Process improvement tips from Asela Kaluarachchi, Wellington Shire Council. Issue #10.

Even though we focus strongly on good process writing techniques and process governance during training, we have given staff the freedom to go in and have a crack at it! Our attitude was, if the documented process is understood by those who use it, then that is good enough to start with. 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 Asela Kaluarachchi of Wellington Shire Council.

Asela Kaluarachchi focuses on corporate planning and business improvement at Wellington Shire Council. This includes coordinating Council's corporate planning and reporting function to meet legislative requirements whilst supporting Council’s continuous improvement framework by achieving outcomes through process mapping and other improvement initiatives.

Wellington Shire Council is a dynamic regional local government organization in the Gippsland region of the state of Victoria, Australia. It operates a diverse range of services, manages a broad range of projects and maintains many community facilities across a region similar in size to Jamaica. Staff use award-winning business technologies to seek and implement improvements across the organization for the benefit of the community.

Why is process important to your organization?

Process mapping has encouraged us to have more cross-organizational collaboration and helped to break down silos.

A brilliant example is when a coordinator from the Community and Culture division suggested an improvement idea for a process created by the Built and Natural Environment (BNE) division. Her suggestion was taken on board, with our General Manager BNE including community engagement as part of their standard processes.

Having processes has helped us to remove blame from our internal conversations at Wellington Shire Council. If we trip up on an operational issue it’s usually because we haven’t set up the process correctly, and not because of the shortcomings of any one individual.

This motivates team members. They have a vested interest in taking responsibility for capturing processes accurately, and they give regular feedback to make sure the processes remain relevant.

What’s your biggest process management challenge?

Getting processes published is proving to be a challenge for us. Currently our publish rate is around 50%, which is one of the things we’d like to improve on.

Some process owners feel that they’re too busy working in the system to have time to work on the system, whilst in other cases the process owners (business unit managers) and process experts (service area coordinators) are not on the same page regarding a documented process.

Unfortunately, if processes are not published no one can find and use them, which is the same as not having a process at all.

What works well at your company?

Process documentation has been done consistently since the implementation of Promapp three years ago. We’re proud of the fact that we haven’t lost momentum during that time.

Engaging all our people has been key for us to make that happen. We’ve encouraged participation by conducting process management training as part of our corporate induction for new staff, and we’ve run refresher trainings for our existing teams.

Even though we focus strongly on good process writing techniques and process governance during training, we have given staff the freedom to go in and have a crack at it! Our attitude was, if the documented process is understood by those who use it, then that is good enough to start with.

This approach has helped us to maintain steady process capture over the last two years and allowed for the development of process writing champions within most of our business units.

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

We’ve made process documentation and review a standard action of every business unit manager’s annual business plan. That way our leaders are paving the way and endorsing the use of our process mapping tool within their teams.

Furthermore, all business unit managers were asked to review their processes as part of the 2017/18 business planning process. Most leaders embraced this activity as an opportunity to get stuck into it! This increased the number of healthy processes (reviewed and published) by one hundred, or 14% of Wellington’s current process total.

The following diagram shows the effect of this exercise:

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

Align your process mapping activities with a bigger cause or an overarching improvement program, which is driven and supported by the corporate management team.

This top down approach benefitted us to get that all-important traction for process mapping, and ‘Promapping” (as most staff call it) has become a norm within the organization.

Buy-in from your leadership teams exponentially contributes to the success you’ll enjoy from publishing your processes.

When our CEO came to the organization, he introduced the Wellington Excellence program which focusses on the continuous improvement of our services. Systems thinking was one concept introduced during this program and it gave us the understanding of how each business unit relates to the larger system in which it exists and operates, just like a cog in a machine. This ‘systems view’ approach provided us the framework to understand how we deliver value to our customers through processes and also provided a structured way to scope our processes.

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