Planning for continual improvement

The key to ensuring Knox's future reflects residents' and ratepayers' wishes is ongoing community and staff consultation.

Executive Adviser Elaine Sowerby said Knox's integrated planning and continuous improvement process links the City's Corporate Plan with its Operational Plan. Integrated planning aims for complementary service planning across Council Departments and in particular, it aims to tie plans in with budget provisions and restrictions.

Continual improvement harnesses staff knowledge to find ways of improving service delivery and making it more responsive to ratepayers' needs and priorities. Community input comes via Community Planning Days. These intensive one day workshops are held every two years and bring together people with a range of interests from across Knox.

At the last such event in 1998, 130 participants, invited from various community groups and through widespread advertising volunteered for the sessions. Together with staff members, they discussed their ideas for the future of Knox and how Council could assist in making it happen.

Elaine Sowerby emphasised this was not a 'wish list' exercise. "Prior to the Community Planning Day we issued all relevant data to participants," she said. "This meant they came to the discussion tables as informed participants. They knew what the limitations were and could then work within them.

"We could gain the same information via surveys but the community planning days are a chance to establish face to face dialogue, which can achieve so much more. "Furthermore, the participants have a chance to hear others' point of view."

Elaine said staff find the community planning days an invigorating experience. "They are able to gain a broader perspective of how the community relates to each other," she said.

For their part, staff undergo self assessment exercises, which look at the way work tasks are undertaken and how processes might be improved. This input is used as a 'kick off' for Unit planning.

Managers and the Executive meet quarterly for day long planning meetings to adjust priorities to meet changes which may have taken place. "Our process enables continuous improvement and response to community wishes on an ongoing basis," Elaine Sowerby said.

She said some processes in many ways have to reflect the priorities of the State Government but in securing the opinions and views of staff and the community, Knox is aiming to localise State requirements.