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.

110 – Improving service operations. Start with a service action plan.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         1250 words

service brainstorming

I was recently discussing service improvement with a colleague. He described to me a two-stage process he has been using with operational staff in his team to determine how their work can be improved generally, and then how to re-design services if required.

It is an intensely practical two-stage approach to working with teams collaboratively to understand work and improve operations to get better customer outcomes.

The first stage involves bounded brainstorming by the whole work group, their Team Leader and the Manager to respond to the question – how can we do our work better? It is not intended to question whether or not services should be delivered, just how they can be improved. The process is intended to be inclusive and to quickly lead to action. The output is a service action plan.

The second stage involves redesigning services if this has been identified the way to make improvement. The redesign process is led by the Team Leaders and Manager using some simple reengineering and operations management tools. The output is a new service design.

Stage 1 – The service action plan Continue reading

108 – Melbourne City Council: Organisational Capability Review, May 2015.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         1300 words

Melbourne capability review model

The public release of this critical report has been something of a surprise. Commissioned in March 2015 and released in May, the report prepared by Jude Munro, Dr Bronte Adams and Steve Parker has looked at three key capabilities; leadership, strategy and delivery. Each has been rated on a four point scale for several elements. Out of the ten attributes rated, six were seen as a ’development area’ and one as a ‘serious concern’. The remaining three were seen as ‘well placed’ and none were seen as ‘strong’ (p.14). So what does this mean?

melbourne assessment criteria ratingsThe report states that this is the first time that this review model has been applied to local government in Australia. Its intention is to provide a forward looking, whole of organisation review that assesses an organisation’s ability to meet future objectives and challenges.


“This review provides the opportunity and impetus to take a very good organisation and make it even better.” Ben Rimmer, CEO

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

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

93 – ‘Cost shifting’, or ‘State services paid for by rates’? It is our choice.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         670 words

townhall 2

In local government in Victoria middle maangers are often asked to identify ‘cost shifting’ at budget time to identify the portion of the planned rate increase that is needed to cover additional costs in delivering services prescribed by the State government. A little bit of whinging usually goes along with it. Councils often feel as though they are victims being forced to do something against their will. I think it is a mindset problem.

What is really happening is that the State government is choosing to have its services delivered through local councils and for those services to be paid for by the people who receive them through their rates (property tax). 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

71 – ‘Melbourne People’s Panel makes bold decisions where politicians fear to tread’, The Age, 1 April 2015.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                         550 words

Peoples panel

“The public is smart if given the time and information necessary to work through an issue. And this has been demonstrated by a people’s “jury” which has delivered its verdict in a bold experiment in democracy by the Melbourne Town Hall.

The results should give hope to people despairing that Australia has lost its reform mojo, as it provides a new way for government to get hard but necessary things done.”

I read this article by Nicholas Reece, a Principal Fellow at Melbourne University, with some interest. Involving the community in budgeting is not new. Continue reading