Planting belief - Redbridge Council planning team's transformation
Posted on 22nd April 2021 at 10:53
Redbridge’s planning service was carrying a backlog and caseload so high that the people working there could not imagine being able to provide a service their customers would see as satisfactory, let alone capitalise on the investment and development opportunities that Redbridge has.
How did this struggling team transform into team of the year? It began with a belief that things could improve and a sustained effort to turn that belief into an outstanding service for the community.
The result? The beginnings of a service that is efficient and enjoyable for customers, pushes for higher-quality applications and engages the community and internal employees in its future.
Redbridge council’s planning service felt overwhelmed. A London borough experiencing unprecedented growth, Redbridge has a planning application volume 160% more than the London average. As government targets increase to building 300,000 new homes every year by 2025, councils are continuously encouraging developments in locations like Redbridge.
This growth would not be possible without Redbridge’s development management and technical team. Put simply, the team felt demoralised by the challenge of producing faster and better results with fewer resources and increasing demand.
Redbridge DM Team Leader, Liz Sullivan, felt as though her team were sinking beneath a wave of “customer queries, backlogs and some complaints.” This caused them to lose belief.
To turn this around, the team started with a shared understanding. They built a clear set of expectations for themselves and their customers. But what did this mean for development in Redbridge?
With high-quality and well-intended applications being prioritised and processed faster, the speed of positive development and physical improvement to the area is increasing. In turn, agents who routinely submit poor quality applications are encouraged to ‘up-their-game’. The reduction in backlogs and time spent on incomplete applications has also increased capacity in the team. This allows more time for engaging with local developers and the community - pushing for better quality developments that contribute to the physical and environmental benefit of Redbridge.
The team developed new tools to measure productivity, and they helped the team to realise that they can control their caseload. Using these new tools and methods of reporting progress, the team has taken ownership of their caseload, and they work together to achieve high quality planning solutions.
But these new tools did not just focus on efficiency. They focussed on staff wellbeing too.
So much so, that even when offered more money to work elsewhere, team members have decided to stay with Redbridge.
Instead of seeing individual caseloads, the team see a collective responsibility to deliver outstanding service to their community.
“I was really pleased with my Director’s response to the change. For the first time in his career, he walked into the office and the planners were sitting around a table and they were owning their own performance and finding solutions together. He was incredibly proud.”
Brett Leahy, Head of Planning and Building Control, London Borough of Redbridge.
“With support from not-for-profit public service improvement company, Mondrem, we planted the belief that things could get much better, and we organised our efforts to make that belief a reality. Work on capacity, performance, tech, coaching support and processes all played a part in our journey, but starting to believe that things could get better was that first step.”
Liz Sullivan, Development Management Team Leader, London Borough of Redbridge.
The team-led transformation of the planning service has produced outstanding results.
Research and experience tell us that, above all else, customers want to see pace and predictability from the planning service. If pace and predictability are absent, then developers might choose to develop elsewhere. This would cause the planning service to miss opportunities and additional revenue.
The validation backlog has reduced from 350 to 15, caseload from 1,000 to 400, and validation processing from 5 weeks to 48 hours.
The enhanced speed and openness of the system allows applications to be processed faster, reducing delays and associated costs for developers. As Redbridge becomes known as an enabler of development, this will translate into more investment in the area.
In short, the planning service has become one that pushes for development through positive interactions, fast processing and better placemaking - an outstanding result for the community.
But none of this would have been possible without the teams’ hard work, willingness to improve and ambition to change. The involvement of team members was fundamental to success.
Now, the team is recognised for compliments, not complaints.
Redbridge has a planning service that:
Is performing at improved levels of timeliness and quality with a reduced backlog
Reduced applications-in-progress from 1000 to 400
Validation process time has reduced from 5 weeks to 48 hours
Is delivering higher levels of fee income
Is delivering a better experience and outcomes for its customers
Is providing a better and more rewarding experience for its employees
Has a clearer sense of purpose and a clearer vision of its future
Believes that it can be successful and stay successful
To find out more about how Mondrem helped Redbridge’s DM team become team of the year, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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