Kafka Research Method
The Kafka research method has been applied on numerous cases in the Netherlands and across Wales, varying from migrant entrepreneurs; to people with disabilities; to young people not in employment, education or training (so-called NEETs). We work within the following six-step framework:
PHASE ONE – Diagnosis
Step 1: Explorative research & case selection
The Brigade begins by conducting an initial appraisal of the problem. Firstly, we scope out the current understanding of the problem, and why the current situation has arisen. This is a qualitative exercise, drawing on the knowledge and insights of key contacts. Secondly, we build a fresh picture of the people – usually the service users – the project is aimed at assisting, by drawing together research and management information from across all relevant agencies. At the end of step 1, we therefore have a first cut perception of the problem, and a statistical profile of the people involved.
Step 2: Case research & preliminary reports
Next, we seek to understand the problem more deeply from the citizen / service user perspective. We conduct a detailed investigation of the needs and service experience of a small number of people (often just one or two) who statistically are typical of the population in focus. This step involves detailed interviews with citizens and dossier analysis. Three preliminary reports are prepared: (i) the citizen’s story, sometimes accompanied by a short movie-interview; (ii) a step by step ‘flow chart’ of the citizen’s interactions with services; and (iii) an early set of hypotheses and list of emerging issues.
Step 3: Expert critique of the preliminary analysis
The purpose of this step is to test the representativeness of the issues identified so far with another key source of expertise: front line staff. Where issues are validated, we then explore what’s causing them, directly and indirectly, again with front line staff but also with managers, senior executives, policy makers and other experts as needed. By the end of the step, we have a deeper understanding of key issues, and are ready to trigger creative, collaborative problem solving.
PHASE TWO – Galvanising Change
Step 4: Collective performance review
By step 4, it’s time to bring everyone with a stake in solving the problem together. The collective performance review is a carefully planned and facilitated workshop bringing together everyone necessary to address the issues identified in the same place, at the same time – members of the public, front line staff, managers, policy professionals, politicians and other concerned parties. The meeting is moderated to ensure that all participants are engaged, focused and committed to solving the problem. Not by talking about grand (re)designs, or simply pointing fingers or blaming the system, but by formulating small first steps. The three outcomes of this meeting are, respectively, to (i) arrive at a shared definition of the problem, (ii) identify and explore possible solutions, and (iii) agree on an initial set of corrective actions which will lay the foundation for a broader, more systemic remedy. These actions are owned and commitment is reaffirmed.
Step 5: Final recommendations & action plan
We package the agreed actions from the CPR, plus the Kafka Brigade team’s recommendations and observations, into a concise, high impact action plan. Usually the CPR has galvanised the system and identified a range of actions that will really make a difference to the citizens in our sights, but a strategy is then needed to maintain constructive pressure and to drive action on more complex or strategic ideas emerging from the project. Crucially, we also consider how to monitor the impact of the action plan, too.
PHASE THREE- Delivery
Step 6: Follow up
We co-design follow-up support with you during the earlier phases, based on our joint assessment of the barriers to change, local capacity, and the complexity of actions. Key elements include: (i) action owners workshop(s) in which the people who made commitments in the CPR are assisted to work through how they will deliver; (ii) coaching and/or reflection support to the project sponsor and core team to maintain pace and constructive pressure; (iii) a formal checkpoint meeting, 3 to 6 months after the action plan – to hold the system to account collectively for delivery and to remove barriers where action owners may be struggling. Have outcomes improved, tangibly? Have services improved? The checkpoint is again a carefully prepared event, so that the time spent together can be as productive as possible. All three of these follow up mechanisms can be repeated, with consultancy support reducing over time, until significant improvements and innovations have delivered real change for citizens.