An Agile District Council in the Making: A Behaviour-Led Transformation
This paper looks at the issues faced by an organisation as it transforms itself through behavioural change and cultural agility. It focuses on the experiences of a sizable District Council in the UK.
Austerity and financial constraints have been threatening the public sector in the UK for a number of years. Foreseeing the threat of continued budget cuts, and addressing the situation many local councils face, requires internal transformations that help achieve financial stability without losing the key ‘social reason’ focus of their existence.
This paper introduces, describes and analyses an ongoing behaviour-led transformation in a district council in the UK, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC). It presents the results of the analysis of a series of interviews with internal stakeholders at the council, of observations of different meetings among senior and middle management, and of an internal survey based on the Cultural Values Framework carried out in the period of January to May 2018.
The change programme started in 2008 with a behaviours-led programme of internal renovation in the way strategic planning and transactional operations are conducted at the council, with its most significant period of change up to the mid of 2017. During this period, all staff (except for the CEO and 2 directors) had to undergo a behaviour-based assessment and reapply for their job. Jobs were grouped into clouds and anyone could apply for a job in any cloud; the behaviour assessment test undertaken was specific to each cloud. Subsequently, there is a continual improvement approach revisiting adequacy of structures with a more recent restructure happening in October 2018.
This case study was carried out by the Agile Research Network (ARN), a collaboration between researchers at two UK universities, funded mostly by the Agile Business Consortium, working with organisations to bridge the gap between industry and practice. The aim of this case study was to follow part of the undergoing transformation journey as seen by the council’s staff, and to act as a critical friend voice with observations of a snapshot of this journey drawing on existing literature and other perspectives on agile transformation.