Governance is a contact sport


In my previous post I mentioned the conference I attended last week on strategic partnering in the police service. One of the afternoon's speakers was Malcolm Burch, the chief executive of Lincolnshire Police Authority. His talk was about the specifics of the governance arrangements in connection with the procurement process they have undertaken but one thing he said has, I think, a general application. He referred to governance being a "contact sport". He was talking metaphorically, of course, and I think he meant contact sports like rugby rather than boxing or martial arts. The overall aim of governance, after all, is for the organisation to win not for one side to knock out the other.

Anyway, Malcolm's point was that it's not possible for governance to be carried out in isolation from the projects and activity of an organisation. Governors (ie those charged with governance of an organisation) have to get involved, they have to have conversations with people and if there are differences of opinion they have to find ways to resolve them. It would be easier for governors to say to the executive, "get on with the project and when you've finished we'll scrutinise what you've done" but that approach is not helpful to the executive and runs the risk of the project failing. There's not much comfort for governors to observe a project has failed when they might have been able to prevent it, or at least mitigated the failure.  It is tantamount to the old joke about an auditor being a person who hides in the hills until the battle is over and then bayonets the wounded. No-one needs governors like that.

12 golden rules for outsourcing


Yesterday I attended a national conference entitled Strategic Partnering in Policing. It was an interesting day where 35 of England's 43 police forces were represented and there were  presentations from four different police forces. The bulk of the presentations, though, were by Lincolnshire Police, who have recently begun a 10-year partnership with G4S.

One of the speakers was Lincolnshire's Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes. In his presentation he explained the twelve golden rules that he would have liked someone to share with him a year ago when Lincolnshire began the procurement process that led to the deal with G4S. With his permission I have listed the 12 rules below, with some brief explanations in brackets where needed. (In the interests of openness I should state I was an advisor to Lincolnshire Police during the procurement process.)

  1. Have realistic expectations (about what the private sector can deliver for you given your starting position).
  2. Get the metrics sorted out early (so you know where you are and how you will measure success in the future)
  3. Don't be seduced by promises of "jam tomorrow" (by always asking yourself, "can we uplift this promise into the contract?")
  4. Make sure you choose the right route to contract.
  5. Plan the work, then work to the plan.
  6. Chief officers get involved early and stay late (ie closely involve senior managers throughout the procurement process).
  7. Bake the partnership's guiding principles into the contract.
  8. Be balanced in your requirements because risk aversion is very expensive.
  9. Set the structure for future projects (so that you know in principle how the partnership will adapt to changes in requirements over time).
  10. Don't focus your evaluation scheme too heavily on price (because you don't want to sign a deal with a partner who will give you "a mess for less").
  11. If something is not binding contractually it gains little credit in the evaluation.
  12. Maintain the competitive tension (between bidders) until the very end.

Whilst the above rules have come from Neil's experience of a procurement process in the police service I think they are generally applicable to the procurement of strategic partnerships by any public body.