Expert Insights

Responding to change: what next for social housing?

The Social Housing sector faces unprecedented challenges as Housing Associations and Local Authority ALMOs have to provide more homes and better services with less money. Change management expert David Lister argues that restructuring and developing a new Target Operating Model can create greater efficiencies and more modern ways of working – leaving organisations in better shape for the future.

Organisations can create a robust future in this challenging sector by restructuring and introducing a new operating model

Many Social Housing providers are using innovative ways to generate funding and plug the gaps in their budgets. But although increased private development or selling social care services may help initially, organisations need to address inefficiencies and outmoded ways of working if they’re to be successful, long term.

David says that organisations can create a robust future in this challenging sector by restructuring and introducing a new operating model.

“At the heart of a new model should be a focus on people, processes and technology,” he says. “You need to identify what roles, responsibilities and capabilities you need and how you can bring in new, more flexible ways of working that save money and add value to customers.”

Improved customer service

“For example, there’s a big push on customer service at the moment. By creating a more mobile workforce that’s enabled through new technology, you can have more people in front of your customers and less need for office space.

“One of the constant challenges is whether you have an in-house or outsourced maintenance team. It will depend on your particular circumstances, but either way you have to make sure you have clear management and oversights in place. Having the right processes allows you to respond quickly, effectively and cost-efficiently to your customers every time they interact with your business.

“Technology underpins everything. Devices and systems, correctly identified and implemented, can make you more efficient and effective. For example, technology can allow your customers to interact directly with your maintenance team, cutting out the need for expensive call centre resources, enabling you to address issues more quickly and improve customer satisfaction.”

David says that it also pays to be smart when it comes to shared systems. “New systems for procurement, finance, etc can be expensive to implement and maintain, so why not share them – and the costs – with other organisations that you’re not in competition with? This is something many local authorities do to great effect.”

Engaging your people

Transforming an organisation is not a small, overnight task; it needs a clearly defined vision and focused leadership to see it through. David says that for change to be successful, it’s fundamental that people at all levels of the organisation are involved.

“Change is something that is done with an organisation, not to it,” he explains. “Too often, management consultants breeze in, say what needs doing, don’t involve anyone and leave. Then everyone wonders what it was all about and nothing really changes.

“You have to tell people what you’re doing from the start and why this is about securing the future of the organisation. You can have a great vision, but you need people to really buy into that vision and have a sense of ownership over its delivery. Communication and representatives at every level are, therefore, vital.

“This is particularly important if people are being asked to work in a new way or are part of a team that may see redundancies.

“The social housing sector is facing pressures from all sides – and they’re only going to increase in the future. A new business model will ensure you’re aligned to address those challenges, that you can provide a positive workplace with people who are motivated and accountable, and that you can offer the best service to your customers.”


  • Social housing sector is facing unprecedented change – it’s time to get in shape.
  • Ensuring you’re aligned to the challenges starts with a new Target Operating Model and restructuring accordingly.
  • At the heart of your new model should be a focus on people, processes and technology.
  • Engaging people at all levels of the organisation is key to implementing effective change.

David Lister

David Lister is a highly experienced change management professional responsible for transformation projects in a range of sectors, including Social Housing, property development and construction, transport and local and central government.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain supplies organisations with experts that deliver major change. We are a proven alternative option to the large management consultancies when it comes to physically delivering board sponsored change.