Tag Archives: all wales continuous improvement community

Office for National Statistics: Using stats for Continuous Improvement

How do the Office for National Statistics approach Continuous Improvement? Dyfrig Williams went on a visit with the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community to find out.

Office for National Statistics Logo

A couple of weeks ago I made my way to Newport to learn about the Office for National Statistics’ Continuous Improvement work, which won the British Quality Foundation Lean Six Sigma Award in 2014.

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for improving processes by identifying and removing the causes of errors and making results more consistent, mainly by using data and stats. The organisation’s improvement is supported by people within it who are experts in the approach.

As part of Six Sigma, we were introduced to the DMAIC improvement cycle, which is a really useful method of approaching problems in a systematic way. DMAIC stands for:

Define: What needs improving?
Measure: What are the baselines you can measure improvement against?
Analyse: What does the data say the problem is and what is its effect?
Improve: Find a solution and put it into practice.
Control: Monitor the process and correct any deviations from your target.

DMAIC ImageLean is a set of tools that were developed to reduce the waste that comes with the flow of materials and information in a process. Because both ideas have a lot in common, they’ve been brought together to create Lean Six Sigma.

Starting out

As Lean Six Sigma is a stats based approach it’s a good fit with the Office for National Statistics’ work and culture. They first piloted the method in 2011 before moving it out to other parts of the organisation.

Much of the work that has taken place is in the Business Data Division, as this is the largest part of the organisation. As there are a lot of common practices within the division, small changes can bring big results.

It’s a people business

The Continuous Improvement team is a small team of three, which supports the rest of the organisation’s Continuous Improvement work. We heard that where the team sits is really important – they’re not based in Finance like in some organisations, so they’re not seen as a vehicle to cut costs. Instead they’re seen as delivering efficiency, which means that changes in staff structure that result from Continuous Improvement work hasn’t seen been linked to redundancy.

The team initially worked with six Continuous Improvement champions, but now the champions cover the whole of the organisation. They trained wider staff to raise awareness of the approach, which garnered so much enthusiasm that people wanted to run their own projects – a nice problem to have!

The team has run workshops with senior leaders so that they can support and understand the Continuous Improvement work, and they have also worked with wider staff on adopting a quality improvement culture. The team had to demonstrate the benefits of working differently to individuals, teams and the division as a whole. By using the 5 Whys tool, they could examine the resistance to change and move forward.

The Business Development Division celebrates staff success through their BuDDI awards, which raise awareness of the good things that people are doing. This has been so successful that other parts of organisation have taken the concept on.

Work flow

We learnt how the Business Development Division is making the most of its capacity. It’s changed the way that it schedules who’s working on its surveys, so that it makes the best use of the staff available. This is the Heijunka approach, which is all about working at a constant rate and reducing waste. To put Heijunka into practice, the division often has lots of people working on its surveys to begin with, and a few people working to clean up and finish off the work at the end.

Where is the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community going next?

The next scheduled All Wales Continuous Improvement Community visit is to the DVLA, which includes a visit to their UX Lab. I’m gutted that I can’t make as it, but if these learning visits sound like your cup of tea, it’s well worth becoming a member of the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community. At the Good Practice Exchange, we sometimes hear the line that “good practice is a bad traveller” (though it’s worth reading Chris Bolton’s blog on why that’s not necessarily the case). Visits like this show that there’s so much we can learn from each other if we’re willing to share our thinking and approaches.

Webinars: Learning from Harvard and Kanye West

How might we improve our webinars? Dyfrig Williams watched the Harvard Business Review’s webinar on influence at work to see what he could learn.

When we held our first webinar, I’m not quite sure we knew what we’d begun. What started out as a follow up session to our IT seminar has helped us to reach communities of interest that would have been difficult to access with traditional events.

On 12 May, we’ll be running a webinar with IdeasUK on Staff Ideas: Engagement that supports improvement. Despite being UK based, their membership spans across the world, so a webinar is an ideal fit for their needs.

