Striving for Enterprise Excellence in Auckland Council Pools and Leisure

  By: Chris Butterworth, Louis Sylvester, Richard Steel


The Auckland Plan is the strategy to make Auckland an even better place than it is now, and create the world’s most livable city. It shows how Auckland will prepare for the additional one million people they  may have to accommodate by 2040, and the 400,000 new homes needed. Many people were involved in the preparation of this Plan: Auckland residents, community groups, infrastructure providers, central government, iwi (indigenous tribes), business groups and voluntary organizations who helped shape the Plan for Auckland’s future. Although the mayor and Auckland Council led its development, the Auckland Plan is for all of Auckland and all Aucklanders, and its successful implementation will require leadership, action, investment, and commitment from many organizations, groups and individuals.


Auckland Now and Into The Future / TE TŪMANAKO MĀ TĀMAKI MAKAURAU

Auckland’s vision is to become the world’s most livable city. As the world’s most livable city, Auckland will be a place that:

  • Aucklanders are proud of,
  • They want to stay or return to, and
  • Others want to visit, move to, or invest in.

The goal of livability expresses the shared desire to create a city where all people can enjoy a high quality of life and improved standards of living, a city which is attractive to mobile people, firms, and investors, and a place where environmental and social standards are respected.

The Long-term Plan 2012 – 2022

The Long-term Plan (LTP) sets out the Council’s projects and budget for the next ten years. It is the starting point for turning the aspirations of the Auckland Plan into an implementation plan. This aligns with the mayor’s vision to create the world’s most livable city.

2.3   How do you align to the purpose?

Auckland Council Pools and Leisure aligned to the purpose of ‘Creating the world’s most livable city’ through the development of a Game Plan. This tailored Game Plan was a three-year transformational program designed to directly align and deliver on Auckland Council’s vision through achieving the goals of Pools and Leisure, these goals being:

  1. Inspiring more Aucklanders to be active
  2. Inspiring our children, young people and whanau (family) to reach their potential
  3. Delivering an operationally cost neutral network.

By more Aucklanders, the Pools and Leisure business unit mean specifically those who recognize the benefit of being active but face a myriad of opportunity and confidence challenges that make them ‘insufficiently active.’ In short, Pools and Leisure wants to grow the market, not their market share, thus inspiring more Aucklanders to be active.

The Game Plan was built around the premise that if Pools and Leisure target the right people, and create and demonstrate value for the customers, then their business would grow and they would become less dependent on ratepayers. This means being driven by the customer needs, looking to continuously improve, and using their size and scale to their advantage so that they could deliver better value for Aucklanders. 

What is the Game Plan?

The Game Plan is a carefully thought-out strategy for the Pools and Leisure Team on the course of action required from them so that they could win the game – winning meaning that they are able to play their role in contributing and delivering on ‘Creating the world’s most livable city.’

Continuous Improvement supports all elements of the Game Plan, in part by reducing waste to create more time and increase creativity and innovation for all Auckland Pool and Leisure employees. This is centered on the heart of continuous improvement being included in the unswerving pursuit of operational excellence and in seeking and delivering true value to their customers or “Fans” in everything that they do.

By changing the lens view and focusing on the frustrations that plague us, combined with reminding ourselves just how awesome some of the things we achieve are, we seek to develop a winning culture as another pillar from the playbook to support Auckland Leisure goals.

Continuous improvement applies to our culture as well as our operational activities and customer centric thinking.

The Lean Awareness and Practitioner training gives us some foundational continuous improvement skills for the wider team in order for them to start focusing upon their playbook. Each center is “calling the right play,” continuously improving and “playing their role.”

With the right mix of “player profiles,” continuous improvement “supports our team” and also helps us “get the basics right” so we can create flow and add value to our Fans.

Learning more about what our Fans value will also draw us closer to “engaging our Fan base” and “improving and expanding our playing fields.”

As we learn by doing, we will have many tales to tell and “telling our story” will enable us to share with our peers so that they may also apply some new ideas in their own playbook.

So in summary, continuous improvement will fuel our drive towards our goals:

“Inspire Aucklanders to be active”

“Inspire children and their whanau to achieve their potential”

“Achieve a cost neutral network”


Building a continuous improvement culture to deliver the Game Plan

To take the Wikipedia definition, here’s a paragraph that simply defines the continuous Improvement process:

 “A continuous improvement process, also often called a continuous improvement process (abbreviated as CIP or CI), is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility.”

There are a number of methodologies that can facilitate continuous improvement such as Lean Thinking, Kaizen, Six Sigma (Total Quality) and Total Productive Maintenance. Auckland Leisure has identified that a mixture of these would be utilized to support the Game Plan.

These tools and techniques fit into “Operational Excellence” and Lean Leadership supports the “below the waterline” focus upon:

  1. Strategy Alignment
  2. Leadership
  3. Behavior and Engagement

ref “Staying Lean” Hines et al

The solution to this lay is embedding the right behaviors in the people of the business, underpinned with the right systems and tools driving this behavior.

Leisure first heard about continuous improvement, also know at that time as Lean Thinking, back in 2014, when the leadership team attended a short course and heard how this model, Lean Thinking (Lean), could transform business operations. Lean Thinking is a process improvement approach and a set of methods that seek to eliminate non-value added activities and waste, whilst enabling rapid breakthrough improvements and creating a continuous improvement culture.

