113 – Improving service operations. Finish with service redesign.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         1300 words

service redesign board

The first post on improving service operations covered service action planning. Both posts have followed a discussion about service improvement with a colleague in which he described a process he has been using with operational staff to work out how their work can be improved. This post discusses redesigning services when that has been an action identified in the service action plan.

If the need to redesign services has been identified in the service action plan there is a good chance that all team members are on board and prepared to discuss some big changes. This is really a prerequisite for significant change in local government, otherwise there is a risk that you are just ‘revolutionising’ people and will have no long term effect.

Stage 2 – Service redesign.

The first step is to separate the services with different demands, operations typology and performance objectives (this has been the subject of an earlier post). Then related services are grouped together. The last step is to redesign services to integrate similar services and plan implementation of the new service. This includes risk analysis of key aspects of the service and planning the new supervisory role required to make the service design work. Continue reading

4 – ‘Public service spendathon is destined to increase emotional intelligence’ The Age, 4 January 2015

This article caught my attention. Apparently spending by Australian government departments on emotional intelligence, lean thinking, clear conversations, transformational leadership, yoga, and building resilient teams is seen by some as ‘dubious’ training exercises and potentially a form of waste.

I am not sure that these training courses will provide a return to the Australian government but they are typical of the training being provided in local government today. The investment in people seems to be driven by the belief that this is where the public service performance problem, and its solution, lies. There seems to be a common search for new ways to help move employees towards different ways of thinking and behaving at work.

Much of the training I have witnessed in recent years has focussed on awareness of self, leadership, communication, and team work. The primary focus is on the individual and their skills. In some ways, it is almost an employee benefit of working in the local government. Indeed, some councils compete for staff on the basis of training and development opportunities available. The questions I want to ask are what is the specific benefit to the organisation from the training, and is the return on the investment in training being measured?

In a nutshell, what impact is the training having on performance?

This is a good question when much of the training is high level and relatively conceptual. It is provided almost as an act of faith – train them and they will improve. When the training becomes more practical, it is often not in the systems or processes used by the organisation to produce outputs. I would argue that the effort to understand, document and improve processes will yield more benefit than training for most councils. Once this has been done, training will make sense and be less likely to be seen as dubious or a waste of money.

Colin Weatherby