February 21, 2018
Change that culture
Anyone working within a large organisation, particularly in the public sector, will recognise that the dominant culture can determine many aspects of job performance. The ethos and culture of the organisation can completely overwhelm an individual and even demand compliance with behaviour that feels alien to them. So organisational culture is a powerful force and as such, likely to resist any attempt to change it. And yet in many cases, particularly for local government, culture change is an essential element of becoming fit for purpose. Interesting work on this just published by New Local Government Network.
The New Local Government Network has produced a new report to help councils assess their organisational culture and help bring about cultural change.
Culture Shock: Creating a Changemaking Culture in Local Government sets out four ideal culture types. The most dominant cultural type found in councils currently is that of a ‘hierarchical’ culture, with control and efficiency at the forefront. Also present across UK councils is a ‘market’ culture, which is focused on competitiveness and profitability.
But as councils deal with greater complexity, including rising demand, shrinking resources and shifting public expectations, they need to develop cultures more attuned to these times, the report says.
NLGN calls for councils to shift their cultures towards those of ‘clan’ and ‘adhocratic’ types which enable a changemaking culture to emerge within the organisastions.
‘Clan’ culture focuses on greater collaboration and is driven by better communication, human development and participation, while ‘adhocracy’ is defined by creativity, innovation and agility.
The report suggests that councils can shift their cultures in either direct, big bang ways or in indirect, incremental ways.
It cites Wigan Council as an example of an authority taking a ‘direct, big bang’ approach to culture change through its Wigan Deal. The Wigan Deal is a co-produced recalibration of the relationship between the council and its community, with the council committing to eight goals including keeping council tax low and being ‘open, honest and friendly’ while residents are also asked to commit to their own eight goals including keeping healthy and active and supporting local businesses. There are also further deals related to business, social care and children’s services, and staff at the council are expected to embrace three co-produced values.
The council claims that the Deal has already played a significant part in bringing down its costs while also seeing its performance increase across a number of areas. It is now the seventh highest performing council in the country.
Stockport council is identified as an authority making an indirect, incremental approach to culture change through new working practices implemented in two different teams.