168 – A series: Managers as designers in local government. Part 1.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              800 words

empathy hand holding

This is the first in a series of four posts on managers as designers in local government. It might seem like an esoteric topic and hardly relevant, however, every day managers make design decisions, often in ignorance. There is now a body of work on how managers can use design-thinking to improve the customer experience and organisational decision making. I challenge you to say it is irrelevant to your council.

Some years ago I read a book called ‘Managers as Designers in the Public Services’ by David Wastell (Professor of Information Systems at Nottingham University Business School). It made a lasting impression on me. Continue reading

166 – Long read: Understanding the customer experience in local government.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                         260 words

service guarantee

There have been a number of posts on services and customer service, with the most recent by Lancing Farrell . Each post has explored a different aspect of service or customer service. This post looks at customer experience using two excellent articles from the Harvard Business Review as a guide; the first is ‘Understanding Customer Experience’ by Christopher Meyer and Andre Schwager, and the second is ‘Lean consumption’ by James Womack and Daniel Jones.

In their article, Meyer and Schwager describe the customer experience as encompassing

“… every aspect of a company’s offering the quality of customer care, of course, but also advertising, packaging, product and service features, ease of use, and reliability.’

They make the point that in many organisations few of the people responsible for each of these activities have thought about how their separate decisions contribute to the overall customer experience. Worse still, if they do think about it, they all have different ideas and there is no one senior who oversees everyone’s efforts to bring agreement on what needs to be done.   This is local government’s problem with service delivery in a nutshell.

Womack and Jones define ‘lean consumption’ as ‘minimising customers’ time and effort and delivering exactly what they want when and where they want it’. They see it as transforming consumption in the same way that lean production transformed manufacturing. It involves customers and service providers collaborating to ‘reduce total cost and wasted time and create new value’.

How are these two ideas relevant to the local government customer experience? Read on …

160 – Making a local government service catalogue. Part 2: What to do with it?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                      630 words

service category

In the first post I described a service catalogue and looked at where (and how) to start making one. This post discusses what to do next to refine the service catalogue and use it to improve organisational performance. I have no doubt that a service catalogue is essential to starting a discussion with the community about services required in a rate capped operating environment, however it should also drive continuous improvement by providing a focus for service reviews.

The ‘first cut’ service catalogue that defines services from the customer viewpoint and links that view to organisational structure, is really just the start.

Further analysis is required to determine the link between the service catalogue and organisational strategic plans (especially the council plan). This can be achieved by coding the spreadsheet of cost centres with the themes or key objectives or themes in the plans. This will allow further analysis by pivoting on different criteria. What is the link between council plan objectives, customer defined services and cost centres? Continue reading

159 – Making a local government service catalogue. Part 1: Where do you start?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                         740 words

service catalogue food images

Across local government in Victoria councils are starting to discuss core and non-core services and the need to make a service catalogue – in other words, list of all the services they provide. In part this interest has been sparked by rate capping and the need to better understand where revenue is going. Any council attempting to increase rates above the Essential Services Commission cap will need an argument that is supported by their community. So what is a service catalogue?

In its simplest form it is a list of all the services a council offers, and by default, anything not on the list is not offered. It doesn’t mean that other services can’t be offered but there will need to be consideration of the costs and benefits before committing to do so. The list will need to be controlled once it has been made.  Deciding what services you will and won’t offer (and who will and won’t receive them) is at the heart of strategy. Continue reading

142 – A question. If I was the CEO what would I do? Answer: Focus the change effort.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                            740 words

boat builder CEO

I am sure being a CEO isn’t easy. The political environment in Australia is difficult and even more so in local government where the politicians are unpaid and not supported by political parties. There are many other pressures from the external environment – i.e. changing State government legislated responsibilities and increasing oversight of council operations; contentious urban growth and renewal planning decisions; inadequate State services for transport, education and health; and changing community expectations of service. So, if it was me, what would I do?

To begin I would not let the limitations and problems of the political and external environments dominate my management of the organisation. They are both urgent and sometimes important. However, they are not easily influenced and can take all of top management’s time and energy for little return. By all means be engaged and influence where you can but my approach would be to put my effort where no one else can and where I will get the best return.

By doing this, I think there would also be an improvement in the political environment and a stronger position to tackle the external pressures.

