158 – Customer perception. Why is it important in local government services?

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              670 words

customer service gaps

Image adapted from Slack, Chambers, Harland, Harrison, and Johnston 1998, Operations Management, 2nd Edition.

There have been a number of posts on aspects of customer service – who are our customers, customer-introduced variability, how do you listen to the ‘voice of the customer, internal customers , what Gordon Ramsay might think about council customer service, and captive customers. If there has been a thread through these posts, it has been the need to look at services from the customers’ viewpoint and to understand constitutes value for them.

The posts on value have discussed how to understand both private and public value – why do we provide the services that we do, the private-public value continuum, applying the public value scorecar , public value gap analysis, local government and commodity services, value-led management, and a series on a new theory of value creation in local government. The idea that people seek private value and councils set out to create public value is at the heart of a lot of customer service problems.

One aspect of customer service that hasn’t been discussed is the role of perception. Continue reading

126 – ‘A new theory of value creation for local government’. Do we need one? Part 1 – Strategy.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              850 words

value diagram shaded

This is the first post in a series  exploring the relationship between business strategy, the business model and operations strategy. It is an attempt to pick up on the ideas in Colin Weatherby’s previous post discussing Henry Mintzberg’s ideas about different models for government organisations. Hopefully the series of posts will make my case for a local government theory of value creation.

I will begin with business strategy. To set the scene, I have chosen the following quotations from management consultant and academic David Maister  to highlight the strategy problem for local government.

“A strategy is not just choosing a target market, but is about actually designing an operation that will consistently deliver the superior client benefits you claim to provide.

However, each decision you make to be more effective at delivering the preferences of those you target will (inevitable, inescapably, unavoidably) make you less attractive to clients or market segments that look for different benefits.

You could try to design your operations to meet a wide variety of preferences and needs, serving each client or customer group differently, according to their individual wishes.

Your market appeal will then come down to ‘tell us what you want us to do for you and we’ll do that. We’ll do something different for other people tomorrow!’

The very essence of having a strategy is being selective about choosing the criteria on which a firm wishes to compete, and then being creative and disciplined in designing an operation that is finely tuned to deliver those particular virtues.

An operation designed to provide the highest quality is unlikely to be the one that achieves the lowest cost, and one that can respond to a wide variety of customized requests will be unlikely to provide fast response and turnaround. Any business that tried to deliver all four virtues of quality, cost, variety and speed would be doomed to failure.”

Maister may not have had local government in mind when he wrote this piece, but he provides an insight into the challenges in determining what provides value to people receiving services. He calls it ‘superior client benefits’. In the public service context, academic Mark H. Moore has called it public value. It is the same idea Continue reading

121 – Squire to the giants. Who are the giants in common?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                                 830 words


I recently found a new and interesting blog called ‘Squire to the Giants’. Much like thinkpurpose.com this blog site is aimed at people who have an interest in improving their organisation through systems thinking. A recent post talks about the ‘giants’ that have influenced the Squire’s thinking. I am familiar with some of the ‘giants’ and have others of my own.

The Squire lists the following giants:

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with the work of Peter Scholtes  and John Seddon. Both have influenced the thinking of writers. The biographical pieces written by the Squire  are worth a look.

I have decided to produce a blog on one of my giants.


mark h moore picProfessor Mark H. Moore

First some background. Mark H. Moore is the Hauser Professor of Nonprofit Organisations and director of the Hauser Centre for Nonprofit Organisations, at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

His research interests include public management and leadership, civil society and community mobilization, and criminal justice policy and management. Continue reading

118 – Improving service operations. Why it doesn’t happen in local government.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          500 words

 walking the plank

I have read Lancing Farrell and Colin Weatherby’s posts on characteristics of demands, redesigning operations and improving service operations through action plans and service redesign, with some interest. It is all good stuff and not too difficult to understand or do. The question I ask myself is why I don’t see it happening everywhere across the sector. The ‘special and different’ posts partially explain it but I think there is more to it.

