Business transformation in the housing sector
Abi Davies, Assistant Director of Policy & Practice, discusses what a successful housing organisation might look like in the future.
This week it was a real pleasure to join business leaders from within and outside the housing sector to discuss what a successful housing organisation might look like in the future.
The round-table was the first of three we’re holding with Orbit Group to inform an existing project we’re working on together. We’re looking at how housing organisations will need to transform their businesses if they are to thrive and succeed in the future, and we’re asking some big questions:
What will housing organisations need to consider if they are to successfully navigate and negotiate the new policy and economic landscape?
What changes to structures (governance and set-up), people (knowledge, skills and capacities) and finance are needed to support success?
What will change involve?
What support and help will organisations need to transform their business?
What might ‘successful’ housing organisations look like in 2020?
The first discussion was about structures, and in just two hours we covered a wide range of topics.
We spent quite some time talking about the challenges housing organisations face at the moment (e.g. changes to welfare, regulation, public funding) but many people could also see opportunities to take new approaches to service provision, improve finances and drive social change. We identified where different structures would affect organisations’ ability to deal with challenges and seize opportunities, though we mostly agreed on the need to be clear about purpose and objectives before settling on a structure. Subscribers to the principle of form follows function were out in force, and there was broad agreement that there will be lots of variation in structures across the housing sector.
I was interested in comments about the need for housing associations to develop structures that balance the tension between needing to enable localised delivery whilst also having the scale required to meet borrowing needs. I was also interested in a discussion about whether the financial pressures currently faced by public bodies are a stronger driver for innovation and structural change (e.g. shared services) than the housing pressures experienced by the people the housing sector aims to serve. The hunt for structures that support internal drivers for excellent services is on.
One of the key messages from participants was that you don’t change structures overnight – you need the right tools, techniques and skills, alongside entrepreneurial leadership, to transform a business. It’s a good thing our next round-table is about ‘people issues’ then!
I was really struck by participants’ desire to help enthuse the housing profession and build confidence to change – and I hope CIH can help to harness this passion. If you’re interested in the findings of this project then watch this space – CIH and Orbit will be publishing a compendium of ideas about business transformation in June, and organisational change will be central to debates at our Harrogate conference and beyond. In the meantime, if you’ve got thoughts on the structures, financial arrangements, and skills housing providers need to face the future, then please share them with me.