I joined FutureGov to be a part of a radical movement; one of the militant optimists working hard to make public services better. I’m now five months into directing projects at FutureGov after my move from local gov and I can confidently attest that what is seen from the outside is just as real on the inside.

Dominic Campbell, our CEO, recently wrote about the importance of organisations, councils and individuals finding the radical outlook and self-confidence to face problems, be imaginative and be ambitious about the future. It’s a mantra he continues to share, and one we discussed at length at our co-hosted event with dotSHF. What struck me about this was the inherent belief that the sector has the appetite and we as individuals have the vision and experience to make this happen.

In a former life, I had the confidence to try and reimagine myself as an Olympian. I think that what it took to do that at a personal level is similar to what it takes for councils to reimagine what they do and why.

Delivering at pace, in more ways than one

For many years, athletics was a big part of my life. I’d train six days a week and live like a monk to achieve my goals. I don’t do that anymore. But the rigour, discipline and core principles of that athletic training feel almost like the fundamentals of success in agile working.


To transform an organisation you need an unerring belief that you’ll find the right path. You need the confidence to keep going even when things aren’t ‘perfect’, and a tremendous level of resilience. Pulling from the experiences of my past, this lateral inspiration has helped support and guide my decision-making and drive as I direct an agile environment and digital transformation programme. These core principles give me the drive to keep going.

Preparation is key

Build strong foundations with a thorough assessment of the areas you need to develop.

In athletics, this meant getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, stretching and gym work to prepare my body for training. In agile project delivery, we use the Digital Maturity Assessment to help councils understand where their strong foundations, problem areas and opportunities. By defining these parameters in an honest and non-judgemental way, you can set yourself up for success with clearly defined goals.

It also means taking care of the team and making sure they’re in the right place when it comes to working. Have you shared your personal user manuals? Have you talked about your expectations for the project and made sure responsibilities are clear? Have you had some time away from work to get to know each other over lunch?

Don’t try to do it all at once

Looking at only a long-term goal or a big pile of work is daunting. Trying to take on all things at once first, doesn’t set you up for success, and will leave you feeling inundated and exhausted. It then becomes easy to abandon the project.

With my coach, we would break down my training plans down into weeks, months and the year. By setting small, achievable goals I could identify progressions and measure my success. It didn’t take long before we were flexing plans to adapt to progress. My focus wasn’t on getting to the Olympics, my focus was to do better every week.

Focus on the aggregation of micro-actions, break stuff down and review it.

The same principles apply to transformation across local government and even big organisations. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the quantity of change, just as it’s easy to get stuck in the meta discussions and systems planning. By breaking down the work into achievable parts, focusing more on the services and strong interactions between users, we can start small and build.

Evidence what you do

It’s easy to forget where we started whenever we approach any new challenge. I used to endlessly pester my coach to send pictures and videos from training sessions so I could analyze my performance. I could watch these back, review my goals and see improvements over time. It also meant I could balance kinaesthetic and visual learning so the information and learning stuck.

A reference point to understand progress is essential.

In user research, capturing rich media and creating meaningful artefacts that tell the story of the user are so important. These stories become your reference for the service you’re designing. Show & Tells are a crucial part of this: a chance to test what we think we know and see what we can learn from it. They also serve as a useful record of the small steps towards the bigger change.

Focus on what you are doing

My coach used to say: “You’re in a race against yourself, it just happens that seven other people there are doing the same thing”. Measuring success was only about how I performed under different conditions on different days. If I started comparing myself too closely to the performance, I could get lost in the frustration of seemingly never measuring up.

Don’t be distracted by the work or the approach of councils around you.

Your transformation journey should be just that: your own. We can’t worry about the stage of others in their own journey. The fact is, you’ve started yours now, and focusing on how to best achieve your goals for your organisation and your residents to the best of your ability are the only parts that matter.

A good coach is worth their weight in gold

I actively sought the best coach I could and treated everything they said like I was a sponge. I wanted to soak it all in. Being able to draw on their wider experience gave me the confidence to face the things I didn’t think I could achieve. This person helped me to understand when I’m learning or teaching, when I’m in or out of my comfort zone, doing the right job and how to deal with the challenges.

Trust expert input — it’s grounded in experience and rich insight.

A coach can do the same for organisations of all sizes on their path to digital transformation. As a mentor, peer or a senior leader, use their experience as a guide. They’ve likely already faced similar challenges and will have invaluable insight to help you. This is the right time to look to other councils — not to measure yourself against, but to learn about different experiences.

Resilience is key

Sometimes I’d have a bad week in training or a race wouldn’t go right. In my final season, it wasn’t until three weeks before the end of the season that I finally won a race. Then, I won my last three races and set a new personal best each time. I could have spent the entire season defeated by the lack of winning. But again, winning wasn’t necessarily key and I wasn’t there to compare myself to those who were winning all season long. It was my belief in the process, of preparing, breaking it down, evidencing and focusing on my goals, that got me there.

There will be times when it doesn’t feel like you can do it: hold your nerve!

There are always people who don't believe in something or don’t get it. But you’ve got to hold your nerve. Trust in the people around you and the work you’ve put in. Some days it’ll feel like everything has clicked, and other days you’ll crave the return of that fluidity. Large-scale change programmes are mentally and emotionally draining, and finding ways to look after yourself so you can continue performing at a high level is essential.

Going for gold

Everyone has ways of making sense of the world of work. Drawing this parallel from my previous experience helps me to apply my existing skills in a new context. Drawing on your own experience, and finding those parallels, can be a powerful support as you learn new ways of working and confronting new challenges.

Get in touch

We’re always happy to answer any questions you have about FutureGov and discuss how we can work together.

Contact us