In order to get buy-in, change must be not only attainable, but sustainable. It is easy to slip back into old habits and do what is comfortable; however, this will not help complete the change. Change must be incremental at first, so the old is not so far away, yet consistent, so small changes make dramatic leaps forward before you know it. The change must also be successful to the customer. The customer must “feel” the change in order to remain positive and make positive comments to staff that are often starved for positive feedback. Sustainable change will become a solid foundation for improvement. Sustainable support from executive management will go a long way towards staff taking the change not only seriously, but also applying it consistently.
A City change agent’s reflection on their experience……
We have undertaken significant improvements to the development processing system. No matter how good a plan is to address customer service culture issues ….we found that the plan did not meet expectations. We had good intentions by having full participation by a Staff Action Team, made up on representatives from departments, to develop and move improvements forward. We also had executive management and political leadership say that change MUST come or else, however, the truth of the matter is that unless the culture is changed from both top down and bottom up, the plan WILL NOT work.
If you have come to the conclusion that changes are needed to improve customer service in the development process, there are some key questions to think about. For example:
- Based upon initial research, are you expecting the changes to the development process to be significant?
- Do anticipated changes involve multiple local city or county departments or agencies?
- Have previous efforts to improve the process failed or did not achieve adequate improvements to service?
Your government agency has embarked upon a journey to improve customer service in the development processing system. A number of significant changes are anticipated, including a more co-located “one-stop” development services center, shifting to a project-oriented approach when processing applications, and an enhanced information technology and communication system. Can these changes happen? They can, but you must challenge staff and yourself to “suspend disbelief”. What is this challenge you ask? This challenge begins by looking at the basic definition of disbelief.
Making significant improvements in the development processing system is a very difficult and risky venture from the perspective of the staff members involved in the effort. Staff (and customers) are being asked to change old habits and embrace new ideas for providing information and processing permits or applications. As an individual, you could be leading an improvement team or you may be asked to participate as a contributing team member. So, how can you optimize your participation in the improvement effort? How can you be viewed as a contributing team member?