When bad culture eats good scrutiny for breakfast

Wednesday 11th of October 2023

When bad culture eats good scrutiny for breakfast!

This session was designed to get participants to think about the culture of their organisation and how it might inadvertently be causing a blockage of some kind on their scrutiny activity. It also looked to ask scrutineers to consider their behaviours in ensuring the right culture exists.

Thes session began by exploring the word ‘culture’ to see if there was a shared understanding of what the word meant. It showed that many participants had similar thoughts and identified behaviours as a fundamental part. 

The facilitators then shared their culture phrase which was:

‘The beliefs and behaviours shared by a group of people.’


They began to unpick three key words from that phrase on which the session was then focussed. Those words were ‘beliefs’, ‘behaviours’ and ‘shared’.

Beliefs explored what people actually believe about resident scrutiny – do people really understand and value what it brings and is there a belief that residents should be allowed that level of influence in an organisation. 

How people talk about resident scrutiny could reveal their own personal beliefs about it and if they are negative, those beliefs could be driving the wrong behaviours.

This second element focussed on transparency, a positive culture and recognising that to be transparent takes a little encouragement.

The third element discussed how organisations and scrutineers mirror behaviours to encourage sharing the right attitudes. It started to press how organisations drive into their organisation that shared understanding, beliefs and behaviours that are so important to effective, and outcome focussed resident scrutiny.

In part one on the breakout session, participants were then encouraged to discuss on tables what kinds of behaviours Boards, Councillors and Staff at organisations should display, to ensure a positive resident scrutiny culture was developed.

Many shared thoughts around being open and honest, providing resources, acting on recommendations and ensuring they all understand what scrutiny is.

The second part of the task was to think about why they people should display those behaviours.

Participants discussed potential improvements in the services, demonstrating good leadership and cost savings with some starting to move towards it being a must due to the new regulatory expectations.

In the second activity the same question was asked about resident scrutineers’ behaviours. Many suggested collaboration, and partnership working, being evidence-led, listening, being studious and being committed as many of the key behaviour traits.

When asked about the why, participants were drawn to rationale such as delivers impact, improves services, supports team working and ensures the effort is rewarded with recommendations that make a difference.

The facilitators were trying to demonstrate the impact of having a clear reason why. That thing that helps organisations, and scrutineers focus when things are getting tough. It was stressed that to influence the beliefs and behaviours and gain a shared understanding of what scrutiny is trying to achieve, participants need to know why.

So, it was pointed out that if scrutiny is to make a difference and gain buy in and support from the organisational staff, you need to find what the why is for the Asset Manager, Board Member, Finance Manager, Housing Officer, Service Charge Officer, Caretaker, Contractor and anyone else who may become ‘involved’ in a scrutiny activity.

The same can also be said for residents – give them a reason why, don’t assume they know.
It also was evident and clear that many of the benefits and reasons why were the same for both residents and the organisation.

The next part identified the reality that enforced regulation may be a driving force for some organisations. Whilst this is valid and fair, it was suggested that regulation might drive the wrong behaviours as meeting those expectations will only hold while the regulation focuses on it. If that focus shifts, will the organisation drop it?


It was suggested that thinking more widely about the why – and that driving the service improvements, value for money and it just being good business sense – should be the primary driver.


The last part of the session looked at some of the keys to scrutiny success that could help drive the right cultural behaviours. Some of those keys were about being evidence-led, positive, critical-friend, triangulation, mutually beneficial, reflective, monitored and measured, routes into decision making and makes a difference.

Participants were encouraged to share some of their cultural examples. One discussed where a particular member of senior staff at their organisation was controlling the scrutiny topics and actively blocking ideas and independence of thought. Others nodded to suggest that others had this type of behaviour.

It was sad to see this type of behaviour and maybe in that case, utilising the regulatory framework as a tool to drive the ‘right’ attitude is more likely to get the best result.

The final part of the session picked out seven Scrutiny Culture Tips that included:

  1. Help Boards, Councillors, senior managers to understand tenant scrutiny – give them a WHY
  2. Build relationships at all levels of the organisation and with residents to foster strong collaborative behaviours
  3. Don’t think of (or use) scrutiny as a tool to fight each other
  4. When recruiting new scrutineers, remember to consider behaviours – not just anyone will do!
  5. Share the impact you have made widely amongst staff and residents – this will make a difference and strengthen your WHY
  6. Review your scrutiny process and methodology – don’t be scared to make changes, be reflective
  7. Say thank you! Show your appreciation and keep scrutiny volunteers and staff involved motivated to continue