Sheffield University Management School’s impact strategy seeks to develop routes to impact by working with regional and national government agencies and umbrella organisations to maximise the dissemination of its research. To this end, between 2010 and 2013 we focused on enhancing the leadership and innovation skills, attitudes and behaviours of public sector managers in our local South Yorkshire area through the Sheffield City Region Leaders Programme (SCRLP).
This programme was developed collaboratively by the University of Sheffield (UoS) and Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) with the aim of improving public service delivery in the Sheffield City Region.
The programme comprised five modules, two led by academics at SHU and three led by academics at the UoS. Dr Kamal Birdi designed and conducted a two-day, 10-credit UoS module on innovation built around the CLEAR IDEAS model and where participants applied the model to real-life problems facing them.
Participants in the CLEAR IDEAS workshops included 216 public sector managers and employees from: seven Councils (Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham, Bolsover, North East Derbyshire, Doncaster and Chesterfield), NHS institutions (e.g. Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Blood and Transplant service, Sheffield Care Trust), South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, three educational institutions (Sheffield College, University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University), South Yorkshire Forest and Sheffield Homes. We therefore reached many of the major significant public sector bodies in the Sheffield City Region.
Evidence of impact on enhancing innovation resources and skills of employees
Analysis of questionnaire data from 181 workshop participants showed statistically significant improvements in all targeted innovation-related competencies (e.g. generation of new ideas, planning for implementation). The SCRLP evaluation reports also showed that 98% agreed/strongly agreed that the CLEAR IDEAS model is a useful way of dealing with problems and 99% agreed/strongly agreed the workshop was relevant for their job needs so we believe managers had been provided with new innovation resources to improve their professional practice. This view was further supported by follow-up work which highlighted a range of new innovations that had been developed and implemented as a result of the CLEAR IDEAS training. Examples of those innovations are given in some of the case studies below (also see Birdi, 2020). The SCRLP itself was given a Highly Commended citation in the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) Awards 2011, with the impact part of the application focused on the CI module.
The evaluation data collected from our workshops as well as new research has been used to continuously refine and improve the CI methodology. The CI model has also been used since with members of national bodies such as the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the Scottish Government, The British Psychological Society, the Department of Work and Pensions and Ofwat.
Based on the principles learned whilst attending CI workshops in 2010 and 2011, Sheffield City Council (SCC) managers in the Communities Portfolio used monthly ‘Thinking Aloud’ sessions in 2011 to embed regular time for innovative thinking and application of CLEAR IDEAS approaches. The monthly sessions contributed to the development of a new and more efficient Community Access and Reablement Service (CARS) for Sheffield aimed at providing support for older people and those with physical or sensory impairment. The basis for CARS arose from application of CI to the challenge of saving costs by reducing demand for adult social care services. In the twelve months after its implementation in July 2012, adult referrals requiring formal assessment for social care needs fell from 80% to 31%, due to improved efficiency of the new system. The new system is also estimated by management to have saved SCC £1.7M in the first year. The Head of Improvement and Development, Communities Portfolio, Sheffield City Council stated: “It is really clear that there is a direct link between the ideas that were generated in the CLEAR IDEAS session and the significant reablement programme that is now in full swing and making a very significant impact on reducing assessment costs and waiting times and diverting people effectively from adult social care.”
