Striving for continuous improvement

Centrally located on the Murrumbidgee River in the heart of the New South Wales Riverina, Narrandera Shire Council caters for a population of around 6,500 people.

Council has established a connection between the goals of its corporate strategic plan and various departments and team members to assist with this job.

The Achieving Together Strategic Plan 2006–2011 was the first strategic plan for Council and it brought new challenges for staff to embrace. To assist with delivery of the plan, departments went through an innovative and systematic process for developing
12 month operational plans. The operational plans are reviewed regularly and updated every few years.

Council’s Director of Strategic Planning and Organisational Development, Sue Johnson, said the process has encouraged team members to take on more responsibility for getting things done.

“They also have a clear direction on where the organisation is going and what is expected from them,” she said. “In addition, staff have taken time to discuss improvements to the way they operate and gained a better understanding of each other’s roles.”

In developing the operational plans, team members went through a facilitated and systematic process, reviewing all functions and tasks of their department. They then developed action plans to address key issues and steps that needed to happen for their department to be the best possible. This included strategic initiatives and key results expected for the next 12 months.

Each team member has a copy of their department’s operations plan and they meet regularly to discuss their progress against the plan and acknowledge successes.

Sue Johnson said the process is rewarding to staff, as they have a say in how things will be managed and are responsible for carrying out the plans.

“The process is fostering an organisational culture to build sustainable communities and sustainable and efficient Council operations,” she said. “The community has an organisation committed to a vision and direction for the Shire and improved service levels, while staff members clearly understand what is expected of them and their achievements are being recognised.”

The project has already seen a number of improvements across Council, most importantly in the way services are delivered to the community. For example, the Corporate Services team has implemented new customer queuing arrangements to better serve counter enquiries, and has also had input into the development of a technical solution to address the handling of customer requests.

Introduced in July 2007, the new system increases the level of responsibility and accountability of Council staff to respond efficiently to customer requests. Staff morale and skills have also been lifted.

Sue Johnson said the biggest challenge with implementing a strategic plan is aligning the personal performance of individuals to operational and strategic objectives. “Council had an antiquated appraisal system that staff members were very unhappy about and which did nothing to support individual performance goals,” she said.

“Our new system is based on having clear performance goals tied into clear performance standards.”

For further information contact Sue Johnson, phone (02) 6959 5510.