Author: Dave

Sign up now for Meetup #14: What are we gonna do with our annual report?


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ScrutinyMeetup #14: What are we gonna do with our annual report?

10.00- 12.00, Wednesday 24th February

We thought annual reports would be a really good topic after we were contacted by Catherine Buckley at Knowsley. It is, of course, that time of the year when scrutiny officers are trawling the internet, looking for ideas to share with councillors. You can read Catherine’s post here.

We are going to run it as a fishbowl. We’ve done this a couple of times before and it’s worked pretty well. We ask four or five scrutineers to talk informally about their experiences of a particular topic for 20 minutes or so. Everyone then gets the chance to discuss what they have heard and suggest questions for the fishes who have another round of discussion before a final round of discussion for everyone.

I’m delighted that, along with Catherine, Camilla de Bernhardt Lane (Devon) and Julia Cleary (Wolverhampton) will be taking part. We have a couple of spare places so, if you might like to be a fish, you can let us know when you sign up.

And there will also be nine minute networking of course.

Please do note the new time – we are having our first ever morning meetup so, you know, adjust your Filofax accordingly.

Some practical points

Just so you know, we will close bookings the day before and then send out joining details by the night before to everyone signed up. Watch your spam folder – we will probably send out a separate email to say we have sent the first!

In the mean time, as we will be using Zoom, you might want to sign up / install the app if you can (if you haven’t already) although you can still access through a browser. Details about Zoom here: https://zoom.us

By the way, there are 72 spaces this time.

Hope to se you there!

Dave Mckenna @DrDaveMckenna

Matt Clack @M_ttclack

 

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ScrutinyMeetup #13: You choose the topics

14.00- 16.00, 19th January 2021

No theme this time. Following a suggestion from a couple of our participants, this meetup will be ‘open space’ – we will give you the chance to choose the topics for the breakout rooms and then decide which breakout rooms you go to. We’ve done this before and it was fun!

So do bring any ideas with you. Oh ,and we will likely be using google docs to capture the learning points – you don’t need it to participate but just, well, just so you know.

We will also have the ever popular nine minute networking of course. We invite you to spend nine minutes in the company of two random scrutineers in two rounds. We suggest a couple of conversation topics but it’s up to you really.

Some practical points

Just so you know, we will close bookings the day before and then send out joining details by the night before to everyone signed up. Watch your spam folder – we will send out a separate email to say we have sent the first!

In the mean time, as we will be using Zoom, you might want to sign up / install the app if you can (if you haven’t already) although you can still access through a browser. Details about Zoom here: https://zoom.us

By the way, there are 72 spaces this time.

Hope to se you there!

Dave Mckenna @DrDaveMckenna

Matt Clack @M_ttclack

 

In practice: How can we improve our scrutiny annual reports?


This is a guest post from Catherine Buckley at Knowlsey Council. Thanks Catherine!

 

Each year we all complete an annual report. Generally speaking they cover the work of the function over the past year, edited highlights, perhaps a bit of impact, feedback/insight and maybe some information on where scrutiny has added value or what the plans are for the future.

When it comes to drafting the report I always do a Google trawl for good ideas or areas where they have done something a bit different with their format/content. Some of the best ones I have seen are easy to understand and really accessible (for non scrutiny people) and they also go beyond a summary report,  being more analytical and using learning from the past year to inform the year ahead.

With the shift to paperless and home working there are now real opportunities to think differently about format as well as content. I’d love to hear from other areas where scrutiny annual reports have been more innovative in their approach, to understand how they were produced and shared and how they involved Members and other stakeholders throughout the process.

Please get in touch if you would like to share some learning on this topic!

 

Catherine works at Knowsley Council. You can read about their scrutiny annual report here.

Do have any good examples to share or ideas to add or questions to ask? Why not comment on this post.

Or drop Catherine a line on Catherine.Buckley@knowsley.gov.uk

Meetup notes: Design your perfect scrutiny officer


At this scrutinymeetup we did two things – an informal review to help us plan ahead and a longer activity looking at the strengths we might associate with the perfect scrutiny officer.

Also we had a tenuous robot theme for some reason or other.

Review of the meetups

Here are people’s thoughts on the meetups that they put in the chat:

What’s something you like about the meetups?

