Why are we doing this?

Our ways of working have evolved over many years and in response to a range of factors, such as:

  • policy and legal requirements
  • budget changes and funding
  • responses to emergencies
  • projects and programmes of work.

Some of these factors no longer exist, but the ways of working remain – through policy, practice or habit. Over time we have built up work and behaviours which are not necessary or helpful; and may prevent us from doing the best we can for citizens. For example, we might put people through a complicated process when actually we could get quickly from initial contact to providing what they need.

You can probably think of examples in your own area where we are doing things that don’t add value, or are doing things only because we have always done them. You might 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.


We are using the Vanguard Method of systems thinking to help us to:

  • see and understand how our systems are currently working
  • understand the thinking and assumptions that sit behind the systems
  • understand what our citizens really need
  • design new services against that need.

The Vanguard Method of systems thinking will help us to understand how we can make systemic changes which will truly make a difference to our citizens, and enable our staff to do better things.

We will need to ask ourselves:

  • What is our purpose from a citizen’s perspective? To do better things we need to understand what we’re here for.
  • What is the real problem we are trying to solve from a citizen’s perspective?
  • How will we know when we’ve solved it? When we know this, we know what we need to measure.

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.