Hello PPMA members and Friends

My blog this week comes from the cafe at Dundee Airport. The departure lounge is about the size of my living room, but the coffee served does pass muster and this always an important factor on the day after the night before at the Jigger Inn, St Andrews, venue of the Society of Personnel and Development Scotland’s annual seminar. Well the whole event was not in the aforementioned Inn, but last night’s annual dinner, complete with a performance by Elvis was long a memorable, celebrating as it did Scotland’s musical heritage. They do not claim Elvis as one of their own it is true, but the Bay City Rollers and the Proclaimers did feature during the evening.

Now one of the delegates did tell me that they read this blog, so I should make it clear that besides the networking opportunities there were a rich variety of speakers on the programme. Lord Michael Bichard gave his views on the future of public services. He lamented that despite the huge funding challenges being faced and the acceptance that the current model of delivery was unsustainable, the key fundamental debates about the future were not getting the most air time.

How was demand going to be managed downwards? How can we make citizens take more responsibility for their own lives, not because it cuts costs, but because it is the right thing to do? How can we give those citizens a chance by designing services which are simple to navigate through and where they are properly joined up. He made a great analogy to when he purchased an I-Pad Nd someone asked him if he had looked at the instruction manual? Of course there is not one, because it is so intuitive to use.

There was a need for innovation and to create environments where people can innovate and we needed systems that reward value added and not compliance. The future in Lord Bichard’s view lies in greater devolution of public services and greater collaboration between a range of service providers.

I went from there to a discussion about the proposal in Scotland to bring together Adult Health and Social Care. The mood in the room was not positive and examples were given of previous attempts at joining up and partnership that had failed. The presenter told a story about a conference involving key stakeholders from health and adult social care. Those on the conference platform were invited to choose a relevant piece of music to introduce themselves. The project manager wanted to choose a Smiths song, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” or anything by Leonard Coen. The project sponsor selected “Suspicious Minds” ( I never knew Elvis was so big in St Andrews!).

This shows the challenges of developing the kind of partnerships which are designed to simplify things for the customers, reduce cost and help manage demand. The are some real practical barriers to overcome, but sadly so much of what gets in the way is political and cultural. Lord Bichard’s challenge to the HR community was find the people who can make it happen and change the people if necessary.

The theme of the conference was “Brave Hearts and Strategic Minds” and that does encapsulate what HR people need. Elvis put it another way: “it’s now or never.”