208 – Improving service operations. Implement with motivational interviewing.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                               500 words

innovation diffusion

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Earlier posts have described how to improve service operations by developing a service action plan and redesigning services. This post looks at how to implement a redesigned service. You may have noticed that not everyone is excited by the prospect of change.

Having said that, some people like change. Others could be frustrated by the current situation. These people could be innovators or early adopters who will readily accept the need to change. The Rogers Innovation Diffusion Curve shows the rate at which a new idea spreads through a group.   In any group contemplating change you are likely to have people from each of the groups identified on the curve. Some are going to accept the change more easily than others.

A colleague recently taught me a useful way to help all groups, including the laggards, to engage with new ideas. It was demonstrated by Gregory Bayne of Total Leader and Coach Solutions, Australia.  It is designed to overcome resistance to change and is based on motivational interviewing techniques. Continue reading

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201 – A response to Essay No. 4 – Local government and customer service.

Posted by Whistler                                                                                          250 words

direct action

Lancing Farrell has written an engaging essay that reveals many home-truths in customer service in local government. It is a bit on the long side but worth the effort to read. I have a few comments to make about what I think you can do to act on the ideas.

To begin, make a list of the services offered and who can receive them. Some councils call this a service catalogue. It doesn’t matter what you call it, make it. Once you have this list your strategy is becoming explicit. The choices made in developing the list reflect the strategy of the organisation in delivering services. For many councils, this will formalise custom and practice.

Next, re-design the systems for customer service so that there are fewer escalations and fewer requests channelled through councillors. It is expensive to handle normal service requests through a ‘councillor request’ system that has been designed to provide high level information to support councillors in decision making.  Improve website information, online payment, and online service requests.  Manage expectations and make services as convenient as possible.

Then, train and support Customer Service Officers in understanding the different capacities in which people present and to separate (and manage) private and public value expectations. This is easier than it sounds. Telephony companies do something similar when they train customer service staff to identify different customer types and to then treat them differently according to their characteristics. They even have special names for each type of customer.

Lastly, re-design services to ensure customers get what they need and that the value is visible.

187 – A high functioning Executive. What would it take?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                         1100 words

awesome

This is a question I was asked recently by a reader. Having read several posts critical of the behaviour of the Executive (What can a culture survey, an organisational self assessment, and your Executive’s risk appetite tell you?, The Executive. What exactly is their role? , Does your Executive suffer from altitude sickness?, and The Executive: filters, traffic controllers or drivers? ) she wanted to know whether I had a solution. Knowing that it is easier to be critical than creative, I cast my mind to thinking about the nature of the problem and some potential solutions.

I think the starting point is to understand the problem. In a nutshell, I think the following issues illustrate the problem:

  1. The Executive is overloaded with the small stuff handed to them by councillors (not the council). Much of it has to do with the personal idiosyncrasies of councillors and behaviours arising from their inability to work together as a group. It is dysfunctional, urgent and produces little value for the community. There are better ways for potholes to be reported.
  2. The Executive has to deal with high level relations with external organisations and strategic external pressures. These are often CEO to CEO relationships and cannot be readily delegated.
  3. The Executive is not putting enough time and effort into leading the organisation. Their focus on councillors and the external environment takes most of their time and energy. At the same time, they worry about problems 1 and 2 being made worse so they try to control organisational communication and decision making. When this is done ‘efficiently’ by time poor leaders it drives dysfunctional management behaviours.
  4. The Executive operates independently of managers and participates in the Senior Management Team (SMT) episodically. There is frequently no genuine and continuous engagement with the SMT in strategy and decision making. Managers are included in decision making when it suits the Executive – which is usually when they have the time and energy to do it. Managers are effectively isolated from information and the strategy decisions being made continuously by the Executive.

Obviously there are different solutions possible. Continue reading

107 – Separate, relate and integrate. Redesign operations to meet services demands.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                              570 words

good cheap fast

Some basic tools are needed to redesign operations to improve performance. Many people charged with responsibility for managing services have limited skills in how to redesign and improve them. Here is a simple and effective approach – just separate, relate and integrate.

The separate bit is about understanding the different demands being placed on the system. Usually, a performance problem is masked by a mess of different demands that have been mixed in one or two delivery processes. The important characteristics of services demand are the expectations of people creating the demand and how the demand is presented. It is essential to separate each type of demand according to its performance objectives and characteristics. Continue reading

77 – Operational excellence in local government. Does it matter?

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                        600 words

operational capability

In a recent discussion with a colleague she mentioned that in her previous employment outside local government they had set organisational performance goals for leadership, finances, relationships, safety and operational excellence.   Each area of performance was rated equally. It started me thinking about how little you hear about operational excellence in local government. Is that because it doesn’t matter?

I am sure that operational performance matters. Whether councils want to be excellent or not, I am less sure. I think that the reason it is seldom discussed is that few people have a real understanding of operations management or what excellence would look like or how to achieve it. Continue reading