  • Hearing how others LAs are approaching the same challenges
  • Being able to speak in a non-judgemental space with knowledgeable people
  • Meeting new people (I’m new to this)
  • Networking, gaining context, hearing experiences from other types of authorities, meeting new people
  • being able to participate across the country easily
  • getting ideas from people to help me solve problems I’ve got!
  • opportunity to meet scrutiny officers from around the country
  • being able to meet up with officers in such a supportive and safe atmosphere!
  • Networking and chatting to other scrutiny officers. Also your humour!
  • networking
  • It’s somewhere to find ideas for better scrutiny!
  • Networking, information sharing
  • Good chance to hear from others about good practice, but also reassurance that nowhere has the perfect set up – everyone has their own quirks to deal with!
  • a few things:  meeting folk from other authorities, hearing their experiences, and how they practice scrutiny at mo
  • General chats and social
  • Chatting with colleagues from other authorities and getting a sense of how things work elsewhere
  • meeting others
  • learning from others in breakout rooms
  • Being able to learn from others
  • meeting with officers and councillors from different areas to explore issues and ideas
  • They interactive and cooperative

What’s something you might change?

  • perhaps some active learning sessions?  taking one issue and all having a go at it…
  • slightly longer time in the breakout, more councillors involved might be interesting
  • Earlier meetings possibly?
  • More fish bowl speakers. More speakers.
  • you’ve done it now for 2021…different days and times!
  • Struggled with this, I really like them as they are…
  • The time (clash with school run)
  • Haven’t been able to attend others; so probably the time of day. morning maybe less disruptive to daily schedule
  • days of the week and times. thanks for planning a morning one
  • Don’t know as this is my first one!
  • Times, in person in the future once a year.
  • allow self led breakouts
  • I really liked the opportunity to go between groups with different topics that we could choose ourselves – would like to see this again

What might be a good topic for a future meetup?

  • Public engagement / How to engage the community in a meaningful way
  • developing resident engagement with scrutiny and using that to develop the work programme
  • scrutiny and new governance arrangements in Health / health scrutiny
  • what does effective work programming look like (2)
  • what training do other authorities provide for councillors?
  • Dealing with the relationship between members, Executive and Senior officers
  • scrutiny of the budget
  • Making use of performance data, business intelligence, and using it inform priorities and policy
  • having got to a good virtual operating level, how you use it for next level facilitating even more effective scrutiny – its been    good
  • How Paw Patrol is a metaphor for Scrutiny!
  • Share what are the best bits and worst bits of your scrutiny function?
  • covid-19 – the local perspective

Design your perfect scrutiny officer

We invited participants, in small groups, to think about the strengths required for the perfect scrutiny officer and who they might associate these strengths with (partly for descriptive power and partly, well, for fun).

We asked groups to limit themselves to five each. Some of the groups themed all five of their answers (interesting!) so we had Friends, the West Wing and Harry Potter, for example. (Organised like Hermione Granger, the Eye for Detail of Filch the Caretaker, Tenacious -like Professor McGonagal, the Political Nous of Dumbledore and the Curiosity of Harry Potter) 

Here are some of the final list of ‘if you could choose just one’ that were left in the chat. Ready to include these in your person specs, annual appraisals and development plans everyone? 

  • The political nous of Dumbledore! (4)
  • The skill of efficient, thoughtful and robust pursuit of truth.. of Poirot
  • The good personal qualities of Marcus Rashford
  • The happiness and resilience of Rachel from Friends
  • The Investigative Strength of Coleen Rooney/Wagatha Christie
  • The communication of CJ Cregg of the West Wing
  • The communications of Rachel from Friends 
  • The strategic and analytical thinking of Data from Star Trek

Thanks everyone and carry on scrutinising 🕺💃

Activity instructions – meetup #12


Here are the instructions for meetup #12 – design your perfect scrutiny officer. We publish these for participants to refer to during the meetups.

Nine Minute Networking

Two rounds of nine minutes in threes (or fours)

Talking points:

  • What’s something you like about the meetups?
  • What’s something you might change?
  • What might be a good topic for a future meetup?

Five Strengths

  1. Consider the warm up question in silent self reflection (3 mins)
  2. In groups of 4/5, using jamboard, share ideas for the important strengths that the perfect scrutiny officer might demonstrate (10 mins)
  3. Agree a set of five strengths and agree the person that best represents each  – present them nicely (15 mins)
  4. Each group share their five in turn to the whole group (10 mins)
  5. In the same groups, swap between one and five of your strengths with any that you heard from the other groups (5 mins) 
  6. Each group shares their changes and reasoning (10 mins)
  7. Favourite qualities in the chat (2 mins)

 

 

Sign up now for ScrutinyMeetup #12: Design your perfect scrutiny officer


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ScrutinyMeetup #12: Design your perfect scrutiny officer

14.00- 16.00, 26th November 2020

Following a suggestion from one of our participants, this meetup will be looking at the qualities needed to be a super scrutiny officer.

