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Christchurch Council shares its process improvement learnings

Process improvement tips from Gary Tibble, Christchurch City Council. Issue #7.

As Continuous Improvement Specialist for Christchurch City Council, Gary is involved in delivering small to large improvement projects, supporting the delivery of training to improvement champions and staff, and mentoring and guiding these people as part of their work on small improvement projects and rapid improvement events in their business areas.

His current primary area of responsibility is driving the implementation of the council’s BPM software, including training all users, managing process capture to ensure guidelines and rules are met, and providing ongoing support and advice right across the Christchurch City Council.

Located in the middle of the east coast of South Island of New Zealand, Christchurch City Council has approx. 3,500 full time and temp/casual staff and serves the city of Christchurch. The Council area is diverse (plains, coast, hills) and includes Banks Peninsula resulting in a territorial authority area of about 1425 sq. km. The Council is going through a period of pressure resulting from the devastating earthquakes experienced in 2010 and 2011. These events along with business transformation work have resulted in a focus on delivering more efficient and effective services to our citizens, and on reducing costs.

Why is process important to your organization?

Process is important to us because we are focused on delivering more effective and efficient services while trying to reducing costs at the same time. To help with these important goals we need to address long term issues such as:

  1. Organization size creating silos resulting in services not being managed holistically to desired customer outcomes
  2. Processes managed loosely in some areas, or documented in varying formats and quality or not documented at all
  3. Processes not updated or owned (“this is not my process so why should I care” attitude)
  4. No visibility of end-to-end processes
  5. Organizational Risk, tacit knowledge that is only known by one or two people is lost when they leave
  6. Staff not knowing what process to follow and not knowing who is involved in a process
  7. Staff doing a process different ways because that is how they were taught

What’s your biggest process management challenge?

The biggest challenge for us is the length of time it takes to get processes finalized and published.

We are finding that the processes being captured are taking a long time to be finalized and get published due to:

  • Lack of resources to do the process capture work because staff struggle to fit the work into their other tasks i.e. “we are too busy” and “it’s not part of my job to do that”
  • Delay in getting access to and input from the business i.e. again “we are too busy” and “it’s not part of my job to do that”
  • It is difficult to get Process Owners and Experts agreed on i.e. there is reluctance from staff to take responsibility and ownership, and debate over who this should be
  • There is no urgency with business areas to get processes documented

And of course, if processes are not published then most staff cannot find the processes and use them.

What works well at your company?

The use of dedicated resources to help teams with process capture has worked well for us – it has helped address the lack of time challenge for staff to do the process capture themselves.

We now have a Business Support Team whose role includes working with the business to capture processes, advising on processes, supporting process owners and experts and managing process capture. We have included two process champions in this team.

The business teams define the need and provide the funding that enables the Business Support team to employ an external resource for a fixed period, with the right skills, to work with that team to capture their processes. They ask lots of questions and challenge the process being documented, and most importantly they look for process improvement opportunities.

What is also starting to work well for us is the setup of our Process Champions Group. The group consists of key process editors with a passion for process and process improvement. They are taking on the role of managing process capture in their business areas, advising and supporting users, and importantly regularly communicating with their business areas.

What the most unusual approach to process improvement you’ve tried?

Well, it would be fair to say that our process improvement methods follow LEAN Problem Solving, Waste Removal, and some SixSigma methods. Except for one time.

Staff at the Council have a frustration with the number of meetings they attend, the way these meetings are run, the availability of meeting rooms, and other concerns. How did we deal with this? Well….

our team decided to create a skit performed by the Backflow and The Three Waters band to tell the story (with a theme song “Just Another Meeting” based on “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base). The plot: the band had a problem with their lead singer and their meeting times that they wanted to solve so they decided to hold a meeting to come up with ideas to fix the problems. The skit involved all the usual bad meeting behaviors, the poor ways to run a meeting, etc. Two of the skit band do play in a real band, guess which two?!

We performed the skit at our Leaders annual workshop day and used it as a way to stimulate the 300 workshop attendees to develop ideas around how the issues being faced around meetings could be addressed.

The skit was performed and then the team jumped into a LEAN Problem Solving process using issues identification, 5 Why’s, ideas generation, multi voting and actions capture. Following that the workshop attendees (per table) were asked to follow the LEAN Problem Solving steps just presented to come up with their own ideas to fix the issues with meetings. All the ideas were collated and based on the voting on the day a list of key ideas to progress was produced.

From that work, a small project team was formed to implement the key ideas. The “effective meetings” work is still underway but the Backflow And Three Waters band has decided to call it a day (artistic differences were cited as the reason for the split!).

What’s your top tip from the trenches, a process improvement recommendation for other organizations?

I have three top tips for other organizations:

  1. Focus process creation and the improvement of a process during the capture work on the key and critical processes that will provide the most benefit to your organization. We did focus on the identification of these processes at the start of our Process Improvement journey but are now needing to revisit that approach. To ensure that the identification work happens properly first obtain the active support of your Executive Leadership Team. That identification might be on Business Continuity, Statutory requirement, Legal requirements, Emergency Management, Health & Safety for example.
  2. Ensure that project work includes process review and capture and that an output is to deliver clear, agreed processes to the business who can then manage those processes ongoing. For us, that is being done by using Nintex Promapp®.
  3. Make processes available to all staff in a simple way. We are actively promoting the use of team SharePoint pages that will deliver links to the tools, documents, other team information, and important links to the processes in our BPM tool that they need to use in their work. The reason we are doing this is so staff does not need to login to “yet another system” to find their processes. They have one source of truth for all the information they need daily.



Interested in better mapping and managing of your business processes? Click here to get a free trial of Nintex Promapp®.



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