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‘Thought-Provoking’ read time: 2 mins.

  • A large Scottish social landlord asked us to carry out an in-depth review of its voids management process.

    We call this a ‘diagnostic’, as it includes a combination of policy and procedure review, training workshops, conversations with staff and on-site visits looking at how standards are designed and deployed.

    One of the outcomes centred around something we hear a lot at our courses: “It was thought-provoking”.

    Part of our approach is that of a Critical Friend, which we like to define as being:

    “Encouraging and Supportive who provide Honest, Candid feedback that may be uncomfortable to hear. They agree to speak truthfully but constructively about weaknesses, problems and emotionally charged issues”.

    It is this ‘discomfort’ that is hardest to manage. We had some ideas, some suggestions based on our observations, and some hard recommendations that we included in our Findings Report. Many of these observations form part of the Pre-Tenancy Conversations training course that we share with you, but the Critical Friend concept is also integrated into the Rent Ethic and Digital Inclusion courses.

    Usually, after a training course is finished, we all go away and, as trainers, we hear little of what happened next. The Scottish diagnostic was different – we were there to witness the narrative and the feedback. It told us two things:

    • Adopting our ideas and recommendations was not the hardest thing they could do. In fact, they were surprised how simple some of the ideas were. The difficulty was stopping doing the old stuff, the letting go of legacy ways of delivering processes that were not working.


    • They set up their own internal Critical Friend group comprising key people from across the organisation. It had a single, simple remit: ‘To Provoke Thoughts’.


    Some of these thoughts were able to provoke a re-think into performance measures, standards and value for money. Key things. Uncomfortable things. Thought-provoking but turning these thoughts into something meaningful.

    Evidence is showing vastly improved service performance, lower costs, better customer satisfaction and the Critical Friend group maintaining ‘responsible oversight’ that incorporates objective insights.

    Thought-provoking stuff…see you soon.