“The current crisis provides the opportunity for a massive change in the way local government operates. The lock down provides a zero-base operation from which we can build a new way of working, leaving the traditional behind and embracing 21st century methods. If we don’t do this, the worry is that we might allow the ‘pendulum’ to swing back rather than moving the pendulum forwards.
The new Council has in the past year amassed a set of fixed assets, HR and ICT that it can now deploy. The lock down has surely exposed that we do not need all our buildings. New HR methods are available with most office based staff working from home. The massive recent development of ICT provides for a distributed, network approach to the business rather than the central led, top down, office-based style historically in place. The question is, of those working from a home base now, why should they not continue to do so? Network contact can be gained by telephone, mobile telephone, teleconferencing, video call and video conferencing, all used for the right purpose at the right time. Such methods were not available even a few years ago.
Each department should be tested for the new approach. Take an example – Planning and Building Control. From the Committee downwards, this unit can be home based. All the materials are on-line, planning officers can network as needed and such multi-interactions as are necessary can be made by ICT. Force the thinking and prove that the current crisis driven method has a future. The Adult Social Care and Children’s Services team must surely also be able to benefit from this type of working.
For the employee, benefits are obvious but are greatly enhanced where the employee has a young family or an older person living with them for whom they care; win-win all round.
Clearly, for the whole organisation, this would be a massive upheaval but the approach can be iterative with the learning from one team embedded or modified to suit another.
Concurrently, the Executive should consider a strategic systems review but this should not stop the experiment and innovation running in parallel. Such activity could be a real stimulus and morale boost to employees learning to overcome the lock down challenge. BCP could be seen as a leader in a new way of service provision. In looking at a strategy for the whole organisation, a Boston matrix might give a first cut at department level e.g. Ability to homework (Yes/No) versus Interactions (High/Low). Review at team level and assess scope”.