Process improvement tips from Anton Paterson, Queenstown Lakes District Council. Issue #14.

"The challenge is getting staff who already have demanding workloads, to integrate the need to draft and complete processes into their 'business as usual'." Read more... 

Anton Paterson is the business systems team leader, Promaster and project lead for deployment and ongoing sustainability of Promapp at Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Queenstown Lakes District Council is the picture capital of New Zealand, home to 25,000 but a host to millions. The council is faced with metro-sized issues in two relatively small towns, namely Queenstown and Wanaka. 


Why is process important to your organization?

At Queenstown Lakes Regional Council processes exist for two reasons: visibility and liability. 

Visibility of processes needed to be improved in a number of teams at the council. Over time the word-of-mouth training had resulted in variations and the skipping of a few key steps. The organization realised that this was a potential liability, introduced Promapp and saw the risk decreasing.

Thanks to processes:

  • Staff are now shifting to a single point of reference for how to do things.
  • Return business is increasing as staff can go back to the process that they only do once every few months.
  • On-boarding and training has improved in areas that experience higher staff turnover.
  • New starters have a great aid at their disposal.


What's your biggest process management challenge?

The biggest challenge in our current working environment is time and the district is experiencing unprecedented growth. Selling the benefits of documenting all processes and having a good process is easy — the challenge is getting staff who already have demanding workloads, to integrate the need to draft and complete processes into their “business as usual”.

The executive level support for the project is great. This support endorses and justifies for staff the choice to prioritise producing processes alongside their other tasks and responsibilities.


What works well at your company?

What works well for the council is regular monthly forums where the statistics of each team and team member are published, and compared to the previous month to identify any shifts. Chocolate rewards are given to those who demonstrate a reduction in unpublished process, a reduction in the number of notifications, and great team performance.

Individual stand-out processes are presented as a blue print for others, as well as an incentive to complete processes. The statistics are used by some as an incentive to compete with other teams to get more process out in the wild. Having set champions in each team who are responsible for the creation of processes, means they can maintain control of the volume. Each champion creates the process and then assigns a process owner who will continue to write the process. This is only allowed to be created when the staff member has published the other processes they have already started.


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

We find motivating staff and teams with chocolate helps! We are setting an ambitious goal for teams to achieve less than two unpublished processes, and no outstanding notifications, per person.

The whole team will then get lots of chocolate as a reward.


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

The best tip we have is to control process creation. Open slather creation is great to get processes underway, but can lead to a lot of unfinished or poorly constructed processes.

We adopt a framework of: 

  1. Get your process idea to your champion
  2. Champion will create the process and hand over 
  3. Process is reviewed by champion
  4. Process published
  5. Repeat.

Step 3 is only needed while the staff member is learning. This way consistency and process quality control can be monitored by the process champion. Once a staff member is capable they can publish a process when they want. It saves having lots of incomplete processes, and means the staff member can focus on only a couple of processes at a time.

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