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Thinking Differently Is Slowing Transformation


Thinking Differently Is Slowing Transformation

Despite the perpetual cheerleading for innovation, most of our organisations need to be boringly effective.

This week we’ve been mapping our work across 30 service objectives at Bromford – and it strikes me that most of what we do doesn’t need any bells and whistles. It just needs ruthless efficiency.

Our innovation efforts really need to focus around the 10% – where we can be truly different. Everywhere else we can pretty much copy what the best in the leading sectors are doing.

The social sector is terrible at just implementing what works everywhere else. 

That’s why you get bespoke housing, health, education, justice and social care ‘solutions’.

According to the latest report from Gartner only 5% of government/public sector environments rate as ‘top’, in terms of their digital transformation credibility.

The vast majority – 95% – are swimming in a sea of mediocrity and operate at only average or worse-than-average performance levels compared to other industries.

The social sector is hampered by increasingly ageing applications, which don’t lend themselves well to ambitious digital transformation schemes. 54% of government core business applications were implemented between 1990 and 2009.

We have people coming into the work place who are using systems and applications that are older than they are.

Transformation is failing for many reasons, including a skills deficit , a lack of vision, and entrenched workplace culture.

There’s something else I think is hampering progress:

The insistence by the social sector that it is somehow unique.

That the services that are provided are different in there very nature to those provided elsewhere.

  • We are different – we cater for the vulnerable and excluded.
  • We are different – our users are not conventional customers but have complex needs .
  • We are different – we are people, not profit focused.

This insistence of this difference leads to two outcomes:

  • A preference for bespoke solutions rather than what’s already available and what works best
  • The resulting needless organisational complexity

Despite the hype – most of our organisations provide the same services as everyone else. We have customers:

  • They order and purchase things
  • Things need scheduling
  • Jobs need completing
  • Stuff needs paying for

At the highest level – we are no different from your local pizza delivery place. Except they probably have a more customer focused service offering than we do.

It’s when we get into the detail that we get complexity creep – when we start insisting we need all sorts of checks and balances as our users are different.

Our design principles were implemented partly to counter this view that we are somehow different from everyone else.

Thinking you are different is the first step towards complexity. And for most organisations it’s easier to make a simple thing more complex than it is to make a complex thing more simple.

Our customers’ needs are not so complicated though. To transform we need to focus on simplicity and standardisation.

If we spent 90% of our time trying to be the same as everyone else rather than convincing ourselves of our difference, we might boost our effectiveness.

We only need to be different where it matters to customers.

Everywhere else – we can be simple but boring.

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