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Unlocking the Council’s potential
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“It has provided us with a tool to drive performance across every level of the business so we are totally aligned with what we are here for.”

Photo of Richard Briggs, CE, Hamilton City Council
Richard Briggs
CE, Hamilton City Council, New Zealand

Hamilton City Council (New Zealand) commissioned us to help them improve the performance of the organisation following a public tender to supply a business-wide performance transformation framework.

We started deploying the Steel Performance System under the brand name 'Connected' in January 2016. It has since been rolled out across all business units to reach the Council's 1,100 staff.

Richard Briggs
CE, Hamilton City Council
Why did you look at a performance transformation program?

I was very focused on how we could build an organisation that could make a big difference to the community.

I wanted to deliver far greater outcomes for the community and while I knew the organisation had significant potential, I also knew we had 15 different leaderships programmes across the organisation and no one true definition of high performance.

So, when I became the CE, I focused on what we could do to drive a more coherent, collective outcome. Effectively unleash the potential of 1100 staff to make this massive impact on the community.

Why did you choose the Steel Performance System?

We went out to tender as we wanted to find a complete solution that spanned the business as that was really important to me. There was no point bringing in different providers for different aspects, I wanted something that was end to end that would drive high performance collectively and could actually be ingrained into the organisation.

What most organisations do, including us prior to bringing in the SPS, is use different systems and processes to try and do different things but there’s no coordination so you can’t leverage it; and yet those providers still call it high performance. This invariably drives lip service as everyone talks about high performance but nothing really changes. What I found with Steel Performance Solutions and their system was that it was a complete solution that would help us transform the business in order to deliver on our vision, mission and purpose.

By bringing it in, it provided us with a tool to drive performance across every level of the business so we are totally aligned with what we’re here for - which is what it's about. It's (the programme) absolutely designed for that ambitious move forward by providing absolute clarity about what world-class looks like.

What were you wanting to achieve?

I wanted to be in a position where we had one clear, defined way of working. When I first started in the role, we had 15 different leaderships programmes which meant every person was able to apply different tools and techniques to suit themselves which creates confusion and sub-optimal performance.

The second thing was that I wanted to create a single vision for the organisation so we knew exactly what we were going to deliver to the community. To achieve this, however, I knew I needed a framework that would enable me to get everything lined up in order to execute it across the business. I wanted it to be simple, but I also wanted it to be impactful.

What difference has the SPS made?

It’s made a huge difference. It’s allowed us to get beyond the different language and ways of talking to each other to a common language that’s focused on why we were here and what we’re trying to deliver for the community.

It’s also repositioned the purpose of leadership meaning every leader knows why they are here and what it looks like from a performance perspective.

Today, we have an absolute focus on our strategy which we’ve never had before. We also have a workforce that knows why they are here and how their role improves the wellbeing of Hamiltonians. Today, everyone knows that.

The other thing we’ve got is more confidence in our relevance to the community and how we will deliver the outcomes we’re promising them.

Because of this, our engagement has increased significantly, as has our productivity and Health & Safety measures. Because of these improvements, we are now seen as the number one collaborative council in the country which is allowing us to jump to the head of the queue in terms of both government initiatives and funding.

In fact we’re the people central government agencies are now calling for guidance and support – we’re being used as a test case on a number of beacon projects which has allowed us to secure huge funding from central Government because we’re seen as a highly proactive council which we wouldn’t have achieved without the programme.

We have also extended our leadership to ensure we’re influencing the community with impact. What we have essentially done is leverage SPS’ Leadership Framework to influence people beyond our standard reporting lines so we can help our stakeholders deliver greater benefits to the community.

It’s interesting because Councils aren’t typically known for being sexy but the programme has enabled us to advance beyond the bureaucracy to become an organisation that’s seen as being critically important to the community. It’s also given our people a sense of clarity and pride that they’ve never had before so we’re now seeing a passion for what we do coming through from around the organisation. 

What impact has the SPS had on the organisation’s leadership?

We have made it really clear that we want our leaders to influence their people so they can deliver better outcomes. By rolling the programme out, we've made everyone in the business clear about what they’re there to do so they can get on and deliver it. To achieve this, it’s required our leaders to have far more strategic conversations with their people about where we are heading, what our priorities are and how they are contributing to them; which the SPS has given us the tools and confidence to do.

What have been the benefits of the programme?

Being able to secure a whole lot of interest free debt from the government, getting a whole lot of extra funding for special projects, doing some really innovative stuff that we weren’t able to do before, and driving them off balance sheet models that we have been working on, they are direct benefits of the programme.

The other benefit is that the culture has significantly improved, so there is a lot more innovation in the organisation. There is more of the spark that you like working with. It’s really exciting as people know they can give it a go, which is really cool.

The other big benefit is that we are now in a position where we have 1100 staff that are thoroughly focused on the community and in doing so, turning out greater work than they did before which is gold. And they’re not working longer hours; they’re just more focused and making sure that what they’re doing is absolutely aligned with our strategy. They’re also doing it with the view of trying to be the best version of themselves which makes me extremely proud.

What are you most proud of?

This organisation is humming. What I would suggest I’m most proud of is seeing individuals that have unleashed their potential - I can see what they were delivering 3 years ago was great, and was probably Waikato class, but now they’re contributing at a NZ class level. And that’s a big change and that’s entirely to do with the (Steel Performance) System.

It’s all to do with just taking a very simple approach but leveraging it across the business, fully understanding the benefits of it and driving it hard for the betterment of the organisation and our community.

How will the SPS help you in the future?

We have moved significantly as an organisation through the use of the system. It is absolutely amazing to see where we are now from where we were when we started – but also where are we going.

A great thing about it is that it’s allowed us to keep resetting the benchmark about what high performance looks like which is enabling us to set ever more ambitions targets for ourselves. The fact it is absolutely designed to drive that ambitious move forward creates absolute clarity about what world class looks like in the context of the community - and therefore what we’re aspiring to achieve for Hamiltonians.

I expect that if we keep true to the system, and keep driving it hard, we will keep stepping up as it’s a formula our people know and trust.

What advice would you give other organisations considering the SPS?

I think this framework, the solution, it is the best high performance programme in NZ and I think it’s competing as one of the best in the world.

I had a very clear vision of what I was trying to achieve. I knew I wanted to improve the wellbeing of Hamiltonians but to do that, you have to get everyone absolutely focused on that purpose. And that is part of the battle but if you really want to leverage your organisation, align your staff and go forward, I thoroughly recommend you engage with Steel Performance Solutions.

“We have 1100 staff that are thoroughly focused on the community and turning out greater work than they did before which is gold. And they’re not working longer hours; they’re just more focused and making sure that what they’re doing is absolutely aligned with our strategy.”

Richard Briggs
CE, Hamilton City Council

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