Evolve your operating model: 10 tips from housing sector leaders

15 March 2022 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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As housing associations adapt to the post-Covid-19 era, operating models in the sector are evolving. Alistair Sharpe-Neal from Campbell Tickell and Ian Wright from the Disruptive Innovators Network outline ten important operational transformation lessons that housing leaders should reflect on from the pandemic-induced crisis.

1) Covid-19 can be a catalyst for lasting change
The pandemic may have been a Black Swan event, but innovative organisations can use it as a way to bring about long-needed change. It’s a chance that should not be wasted.

2) If you innovate, do it quickly and be flexible
Innovation is often stymied by a ‘business as usual’ attitude, or by a belief that it must be right first time. But innovation should be an iterative process: be prepared to adapt and learn as you go along.

Allistair Sharpe-Neal and Ian Wright

3) Listen to customer needs and expectations
The world has changed, and so the needs of your customers are very likely to have changed. A genuine effort to understand what their new needs are will improve the way you do business.

4) Insight and data are vital
It is near impossible to improve customer service unless you truly know who your customers are. When it comes to services, transformation programmes should be supported by data.

5) Be prepared to invest to sustain
New operating models that drive genuine change might need investment to bring them about – whether that investment is in people, equipment or training. But a short-term financial hit might be essential to driving far greater efficiency and performance in the long term. There are also dangers inherent in trying to become too lean too quickly, leaving leaders without the mental bandwidth to think about the business beyond its day-to-day operations.

6) Trust your people and take them with you
Culture is perhaps the most important part of the puzzle when redesigning operating models. If your people have not bought in to the changes you are making, those changes will be ineffective and even counter-productive.

7) Be flexible about when or where your staff work
The decentralised, flexible workplace will change the way you deliver services to your customers and how you recruit, train and retain staff. Flexibility won’t be the same for every business, but every business must be open to flexibility.

8) Don’t be afraid to recruit disrupters
Maximising your continuing effectiveness in a rapidly changing environment – where we continue to see changes – calls for new approaches. Make sure that the people you recruit are comfortable with being flexible and are prepared to positively challenge old ways of working.

9) Look for ways to say ‘yes’
Focus on creativity and innovation. Give people space to develop new ideas. Recognise that many or most may not be realistic or achievable in practice, but appreciate that some will be, and can help positively transform the way you deliver services for your customers.

10) Hear the customer voice
Deploy a range of means to hear what your customers want and involve them in making decisions so far as possible. Make sure you are hearing all their voices (not just the ‘usual suspects’). Being straight with your customers about what is achievable and what may not be deliverable will be well received.

This article was previously posted in the ‘New operating models in social housing’ study from the Disruptive Innovators Network and Campbell Tickell.