Zoetermeer shifts from financial to business control

Photo Daan van Beek MSc
Author: Daan van Beek MSc
Business Partner
Table of Contents

Municipalities are working to make an impact on citizens and entrepreneurs. The key question here is “How can we increase our public value?” This means that organizational competencies such as results orientation, performance orientation, continuous improvement, and innovation are important in order to properly demonstrate its function in societal participation. In short, municipalities must explore new avenues.

The municipality of Zoetermeer

The municipality of Zoetermeer has embarked on the path to make the internal management and control more transparent through establishing an internal management cycle, in addition to the planning & control cycle that focuses primarily on the board.

This management cycle is supported by business advisors from the Finance and Control Department. This represents a development in various areas, including:

  • management for results and defined clear targets using reporting and BI tools;
  • the management discussion as a basis for management and control;
  • from financial control to business control; a different advisory style.

The new role

Mark van Lier, Team Manager for Consulting, Finance & Control for the municipality of Zoetermeer, sheds light on the new role of business advice: “The business consultant is developing a broad view and supports the department in achieving the goals and results. This also means developing competencies, including in the area of communication and persuasion. It’s also important that the focus shifts from the hectic pace of today to look calmly at future issues.”

Collaboration plays a key role

Through this change, the Consulting, Finance & Control team, consisting of business intelligence consultants, project consultants and information specialists, was looking for its role in 2014. The collaboration within the consulting team on the translation of performance management and result-oriented work in the organization plays a key role.

Collaboration is also essential with the implementation of the new management cycle and the shift toward business consulting in order to take the next step. For the management cycle, the municipality of Zoetermeer chose to work with the A3 methodology and the A3 form to support the discussions in the management cycle. The most important questions about the above changes were:

  • What exactly does the chosen A3 methodology mean in the management cycle?
  • Where does it come from and why?
  • How do you work with it?
  • What is your role as consultant?

Better and more enjoyable

The expansion of the consultant role makes the work more enjoyable. You help in various policy areas and feel co-responsible for policy documents and advice. In this way, you’re busier with the content of the policy rather than with the policy finances. “Collaborating with the policy department makes the documents more integrated and therefore just better,” says Annette de Croo (Management Information Coordinator with the municipality of Zoetermeer).

Limits and added value

Naturally, there are also limits to this says Mark van Lier. “We should not take over the policy area, but if we want to have added value we need to be able to have a say from a different perspective. Creating a trusting relationship with management and directors is of vital importance hereby. This makes it easier to talk about where conflicts could arise and how it might be resolved.”

Municipality of Zoetermeer & Passionned Group

In September 2014, contact began between Passionned Group and the municipality of Zoetermeer. After a brief survey and introduction, a two-day interactive performance management masterclass was prepared together with Leo Kerklaan (PDCA expert) and customized for the municipality of Zoetermeer. The focus hereby is on the backgrounds of Performance Management, the A3 method, PDCA improvement circles, strategy mapping, KPI defining, and finally the role of commitment in the implementation.

Results municipality of Zoetermeer

The municipality of Zoetermeer is happy with the result achieved. They hereby describe the following milestones achieved:

  • “The masterclass made the consultants spar together more consciously and get a discussion started about something.” Awareness about working with a tool (A3 method) and what that entails.
  • “That sped things up when it came to the clarification in imaging”. “More aware of your own role and what is expected of you in it.”

The new roles of the consultants got more life

The masterclass initiated an evaluation round of the A3 method in order to increase quality community wide. “We are now busy as a small group with laying out all the A3 plans next to each other. This is useful and fun to do together.”

“The PDCA circle explanation was quite enlightening.” For the municipality of Zoetermeer, PDCA means: start, try out, evaluate / reflect and adjust.

The support

Important during the workshop was the role of trainer Leo Kerklaan from Passionned Group. “Leo’s strength was that he capitalized on questions and ambiguities in the group. In this way, he put the needs of the group over the program.”

Essential questions

He has an eye for the essential questions: What exactly does this method entail? What is the background of the methodology, how do you work with it in practice, and what is your role? “Backed by plenty of practical experience, good knowledge of the material, recognizable examples and radiating calm, Leo Kerklaan responded well in the situation.” Perhaps the most important gain afterwards was that participants said to each other: “This is going to help us and calls for more in-depth exploration.”

5 Tips for municipalities

These developments also play an important role in other municipalities. How can they learn from the experiences of the municipality of Zoetermeer? Annette and Mark give some practical advice:

  1. Pay extra attention to the why of new tools and changes. And record this in a visually clear strategy. Once these are clear, new energy and movement are created to work concretely with it right away.
  2. Just begin! This means not rushing in anywhere, but instead together choosing an approach and starting with that and improving it.
  3. Many small steps are preferable to something large-scale (the small PDCA). “Keep it small and manageable.”
  4. “It’s not about the technique or model, but often about having the right discussions.” It’s important to keep this in mind at the start.
  5. “Ensure support among your board and the managers involved. This means entering into discussion and together being aware of the purpose and giving each other time to learn.”

Interested in Passionned’s approach?

Would you like a no-obligation talk with our consultants about the challenges outlined above and the chosen approach including training? Working on improving in small steps using the PDCA method and interested in what performance management can do for your municipality? Please feel free to contact us.

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