Having a Value-focused Culture: Continually Improving to Face the Challenges of Austerity


This publication explains the nature and importance of organisational culture in relation to continuous performance improvement (CPI) and value for money (VFM), provides a tool to assess your current culture, and practical guidance on how to improve it.







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While value for money (VFM) has been a key part of public service management for many decades, the onset of financial and economic austerity has given it a new degree of importance and priority. While everyone would agree that the public services should deliver the best VFM with the public resources at its disposal, the extent to which this goal is actually achieved is hotly debated.

Much of the debate on public services tends to be political in nature including questions such as:

  • what public expenditures should be protected?
  • where cuts should be made and how big?
  • whether taxes or borrowing should be increased to avoid the cuts being made?

This publication aims to focus on managerial issues concerning how well the public sector is using the billions of public funds already at its disposal, whether it is used optimally, and how the situation might improve on an ongoing basis. This may be referred to as continuous performance improvement (CPI) of which VFM is a part.

Much of what is written about CPI/VFM concerns technical issues such as benchmarking, data analysis, public consultation, process review, and project management. However, evidence suggests that perhaps the most important factor is for there to be an organisational culture that encourages, empowers and incentivises employees at all levels in the organisation to search for ongoing improvements.

Research evidence included in this publication suggests that organisation cultures focused on CPI/VFM are not well developed in the UK public services and in other countries. Developing such cultures is not an easy task.

This publication:

  • explains the nature and importance of organisational culture in relation to CPI/VFM
  • provides a tool to assess your current organisational culture in terms of the focus on CPI/VFM, and
  • provides practical guidance on improving the culture by focusing on the most important dimensions of CPI/VFM culture. The examples have been distilled from the experiences of eight public service organisations regarded as exemplars in this field.

This publication is only available as an online version.

It has both searchable HTML and a bookmarked downloadable PDF of the publication that can be shared throughout your organisation. Customers will need to register and login to CIPFA’s website to access the publication.

Details of licensing arrangements for other categories of purchaser, which includes those organisations operating shared service arrangements, are available from CIPFA’s Publications Department.

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