Analytical leadership: How do we make sure the gains we’ve made stay for (the public) good?

To mark Analysis in Government month, OSR Regulator Oliver Fox-Tatum discusses how important analysis has become in our lives, and OSR’s hopes for the future production, use and value of analysis in government.

When I last wrote on this topic back in February, I talked about how the TQV (Trustworthiness, Quality and Value) framework can support us all, analysts and non-analysts alike, to demonstrate analytical leadership when working with statistics, analysis and data.

Shortly afterwards we held an analytical leadership event with a range of presenters, including the National Statistician, Sir Ian Diamond, and the Head of the Policy profession, Tamara Finkelstein. They spoke about the importance of collaboration – interestingly this year’s Analysis in Government month theme – between different groups of people with a stake in the analysis that our governments produce.

Their conversation highlighted just how important good analysis is for ensuring sound decision making – for government and society, to support positive outcomes for citizens. And how, if analysts, policy and their public beneficiaries collaborate to agree the right policy/analysis questions to start with, the value and impact of analysis (for the public good) can be maximised.

We also heard great perspectives on the value of transparency from the Chief Digital Officer for Welsh Government, and from the Head of the Evaluation Task Force, highlighting how, when governments take an open approach to data about themselves, this supports confidence in both the data and in the decisions based on them – as well as truly helping to establish what works!

The future is bright!

The event brought home to me just how important analysis and analytical thinking has become in all our lives. The public don’t recognise the old boundaries between government statistics, analysis, research and data (if they ever really did), and the thirst for more timely information has continued. But how do we bolster the advances made by analysts through the pandemic and safeguard them for the future?

For government analysis to continue to serve the wider public good beyond the pandemic, and answer society’s most important questions, we all have a responsibility to demonstrate analytical leadership when working with analysis and data. But this goes beyond analytical skills and techniques alone. And it also goes beyond analysts.

Analysts do need to show continued leadership by confidently reaching out within and beyond their professions, collaborating to answer important questions. And governments need to show leadership by truly recognising the value of government analysis as an asset for informing public life, as well as for policy and decision making.

And when governments take an open approach to data about themselves, such as demonstrating transparency with data that is in the public interest, they can support public confidence in both the data, and the policy decisions based on them. (We drew similar conclusions in our work on statistical leadership last year).

So to safeguard the substantial advances made by government analysts through the pandemic, to support good outcomes for citizens and serve society’s need for information, we must all demonstrate analytical leadership when working with analysis and data.

That’s a really powerful position to be in, but one we think is hugely important. And, as everyone already knows, with great power, comes great responsibility! That includes responsibility for… 

…how analysis is Produced

By ‘thinking TQV’ when planning and producing analysis we can ensure we:

  • collaborate across professional boundaries to identify key analytical questions
  • take a transparent and accessible approach to the publication of analysis
  • strengthen links between analytical professions around shared standards, values and priorities.

…how analysis is Used

We can stand up for how analysis is used and protect its accurate interpretation by committing to:

  • publish analysis in ways that enhance its appropriate interpretation by all
  • uphold the integrity of analytical evidence, with all officials challenging misuse or misinterpretation and correcting the record where necessary
  • ensure all policy is based on robust evidence and evaluation

… and how analysis is Valued

When analysis is valued, both its production and use is supported. We therefore want to see:

  • senior leaders champion strong analytical insights and cultures and support and resource innovation to answer key public and policy questions
  • government analysis recognised as an essential public asset offering considerable value for society, especially when published
  • greater opportunities for analysts to progress their careers to the highest levels of government

We expand on our thinking against each of these themes here.

We need your help

In OSR, we believe that the principles which we apply to statistics are valuable more widely. By working together around these ideas and the drawing on the TQV framework, OSR would like to see the power of government analysis to improve the lives of citizens more fully recognised, and its future production and use, better supported.

But we’d love to know what you think.

We’re now taking forward our previous work on statistical leadership under a broader ‘analytical leadership’ theme. We’re looking to speak to a range of people that use data and analysis in their work (analysts from different professions, non-analysts in policy, communications, digital and other roles etc) – to explore ways analytical leadership might be strengthened.

So if you’ve been affected by any of the themes raised in this blog, please get in touch via:  

We’ll look forward to speaking with you.

TQV: support for Analytical leadership!

Statistics Regulator Oliver Fox-Tatum explores what we mean by effective analytical leadership and how our TQV (Trustworthiness, Quality and Value) framework supports this.

So… what do we mean by Analytical leadership? 

Effective analytical leadership ensures that the right data and analyses are available, and that analysts are skilled and resourced to answer society’s most important questions.  

Crucially, it ensures that data and analyses are used at the right time to inform key decisions, and that they are communicated clearly and transparently. When done well, this supports confidence in the analyses themselves, but also in the decisions based on these analyses.  

We began exploring this concept in our review of statistical leadership last year and see the review’s findings as relevant for all government analysis produced across the UK. 

But I’m not an analyst… is this relevant for me?  

Yes! Everyone in government has an important role in championing the use of analytical evidence and being confident in engaging with analytical experts.   

Whether as a senior minister communicating analysis publicly; an official drawing on analytical evidence for a policy decision, or for an external communication; or an analyst showing leadership in the provision of new data to answer the most important question of the day, strong analytical leadership needs to be demonstrated at all levels and parts of government.  

We all have a stake in ensuring that the data and analyses produced and used across the UK can realise their full potential in supporting: 

  • vital operational and policy decision making 
  • confidence in the analyses and in the decisions based on them 
  • citizens’ and society’s broader information needs – the wider public good. 

