Liz Sullivan interview – cultivating a new DNA

11th August 2020 / BY / IN Change

“A key change was seeing the overall workload as something that the whole team is involved in rather than just their individual caseloads.” I’m speaking to Liz Sullivan, DM Team Manager at Redbridge council.

Faced with planning application numbers well above the London average, Liz and her team were struggling to keep up.

But, in just under 12 months, the team began to exceed expectations.

A new DNA was cultivated, and the team worked together to improve performance. Most importantly, they believed that change was possible.

18months on, and I’m asking Liz about the keystones to her team’s success.

“We have that 400 target that we’re not allowed to exceed in terms of our live caseload and that is an odd thing for planners to think about because you only think about your own caseload, you don’t think about what the rest of the team are doing.”

Redbridge challenged conventional practices by viewing their caseload through the prism of shared ownership. It was important that they worked together to improve their performance.

“We started thinking about daily decision targets rather than being led by what’s expiring on a day. It does not matter how many cases are expiring, you need to decide a certain number of applications so that the whole team can keep on top of what they’re doing. Again, this is an alien concept to planners. It’s not how we would normally work, but it’s made a massive difference.”

But positive change can produce unexpected results. And systemic change can feel unusual.

“We discovered that even though the workload had massively decreased, there was a period of time when the team were all really stressed and we didn’t understand why. We came to the conclusion that it was because it was such a different way of working and they continually had a target they needed to be meeting, which felt different.

“I think they have settled into it now, but obviously working from home has been unsettling. The changes have definitely improved wellbeing beyond the period when the team were getting used to the change.”

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