Take the time to reflect on the service you deliver, and be honest

Wednesday 7th of December 2016

Emily-Rae Maxwell, the Policy and Participation Team Leader at Dacorum Borough Council talks about their journey on using the new Tpas Tenant Engagement Standards.


Our first stage of working towards better standards of engagement and involvement with tenants and residents was through self-assessment.

It is at the crucial moment when taking the time to reflect on the service you deliver that being honest with yourself is most valuable.

It is important to look back and think about what has worked well, and even more important to think what could we have done better?

Within the team, we have adopted the concept of ‘black box thinking’. This concept uses the world of aviation as its example of best practice when it comes to service improvement. When an aeroplane has an accident, all the data captured by the black box is analysed and lessons learnt are rolled out and embedded to avoid the repetition of such mistakes.

Whilst our achievements give us those champagne moments of celebration, it is our weaknesses and our failures that offer the most exciting opportunities to grow. When going for these engagement standards, we owe it to our tenants to use this opportunity for self-reflection and to improve our services.

As a team, and with the help of Tpas we sat down and went through all 96 outcomes of the Tpas accrediation framework. Before meeting up, I asked that every member of the team, including those who do not directly work in tenant involvement go through the accreditation and score us based on their perception and experiences. Pooling together our thoughts allowed us to draw out our strengths and our weaknesses. Consequently those weaknesses led to a brand new to do list for the team.

Tenant Invovlement as a concept reinforces this need to embrace failures and learn from them.

True tenant involvement is co-producing services. It is not a lip service interested in simply what colour t-shirts should we have for this community event? It is asking people to draw on their experiences, give us feedback to allow us to draw out meaningful patterns and make the necessary changes to our policies and procedures so the same experiences are not repeated. Whilst generally the decisions we make as a housing service do not have the same high risk implication as the world of aviation, we must remember for the people living within our properties, these are their homes.

Matthew Syed, the author of black box thinking states ‘…failure to learn from mistakes has been one of the single greatest obstacles in human progress.’ ‘We create vague goals so no one can point the finger when we do not achieve them.’ ‘We need to redefine our relationships with failure as individuals, organisations and societies’.

When going through the self assessment it was difficult for us as a team to say ‘ we could be better at this’ but once we pushed ourselves over that hurdle, conversations on what or how we could work with our tenants to address these issues created a buzz.

We are now armed with a number of new ideas and opportunities for our tenants to shape our service and help us deliver better value for money.

While achieving the accreditation is important to us, we recognise there is no point in rushing to the finish line, when we could learn so much more from the journey.

For more information about how Tpas can support you to review, assess and improve your involvement actvities, visit our Business Improvement packages.