What do I mean? I would get my house in order. I would ensure that the resources at my disposal are used to create the maximum value for the community that has provided them. My goal would be for every ratepayer and resident to love living in my municipality. They would love it so much that they would tell all of their friends about it. They would offer to pay more for the services that they or their neighbours need. Every day social media would have stories of the great experiences people have had dealing with the council and the surprisingly good value they received.

Expectations would be met for basic service and exceeded where the value is visible and appreciated. This is the value capture that Sayan Chatterjee  talks about – councils don’t want people to value the services they provide and to offer to pay more so that the council can make a profit. Councils are not in that business. Instead, councils want them to be loyal customers who enjoy the value they get from paying their taxes. That enjoyment and loyalty is the value capture.

I wouldn’t ignore the outside world but I would want to be leading an organisation that redefines community expectations and delivers outstanding value. Here is how I would do that in order.

  1. Provide a more inclusive and less autocratic management style that suits local government culture and organisations expected to work that way with their customers.
  2. Set clear strategy – who are/are not customers; what service will/will not be provided to them; and how will it be done efficiently using available resources.
  3. Improve the customer focus by putting customers first (I mean really putting them first, not just saying it) through understanding the value they expect and designing services to provide it within available resources, now and in the long-term.
  4. Create better processes to make decisions and delegate more decision making and empower staff throughout the organisation so that more decisions are made and faster.
  5. Establish greater accountability by setting expectations and measuring performance so that feedback is provided to support achievement and create a performance-orientated culture.
  6. Focus innovation on areas of the organisation where significant change is required and set up systems to so that everyone continuously improves.
  7. Simplify the complexity inherent in local government by identifying and eliminating process constraints that have developed over time.
  8. Focus on productivity by ‘unlocking’ the capacity of people and resources to ensure that the required services are being provided as efficiently as possible.

I have been told (by a CEO) that a world where ratepayers and residents enjoy the value they get for the taxes is unrealistic and unachievable.  If that is what our leaders think, what hope is there?

I have used an image of a boat builder for a reason. I have a relative who owns and builds wooden sailing boats. After talking to him, I think that leading an organisation is a lot like building a boat. You need to design the boat to optimise the performance required – does it have to be safe in all conditions, will it have to make fast passages, or will it carry burdensome loads? One boat can’t do them all.

Then materials must be selected and the builder needs to understand the properties of those materials – how they are worked to make the boat, how they will perform under load, how they will fail, and how they can be repaired.

A boat must be made with care. There is a right and a wrong way to do it, and doing it the wrong way could lead to failure and loss of life. Finally, the boat needs to be beautiful.

This is an important point for local government.  In the same way that there is no joy in building or owning an ugly boat, success in local government must also include a sense of pride and achievement in having contributed to something worthwhile.

Chatterjee, Sayan 2013. Simple Rules for Designing Business Models, California Management Review, Winter.

140 – Developing a dashboard for performance measurement. A case study – Part 2.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         810 words

aircraft cockpit

Some time ago I posted on my approach to developing a dashboard for my unit. I set out the ‘performance questions’ that I could need to answer at any point in time as I ‘drive’ my unit. In this post I apply the ideas of Geary Rummler, Alan Brache, Mark Moore and Christopher Stone to determine measures and lead indicators.

The performance questions identified in my first post are intended to get to the heart of the ‘performance logic’ underpinning performance management of the unit. Understanding the performance logic is an idea from Rummler and Brache. Seeing the performance logic as a series of ‘performance questions’ comes from a handy paper by Bernard Marr on the Advanced Performance Institute website, ‘What are key performance questions’  and how they can be used to engage people in dialogue about performance and guide the design of meaningful performance indicators. Continue reading

127 – ‘A new theory of value creation for local government’. Do we need one? Part 2 – Business Model.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              750 words

walt disney theory of value creation

Image: ‘The greatest theory ever told’ – Walt Disney’s 1957 value creation map.

This is the second post in the series intended to make the case for a new theory of value creation for local government. The first post discussed business strategy. This post looks at the link between strategy and the business model.

Once the strategy has been determined, it leads directly to the selection of a business model that can deliver that strategy. I have chosen the following description of a business model from organisational theorist and academic David Teece to set the scene.

“Whenever a business enterprise is established, it either explicitly or implicitly employs a particular business model that describes the design or architecture of the value creation, delivery, and capture mechanisms it employs.

The essence of a business model is in defining the manner by which the enterprise delivers value to customers, entices customers to pay for value, and converts those payments to profit.

