Councils, Customers and Processes

We sometimes like to blame the local council for just about… anything. They’re an easy target for our annoyance at an uncollected bin or the cost of our rates… Who reading this has muttered the words  ‘bloody council’.... (or worse)  We probably all have!   

Truthfully we have pretty much outsourced a bunch of  our civic responsibility to the elected councillors and the administration that turns our council rates into tidy streets, footpaths, and the local sporting facilities… The Council manages the stuff we almost take for granted nowadays and given a bunch of constraints  they do pretty well at it. Put another way, (the inconvenient truth is) they  deal with the stuff most of us  don’t necessarily want to know about… that’s a topic for another day though 😉

Sometimes in dealing with the local council it can feel like they have missed the mark. BUT! I’ve learned that this is more to do with circumstances under which Local Governments must operate. Some of the hardest working people I’ve met are in local Councils and given the pace of change within local government, the lot of them deserve a medal for not losing their mind - and many of these professionals will tell you this directly. Years of process, legacy factors and government rules have meant Councils operate along a democratic tightrope. They work hard to give the community a voice but it’s done in a way not always conducive to the changing times. From council to council, improvements have been happening but change is more evolution and less revolution... It  isn’t going to happen overnight.

The area of council we’ve learned the most about is in facility bookings - which refers to the hire of halls, parks, community centres and sporting areas. At the start, I wondered
‘What are we thinking! This is too hard to fix’.
It’s too layered in bureaucracy and we can’t deliver what they need and keep their customers happy’.
I was right and I was wrong. We could improve the process significantly, but only by taking a hopelessly naive approach to tackling the issues. To improve the process for booking a council venue, we had to think differently. Instead of a Council-to-Customer approach, we flipped our focus to be Customer-to-Council. This meant analysing the booking process and starting over. It also freed us up to say ‘if you do it like this you no longer need to worry about X and Y’. 

The result is something quite different.  It definitely would  not have been achieved by attempting to map everything  against Council requirements directly because we would have simply substituted an existing cumbersome flow and put it onto a computer screen - that is not innovation, it’s just bad human design.

Getting to be the approved service provider does take due-process and time and that too is a topic for another day 😉 However - the key message is that the changes in our world challenge all of our institutions be they government, education, medical or financial. What we have learned is that improvement must be driven through the lens of the customer. If it isn’t, the customer will not use you in this 21st Century.

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