WOMBAT strictly prohibited

Article image - WOMBAT strictly prohibited Prohibiting the WOMBAT: (l – r) Lismore City Council General Manager Gary Murphy and Executive Director of Infrastructure Services Garry Hemsworth. Many people think public servants sit around crashing computers and jamming photocopiers, but at Lismore City Council the staff have a healthy sense of humour and a genuine desire to make their workplace better.

Thanks to the progressive thinking of General Manager Gary Murphy, Lismore City Council has launched the Waste Of Money, Brains and Time (WOMBAT) Group that aims to make Council a happier, smarter and more productive enterprise.

Gary hit upon the idea during a site visit to a Norco factory last year, where councillors noticed something that looked like big red ‘no smoking sign’, but which depicted a wombat where normally you’d see a cigarette.

Norco staff were quick to explain that anything deemed a WOMBAT (Waste Of Money, Brains And Time) was prohibited in the factory.

“We all thought it was hilarious and incredibly smart. Studies have shown, in many workplaces all over the world, that involving staff, fostering good ideas, and getting rid of things that simply aren’t working, are the best ways to create a cohesive workforce. From there, financial savings, better relationships and a more efficient team is the inevitable outcome.” he said

Gary Murphy moved to Australia from New Zealand in August 2011 to take up the position of General Manager, saying he wanted to nurture open decision-making within Lismore City Council.

He said that WOMBAT was part of changing Council’s internal culture and moving away from the top-down approach, so people at the grassroots level have the knowledge to find solutions for day-to-day problems.

Gary said that some great ideas had already come from staff, including one from IT guru Garth Hayhurst, who encouraged Council to hold a trial meeting where Councillors and staff read business papers from iPads rather than in hard copy.

Council has now made the permanent switch to iPads, saving around $1200 a month in printing costs, which will see the iPad investment paid off in just one year. “Our staff have the knowledge, so let’s use their ideas,” Gary enthused.

The WOMBAT Group’s first assignment was to ask all staff to identify three things they would change and why, so Council could gauge what staff think and feel about current work practices.

The group will sift through the responses, looking at minor changes that can be implemented immediately and also start planning long-term projects.

“Staff will then be involved in implementing their ideas, so they can see their input is valued, heeded and acted upon,” Gary said.

“We never have enough money or time to go around, so we’d love to save some wherever we can. And we have more than 400 employees at Lismore City Council so there are lots of brains to pick.”