Making Engagement Central: Fierce in action at Stockport Homes
Stockport Homes was designing a leadership development framework when it first contacted PDA in 2015. The organizational development team at Stockport saw Fierce Conversations as a completely different leadership approach. They liked its focus on cultural change and practical models that could be used straight away.
Stockport Homes is an Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO) with over 30,000 customers. It manages and develops housing on behalf of Stockport Council, owns properties and manages others on behalf of private landlords.
The organisation is undergoing change as it prepares to move to a new headquarters in 2017 and is looking at new ways for teams to work together. Fierce principles are seen as a perfect match for Stockport’s own priorities.
“I think the point is that [Fierce] is trying to get you to achieve the same things in a quick and straight forward way and perhaps more importantly take people as human beings with you. And that actually is in line with our vision, which is to deliver the best service possible by being the best place to work.” –Helen McHale, chief executive, Stockport Homes
“I go into meetings now where people say: ‘Well if I am being Fierce’. So you are getting the information that you actually want.”—Chris Uzoigwe, Corporate Services
The conversational models that Fierce offers are allowing Stockport Homes people to more effectively confront the challenges that the ALMO faces in a changing environment. And there is widespread acknowledgement that Fierce allows people to talk more comfortably about those challenges.
“I am more likely to have those difficult conversations with people than I had before. So ultimately in terms of the development of the people I manage, they are going to get a clearer view of how they can do things better in a positive way.”—Rob Lloyd, Corporate Services
Succession Planning and developing team confidence
The OD team see Fierce’s delegation approach of ‘decision trees’ as a way of helping succession planning, and also reducing the need for a plethora of additional courses.
Line managers across the organisation are appreciating the additional experience and responsibility it is giving colleagues.
“It’s being able to delegate more and making the decision on what you can push out of your own remit and leaving people to do those things themselves, and allowing them to. Giving you the confidence to do that, but also building people’s confidence by you doing that.” – Clelia Simpson, corporate finance, Stockport Homes
“Together with the Fierce Conversation, you can get a much greater understanding and empowerment from individuals, and I will be using that in my team meetings, my one to ones and obviously with colleagues across the organization.”—John Chambers, Head of IT
Fierce’s tools including the beachball model have been enthusiastically adopted within Stockport as it looks at new ways of fostering interdepartmental working and making all meetings smarter. People are looking at issues from others’ perspectives, and leveraging the extra insight that provides.
“We have been in three or four meetings where we have actually used beach ball conversations, and the value that someone from outside comes in and asks you the question, ‘So, ok, why are you doing that?’ And you think, I never thought of it from someone else’s perspective. Brilliant.
So after the ones I have been to the feedback I’ve got is thanks for your input it’s been really helpful. I don’t think there is anything more you can say when you get feedback like that.” —Chris Uzoigwe, Corporate Services.
“Neighbourhood Services have utilised Fierce’s beach ball model with the wider management team and staff, exploring perspectives to produce collaborative solutions. They have also become self-sufficient with this process, so I no longer facilitate the sessions, they do them themselves, checking in with me from time to time to discuss progress.” —Liz Chadwick, head of organizational development
Seeing the results
As of autumn 2016, 140 Stockport Homes people with line management, supervision, and business partnership responsibilities have been on Fierce workshops. Half attended the workshops run by PDA. Subsequently the OD team became accredited trainers, and they have been able to take the training in-house.
Stockport Homes is following up their progress with evaluations and work to embed learning, including an internal email and poster campaign to highlight core Fierce principles and approaches.
Stockport Homes is anticipating that effective Fierce implementation will result in stronger team work, leadership and productivity.
“people will be direct and honest and will be effective and that will help people to feel emotionally at ease, and that people work as part of the team.”—Helen McHale, chief executive.
Case Study Update
Boosting Engagement with Fierce Conversations
Stockport Homes has been embedding Fierce principles by creating a new forum to bring colleagues together.
It has launched Staff Voice Meetings in its Repair 1st team to identify and tackle issues and boost staff engagement. The meetings are now recognised internally for improving communication.
Stockport Homes manages and develops housing on behalf of Stockport Council, and owns properties itself and manages others on behalf of private landlords.
Staff at Repair 1st are on the frontline, maintaining properties and interacting with thousands of customers. There are over sixty officers from a range of trades.
The organisational development team initially used one-to-one conversations with staff at Repair 1st to enhance engagement. The essential Fierce question the OD team asked was: ‘What is the most important thing you and I should be talking about today?’
Out of those one-to ones came the formation of a specific staff voice group for Repair 1st. Liz Chadwick, People and OD Manager, says: “The core purpose of the group is moving Repair 1st forward through trust and change.”
“That’s a result of Fierce. Identifying that there is a big need to have that conversation that’s not been had,” says Jacob McAvoy, Learning and Development co-ordinator. The Staff Voice Meetings are open and straight-forward. Representatives from the various trades come together to discuss challenges faced by the service and agree solutions to take forward. Attendees are given the time to get their perspectives across, minutes are taken at each meeting, and progress updates circulated to the wider team.
Billy Grimes, a plumber, with Repair 1st says:
“Setting up this group gives us a great opportunity to bring problems directly to management and then get results off that. Because that’s what people want, they want answers. And we all want to make a change. We all want to support the organisation and going through the Staff Voice group is the perfect way to do it.”
Trevor Jones, stores officer, says that the meetings help clear any potential misapprehensions.
“It’s something to look forward to,” Trevor explains. “In these meetings any misunderstandings or miscommunications can be addressed straight away before rumours get out of control. So, it is a good asset for that: to put things straight right away.”
Repair 1st Staff voice recognise the importance of the meetings in gaining insight of differing perspectives and contexts, a crucial part of the Fierce approach.
Luke Shortman notes that perspective increases awareness that sometimes one solution might not be the right one for everyone.
“Working as a labourer, allows me to work with lots of trades, to see the challenges everyone has. A lot of the time people have a challenge and say ‘Why can’t we just do this?’. Through the Staff Voice we get the answer why they can’t do it and why it is not possible.”
Rachel Mills, operations services manager, says the Staff Voice is valuable for managers’ awareness of issues their frontline staff are encountering.
“I really welcome the opportunity to talk to officers that do the job on the ground about the challenges they are up against and any barriers that sometimes in management you don’t directly see. Having open and honest conversations, and understanding what we can do as a team for any problems people are facing.”
Stockport Homes’ Organisational Development team started their roll out of Fierce throughout Stockport Homes in 2016, with the support of PDA. There are now accredited in-house trainers and PDA will be working with the team throughout 2018 as Stockport Homes continues utilising the Fierce approach.