Saturday, 4 March 2017

OK, so more needs saying …

I was so relieved that the Government has dropped the so-called ‘exemption clauses’ that perhaps I got carried away. There is more to be said as LouiseTickle demonstrates so well in the Guardian. The most important thing to say over and over again is that improvement and innovation are possible without the clauses.
One approach, which Louise does not mention and in which neither Government nor the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has shown much interest hitherto, is Lean.

Lean was originally developed in manufacturing industry, but is equally applicable to services. Its fundamental idea is that it is all too easy to do things which do not contribute to adding value to a product or service. But doing things which don't add value must be avoided at all costs. 

Lean abhors unnecessary bureaucracy, waste, unnecessary overhead and re-work. Organisations become lean by thinking about how to get rid of those evils, usually through making small but frequent changes to business processes to eliminate them. Forms can be simplified, procedures streamlined and management processes simplified. Unproductive and poorly focused ways of working can be eliminated. All kinds of waste can be identified and reduced. Perhaps most importantly focusing on how value is added and thinking about how to reduce re-work are likely to result in higher quality services.

Rather than focusing on removing legislation to create space for improvement, as the Government had proposed, Lean children’s services would concentrate on getting rid of barriers to high quality services such as unnecessary forms and procedures, poorly designed IT, unfocused working practices (such as unnecessary meetings and unnecessarily complex procedures) and unproductive tiers of management. Every new working practice, and every proposed change to an existing working practice, would be scrutinised to determine exactly how it added-value and whether it could be done better in some other way.

Instances of re-work and other service failures (e.g. repeated investigations following re-abuse, re-assessments following a poor quality initial attempt) would need to be closely examined and scrutinised to determine what had gone wrong and how it can be avoided in future.

All staff would need to be steeped in a culture of abhorring waste and trying to focus all resources on providing value to children and young people and not squandering resources on unproductive overhead or inefficient or unnecessary practices.