Delivery, efficiency and innovation

Support for Haringey Corporate Delivery Unit

“What they [Isos] did very well was teach us about the PMDU approach. Rather than tell us, ‘This is how you do it’, they would ask us questions, for example, ‘How will we communicate with priority leaders?’.”


The brief

We were asked to support the establishment of a new corporate delivery unit by Haringey Council in July 2013. The new unit was to be based on the model of the UK Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit which a number of Isos partners had worked in. We had also supported central government departments in England and Wales and States in the USA to adapt and apply the PMDU model. The Haringey delivery unit is the first to be established by a local authority in England.

What did we do?

We were commissioned to help build the skills and capabilities of the new team and to help them learn and decide how they wanted to apply the PMDU approach in Haringey.

Our support started with a number of intensive induction and training days that introduced Unit members to the PMDU approach and gave them the chance to debate and discuss which elements they thought would work well in Haringey; which needed to be adapted; and which were not relevant to their work. Our approach was based on building the team’s capability rather than doing the work for them – we gave them the space to decide what they thought was going to work in Haringey.

Much of our initial focus was on developing Delivery Plans and adapting the PMDU assessment framework so that Haringey could use it to assess the status of each of their priorities. We introduced the theory of delivery planning to the team and modeled how you might support a service to develop one. The team then ran a number of workshops with service areas to develop their delivery plans, we supported the unit to assess the plans that emerged, and we then ran a moderation process across all of the areas they were working with and challenged the team’s ratings.

Our next task was to help the team to prepare for their first stocktake with the Chief Executive and Leader in October 2013. We planned the agenda and presentation for the first stocktake carefully with the team, attended the stocktake in a observational role, and provided feedback to both the Chief Executive and Unit about how well it had gone. We continued to support subsequent stocktakes until the team were confident they could run these on their own.

Having helped the Unit establish its basic tools and routines the next element of our support was to help the unit adapt and use the key PMDU problem solving tool ‘Priority Reviews’. Designed by Isos partner Richard Pages-Jones these reviews were critical drivers of many of the improvements in public services that PMDU helped to secure. In Haringey Isos led the first priority review which looked at the issue of Temporary Accommodation, with Unit members and leads from the Service making up the rest of the team. Our aim was to teach CDU how to do reviews and allow them to lead their own reviews in future. Our support therefore shifted to an advisory role for the second and third reviews which the Unit led themselves and the reviews have now become a key tool which the Unit is confident in using themselves.

The final element of our support was to support the development of the team itself and provide individual coaching and support to the Unit Leader and individual team members. We ran team sessions in which we discussed the strengths and development needs of different team members and focused on developing negotiating and influencing skills and a culture of honest feedback amongst the team.

What difference did we make?

The CDU was initially established for 18 months with no commitment beyond this period. One indication of the Unit’s success and impact to date therefore is the decision that has been taken for the Unit to continue its work beyond this initial 18 months.

It is also clear from the case study which Zina Etheridge and Peter Thomas have produced for the Institute for Government* that the Unit is seen as having done a good job by the Leader, Chief Executive and many of the Service Leads with whom it has worked. The case study highlights a number of success factors behind the Unit’s success. Our own contribution to the successful development of the Unit is also recognised in this case study with Zina and Peter commenting that ‘The appointment of Isos proved to be a very good choice’.

What did the client say about the work?

As one of the team commented to Peter we helped to this create the space for the team to decide how to adapt and apply PMDU tools and processes in Haringey:

“What they [Isos] did very well was teach us about the PMDU approach. Rather than tell us, ‘This is how you do it’, they would ask us questions, for example, ‘How will we communicate with priority leaders?’, and we asked them questions back like, ‘What did you do?’ or ‘What were the pitfalls?’, and then we thought about how we would apply that in Haringey…”

The team also valued our support during their set-up commenting to Peter:

“It was an ideal way of doing it – it’s up there with the best team set-up’s I’ve ever been part of. It was planned well by David and Zina.”

*Z. Etheridge and P. Thomas Adapting the PMDU Model: The creation of a delivery unit by Haringey Council, London: a case study’.

** Quotes taken directly from Etheridge and P. Thomas ‘Adapting the PMDU Model: The creation of a delivery unit by Haringey Council, London: a case study’