Transforming North Lincolnshire Council: guest blog post by Dave Morton

We have an ambition to be the #bestcouncil we can be and the #bestplace for our residents

It’s been a time of change at North Lincolnshire Council. We have a new leadership team and an ambition to be the #bestcouncil we can be and the #bestplace for our residents. We’ve recently launched our new council plan, our Public Engagement Framework and our Organisational Development programme.

We also signed the Local Digital Declaration as a commitment to user-centred design, digital leadership, working in the open and breaking dependence on inflexible technology.

Underpinning all of this is an ambition to put our customers at the heart of everything we do, to make every interaction with them count, to provide customer choice and to create consistent customer experiences.

Taking the next step

We’d had some transformation successes. Customer feedback and external assessments for our digital services have been positive in recent years, and our Workwell transformation programme received a judges award in the Smart Working awards. However, we knew we had more work to do.

We knew about GDS’s customer-centred design work and that this was being reused by some councils too. We had some ideas about how to take this forward but we knew we could benefit from expert help to make this a reality.

dxw was awarded a contract for an assessment of organisational readiness for new ways of thinking and designing better public services through a Digital Marketplace procurement.

We wanted our outputs from this work to include an assessment of our current position, a comparison with other organisations and a road map to help deliver our ambitions.

Delivering the work

The work started with a senior leaders’ workshop to assess the council against 11 digital maturity aspects using a 5 point scale. They selected 5 aspects as priorities for the project: services for residents, data and reporting, user insight, culture and learning and digital skills and capability.

The remainder of the project was flexibly shaped by what was learnt along the way and what needed a deeper dive. The assessment included:

  • 9 user research style interviews including our Chief Executive, Deputy Chief Executive and the leads for ICT, Organisational Development (transformation), Public Engagement and our Intelligence Hub
  • 2 workshops with blended groups of managers of high volume or customer focused services which included empathy mapping and either a deeper dive into the 5 priority aspects or developing exemplar project ideas
  • a workshop with our new ICT and Digital Engagement team to understand their role and to map out how they deliver change
  • a survey to an internal staff network to get their views about digital capability, data, collaboration, problem-solving, training and missing skills
  • a visit to one of our Community Hubs to see the space which was also used for some guerrilla testing with residents about their use of the space, how they’d found out about the hub and their experience of council services

A final workshop was held with our senior leaders to share the project outputs and to complete a product in a box exercise in groups. This was a great way to introduce the concept of products and their features.

I felt like part of the delivery team throughout the project and I was actively encouraged to participate in all the discussions, along with helping to plan and facilitate the workshops too.


dxw provided an expert evaluation of where we currently are against each of the 5 priority aspects with the same 5 point scale, using project evidence to support their scoring.

They provided a road map to help us improve each of the priority aspects by at least one level. This included 10 super helpful recommendations like:

  • simple steps such as defining criteria for prioritising work and choosing exemplar projects to hone new skills by doing (they created a scoring matrix and a Google Docs based assessment tool to help too)
  • practical steps such as creating multidisciplinary teams and accessing the Local Digital Declaration GDS Academy training
  • cultural change such as recognising digital transformation as separate from ICT, working in the open including blogging about these differences, sharing information about our projects and collaborating with others

They also identified several opportunities to help us deliver our ambition.

Working with dxw

Our project sponsors were impressed with dxw’s level of understanding of our organisation, priorities and ambitions.

And as they hadn’t seen agile delivery in practice before, they were also impressed by the speed of delivery (6 weeks in total, usually one day a week on-site) along with dxw’s ability to respond to change (as per the agile manifesto values).

They also really liked the simplicity of week notes to regularly share progress.

It was fantastic to see everyone here getting stuck into the activities, especially the softer ones like empathy mapping. Creating better experiences starts with having empathy for our customers.

I was impressed with how quickly dxw were able to create insights from interviews/workshops and also really liked their approach to validating what they’d heard too.

I’m really pleased to have had the opportunity to interview our most senior leaders and to have learnt from the dxw team along the way as they were always generous with their time and knowledge.

We’re really pleased to have worked with dxw on this project. And I’m really looking forward to seeing the road map start to become a reality.

About me

I’m Dave a digital specialist working on a range of service design and technical projects at 2 neighbouring councils as part of a shared service.

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