Influence on planning and management of services and on continuous improvement training in the police service
Following positive experiences from their SCRLP participants, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) have written into their continuous improvement strategy document that the CLEAR IDEAS model has been adopted as a supporting toolkit from 2013 onwards. This involves training officers, staff and service improvement groups in all four of the SYP districts in the use of the CI methodology so this can be used throughout the organisation. To date, 30 employees of differing ranks in Rotherham district have taken part in workshops with the aim of developing innovative methods of reducing burglaries, vehicle crime and promoting more efficient working; we are monitoring the progress of the ensuing initiatives. For example, one group is now working on implementing the ‘Pawn Shop Partnership’, a new strategy for reducing the second-hand market for stolen goods.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) used creative thinking techniques introduced on the CI workshop to improve their smoke alarm fitting by adopting a simple and effective solution (Velcro pads) to solve the problem of dust and alarms falling off ceilings in 2010. This solution overcame an organisational health and safety issue surrounding the fixing of alarms to ceilings containing asbestos and reduced the need for trained individuals to re-fit alarms that had been previously poorly fitted. SYFR has fitted approximately 19,000 smoke alarms in the last three years and the reduction in materials alone was estimated to save 3p per alarm fitting
SYFR participants realised by using the CI techniques in a workshop that the efficiency of road safety communication to schoolchildren could be improved by pooling cross-agency resources. The resulting initial ‘One Message’ project was piloted in Sheffield primary schools in 2011 and indicated the viability of the approach. This then led to them being given a budget of £98k from South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership to commission a new integrated road safety education package. The education package centres on an interactive and hard-hitting video presentation entitled ‘Collision’ which was launched on 30th Jan 2013. SYFR are now working with local schools to ensure as many young people in the county as possible have a chance to see the film, with the aim of improving road safety in the future. Furthermore, another new educational package called ‘Routes 4 U’ aimed at 14-16 year olds has been developed by SYFR with the Open College Network. This arose from an initial CI workshop on how to deal better with the anti-social behaviour of NEETs (youth Not in Education, Employment or Training). This initiative is designed to help young people learn teambuilding, citizenship and employability skills and was launched in South Yorkshire in February 2013 and to date has been delivered in four locations with more lined up.
A Medicine Information Pharmacist in Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust was noticing problems with poor patient compliance and drug administration with a gastro-oesophageal reflux medication. Using the CI workshop techniques he was able to influence the choice and adoption of a different drug in 2012, reportedly leading to more accurate administration, dosage and patient compliance. As he says “… by and large it is has been a success… the implementation of the change went a lot better than I thought with over 90% of patients changed over to the new medicine within 2 months… There was a predicted financial saving for the Trust (c. £10k per annum).. and these savings seemed to have been realised despite a 15% increase in prescribing of the new medicine. Other hospitals around the country asked for a copy of our guidelines with a view to implementing the same innovation…”
South Yorkshire Forest (SYF) is responsible for managing over 200 square miles of rural and urban landscapes and a million people live within its boundary. It was tasked with developing a Local Nature Partnership (LNP) to bring about improvements in the local natural environment. The SYF Director used the CI approach from 2011 onwards in a series of meetings with partners in order to expand membership to include the private sector and therefore provide a more widely inclusive and effective partnership than originally envisioned. He says “The CLEAR IDEAS model gave us a framework to look carefully at strategic development and business development opportunities, and not just to think in terms of usual projects. The Commit, Lead and Engage aspects were extremely valuable tools in helping to identify the economic benefits of our (collective) work and to develop productive new partnerships, particularly with the private sector. This has proved invaluable because the firmer focus on jobs and growth has placed a much clearer emphasis on working with business sector partners. The LNP is quite a long strategic development process…but has already delivered more efficient working through service integration.”
UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) is an independent body responsible for facilitating the shaping of the water industry’s research agenda and is funded by the major UK water companies. It has invested £15m in research over the last 15 years with a focus on answering 12 ‘Big Questions’ around water delivery and treatment. Collaboration is key to their approach and between 2016 and 2020 UKWIR employed the CI model to engage with a cross-section of industry stakeholders to develop their Research Routemaps for three Big Questions (drinking water quality, zero pipe leakage and environmentally sustainable wastewater systems). For example, we ran a co-production workshop which increased the zero leakage Routemap from 24 to 33 project areas, including a new funded project on customer-side leakage approaches delivered by the Water Research Centre in 2020. This engagement allowed UKWIR to create a research agenda more able to represent and meet the needs of water sector stakeholders.
