Why a "Business as Usual" culture can be your biggest barrier to change

Those who have worked with us before will be familiar with our thoughts on organisational culture, and its influence on change. An organisation which is continually developing new products or experimenting with new approaches for its customers is generally better suited to change, because it’s intrinsically part of its DNA. Whereas those organisations whose delivery is more routine in nature, particularly those in highly regulated or data-intensive sectors, tend to be less open to change because it’s more alien to them.

Public sector organisations often fall into the latter category because their culture is heavily geared towards Business as Usual (BAU). This results in a largely conservative workforce that is awarded for change avoidance, while discouraging risk taking or innovation. This culture can hamper the public sector’s ability to deliver effective digital services for example.

If you think about the role of most public sector organisations, it is easy to see why this sort of culture would come to dominate. Public sector organisations are primarily designed for record-keeping and repeat delivery, not ambition and change. But when it comes to meeting today’s need to develop digital services for modern Britain, the shortcomings of this culture are being brought to bear.

These thoughts were echoed in a recent NAO report which slammed government officials for lacking the experience necessary to lead digital transformation. While the NAO report didn’t call it out so explicitly, we believe the prevalence of a Business-as-Usual culture in some public sector organisations is a large contributing factor to their slow uptake of digital transformation.

If you work in the public sector, how does this chime with your experience?

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