Promises, Promises

There is an important principle that should always be adhered to when revolutionising the approach to any activity. Simply put, if you set high expectations for yourself or others, ensure you can meet those expectations. Setting expectations and then not meeting them is more demoralising and undermining than having never set them at all. Setting expectations is always a dangerous action, because it is often human nature to highlight failure, rather than to support success. However not setting high expectations amount to accepting that the status quo should remain. I wonder if a poll has ever taken place on whether the electorate believe a party manifesto presented prior to an election is what government will actually carry out once elected. I think most of us can guess the outcome. Not only is the veracity of the manifesto in question, there is also an important issue in how the manifesto is delivered. For example a party can promise to increase spending on the NHS by 3% in real terms. If they then spend that on a consultancy firm to create a report on why the NHS should be privatised, then they will claim they have met their manifesto promise and the headline spend would support the claim. In reality all that has happened is the corporate concern has benefited, the NHS has suffered in the present term due to not receiving the necessary investment, and the taxpayer is out of pocket and probably has had other services cut to find the 3%. To cap it all off, the future of the NHS has now been put in jeopardy. This document deals with taking a party manifesto and converting it into measurable policy and principles. One of the key aims of this approach must be to ensure we have a methodology for collecting inputs, correctly formulating the inputs into clear and costed policy. The clear aim is that we not only create policies; we show exactly what those policies are and we demonstrate how those policies are being delivered.

From Ask to Action

The Labour party has set out on a road to a new type of politics. It can be summed up in some key points: a) Honest politics b) Extend democracy in Britain c) Overhaul the UK to ensure it serves the needs of the many not the few I could obviously have added many more points to the above, but in many respects in these three points alone it shows where present politics is now and where it needs to be. The loss of faith in politics has much to do with the fact that these three reasonable expectations are so alien to our present political system. This document aims to provide a framework to deliver the principles and aims of the Labour party. In many ways the next Labour government will not be adjusting policies or laws to fix the house, they will be carrying out major renovation on some parts of the house and in many areas fully rebuilding the house based on new foundations. This is not a simple thing to achieve. For example, to adjust a law to change how the NHS is funded is far less complex than to gather the views of a population on how the NHS should be run and to sift through those views and decide which view is workable and also that it meets the core values of the Labour party. Interestingly while it may be more complex in terms of the level of demand to deal with, it is actually simpler in many ways. If a framework exists to manage the “ask” into “action” it can actually be simpler to formulate, understand and implement. The key point that underpins this is honest politics. If you have honest politics and a framework that collaborates, then the people become stakeholders in the decision process. The chapters ahead deal in more detail with the kind of framework that will need to be in place in order to deliver the changes. It is not a framework that should be put in place post the election, but needs to be put in place now. The importance of achieving this cannot be overstated as it forms the structure and strategy for citizen engagement. Not only does it prepare us to win the next election, it also ensures that we can: Deliver on policies with the minimum risk and the highest impact Understand risks and more importantly that the people understand the risks Mitigate risks Honestly and openly identify issues that have arisen with a policy Work with the people to close issues or accept them as they are outweighed by the benefits Clearly identify benefits and measure delivery of those benefits Measure all policies against the party principles Create a well oiled machine that not only delivers on a one off manifesto, but allows new policies to be introduced, assessed, designed for maximum success and even rejected if the policy does not bring the benefits of a competing policy Create a policy costing structure than can be fully open to the public Iterative costing to allow costs to be fine tuned through the different stages of the policy maturity Based on costs, benefits and needs met it is possible to clearly prioritise policy Policy is never out of the public eye and collaboration ensures that the public decide on priority Clearly categorise policy so that different policy types can automatically be given higher priority (for example a policy to alleviate a pressing poverty issue would automatically have a higher priority than for example to fund a roll out of debating classes in schools) Most importantly, provide a structure where all policies can be viewed by the public and a clear picture of progress against a target is available

What this document covers

This document has three distinct sections. All are dependent on each other.

The user interface

How the party and public interface with the policies, both in creating suggested policies and monitoring their progress. This section all covers the filters required to ensure policy is handled in a controlled manner.

Demand (policy) management

This is the method in which policies are managed and tracked. In order to open the party to democracy there has to be a method of collecting policies and also sharing that to a wider audience so that democracy is open and honest.

