Delivering for Tenants: How to increase the success rate of organisational transformations.

Social Housing organisations know that to meet the increasing expectations of tenants, the government etc, they must transform the services they provide. Changing benefits payments, ageing populations etc are putting huge pressure on the services social housing organisations provide; resulting in many services that are not meet tenants growing expectations. These trends are contributing to tenant and government discontent.

In our experience, unfortunately, a large number of efforts to transform performance don’t fully meet their objectives. The failure rate of organisational transformations is far too high. It represents a huge missed opportunity to tackle Social Housings greatest challenges more effectively, to give tenants better experience and to make more productive use of limited resources.For example, in our recent article “Housing Associations – are they cost efficient now & in the future???” ( we argued that if social housing providers could match their most improved counterparts, they could collectively save as much £400m while maintaining today’s levels of service quality.

Of course, we appreciate that this is easier said than done.  To grasp the prize, we have identified five capabilities that, together, we believe can significantly improve the success rate of transformations. These capabilities may seem obvious, but in our experience shows that they are extremely difficult to get right. We call them the 5Cs:

1.       Committed leadership. Transformation leaders must go beyond standard public-sector management routines, committing extraordinary energy to the effort, taking personal responsibility for success or failure, leading by example to facilitate change and challenging long-established conventions. To inspire the transformation, they must spend substantial time communicating face-to-face with the people affected, listening as much as they talk.

2.       Clear purpose and priorities. Successful transformations paint a compelling picture of their destination and make it crystal clear, to employees and tenants alike, why change is necessary. In setting objectives, less is more: successful efforts keep targets few, specific, and outcome-based.

3.       Co-ordination in delivery. This requires a fast yet steady pace; a flatter hierarchy, with close collaboration among different stakeholders and functions; and flexibility, so problems are solved as they arise. They also require an empowered, focused transformation team to drive and track progress.

4.       Compelling communication. Few organisations communicate effectively enough to win hearts and minds. In our experience transformation would have been more successful if there had been more engagement with front-line employees. Transformations need well-planned, in-depth, and genuine two-way communication with all the groups affected by the change—especially the employees of the organisation undergoing the transformation.

5.       Capability for change. Although many highly skilled people work in social housing, they rarely have deep expertise and experience in change management. Reliance on business-as-usual capabilities is a major contributor to the high failure rate of organisational transformations in our opinion. Three sets of skills are particularly important:

–         the ability to run complex, large-scale service-delivery organisations;

–         project and program management; and

–         digital and analytics capabilities.

Looking ahead to the next horizon of organisational transformations also draws inspiration from technology-enabled change initiatives in the most advanced public- and private-sector organisations. These pioneers are using the concept of customers experience to understand the end-to-end customer journey. They are drawing on design thinking to reconfigure these services in a way that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of harnessing the technologies of AI and Digital, and the requirements of the provider organisation. They are also deploying agile practices to design, prototype, and test services—quickly—with users. (See my article on The next-generation operating model for the digital Housing association-

Social Housing organisations can apply these innovations to transform their services at a faster pace and lower cost and, most importantly, to create outcomes that truly respond to the priorities of their key stakeholders.

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