22 February 2017

Merging councils – more process, less stress

Gosford City Council in New South Wales deals with a wide range of activities, including managing facilities, providing services and liaising with residents. This is a complex entity with a wide range of stakeholders, functions and responsibilities. Like Manager Program Delivery Support Virginia Cross says there were lots of opportunities for improvement.

Processes were stored in a variety of formats, sometimes in the heads of staff – and some process information had left the council with previous employees. After reviewing a large number of programs, the council started to implement Promapp into their business improvement program.

Shortly after Gosford began their Promapp implementation, they were advised to prepare for a potential merger with neighbouring council Wyong.

How to efficiently manage the impending merger was the question – one that was quickly answered when it was discovered that Wyong was keen to use Promapp

too. As Virginia explains, Wyong had been looking for a process mapping program, and had also chosen Promapp for its ease of use and simple logic: 'Wyong did a similar review – completely independently – and they came up with the same answer – Promapp.'

Mapping then merging

Virginia knew that undertaking due diligence, an essential step to help prepare for the potential merger, included gathering ‘as is’ business processes into one place. She wanted everyone on staff to be able to access and understand them, so they could contribute to future process improvements.

Virginia set up a method for putting Gosford’s and Wyong’s houses in order. Staff of both councils now attend process mapping workshops and then attend Promapp training sessions, where they learn to use the software and put the mapped processes into the system.

The idea is that by mapping the processes of both councils separately, they could pick and choose the best of both worlds. When it comes time to merge it will be clear which processes are most effective and where they should be combined – or replaced all together. It’s about creating a new, improved council that is operating in the very best way for customers and residents.

She said: 'It would have been ideal if we’d mapped these processes years ago, but doing it now gives us real data – this is what happens in Gosford, this is what happens in Wyong, so what do we need to do to make it work?'

Co-operation, not competition

Like any major business change, a merger can be a disruptive time. Staff are often understandably anxious about how the new organisation will operate, and their place within it. Virginia says that including staff in the process mapping has helped turn this change into a positive, giving them a feeling of ownership over the transition. Team members are encouraged to express their ideas through the comments section of Promapp, as a way of helping build the new organisation.

It’s not just senior management making these decisions. With Promapp, everyone has a chance to contribute – to feel like they’re helping to build the new organisation,' she explained.

This was confirmed in the feedback from one workshop attendee who wrote: 'I really enjoyed attending the session and feel more empowered to contribute to the process.'

Easy to set up, clear to follow

Virginia found a natural resistance to change quickly disappeared when staff realised how easy Promapp was to use and follow. Enthusiasm for the new software took over, and staff are now also excited about the potential, particularly when they consider how useful it could be to customers.

She said: 'At first people felt overwhelmed. Now they know how easy Promapp is, they’re really keen to put all their business processes into a process map. Following the process map makes everything clearer.'

Benefits to Gosford so far:

  • Complexity is managed and streamlined
  • All processes are in one place
  • Process data is available to create a smoother merger
  • Staff can contribute to and own changes in processes
  • Staff are enthusiastic and engaged
  • Staff feel empowered to contribute to a bigger and better council

Sign up to attend a free webinar - taking place at 8.30am on the 28th February 2017 - looking at the critical lessons from merging councils in Australia.

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