Rethinking target operating models
Developing a frontline service approach
INNOVATION & IMPROVEMENT
Senior Consultant, Campbell Tickell
Issue 66 | June 2023
Even the largest and most complex of housing services is, in reality, built layer upon layer of day-to-day interactions and resultant actions. While most are transactional and mundane, some make a real difference, have a lasting impact, or change the course of people’s lives. How best to ensure the experience and outcomes are positive and how can target operating models help?
What people want
From the perspective of someone approaching a service who is homeless, facing a housing crisis, in need of support in sustaining their tenancy, requesting a repair to keep their home functioning properly, or ensuring their neighbourhood is well cared for, rightly all they care about is how easy it is to access the service, its transparency and fairness, and the quality of the service or support they receive.
From the perspective of a frontline service team member, what matters is the quality of the data, systems and processes that support them, and the networks of colleagues, service and community partners that enable them to make ‘a difference’, day-in-day-out – although many are paid little more than the minimum wage themselves.
Role of target operating models
The day-to-day reality of service delivery can seem a long way removed from the airy heights of nuancing corporate strategy or a 30-year business plan (although of equal importance in sustaining effective services) – from which target operating models often emanate.
So, is it time to rethink the way we approach operating models and reconsider the established top-down/inside-out approach to their design? Should we instead view them from the joint perspectives of the person approaching the service and the person delivering it – their combined ‘lived experience’. After all, it was frontline experience and ‘nous’ that kept services going services through Covid-19.
Rethinking service models
But how should we go about this? We must recognise that pressure on frontline service leaders and delivery teams is immense, and it is often very difficult for them to take a step back, assess the challenges they face and see solutions – which are often not far away or difficult to implement.
In working with a wide range of service providers in rethinking service models, Campbell Tickell engages collaboratively with frontline teams to understand their operating context, the challenges they face and the opportunities for driving change. We do this using formats such as structured workshops, surveys, and customer journey walkthroughs. Similarly, seeking to understand the experience of those accessing and navigating a service.
In preparing baseline assessments based on frontline engagement, it is striking how often a relatively straightforward and cost-effective approach is the answer. This is usually based on locally focused solutions and back-to-basics service provision that is enhanced simply by stripping away complexity.
Birmingham City Council
As an illustration of this approach, Campbell Tickell recently worked with Birmingham City Council’s housing department – the largest local authority landlord in the country, managing more than 60,000 properties. Our aim was to help prepare a target operating model that will:
- Respond effectively to meet rising levels of demand and complexity of need
- Handle a reduction in the levels of affordable housing
- React to increased levels of deprivation within communities
To deliver this brief, our team worked sensitively with Birmingham City Council staff to create a baseline assessment of current service provision and operational models. We did this by:
- Walking through key customer journeys and the operational delivery experience of frontline team members
- Engaging with more than half of the service team though a digital CultureScan survey, with follow-up sessions to provide in-depth analysis
- Understanding the lived experience of tenants and service users, already drawn together by the Birmingham team
- Positioning the service within a whole system approach to early intervention and prevention, and locality-based working being implemented across Birmingham
“Our team worked sensitively with Birmingham City Council staff to create a baseline assessment of current service provision and operational models.”
The resulting target operating model set out a range of short-term service ‘wins’, as well as recommendations for bringing about long-term and sustainable change. These are currently being progressed by the Birmingham team.
Listening to the frontline and understanding how day-to-day interactions build into the difference a service can make is a valuable tool in defining a target operating model.