Co-production of a new Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) vision and strategy for Sheffield City Council
In early 2019, the need was highlighted for Sheffield’s SEND strategy to involve better strategic engagement with its key stakeholders. To help address this, the Council employed the CI model to run two co-production sessions to reshape their SEND Inclusion vision and strategy going forward; the Council felt no other method would allow such active engagement with so many stakeholders in a focused period to collaboratively produce solutions. The resulting Sheffield SEND 2020-2025 Inclusion Strategy stated that the CI model had “enabled us to co-produce our priorities and solutions working with over sixty individuals from our key stakeholders. This proved successful in identifying positive solutions and priorities which has formed the basis of the strategy.”. For example, a clear recommendation from the workshops was to improve the accessibility of communication with parents and young people and this led to a much more user-friendly redesign of the local offer website.
The £2.5m NHS TestBed programme Perfect Patient Pathway (PEPPA) was set up in 2016 to pilot and evaluate a range of health technologies with patient groups and Primary Care Trusts. A key principle was to co-design these pilot projects and so CLEAR IDEAS was chosen as a good methodology to use for a series of engagement workshops with a range of stakeholders to identify their needs: “The projects within the programme were designed in response to the perspectives of stakeholders on their priorities for care and the use of technology using the ‘Clear Ideas’ method.” (Final PEPPA Overview report). The report summarised key learning points from the programme and stated in its evaluation that “Engagement workshops were really helpful for the identification of unmet needs”.
In September 2015, a CI workshop was conducted with staff of a Primary School to introduce the model and app as a means of addressing key strategic issues. Consequently, new focused strategies for maths and literacy improvement were introduced for pupils, including splitting up classes into more age-relevant groups on certain afternoons and introducing bespoke booster classes. The Head Teacher has attributed these strategies to a subsequent annual improvement trend in OFSTED-rated SATS performance in areas such as pupil reading and writing. Further innovations included introducing social media to engage more effectively with parents, creation of new roles and gaining additional funding to open up early years provision. As the Head stated when asked about the impact of CI: “the effect of the app was the clarity of thinking around school improvement, it was the ability to think, the way it facilitated thinking out of the box… how and what different solutions could we come up with, because actually that is the key to improvement in performance in schools”.
In November 2017, Dr Birdi ran a two-day CI workshop in Hungary with managers from Corinthia hotels in Budapest, Malta, London, St Petersburg and Prague. By March 2018, participants had used the CI digital apps to generate and implement a range of innovative strategies to deal with customer service quality challenges that were being faced in different countries. In Prague, restaurant service was reorganised which led to reduction of customer complaints to almost zero and generation of substantial additional revenue in subsequent quarters. In Budapest, sharing of resources, suppliers and roles with a smaller sister hotel led to notable financial savings for the smaller hotel. In Malta, simplifying the registration card reduced the customer check-in time and English lessons and training in guest names improved employee engagement with subsequent improvements in guest scores. This showed that whereas creativity training programmes focus on just generating ideas, our addition of the CLEAR implementation factors helped participants better realise the benefits of their creative ideas in practice.
Since 2014, a major Icelandic energy infrastructure company Landsnet, has used the CI method to design and obtain investment for a major new in-house technical engineering skills training school to mitigate the loss of skills from the impending retirement of many workers and increasing demands. A pilot programme was run in 2019 and the school is now fully operational in 2020 and a significant success. According to the HR specialist instrumental in introducing CLEAR IDEAS into the company: “The Landsnet Academy has taken training to new heights… and the results can be seen directly in new behavior at work…CLEAR IDEAS helped us arrive at the outcome much quicker than we would have done without it, the reason being that CLEAR IDEAS helped us keep track of everything that we did and acted as a manual for generating ideas and evaluating them, so it helped us prioritise and organise our ideas and also gave us the motivation that we needed. . as a tool, definitely played a big part in helping us find a solution to the challenge we were encountering…”.