The challenge was therefore to develop an approach to take this manufacturing philosophy and apply it to local government operations. Council met this challenge because, simply put, Lean Thinking applies to any business and every process. Through the adoption of Lean Thinking, Auckland Council is striving to further deliver better, smarter, safer, faster and more cost effective services to our ratepayers, helping the Council to achieve the long-term vision of becoming the world’s most livable city.

The Lean journey started when Leisure implemented and deployed Lean Thinking late in 2014 as part of their strategy to maintain or improve services at a lower cost. Part of this strategic Lean Thinking deployment within Auckland Council was in applying and establishing Lean Thinking to a smaller scale operation within Council. This allowed for some ‘quick wins’ whilst a continuous improvement culture was diffused throughout the organization. This facility adopted the continuous improvement methods and techniques and has been successfully practicing and showcasing how continuous improvement is part of how they do business with everybody, everyday. Lean Thinking has significantly increased the performance and effectiveness of Leisure’s processes in a rapid time frame. It has also increased transparency and actively engaged its employees in finding ways to work better, faster and smarter. Leisure is becoming a shining lighthouse within Auckland Council and is demonstrating its ability to effectively translate and use Lean Thinking to create and maximize value for customers with fewer resources.

  • Made the connection of how the relentless pursuit of excellence can make a real difference to customers and employees through applying a team effort to remove or reduce those frustrations that get in the way of their daily work
  • Beacon and Example to others
  • One of the early adopters in NZ to have demonstrated a leading position of how CI can be applied within Local Government Councils (Local Government Sector)
  • The team have adopted the core concepts of Continuous Improvement and inspired many others to take up CI Management principles in many other areas of council and the wider business community

This philosophy is all about small incremental improvements to dramatic strategic improvements through harnessing the knowledge of the whole organization to reduce ‘waste’ and ‘inefficiency,’ resulting in better services and increased value to the ratepayer.

The rationale for the implementation of CI (continuous improvement) was to ensure long-term success and sustainability for Council to provide better local services for less to the community, hence reducing the financial burden to the ratepayer. Increased community satisfaction from year to year via surveys is also expected and undertaken through NRB (National Research Bureau is an independent, New Zealand based, research company.)

The Council’s strategy deployment links the strategic goals of the organization with a cascade of increasingly specific programs and activities that support these goals. This deployment shows the long-term focus (next ten years) goals and objectives and then focuses on what needs to be accomplished in the following year. This is also relative and specific to each department within Council. A CI tool called the X-Matrix was used to show linkage. Each department within Council has then been able to align their annual goals to this strategic plan focus, coupled with improvement priorities and measuring outcomes through key performance indicators.

The matrix is highly visual and creates a powerful means for connecting CI initiatives with the organization’s mission and strategy of increasing revenue, saving time, and reducing waste with improved quality and service. This means council staff are working towards the ultimate goal of providing perfect value to the customer through a perfect value creation process that has zero waste. The centers are not only meeting today’s deliverables but have strategically positioned themselves to continuously improve and evolve to address the challenges of tomorrow and beyond.

CI has had a positive impact on capability within Council. Using lighthouse models such as Manurewa Pool and Leisure Centre to promote and encourage effective deployment of CI throughout the Council has been extremely beneficial. Over the past year, this facility and team has already been contributing to becoming a center of excellence and has toured over 450 staff and managers from various Council departments, elected councillors, and created local boards including local businesses such as Countdown Supermarkets, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, ASB Bank, Ko Awatea Middlemore Hospital, and Te Puia Arts and Cultural Centre, to name but a few.

The tour takes approximately 90 minutes and allows staff to visually see CI in action. The tour covers the use of performance metrics and visual controls to provide rapid communication and feedback to improve real-time decision-making and problem solving. It also covers Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Visual Management, 5S, Identification of the 8 Wastes, Problem Solving and Process Mapping. The staff are able to identify where and how CI can be applied and integrated into their specific areas of work. Therefore, implementation of these CI techniques are resulting in improved services with lower costs and a reduction of unnecessary waste. This is the continuous improvement synergy which is dispersing throughout the Council and its staff.

Positive capability can also be seen throughout Council as a direct result from these tours in departments who have employed and are practicing Lean Thinking techniques and principles such as 5S. The 5S principles are focused specifically on ‘Sorting, Setting in Order, Shining, Standardizing and Sustaining’ workplace environments to improve efficiency and reduce time wasting. This process improvement approach and method eliminates non-value added activities and waste, whilst enabling rapid break through improvements and is creating a continuous improvement culture.

Through implementation of CI, the Leisure business unit of Council is now strongly positioning itself to respond to a changing community, customer desires with increased variety, high quality, and low cost, with much faster throughput times. It has also increased information management that is continuously becoming much simpler and more accurate. Through CI ways of working and thinking, staff engagement with the community is continuously increasing. Savings and improvements of over $4M have already been realized with an increasing and continuing favorable trend of Net Position improvement. The foundational keys of CI ways of work and thinking and behaving that have helped affect this change are based on People Development, CI Strategy, Process Improvement and Customer Value, which is significantly contributing to bottom line financial success. The implementation of CI has now been providing an ever increasing positive return on investment and will continue to develop further as the CI journey progresses.

This article is an extract from a forth coming book planned for publication in 2018 : “ Lean Leisure -Striving for Enterprise Excellence in Auckland Pools and Leisure”  Butterworth , Sylvester and Steel.

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