NLGN’s Changemaking Vision
12 February, 2018

Central government must give councils maximum support in their efforts to create innovative, collaborative and confident workforces through culture change.

  • Government’s obsession with structures in local government risks undermining the importance of changing organisational culture to save money, achieve high performance and secure impact
  • Unless councils reject their dominant hierarchical culture, plans to innovate and integrate will fail to achieve their intended results
  • Councils need to adapt to the right culture to the outcomes they seek, to create meaningful impact and meet today’s complex demand challenges.

A report published today by the New Local Government Network (NLGN) argues that central government must end the obsession with local government structures. Instead, the focus should be on the critical determining factor of culture.

Using evidence from organisational change internationally and other sectors this report, titled Culture Shock, makes the case for a core focus on culture in local government for organisations seeking impact today. Culture shifts have been demonstrated to lead to greater efficiency, decrease the high failure rates of structural change programmes, and generate organisational success.

Adam Lent, Director of the New Local Government Network, said:

“Central government remains obsessed with imposing new structures on local government with little or no thought about the underlying values and behaviours of the people who work there.

“Government should stop telling councils and others to adopt new governance and legal forms and instead give them maximum support in their efforts to create innovative, collaborative and confident workforces.”

The report argues that councils retain a dominant hierarchy culture – unless they reject this rigid culture and instead adopt cultures that enable creativity and collaboration to a much greater extent – there is a real risk they will fail to respond to the complex and increasingly unpredictable pressures that exist today.

Jessica Studdert, Deputy Director of NLGN, said:

“There are very real financial, demographic and demand pressures on local government. In the absence of any coherent vision from the Government over the sector’s future, local government should chart its own course.

“By establishing a new model for social impact in a complex world, local government can pioneer how the wider public sector must adapt to be fit for purpose in the future. Culture is one route to generating change by encouraging the collaborative behaviours that support successful integration and the creativity that enables adaptation.”

The report seeks to provide a practical approach for councils to understand their working culture. Using this, local authorities can better understand how to adapt their organisational culture to deliver meaningful impact.

Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Molly Jarritt, External Affairs Officers at NLGN, on 07714 448036 or mjarritt@nlgn.org.uk.
2. A full copy of the report is available upon request.
3. This report is the latest publication from NLGN’s changemaking series. The first, A Changemaking Vision for Local Government, is available on NLGN’s website.
4. The research in this report was carried out from September 2017 – January 2018.
5. This report draws on Cameron and Quinn’s ‘The Competing Values Framework’ (Cameron K. & Quinn R. (2011) Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, Jossey Bass). Throughout the piece the framework is applied to the local government sector.