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I am both a supporter and a critic of the comprehensive performance assessment process. A supporter because the fir...
I am both a supporter and a critic of the comprehensive performance assessment process. A supporter because the first step in any change programme is the establishment of a great enough sense of urgency.

In all sectors, this normally occurs when an individual or a group starts to look hard at the organisation's performance, customer feedback, technology shortcomings, mistakes being made or the relative position of others in the field.

They then find ways of instilling the message in

others - 'we are missing opportunities', 'we are facing a crisis', or 'just look at what X is doing'. This is crucial because if people are not motivated at this point they won't be supporters later. At least one commentator believes 50% of all change programmes fail at this point.

Motivating a sense of urgency is not as simple as it sounds. Some people are not easily shifted out of their comfort zones, sometimes they cling to the belief that the crisis is not that bad or they lose courage when they realise what is at stake.

That's where the CPA process is helpful. Ideally, motivation should be self generated, but this has always been a problem in parts of the public sector. There is already evidence to suggest that the CPA is galvanising some councils to look more seriously at their performance; some are obviously questioning the competence of their senior managers and others are gearing up for a more radical approach to organisational life. We should celebrate this increased sense of urgency. For some, it has been a long time coming.

In the face of a well-argued and objective CPA report - assuming that is what most councils get - it will be difficult for the traditional obstacles to change to retain their currency.

Obstacles have come in many forms - divided political aspirations, confusing structures, the wrong people in top positions, inconsistent priorities and so on. The CPA can help to address all of these - in the end the status quo for some will become just too dangerous. To be seen to do nothing will no longer be a viable option.

However, creating that sense of urgency is only the first step in a long process which includes investing in a powerful internal guiding coalition, developing a vision for the future, communicating what is to be done, empowering others to act, creating short-term wins, consolidating improvements

and, most importantly, institutionalising a new culture

to make that vital connection between new behaviours and corporate success.

Is it possible that all councils will successfully undertake all of these phases after the CPA has helped to create a sense of urgency? Maybe, but some might believe that there might be one or two stragglers.

Mel Usher

Former executive director,

Improvement & Development Agency

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