John Elvidge shared some of his experiences of change based on the example of the governmental changes in Scotland in 2007. He began with the warning that this was an outlier and might not always be applicable. Reassuring the audience, he said that he would not pronounce the word airport.
The change he described took place in the UK government the model of change was built on fragmentation and the task of breaking down large problems into smaller ones. Indeed, the government in Scotland was doing very well before the change came in.
This brings forth many questions such as:
Why were the changes brought in?
The changes were brought in due to great deterioration particularly in the area of health in Scotland. At the same time, the education sector was showing very low results as well. These difficulties showed the government the need to deal with the citizens that are least welcome. In turn, the citizens thought that the devolved government was not meeting their expectations. The government was improving the circumstances and certain aspects were getting better, yet not quickly enough. After realizing this, political parties in the country agreed that change was necessary.
What was the nature of systemic problems?
John Elvidge states that the systemic problems were due to inherent barriers in bringing about change, as in his opinion the systems in place were inadequate for doing so. Furthermore it was necessary to change the civil service which proved to be a challenge.
What was the change?
The government was reorganized as one structure, rather than a federation of different departments (finance, education, health etc.) and one single goal was adopted for all areas of government. This created the term the “Scottish method of government” and has been defined by Joseph Stiglitz as one of the three most important changes in government in recent years and necessary for improvement.
Has it worked?
After 6 years of evidence, the change shows a strong level of success, despite the financial crisis. Overall the change appears to have been a political achievement. Successors have even moved towards the model rather than away from it, which shows a strong example of the power of networks when bringing in change.
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Chairman, Edinburgh Airport; Former Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government
He is also Chairman of Edinburgh Airport Limited and holds a number of other non-executive roles in the social enterprise, academic and charitable sectors.