On 15th March Socia hosted our annual Collaborative Leadership seminar. This year our speaker was the Transport Commissioner for London, Mike Brown. We’ve worked with Mike over many years and he was keen to talk about the collaboration lessons he has learned in different roles at London Underground and Heathrow Airport – and the different challenges posed by his new job in charge of all Transport for London services. The scale of the role is enormous. In the 12 months to March 2015 there were 1.3 Billion passenger journeys on the Tube, and another 2.4 Billion on TfL buses – but it doesn’t stop there and Mike was very clear that he saw two key responsibilities in his job as: supporting London’s future growth; whilst delivering a reliable service.

It’s no surprise that collaboration was a large part of the conversation: collaboration between TfL and its suppliers/partners; collaboration with the London Boroughs; and of course collaboration with the travelling public – Mike described how by providing timely information to passengers people could make informed choices about when and how they travel which in turn reduced congestion and increased overall capacity. The experience of the 2012 Olympics showed just how successful these ‘demand management’ plans could be. But he didn’t see collaboration as a panacea – just a tool that could be applied in particular situations where there was mutual benefit from that way of working.

That comment struck a chord with the theme of Socia’s presentation at the event which described a world in which consumers and public service users expect services which are integrated at the point of delivery. This expectation extends from NHS patients to hi-tech smartphone users who will increasingly complain if ‘things just aren’t joined up’. But the paradox for leaders today is that these integrated services will have to be delivered by an ever more diverse / globalised / outsourced supply base. No-one is going to build a vertically integrated service delivery organisation in the commercial world or in public service any more, so getting efficient at joining up services, removing interface costs, and synchronising operations are key areas of focus for a successful collaborative leader in our eyes.

This is a theme we will be expanding in future posts – so watch this space.