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January 24, 2017
By: Sara Ford

Designing and delivering a new public sector operating model is hard enough. But one of the most overlooked challenges when doing so is ensuring it can function not just in isolation, but across multiple organisations and the wider ecosystem. 

In 2014, West Midlands Police (WMP) selected Accenture to support a five-year Transformation Programme, guided by the definition and implementation of a new Operating Model. In the same way that Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are reconfiguring healthcare delivery, the successful transformation of WMP’s services relied on working with various stakeholders such as local authorities, Public Health England and the Crown Prosecution Service. To be effective, these interactions and incentives needed to be designed during the programme’s operating model phase, while we also secured cross-organisational buy-in for new ways of working. Based on that experience, we believe there are three priorities for organisations trying to navigate similar scenarios.

  1. Find the "burning platform" that all partners will buy into. Before venturing into operating model design, clearly set out a case for change, with senior sponsorship, that aligns not only with the client’s vision but also, importantly, with the partner’s. Without this, implementation will be an uphill struggle. 

  2. Establish multi-stakeholder workshops/forums on a thematic area. To design effective processes that span organisational boundaries, consider multi-stakeholder workshops, ideally based around relevant scenarios. By turning stakeholders’ attention to the joint ambition and what is required to achieve it, they will look beyond their own immediate scope of work and improvement needs.

  3. Plan annual refreshes of the new operating model. An annual refresh recognises that not everything will have stayed still in the previous year, and that there may now be better ways to achieve specified goals. Practically, this could mean a simple reshuffle of existing transformation programme projects, or the creation of new projects to address fresh contextual challenges. As part of the refresh, it is important to readdress the stakeholder landscape, assessing what is in the pipeline for partner organisations, including their key milestones, and where there might be opportunities for better alignment. 

Just as with policing, the NHS is faced with obstacles to collaborate and operate across its diverse stakeholder groups. Adopting these techniques can help organisations overcome these barriers so that operating models function effectively across complex ecosystems.

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