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Local Government Authorities Are Failing to Keep Up With the Pace of Change

Fujitsu UK & Ireland

London, December 11, 2012

Local Government leaders in the UK are failing to keep up with the increasing rate of change that they face, putting them at risk of losing funding and negatively impacting service delivery to their citizens. These are the stark findings, of a new report commissioned by Fujitsu entitled Fit to Change”, which surveyed local government Chief Executives, Corporate Directors and Heads of Service on their own view of their organisation’s ability to cope with intense cost pressures and unprecedented demands from citizens.

The research, which included interviews with 62 local government Chief Executives Corporate Directors and Heads of Service, showed that 77% agree that “the current rate of change is too rapid for their organisations to keep pace with.” It went on to reveal that the factors most responsible for this increasing rate of change are changing work patterns (90%); working more collaboratively with suppliers/partners (86%); responding to central government policy (83%); and budget constraints (81%).

When asked how “fit to change” local government respondents considered their own organisations to be on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being in really good shape, the most frequent rating (39%) was 7 while only 18% rated themselves at 8 or above.

Commenting on the findings, Professor John Kotter, Harvard Business School, said: “By self-report which always tends to over-state positive factors and under-state negative factors only 18% of local government authorities are at all optimistic that they are ‘fit to change’. In a world that is changing more and more rapidly, these are highly distressing numbers.”

The study also analysed the gap between the attributes local government authorities felt were needed to be able to respond to change effectively and how close their own organisations were to possessing those attributes. By far the greatest gap was in “the right technology solutions”, followed by strong leadership, a culture that supports change, possessing the right capacity to change and a robust ecosystem of suppliers/partners.

Ian Hall, lead practitioner for local government at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, said: “Within the last decade the challenges facing local government have increased significantly both in terms of their scale and complexity. This increase in challenges come at a time where there are also substantial increases in demand for services, considerably reduced financial resources, particularly from central government, and rising customer expectations - most notably in the areas of benefits and social care".

“The challenges facing local government are almost all a direct result of the continuing economic uncertainty and the subsequent issues citizens face as a consequence. More significantly, the pace of change within local government is showing no signs of abating - forcing Councils to respond more rapidly. However, the requirement to respond rapidly has to be balanced with the critical review of services, in which many Councils have to establish which services they afford to provide, while trying to protect as many frontline services as possible. The majority of Councils also find themselves struggling to transform the way they deliver those services once they are decided on."

“Add to this the fact that more and more decisions are being now being made with a short-term focus in order to meet budget challenges which reduces an authority’s capacity to deliver the services its citizens need and want. Local government is constantly striving to be more efficient in everything that it does but this is now not enough to balance the books. Reducing or no longer providing certain services is a now a reality for many authorities. Technology is not a panacea for all the challenges facing local government but its true potential in enabling councils to be ‘fit to change’ has still to be harnessed effectively by many.”

Notes to editors: Responding to the threat

The research results have been combined with insights from Fujitsu’s executive team and a panel of existing customers and partners, to create ten tips, revealing both the kinds of characteristics public sector organisations need to foster, and also the initiatives they should launch to improve their responsiveness to change:

  1. Strong, honest, accountable leadership
    Public sector leaders need to start not by focusing outwards on the organisation, but by looking inwards. Do they themselves really accept and embrace change, or is it just an inconvenience they’re forced to tolerate?
  2. Foster innovation
    In contrast to the “lead by fear” ethos of the ‘90s, other research has shown that innovation is best fostered in organisations that first of all establish a sense of security in their personnel. Teams who feel confident, well-managed and secure in their jobs, will be able to plan for the longer-term and make the decisions that are required to ensure responsiveness to unexpected change. Put in place good planning for the worst case and people will come up with options to carry their responsibilities through.
  3. Empower people by delegating deep into the organisation
    Working practices that emphasise delegated management and delegated decision-making foster a sense of empowerment. Most change must be met effectively in day-to-day decisions, rather than by long-term strategy. Empowered organisations tend to be more responsive to the majority of environmental change.
  4. Be clear on the skills you need
    Make sure you truly understand the market trends and citizens’ needs driving your sector in order to map out the skills and capabilities you require to succeed. If you don’t already have the necessary skills, go out and recruit them, or plan to develop them internally.
  5. Facilitate flexible working to release capacity
    When people can work where is most appropriate for them, when tasks can be simply shared, when teams can be brought together simply to solve problems, an organisation can be far more effective and agile in its response to change.
  6. Communicate, communicate and listen
    If you want to ensure the whole organisation understands the nature of key challenges and the pace of change required, effective communication is vital. Change is an evolving process that requires buy-in, whether willing or not, and many organisations fail to deliver change at an early stage by ignoring the long-term communication strategy. And communication is a two-way street. Listen to citizens; listen to your staff and listen to other public sector organisations – if you are not listening you will not hear the call to change.
  7. Employee diversity
    The most important thing if you want to succeed is diversity across your employees. Different experiences, cultures and ages provide a range of insights that enhance an organisation’s ability to respond to change.
  8. A robust ecosystem of suppliers
    The way you work with suppliers and integrate them into your organisation is a complex situation - but it is also the difference now between winning and losing. Your supplier ecosystem can make the difference between agility and sluggishness.
  9. The right technology solutions
    Technology is not just a means to save money and reduce risk; it can be your ticket to ensuring that when you need to move quickly and in different directions you can. It’s essential that today’s leadership team has an understanding of when IT should be an integral part of organisational strategy – and when investing in IT can reshape the organisation.
  10. Balance your visions
    Ultimately being “Fit to Change” is about ensuring the right balance between your long-term vision and short -term goals. Central to this is having a defined mid-term plan, underpinned by the capability and infrastructure that allows you an “at a glance view” of the frontline. Keeping the citizen at the heart of this view should be central to public service delivery. Maintaining focus on more co-ordinated services, whilst helping to achieve national and local policy objectives and deliver cost savings is a challenge, even in less straightened times.

Supporting material/tools

Please contact teamfujitsu@harvard.co.uk if you would like to receive any of the following supporting materials:

About Fujitsu

Fujitsu is the leading Japanese information and communication technology (ICT) company offering a full range of technology products, solutions and services. Over 170,000 Fujitsu people support customers in more than 100 countries. We use our experience and the power of ICT to shape the future of society with our customers. Fujitsu Limited (TSE:6702) reported consolidated revenues of 4.5 trillion yen (US$54 billion) for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2012. For more information, please see: http://www.fujitsu.com

About Fujitsu UK and Ireland

Fujitsu UK and Ireland is a leading IT systems, services and products company employing over 10,100 people with an annual revenue of £1.7 billion. Additionally, 1,900 people are employed by Fujitsu in its other UK operations. Its business is in enabling its customers to realise their objectives by exploiting information technology through its integrated product and service portfolio. This includes consulting, applications, systems integration, managed services and product for customers in the private and public sectors including retail, financial services, telecoms, government, defence and consumer sectors. For more information, please see: uk.fujitsu.com

Graham Goulden

Phone: Phone: + 44 (0) 843 354 9568
E-mail: E-mail: graham.goulden@uk.fujitsu.com
Company:Fujitsu UK & Ireland

Jo Jamieson/Alizia Walker

Phone: Phone: + 44 (0) 20 7861 2800
E-mail: E-mail: teamfujitsu@harvard.co.uk
Company:Harvard PR

Date: 11 December, 2012
City: London

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