Policy Delivery

Having agreed on policies, there needs not only to be a method of delivery, but also an open platform where the public can see the progress of those policies. This allows a much wider audience to engage not only in the formation of policy, but also overcoming issues and understanding benefit as against issues. The user interface will serve little purpose if the feedback is out of date or simply inaccurate.

While this document does not in any way attempt to cover all aspects of delivering a project, it does provide enough detail to define a framework of how a democratic policy environment should work. If I was to include every aspect of managing a portfolio of policies, this document would run to many more pages. What it does do is show the key controls required in a joined up manner.

There are important considerations that should always be taken into account when delivering any project. These are often missed by both the Private and Public sector, leading to cost and time overruns solutions that don’t meet the need and even projects that fail to be delivered after vast effort and expenditure. The key areas that need to be defined correctly right from the start are:

Expectations should be clearly set from the beginning and should form an integral part of the framework The correct capability should be in place or managed. See 1.5 Delivery Models Detailed requirements should be agreed and approved by the stakeholders at the start of the project

It is the start of any delivery that is the most important. If this is right, then it is the driver to a successful outcome. The initial framework is what the rest of the project should be built on.

What this document does not cover

As stated in the previous section this document does not cover every single aspect of what makes a successful project. There are reams of books on the subject. It may state documents that are required for a successful project, but will only go into detail on some of them. It is much more about getting the process right. Nor does this document attempt to understand all the ins and outs of how policy can be delivered in respect of present responsibilities. These areas need thrashing out. Finally it does not cover the ownership of the asset. Does the Labour party own the solution or does the government. If the Labour party owns it, then what happens when they are in opposition? If the government owns it, say as part of, then how is the asset protected? It certainly needs developing now, but it is expensive to create systems. How does the party fund it? These questions cannot be answered at this early stage, but they do need considering.

Delivery models (internal v external)

It would be fair to say that governments don’t have a great record when it comes to delivering large projects. Often there are costs over runs, delays and even scrapped projects after a massive outlay. This is often because they don’t own the solution, but instead farm it out to “experts”. 1.5.1 Internal Delivery This is where the project is run in-house. The delivery is carried out by internal staff. The pros with this method are that:

The organisation owns the solution and has a vested interest in the success Skill sets in the organisation have much better understanding of the aims Future support of the solution is built into the organisation during implementation

Cons being: What do you do with the employees once the project is over? How does an organisation have the full skill sets to deliver a complex project? Employees can sometimes be resistant to change and may not support changes

External Delivery

This is the use of a consultancy company to deliver the project. Pros are:

They have a large workforce that they can pull in to meet skill needs for a given area of the project They’ve done it all before many times

The cons

They don’t know the stakeholder requirements as well as those at the coalface Whatever requirements are agreed, they will change. A consultancy will charge large sums for any changes and the contractual issues around this often hinder projects They are very expensive. You can employ an internal team for five years waiting for the next project for the same cost of a major consultancy for a single year

The best solution is a mixed model. All control of the project should be internally managed. Stakeholders should be from the impacted organisation. External consultancies should only provide resource to the project as required and must be managed by internal employees.

Application of Framework

The framework is designed to not only ensure policy is managed to successfully deliver, but also to ensure the correct structures are in place to allow democratic forces play in key role in deciding those policies. An important element of the framework is that the structure allows the public of all ages to engage in the progress of policy. This has an important side effect in that because the public understand the application of policy, they have fairer expectations of the outcome, understand the issues and risks and most importantly can impact policy where it is not meeting expectation. Another useful way that the framework can be applied is to other areas of activity that need to be resolved coming up to an election. These may not follow the full cycle, for example if you are working on a plan to manage better internal cohesion, you would not wish that to be made public. Areas that the same planning can be applied to are for example: Organisation of the internal party structure Effective GE campaigning Party alternative media engagement to further break the MSM stranglehold The following chapters do not necessarily cover full details of how the exact mechanics will work in the real world. That is the beauty because even this approach to the application of policy can be fine tuned using the very methods it advocates.

To the framework is a natural extension to the role the NPF plays now while extended to provide the democratic aims to the party. 

Figure 1 present and future role of the NPF

The policy management office designs, enhances and controls the structure as described in further chapters of this document. It also owns the delivery of policy. Policy implementation framework Manage delivery of policy Communication of policy As you will see in this document, this does not mean that the NPF becomes the civil service and actually delivers policy. The NPF oversees, manages approvals and communications.