05 May 2009

Southend: Inspiring Culture Change

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council entered the PPMA Awards 2008: Innovations Award with their strategy around corporate culture: 

"Where we were - Inspectors defined our organisation as ‘poor’, with a 'high risk' status and a disappointing first staff survey in 2005 . A very low response rate (34%) was matched by generally poor feedback.

  • Poor perceptions of senior management and their 'visibility';
  • Limited understanding of our corporate aims;
  • Communications felt to be ineffective;
  • Employees felt undervalued and unrecognised;
  • Perceptions of change management were poor. 

In 2005 a new Chief Executive arrived, who with the Leader of the Council provided the leadership commitment to developing a new vision of the organisation. Alongside organisational restructuring it was recognised that the transformational change required would only be achieved by supporting a significant shift in organisational culture. 

An Organisational Development (OD) Team was created to maximise the contributions of our people in achieving success for the organisation. The OD team was supported by secondee's from operational, strategic and HR functions. 

The beginning of our journey - 180 of our staff attended Cultural Participative Inquiry workshops during 2006. They highlighted some uncomfortable truths plus many inspiring aspirations. There was an understandable degree of cynicism from some staff, anticipating the Inspiring programme would follow the pattern of previous 'change programmes', that hadn't addressed culture. Expectations were, that senior management commitment would soon be lacking, the programme would 'fade away', or having completed some structural change, stop at that 'stalling point'." 

Now several years later: 

"Inspiring other authorities - Having exhibited at the East of England Regional Assembly Innovations Day, the Inspiring OD Programme was recognised with an award. Attendees voted

it the "Innovation most likely to be taken back to their authority". "I was delighted to see the innovative and exciting outcomes that Southend are really delivering, with the funding allocated by B.C.E. " said Brian Stewart - Chief Executive East of England Regional Assembly. 

Transformation - We believe our transformational cultural shift has begun. Significant improvements occurred in our 2007 staff survey . 43 of our indicators moving significantly forward from 2005. Our response rate reached 56%, well above the local authority average of 41%. Communicating our vision and aims more clearly to staff achieved a massive 117% increase from our 2005 result. We were delighted to have our third star given to us in March this year.  

Our journey continues… Our transformational journey is very well underway, our vision, aims and values have been clarified and authenticated by our staff. We believe our new culture will be critical to transforming our services."

Thanks for this example.

Further information http://minutes.southend.gov.uk/akssouthend/images/att10791.doc

(Words above extracted from a submission for the award sent to me)

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