Focused working: design your ultimate cola vending machine

I believe this vending machine is the ultimate way to describe to staff in local authorities just what focused working is all about.
Niels Van Gunst

Sadly the TV advert has disappeared from our screens once again: the short Coca Cola film in which a cola vending machine comes to life. As soon as the customer inserts some money the puppets inside get to work. Each one with its own job, all perfectly in tune with each other, and all enjoying their work. The end result: the consumer receives the right output. This film hits upon the very heart of focused working. But how should you, as a local authority, go about designing your own perfect cola vending machine…? 

I have used Coca Cola’s video* in every single workshop on focused working that I have ever given. I believe that it is the ultimate way to describe to staff in local authorities just what focused working is all about. Staff who perhaps fail to realize that this method affects every single process in their organisation. From someone reporting to reception right to some administrative task in the post room.

After all, when I ask workshop participants the question beforehand just what they think focused working might be, then I am given a whole range of different answers. Implementing a business system, improving the provision of services, digitizing documents, creating a more efficient company layout, introducing a process-focused system, improving the supply of information. This is not focused working, these are all just components.

At Möbius we also believe that focused working is more than just about implementing some technology. It is a full organisational transition. Involving changes in processes, but also in structure, attitude and behaviour. The company’s IT system will only play a facilitating role.

Back to the cola vending machine. How do you ensure that all the puppets in the vending machine know what to do? And that they get on and work perfectly together? And that not a soul loses track? And how do you continue to meet the customer’s needs? At Möbius our experience teaches us that there are 5 key success factors:

  1. Start with a clear vision : Determine what focused working consists of in your district. A clear vision is incredibly important, so take your time to think this through. Make sure that everyone is heading in the same direction and that managers express their commitment to focused working.
  2. Start up an integrated programme : Map out the organisation’s current situation and determine which on-going initiatives can be used in conjunction with focused working. On this basis create a programme suiting all initiatives.
  3. First improve the processes : Don’t put existing processes directly into the new business system. Instead optimize them first of all, for example by using the Lean method. First identify what is most important to the customer, and then target the process as efficiently as possible towards this aspect.
  4. The art of keeping things small : Keep your material bite-sized and keep things focused. Optimize per process, to make changes gradually. In this way it is easier for staff to put things into practice.
  5. Celebrate successes with your staff : Do not forget: your staff are all experts in their own field. So take them on this journey step-by-step. They will then feel valued and involved. They will then also be enthusiastic towards other colleagues, which will help spread the success like wild fire.

Are you keen to know more about how to implement focused working? Then feel free to get in touch with me.

Thanks for reading

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