Purpose and learning points:
Prince 2 [P2] is a methodology applied to change management that assumes at the outset that everything that can be achieved within a review can be understood and planned for. SSD have been involved in a number of rescues which have been needed during a P2 intervention or immediately after. This item is designed to demonstrate that an emergent review cannot be controlled by a tool with dubious results for convergent working.
One of my perspectives of P2 is that people are engaged into it in a patronising, need to know basis, inferring the project manager is all knowing and we are mere cogs in a machine. The VT approach to change is to give everyone a view of the whole work, so that they know where they fit in and how they can contribute beyond their apparent niche in life.
The parking review had masses of detailed project plans, meeting notes and structures, with many people working on their discreet pieces of work. In essence it was full of controlling information but going backwards against needed schedules quite quickly. The initial data gathering after SSD being involved enabled the core elements of achievement to be refined, in order that everyone was working in an open, almost unstructured way in meetings, where all the participants were able to agree the handful of ‘must-do’ items with timescales with a few ‘drop-dead’ dates which was easy to sign up to. This enabled teams to understand exactly what was required, aware what they had to do, how they could help one-another and what fed into each strand of work.
From the first meeting we were able to create a very simple ‘mile-stone map’ with half a dozen ‘drop-dead dates’ which told us the must-does of the project. Having done that we explored the dependencies and assumptions made in the initial PiD, which showed other ways of working were possible, some of which were better than originally designed. The parking ‘day job’ required a review of recharge rates in parallel with two private sector businesses and a rapid development of methods to overcome parking appeals. Inside six weeks we developed a common charges policy and changed an appeals outcome from 80% failure to 20% simply by understanding the business better to manage the service. Within two months of starting the previously floundering Prince 2 led scheme was on track, with a more ambitious plan developed, leading directly to a £400,000 a year improvement in surplus. The scheme was completed on time, exceeding initial projections.
Following an interim assignment, SSD were awarded a significant consultancy contract to develop a new waste strategy and implementation plan. On the first day that the team were together, we became aware that the garden waste service was in meltdown involving eight back office people being full-time engaged in fire fighting an ‘inadequately’ designed and implemented Prince 2 scheme. Within a VT CPAD [Check/Plan/Appraise/Do] methodology we would seek some ‘quick-wins’ early on as this helps with capacity and positive energy in the review, we had been targeting to start with the ‘Christmas Blip’ (a sudden increase in defects every year).
The three of us picked up all the data we could find relating to the problems experienced in the new Garden Waste service and discovered that there were far more issues on week one than week two of the service. Even stranger was the fact that the team apparently creating the problems were virtually problem free on many days, but having massive problems on other days, so clearly not a team issue. Our initial work was to seek the ‘root-causes’ of the issues with a view to finding a cure for them.
Our initial stage of intervention was achieved by over-writing computer generated work sheets, correcting these in the afternoon prior to issuing the next day. We started our intervention on a Monday morning, by Wednesday that week the back-office issues had halved, with only four people needed to field issues. We continued to work on this which led to us discovering the cause of the issue had started in the contact centre with newly appointed staff failing to fill all the boxes on their forms correctly, leading to transpositions of work between rounds and days of collection. They also failed to ensure that the customers advised where the garden waste would be, with many anomalies as they weren’t at the front gate.
The rapid reduction in pain was worth a great deal to the council from a reputation point of view, especially as this was a ‘paid-for service’, but even more to us as we had apparently waved our magic wands reducing a ‘meltdown situation’ to halved In two days, quartered in four days and eliminated in under a fortnight. What transpired after the event was that the Prince 2 project leader was not comfortable with operations, so had concentrated her efforts within ICT, Finance and Customer Services, the establishment of Direct Debit being far more important than collecting and delivering the materials. The waste manager had repeatedly raised issues with the design, had asked for testing and validation, but was always demoted to a ‘we’ll get onto that later’ platform.
This very rapid improvement created a level of engagement with us for the ‘Christmas Blip’ that was extremely useful, which then led into a review of waste enabling one of the best recycling returns in the country for £1.7M a year less budget than they started with.
NOTE Visualising Transformation is a way of working that maximises the information to all people within the system, so as to be useful for their purposes. Enabling people to see what is happening and have knowledge as to how to use that information is at the heart of Lean and Systems Thinking.
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