Devon County Council is committed to helping the people of Devon live their lives well. To do that, we need to operate and think differently to redesign our services around what matters to the people of Devon. We know that we cannot transform with the same thinking and approaches that have created our current services, processes and systems. Therefore we are using an approach called the Vanguard Method (systems thinking) to:

  • challenge our assumptions and change thinking;
  • listen to our citizens and understand what matters to them;
  • understand how work flows through our system; and
  • redesign our systems around citizen’s needs.

Why are we doing this?

Like many organisations, our ways of working have evolved over many years and in response to a range of factors, like policy and legal requirements, budget changes, responses to emergencies and programmes of work.

Some of these factors may no longer exist, but the ways of working remain – through policy, practice or even habit. Over time we’ve built up work and behaviours which may not be necessary, helpful or may even prevent us from doing the best we can for citizens.  Sometimes this means we put people through a complicated process when actually we could get quickly from initial contact to providing what is needed.

You can probably think of examples in your own area where we’re doing things that don’t seem to add value or doing things because we’ve always done them or you might even wonder why we do them at all. We know these things are happening, but at the moment we don’t know how much or how often. Or how much of our time and budget they are taking up and this is really important.

Why is this different?

Systems Thinking challenges our assumptions and gives us a way of looking at the entire system focusing on what matters to the people of Devon and designing against that; giving us the tools to understand how we can make systemic changes that will truly make a difference to our citizens.

We will need to ask ourselves important questions such as:

  • What are we here for? – To do better things we need to know and understand what we’re here for – what our purpose is.
  • What is the real problem we are trying to solve from a citizen’s perspective?
  • How do we know we solved it?  

This may sound like common sense, but day to day priorities and constraints often move us away from our purpose or make us focus on different things. When that happens we end up coping with demand as best we can and creating temporary fixes which never really stick.