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Managing Change: delivering public sector reform

Public Service Events’ inaugural conference

Wednesday 7 December 2011, the Barbican, London

Notes from Chloé Gallien

Cindy Vallance, Steph Klaric and myself attended the above yesterday.

Details of programmes and speakers can be found on:

 Although the question of “what turns an ordinary project into one that really delivers beneficial change?” was very interesting, the conference did not, unfortunately, quite live up to our expectations. It suffered from not even a passing reference to universities being made as well as from an overexposure to talking head presentations by middle-aged white males from Whitehall..  (See my “tips for conference organisers” at the end).  There were, however, a few “take-aways” for me, which I have noted below:

Some recurring themes:  

  • The importance-  and difficulty-  of disseminating learning :�
    • How to learn quickly from models that worked?
    • How to ensure that lessons, from successes as well as failures, are propagated and learned, not just observed?
    • Also to ensure that people know- and talk- about successes not just failures?


  • The importance-  and difficulty-  of getting buy-in and  overcoming resistance to change:
    • Useful to use simple, stakeholders’ analysis to identify allies, “neutrals” and “blockers”; important not to focus on “blockers” but to strengthen allies’ commitment and work with them to convince “neutrals”.
    • Have clear map of how projects link with organisation’s strategic objectives
    • Be absolutely clear and honest in all communication, about what is driving the change but also about the scope and constraints of the initiative.
    • Do not be afraid of sharing bad news and do not avoid difficult questions or conversations.


  • How to resolve tension between needing to “get on with things” and get results and the equally important need to think things through before acting?


Idea of the day

Providing a “conversations wall” in a prominent place where everyone in the organisation is encouraged to write or use sticky notes to post ideas/suggestions/comments/quotes/drawings/ photos on a monthly theme.


Quotes of the day

“We are talking about a mindset, not another manual.”

“Change is not fun.  It is a route to a much improved future.”

“There is no change without risk; we just need to be able to manage that risk.”

“Everyone wants authority by no one wants accountability.”

“People change one person at a time.”

“Consultants can do many things but they cannot transform your organisation for you.”

“Don’t share a solution; share a problem which everyone is involved in solving.” It made me think of another quote heard on another occasion: “One needs to develop a shared plan rather than share a developed plan”.


“We never communicate enough.”


Tips for conference organisers:

  • Provide speakers with  participants’ lists before hand and ask them to ensure that they try and  adapt their  presentations accordingly
  • Try and think of varying the presentation formats as well as the type of presenters.
  • Ask your speakers to avoid unexplained acronyms,  over- crowded slides,  or  slides which are illegible at the back of the room