There is a local government council, that provides benefits for the public. When a member of the public comes in to make a claim, they are seen by a front line clerk. The benefits claims are entered on the IT system, and passed to a trained assessor to decide the claim.
In this council there are 10 benefits assessors who assess benefit applications. These assessors make mistakes, and the manager created a checking team on the floor upstairs, of five assessors, to check their work. The errors were somewhere around 40%, and the manager found this situation hopeless.
“Look John, we need these checkers because of the poor work from the assessors!
In this system the manager would give each assessor a target number of claims to assess for the day - then they could go home.
Ok, what in this system is creating the behaviour of errors???
Answer: the target system tells the assessors that the manager is primarily interested in quantity over quality. And if there are checkers upstairs, it does not matter if I make a mistake, as they upstairs will fix it.
Now, lets fix the root cause.
What we did is work with the assessors, and the manager. The manager gave the assessors some new instructions
The result of the change of the system, and the behavioural change of the manager, was a new set of working principles. These principles then caused a new mindset in the department, that it is our job to get it right. If an assessor was having problems, the manager would not summon them to their office, they would ask a colleague of the assessor to help them.
Can you see that the actions above have broken down the idea of; my turf, too busy, it not my job, blame, etc.
In the example above it took the departmental manager to fix the issue in their area. Then the manager started on other problems, primarily with issues of working better with others. For example, the assessors hated the front line staff. The answer was, on rotation during the week, for one of the assessors to be available to coach the front line, and be available to immediately go to a front line staff and help them with the applicant sitting there. The result were that the barriers got broken down completely.
The whole change above, is primarily down to the leadership of the manager…
The cuts in the public sector have created a situation where changes like this are more difficult to create. What manager will have the courage to stop the targets of the daily assessor quota, when that manager’s main metric to their manager, is the number of completed claims?
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