Thank goodness the age of deference is over.
Whether at an airline check-in or the town hall reception, customers are no longer willing to be pushed about by stone-faced officials. They want a first-class service first time, every time. What is more, staff expect to be involved in planning delivery and to make a difference to communities.
The old-style doffing of the cap may have made life easier for managers in both public and private sectors. But it did little to encourage organisations to improve services, open opportunities to wider groups, free up human potential or create a healthy society based on economic success and social justice.
Chief executives now have to be skilled change agents and consensus builders. At times, this can leave even hardened individuals with a headache. But there is no gain without pain - and once things are done properly, it is not only rewarding but also makes a real difference to people's lives.
Throughout my time in local government I have seen many attempts to improve service delivery. It started with organisation and management, moved on to excellence, embraced compulsory competitive tendering and continued with best value.
I believe the time has come to put individuals to the fore, and see councils in control through a process I call 'organiseering'.
Organiseering focuses on citizen-centred services offering value for money. It encourages councils and staff to deliver improvements through a combination of business process re-engineering and action learning. It argues that councils are now mature enough to be, in the words of soul diva Aretha Franklin, 'doing it for themselves'.
But doing it for yourself does not necessarily mean doing it on your own. West Lancashire DC's organiseering programme has been developed with private sector partner Northgate Information Solutions.
The council wanted to explore different ways to improve frontline services and use technology to derive social and economic benefits. This would all happen in line with our intention to become the most successful district council in the UK.
A bespoke council model has been developed which rests on a combination of business process
re-engineering and staff-centred action learning.
Our model is based on strong leadership which provides active and visible support for the project; effective and open communication with staff to ensure consultation and consensus are built into any programme of change; and increased capacity to deliver change management.
So what have we achieved? Quite simply, a step-change improvement in customer service along with sizeable savings through back-office transfer efficiencies, all of this being driven by our staff.
Doffing the cap is history. Delivery for the citizen is the name of the game.
West Lancashire DC