Statutory services based on value, rather than legislation

This is an account of how managers became enthused and took responsibility for leading change and co-creating it with their staff within the Planning service. The approach they took was in stark contrast with their standard and legislative based thinking and obvious digital solutions. They incorporated new management behaviours and team working. Waste was dramatically cut, and the staff environment created a highly motivating culture. The impact of the customers needs was profound.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The local government Planning service had two main initial problems. Firstly, the staff lacked team work and motivation, with staff turnover at a high level. Secondly, those who submitted Planning applications were very frustrated at the level of information they had to submit, how many times their submissions were delayed, and the inability to communicate with Planning staff.

The objective of the innovation was to develop a motivating working environment where staff would work together as teams. And that the problems with the customers would be resolved. We hoped that the complaints would reduce, and the delays would be eliminated. It is also important to note that the economic environment for public services in the UK are that cost cutting is a priority, and the focus of senior leaders was that the service should be able to make cuts to its budget

The Methodology
The innovation itself comprised of a Design Thinking methodology that incorporates System Thinking. This allowed the Planning manager and her team to develop a new citizen centered view of the service and recognise how poorly aligned that service was with the needs of customers. The manager led the innovation herself.

Systemic Understanding
The first step was to Understand how well the current service is designed and delivers. They found that waste by repetition was very high, and that staff had no sense of ownership of the work they did. The process that was followed was highly functional and bureaucratic. The impact on customers was poor, with customers unable to communicate well with Planning officers. Then customers had to deal with a highly standardised process.

The second step was taking real Planning applications to create several experiments to learn what customers actually needed, and how to go about dealing with applications in new ways. This was an iterative process of learning through doing. The legislation was followed, but only in the intent of the legislation, rather than interpreted word for word.

The third step was to create a prototype way of working that incorporates the Digital tools to support the process. The staff were given end to end ownership of applications, which allowed them to have a sense of accomplishment, and also allowed to modify how they undertook the applications based on the needs of individual customers.

Perhaps the largest impact on the process is that when an application is received, the officer responsible telephones the applicant to ask them about the application, clarifying any issues they have, and asking about what is important to the applicant. This incorporates customer priorities that the officer can incorporate, and any problems with the submission can be discussed and resubmitted immediately. The old process delayed this by 3 weeks, and gave written instructions to the applicant that often was unnecessary and confusing. They had to resubmit the whole thing again.

Whilst undertaking this innovation, the manager realise that she herself has been responsible for creating the service as it was. She had functionalism the end to end service and created a standard way of working. Her basis for making decisions had been to follow the wording of the legislation.

The Outcome
The outcome is that about 30% of activities were stripped out of the process that they deemed unnecessary. And the refusal rate for submitted applications dropped from around 45% to under 5%. The customer complaints have reduced as the Planning officers are able to be flexible to their needs.

The Planning service is now a better place to work, where small groups of officers work together on areas of the town. They have a sense of ownership of the work they do. The work of managers has changed from ensuring officers comply with the rules, to supporting officers to become better skilled. Officers now turn to their managers to ask for advice and support.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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