“I don’t read many books but I have read the Happy Manifesto,” explained the GCHQ Head of IT, speaking at the recent Spark the Change conference. “And it makes sense. We have found, for instance, that if you let people set their own targets, they set tougher targets and are more likely to achieve them.”

He gave the example of their tech support people. With security concerns at the forefront, it had always been a long process to book out a laptop if you needed one when travelling. In fact the agreed response time was two weeks from application.

“It was clear we needed to shorten it. If it had been left to me to set the target, then I would have probably set it at one day – a huge improvement on where we were. We left it to the team. They set the target at 5 minutes. When they achieved that, they reduced it to two minutes. They have now got it down to one minute.”

GCHQ colleagues at the conference confirmed this was true: “The difference is amazing. It genuinely takes less than a minute to book a laptop out now. You don’t even have to fill in a form.” (The tech staff now fill in the required form afterwards, a key step in getting the time down from 5 minutes to 1.)

What could your people achieve if you let them set their own targets?

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