The pre-election embargo has given us time for some self-reflection about our webinars, so we’ve looked at what works well and what doesn’t.

I’ve already blogged on what I’ve learnt from running a webinar, but in the spirit of continuous improvement, I watched Harvard Business Review’s webinar on ‘Influence at Work: What Gets In Your Way and What to Do About It’ to see what I could learn about the topic and what I could take from their approach.

What I learnt about influence at work

Paul Hessey’s Unconscious Bias session at our internal equality event gave me a good starting point in terms of how first impressions can affect how we perceive someone. In this webinar Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson explained why misperceptions are so common. It was interesting to see how little information is available to both speaker and listener in order to form a common opinion about someone. As the table below shows, it’s only the behavior of the speaker and what they say that both have access to.

Available Information / Gwybodaeth sydd ar gaelHaving been a member of the Good Practice team for the best part of two years now, the need to find out ‘what good looks like’ is fairly embedded in me. So what can we do to give a better first impression? Understandably, trust is a key part of this. Here’s how we can better convey warmth and confidence:

  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Smiling when smiled at
  • Nodding to convey listening
  • Actually listening
  • Being affirming when called for

If you’d like to find out more about this and a lot more besides, you can view an on-demand recording of the webcast or read the executive summary of the webinar.

What I learnt about webinars

When it comes to presentations at events, we work to the theory that less is more. There’s nothing worse than presenters reading straight from their Powerpoints for an hour, especially when there’s so much text or data that it’s impossible to read. In no way did Dr. Halvorson overload us with data, but she did have a fair few slides, which kept the webinar visually interesting despite there being no webcam.

Dr. Halvorson also used images and diagrams to illustrate points and clarify meaning. It was particularly interesting to see the pop culture references, with a slide on the Kanye West and Taylor Swift debacle at the MTV Awards to show how people can come across differently to how they intend to.

Kanye West / Taylor SwiftIn terms of our webinar on staff ideas, whilst I can’t promise you an abundance of pop references, I can promise that we’ll be upping our visual game. We have a great line up of panellists from organisations as varied as the Ministry of Defence and the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community, so if you fancy learning a bit more about using ideas schemes to involve staff in organisational development, it’s well worth tuning in.

Manufacturing Continuous Improvement

What can public services learn from manufacturing? Dyfrig Williams visited Schaeffler UK with the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community to look at how they’re constantly looking to improve their work.


As a West Walian, I don’t need an excuse to head back home. After all, as Ray Gravell famously said, “West is Best”. But since my visit to Ricoh’s Factory in Telford with Ideas UK, I’ve been intrigued by what public services can learn about improving our work from manufacturing companies. A visit to Schaeffler in Llanelli was the perfect opportunity to learn more – a quick glance on their website shows that improvement is a core part of their work, which is “characterised by a willingness to continuously improve our products and processes.”


Ricoh's Kaizen Forest / Coedwig Kaizen Ricoh

Ricoh’s Kaizen Forest

According to Wikipedia, Kaizen means ‘change for the better’ and it ‘refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees’. Having wandered round a Kaizen Forest in Ricoh, Schaeffler had a lot to live up to.

But a quick chat about how they run their meetings was enough to show me how embedded continuous improvement is in what they do. They hold 15 minute workshops on the shop floor, which makes it much easier to show the relevance of their discussions to the day to day work of staff. It also means that they can demonstrate what they mean, which is accentuated by the visual displays of data so that people can see where they stand and the effect of their work.

Staff ideas are key to the organisation’s improvement. We heard on the visit that we should “never stop people’s suggestions even if it sounds stupid. The next thing they were going to say could’ve been the answer.” When the ideas come from the staff themselves, they’re also much more likely to buy in to the improvement that’s being proposed.

Hitting the target?

