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The Method and Its Philosophy

SPRINT is a change and innovation method developed specifically for the public sector. It is the core of a suite of initiatives designed to foster learning and best-practice in public sector renewal. It is underpinned by a philosophy that sees successful public-sector change as emanating from a fertile environment in which leading-edge knowledge, methods and techniques are made available.

Amongst SPRINT's characteristics are the following:

  • It encourages intelligence gathering and informed decision-making.
  • It encourages accountability and participation.
  • It is related to other products providing knowledge and strategy on topics such as radical innovation, leadership.

Its development arises from the idea of 'capacity building', i.e. providing resources and methods that encourage learning and development within the public sector. It reflects the observation that many in the public sector are committed to change and ideals of progress and community value, and that new knowledge and methods can help them in achieving this.


The title SPRINT reflects its origins in Salford City Council: Salford Process Reengineering Involving New Technology. There, its development has principally been fostered by Mike Willetts, Director of ICT. For Mike, SPRINT has been a key component in his vision of an innovative, business-led IT function.

Mike developed a collaborative relationship with David Wastell, now Professor at Nottingham University, and Peter Kawalek, now of Manchester Business School. David and Peter had collaborated for a number of years in the development of process methods and techniques, across the insurance, telecommunications and software industries. Together they sat down to write the first draft of SPRINT. The aim was that it should be a flexible method, based upon good social science research techniques, and helping to foster engagement in change projects.

At this time, David and Peter were developing their ideas around the 'capacity building' approach set out above. They were keen to use SPRINT as a focus for shared learning around best-practice, and leading-edge methods and techniques. In the meantime, there remained the problem of getting SPRINT off the ground in Salford . The very first SPRINT project was carried out by David and Peter themselves. It concerned decision-making in the council at the time of the conversion to Cabinet government. It was one of a series of projects that would make the two academics a familiar sight in many offices and meetings of Salford Council. Alongside this, Mike Willetts was working on the utilization of SPRINT within Salford , and soon a BPR team was established under the management of Ewen Locke. The Salford initiatives were soon to develop further when Maura Brooks and Martin Vickers adopted SPRINT in the development of Salford 's new Customer Services operation. Customer Services quickly developed a national reputation and was to lead to SPRINT's use within the inspirational Benefits project.

Many SPRINT projects followed in Salford as Mike and Ewen extended their team. There was also an increasing level of interest from outside the council, as the original version of SPRINT was developed and disseminated through Salford 's participation in the ODPM Pathfinder programme.

The Birth of the User Group

As stated, dissemination of SPRINT to the wider community was originally handled directly by Salford City Council. Today there is a more sophisticated structure, centred on the user-group and board chaired by Joanne Hopkins of Leeds City Council, formerly of Lincolnshire CC. Joanne is assisted by board members Ewen Locke (Salford), Bevis Sydney(London Borough of Lambeth), Dave Wastell (Nottingham University) and Peter Kawalek (Manchester Business School). Appropriately, the first meeting was held in Salford in May, 2004.

The user group allows the application and future development of SPRINT to be discussed in an open forum. Case studies of its use are being gathered from across the sector. The user-group also allows people to come together to discuss key challenges and issues in public sector reform. These include the requirement for radical business transformation, e-government, national priorities and other current issues such as entrepreneurship.

SPRINT Today and Tomorrow

Today, SPRINT is a key part of the reform programmes of many public sector agencies. There are also many related developments. A new Public Sector Innovation Group has been formed at Manchester Business School , under the direction of Peter Kawalek and with David Wastell as Research Director. This group has worked with Salford in contributing key change management methods to the ODPM National CRM Project. These include special reports on Innovation Strategy, Leadership, Information and Empowerment and Government Reputation. A Maturity Tool has also been developed for the same programme. This has been designed to assess the readiness of councils for the development of customer service strategies.

SPRINT training courses have been developed. These are run jointly by team members from Salford City Council and Manchester Business School . A mentoring package will be developed alongside this supported by SPRINT practitioners who have used SPRINT extensively. The research agenda continues to progress, with key issues being addressed through masters and doctoral projects at Manchester Business School and UMIST. Salford City Council has also maintained its interest in setting the local government agenda, recently sponsoring the Think Customer Guidebook.

Looking forward, the SPRINT user-community is continuing to grow, and success stories are coming in from different authorities. There is no magic nor guarantee in SPRINT, but perhaps that is refreshing. For many years, perhaps, public sector change has been blighted by hype and over-complexity. Increasingly, agencies seem to respond to the original 'capacity building' philosophy that motivated SPRINT.

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