Change can be integral to an organisation or business, here Barry Pirie, President of the PPMA outlines the key points when integrating and managing changes 

Improving the delivery of public services has always been critical for any public sector organisation which wants to remain relevant and valued by the citizens it serves.

But for all that we are used to changing what we do and how we do it, the financial austerity of the last 5 years has forced the public sector to think about the way it approaches to change in an entirely different way. Gone is the luxury of making steady incremental changes to public services: budget cuts have created an imperative to think and act quickly to reinvent how we work.

What this means is that the ability to deliver change effectively and continuously is now a core capability at the heart of any public sector organisation.

In my experience of managing change, I typically come across 2 constants: the fact that there are always those that resist it and the turbulence that change causes within organisations.

The key to managing change effectively is very much down to minimise both of these. Achieving that is nearly entirely down to having an effective framework for communication and being clear about what lies ahead.

For me, an effective framework for communication has 4 cornerstones.

The first is framing the objective of the changes planned. This has to be done with clarity so that people understand why it is happening and what the desired outcomes are. Without this, people will just see change as something which is pointless and not related to the needs of the organisation.

The second is creating an opportunity for dialogue. This is important because it stops people feeling they are powerless and that change is being done to them, whether they like it or not. What’s more, people may also feel they have better ideas than the ones proposed by the organisation which you won’t hear if you don’t listen. The third to focus on is in clarifying what change means to individuals and teams. A frequent cause of friction is the fear of the future born out of 3 factors: people being scared they will have to do things they don’t feel capable of or may not want to do; fear of losing a job and fear of losing power or control over what they do. It is vital, to be honest about what the future looks like and what’s in it for each person or group.

Lastly, you need to paint a picture of the support they will have as they go through the change process. Many people faced by the change will already feel overloaded with what they are doing already and feel like they lack the resources to do things differently.

When it comes to talking about what lies ahead, it is critical that leaders across the public sector ensure that people at every level have an unequivocal understanding of what the future looks like for our organisations.

This means explaining the end of the monolithic public sector organisation as the single ‘owner’ of a specific service and the need to work collaboratively with partners from charities, the private sector and blue light services to support our communities.

It also means articulating the need to behave differently and develop new skills for the new working environment which will emerge. This will not just be about working in virtual teams and using technology to do their jobs, but also the increasing role technology will have in the development and deployment of services.

In this context, the change facing managers and leaders is particularly important. They must be able to develop a culture which supports changing models for service delivery and must be ready to take responsibility for outcomes, not processes, focusing on simplicity, accessibility and transparency in the work they do.

Lastly, organisations as a whole need to understand how changing models for service delivery in the public sector will require new skills.

This means people who are responsive, flexible, efficient, focused on productivity and open to change. Change management will necessarily involve insight around the skills gaps which exist today in these areas and how they will bridge in the future. The danger as this happens is that we lose engaged and skilled people who wrongly assume they may not have a role in the future.

While there will be a need to bring in people with new and different skills into organisations, the diverse and talented workforce we have already in the public sector is critical to our future.


Barry Pirie




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here