Process improvement tip from Linda Lindeman, Palmerston North City Council. Issue #12.

Processes and staff change all the time - keeping up with regular reviews throughout those changes has been our biggest stumbling block. Read more.

The Process Improvement Tips from the Trenches blog series shares process improvement tips, tricks and recommendations from process management professionals around the world. This week's expert is Linda Lindeman of Palmerston North City Council.

In her role as business solutions team leader, Linda Lindeman provides solutions to teams across the whole Palmerston North City Council which range from process mapping to process improvement, to database deliveries.

Palmerston North is a city located in the Manawatu-Whanganui region of the North Island of New Zealand. It is governed by a city council which consists of a mayor and 15 councillors, and is the country's seventh-largest city and eighth largest urban area.


Why is process important to your organization?

Process has become key to our organization for a few reasons. Firstly, it helps us maintain accurate records about how we serve the rate-paying community who are our external customers, and which are also helpful to our internal staff.

Secondly, processes help to break down silos between staff and gets them comfortable with sharing information.

Business process mapping also gives people an active voice and encourages them to contribute. By getting involved, our people get to add value and make a difference, and it means our processes are continually updated by people who are at the coalface. 

In the future we’d like to highlight the importance of processes at Palmerston North City Council by including Promapp training in our induction of new starters. That way it’s a natural transition into the organization and into adopting the council’s commitment to smart business processes.

What’s your biggest process management challenge?

Processes and staff change all the time - keeping up with regular reviews throughout those changes has been our biggest stumbling block. 

This becomes an even bigger problem when new people are expected to buy into processes that someone else created. They tend to become blasé because they have no context to help them understand why the processes are important. When people feel like processes are being thrown at them, they don’t buy into them at all. 

We know the benefits will materialise over time, but it takes work. To overcome this issue, we try to identify points of contact within the business who we know will grow with the organization over time. We stress that Promapp and process ownership is key to the council’s success, and that we want people to be part of the journey long-term, and not as a one-minute wonder. 


What works well at your company?

We’ve been lucky that our business development officer backs Promapp 100%. It helps that the platform ensures we deliver the best possible customer service to our external customers and to internal staff.

For instance, one of our successes has been the transition of our building accreditation process from Visio and Word documents, to Promapp. In addition to assisting with our accreditation process, Promapp has helped to share information effectively with staff who are located remotely, which has been tricky in the past. Promapp has also helped with keeping our information safe and secure.

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

We created a morning tea demo, which is known as a ‘showcase’ in Agile. The demo was of a recent project, and we used Promapp to show the audience how behind-the-scenes processes evolved.

By having everyone in the same room – rather than clicking on a link to get information – we were able to explain a technical process to people in a straightforward way. For example, when you’re talking to people who may not have a day-to-day understanding of the infrastructure, it helps to explain an architectural diagram when your audience is sitting in front of you. 

By doing the demo at morning tea, it was a sweetener that got people’s initial attention. Delivering a structured presentation with flair helps to keep that attention. People respond well to human contact, and it gives them the chance to ask questions to clarify.

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

We have learnt four valuable lessons when it comes to driving engagement in our process improvement efforts: 

  1. Back your ideas
     
  2. Find the right people to support your ideas
     
  3. Don’t give up if you fail at the first attempt
     
  4. People will join you once you have worked out their WIIIFM (What Is In It For Me).

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