It thus reflects management’s hypothesis about what customers want, how they want it, and how the enterprise can organize to best meet those needs, get paid for doing so, and make a profit.”

As with strategy decisions, the difficulties for local government are again apparent. Continue reading

123 – Reinventing Management – Architecture and Ideology. Gary Hamel.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         1300 words

inertial incremental insipid

Gary Hamel starts his dissection of large organisations with a series of descriptors; inertial, incremental, and insipid. Reading his paper made me feel like returning to small business. I once heard the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Industry Group talking about a poll of his members. He asked them what they would like from government and they said that they wanted government to be positive, intelligent, and credible – the antidote to the inertial, incremental and insipid.

Hamel is describing what he calls the congenital disabilities of large organisations. By inertial, Hamel means that they are ‘frequently caught out by the future and seldom change in the absence of a crisis’.

 “Deep change, when it happens, is belated and convulsive, and typically requires an overhaul of the leadership team.”

By incremental, Hamel means that despite their resource advantages, incumbents are seldom the authors of game-changing innovation.

“It’s not that veteran CEOs discount the value of innovation; rather, they’ve inherited organizational structures and processes that are inherently toxic to break-out thinking and relentless experimentation. Strangely, most CEOs seem resigned to this fact, since few, if any, have tackled the challenge of innovation with the sort of zeal and persistence they’ve devoted to the pursuit operational efficiency.”

By insipid, Hamel means they are emotionally sterile. He says that managers know how to command obedience and diligence, but initiative, imagination and passion can’t be commanded—they are gifts.

“Every day, employees choose whether to bring those gifts to work or not, and the evidence suggests they usually leave them at home. In Gallup’s latest 142-country survey on the State of the Global Workplace, only 13% of employees were truly engaged in their work. Imagine, if you will, a car engine so woefully inefficient that only 13% of the gas it consumes actually combusts. That’s the sort of waste we’re talking about. Large organisations squander more human capability than they use.”

Hamel is excoriating in his examination of the supposed ‘remedies’ advanced over the years Continue reading

122 – Are we really that ‘special and different?’ The answer: ‘No’.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          340 words

the same

Really, what is all this nonsense? (more nonsense here and here) Ratepayers pay their money for efficient and effective services. They don’t care about all the other stuff and they don’t want a relationship with the Council, council officers or their councillors. They just wish that it all worked really well. For me, this Thinkpurpose.com post says it all.

While councils mess around wasting time exploring their differences and putting effort into looking different to their neighbours – nothing like a new livery and big signs at all city entrances to add value for the ratepayers – and not agreeing with neighbours about regional initiatives just for the sake of it (‘we can’t share their facilities, they’re from the other side of the river!’), they will never get it right.

People just want consistent services, wherever they live. When you move homes to another suburb, why should you have to learn a whole lot of new systems to get your rubbish collected, or pay your rates, or register your pet? Surely once your pet has been registered, you should be able to live anywhere with it? Why do there need to be different systems for taking rubbish away? The bins all look the same (actually, they are often different colours to show they are from somewhere special!).

Even within councils, more emphasis on being similar and the same instead of special and different would help. How many people at the council do you have to contact to register your name for paying rates, joining a club, registering your dog, paying a fine? Every department seems to have its own register of people it deals with. How many times has someone from the council come to your home for one purpose and when asked about something else they say ‘I am sorry, I can’t help you with that. That’s another department’.

Come on. People at the council are just more faceless people in the life of most residents. They don’t want a relationship. They don’t want to spend money on frills. They just want services to be delivered efficiently and effectively. The two eff words we don’t like to use.

116 – Are we really that ‘special and different?’ Another answer: ‘Yes, of course’.

Posted by Parkinson                                                                                       450 words

fingerprint

It has been a while since I posted but I couldn’t resist this topic. I appreciate the views put forward by Lancing Farrell and they have merit. But, from my point of view it is obvious why councils are different and should remain different.

Councils need different capabilities to serve their communities. These capabilities have often been developed over time in response to drivers evident to community leaders. For example, provide excellent customer service in delivering basic services to an affluent and demanding community; be able to build new infrastructure quickly and well to meet the needs of a rapidly growing peri-urban council – with limited resources; make sure that ageing facilities are cared for to protect their cultural values in a heritage place.

The leadership of every community will be different. Continue reading