188 – The council value proposition – what could it be?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                         1100 words

Kano model and brand

There have been a number of posts on value. In the context of imminent rate capping in Victoria it is timely to revisit some concepts of value relevant to local government. It is easy to overlook the fact that public service expenditure is about creating public value.  Especially when revenues are being constrained and thinking is turning towards making savings and cutting costs.

In the diagram above I have used the Kano model from Wikipedia and positioned three key council services that many regard as ‘core’ services – the provision of public parks, waste collection from residential properties, and provision of roads. Each has been placed in a different place on the diagram and I will explain why. Continue reading

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160 – Making a local government service catalogue. Part 2: What to do with it?

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                      630 words

service category

In the first post I described a service catalogue and looked at where (and how) to start making one. This post discusses what to do next to refine the service catalogue and use it to improve organisational performance. I have no doubt that a service catalogue is essential to starting a discussion with the community about services required in a rate capped operating environment, however it should also drive continuous improvement by providing a focus for service reviews.

The ‘first cut’ service catalogue that defines services from the customer viewpoint and links that view to organisational structure, is really just the start.

Further analysis is required to determine the link between the service catalogue and organisational strategic plans (especially the council plan). This can be achieved by coding the spreadsheet of cost centres with the themes or key objectives or themes in the plans. This will allow further analysis by pivoting on different criteria. What is the link between council plan objectives, customer defined services and cost centres? Continue reading

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

142 – A question. If I was the CEO what would I do? Answer: Focus the change effort.

Posted by Colin Weatherby                                                                                            740 words

boat builder CEO

I am sure being a CEO isn’t easy. The political environment in Australia is difficult and even more so in local government where the politicians are unpaid and not supported by political parties. There are many other pressures from the external environment – i.e. changing State government legislated responsibilities and increasing oversight of council operations; contentious urban growth and renewal planning decisions; inadequate State services for transport, education and health; and changing community expectations of service. So, if it was me, what would I do?

To begin I would not let the limitations and problems of the political and external environments dominate my management of the organisation. They are both urgent and sometimes important. However, they are not easily influenced and can take all of top management’s time and energy for little return. By all means be engaged and influence where you can but my approach would be to put my effort where no one else can and where I will get the best return.

By doing this, I think there would also be an improvement in the political environment and a stronger position to tackle the external pressures.

What do I mean? I would get my house in order. I would ensure that the resources at my disposal are used to create the maximum value for the community that has provided them. My goal would be for every ratepayer and resident to love living in my municipality. They would love it so much that they would tell all of their friends about it. They would offer to pay more for the services that they or their neighbours need. Every day social media would have stories of the great experiences people have had dealing with the council and the surprisingly good value they received.

Expectations would be met for basic service and exceeded where the value is visible and appreciated. This is the value capture that Sayan Chatterjee  talks about – councils don’t want people to value the services they provide and to offer to pay more so that the council can make a profit. Councils are not in that business. Instead, councils want them to be loyal customers who enjoy the value they get from paying their taxes. That enjoyment and loyalty is the value capture.

I wouldn’t ignore the outside world but I would want to be leading an organisation that redefines community expectations and delivers outstanding value. Here is how I would do that in order.

  1. Provide a more inclusive and less autocratic management style that suits local government culture and organisations expected to work that way with their customers.
  2. Set clear strategy – who are/are not customers; what service will/will not be provided to them; and how will it be done efficiently using available resources.
  3. Improve the customer focus by putting customers first (I mean really putting them first, not just saying it) through understanding the value they expect and designing services to provide it within available resources, now and in the long-term.
  4. Create better processes to make decisions and delegate more decision making and empower staff throughout the organisation so that more decisions are made and faster.
  5. Establish greater accountability by setting expectations and measuring performance so that feedback is provided to support achievement and create a performance-orientated culture.
  6. Focus innovation on areas of the organisation where significant change is required and set up systems to so that everyone continuously improves.
  7. Simplify the complexity inherent in local government by identifying and eliminating process constraints that have developed over time.
  8. Focus on productivity by ‘unlocking’ the capacity of people and resources to ensure that the required services are being provided as efficiently as possible.

I have been told (by a CEO) that a world where ratepayers and residents enjoy the value they get for the taxes is unrealistic and unachievable.  If that is what our leaders think, what hope is there?

I have used an image of a boat builder for a reason. I have a relative who owns and builds wooden sailing boats. After talking to him, I think that leading an organisation is a lot like building a boat. You need to design the boat to optimise the performance required – does it have to be safe in all conditions, will it have to make fast passages, or will it carry burdensome loads? One boat can’t do them all.

Then materials must be selected and the builder needs to understand the properties of those materials – how they are worked to make the boat, how they will perform under load, how they will fail, and how they can be repaired.

A boat must be made with care. There is a right and a wrong way to do it, and doing it the wrong way could lead to failure and loss of life. Finally, the boat needs to be beautiful.

This is an important point for local government.  In the same way that there is no joy in building or owning an ugly boat, success in local government must also include a sense of pride and achievement in having contributed to something worthwhile.

Chatterjee, Sayan 2013. Simple Rules for Designing Business Models, California Management Review, Winter.

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

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.

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