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The 2015 Spending Review - The Mustardeer Cometh

by Michael Bourke

Autumn Statement

Preparing for the 2015 Autumn Spending Review, which heralds further, deeper cuts will be no easy task.

With the low hanging fruit already picked there is no doubt that trickier and more fundamental changes will be necessary if civil service departments, agencies and NDPBs are to help the Chancellor meet his aim of returning government finances to the black by 2020.

Efficiency savings from ‘sweating the assets’ – human or process – will not deliver the magnitude of savings likely to be demanded by the Treasury which, according to the grapevine, may range from 20% to 40% of the departmental budget. In short, low impact, loosely connected organisational development initiatives will not cut the mustard.

Clearly, this Spending Review is not just about savings it’s about transforming government to be radically more efficient. The question therefore is how to deliver that transformation agenda.

How should organisations respond?

In our view, responding to this change agenda will require a focus on the whole organisational architecture – including operating structures, processes, people and systems. In practical terms this means reviewing:

  • The design of business processes
  • The design and development of organisational structures
  • Roles and their capabilities including accountabilities and responsibilities
  • Staff numbers and grades (complementing)
  • Key HR arrangements including approaches to performance and reward
  • The effectiveness and efficiency of key Management Information Systems
  • And most importantly, identifying the interventions, frameworks and systems to support the necessary change programme objectives.

Beamans’ Organisational Design & Development Model

In our view, organisations will need to take a holistic approach to what is likely to be a fundamental programme of change. They will also need to build a picture of the “organisational capabilities” that they will need to have in place to meet future challenges, and from this identify where the focus and balance for change lies in terms of each of the core ODD elements

In short, the question is to what degree do our processes, people, leadership, systems and culture need to change in order to deliver the transformation change required?

Given the fundamental nature of the review process, the start point has to be establishing a clear understanding of the overall strategic drivers and delivery requirements. From this, you start to develop a clear understanding of the what, whom, when and how questions on delivery. Yet, whilst starting with the strategic requirement may seem obvious – and some may argue that this is the easy bit – the devil is still likely to be in the detail. From this requirement you will still need to consider and assess the organisational capabilities for success and more importantly, the resulting implications for the organisational model in terms of structure, processes, systems, people, leadership and culture.

The Mustardeer

I'm sorry but that doesn't cut the mustard!

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Will this approach cut the mustard? Well, its perhaps worth nothing that the phrase ‘cut the mustard’ actually refers to a very specialised blade which was developed with an extremely thin leading edge which allowed the blade to skim the majority of the top crust off, leaving a very thin slice which would be left on to protect the mustard. When it was time to remove the top crust the senior Mustardeer would instruct his apprentice to pass him the blade and would attempt to slice thorough the top leathery layer. The Mustardeer would know immediately if the blade was not sufficiently keen enough to complete the task and he would pass the blade back to the apprentice and say to him “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t cut the mustard”

In the context of 2015 Spending Review, we believe it’s the only approach that will satisfy the Mustardeers at HM Treasury!

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Michael Bourke

Michael Bourke is Beamans' Director and lead expert on Job Evaluation and Reward & Performance Management.

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This article is filed under: Organisational effectiveness Reward