The Better Buckinghamshire Programme is the council’s post unitisation service improvement programme. By reviewing and redesigning the majority of the council’s services between 2021-23, the programme will help make sure Buckinghamshire is a better place to live, raise a family and do business.


Amongst others, objectives for the programme were to develop the right skills and culture among the council’s people and leaders, to enable services to be delivered in a learning environment, focused on outcomes for residents. The council was also keen to embed best practice business models that manage demand, meet needs and help to deliver £18m savings by 2023/24.

Working in a multidisciplinary team, we focused on six areas to help the council meet these objectives:

  1. developing a human-centred service review approach that’s consistent whilst accommodating different service priorities
  2. supporting service improvement business partners through service design and consultancy support
  3. financial modelling support to inform the Housing and Deputy Chief Executive’s (DCE) directorate’s service business cases
  4. developing a set of common zero-based budgeting principles to be applied through the service reviews
  5. transferring knowledge and best practice through Community of Practice sessions and 1:1 coaching support
  6. programme management including running agile rhythms and rituals and managing programme risks and issues

Developing an approach to service reviews

Some services were looking to make less significant changes than others. Lesser changes were focused on aligning existing team structures and ways of working, whereas more complex changes were around redefining end-to-end resident experiences and delivery models.

To meet these different needs, we worked closely with Buckinghamshire Council colleagues to develop a human-centred service review approach iteratively. Initially, we took a two-pronged approach distinguishing between ‘realign’ reviews, focused on structural change, and ‘reimagine’ reviews, focused on full-service transformation. Having supported waves 1 and 2 of reviews and currently preparing to support wave 3, we’ve revised our approach based on learnings from previous reviews.

Recognising that all future reviews will be primarily structural but also consider the future vision and high level operating model of the service, we’ve co-developed a single approach that blends aspects of the ‘realign’ and ‘reimagine’ reviews - with staff engagement and co-design with services at the centre. Going forward, all reviews will broadly follow the same journey (accommodating specific service needs as relevant):

  • pre-initiation: understanding the specific service context and challenges to inform the service review priorities and resourcing
  • initiation: establishing a clear review scope
  • discover, design & test: understanding the current state, design constraints and art of possible and developing future service or parts of the service
  • plan: for implementation
  • deploy: to make the change real and sustainable
A document showing the planned phases for the Better Bucks Programme.

Testing the approach

There are currently 11 service reviews in progress, the majority of which are in the discovery and design phase. To date, we’ve worked closely with the council on progressing four reviews across the DCE directorate and the housing service review, all of which are now in the plan for the implementation phase. We’re also currently delivering the discovery and design phase of the Customer Service Centre review with Buckinghamshire Council colleagues.

Using the iterated approach outlined above, we’ll deliver the next wave of support, which began in April 2021 with service reviews commencing across Property & Assets, the Civil Contingencies Unit and Culture, Sport & Leisure and Business Intelligence & Digital.


Taking a blended approach to working with Buckinghamshire Council colleagues to develop and deliver the service reviews, we’ve been able to transfer knowledge, upskill and share best practice on design tools including customer journey mapping and service blueprinting. Regular one-to-one coaching sessions and a set of community of practice sessions have enabled us to further share knowledge and learning of different aspects of the service reviews, alongside collaboratively enhancing the approach to maximise the impact of future service reviews

The benefits of taking a human-centred approach to the service restructure following unitarisation has been recognised across all services supported - going beyond just implementing new structures but more significantly igniting culture change in the Council, with an increased emphasis on listening to and empowering staff.

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