When South Lakes Housing were looking to undertake a major transformation of people, processes, and technology they knew they needed an external partner to provide change management expertise. They were equally clear that they wanted a partner who could work with their unique requirements and someone that would enable them to lead the change, rather than impose change on them. They enlisted the expertise of Golden Marzipan, specialist change advisors for the social housing sector. Here we speak to South Lakes’ Hilda Kaponda, Executive director of resources and Stephen Roe, Head of business transformation about their journey of transformation amid a pandemic.
“There was no burning platform” says Stephen when asked why South Lakes Housing embarked on their transformation journey. This 3,200 unit, Cumbria-based LSVT was in great shape. But to enable the growth outlined in their new Greening, Growing and Transforming 2025 corporate strategy they were aware that they needed to maximise the functionality of existing technology to modernise services and improve the customer experience. It wasn’t quite that straight forward though as Hilda explains:
“As an LSVT and former ALMO some of our processes and team structures simply didn’t work effectively anymore. Some processes were outdated and touchpoint heavy, whilst some teams weren’t set up as corporate enablers. We knew that we simply couldn’t automate and digitise services without tackling some of these fundamental issues first. So, people, processes and technology became the backbone of our transformation plans.”
With a desire to prioritise resources around achieving this transformation and an impending pandemic, they knew they had to move quickly to engage some technical expertise on these fundamental areas. They approached Andrew Giles of Golden Marzipan in March 2020 and almost immediately the entire country was forced into the first lockdown.
Restrictions didn’t slow progress though. Golden Marzipan worked virtually alongside the in-house transformation team to provide a change management framework, technology strategy and a roadmap for delivery, as well as technical expertise. This early intervention was vital says Stephen: “Establishing this project management approach was invaluable in the transformation process. I don’t think we’d be in the position we are today without Golden Marzipan’s expertise. Whilst we’ve adapted and found our own approach in many ways, the initial toolkit Golden Marzipan provided got us started and relieved some of the anxiety we felt from launching the programme.”
Keen to lead the transformation, rather than have it done to them, the team at South Lakes have forged on with transformation activity, whilst Golden Marzipan has stepped into more of a critical friend role. “Our transformation aims are really challenging” says Stephen. “Golden Marzipan continue to sense check progress and capacity to ensure we don’t drop the ball. They also support us to focus on the right activity and they share good practice from outside the sector with us to ensure we get the best programme outcomes.”
Hilda adds: “The beauty of it is that Golden Marzipan can bring in relevant expertise from different disciplines dependent on your needs. So rather than having to manage multiple technical experts ourselves, they essentially manage themselves and we get all the benefit. They’ve been great at listening to people on the ground and collaborating with them, which is essential in making the change stick”.
South Lakes Housing is still on its transformation journey, with the programme due to complete in autumn 2022. However, they are pleased with progress, particularly against a backdrop of the pandemic as Stephen tells us: “All our indicators suggest the programme is on track, which is great given the challenges we’ve faced. We have a solid platform in place for the rest of the change management programme. This puts us in a really strong position to deliver the change projects which will ultimately drive transformation.”