Hello PPMA members and friends
This week, Mike Cook, Chief Executive and Joanna Brown, Assistant Director of HR, both from Camden LBC, explain how ambition will be key to the future for public services and describe how Camden is benefitting from this strategy.
“Make no mistake; this is a time of fundamental reform of national social and public policy as well as a time of huge financial challenges. It would be easy to get drawn into hand-wringing about all this or get frozen in the headlights of change. Instead, it’s vital that we seize the initiative, remain ambitious for the difference we can make and see this as a time of renewal of public services.
The harsh reality is that many years of investment in and changes to public services in the pre-austerity years did not make as big a difference to our communities as they should have. So in Camden we still have too many children living in poverty; the incidence of mental illness is far too high for example. Our ambition is to succeed in tackling deep rooted inequalities, to make Camden a place for everyone where no one gets left behind. The current wave of social policy reforms make this more important than ever. So we have developed a relentless focus on achieving outcomes, ensuring that we make investments that deliver results; this has allowed us, for example, to cut our temporary accommodation budget by £1.5m because of our success in early intervention.
Inside the organisation we’ve embedded a single sense of purpose, we’re reducing artificial boundaries, adopting whole system approaches and making sure we act on facts. We’re constantly re-thinking and innovating, often in lots of small ways by the teams who are doing the work. This has big implications for how we lead and manage in the council.
Through the Camden Plan we’ve focused on outcomes – who delivers those outcomes is a secondary question and may not necessarily include Camden’s own employees. Our leaders need to be able to design, explore and develop better ways of doing things, working across sectors and with multiple partners. The implication is a smaller council that facilitates collaborative approaches to delivery and an end to conventional hierarchical structures that slow down decision making and limit innovation. In future our teams will be based around desired outcomes with decisions being taken at the front line, by the people best placed to make them.
This focus on outcomes means not only a change in how we lead the council but also the way we manage performance as an organisation. This year Camden has taken the decision to scrap the concept of the ‘annual appraisal’. This doesn’t mean that we are abandoning performance management altogether, but instead switching the focus to less formal, more frequent performance conversations, supported by an organisation that is comfortable with immediate and continuous feedback and a coaching culture.
Why wait to the end of the year to give feedback on a job well done, by this stage the moment has passed and a real opportunity to show appreciation and thanks has passed by. Simple recognition, feedback or a thank you, which costs nothing to the organisation is often the very thing valued most by our employees.”
Mike Cook is Chief Executive and Joanna Brown is Assistant Director of HR at Camden LBC