17/03/2011 Leave a comment
A few months ago I was asked to speak at a workshop event at the Public Sector Efficiency Expo to talk about what we are doing in Suffolk, how it relates to Public services efficiency and our thinking behind it.
So yesterday I arrived at the Speakers desk at the Business Design Centre in Islington and was whisked up to the speakers private breakout area for a quick briefing before heading down on to the main exhibtion Hall floor to meet up with Diane Ridley, Head of Research – Policy, Research and Studies, Audrie Commission.
Our breakout session was called Managing with Less – learning from History , Avoiding the Pitfalls.
The show guide notes read:
‘This session will discuss how councils can plan their approach to managing with less. There is no shortage of ideas on how to make efficiency savings and cut costs; from better procurement and back office efficiencies to service cuts and redundancy programmes. However, bringing these ideas together in a coherent medium term plan that delivers the savings needed at the right time, whilst still preserving the values and priorities of the council, is a real challenge. Based on research on our own history, and form public/private sector and international experiences of managing substantial cuts, this session will discuss why plans sometimes fail and how to avoid the common pitfalls. The session also includes a case study from Suffolk County Council, which will explore the new strategic direction for public services.’
The previous week Diane and I had spoken on the phone and agreed she would not send her slides through until I had sent her my completed presentation, that way those who turned up would get to see the History and Pitfalls from her and then judge for themselves if what we are doing is Suffolk will work or fail.
It was previously agreed that I would chair the session and we were both scheduled to give 20 minute presentations and then 20 minutes Q&A session to make up the hour. The room was packed with some people standing at the back which was very encouraging, I counted about 80 people in total. Diane was up first and her presentation was a fascinating insight into what has and has not worked in the past about Councils organisational change programmes.
They came my bit, now the troule is if you have ever been to the Business Design Centre Islington you will know just how vast and noisey a hall it is and the workshop session theater was just 4 temporary walls, chairs screen and lectern etc., so the noise was quite something as you spoke and very very distracting. Given the noise levels they had the mics so tuned in that you had to speak right in front of it to be heard; very quickly I had to abandon my normal moving about (to present less of s static target when they throw something has always been my theory) as I started to sound a bit like a poor impression of Normal Collier’s stage act, not I appreciate that is a bit fan obscure reference but for those of us who remember the great comic, you’ll get the picture.
I think both presentations went down well and were well judged as a historically based litmus test of historic best practice and a current practical strategy to test it against, we then had a full Q&A session with organisers saying we need to stop rather than the session drying up.
Form the reaction of the audience and my own take on the presentation we seem to be doing most of the things you need to do to get these things right. I have brought back to Suffolk County Council and there is now a body of work looking at what we are doing right and what we can learn from the research.
Once we had left the stage I had a follow-up conversation with the Head of Age UK policy section for a further 45 minutes afterwards, which was very interesting about the whole business of the Big Society and an aging population.
I spent the rest of the day enjoying visiting the various stands, chatting to fellow delegates and listening to other speakers in the workshops and in the Plenary sessions.
P.S. Another Conference Organiser saw my presentation on the Expo internal resource centre video section and I have been asked to give a plenary speech to 400 or so delegates at a Conference on the 16th May at the QE2 Centre in London, so what we are doing here in Suffolk is certainly of interest to people as he all try to work out how to continue to deliver the services our communities value and want with a lot less money to do it with.