Find out how FIRO helped LGSS leaders manage change

LGSS is one of the largest public sector shared services ventures of its kind in the UK, wholly owned by Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire county councils. With over 1,400 staff, the partnership provides a wide range of professional public sector services, offering a large, skilled resource pool that helps relieve the financial pressures on frontline citizen-facing services.

Team around table image for LGSS
LGSS was commissioned to carry out leadership development programmes for Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire County Councils. Christine Reed, LGSS Director of People, Transformation and Transactions provided strategic sponsorship of the project.
The aim was to support management development, recruitment and retention, and to create a set of competency frameworks. This would enable leaders to deal with the challenges of driving up productivity, improving services and ensuring quality – tricky propositions in an environment of increased fiscal austerity.
The leaders involved were from diverse backgrounds, as befits an institution that covers areas as diverse as finance, education, housing, roads, parks, and many others.
The development programmes were designed under the leadership of Barbara Barrett, Head of Service, and an experienced OD professional and took place against a background of change. The public sector had experienced upheavals, affecting all areas and levels of the county councils, and senior managers needed support in order to meet the many challenges ahead. In many cases expectations and roles had changed radically, and some individuals had not previously had many opportunities for professional development.
The desired outcome was sustainable leadership, critical to delivering strategic outcomes. The change required was fundamental – not making people more efficient within an existing framework, but effectively changing the way things are done.

Initially LGSS teamed with OPP consultants to create new competency frameworks, looking at what behaviours were required to meet the challenges ahead.

After this, LGSS organised some diagnostic and development sessions using OPP tools.

“It was a case of opening up possibilities, underlining necessities, instilling confidence and looking at the pipeline for future leaders”, commented Barbara. “This had to be done against a background of increased demands and challenges, with less budget to play with. Initially it was a question of asking the leaders ‘Where are you at, where are you going, and what is required to get there?’ It was an opportunity for people to reflect on self, role and strengths, and to look at aspects of effective teamwork too."

Part of the development work involved the FIRO® tool. One-to-one sessions were held, to create development plans for individuals, taking into account personal strengths and potential development areas.

The use of psychometrics has not been part of the culture of the public sector, historically, so there was a certain amount of ice to be broken. Some of the required actions were challenging, taking individuals far from their comfort zones. However, feedback from the sessions was generally positive, notably so in the section involving the FIRO-B instrument. People very much valued the opportunity to examine their own actions and approaches, gaining heightened perspective and insights. There is now a shared language around desired outcomes, and concerning such things as competencies and the mechanics of how good teams work together.

Looking ahead, team-building will be a priority. The original 1-to-1 sessions will be followed up to integrate the learning, and there will be master classes too. There may be more of an emphasis on assessment centres in the next round of development, to make the timescales more concise and to allow speedy follow-up sessions for everyone. This will help to keep development within each council at the same level for the various leaders involved, as one-to-ones can be time-consuming and strung out when carried out on a large scale like this.

“It has been a great learning exercise for everyone”, said Barbara. “Each council we have been working with is at a different stage of its development journey, but real progress is being made in all of them. People have really benefited from the reflection time – something essential in what is a high-change situation.”

Leaders were asked: ‘Where are you at, where are you going, and what is required to get there?’ It was an opportunity for people to reflect on self, role and strengths, and to look at aspects of effective teamwork too.

Barbara BarrettHead of OWD Service. LGSS