Tag Archives: Co-production

Structuring Co-Production

8 Jun

In a previous article, I wrote about the value of focusing on barriers and negative opinions when co-producing a service. In this article, I add to this by suggesting a structure of questioning which can be used to improve the chances of effective co-production.

To re-cap, co-production is a method of designing services which involves all stakeholder parties at all stages of service development. For example, this means involving leaders who are proposing the service, frontline workers who will be delivering the service, and in the case of the public sector, citizens who will be receiving\accessing the service. All these stakeholders would be involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of the service.

A focus group format is a popular mechanism for capturing a variety of different stakeholder views in one place. A focus group provides a chance for stakeholders to hear from a wider perspective of people and examine ways in which opposing views could be synthesised, making this method popular for co-production. If a focus group format is going to be used, what structure should the questions take to be most effective?

A potential structure is to ask the focus group respondents to write down some of their key views before sharing with the group. This disaggregates errors, a condition where participants are commenting mostly on each other’s opinions rather than expressing their own (see Kahneman, 2011 for examples). To support this, the focus group participants should be asked to reflect on three levels when writing down their views. The three levels are summarized below-

  • How do stakeholders think the proposed service will affect them personally?

For example, a frontline worker might reflect on how the service would affect their personal routine and how it might enhance or dissolve their success.

  • How do stakeholders think the proposed service would affect other members of their team or other members of their community?

This level is asking the respondent to reflect beyond their personal experience and compare this to people they work with or live among. This answer could contrast with the earlier level. For example, if the proposed new service is built around technology a frontline worker might be concerned about how they would personally be able to apply the technology, whilst reflecting that other members of their team would thrive.

  • What do stakeholders believe are the leadership intentions behind the proposed changes?

At this level, participants are invited to reflect what they think the leadership’s intentions are behind introducing the new service. For example, some members of the public might see it as purely a cost saving exercise which ultimately diminishes quality. This question provides an opportunity for everyone to understand the mind set which generates opinions and intentions. Without clear knowledge of the intent behind the varied stakeholder views, the potential for misunderstanding and conflict is high.

The third level provides a space for different stakeholders to understand how each other are approaching the new service, and once this is shared, the awareness makes it easier to understand the source of different stakeholder views and work towards shared understanding, and ultimately effective co-production.


Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

Co-Production Begins with The Barriers

9 May

Effective co-production begins with a focus on the barriers, on what could go wrong, from all stakeholder perspectives. I explain why in this article, and suggest a simple, easy to use technique which allows us to strategically befriend barriers.

Co-production makes perfect sense. In the public sector, involving citizens and communities who have lived experience of the conditions leaders are attempting to positively change, and frontline workers who interact between leaders and citizens on a constant basis, is an effective way to better, more adaptable and more resilient strategies. However, it can be a difficult process if not approached with true openness.

Essential to effective co-production is a commitment to sharing power and understanding the mind sets and experience of other stakeholders. When designing a new service, each stakeholder group has a view of what the service could look like and the barriers which might prevent the services success. The argument here is that paying attention to what each stakeholder group feels could go wrong, the barriers, provides the sharpest insight into their world view and improves the chances of effective co-production.

There can be frustrations over the barriers each group of stakeholders perceive, and frustrations over how easy to remove and how important those barriers are to different groups and individuals. Barriers are built on past experiences, unique histories and the anticipated reactions of others. This is what makes them so important and sometimes so hard to integrate, they illustrate what a person notices, ignores, fears and how they make sense of their environment. Barriers represent what keeps integration apart, and careful examination of them allows us to examine ways of removing or reducing them.

Barriers highlight what stakeholders consider risky, their appetite for innovation, technology and how much trust they have and support they feel they need. It is important to fully understand and embrace each of these view points from each stakeholder perspective as they help to construct positive approaches to change.

Data on stakeholder barriers allow strategies to be constructed on models which ENABLE people. A good strategy should aim to deliver by removing and reducing barriers, and then allowing stakeholders to adapt what they already do well to the new service. This only happens when strategies enhance people and their experiences, not put a new process first.

The above are reasons why collecting quality data on barriers requires careful thought in effective co-production. Simply asking a mixed group of stakeholders to highlight their own barriers can be illustrative, but quite often groups react to each other’s answers as opposed to providing their own unique perspective. A method of effectively collecting barriers is through the de-correlation of errors.

De-correlation of errors is very simple in this context. It removes the potential problem of everyone basing their views on the first idea which was voiced in the room as opposed to their own unique perspective. The method achieves this by asking every stakeholder to prepare their answers to a short series of questions BEFORE consultation. When the consultation begins, every stakeholder is asked to read their own unique response, whilst other stakeholders listen.

This introduces the stakeholders to each other through their own perception of the situation, facilitating richer data and greater understanding of individual and group positions. In a future article, I’ll introduce how a technique like de-correlation of errors can be used within a broader co-production frame work focused on removing and reducing barriers.


Very good 1 page co-production model from NHS England


The value of de-correlating errors appears in this excellent interview below with Danny Kahneman and Gary Klein

McKinsey Classic Interview

Some related reading from this blog


General reading on the methodology behind error de-correlation

Kahneman, D (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin

Klein, G. (2007) The Power of Intuition: How to Use Your Gut Feelings to Make Better Decisions at Work. Currency