Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Reflections on the conclusion of the Collaboration Programme

Having delivered the final project report for the Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot (see the Strategy Exchange - far right side of the Home Page - FAN Club Collaboration Initiative) and my observations on the overall Collaboration Programme to the Horizon Scanning Centre, I have had an opportunity to reflect.

One of the most striking observations I would make is that the feedback from the regional pilot reflected the inquiry results from my earlier work; both the challenges as well as the benefits.

On the top of the pile, were two factors:
  1. Operational issues overtake everything that is longer term. When you dial into that, focuses on learning, less connected to the day job, working in ways that feels more complex and uncertain, then the connection with the collaborative futures work was fragile.
  2. The reluctance of the participants collectively to make a more formal commitment to the collaboration process. Yes, there was implicit agreement about how we would work together, but the components emerged through a number of different workshops, telephone conference calls and sharing documents.
Nevertheless, the lessons were clear and articulated in the feedback received from the participants. The content developed by way of a FutureScape strategy roadmap was also very interesting. While the futures events identified by the project team might be assessed differently by others, they certainly hint at the potential for some interesting following up work and more in depth research.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the pilot project didn’t go well. While it did not achieve some of the aggressive goals set, as an experiment in collaborative futures work, it was indeed successful. We worked collaboratively, identified the challenges and potential future opportunties and developed some content about ageing.

When I reflect back on the other elements of the Collaboration Programme, the Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot worked for all the reasons that other attempts to stimulate more collaborative working with other stakeholders connected to the Horizon Scanning Centre / Futures Analysts Network, did not.

The regional pilot had:
  • A catalyst - the devolved administrations and participants interested in a common issue, ageing;
  • A forum – the FAN Club;
  • Interested and motivated stakeholders;
  • Sponsorship from HSC;
  • Dedicated facilitation and collaborative working support.
Collaboration remains an important approach to consider in bringing resolution to critical issues, particularly given the current situation with regard to public spending. But where collaboration is perceived as crucial to achieving key objectives, the requirement of the participants to work in new ways, develop relationships as well as simply consider a joint-working process will determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution if not the basic outcome.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot - Cardiff FAN Club meeting and coming to close

The FAN Club meeting in Cardiff provided the opportunity to share the team’s experiences in collaborative futures work, an overview of the futures content we had developed and for FAN Club members to work with the FutuerScape application in a workshop environment.

The agenda for the project review was:
  • Context
  • Challenges and benefits
  • Our collaborative journey
  • Creating the FutureScape model
  • Scottish perspective on the story so far
The intentions are to provide a copy of the final report via the Strategy Exchange so it’s not my intention to repeat all the content detail here, but are a selection of the key slides from the Cardiff meeting:

The next steps identified (and their current status) are:
  • To conduct a pilot project “wash up” telecon to inform final feedback – complete.
  • For the partners decide if / how to take the work forward after the FAN Club meeting – complete.
  • To agree how to broaden FAN Club access to the work – under way.
  • To create a report to describe the process and futures content, and make available via the Strategy Exchange and Horizon Scanning Centre – under way.
One follow up action completed has seen the original 60 event roadmap become available via a public SharpCloud directory. You can see the roadmap at this address:


To view the model, you will need MS Silverlight installed on your computer; otherwise no additional access rights are required to initially review the roadmap.

The Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot - Assessing similarities and differences

The assumption going into this work was that there was significant common ground on the issue of ageing between Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as shared desire to explore a new approach to futures working and to do so in collaboration with other parties.

But the analysis conducted on the outputs – the prioritised 24 events - from the second workshop challenged that notion. Or at least said that the differences in the feedback need to be explored so that there was clarity about where the partnering opportunities and differences might be.

In this analysis, we saw limited agreement on the potential impact of the events but a reasonable degree of agreement on the likelihood.
This table looks at the degree of clear agreement, where agreement / dis-agreement is unclear, and clear disagreement in the ratings allocated for the impact of each of the 24 events on the societal and economic opportunities of an ageing population and likelihood of the events taking place.

The degree of agreement or otherwise could be the result of different interpretations of the underlying data - the definition of an event and its implication, for example - so further exploration would be required to assess the potential for ongoing collaboration in these areas.

While there is scope for further potential discussion, just one event – Negative Dependency Ratio – saw agreement across the three administrations on impact and likelihood.

The Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot - Workshop 2 - LONDON (amid volcanic ash!)

It seems a little while ago now, but the second workshop took place at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills Conference Centre. The objective for the workshop was to make sense of the model, consider the implications for policy development and agree potential next steps.

