Friday, 6 November 2009

Bankers, future gazing consultants and Socitm commercials

Well, the soiree at Canada House was pretty dull with one notable and glorious exception....During the talks I actually heard one speaker use the phrase 'toxic structured assets' . I am well aware of the use of the word toxic in financial circles and that it is a new addition to balance sheet language but to hear it in the same phrase as the word 'assets' tickled my interest. Not least of all how any sane person could honestly beleive that the phrase had any meaning in the normal sense of the word meaning. As I was in a room full of bankers and there was little else to talk about I thought I would ask a few of them what it really meant. I'll not bore you with all the detail - and there was a lot of detail - suffice to say that it simply refers to an asset that isn't an asset at all, but if they don't call it an asset they have some problems accounting for it! Right, yes....however it did convince me that the bankers in question deserve promotion straight to the 'w' section of the alphabet. These people are 'looking after' our money...scary.

Thursday started off in a far more promising vein with a breakfast debate hosted by the Guardian and sponsored by Cap Gemini. The topic was ' The Department of the future' although it was very soon extended to cover the whole of government. It was an extremely informed and lively debate covering a huge swathe of topics around 5 key areas:

New models of public service delivery - and what changes will have the greatest impact

Examples of fundamental reform in the UK and other countries

The role of Whitehall in public service delivery – and how to continue to reform publicservice delivery in a period of cost reduction

What capabilities & leadership qualities are required to move to the department of the future

Where and how to start – practical insights and examples of good practice

As expected in these debates, with a highly qualified and interesting 'cast' we did not restrict ourselves entirley to the prescribed areas.

The context for the debate was some future gazing by Cap Gemini that considered what the issues will be for public services in the next 10 - 30 years. In many ways the answer is common sense but none the less serious for that. We face a scenario with huge increases in demand for particular services, many of which are based around an ageing population. These increases will be equivalent to 4% points of GDP....and will come at a time when there is severely limited capacity to raise revenue with 2 older (retired) people for every 1 in work. The debate kicked off with a statement (to the general agreement of all present) that the current system is both unaffordable and broken. There are some really basic questions to be asked of ANY service as we move forward:

1. Should it be delivered at all?

2. If 'yes' who should deliver it?

3. How should it be delivered?

Anyway, look out for the full report in Guardian Public on Nov 18th...I'll finish by saying that leadership was seen as one of, if not the, key issues. You can have the best car in the world but if there is no one to drive it what's the point.

Within Socitm we are beginning to ask the question 'Can tomorrow's public service organisation be realised by yesterday's leadership' . Knowing the answer is one thing, implementing a solution is quite another.

Following that 'early morning stimulation' I was off to a meeting with David Bryant, the chair of our commercial board, to discuss our future plans and commercial strategy in preparation for the appointment of the last member of our 'senior team' , our Head of buisness relationships & commercial development. more about this after an appointment has been made.Today it is Durham University Business School for a catch up meeting then a final meeting (for this week) looking at some of our internal commercial and member service developments. It's 09.34 (that's a.m.) and I feel like a glass of wine already...that's probably not a good thing!

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