If decommissioning is to be successful, certain skills and competencies need to be in place, namely:
- change management skills;
- stakeholder management skills; and
- commissioning skills.
Change management skills
Like effective commissioning, decommissioning is a change process and requires a range of competencies and skills associated with managing often highly complex, participative and transformative change processes. Commissioners need to be able to:
- Ensure people understand why change is needed and how it is relevant to them;
- Provide good leadership with the commitment, skills and ability to make change happen;
- Be clear about the vision and intended outcomes;
- Communicate and engage simply, consistently and in a way relevant to all partners;
- Empower people and organisations including rewarding achievements;
- Create short-term wins by outlining early objectives and outcomes that are easy to achieve;
- Not give up – you need, and should encourage, determination and persistence; and
- Make change stick – changes made will need to be woven into cultures.
Stakeholder engagement skills
Good stakeholder engagement, important in the commissioning process, is widely regarded as even more important when decommissioning. Decommissioning requires commissioners to be sensitive to the impact of their decisions on service providers and users and to manage the uncertainty and fear that can arise when decommissioning is being considered. To achieve this, it is crucial for commissioners to:
Not be afraid of having difficult conversations;
Accept the anger of users, providers and the wider community;
Adopt a consistent and flexible approach to communication;
Avoid being driven by political or personal beliefs; and
Be honest – about the situation, the rationale for decommissioning, and the process.
Third sector organisations (TSOs) highlighted that an open and honest approach helped them to feel less anxious and to understand better the position of the commissioner.
Good commissioning skills in general and procurement, tendering and contract issuing skills in particular, remain important. Poor decommissioning is more likely to occur if services have been poorly commissioned in the past, see Practical example:
Practical example – Poor commissioning leads to poor decommissioning
A commissioner had been automatically re-tendering a service for several years. However, the next re-tendering came up when the funding for that service needed to stop. There was no allowance in the contract for its cessation or whether and what consequential costs of the service provider would be met.
The lack of thought in the original contract about staffing costs on contract termination left the commissioner in a weak position. The commissioner agreed to pay the notice period of staff that would have transferred under Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) if the service has been continued with a different service provider. But it was unclear whether that was cost- effective or the right thing to do.
It is important that commissioners establish clear contracts that set out what will happen, and who is responsible for taking what action, to cover any potential decommissioning situation. Similarly, poor ongoing contract management was often cited during our research as an issue.