Transformation – beyond the rhetoric of change

Stephanie Goad, Operations Director at mhs homes, discusses the organisation’s transformation journey and key lessons learned.

At mhs homes two years ago, we took stock. The world was changing, bringing both opportunities and challenges. Turning our backs on the maxim ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, we wanted to ensure we were the best we could be, for now and the future. Our vision for change is bold and direct.

It covers culture, systems, staffing, structures and skills. Everything we set out to do is in support of our ambition to help end the housing crisis in north Kent and deliver the best services possible for our customers. We are developing our culture to sharpen our customer focus, foster collaboration and make #teammhs a reality.

Digital investment

We have invested in digital technology for both customers and colleagues, to offer great customer service and give efficiencies so we could invest in more personalised support to customers who need it most. This also means we can be a more visible landlord, an active local partner and a listening landlord, acting on what our customers tell us.

We have started afresh with a customer team (deliberately named), moving away from traditional housing specialist teams and patch-based working, to more agile and flexible staffing models. We think about customer journeys, not processes, and get colleague and customer input into service designs. We have new leadership behaviours, a new approach to managing performance and a set of organisational success measures, agreed by our board, that focus on customer experiences.

Lessons to date

Make no mistake, transformation is hard work.

Change isn’t neat and linear – the world keeps turning. You are delivering change at the same time as keeping the service delivering. Our journey continues, but we have learned some important lessons so far (see box 1: Recipe for success).

The term ‘transformation’ implies a transition to a new end state, something that is ‘done’. But both society and organisations are continuously evolving, to the point where there isn’t a beginning or an end to change. So, I believe our task is to equip organisations today to respond to the challenges of tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to that journey.

Box 1: Recipe for success 
 1. Be bold – Transformation isn’t about changing individual service lines or business processes. Think big – make the prize worth fighting for.

2. Hold your nerve – We launched our customer team eight months ago. We had some dips in performance and we had to work hard to explain the new model, because it is very different to the old ways of working, but we are now seeing the results we were aiming for.

Customer satisfaction is good, we are doing more to help customers earlier and helping them to be more self sufficient. Take-up of digital services is increasing in parallel with a broader digital offer being developed. Customers and colleagues speak positively about the changes we have made.

3. Don’t declare victory too soon but do celebrate successes – Making change stick takes a lot longer than you might think. Don’t underestimate the organisational antibodies and the potential for the old culture to reassert itself. It is vital to notice changes and celebrate them. #teammhs, a symbol of the culture we are developing, has firmly entered our organisational vocabulary.

You hear it when colleagues celebrate working together, and when they are calling out things that haven’t worked so well. Our People Conference this year was on the theme of ‘everyone’s a leader’ and #teammhs. It received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

4. Listen to your critics – Really listen to colleagues and understand what is behind any resistance to change – that will be some of the most powerful feedback you can get.

To discuss this article contact Jon Slade on: jon.slade@campbelltickell.com

This article is also featured in CT Brief, Issue 47 – Transformation edition

Campbell Tickell is an established multi-disciplinary management and recruitment consultancy, operating across the UK and Ireland, focusing on the housing, social care, local government, sport, leisure, charity and voluntary sectors.

We are a values-based business and firmly place the positioning of our support and challenge on helping organisations to attain change that is well thought through, planned and sustainable. At CT, we want to help organisations create the landscape within which we ourselves would like to exist: fair, inclusive, diverse, engaged and transparent. We build from our values in how we approach all our work as a practice.

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