This week we welcome Luke Champion from 2Gether NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist mental health and learning disability service for the people of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.
He’s here to talk to us about moving over to Warp It and why it helped. In this article you will learn about:
- Why spreadsheet reuse systems are designed to fail
- Why having the biggest car puts you at risk in the early stages of reuse
- Why preparing the business case for reuse will win you support from senior management
- How having visible evidence of support from a director will encourage buy-in
We want to talk about culture change and changing the way that people do things. That’s really hard in any organisation, especially a large one like the NHS, but you seem to have grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and made it work. Can you tell us about that?
We've done quite a few things in the internal emails to our staff, letting people know this is the new system. That's been really good. Instantly a load of people signed up to it.
What I find in this organisation is people look at something like a news piece and think, "Well, that's a good idea," and they may not do anything about it. Then a few weeks go by and they come across something and they think, "Oh, I need 'x' piece of furniture." They know that I've sorted stuff out for them in the past. They say, "Oh, have you got anything?" I say, "Well, I don't know at the minute, but what you want to do is check out this new website, Warp It." Then they recruit other people and they go, "Well, that's a really good idea."
I find I've recruited a lot of people by saying, "Why don't you take a look at this? It takes seconds to register. Have a look." That has mushroomed. People then start talking to other people about it and it just gets better and better. Word of mouth is best.
Do you think it helps that you’re out and about a lot, that you’ve got many duties to fulfil?
I think it does, because in the end, as the estates team, we tend to get out and about more than some other teams.
I've noticed that in a few other buildings, when I've appeared to do a recycling survey to take their little bins away, and give them new recycling bins in the offices, I'm always talking about Warp It and taking advantage of the environmental work at hand. I think people start to see the relevance.
When they're getting new things, I always say to them, "At least look on Warp It. If there's nothing there, you’ve had a look. Okay, sometimes, you've got to buy new if you really need it quick, but look on Warp It, because there's always that chance someone will have something." Bear in mind, if you buy new, you've still got to pay for getting rid of the old thing.
What was the main problem you were facing before you started tackling the reuse issue?
Well, I noticed, and our people in the projects team that I work really closely with in our office noticed, that there was still a tendency for people to have this idea that when they were doing an office move or a redevelopment or refurb of a department, they wouldn't really think much about the waste.
They would assume that, "Oh, yeah. We'll just get a skip." That was the automatic answer for many, many people. They'd say, "Oh, yeah, Luke. We'll just get a skip." I would reply, "What do you mean a skip? We can't do that." Then I started talking to everyone, saying, "Do we still use skips for this sort of thing?" They'd agree, "Well, we don't have to. Can we try something different?" Then I started thinking, well half the stuff that's probably in the skip doesn't need to be there. Can we think of some other systems?
So it all started by rewriting the waste policy to not automatically revert to skips. I rejigged a handy guide for waste so people could look up stuff on the internet to see what to do with it, so they actually knew what to do, rather than just binning everything.
What happened next?
So the guide was the first thing. The second thing was, I set up my own reuse system using Microsoft Excel. We actually had quite a lot of stuff in our store. In our head office, we've got a big garage where we can store things. I noticed there were lots of things in there that could go to a new home. I started setting up internally and that worked well, but it was difficult and time consuming for me to manage it all, because it gets really complicated.
Then I had to set up the item system of allocating when it was being picked up, who had picked it up, did they pay any money to get the move sorted. Everything was in one place and it got very complicated with lots of data filters. You had to account for so many different scenarios. Was the item available? Could we do returns? It caused a lot of issues.
So how did you move on from spreadsheets?
I think then, I knew about Warp It from my last trust, and started thinking about how we could implement it here. I was already aware of Warp It. I just thought, "Well, actually, this might work. This could work for our organisation." I was little bit apprehensive at the start, because I didn't know if people in the trust would be receptive to it.
I didn't know the nature of what people were like. Maybe they were enthusiastic and did actually do want to get involved or maybe they weren't enthusiastic at all. I started investigating Warp It and had a chat and thought, "Okay, we could probably set something up." Before I got to that stage, I had to a do a business case for it and give an estimate of the assets we had at our head office, how much they were probably worth second hand and what the potential cost savings could be for the trust, based on avoided procurement and waste disposal savings, and highlighting it was a matter of sustainability. We can't keep throwing away good quality things. We can do stuff with them. If we are seen to be binning everything it is not good PR.
And the business case worked; how was it beneficial to your cause?
When I did the business case, we were able to put it as part of capital savings, because we were showing that we could reduce the amount of spend on new furniture. The executive team really liked that. One of the benefits of it as well was in the business case I was able to show that with the move to our new office building, we won't have the budget to buy a whole set of new furniture for many of the offices, so we are going to have to reuse a lot of the stuff from the closed buildings. I suggested that Warp It would be really good for that.
What impact do you think it has on your teams being able to quote the finance director on the newsletter?
I think it did make a difference, because we took the same approach when we started taking little bins away from people's offices. The first thing we said was, "Andrew Lee supports this. We've got no bins in the exec team offices. The CEO doesn't even have a bin, he has to share the office corridor bin." I think when people started seeing the fact that we put a quote from Andrew Lee about Warp It, people definitely looked at it and thought, "Oh, that's good. It must be good, then."
Brilliant! Did you have any hurdles along the way that you thought you might never be able to get over?
I think the concern about how effective it is to get a message out to so many different sites, about 30 other sites in total, across two counties. We have several sites that are quite far apart. They're not far apart from each other, but they're quite a distance from the head office in Gloucester. They don't always feel that they're fully included in new initiatives. They may be, but they don't see many people going there. That was a challenge, thinking about how would it be received. Would people just think, "Oh, it's just another initiative," that sort of stuff. That's why I tried to make it inclusive and not saying, "This is what you've all got to do now." I tried to give it all a community feel, rather than someone saying, "Right, we're all doing this."
It must be very hard with so many sites, especially in different geographic areas. How else have you tried to encourage this community feel?
I’m basically explaining to people, "Look. This is a really good system. You can save money. It puts you in touch with people and you're helping the environment. You're not binning things. You're not holding up parking spaces with a skip anymore.”
I think the other key thing, as well, during the setting up, is definitely getting a really good local moving firm. I’d guess that moving a desk from one side of Gloucester to the other might cost around £35. This is great when you scale up, because buying a new one costs you £150, plus another £25 to throw the old one away. I’d say £35 for a second hand desk is much better than £185 for a new one.
I’d say your maths are very agreeable! Do you have any advice for other trusts or large organisations on how to have a good impact and how to do it so quickly?
One of the most important things is, you might have all these great ideas and all the support, but you've got to figure out your system, how you're going to do it. For us, our potential stumbling block, and the biggest thing that people said was a problem when the other people tried to do this sort of reuse thing, before Warp It existed years ago, was the hassle of moving X item from one site to the other. That was where it all fell down. Several years ago, there wasn't a system set up properly. It was all based on who had the biggest car, who had the spanners and the allen keys to undo X, Y, and Z, who could get time off, or go on their lunch break, to drive an item over in their vehicle.
Luke, thank you so much for your time and insights.
As you can see from this interview, Luke is very knowledgeable about the goings on in his organisation, and he manages it all with precision. Seeing the opportunity to trial reuse and then shift into Warp It’s system has realised real benefits for 2Gether NHS Foundation Trust. We hope to see them continue their positive trajectory and encourage more users from their 30 sites to sign up. With the support internally that they have, it is likely that this initiative will go from strength to strength!