It’s not what you do…
Over the summer the Scottish Government announced a new Economic Advisory Council made up of an impressive group of business leaders and academics to be chaired by the Economy Secretary. One of its first tasks will be to help shape a new ten year strategy to drive economic transformation to support recovery from Covid 19 and achieve a just transition to net zero.
When thoughts turn to strategy attention is often focussed on generating imaginative ideas for policies and projects and addressing questions around what should be given priority. Important though this is, it is also vital to give consideration to how the strategy might most effectively be delivered.
For a multi-faceted economic strategy, which will require coherent action across many companies, organisation and groups, a key part of ‘the how’ will revolve around nurturing a genuinely collaborative environment, where individual and organisational goals are focussed on overall outcomes as opposed to narrow output targets. Despite best intentions it has been hard to achieve this to date.
A recent blog from the Auditor General reflecting on the tenth anniversary of the Christie Review, highlighted this:
“For now, there’s a mismatch between the Scottish Government’s vision of a more successful Scotland – where poverty is reduced, and economic growth is sustainable – and how we assess public sector performance. I am not convinced that public sector leaders really feel accountable for delivering change that demands different organisations work together. There is much talk of collaborative leadership. But in my discussions with public sector leaders, it’s clear that too many of them still don’t feel truly empowered or sufficiently emboldened to make the changes they think are needed to deliver Christie.”
It is not just in the public sector that greater collaboration is essential, it applies right across sectors. It is one of the ‘meta-skills’ identified Skills Development Scotland’s ‘Skills 4.0’ report, setting out a skills model to drive Scotland’s future. They argue that it is “imperative for us to increase the value that society places on these skills, so that they are held by more people and in greater depth”.
The report highlights some of the key components of collaboration skills, including:
· “The ability to identify and initiate connections and to develop and maintain them in a way that is of mutual benefit to both one’s self and others
· Working with others toward shared goals. Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals
· Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.”
As with all skills these can be learned and honed through training and practice.
The National Performance Framework in Scotland provides the context for a more collaborative, outcome focused approach. Finding a way to meaningfully connect the objectives of the new economic strategy to the day to day performance requirements of organisations and individuals and up-skilling people to work more collaboratively will be crucial to helping ensure that they are actually delivered. This might require some up-front investment and greater focus on the longer term, but this will help ensure a more effective and efficient outcome over time, while also helping deliver the ambitions of the Christie Commission.
As the song goes:
It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it
That’s what gets results.
Charlie Woods. EDAS