How does the TQV (Trustworthiness, Quality and Value) framework support this? 

The usefulness of TQV is as a simple framework – thinking about TrustworthinessQuality and Value as a set of prompts is useful in challenging individuals, teams and organisations about how they approach their work and achieve their goals.  

Stopping to reflect can be a powerful means to think again, to see what works and what else can be done. It is helpful for everyone using data and analysis in their work – not just for analysts, but non-analysts too – and is a particularly valuable tool as a culture of TQV evolves. 

When considered together (and they always should be!) the TQV pillars form a pyramid of strength that ensures that:  

  • the Value (V) of analysis for decision making and the information needs of citizens and wider society is maximised;  
  • the Quality (Q) of the data and methods used is assured;  
  • and the Trustworthiness (T) of both the data and decisions based on them, is supported.  

So, when a government minister invests in the analytical capability of a department by providing additional resources for training, or new IT infrastructure to support automation … they are thinking T and Q. And when they choose to publish management information around a key policy area of wider public interest for transparency, that is thinking T and V! 

Or when a press officer checks the accuracy of the text alongside a chart to be used in a Tweet with an analytical colleague before posting – that is thinking Q. Or if a policy colleague reaches out to an analytical team when developing a new performance measure for a key policy – that is thinking Q and V!  

And not least, when an analyst pushes to attend to a key policy meeting to develop their skills and knowledge in an emerging policy area – they are thinking V. Or their permanent secretary asks them to provide an account of the latest published evidence at a press briefing as they value their objectivity, professionalism, expertise and insight as an organisational asset – that is thinking TQV!  

It’s true to say that T, Q and V are equally important and shouldn’t be considered in isolation, as each support and reinforce each other.   

But crucially, if we all take time to stop and think TQV when working with data and analysis, we can ensure we are truly supporting confidence in those analyses and the range of important decisions that they inform, as well as ensuring that they serve the public good.  



Understanding rough sleeping during a pandemic

Have you wondered how many of the people who’ve been helped off the streets since the start of lockdown, now have somewhere permanent to live? At OSR, we think it is important this information is published and accessible, and we are working with statistics producers across the UK to encourage the development of new and improved data and statistics in this important area.

The pandemic is placing an urgent focus on the experiences and needs of rough sleepers, and the broader homeless. This is due to the increased risks that they face from being unable to isolate themselves safely, and because many of them already experience poor health.

The terms ‘homeless’ and ‘rough sleeper’ are used interchangeably in public debate. People sleeping rough are the most visible form of homelessness, but there are other large, less visible groups of individuals without somewhere permanent to live and many others who are vulnerable to becoming either homeless or to sleeping rough, at any given time.

Unprecedented actions by governments and charities across the UK to provide emergency accommodation to rough sleepers or homeless people at risk of rough sleeping, are creating important new questions, such as:

  • how many individuals have now found more permanent accommodation?
  • how many people have already, or may in future, return to sleeping rough or become homeless?

Can these questions be fully answered?

Official UK statistics on rough sleeping, and homelessness more broadly, whilst developing in different ways in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland due to different approaches to homelessness policy and criteria for state support, have all been subject to recent innovations.

Recent developments which have enhanced the overall public value of the available official statistics by closing gaps in the evidence base include:

These developments are helping to ensure that official government figures better reflect the range of lived experiences of people who are homeless in the UK. But robust statistical evidence needed to answer key questions about the experiences of UK rough sleepers since the start of the pandemic is still lacking.

New management information on the numbers of rough sleepers, and those at risk of rough sleeping, who have been provided with emergency accommodation since the start of lockdown is now being collected by UK councils. However, this management information is not always recorded consistently, and in many cases remains unpublished.

We expect new emerging data in this area to be made publicly available when used in official public statements, and welcome the efforts of the statisticians involved in making this happen in England and Wales, where some data has been published on the numbers of rough sleepers or those at risk of rough sleeping who have been provided with emergency accommodation. The latest data for England also includes information on the number of people provided with settled, hostel or supported accommodation or since the pandemic began. Notwithstanding this progress, there is a clear and urgent need for more comprehensive, timely and accessible UK official statistics about the circumstances of the homeless and rough sleepers since the start of the pandemic. Without such evidence, these and other important questions about the experiences of these vulnerable people will remain unanswered.

We are therefore encouraged to see that UK statisticians and analysts are working together to look at ways to bring together rough sleeping statistics from across the landscape, and provide clarity on the comparability of these statistics across the UK. We hope they continue to work together to innovate and develop new statistics, to ensure that the current and future circumstances of some of the most vulnerable people in society during the pandemic, are better understood.

Developing a fuller picture

The true public value of homelessness and rough sleeping statistics lies in bringing together the separate official measures of homelessness and rough sleeping, with other robust and insightful evidence, to develop a richer, better integrated and coherent statistical picture of homelessness and rough sleeping in the UK. This includes drawing on newer case-level and longitudinal approaches, management information, and other research, to better understand how people move in and out of homelessness and rough sleeping over time, and to more fully convey the dynamics and complexity of the UK homelessness and rough sleeping picture.

We trust that senior leaders will support government statisticians in their efforts to achieve this, and provide the resources they need to share new methods, new data, and expertise for innovation and enhanced insights, while maintaining existing official statistics production.

Only with a fuller picture, drawing on a range of robust sources of statistics and further evidence, will government statistics be able to fully represent the lived experiences of homeless people in the UK. And only then will governments, charities and other key decision makers be able to truly support them to find ways out of the extremely difficult circumstances that they face.