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Municipal services in a midlife crisis, a call for more vision!

For years citizens came to the town hall to request a passport, a driving license, a building permit or a subsidy for their sports club. But that is changing substantially.
Wessel-Jan Fijnvandraat

Middle-aged men and women will recognise it: your hair becomes greyer, you lack energy, you look at the younger generation and think “I just don’t understand it anymore”. A midlife crisis! And what do you do? You go meditate on a mountain, exercise fanatically, or look for ways to reignite your relationship.

It’s the same with municipal services. For years citizens came to the town hall to request a passport, a driving license, a building permit or a subsidy for their sports club. But that is changing substantially. Due to decentralization in the social domain, the municipality plays a much larger role in residents’ lives. Moreover, younger generations (and ever more older residents) no longer want to come to the counter or want to phone up when it suits them.

In short, residents no longer want to be dependant on their municipality, or (even worse) be empowered by a municipality! People organise themselves!

Realizing this is quite a shock for municipalities. How should we deal with this? What is our right to exist? What is our role in society? And what direction do residents and businesses give us?These are typical existential questions that resemble the questions that people in a midlife crisis ask themselves. They are also looking for meaning: why do we do what we do? What do I think is important? Where do I want to aim my energy? And how do I give substance to my meaningful relationships?

Möbius proposes the following: let’s look at the midlife crisis of municipal services in the same way.

  1. For whom do we do it? We must re-immerse ourselves in our meaningful relationships. Who are our residents? Which businesses, sports clubs and institutions are active in our municipality? What do they want from us? Or (even better) what do they want and how can we help make that possible? How do we make a real connection with our residents? And how do we ensure that we are there when that’s necessary?
  2. Who are we and who do we want to be? Are we an Ikea where the ability to do things independently is of paramount importance (and prices are low)? Or are we a five-star hotel with excellent service, available 24 hours a day? Municipalities must make this decision. Because if the choice is clear, and suits our DNA, then we can communicate clearly what residents can expect from us.
  3. What is the way to subsequently organise ourselves? Just like people in a midlife crisis can exercise to gain more energy, the municipality will have to be critical and focus on the activities that really matter. Looking at our processes from a Lean perspective and, in accordance with our vision, adapting them for our customers.

Just like in a mid life crisis, when the municipality gets through this period the organisation will be full of energy once again, will focus on what’s really important and will be connected to the people who really matter!

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Wessel-Jan Fijnvandraat