Levelling up LEOs

This is less of a blogpost and more of a ‘stub‘ to come back to later of some ideas that are swimming around in my head and as such it lacks a certain…coherence!

There has been a lot of talk about the Government ‘levelling up’ agenda in recent months and while I am not exactly convinced about that policy stream I have found myself recycling the phrase.

I’ve started to think about a lot of the work I/we do less as transformation and more as levelling the playing field. To mangle that famous William Gibson quote – the present is here – its just not evenly distributed. I know there are people out there trying to transform things – with technology, design, data, policy – but most of what I’m involved in is about catching up. Getting products/services/organisations to a place where they meet (but probably don’t exceed) people’s raised expectations. Working on brownfield projects trying to drag them into the present.

Some of this is captured by the thinking around #fixtheplumbing thinking from places like MHCLG. Getting these fundamentals fixed, upgraded, refreshed, redesigned has wider benefits though. Levelling up means you can compete – not just commercially but you can attract different people to work on your products/services, you can re-calibrate your risk appetite to try new things, you can think differently because you aren’t held back by a need to invest in maintaining past decisions. Your investment in levelling-up provides a launchpad for true change.

This isn’t a start-up approach. It isn’t about being ‘disruptive’ for the sake of it. It is about getting into a position where you can test some hypotheses, take some chances, make some moves – without the spectre of a front-page tech disaster haunting your dreams.

This is for the LEOs. Where that is public, financial, manufacturing, transport, construction or whatever sector. Organisations with decades of history, layers of bureaucracy, with stratas of technology to explore and unpick, where risk aversion has become dogma and innovation theatre is more palatable than real change.

Once upon a time ‘the strategy was delivery‘ and eventually it became a cliche and people rolled their eyes and demanded that written strategy. I don’t disagree with that – there are some great strategies. There is also a lot of this way beyond the NHS –>

…and strategy without delivery? Without real concrete achievements that fix things for people? I think this does more damage to morale and momentum than having done nothing. Identifying opportunities to ‘level-up’ rather than ‘transform’ can deliver wins and success breeds success.


Okay that didn’t make much sense did it.

Main points I was trying to make –>

  • ‘Levelling up’ feels more realistic than ‘transformation’
  • Getting ‘level’ opens up more opportunities
  • This is about ‘large, established organisations’
  • Strategy without delivery is more dangerous than no strategy at all
  • …but delivery without strategy can be powerful