Letters to the editor
ON-GOING IMPROVEMENT FOR MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT This is background to a suggested agenda item for Vail’s get-organized work sessions for 2005: — If you are not internally improving, you are effectively going backwards in our fast changing world. If you have limited measurements, how do you know how well you are doing? — Crisis-driven cost-cutting actions are typically characterized by “red pencil” cuts of expenses, without addressing root issues, coupled with undesirable by-products affecting morale and unnecessary disruption. Efforts to increase revenue frequently fall short, again due to the lack of a formalized approach. — Hence, you need something more comprehensive, a notion called an on-going improvement program: (a) jump started top-down, but sustained, bottom-up; (b) focusing on root issues; (c) producing tangible paybacks; and (d) committing to something that is proven in the private-public-nonprofit sectors. There are three big challenges in implementing such an improvement program in municipal government: FIRST, measurement and visibility. Improvements start with incremental enhancements inside the “black box” of staff operations that are trend measured – hardly the things typical citizens gets juiced up about. But internally, these measurements and other features are the key drivers that ultimately lead to the black box outputs of measurable better services for equal or less cost. SECOND, managing multitasking. Improvement programs are typically kicked off at an off-site department gathering. The group comes away fired up with improvement potential ideas – foot-dragging is seldom encountered. But now folks have to do both their regular job and weave in time for improvement tasks. A challenge, yes, but a problem that many organizations, managers, supervisors wish they had on their plate. Most importantly, first-line workers now have an enhanced form of empowerment complementing their base capability currently in place – with a “how did we ever operate without this before?” attitude. THIRD, finding a champion. Somebody has to be the prime mover to get things going. References to how things got started with industrial giants, such as GE and Caterpillar, fall on deaf ears. Examples from municipal government exist. But recent reporting of applying the principles to hospitals, of all places, might be the most poignant example to-date. FINALLY, a series of questions regarding the general subject of ongoing internal improvement for Vail municipal government: — What does Vail have in place now? What results has it produced? If productive, why haven’t they been highlighted in Vail’s glossy annual report? n Is the time right to address this now? Last year the town had too much on their plate with a new town manager and getting organized. But it’s appropriate now to build on some of the success stories reported in 2004. — Further, in light of flat-to-falling revenues, constant pressure on wages/expenses and talk of raising taxes – can the decision-makers justify not taking a serious look at these notions now? Note, experienced practitioners are likely available to help on a volunteer basis. — Finally, this is part of a larger issue to focus citizen experience and volunteer time towards assisting government beyond our existing and excellent volunteer programs. There are folks in the area who would be willing to provide vital roles and are being overlooked. Certainly this should be an agenda focus item. Express your views or nothing will happen. Contact the council with your message: 479-1860, Ext. 8 or email@example.com. Paul RondeauVail Service issueCustomer service is something that most of us live and breathe in this community. We depend heavily on the pocketbooks of our visitors and try our best to ensure that they have an enjoyable time when they come to the Vail Valley. However, I think that some customer service is lacking internally, between locals. My boyfriend and I have been loyal customers of … restaurant for nearly three years. Last night we went there for a slice and a beer, each, and were charged $16 for it. When my boyfriend left his change on the counter, the bartender (possibly the manager) threw the coins at him – literally. I have never been treated so poorly; firstly to be overcharged for absolutely no justifiable reason, and secondly to be abused by the employee! It was really unbelievable and I feel that the local community should learn about our experience at … and that … should issue us a formal apology for their appalling behavior.Mary Clare WrightVailVail, Colorado
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