Cath Davies writes:
A few years’ ago, I project managed the review of a whole suite of housing management policies and procedures for an organisation: you name it, they had it, from managing arrears to managing asbestos and everything in between. Much literal box ticking was undertaken and then the policies and procedures were, I suspect, largely stuffed into metaphorical boxes, securely sealed with industrial-strength tape and placed on a high shelf out of the way. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that the “review policies and procedures” box on the action plan could be ticked and normal business was resumed.
Recently I’ve been delivering “pre-tenancy workshops” for organisations. For “pre-tenancy”, think, broadly, voids, allocations and lettings. The idea is simple: we look at what currently goes on, I put on my Critical Friend hat and get to work and then the group re-designs the process, or, as Barry and I prefer to call it, the Pre-tenancy Service.
What always comes out of these sessions is how much we still work very much inside our own boxes (or silos). Sometimes what becomes clear is how driven we are by the KPIs and that the KPIs may be encouraging unhelpful behaviours.
Let me give you an example:
The allocations team have to meet a void turnaround target of 22 days. They carry out the usual checks (always arrears at previous tenancies and ASB and often an element of support needs) – do the viewing, sign up, keys handed over and …. Have they met the target….? Yes! Success!
But the problems are only just beginning: can the tenant afford to pay the rent? No-one checked that – or an affordability check was done at sign up when it’s all a bit late. So who was it a success for? The allocations team (in the short term, until the tenancy breaks down and the individual is back in the allocations system) but not the tenant or the organisation.
One organisation told me that the Financial Inclusion Officer carries out the “settling in visit” and carries out the only affordability check then. The week I was there they’d just visited a new tenant and demonstrated that they couldn’t afford to pay the rent…
The really exciting thing about the pre-tenancy workshops is seeing how quickly the Critical Challenge produces a change in thinking and how enthused staff become to work across silos as they design a Pre-tenancy Service that produces results for both customers and the business.