talkwithus@mondrem.co.uk 
Mondrem CIC believe in building shared understanding. We seek first to understand the lived experience of an organisation, its stakeholders and its customers. These conversations reveal challenges, opportunities and good news. 
 
We have been working with the talented Development Management (DM) team at Dacorum Borough Council on a wellbeing project. Their analysis shows that by working with Mondrem, the team’s performance has improved significantly, helping to prepare them for the Council’s projected growth rate. 
 
This happened by focusing on the one thing that influences performance the most - the wellbeing of people. And working with those people to co-design solutions to the challenges they face. 
 
Together, the team set a clear direction, used and developed new tools to measure performance and wellbeing and introduced new ways of working. All to deliver a better service for the communities of their borough. 
 

It starts by listening  

Working in DM is challenging and sometimes stressful. Most DM teams face the challenge of balancing growing demand against fewer resources. Put simply, the need to do more, efficiently, with less. Planners can often find that even with great communication and consideration, there's still someone to disagree with the judgements and decisions they make. So, the wellbeing of planners matters too. 
 
But not all DM teams experience the same challenges and opportunities. So, it's important that we start by listening, to build shared understanding within teams, and between those teams, their stakeholders and their customers. This helps the team to set their own direction, and follow the path towards a better, more rewarding service. 

By managing in an organised way 

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that the DM team had to quickly adapt the way they work. 
 
The first national lockdown caused a sharp decline in the number of planning applications submitted. This provided the team with the opportunity to re-focus and reduce their work-in-progress (we call this 'WiP') with the aim of improving wellbeing. 
 
The team pulled together. Problem-sharing was encouraged, capacity scrutinised and everyone was asked to complete a weekly wellbeing survey. 
 
By tracking their projects using a shared planner, implementing new tools to measure and forecast productivity and reporting progress against their individual work plans, the team took control over their situation and remained connected - despite working from home. 
 
This team effort helped to open up communication and deliver an excellent service to their communities under difficult circumstances. 

And by developing improved ways of working 

With well-intended, smaller applications being processed in record-times, the speed of positive development is increasing. Over a 10-day period, the team reduced their WiP by 15% after focussing their efforts on smaller application types. A great result for their customers. 
 
They developed a fair way of allocating work based on the available time people had to do it, and agreed a reasonable expectation of what could be achieved in that time. And they began treating major planning applications like projects, using an organised and disciplined project management approach. 
 
To enhance the speed and openness of the planning service, the team built shared understanding with the specialists they consult during the decision-making process. These conversations shone a light on areas for improvement, so the team created an action plan to improve the process of consultation. 
 
These changes were based on measures that matter to the team – not just those they report to national government - like the team’s wellbeing and average times for validation and determination. 

The result? 

Without the wellbeing project, the team's WiP would have increased by around 46% from March 2020 to March 2021. Instead, the team's efforts have kept their WiP at a steady level despite the record number of applications submitted over lockdown. If the number of applications submitted had remained at pre-lockdown levels, the team's WiP would have reached the 'healthy' 5-week WiP level by the end of July 2021 - a 66% reduction in WiP from March 2020. 
 
But none of this would have been possible without the team's co-operation and determination to improve their service. Change can feel uncomfortable and alienating, but the team embraced the project and led the service re-design. They are continually pushing for better and are making long-lasting improvements as Dacorum becomes known as an enabler of physical and economic development. 
 
“I am very grateful and very proud of how the team has changed and pulled together over the past year, as well as how far we have come with our vision and making decisions using data whilst supporting each other and managing work in a much better way than before. I can really see the value Mondrem have added.” 
Sara Whelan, DM Group Leader 
 
“What we are doing is incredibly useful. We could not have done it without you.” 
Ross Herbert, DM Team Leader 
 
To find out more about how Mondrem are helping DM teams to improve performance, please contact talkwithus@mondrem.co.uk 
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