As you know, this role has many different dimensions. At different times you might be have to be a policy officer, committee clerk, project manager, comms specialist, diplomat or researcher.

But exactly what commitment, skills and experience are required for this multi dimensional role?

How can we make the most of out of supervision, development and recruitment?

Can robots ever really take the place of scrutiny support staff?

To answer these questions, and some others that we haven’t thought of yet, join us at this meetup.

Loosely weaving in a tenuous robots theme, we will be using a specially designed activity to help you learn from other scrutineers and soak new ideas.

We will also have the ever popular nine minute networking of course. We invite you to spend nine minutes in the company of three random scrutineers in two rounds. We suggest a couple of conversation topics but it’s up to you really.

Some practical points

Just so you know, we will close bookings the day before and then send out joining details by the night before to everyone signed up. Watch your spam folder – we will send out a separate email to say we have sent the first!

In the mean time, as we will be using Zoom, you might want to sign up / install the app if you can (if you haven’t already) although you can still access through a browser. Details about Zoom here: https://zoom.us

By the way, there are 72 spaces this time.

Hope to se you there!

Dave Mckenna @DrDaveMckenna

Matt Clack @M_ttclack

 

Meetup notes: Demonstrating the effectiveness of scrutiny


This meetup was all about how to demonstrate the effectiveness of scrutiny. We tried a new liberating structure called Triz. And we tried using Google Jamboards for the group work for the first time. Both worked really well. Hooray!

We also had a tenuous disaster movie theme. Matt likes to call Triz ‘Twister’, so that kinda works. (As do the ‘biggest scrutiny disasters’ above.)

In the main activity, using Triz, we honed in on the things we are currently doing that prevent us from demonstrating the effectiveness of scrutiny by asking the following question:

What are the practical ways you and your team could ensure that Scrutiny’s successes go completely unnoticed by local residents and the rest of your organisation?

At the end of the process we identified some of the small things we might do that could start to make a big difference.

Here is the full list of ideas:

  • Do a short video about what scrutiny is and how it works. Would be really helpful if the CfGS could do this and make it available for sharing on their website
  • Speak to Comms team about where they think residents could engage better and see if scrutiny can be part of that
  • Make sure officers across the Council understand what scrutiny is or how Council’s work and the different roles elected members have e.g. Cabinet/backbench
  • publicising Scrutiny more the public and to the Council – members and officers (ie over and above the stat min)
  • issue a Scrutiny bulletin on a regular basis – on the website, and other useful (stakeholder) links/sites – tracking O&S Work Plan
  • invite Press to spend time at offices to be taught about Scrutiny function – Officer led
  • train Members on Scrutiny function – operate a league table for them to compete attendance/competence (think brownie badges)
  • general training – We don’t know what we don’t know – Johari – Member Skills Review sessions. If nec, within their Political Groups (saves embarrassment and publicly competing egos)
  • evaluate Decision-Making Risk , eg assumptions that we know what we don’t know!!!
  • Adapt to how residents want to engage. Don’t insist on particular processes
  • Understanding of the situation: let officers get on with the ‘doing’ before scrutinising. Unprecedented situation.
  • Turn processes virtual. The council office isn’t open for good reason.
  • Promote virtual processes, meetings etc.
  • Get language and materials sense checked by people in the organisation with the skill set to do so – and good neighbourhood community connectors with those skills too
  • Give a presentation to managers on how scrutiny could help them and possibly create a feature on the intranet for all staff
  • Set up meeting with senior managers and leader to discuss scrutiny’s role
  • Provide regular update reports
  • Talk to the comms team about social media posts to explain / promote scrutiny

And here are the favourite ideas identified by the participants.

  • Creating a video about what scrutiny is/does
  • Talk to the comms team about explaining / promoting scrutiny to residents
  • Evaluate decision-making risks by asking Members to grade aspects
  • An easy method of getting all officers in the Council to understand what scrutiny is and how it fits into governance – this is resource intensive so would be useful If CfGS could produce this information or have
  • easily available explainers on their website, like a very basic ‘what is scrutiny?’ etc we could direct members to
  • Get language in reports sensed checked – not just for plain english but for relevance to communities
  • Fully engage comms at the beginning/end of the scrutiny review.
  • Adapt to how citizens want to engage
  • Publicizing scrutiny work – press releases
  • Put in place and promote virtual meetings, processes. you can’t pass a note across the table, just say it and be open

