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Engaged staff key to improved business excellence

Article image - Engaged staff key to improved business excellence Queanbeyan City Council staff use the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) tool to evaluate and improve one of Councilís processes. In 2010, during the development of Queanbeyan City Councilís suite of Integrated Plans, the Long-Term Financial Plan highlighted the need for Council to re-examine how it did business in order to remain sustainable into the future.

It became evident to both the Executive and the elected Council that in order to be sustainable, business as usual was not a proposition. As a result, Council commenced a review of possible programs and frameworks that would enable the organisation to critically review its business processes and service delivery.

Council selected the Australia Business Excellence Framework as the tool for working towards organisational excellence for a number of reasons, but primarily because it was the only methodology that provided a principle-based framework around a variety of business improvement tools.
While Council recognised that the framework and tools were beneficial in developing improved process design and implementation, the key to sustainable business excellence was to have staff that were emotionally engaged in the execution of these processes.

In order to facilitate the emotional engagement of staff, Council engaged Matrix Leadership Networks to conduct a staff cultural survey, using the Human Synergistics tools that included a behavioural circumplex.

The results of this survey identified a number of issues or causal factors that were impacting on the organisational culture and the emotional engagement of staff. More than 250 staff attended training to gain an understanding of the circumplex.

Now, in what is believed to be a first in Australian local government, Council has developed a program that integrates the Business Excellence Improvement Program with a cultural and staff engagement program. A key objective of the program is Ďto have emotionally engaged staff executing continuously improving processesí.

Over the past two years, more than 250 staff have been trained in the Business Excellence Framework, while 150 have been trained in the process improvement tools, including Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA).

Council has an organisational-wide program for staff to be able to identify opportunities for improvement that are then reviewed by a PDSA team, which includes the process expert, the process owner, process users and service-end customers. Council has committed to ongoing reviews and has a number of PDSA teams conducting reviews across the organisation at any one time.

A major achievement of this journey, in addition to both the financial and resource savings, has been the level of staff involvement and commitment. The process has provided an opportunity for staff to find their voice, participate in the improvement of their work environment, and have their ideas and thoughts seriously considered.

One of the most consistent messages that Council receives from staff is their appreciation of the opportunity to participate on PDSA teams with staff from other sections of the organisation. This feedback has highlighted the need to break down silos within Council and encourage a more systems-thinking culture.

There is a very strong network in local government across Australia in relation to the implementation of the Australian Business Excellence Framework. The Local Government Business Excellence Network (LGBEN) brings together a range of councils to learn from and support each other in achieving business excellence and to champion business excellence in local government.

For more information on the Local Government Business Excellence Network go to: www.lgben.net.au