Linn County is focusing on customers
Having worked in the private sector before becoming a Linn County Supervisor, I understand how implementing the principles of business can improve the business of government. It is commonly asked, “why can’t government operate more like a business”?
My answer to that is, in many ways, it can.
This is precisely what Linn County is doing. As part of our transformation, we are approaching our work in terms of “products”. This is critical so we can measure our products’ effectiveness, improve each product to meet the needs of our customers and discontinue products that do not meet our customers’ needs and expectations. This shift in mind-set differentiates Linn County from many other government entities.
Linn County is guided by a new five-year strategic plan that focuses on three key areas: customer satisfaction, quality of life and maintaining our exceptional fiscal strength and stability. To accomplish these goals, Linn County has partnered with the Iowa Quality Center, renowned transformational consultant Rob Lawton, and local organizational expert Ted Garnett to help guide our organization toward continuous improvement and a customer-centered culture. We are implementing a wide variety of proven organizational transformation practices and business principles such as LEAN, Six Sigma, Kaizan and others, to improve the products we produce and the services we provide. Our bottom line is saving tax dollars through continual improvement. From front line employees to managers and elected officials, we are putting ourselves in our customers’ shoes to better understand their experiences, and then using that understanding to improve and innovate Linn County products.
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Ben Rogers serves on the Linn County Board of Supervisors and represents District 3 which covers most of the North East side of Cedar Rapids. Comments: (319) 892-5106; firstname.lastname@example.org
Creating a Customer-Centered Culture
By Jocelyn Stein and AnneMarie Burgess, WIG 2.0 Team
Created by Robin Lawton, author of Mastering Excellence, Customer-Centered Culture is a system of principles and tools designed to support WIG 2.0 and serve as an additional way to challenge WIG 2.0 teams to look more closely, from a customer mindset, at the products they produce.
Since October 2016, more than 150 MnDOT senior leaders, WIG coaches and pilot project staff have elected to attend C3 training. The training teaches attendees how to use a customer viewpoint–versus a producer viewpoint–to help create a more customer-centered mindset.
Feedback from participants of the C3 training noted that creating a customer-centered culture means thinking differently about what, and how, products and services are provided. They learned that focus and experimentation on internal service products and processes create a good foundation for applying the philosophy and methods externally.
Draft definitions aligned with C3 are being adopted to help us better understand and prioritize our diverse customers’ needs. Employees have begun using these definitions to support WIG 2.0 in targeted areas to help define:
- Who are the end users of each of the products we deliver?
- What products do we produce?
- Do we know how customers think we are doing? How?
- What can we do to delight our customers?
- Do we have an actionable, ongoing feedback loop with customers?
- How might we better measure and track customer satisfaction and improvements?
The first phase of the project works to find out what the end users of a specific product want from that product and in what priority order. C3 asks us to focus on end user desired outcomes rather than on the process we use to create products. Participants were so interested in the approach that they have voluntarily decided to form C3 pilot project teams over the last six months to incorporate C3 concepts and make recommendations for improvement of targeted MnDOT products.
The pilot projects are a way for MnDOT to learn and apply new tools that can help better identify what and how to measure performance metrics from a customer perspective.
Depot creates customer-centered culture
It’s a new concept, a different way of looking at things, with emphasis on what each and every employee can do to make things better. In its effort to create a customer-centered culture, the Naval Air Depot (NADEP) Cherry Point has adopted a proven, practical approach to achieving and sustaining leadership in quality and customer satisfaction.
NADEP Cherry Point provides maintenance, engineering, and logistics support on a wide variety of aircraft, engines, and components for all branches of the U.S. armed forces. The depot’s mission is to support the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in providing the American warfighter with absolute combat power through mastery of six broad categories of naval aviation technologies: sensors, aircraft, weapons, training, launch and recovery, and communications. Employing almost 4,000 people, the depot is the only source of repair within the continental United States for many jet and rotary wing engines. It is the Navy’s center of excellence for rotary wing aircraft, providing engineering and logistics support for all Navy helicopters.
“Customer-Centered Culture (C3) is an attempt to get into the customer’s mind,” MaryEllen Kirkland, Supervisory Program Analyst, said. “It’s an efficient way to find out what the customer wants, needs, and expects and what we can do to provide it.
To read more: NAVAIR News Release FRCE Public Affairs, Cherry Point, NC October 3, 2002
Pinellas County Utilities – Pick Talley
Profile of a C3 Leader
Pick Talley began his Florida water management career in 1971. He left in the ‘80’s to pursue a variety of endeavors including a stint as a County Commissioner and a golf course community development project with such luminaries as the Arnold Palmer Management Company. The attraction of public service and the satisfaction of community work brought him back to county water management in 1991. Pick was appointed in 1995 to Director of the new Pinellas County Utilities (PCU). He was instrumental in creating this new agency by consolidating and restructuring three county government departments. The collaborative approach he used to do this has been a hallmark of his leadership style ever since.
Pick has led PCU to notable success and national recognition in many areas. Dramatic population growth in the Florida county west of Tampa has put increasing demands on water supply. Under Pick’s guidance, PCU water consumption rates have dropped from 153 gallons per day per person in 1991 to only 93 gallons by 2005. This record of performance leads the nation.
Another of Pick’s achievements is the transformation of “a stinking old sewer treatment facility” into an innovative park he calls a teaching reclamation plant – the South Cross Water Reclamation Facility. This is a beautiful place that clearly reflects the environmental sensitivity you might expect from a guy who loves to hunt, fish, golf, ski and boat. High school science classes include an educational tour of the plant as part of their curriculum.
This backdrop of repeated success, coupled with his progressive and participative leadership style, enabled Pick to easily see how C3 principles could propel PCU even further. He championed the application of C3 in the development of PCU’s new strategic plan and balanced scorecard, beginning in the fall of 2003. He personally sponsored one of the first C3 projects, designed to simultaneously deploy the customer-centered strategic direction and demonstrate how to achieve high return on investment from the initiative.
Why should a monopoly like PCU be concerned about having a customer-centered culture? According to Pick, C3 is an organized way to express what should be intrinsic values that everyone in the organization lives by. In a commercial context, external and competitive forces offer compelling reasons for customer-centeredness. A government agency like PCU can only be effective in Pick’s view by using values and principles to guide the satisfaction of the community it serves in innovative ways. It is no accident that the new PCU strategic plan articulates a vision statement along those lines: “Doing for you what you never thought possible.”
Clearly, customer satisfaction and innovation are not new ideas at PCU. Pick notes that in the past, though, “we used to focus on narrowly defined problems and their short-term fixes. We didn’t really look at outcomes and related measures, particularly as valued by customers. This is a key change we’ve made with C3.”
Pick is a realist. From his background as an electrical engineer, MBA education and lifelong interest in environmental issues, he knows transformation has no end point. He knows that the achievements made so far now require a consistent dedication of effort to sustain the new direction. He continuously encourages his management team and employees to challenge Vital Lies and resist complacency and the temptation of thinking, “Are we done, now?”
His legacy to the Pinellas County community will be a strong public utility where employees use customer-centered decision-making processes without any special effort.
We treasure Pick’s friendship and salute him for modeling so well his vision of what is possible!