Imagine the Coliseum in Ancient Rome, filled with a frenzied crowd. And imagine the Emperor seeking some direction from the spectators before he gives a ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ to the gladiator before him. The common assumption is that ‘thumbs down’ means the gladiator must perish. Leaving aside the historical accuracy of that assumption, you want to achieve the opposite of that – you want ‘thumbs up’ and to be CHERISHed.
Enter the arena
Visualise for a moment your service as a gladiator fighting other services for survival in the ‘Arena of Austerity’. Your aim is to get a positive response from those judging you – perhaps judging you against other services. And rather than use hard weaponry (tempting though that may appear at times), your prime tools are the powers of persuasion. Key in your armoury is a perfect pitch that you can deliver clearly and confidently at will. You need to attain clarity in your offer.
So even if that sounds quite un-public sector, you need to develop a series of pitches you can deliver to suit the different circumstances and situations you face as a public sector manager. You are not going to arrive at that perfect pitch by locking yourself away in a darkened room. The pitch has to be something that you have lived, breathed, practised and honed – and that emerges as something you truly believe.
So, like a gladiator, you must spend time honing your craft. You have a vital message to communicate, but to perfect it you must test it continually, and test it with as many people as you can in as many situations as you can.
Five key questions to consider
Some typical questions you will want to ask yourself when you are putting your pitch together might include:
- What does my service deliver, who does it deliver it to, why is it delivered and what would happen if it stopped being delivered?
- Can the service be delivered in a better or different way, could it be combined with another service to deliver more, could some element of it be changed so it delivers better outcomes
- How many outcomes/interventions/things does your service deliver annually/monthly/ weekly/daily?
- Where is it delivered, why is it delivered there and could it be delivered from different locations?
- How is it delivered, who helps you deliver the outcomes, who pays for the service and why is it organised in the way it is?
This is only a guide, so you will need to think about how this would work for your service. Public services are as varied in what they deliver as are the delivery organisations themselves.
It could be that at first your pitch is a little too structured. You will need to practise delivering your pitch to your own staff and stakeholders and then refining it on the basis of their responses. With rehearsal and refinement will come clarity.