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Weeknote 19 - 23 July 2021

5 min read

On shared provocations, developing agile leaders and anti-racism policies.


I’ve joined a cross-Government group that is looking at how the public sector designs and uses operating models[1]. There is general agreement that we could make it easier and cheaper to do this sort of work but we are still working out what sort of intervention would help. Can we just publish examples and guides and let people find them or is something more formal and substantial needed to make any difference? We are starting to experiment with a few ideas. One of the experiments is to share some statements about operating models to help expose what is obvious and agreed and what could be controversial and need more discussions. Here is an early draft:

  • A business model summarises your organisation’s role and purpose. An operating model summarises how you work
  • Operating models are multidimensional. You can show aspects of your operating model through diagrams, charts and tables but one view won’t capture the whole thing
  • Operating models are multidisciplinary and touch people, process, tools, money, external parties etc
  • Operating models are dynamic. Structures such as role hierarchies are important but so are relationships, information, stocks and flows of work, movements of people etc
  • Just like a map isn’t the territory, operating model documents are simplified views of how you actually operate
  • Some parts of an operating model can be changed simply and directly (e.g. the reporting line for a role) but many aspects are emergent e.g. pace and productivity
  • Your organisation has an implicit operating model even if you have never written it down
  • Documented operating models can be helpful but the only ones that really count are what actually get implemented
  • A target operating model with no feasible path from where you are now is useless. Each step on the path needs to be operable
  • All operating models are interim and new things start emerging immediately
  • A target operating model can be helpful but you will probably never reach it and, if you did, it will no long meet your needs
  • You can’t tell that the ideas in a documented operating model are valid through document reviews. Modelling and simulation can increase confidence and expose more mistakes but real life is the ultimate test.

We’ve also started to draft a sort of “beginner’s guide” and I hope we can discuss how to share this more widely at our next catch up.


I’ve been introducing the teams running our finance and workforce systems to our new Delivery Manager and introducing our new Delivery Manager to all the jargon and acronyms we fall into when we talk about these systems. For a few months I’ve been covering both the Delivery Manager and Product Manager roles and not doing either of them especially well. I will gradually get back to focusing on all the Product Management I have been neglecting.

Preparations continued for our talk at Agile on the Beach[2] in September. The team from the last event in 2019[3] set the bar pretty high and we are quite a way short of that at the moment. We are refining some stories about our work over the last year or so. Some of them won’t make it into the final talk but they will still be useful for other events and possibly our internal training. We are now shifting our attention to story boarding so we can commission the images and videos we want to include in the presentation. As we get closer to the event it will be rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

This week we ran a training session to introduce a group of managers in Adult Social Care to agile ways of working. The team already had some practical experience of agile from their transformation programme but wanted to learn more so they could use it more widely in their work. We made some minor adaptations to the training we had delivered to some of our IS colleagues last week but I hope to get some feedback to help make it even more relevant to their teams. We tried some different tools and techniques so that we could check the attendees were engaged and getting something useful from the session. These seemed to work well so we will take these back into the next IS course and keep improving. We also collected user stories to help plan some follow up. Some of this can be addressed through more training but we might also blend in coaching and sharing between teams. One of the Council’s learning and development team also attended to observe. It looks like there is some good alignment between our agile introduction and the Council’s leadership development curriculum so we are going to follow up and see how we can reinforce the key learning points.


The leadership development programme also came up at this month’s meeting of the Staff Race Equality Forum. We talked about the role that all leaders should have in addressing racism and how to make sure that people from under represented groups got the support they needed to take part and get the benefits of attending. We also continued discussing anti-racism policies. I had previously investigated this area[4] but most of the examples I could find just focus on minimal legal compliance. I am hoping we can adopt some of the ideas from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)[5] which seem to be more ambitious but also quite practical.


  1. There is a bit more about operating models in a previous blog post ↩︎

  2. Agile on the Beach will be the World’s best agile conference this year and not just because it takes place in Cornwall! ↩︎

  3. Cornwall’s previous talk was so good I changed by job! ↩︎

  4. More about anti-racism strategy in a previous weeknote ↩︎

  5. CIPD ideas for anti-racism strategies ↩︎

Originally published on by Richard Barton