Our response to the RSSB Operational Effectiveness Review (2023)
The review assessed whether RSSB is set up to deliver member requirements in Control Period 7 (CP7). It considered the alignment of RSSB's activities with industry strategies. Additionally, it assessed RSSB’s implementation of recommendations made in ORR’s 2016 review of RSSB.
The review primarily focused on core work funded by membership levies, but also considered the mechanisms that exist to ensure there is a balance between member, grant, and commercially funded work.
The review analysed information and documentation provided by RSSB and interviews with key stakeholders, facilitated by RSSB. The final deliverable is a report containing key findings, some general advisory observations and five specific recommendations.
RSSB’s overall response
RSSB is pleased that the review found broad support for the company, and recognition of the improvements it has made since the previous ORR review in 2016. The review noted that RSSB is in a financially and structurally robust position, and it does not identify any significant problems.
Stakeholders stated that RSSB is trusted, credible, independent, and authoritative; acting as industry’s corporate memory and ensuring that industry learns from experience and shares best practice. It is a central source of expertise and assistance and acts as convenor and facilitator across the different sectors of the industry, which often have quite different views, providing a safe space for open discussions.
RSSB considers the review to be robust and supportive of RSSB’s current posture and plans, albeit some parts of the report cannot be considered representative of all members as only a single member view has been accounted for. We seek to capitalise on the advice given to drive continuous improvement across our products and services.
Detailed response to report recommendations
The review identifies five main recommendations, relating to control period planning, member engagement, industry groups, board reviews and standards. RSSB supports all five recommendations and will implement improvements through activities that are either currently underway, or soon to start.
RSSB will implement the five recommendations fully and in a timely fashion. Our proposed responses to the recommendations are detailed below.
Recommendation 1: Create a comprehensive plan for the next five years
‘Create a comprehensive plan for the next five years, using a strategically driven, structured process with early member input, and consideration of uncertainties over the period. This should provide a consistent narrative across all RSSB’s areas of work, with clear prioritisation across them (not just within them) and should show how planned activities link to industry priorities and strategies. It should be clear about how RSSB is setting itself up to deliver the plan, including impacts on costs, resources, and capabilities.’
The RSSB Board approved the CP7 plans for each Strategic Business Area (SBA) in March 2023. The vision for each SBA was agreed, alongside the rationale and detail on what will be undertaken and how it will be achieved. The Board also agreed on those elements that will receive enhanced focus in CP7 and those that will be 'dialled down’. We engage with Devolved Authorities on an ongoing basis and, by way of an example, have recently mapped our current and future activities against Scotland’s CP7 HLOS (High Level Output Specification) requirements.
During July and August 2023 Board members were consulted on the approach to funding RSSB's activities between 2024 and 2029. The consultation process was successful, and members have indicated support for RSSB’s plans enthusiastically and without exception.
The CP7 Strategic Business Plan, highlighting the key activities that RSSB will be undertaking in CP7, is currently being developed and a draft will be shared with RSSB Board for comment in October 2023. The plan will be encapsulated in an engaging and accessible document which emphasises RSSB’s value, impact, and importance. It will focus on six major, cross-cutting, industry issues (aligned to industry priorities and strategies) that RSSB will be addressing:
- safety and health insights for the future
- enabling automation and adapting to AI (Artificial Intelligence) and autonomy
- improving testing capabilities
- unleashing the value of data
- embedding sustainability
- informing weather resilience.
The final CP7 Strategic Business Plan and proposed CP7 funding mechanism will be taken forward to the RSSB Board and Annual General Meeting for approval in November 2023.
Recommendation 2: Improve two-way communication
‘Improve two-way communication with members and stakeholders to provide transparency to members and demonstrate that it recognises their needs and the challenges they are facing. This should include providing clarity on RSSB’s role; demonstrating that it is challenging itself financially; quantifying the benefits of its work and tracking their realisation; and providing transparency on how it prioritises and tracks work. RSSB communications should be proactive and tailored to specific audiences, and the role of non-executive directors representing industry groups should be clarified to set out the expected interaction with those groups. Different members should have clarity over what the membership offering is for them, and in what circumstances they are required to pay for work or services.’