Our agenda to achieve this was:
  • Conducting a brief re-connecting session
  • Selecting and rating the critical future events
  • Focusing on the most likely / highest impact events
  • Seeking to understand how we could use FutureScape to consider the potential implications on policy development.
Attendance was somewhat limited by the fall out (literally!) from the volcanic ash cloud; nevertheless, the work gave rise to some important insights and provided the basis for some off-line work to determine the nature of any potential overlap between the three participating administrations.

Having identified these 24 high impact / most likely events, we focused on one event that was of interest to the workshop participants and that looked likely to have a number of important relationships: the Silver Workforce.

Here is what we developed in terms of potential policy implications, actions and resources that could be needed to implement the policy:

The next step was to consider the degree of agreement or otherwise between the three administrations about the relative significance (impact and likelihood) of the 24 events. This analysis could indicate the potential for greater collaboration in specific areas of ageing policy development.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Working towards The Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot - Workshop 2

In the period between the first workshop and today, a lot has happened to impact the project; a common issue with programmes of work that cover a long(ish) period of time and where participation is based on interest rather than operational need.

The uncertainty generated by the announcement of the General Election coupled with the ongoing pressures on public spending is having a slow down effect in many areas.

More on the issue of expectations and how they have changed as the project has progressed in a future post, but the transitions that individuals have been subject to in their jobs has, I believe, spilled over into this work. And of course, this is a reality that can and almost inevitably does happen in partnership working.

However, we have been able to continue to build on our initial work with the futures (FuterScape) model, and we are now heading towards the focal point of this pilot – the Cardiff FAN Club meeting on 19th May.

What have we achieved so far?

As a reminder, to date we have worked collaboratively to:
  • Connect over a series of telephone conference calls.
  • Propose, review, refine and co-create the core questions for our futures work.
  • Complete an initial review of the capabilities of FutureScape.
  • Plan for and participate in the information sharing sessions at the Belfast FAN Club meeting.
  • Develop and agree a project plan through to the Cardiff FAN Club meeting where we will share the content and process outcomes from the work.
  • Agreed some initial scoping boundaries to provide focus for the work.
  • Set the tone in which we will address the issue (looking for benefits rather than problems).
  • Establish a Community Area on the Strategy Exchange to share information about the pilot.
  • Hold our first workshop in Edinburgh (on 4th February).
  • Identify our individual interest in participating.
  • Share expectations and assumptions about the project.
  • Confirm and refined the key questions we are seeking to answer.
  • Identify some of the outcomes we are looking to explore through FutureScape.
  • Start to create a FutureScape model.
  • Review and work with the FutureScape model.
Workshop 2

Our Workshop scheduled for 6th May – yes, that’s right – is going to be crucial to the pilot. In London, we will:
  • Conduct a brief re-connecting session.
  • Select and rate (impact, uncertainty etc.) the critical future events previously identified.
  • Seek to understand the potential implications of the events on policy development.
  • Consider the strategic implications.
  • Consider our options for closing or continuing with the work.
We will then take the content and process learnings to the Cardiff FAN Club on 19th May. At this meeting, we will share our content and process learnings and provide an opportunity for FAN Club members to work with the FutureScape model.

And then?

Finally, we’ll have a pilot “wash up” to review the project.

At this stage, we hope to be able to be able to share more information about our work – including the model – as well as the collaboration process learnings.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot – Workshop 1

On the 4th February, representatives of the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations and Fujitsu gathered at Victoria Quay – a Scottish Government Building in Edinburgh – to work on this project.

By the end of a full day, we had started to address some of the critical issues in establishing an effective partnership and started to co-create a futures model using Fujitsu’s FutureScape application.


Or agenda was very full – a recognition that we needed to undertake a number of critical activities and maximise the time we had together. We sought to establish the partnership itself as well as work through some futures content. We:
  • Shared our interest in participating in the Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot.
  • Expressed our expectations about the work and our assumptions.
  • Agreed the core question we will seek to answer through this work.
  • Started the discussion on what we are seeking to achieve through this work.
  • Started to consider the risks and opportunities in participating in this work.
  • Reviewed FutureScape’s capabilities.
  • Started to co-create a FutureScape model.
Interest in participating

As part of our connecting for the day, we sought to consider and share our interest in participating in this work. The good news is that the combination of an operational interest in the issue of aging, a desire to understand more about futures work and collaboration and how they can be deployed in the operational environment were strongly featured in the feedback.

Also of interest was the experience of taking part in a multi-stakeholder partnership. This work is bringing together three public sector organisations from the devolved administrations across the UK and a private sector organisation.

Assumptions and Expectations

Establishing our assumptions about the work and our partners is critical to developing an open relationship between partners. Equally important is the sharing of what we expect to happen as we work together; what we expect to be the outcome of the work and what some of the challenges might be along the way.

