105 – Some characteristics of services demands that are important.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                              1100 words

operations typology 2

Image from Operations Management, 1998.

Some time ago I posted on high performance job design using four characteristics or spans; control, accountability, influence and support. At the time I linked the concept to the operations typology describing four characteristics of design of operations for high performance. This post picks up that discussion to look at the characteristics of demands that it is essential to understand if you want to design and manage your operations for high performance or excellence in local government.

A number of recent books on public sector management have discussed demands and how it is essential to understand them in public services because payment is not made at the time of service consumption and, therefore, price does not directly influence the amount and nature of demands placed on the system.

In his Vanguard Method John Seddon describes the importance of fulfilling purpose if failure demand is to be avoided. He also talks about understanding flow in relation to how work enters a system. Both of these ideas relate to demands. If purpose (i.e. the value sought by someone or their demand on the system) is not correctly understood the work system will not meet their need. They will come back.

Mark H. Moore includes operational capacity in his ‘strategic triangle’ concept linking decisions from the authorising environment to the public value provided. An organisation must have the operating capacity (or capability as Moore describes it in his earlier book Creating Public Value) to deliver on the political commitment to create particular public value. Continue reading


97 – A question: What if we treated the community the way we treat internal customers?

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          400 words

bins in street

Colin Weatherby’s post about corporate services reminded me about a video clip that I saw some time ago showing what life might be like if the airlines ran like the health service. It was an interesting way to challenge accepted standards and made the whole system look out of touch. Colin’s post about our corporate services colleagues made me think that a similar parody might be needed to highlight the lack of respect internal service providers within councils often show for their customers.

Here goes.

Customer Service Officer (CSO) sitting in call centre answers the telephone to incoming call from a resident.

CSO:                      Hello, how can I help you?

Resident:             Hello. I put my bin out for collection on Monday and it hasn’t been collected. It is now Wednesday and I am wondering what is happening.

CSO:                      Did you put it out the front?

Resident:             Yes. I put it where I always put it on the nature strip.

CSO:                      Ah. There is your problem.

Resident:             I don’t understand.

CSO:                    Well, we no longer collect bins from out the front of houses. It is a new cost saving measure that will save lots of money. We won’t have to increase your rates by nearly as much this year. It will save at least $5 a week per household.

Resident:             But no one told me.

CSO:                     That’s because it would have cost us a lot of money to tell people. We don’t want to waste money.

Resident:             So what will happen now?

CSO:                      That depends. Do you still want your bin emptied? Continue reading

73 – ‘Social media changes the rules of engagement’ , The Age, 4 April 2015

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         730 words

multi channel

This article contains a healthy warning for local government about the need to design services with the customer in mind, and to look ‘outwards-in’. There have been a number of previous posts on services (see here, here, here and here). Disgruntled customers of councils are just as likely to use social media to vent their anger and concerns.

“Customers want influence over the contents of what they’re buying; they customise the muesli they order online; stream entertainment that is tailored to their interests, and pitch ideas to software companies as they develop new products.”

In this environment, councils that just continue to offer the same old services, or who alter services in ways that make them less responsive to customers, or more responsive but less reliable, are likely to frustrate people using those services. Continue reading

42 – How do you listen to the ‘voice of the customer’ in local government? It can be done.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                              740 words

This post follows an earlier post Customer, client, citizen, resident or ratepayer. Who are we dealing with? It takes the concept of value further by proposing some tools that can be used to understand what customers expect and whether those expectations have been met.

I will start with Peter R. Scholtes and his views on the ‘customer-in mentality’, which he says is characterised by ‘thoughtfulness, responsiveness, empathy and altruism’. Customer-in thinking increases the likelihood that customers will get what they need – and need what they get. Listening to the customer is the beginning. Scholtes says we can start to do this by paying attention to what customers say when they contact us to make complaints, ask questions, or request services. Councils typically count the number of resident contacts. Some differentiate between service requests and complaints. Few actively evaluate what customers are asking about or saying to obtain qualitative data to guide service improvement.

Alternatively, or in addition, we can initiate contact with the customer to solicit information through surveys, interview or focus groups. Continue reading

41 – ‘Where does the customer fit into a service operation?’ A brief discussion of the work of Richard B. Chase.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                                     1200 words

In 1978 Richard B. Chase published his paper Where does the customer fit into a service operation? John Seddon says this article began the separation of front and back office operations; something that he believes has created many problems in public sector service delivery today. Maybe he is right. But when you read the article, what Chase is advocating makes sense and I can’t help thinking that it isn’t necessarily a bad idea, rather it is an idea that has been used badly.

Chase is an operations manager. By 1978 he had already co-authored a popular operations management text. He starts his paper stating that a manager needs to understand the ‘operating characteristics that set one service system apart from another’ in order to make improvements. Continue reading

37 – Risk delegation. Who has it at your council?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                         480 words

Have you ever wondered who has the formal delegation to accept risk on behalf of the organisation? I know that you probably spend most of your time dealing with systems that seek to reduce or eliminate risk, but what happens when risks must be taken? How do you assess and accept those risks?

My bet is that there is no system to accept risk and that your organisation has little understanding of the risks that are being taken by managers each day. I think that the absence of a system to formally assess and accept risks is the reason there are endless systems to get rid of it. I am not talking about the Risk Register and the big strategic or operational risks that are obvious to everyone. I am talking about the daily risks that arise when something hasn’t worked out the way you would like it to but work must go on. Continue reading

33 – Developing an organisational performance measurement system. Some ideas.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                     820 words

I have been thumbing through ‘Improving Performance – How to Manage the White Space on the Organisation Chart’ by Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache, in particular the chapter about performance measurement. In it they describe measurement is the single greatest determinant of an organisation’s effectiveness as a system, and as the primary tool for ‘communicating direction, establishing accountability, defining roles, allocating resources, monitoring/evaluating performance, and taking improvement action’.

I haven’t seen a local government that has actively used performance measurement this way. Instead, it tends to be driven by external accountability requirements. We use the performance measurement that we do to convince others that we are doing what we should. Continue reading