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ARCHIVED - Service Improvement Initiative - How to Guide

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Summary of How-to Guide

The example of the following page provides a summary of the Service Improvement Planning and Implementation methodology at work. Each of the above identified steps are important and contribute to overall success; none can be skipped or glossed over. Although presented as discrete elements, the steps are obviously interconnected.

For success, leadership from all employees is a must and serves as a base to build a strong service improvement initiative. This starts with the creation of a Service Improvement Team to assist with the process. This team sets out to adopt a results-based service improvement planning and implementation approach that answers four key questions in nine steps in this methodology.

The first question is "Where are we now?" This is addressed with an internal assessment by identifying the clients, products, services, partners, and stakeholders of the organization. Then, the current state is assessed through the establishment of a client feedback strategy and the identification of current levels of client and employee satisfaction, expectations and priorities.

The next question is "Where do our clients want us to be?" This involves defining the desired future state of the organization by ensuring the mission statement includes a service vision. Client priorities for improvement are then identified based on client and employee feedback. Client satisfaction targets are then set along with client-driven service standards.

This is followed by the question "How will we get there?" This is addressed by the design of a service improvement plan that has action plans to achieve targets, a defined schedule, and allocates resources and responsibilities.

The final question asks "How do we make it happen?" and involves the implementation of the service improvement plan, and the monitoring and measuring of progress made while ensuring accountability for results. This concluded with an employee recognition program that celebrates success.

Each must be revisited as part of a continuous improvement approach, some more frequently than others. For example, the service improvement plan will be reviewed more frequently than the mission and vision statement.

The task is not easy. But it can be fun. There is joy in achievement. There is also joy in watching the clients' satisfaction levels rise. It reassures us of the value of our work and makes the workplace more enjoyable – cause for celebration.

Example of the Service Improvement Planning and Implementation (SIPI)

Methodology at Work

The following example is fictitious and designed for demonstration purposes only. A Ministry of Agriculture has an information and training program designed to assist farmers with environmental management of sensitive lands along streams. The Ministry is not certain how well this program is performing for its clients, but some anecdotal feedback makes them think it could perform better using a structured service improvement planning process. The Ministry has decided that it would like to achieve an improvement of 10% in service performance over a three-year period.

To begin, the Ministry has decided to create a small team to assist with the development of a service improvement plan. As the plan will only involve a modest sized program, the team will be ad hoc rather than a dedicated team established.

Assessment. The team starts with an identification of all the clients, partners and stakeholders involved in the program. Once started, the team quickly realizes that the program has a much larger impact than they originally thought. While the primary clients of the program are farmers, several others are identified, including one that was previously overlooked: rural property owners who are not farmers, but rent their property out for intensive agriculture. Some internal clients of the program include the Communications Unit who provides information and brochures at autumn fair displays. In terms of partners, other government ministries were identified: Ministry of Environment (water protection, pollution control), Ministry of Natural Resources (fisheries protection), and local watershed management authorities. As well, non-governmental organizations are identified as partners, including farming associations and conservation groups that provide information and training to their members. Stakeholders include anglers, and the local community – the latter through the flood control benefits derived from the program.

Current State. The team establishes a client feedback strategy, with comment cards for clients coming to offices for information, and satisfaction surveys for clients taking training. When required, focus groups will collect more detailed information from clients. The improvement initiative focus is on improving the satisfaction of direct program clients: farmers. To begin, these clients are brought together for a few focus groups to gather some initial information on the issues. This is followed by a CMT-based client survey which in addition to the core questions, the team adds a few standard items (notably from the Communications Section) and creates a section related specifically to the program (such as questions specifically on training) that uses standard CMT metrics. This survey provides a benchmark to measure progress. The survey reveals an overall satisfaction level of 70%, which sets a target of 77% to achieve a 10% increase in client satisfaction.

Mission/Vision. In reviewing the mission statement of the Branch delivering the program, the team sees room for improvement. The current mission is "To provide high quality information and training on sustainable agricultural practices to the farming community." While good, the team and senior management think it best to tweak the wording to state: "To provide high quality information and training on sustainable agricultural practices to meet the needs of the farming community." While minor, this ensures the focus is on the needs of the clients and indicates a culture shift to a citizen-centred organization.

Priorities for Improvement. From the survey, clients clearly identified three improvement priorities. These deal with the clearness of communication, the amount of time required to deliver training, and telephone access to the Branch for program information.

Standards and Targets. The team looks at the data and determines that in order to achieve the 10% service performance improvement that it will set an annual objective of 2.3% (72.3% in Year 1; 74.6% in Year 2; and 77.0% in Year 3). For service standards, the team takes the lead from the survey and the Citizens First survey. For in-person service, the clients want service within five minutes; to deal with no more than two people; and phone calls answered within three rings. The objective is to achieve these standards 80% of the time.

The Service Improvement Plan. The team then constructs the service improvement plan. An integrated document, it contains much of the content already developed. This plan includes statements on the timeframe and scope of the initiative, the efforts taken to develop the plan, and the mission statement of the program and the vision of citizen-centred service in the Ministry. From the three priorities identified, the team draws up the action plan that identifies the needed actions for improvement, and states the responsibilities, timeframes, results, and how results will be measured. Several individuals involved in the program are identified with responsibilities. The improvement plan also states that the results for implementing the improvement plan will be reported as part of the regular reporting process for the program, with additional reports made on a quarterly basis for staff and partners. Management accountability for the improvement plan lies with the Branch Director, who gives final approval to the plan, and has had the service improvement plan made part of the accountability agreement with her ADM.

Implementation. The team recognizes that the implementation of the improvement plan is strongly linked to the next stage of monitoring. This includes communication of the plan – not just to staff, but to the partners and stakeholders. The responsibilities stated in the plan are verified so that everyone is clear on expectations, why the changes are being made, and what the desired outcome is: increased client satisfaction. This supports a culture shift to a citizen/client focus. Management also ensures that changes are made to assist the plan, such as working with Systems to improve the telephone services, and addressing the clarity of the information in documents. Where needed, staff training is identified and undertaken. As it exists, the plan is likely not perfect and will require adjustment. While intended as an annual document, the plan is expected to have periodic adjustments, especially during early implementation. Implementation is not a one-off event, but a continuous improvement process.

Monitoring. With implementation underway, the improvement plan is monitored as part of a continuous improvement process. A monitoring system is put in place as part of the client feedback strategy that provides timely feedback. In addition, periodic reviews are undertaken through informal staff networks and periodicals to see how other jurisdictions are performing on similar programs as part of a benchmarking exercise. Results are measured and communicated on a regular basis to staff, clients, the legislature, and the public. Accountability decisions are then made based on the monitoring. With a short timeframe (three years), the team decides that monitoring and revision will focus only on the service improvement plan. Any longer, then it might be appropriate to revisit the earlier steps and reconfirm the clients and program mission to ensure they are still valid.

Rewards and Recognition. After consulting with staff and management, the team decides to recommend to management that the improvements recognize all staff involved in the initiative rather than only individuals. They also feel that both ordinary and extraordinary achievement should be recognized, from completion of an action item to achievement of the client satisfaction targets, and reflect the significance of the accomplishments. An annual recognition dinner is also suggested to recognize the external partners who help deliver the program.