We identified the following themes:
  • Content and Questions – Looking for shared understanding about the questions we ask, the definitions we work with and the content we have.
  • The External Context – Being aware of the external environmental context for our work; mainly things we can’t change!
  • The Organisational Context – Paying attention to what is actually going on in the different organisations and how that plays into our work.
  • Outcomes – How we deliver value to our stakeholders, and what that value looks like.
  • The Partnering Process – The challenges and opportunities of working collaboratively.
  • Resources – The pressures that will be felt by the partners in contributing to this work.
The big question

One of the challenges with this work – both futures work and collaboration – is to manage the scope of the work. One of the things we have sought to do is collectively agree on the question(s) we are posing. To that end, in Edinburgh we agreed that our big questions would be:

What are the possible future social and economic opportunities presented by an ageing population?

What are the challenges that need to be addressed that allow us to capitalise on the opportunities?


Having considered the big question, we looked at the future outcomes we wanted to explore through our modelling using FutureScape. The issues we identified were social, environmental, economic and political in nature.

In co-creating a pilot FutureScape model we considered some potential future events, allocate timelines to them, built in some attributes and characteristics associated with each event and recognised relationships between them.

Next steps

There are three key next steps:
  1. To review the pilot model and ad richness to it – more data and more detail.
  2. Build on the initial work to develop and agree a Partnership Charter that will support governance throughout the project.
  3. To build on our collaboration to date and plan Workshop 2 where we will start to make sense of the information we have collected, assumptions we have made in the context of potential futures.
If you want to know more about this work, see the Introduction and Context post at the start of this blog or contact me by email.

Friday, 22 January 2010

The collaboration programme – an update

In my last post, I said that I would talk about one of the other work streams, but I’ve chosen to do something a little different.

The success (so far at least) of the Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot has encouraged me to think about the characteristics of this initiative and why some of the other work has been more challenging. Certainly the work to date has given rise to a template that we hope to test in future collaboration work later in the year.

Further reflections on the Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot

As I reflect on what has gone well, and we move towards the first workshop, I’m able to build on the issues I identified in the last post:
  • Building on planned and agreed FAN Club activity
  • Working with members interested in collaborating
  • Working on an issue of shared importance
  • Paying significant attention to how we engage
  • Regular contact across the team by email and telephone conference call and follow up notes
  • Providing space for stakeholders to express their views and opinions
  • Taking time to plan for the first workshop
  • Building stakeholder feedback into the workshop process without compromising the collaboration process
  • Designing the workshop around the collaboration cycle
  • Independent leadership / facilitation - while encouraging full participation - of the collaboration process

The Collaboration Cycle

The outstanding characteristic of this work compared to the other work streams, is where we started from. Put simply, we started from a more advanced place in terms of both an idea and existing relationships; albeit that the key stakeholders had yet to develop relationships with each other. Relationships existed between the stakeholders and the Horizon Scanning Centre which provided the opportunity to propose the initiative in the first place and link it to a FAN Club event – the Belfast meeting.

So what was more challenging about the other work?

On the other hand, it has become clear that starting exploratory conversations about a new approach to futures work – in this case collaboration; or about a new application – SouthBeach notation for example – without a critical issue that the stakeholders need to address, has been much more challenging and has yet to really bear fruit.

The strange thing about this is that in presentations to groups about collaboration and partnership, one of the points I make is that successful collaboration can only be built on existing relationships. This experience has certainly re-confirmed that!

Having said all that, the conversations that have taken place could still provide the basis for collaboration in the future.

A recent experience outside this work

I recently gave a presentation on partnership working to a network of consultants I’m connected with in Kent. To be honest, I was taking a somewhat challenging stance on what partnership is and how I have found that by thinking about my working definition of partnership, I have decided that I do not partner with clients. As a result, I have changed the way I promote my client services.

"Working in partnership with our clients” is a popular proposition made by many management consultants, but do they? I work at inquiring into my client’s issue to maximise the opportunity of developing a solution or materials that best meets their need. To me at least, this isn’t partnership, but it is part of good consulting practice.

Some of the people in the room agreed with what I was saying; others considered my comments and still felt that they did partner with their clients (although they seemed to me, to be describing Account Management), but one person particularly seemed to resist the notion that there could be any other approach to partnership working than the one she had put into place in an operational role in her last organisation.

For me, this experience highlighted the critical need to be clear about what we mean by partnership when working with other parties. We can then reconcile the different perspectives and satisfy ourselves that we are close enough to be able to work together effectively. Not going through this process in the early stages of a piece of work can give rise to significant problems in the relationship later.