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Redefining Values and Behaviours for Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service is the largest non-metropolitan fire and rescue service in England. We provide prevention, protection and response services across the counties of Devon and Somerset (including Torbay and Plymouth).

It’s not all about emergency response. Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service staff work tirelessly to provide community safety advice, education and intervention to keep people safe.

Step 1


Innovation Central were kindly invited to conduct a diagnostic exercise for Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) focussing on leadership, culture, performance management and promotion.

The initial diagnostic involved 115 DSFRS colleagues (5% of the population), from a cross section of the organisation. To encourage maximum levels of engagement and diverse participation, a free format approach was adopted across all focus groups, utilising multiple Stations and the Service Head Quarters.

One outcome of the diagnostic enabled colleagues across the Service to identify that the current value set was recognised ‘only in title’ and that the underpinning behavioural indicators were predominantly related to those in a leadership/management role. There was a clear disconnect between their intention and their application.

Innovation Central presented the findings back to the business, challenging the Service to reflect and review how their existing values and behaviours could be owned and demonstrated by all colleagues on a day-to-day basis. The proposed solution needed to build on the awareness of the values that already existed, developing people’s connection to them, in a language they recognised

"IC have been outstanding. They very quickly helped us to realise that our existing values were weak, were not used and could be far more integrated into our promotion and appraisal systems."

Step 2


To capture the views of the business as a collective, it was crucial to go back out amongst colleagues to specifically reengage them as to what the end-product needed to look and feel like. The values and behaviours needed to be shaped by the people, for the people. This was the only way to make them truly representative of the whole organisation and to ensure that they provided a DNA blueprint that each colleague could connect to, display and be proud of.

Working in partnership with the Client, a project plan was created to map out when, where and which people would be involved.

90-minute focus groups of up to 12 colleagues (5 groups per day) were planned, ensuring that those with and without leadership accountability were suitably represented across both the uniformed and non-uniformed areas of the Service.

"Outstanding, as always"

Step 3


A total of 256 colleagues (>10% of the population) were actively engaged in redefining the values and underpinning behaviours.

Colleagues challenged each other to create values that were simple and clear.

The data was collated and analysed to identify the common themes, highlighting the frequency and value relationships across the various descriptive terms that colleagues had used to articulate each value and behaviour. A process of compression and construction was applied, distilling the essence of the statements shared, leaving a maximum of four behavioural statements for each of the four values identified. Finally, these were pressure tested against the existing values and behaviours to ensure all colleagues could recognise that the new statements were a progression/development of those that already existed, rather than a completely new way of working.

"The workshops facilitated by IC were fantastic. They created and provoked thought, encouraged debate, allowed challenge, regardless of how unsophisticated the individuals delivery was!”

Step 4


The final ‘We are’ values and underpinning behaviours were presented back to the project steering group for validation and challenge. Crucially, any suggested amends were cross-referenced against the database of words collated during the focus groups. This ensured that any proposed amends, remained in the language of the people, preserving the integrity of the projects aims.

The documentation has been professionally illustrated (see image), and the database of descriptive terms is being actively used to support the marketing of the new values. Innovation Central continues to work with DSFRS to support the application of the values across the business, working closely with the client to enable the values to become their applied DNA. For example, DSFRS intends to proactively utilise the new behaviours as a means of measuring colleague’s behavioural performance, underpinning the desired and anticipated cultural change that is being driven across the Service. User guides are being created to support colleagues’ ability to measure and give feedback on the values and behaviours as part of their everyday working life as well as part of performance conversations and appraisals.

“IC have done an amazing job on taking the views, language and comments of the workforce, linking them to our old set of values, to the Police values framework yet produce a draft set of values that relate to everyone”.

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