Serco wins two Operational Excellence awards for successful project at HMP Ashfield

The Institute of Continuous Improvement in Public Services (ICiPS) recognised Serco with two Operational Excellence (OE) awards at their 2020 annual conference.

The first award recognised the collaboration between HMP Ashfield and Serco’s central OE Team for developing prisoner problem solving capability in order to support their rehabilitation. The second award recognised the whole company for embedding a culture of continuous improvement.

ICiPS is an independent charity launched by the Cabinet Office in 2012 to ‘embed continuous improvement in delivery of public services through education’. ICiPS gave the collaboration award to HMP Ashfield and the OE Team for delivering Yellow Belt training and certification to prisoners, which is a unique service in the worldwide justice sector.

The Yellow Belt (YB) OE training scheme looks at the assessment and improvement of existing systems at work using a four step process. Step one: defining the problem in an existing process. Step two: understanding the causes of the problem. Step three: implementing a solution for each identified root cause. Step four: creating systems that help to sustain the solutions and preventing the problem from reappearing. 

Katie Walters-Jones (Assistant Director at HMP Ashfield) headed a YB project to support prisoner resettlement and improve performance against a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) target for prisoners to maintain employment six weeks after release from prison. It was thought YB training for prisoners could help support this initiative.

The first thing to happen was to adapt Serco YB training material to suit a prison environment which consisted of a process simulation with exercises to practice Operational Excellence (OE) tools. This was then delivered to ten prisoners at HMP Ashfield in May 2019. Each prisoner had then to complete two small improvement projects to become YB certified. They were supported through coaching internally by Tom Barker (Contract Business Services Manager) and a YB trained prisoner (Orderly) who became an OE Prisoner Lead and then externally by the Operational Excellence Team who signed off each project.

By October 2019, seven prisoners had completed 14 improvement projects and attended a certification ceremony. Reflecting on their achievement, the men said that the YB training had been a great learning experience that they felt would help with their resettlement and employment prospects upon release.

After training, the prisoners completed improvement projects with coaching support from HMP Ashfield and the OE Team. The improvement projects delivered a range of benefits which improved safety, quality, delivery, cost and people. One prisoner at Ashfield used their YB project to reduce bread waste in the prison by 50%, whilst another used their project to reduce the number of electrical items found out of date with their Portable Appliance Tests (PAT) by 75%. 

The purpose of providing Yellow Belt problem solving training to prisoners was to support their rehabilitation and enhance their employment prospects upon release. It also empowered prisoners to improve processes within the prison and strengthened their relationships with custodial staff.

Serco certified the prisoners as Yellow Belts which is externally accredited by ICiPS. This provides formal recognition for their achievements and congratulates them for a job well done.

The ICiPS collaboration award recognises an ‘outstanding commitment to improve performance, working as one and going above and beyond contractual commitments to provide exceptional and sustained improvement’.

ICiPS also recognised Serco with a second award; the CEO special award which is given to an organisation for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to embedding a culture of continuous improvement.

Debbie Simpson, ICiPS Chief Executive Officer, said: “Over the past few years ICiPS has witnessed Serco make a radical shift in their approach to continuous improvement. It has been embedded at every level in the organisation worldwide. It is woven into every step of the employee life cycle. Each discipline, from HR to finance, work together to ensure continuous improvement is the way work is done. Not only this, but their continuous improvement ethos extends to the way they work with their customers and suppliers. They are very worthy winners and I offer heartiest congratulations.”

Everyone in Serco plays a role in our continuous improvement journey, from our executive leaders, to managers and our front-line employees. This award recognises the contribution of every employee for making a difference every day.