Engagement is a process of continuous improvement, and as an organisation we recognise the need to keep the quality of our communication under regular review. We know the value of two-way communication, as it is not just about listening to our members and understanding their needs, it also underpins the collaboration we undertake to solve challenges together.
A revamped Customer Experience strategy is being formulated. This takes this recommendation into account alongside similar insights gained from member surveys and a third-party review, as well as input from internal workshops and the Board.
The strategy will ensure Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is at the heart of RSSB, developing better journey maps, and monitoring value delivered to ensure we are offering more tailored communication to specific audiences. We are also developing new routine results and feedback mechanisms for both RSSB’s Executive Committee and the RSSB Board.
The opportunities to provide greater clarity on our role, value, delivery, and governance can and will be included within this revamped approach. The report also suggests benefit in greater transparency and mutual understanding about the way we prioritise and undertake work, and how members can participate more effectively. We will consider how best to do this in the round.
Recommendation 3: Review expectations of industry input
‘Review expectations of industry input, including the number of working groups and committees. All types of members should be clear on how they can provide their views. Where entities are attending forums on behalf of others, ensure that this is working effectively.’
In response to the 2016 review we undertook a review and rationalisation of groups. However, in recent years RSSB has introduced further spheres of work (i.e., sustainable development, health and wellbeing) that have necessitated the creation of new groups to ensure robust governance.
The remits of some groups can shift over time, and we have initiated a new review to identify whether these are still relevant to the industry or whether there is a case for aligning or combining groups to remove duplication and ensure efficiency.
RSSB has now commenced the review of groups and committees, focussing on:
- remits – frequency of review, ownership of new groups and group closures
- highlighting duplication of discussion topics and potential for groups to combine
- defining membership and clarifying conditions of membership
- using consistent terminology across groups, with clarity on how they run
- improving internal collaboration between those who are managing groups
- encouraging shared learning between departments internally
- consensus on the obligation for members.
The groups and committees review will result in greater efficiency, improved products, and better customer service for our members. It will be completed by November 2023 with improvements being implemented shortly thereafter.
Recommendation 4: Adhere to the Articles of Association requirements for Board reviews
‘Adhere to the Articles of Association requirements for Board reviews and adopt the 2016 recommendation to consult members and publish findings.’
The Company Secretary will support the Chair in taking this recommendation forward in the most appropriate way. Following, the externally conducted Board stocktake in 2022, the Company Secretary and Chief People Officer are currently supporting the Chair in conducting an in-house Board skills/capabilities self-evaluation exercise. We will discuss with the Chair the most appropriate way to share high level details of this with members, possibly via a short report in the next Annual Report.
Going forward, we will be recommending to the Chair that an external party conduct a formal review every third year. We will then provide a high-level report back to members in the Annual Report. In the intervening years we will carry out an internal review on behalf of the Chair and provide a brief note in the following Annual Report that this has been done.
In addition, we believe that it would be more beneficial to members to be consulted regarding the effectiveness of the organisation (as has been the case with this recent ORR review), as opposed to the effectiveness of the board in isolation.
Recommendation 5: Review industry understanding of, and issues with, standards
‘While standards are not solely the remit of RSSB, it should review industry understanding of, and issues with, standards to see whether RSSB has a role in addressing gaps in understanding and resolving problems identified.’
The lack of industry understanding of standards resonates and we do a lot of work in this area with the routine standards update webinars, specific webinars on individual standards, self-assessment tests, face-to-face briefings for companies and the development of training courses. Training courses are provided on a commercial basis, but for the other activities inevitably there must be a balance between standards development and implementation support.
We will continue to review the industry understanding of standards and address subsequent issues proportionately through existing processes.
For more information
Mike Brown CBE, Chair of RSSB has prepared a cover note for our response to the report:
Cover note on the review of the operational effectiveness of RSSB
For more information read the full report:
ORR Industry Review of RSSB 2023