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Collaboration at CYB: how person-centric ways of working are at the heart of success

CYB’s Director of Digital, Richard Grove, writes about the ways to achieve constructive collaboration with new teams
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Richard Grove

Director of Digital Services

01 Jun 2023

At Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB), our stated aim is to use digital as a force for good. Our work with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on their Emergency Travel Documents service (ETD) is a great example of how we do this - by making sure British people abroad can get assistance quicker and easier, CYB is helping in two ways. 

Firstly, we are giving people peace of mind that their problem can be solved at a stressful time - but more importantly, we are making the lives of both users and those who work on the ETD services simpler, saving time and effort for everyone. And given the sheer volume of Brits abroad who need ETDs - approximately 40,000 people lose their passport and need an urgent single-use travel document every year - this was exactly the motivation for CYB to partner with an organisation that really helps people. 

The key to the ETD project was simple - purposeful, constructive, person-centric collaboration. Tasked with improving the online application service, the success of this project was built on how CYB and the teams on the ground at the ETD centres in Madrid, Singapore and Mexico built up a friendly, open and honest working environment. Their problems became our problems, and together we created solutions that are already making things easier not just for people working at the centres, but for people using the service too.  

“The relationship is really good, very open and transparent,” says Christine Fent, CYB’s Head of Service Design. “They trust that we're doing the best we can for them. They’re optimistic and pragmatic about what we can achieve together and they're really grateful for it”. 

But a working relationship like that doesn’t happen by accident. CYB’s approach to collaboration goes to great lengths to ensure the best possible rapport with anyone we work with, and an in-depth understanding of their needs. 

Here are four things that CYB always does to achieve people-centric, constructive collaboration. 

Show that we care about the project

We only take on work that we are passionate about and that we think will ultimately make a difference to people. But it’s important to show that to the people you work with from the outset – and there’s no better way to show you care than taking the time to listen to them and learn about all aspects of their job.

Nobody knows better how a service works, or what needs to improve, more than those who use it every single day. Listening to those who work with it day-in, day-out gave us a firm grasp of the issues right from the start, and a clear idea of where we could help - crucial given that the ETD teams deal with people’s problems every day, and our ultimate goal was to make life easier for both staff and users.

“The first thing we did was a tonne of just talking to them and listening,” says Jon Sykes, CYB’s Associate Delivery Manager. “We knew that this project was about listening and understanding what was really happening, and the actual experience of the people doing the actual work”. 

Work inclusively

We love to work inclusively – it brings the best out of everyone. Productive working environments are a place where friendly and constructive conversations can lay the foundations for creative solutions.

By taking the time to learn about the people we work with - not just their working practices, but their hopes and needs too - we are able to nurture a culture where everyone feels valued, and their input and ideas welcome.

We found that the ETD centres we worked with were incredibly responsive to this approach - not only could we learn from them about how they operated and the areas of improvement, we could also talk through our thinking and decision making in an open and collaborative way. 

“We ran productive sessions with people from the embassies, people from centres, people from the policy team, and people stationed all around the world,” Christine says. “We could learn from them, but also show how we would map out the process of issuing the documents. And that worked really well, because we managed to get feedback from so many different types of users in the same forum. I don't think they would ever normally have that range of people sit down together trying to identify their pain points, or come up with ideas and solutions”.

Take the time to understand nuance 

It is easy to suppose that two separate strands of the same service perform the exact same functions: after all, how different could processing the same user need be? 

But because we took the time to delve into the details and conduct in-depth analysis, we were able to realise the subtle nuances between working practices in different countries – not only does that show an appreciation and deep knowledge of how people work, but it allowed us to design more tailored solutions.

“I think one of the early assumptions from policy and consular staff was that any two centres are run completely identically,” Christine says. “That’s because they were issued the same policies and same processes. But actually, there are nuances between them. And we've spent a lot of time with them, talking mainly to team leads and individual members of staff to really hone in on those differences, why they're different and how the different processes work”. 

Be open and honest

It’s impossible to do a good job if you don’t have the trust of the people you’re working with. If your partners are suspicious of your motives or decisions, you’ll find your working relationship strained (to say the least). The best way to create an environment of mutual trust and respect is to be as open and honest as possible at every stage. Only when people feel comfortable enough to talk frankly  - about everything from their work ideas to their personal circumstances - can a team have the sort of productive conversations that ultimately lead to brilliant services.

“I think the fact that they trusted us has meant that we've been able to explain things to them that might not have actually been the problem we were there to deal with,” Christine says. “There were some issues that, the more we investigated them, the less they looked like a problem. And the fact that we built up a good rapport with them meant that when we went to them and said ‘we don't think there's anything here’, they trusted that.”

“But also, they trusted us to test the different designs, and trusted us enough to let us test data. And it’s had a positive impact on both users and staff, as we’ve been making evidence-based decisions the whole way, which has improved the way this service works forever”.

We've loved helping to improve the ETD service, but in truth we follow a similar process in everything we take on. For CYB, person-centric ways of working really are at the heart of success.

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