was not difficult, it just needed the right approach
Most organisations say that they listen to their customers, but is that enough? What happens when we listen... We then revert back to an internal perspective. An agile and flexile organisation delegates staff to be flexible within a framework.
Typically those internal perspectives are not about training, they are the:
Interesting to read this article in the guardian that the issues with the NHS are not just about ‘fixing people’ when they are unwell. But that loneliness has a large impact on people well-being, demonstrated in the figures for 50% less life expectancy to those that are lonely.
When I did some work in the NHS, and we looked at the demand into hospitals and also helping people in the community - going to the GP, or after they have left the hospital. Something about what we were learning about the demand seemed to need further analysis. It is easy to treat different types of demand as common categories - broken leg, diabetes, etc. But when we looked at the time taken to help people get back to a normal life, there was great variation in the resources and time used with the same category.
We discovered that certain people absorbed far more resources, visit their GP, or were admitted to hospital far more than others. These people often had a level of complexity to their situation that was not obviously identified when looking at their records. When we analysed a cohort of patients it was obvious to attribute age to the cause of increasing complexity. But looking at each person in detail we discovered the causes were various. And what was the highest cause of complexity? Loneliness.
It surprised everyone around us, that this was the result of the analysis. And how well had this health trust geared itself up to respond to this problem? Well, apart from having weekly public social gatherings, the problem was not on anyones radar as being important.
What we did
What we did was to tackle the loneliness head on, taking a cohort of people that were in the health system. The result was that their interaction with the health system went down, in some cases so dramatically, that they stopped seeing anyone in the NHS.
Its how we view our demand
Prior to this analysis, the NHS had been looking at demand using categories that they had created and defined each person. However, this is a good example of looking at a complex system, and applying system thinking principles and techniques to its analysis and design. Then the demand is understood outside-in, how people interact with the system, and what matters to them. This simple approach allows an organisation to fundamentally alter their approach to how they deal with people, so that their resourcrs are cut by 30%, and the outcomes are improved. Predefined categories tend to limit our ability to really understand our organisation and the workflow clearly.
Copyright, John Klossner
Data sharing, often a major stumbling block to joined-up working in the public sector. How to use a systemic approach to thinking about the problem and delivering a different and far easier solution.
Lets start with a real case study and define the problem that this organisation had.
I came across a new data sharing issue in a new Hub we were redesigning recently. In this situation local government Council staff were newly sitting next to and working with the Police. The question was:
How do we now share information between us?
This was a project started to develop the workflows, policies and practice in the Hub. The Police, and Council front line staff were in a multi-disciplinary change team, and the managers were connected to that team.
What the Police Did
If anyone works with the Police you will find that they have a quite different way of making decisions than any other type of organisation. In the situation with the Hub, they made a local decision to share data in the way that supervisors on the ground thought was reasonable. However, when they went and asked their Data Controller, and the Controller replied they could not share any of the data. As simple as that! The Police then spent the rest of the three months in this position - frustrated, but unable to proceed.
The Standard Solution
As is usual, the purpose has to be defined or understood. It will be defined by managers, and may be defined something like;
we need a set of rules on how to legally share data between us, that protects people and allows us to work together efficiently.
This is the usual approach in most organisations to solve a problem like this. They will ask a consultant with analytical knowledge to look at this as a project and study the data. They also need to be fully aware of the legislation, so they ask the Data Controller and get a copy of the Data Protection Act, and read it in detail.
This consultant then takes the data types from a data analyst, and attempts to categorise the data into the categories that make sense, and that show different levels of risk. They would look at the job roles of all the people involved and attempt to make a judgement as to the data they are required to view and why. And engage with the Data Controller and put all the collected findings on the table.
The outcome will be a report, that will be approved, and then circulated down through the hierarchy - as each manager makes sure that their particular concern or point is contained in the final report. In some cases this step in the process can take many months and the problem is seen as:
the needs of different stakeholders, which must be taken into account.
Staff groups are put on a schedule to listen to their managers tell them what the new rules are.
The Systemic Approach
Again, the first step that has to happen is that the problem has to be understood. This is done by going to where the work is. The change team listen to demands coming into the Hub, by actually listening to the conversations. They have to understand the whole problem and what matters to the person making the demand.
The purpose they define for the sharing of information remains undefined.
The next step, after listening to the demand, is to undertake the work - by just doing the work that matters to fix the problem - together with the person.
So what of the data sharing? Well, the example above is looked at by the team, and the key information that was needed to provide the knowledge required to solve the problem is written down.
The above process is repeated several times, until the team understand enough about the demands and the knowledge. They might do 20 or more demands.
Then the team sit together and analyse what knowledge is needed, and where it is usually held. Interestingly it is quite often held in peoples memories rather than simply in a computer.
The purpose they define for the sharing of information now emerges from the evidence.
This analysis is then used to define the agreement on the sharing of knowledge. If a manager does not like this, or wants to add other rules, then they have to work with the team to demonstrate that the evidence proves that this change should be made.
The word data is not included in any document or discussion. The purpose of this exercise is the sharing of knowledge
From a systems thinking perspective, what is important in this problem is not about data, but pertinent information regarding a council officer about to visit the property of someone. As soon as you make it data you have entered the world of concepts and ideas. Systems thinking has to be firmly rooted in the reality of what the the system is really about.
The solution was surprisingly easy, focus on the information - not the data. When there is a new demand, and the council officer wants to know about the what we know about the person making the demand, then they ask a police officer in-front of a computer if there are any issues I need to be aware of when I visit Mr. Smith.
The officer could respond with;
After the demands were understood, It took about two weeks to define, and make into a workshop for staff.
The Difference Between Systems Thinking and our Usual Approach?
Point 1 - there is are no stakeholder needs, as the person and the demand defines the need.
Point 2 - there is no inflexible set of rules that applies to certain categories of demands.
Point 3 - the managers do not initially define the outcome, the evidence does. Then the managers agree the analysis the team undertook.
What is needed is not the data, its the knowledge I need before the visit and during the process. This real need by-passes all data arguments, as the real basis of data sharing is the sharing of knowledge. The sharing of data can be a side issue to the main principle, that is often used when sharing is between people far away from each other and who are unable to collaborate. If you can collaborate with your colleague in the other service, then the sharing becomes one of knowledge - and a different and much easier problem to fix.
In addition, this approach supports the front line staff and is flexible to every situation. So no detailed procedures or rules are necessary - just the creation of a set of principles to work to in a framework that front-line staff can be coached to use.
This is an real example of using systems thinking to the problem of data sharing. The problem is redefined from data to knowledge - which is should have always been in the first place, if the legislation had been looked at from a systemic perspective then maybe the problem so many public sector organisations are having would be made alot easier.
The data protection act in the UK is actually written to help data sharing and to prevent private organisations from marketing our data. But we tend to see it only as the method of restricting communication. Certainly those who wrote it made a big error in the way that it puts across the central concept of what it is about. But, it really does focus on DATA, and in public sector operations we are far more interested in information.
Helping others to learn how to do better things