Our Work in Progress Manifesto

26th August 2020 / BY / IN Performance

A lot has been said in recent weeks about the myth that the planning system and profession are barriers to growth. But less has been said about the myth that high caseloads are the cause of slower response times.

Mondrem have been successfully dispelling this myth for four years by turning the idea on its head and helping people to see slower response times as one cause of higher caseloads. Taking longer to determine applications means your caseload is higher. If a team get 100 applications a week and it takes them 8 weeks to deal with them, it will have a caseload (we call that work in progress or WiP) of 800 applications. If it does them in 4 weeks, it will have WiP of 400. And everyone’s individual caseload will be half what it was. The team will still be getting and determining 100 applications a week, but it will have far fewer enquires chasing progress, fewer complaints and will spend less time managing and monitoring deadlines. And, what will also be true, is that customers will get a much quicker response. All that makes it a better place to work. No extra work, just a better way of doing things. And then, there’s the opportunity to make the process slicker, to make the technology better and other things which will add improvement on top of this.

By looking at higher caseloads in this way, teams have a new incentive to find ways of processing applications quickly. And we help teams do this with our tools that record, monitor, forecast and manage caseloads.

We challenge the assumption that there is no short-term remedy to the issue of overworked planners.   

Often, feeling overworked isn’t because there aren’t enough people to determine the new applications that are received. It’s often because the team is carrying a level of work in progress much higher than it needs to be. That’s a temporary thing to be fixed and may not mean there are too few people for the long term.

With our toolkit we measure exactly how overworked planning services are by measuring the balance between their workload and capacity. Once we have identified where the imbalances are, we work with them to create a transition plan to move them from their position of imbalance to a position of balance, which means the team has a better working experience and customers receive a better service.

To summarise, what are the problems with having high levels of WiP?

  • Low productivity.
  • People chasing progress creates waste.
  • Complaints.
  • FOI requests.
  • Member enquiries.
  • Difficulties managing deadlines.
  • Lower levels of motivation.
  • Higher levels of stress and sickness.

And connecting all these problems is the fact that they result in slower response times.

What are the benefits with having low levels of WiP?

  • More productive.
  • Less waste.
  • More thinking time.
  • Ability to deliver higher levels of fee income.
  • Improved team wellbeing.
  • Professionally rewarding places to work.
  • Positive feedback.
  • Feeling energised.

This is the London Borough of Redbridge’s experience of working in this way:

“The work in progress tool and the fact you can measure productivity gave the team a revelation, that they can control their own destiny.”

Brett Leahy, Head of Planning & Building Control at London Borough of Redbridge.

To start your journey to lower WiP and faster response times, please contact Mike Astbury.

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