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SCARF Chief Executive Billy Sloan shares his experiences of Better by Design

Before joining Better by Design SCARF had embarked on a journey.  We were changing and developing in positive way; we knew we wanted to put customers at the centre of everything SCARF did and we had a number of really good ideas but somehow we hadn’t travelled as far along the road as we’d hoped.  It was like we knew all the right words but hadn’t quite developed the ability to string them together into sentences. 

When Big Lottery’s Better by Design programme came along it was just right for us.  We would have been devastated if our bid had been unsuccessful!

It’s just the right kind of support for SCARF.  It’s not prescriptive and there’s an understanding that flexibility is the key.  That’s important.  This is not a standard consulting programme where they tell you less than you knew already in a format that’s not as good as your own!  I can’t imagine Lynne or Richard turning up and saying, “What you need to do is…” Instead they are critical friends and that is what we really wanted.

The design approach has evolved our business thinking.  Already the language we are using is changing and we’re continually asking ourselves, “Where is the customer in this?”  It’s opened our eyes and helped us to see things in new ways and we’re building a sound foundation, with the customer at the centre, which will enable us to increase our impact in the future.  That’s very valuable.

In practical terms, we have a dedicated SCARF Better by Design team, drawn from across the organization, combining people in senior roles with future leaders and people we know are enthusiastic and eager to make a difference.  Working in this way has helped us to identify that we don’t need a hierarchical structure to deliver for our customers – customers don’t care how many people you manage!

Through Better by Design we’ve moved forward an exciting partnership that will enable us to have a Scotland-wide improved customer offer. We’ve made some tough decisions to pause activities that didn’t have a solid delivery mechanism and we’ve got the confidence to look outside our comfort zone to identify new ways to support our customers.  The team has been gathering insights, interviewing people and observing different service settings.  I’ll be lurking outside corner shops and supermarkets next week, observing how people interact with food and shopping in different settings!

What next?  We’re moving forward on a number of fronts but it’s vital that the momentum is maintained and it’s not just when Lynne and Richard are involved.  It needs to be the way we do things and it needs to be shared.  It’s started – little groups are getting together, working differently and that’s good.  This is our new ‘business as usual’.  

For other organizations thinking about adopting the Better by Design approach I would say, if you’re 100% confident, then go for it; don’t do it unless you are sure you want to things to be different.  This is not a tick box exercise and once you’ve begun, your business will inevitably change. 

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