We asked participants ‘What was made possible?’ by this approach:

  • This was a good approach. Using the jam boards was helpful.
  • More objective and granular thought process
  • Promotes a different way of thinking and more creative solutions
  • Good to understand that we all have the same problems and challenges
  • Thinking backwards made us more creative
  • Thinking in a different way – approaching a problem from another angle
  • It was fun!
  • Good way to just flip the opposite of your suggestion. It can be easier to think of the negative and what doesn’t work as a starting point.
  • Anti approach helped clarify how to remedy issues

We hen did a quick exercise to draw out some of the things that people are doing well already…

What helps to demonstrate the effectiveness of scrutiny work?

  • Annual report
  • No. of scrutiny referrals to Cabinet (the more the better)
  • Report annually to Full Council which is a public meeting about what scrutiny has done
  • Robust scrutiny recommendations that led to change
  • An annual report.
  • Quality recommendations.
  • Present the annual report in a more engaging way (e.g. Microsoft Sway report)
  • Outcome based annual report

Thanks to everyone that took part and…..

Keep on scrutinising 💃🏾

 

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Activity instructions – Scrutiny Meetup #11


Nine minute networking

Two rounds of nine minutes in threes (or fours)
Talking points:
What’s a piece of feedback you have been pleased about?
How did you find out about something your organisation has done well?

Triz (40 mins)

The ‘Theory of Solving Ingenious Problems’
Also known as the ‘anti-problem technique’, sometimes identifying ways to solve the opposite issue to the current one makes it easier to find a new solution
The prompts are provocations

Step one- Capture everything you could to do generate the worst result possible (12 mins)

Introduce yourselves and add names to Slide 1, then move to slide 2. There you can add examples of behaviours for:
What are the practical ways you and your team could ensure that Scrutiny’s successes go completely unnoticed by local residents and the rest of your organisation?

Be creative! No need to stick to the rules of acceptable behaviour / organisation policies / the law…

Step two- Shortlist any examples that (slightly) reflect current practice, and capture any detail/examples (8 mins)

Move to Slide 3, referring back to Slide 2 when needed

What are the practical ways you and your team could ensure that Scrutiny’s successes go completely unnoticed by local residents and the rest of your organisation?

Move to Slide 4, referring back to Slide 2 when needed
What are the practical ways you and your team could ensure that Scrutiny’s successes go completely unnoticed by local residents and the rest of your organisation?

Not trying to resolve the whole issue or create a grand strategy, but think about the small things that could start to make a big difference

Conversation Cafe

Share the purpose and structure of Conversation Cafe, including the requests. (1 min)
Participants will be put into groups of 3-5 via Zoom breakouts.
In the first round of conversation, each participant is invited to briefly sharing what they are thinking, feeling, or doing about the theme or topic (5-7 mins), one by one.
If you are not the person speaking, mute your mic.
When you are done speaking, pass the “turn” to someone else by name. They should unmute to share or to pass.
In the second round, everyone is invited to contribute again after hearing initial responses to the question (5-7 mins).
In the third round, everyone is invited to contribute via open discussion (10 minutes)
In the last/ fourth round, each participant is invited to share their takeaways, using the person-by-person approach of the first and second rounds. (5-7 mins)

Sign up now for Deep Impact: Demonstrating the effectiveness of scrutiny


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ScrutinyMeetup #11: Deep impact: Demonstrating the effectiveness of scrutiny

14.00- 16.00, 4th November 2020

In this meetup we will be examining that thorny problem of how to show that scrutiny is making a difference (it is of course). It’s been suggested by more than one participant and we know it’s a tricky one.

Loosely weaving in a tenuous disaster movies theme, we will be using a new Liberating Structure called Triz (well, new for us, anyway). This will allow us to ‘create a clear space for innovation’ and ‘invite creative destruction’. Good eh?

We will also have the ever popular nine minute networking of course. We invite you to spend nine minutes in the company of three random scrutineers in two rounds. We suggest a couple of conversation topics but it’s up to you really.

Some practical points

Just so you know, we will close bookings the day before and then send out joining details by the night before to everyone signed up. Watch your junk folder – we will send out a separate email to say we have sent the first!

In the mean time, as we will be using Zoom, you might want to sign up / install the app if you can (if you haven’t already) although you can still access through a browser. Details about Zoom here: https://zoom.us

By the way, there are 72 spaces this time.

Hope to se you there!

Dave Mckenna @DrDaveMckenna

Matt Clack @M_ttclack