It has long been believed that larger organisations are more efficient than smaller ones, or at least have greater capacity for efficiency. This can certainly be proven in areas such as use of assets, retention of skills, reduction on overhead etc. but whether such efficiencies lead to greater effectiveness is another story, one for another day perhaps.
Over the last few years the public sector has been under pressure to consolidate its activities into larger and more efficient entities. Two-tier local councils have merged into single unitary authorities, cottage hospitals and small surgeries have been subsumed into district hospitals and polyclinics while regional command centres have grown around the Fire and Rescue’s operations.
Shard services and collaborative working have been the watch words. Many projects have started and come to fruition while others have floundered on operational, cultural or political rocks. Shared services are fine as long as we get to run them. How are we going to manage the myriad of different terms and conditions? How will we drive out the savings required to justify the merger?
It is the last question that intrigues me. In order to get approval for a collaborative service delivery model a business case needs to be written and in order for the is business case to get through the system it needs to demonstrate how much cash will pop out at the end.
But why? If we go back to the opening paragraph and if you are going down this road you must already believe that efficiency through collaboration is an inevitability. Bringing two organisations together will lead to greater financial efficiency and so cash will be released whatever. How this money is captured and used is another matter. So why do you need to justify to yourselves what you hold to be a universal truth?
What is required is the opposite approach. Rather than building a business case to identify the savings required, money should be set aside to encourage and add incentive to such projects. The money will be saved anyway and so it will be an excellent return on an investment. Seed funding, tax breaks, reductions in savings targets it doesn’t matter which. What is important is that rather than focussing on the savings the focus is on liberating talent to make collaboration happen by making it a positive rather than negative process. Then we will see many more willing partners come together.