South Somerset District Council

The challenge

In 2016 the council was facing a significant financial challenge which was difficult for them to respond to as an organisation that had seen little to no change for many years. They aimed to address the impending financial deficit by both reducing their cost base and adopting new commercial activity. Through all of this, they wanted to not only maintain service standards, but improve services for their customers. The existing leadership team were undergoing significant changes at that time, however both the member leadership and officers recognised the need to transform an ageing technology infrastructure and adopt a new operating model.

The result

Ignite worked with senior officers and member leadership to create an outline blueprint for the future organisation enabling a new senior leadership team to be recruited. With the new leadership in place a business case, detailed blueprint and implementation plan for a new council operating model was created. These defined new arrangements for the change and transformation of: strategy and commissioning, service delivery, organisational structure, roles and management, processes and customer journeys, technology, culture, and ways of working. The business case was underpinned by sophisticated activity analysis and a financial model enabling us to forecast the scale and timing of financial benefit delivery through the phases. A highly customer focused culture was to be enabled by a new Attitudes & Approaches framework.

The development of the blueprint and the subsequent implementation of the new operating model started in mid 2016 and is currently in the final phase of implementation. The targeted benefits of a £2.5M reduction in their cost base are on track to be delivered as part of the Medium Term Financial Strategy as planned. The early additional focus in the design on developing a commercially minded organisation has also ensured that the original funding gap will be exceeded, resulting in a highly sustainable and robust model for SSDC’s future.

This complex and comprehensive transformation is dealing with organisation, technology, processes and customer journeys, culture, and ways of working – the transition from old ways or working to new, through different phases required complex and coordinated planning. Ignite continue to support the programme team in ensuring the transition is delivered effectively.

What made it successful

  • Time up front – Dedicating time and effort early on in the Blueprint to facilitate the senior leadership team to develop the strategic vision for the Council ensured senior alignment and buy-in right from the outset
  • Starting with the vision – Connecting this vision with the operating model and new ways of working supported the development of a strong and consistent organisational strategy for South Somerset across local area working, commercial and income generation, and service delivery
  • Enhancing what already worked – Area working was a significant and successful element of the existing South Somerset model, which members particularly were keen to maintain. Developing the existing office based model into a multi-functional locality team, aligned to strategic outcomes and priorities ensured that the original ethos of area working was maintained whilst adding significantly to the capacity within the locality and enhanced the targeted commissioning of services
  • Extensive staff management – The early engagement of a wide range of staff across the council in developing the operating model created a strong core of change capability, ownership and leadership which will continue on in the organisation beyond the programme. This included our extensive staff engagement in the Attitudes and Approaches framework which allowed enabled role profiles, selection process and performance management which staff were bought into.
  • Management ownership – Detailed and focussed design work with the new leadership team, including agreeing individual accountabilities and relationships across the high level organisational design, built real ownership and a thorough understanding of the model internally
  • Leadership -led change – To ensure this was a leadership-led change, Ignite created engaging content and materials and provided coaching and support for the leadership team to embed understanding and awareness of the new structure and ways of working across the organisation. This included launch events for implementations using insights from London 2012 and the GB Skeleton team as exemplars of ‘Going for Gold’.
  • Developing internal capability – Ignite supported the development of capability within the internal team both in terms of developing the approach to culture and behaviour change, the detailed process redesign work aligned to the new ways of working, and programme management.
  • Partnership working – Ignite built close working relationships with the internal programme allowing us to work seamlessly as a united team. This was especially important with internal HR and Finance during the complex recruitment and savings
  • Being flexible and adaptable – Ignite regularly reviewed the support provided to SSDC to ensure we were providing the right expertise at the right time during a fast paced and complex transformation