How to enable cautious bureaucrats to become public and social entrepreneurs

Performance support tools can enable the transformation of public services

Public sector leaders should focus more upon the implementation of strategy according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas. Speaking to politicians and senior civil servants he suggested that “agreeing plans is one thing. Making them happen is something else. It is about ensuring that what needs to be done actually is done.”

Coulson-Thomas continues “The implementation of strategies and plans cannot be assumed. Often they are incomplete and objectives will only be achieved when missing pieces of the implementation jigsaw puzzle are put in place. In particular, the members of key work groups may need the help and support they require to achieve priority objectives.”

The author of Transforming Public Services stresses: “Relevant capabilities will not ensure success if they cannot be accessed and utilised as and when required. Personalised performance support can provide 24/7 access to just what is required at any time and place, including when on the move.”

He continues: “Some organizations aspire to excellence in too many areas. Customers, clients and the public may simply not be willing to pay for gold-plating across the board. Often one needs to be just good enough at many things, but outstanding in the areas that are important to them.”

Coulson-Thomas stressed the importance of identifing obstacles and danger signals and looking for ways of overcoming them: “If barriers do not exist it may be because strategies and objectives are insufficiently demanding. A compelling vision can help to ensure that people want a strategy to succeed. To reach them a vision needs to be communicated and shared. People should be helped to understand the rationale for sought after outcomes and what they can do to bring them about.”

In many cases people lack the support tools to do what is required of them. Coulson-Thomas’s report finds: “Relevant performance support can help people to behave in desired ways. It can make it easy for them to do the ‘right things’ and difficult for them to do the “wrong things”. It can ensure compliance while at the same time enabling responsible innovation. Cautious bureaucrats can be set free to become innovative social entrepreneurs.”

The report Transforming Public Services shows how the effective use of performance support can simultaneously deliver multiple benefits for people and organisations. It can also benefit the environment by helping people to understand the consequences of different courses of action and select less damaging options. It can work with existing people, cultures and structures.

Coulson-Thomas concludes: “Personalised performance support can accommodate social networking and enable groups and networks to manage themselves. It can help people to better understand their particular roles within a complex whole and concentrate upon what is important. It can enable key work groups to do difficult tasks and handle complex problems and allow customers, users and citizens to help themselves.”

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, author of Transforming Public Services, has received international recognition for his work as a change agent and transformation leader. A vision holder of successful transformation programmes he has held public sector board appointments at national and local level. The world’s first professor of corporate transformation, he has helped over 100 boards and management teams to improve performance. Colin holds a portfolio of board appointments, is an academic at the University of Greenwich and can be contacted via

Coulson-Thomas’ comments were delivered in London to visiting African politicians and civil servants concerned with implementing strategy and learning of better ways of handling complex decisions. The 200 page A4 size report Transforming Public Services sets out a practical route to building high performance organisations and quickly achieving multiple objectives. The approach can avoid traditional trade-offs and benefits people, organisations and the environment. can be obtained from


24 Sep 2015
Colin Coulson-Thomas