Leon Yohai, Assistant Director of Change Management, London Borough of Greenwich
Leon Yohai has worked in local government for over 24 years in areas including regeneration, homelessness, tenancy services and policy. He is currently at the very heart of an ambitious modernisation and regeneration programme worth £800 million. It has 10 key strands which, taken as a whole, will modernise and regenerate both service delivery and the infrastructure of the borough.
Here is the transcript of my interview with Leon Yohai
Overview of Leon’s presentation
Well what I’ve talked about today is the relationship between service delivery and the property that the council owns. How the council funded its £800 million worth of transformation. The 10 strands that the council has got covering everything from new schools to childrens centre, to new face-to-face centre, a radical approach to IT, to space management and within that how the council created the modernisation programme. How it broke it up in manageable chunks, how it involved the public, the successes that its achieved. The lessons that its learnt so really alot of what I had to say today was around you manage change, how you take staff through that, how you fund that change.
What are your key management tips for change?
I would say the key thing is to understand is around leadership. Clear communication and people that really own the process and manage it through. Its got to be clearly scoped out at the beginning of the process. Its got to have clear milestones that can be achieved or changed if its not being achieved. And at the end of that process there’s got to be a clear understanding of the benefits that have been accrued on. So benefit realization and learning the lessons of what worked and what didn’t work is quite key to change management.
Where does leadership come from in LB of Greenwich?
In Greenwich, both the leader of the council and the chief executive have a vision on how the change should be implemented so the work we do is locate it within that vision.
So their grand vision then lead to the creation of the modernization team which allowed the ownership and the practical leadership to be expressed. But it would be fair to say that both the leader and the chief executive had the vision that lead to this in terms of the local leadership, the modernization team became an agent of change and assisted local leaders within the departments to manage through the changes that the council wanted to achieve. You almost get a corporate leadership that facilitates then enables those department to feel apart of that corporate center.
Often councils, because of their historical nature have had local leaderships that didn’t feel joined up so you have a borough engineer, borough librarian, that was actually thinking about the service not within the context of being a modern council but actually just within a local service target. But what you’ve got in Greenwich is something that is much more joined up and comprehensive approach.
What are the challenges in IT?
I think with IT, one of the biggest challenges are making sure that the change that comes through IT is not just for the sake of IT but its linked to the service delivery and the CAA targets that councils accept. Its understanding that some of the changes that need to bring about are not just within the council but their within the council and their partners. And the clear link between the partnerships that government would expect you to establish with the police, with NHS, with voluntary sector organizations.
NHS is a good example. The relationship between healthy living, poverty, living conditions and lifestyles. Now if your councils are opening leisure centres they want to have doctors prescribing more healthy living lifestyles and using some of the leisure facilities and having healthy living programmes, Greenwich has got one of those, a wellness programme with its partners called Greenwich Leisure. Getting the NHS involved in that and that way promoting healthier living and healthier lifestyles which assists a boroughs population and residence which is what this is all about, to live longer and enjoy their lives in a much more proactive way.
At the same time, working with partners in education, promoting educational development and tackling issues around crime and young people involved with gangs. Giving them diversionary projects to be involved with and targeting areas of the population is quite different from the way councils behaved in the past.
In the past, council were about cleaning the streets, managing the housing. Now the challenges faced are much more complicated. Because modern life has become much more complicated. And partner organizations need to be brought into those. The matter relates to the whole back office shared services discussions and you’ll see much more not just around contact centres but around service delivery, organizations working in partnership.
Does working with partners improve cost efficiency?
In the short term it takes time for people to establish the partnership and would mainly resource injection in terms of project management, in terms of capital. In the longer term, I think it will not only produce better services but it will also start to reduce the cost of buildings, reduce cost of IT, where you can share IT, telephony and introduce new ways of working or joined up. Different ways of say crime reduction and problem solving. Not always looking at solutions that are around criminalization of people but actually looking at the causes of crime as well as the outcomes. So its fair to say there are some people who do need custodial sentences and there are some people who can be diverted away at an earlier period. Working with young families through children centres, working with people through schools. You could have a much more proactive approach than the traditional line working individually.
How can Learning Pool help encourage change management?
Probably organizations such as Learning Pool can help facilitate change, can ehlp people access information easier and certainly within the workforce and probably perhaps looking at the public generally more people tend to use IT and the web to discover things, I think google has been everybody’s best friend.
So I think rather than sending members of staff to traditional training courses, the idea of people being able to tap in to an organization like Learning Pool and several others that exist, it gives you easier access to information and it helps a council design educational learning programmes for people while their on the job and that’s what’s important, so the public get a better service rather than waiting to go to a training course. They could just plug in to a computer and its got the information that you need and you could do it more easily. I think that’s one of the advantages of organizations like Learning Pool.
End of interview
Liz is a researcher who is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society.