To begin with, the motivation to make improvements doesn’t really exist. People say they want to improve the quality of services to their community, and in response to threats like rate capping they say they want to be more efficient. But they don’t really want to do either.

Most councils have the potential to improve productivity by 10-15% (more in some councils). Continue reading

103 – Classic paper – ‘Managing Government, Governing Management’. Henry Mintzberg.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         1850 words

In 1996 Henry Mintzberg published a paper in the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Managing Government, Governing Management’. In the paper Mintzberg covers four broad topics relevant to local government:

  1. Private, public, cooperative and non-owned organisations.
  2. The roles of people in society as customer, client, citizen and subject.
  3. The management myths that activities can be isolated, performance can be fully evaluated using objective measures, and activities can be entrusted to autonomous managers responsible for performance.
  4. The machine model, network model, performance-control model, virtual model and normative-control model available to organise government.

What relevance does it have for local government today?

94 – ‘An interview with Wanksy, Penis Doodler and Pothole Avenger’, The Atlantic CITYLAB, 1 May 2015.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                         430 words

Wanksy image

Image from CITYLAB.

The sub title to this article says it all – ‘How an English construction worker is fighting for better road infrastructure by scribbling on the streets like a third-grader’. What is it that reduces people to this behavior? Why do they feel compelled to break the rules to get something done? There have been various articles on guerilla gardening, depaving and other aspects of DIY urbanism, but this is the first ‘guerilla maintenance’ article I have seen.

According to the article, Wanksy is a surveyor and professional artist who became fed up with the numerous potholes in his hometown, so he started drawing penises around them. And it seems to be working Continue reading

88 – Classic paper – ‘Managing the public service institution’. Peter F. Drucker.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         Long read 1900 words

Editors Note: This is the first of a new type of post – the long read. Rather than split long pieces or edit out important ideas they will be a run as a long read. It is only recommended for those scoring more than 7/10 in the local government reading test!

In this insightful paper published in 1973, Peter F Drucker looks at why public service organisations are less efficient than business enterprises. In it he reaffirms public services as being ‘load-bearing members of the main structure’ of modern society – a provider of services that are essential to society. Despite this importance, he says the performance of public service organisations is unimpressive. They have large budgets and require ‘ever-growing subsidies’ but are providing poorer service. Citizens are complaining about ‘bureaucracy and mismanagement’ in the institutions that are supposed to serve them.

Why was that the case in 1973 and is it still the case in local government today?

69 – Local government and milk. What do they have in common?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         660 words


I recently drove past a car sign-written with advertising for milk available direct from the farm. It promoted the virtues of buying milk from the producer. I had earlier heard a radio advertisement for milk available from an inner urban Melbourne dairy where I am sure there are no cows. The advertisement talked about local milk from local people.

There may be some difference in the milk each company is selling. And it is probably different from the milk I can buy at my supermarket. So what is happening with milk and why might it tell us something that is relevant to local government? Continue reading

61 – Public value gap analysis. Some actions.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         280 words


I posted on a tool that can help to identify gaps in public value creation. This post briefly suggests some actions for each gap.

The first gap between actual performance and operating capacity, or potential performance, is best addressed though organisational processes to improve productivity. Recognising the gap is important and then it is in the hands of the organisation to justify its performance or improve it. Utilising all available operating capacity efficiently is the responsibility of organisational management.

Gap 2 requires something new to happen. It isn’t simply a matter of being more efficient and productive. Continue reading

60 – Public value gap analysis. A tool.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         790 words

private public operation actual

One of the challenges in local government is understanding public value – what it is for your community and how you can create it. It can  be difficult to separate it from private value expectations and to see the relationship with the operating capacity of the organisation. This post explores a conceptual tool to understand public value and gaps that need to be addressed in achieving it.

Many years ago when asked to be the officer leading a community advisory committee I developed a model to help the group understand what we were talking about and to focus on gaps where we could be most effective in making a difference. It worked very well. At the time I didn’t really understand why. Now I think it was because is identified the public value gap that the group could work on. Here it is. Continue reading