The quote of the day may have been “The key word in Key Performance Indicators is ‘key’.” We heard about how rubbish targets quite understandably annoy the workforce, so it’s important to resist the urge to create more targets and to make the ones we have more meaningful. But this does mean that we have to be willing to challenge targets to make sure they’re smart.

We were also told not to jump to conclusions if we’re not hitting those targets. If the Police are late, does that necessarily mean that they need faster cars? There could be a whole range of factors. We discussed a range of ideas and tools, like using Pareto Analysis to look at the big issues and to drill down. We also talked about Ishikawa Diagrams, the 5 Whys and Toyota’s “Practical Problem Solving.”

What did I learn?

It’s fair to say that I learnt a lot from my visit to Schaeffler. Their focus on good practice and continuous improvement is relentless. It’s fascinating to see an organisation that doesn’t just focus on the bad and what’s gone wrong, but that also looks at why the good is so good, so that they can find more ways of improving what they do.

Whilst the environment and circumstances might be different in public services, there’s undoubtedly loads we can learn from Schaeffler’s focus on improvement. From the transparent use of data on the shop floor to embracing staff ideas, it’s inspiring to look at how Schaeffler make the most of the expertise in their organisation to drive forward their continuous improvement.

Small things can make a big difference: Tenby’s Seagull Proof Bags

We often hear about big changes that have been implemented and dramatically changed services, but sometimes small changes can have a big impact. At the All Wales Continuous Improvement Conference we heard about Tenby’s Seagull Proof Bags and the difference they made. Tracy Wornham explains more.

Original photo of Tenby by Dave Smith http://bit.ly/1y7cLGH (Creative Commons License) Llun wreiddiol o Ddinbych y Pysgod gan Dave Smith (Trwydded Creatrive Commons)

Original photo of Tenby by Dave Smith http://bit.ly/1y7cLGH (Creative Commons License)

A number of concerns were being raised about waste littering resort streets after attacks by gulls and other animals on black bag waste left out for collection. As well as being unsightly and unhygienic, it also causes problems for waste collection and street cleaning services. Tenby Town Council approached Pembrokeshire County Council during the first part of 2014 to see what could be done to improve matters. Following a meeting, a proposal to trial the introduction of reusable seagull proof bags was developed and agreed.

What We Did

A number of domestic properties within a small area of Tenby (covering six streets) were selected for a trial where problems of black bag litter were most evident. We also made sure the trial included a mix of different homes e.g. houses and flats. The area selected was also looked after by the same waste collection and street cleaning teams, so consistent feedback could be obtained from them.

Tenby Town Council issued a letter to all households inviting them to take part in the scheme, 73 households responded requesting bags. The trial began on 2 June and ended on the 1 August.

What We Achieved

In order to judge how well the trial went, a short one sided questionnaire was issued to all households who took part in the trial – the response rate was nearly 40%. Only one person did not want to see the scheme continue. Generally, feedback was very positive.

We also obtained the views of waste collection and street cleaning employees, feedback again was very positive.

This work also links into two of the national performance indicators, namely:

STS005a The Cleanliness Indicator

STS005b The percentage of highways and relevant land inspected of a high or acceptable standard of cleanliness. This indicator forms part of our Corporate Performance Management Scorecard and is monitored on a quarterly basis. This performance data is presented to our Corporate Management Board, Cabinet and Environment Overview & Scrutiny Committee on a quarterly basis.

In addition, this work directly links into the achievement of one of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Key Outcomes “People in Pembrokeshire enjoy an attractive, sustainable and diverse environment”.

The Next Steps

Tenby Town Council will be discussing the trial at a future meeting. Once we know the outcome, a decision can then be made on whether the scheme is rolled out.

Ministry of Justice: Continuous Improvement and Delivering Results

Over the next few weeks, our blog will be showcasing the winners and those that were nominated for the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community awards. Caroline Phillips from the Ministry of Justice tells us about their Shared Services and why they won the ‘Delivering Results – Doing it Better’ category.

Ministry of Justice / Y Weinyddiaeth CyfiawnderDuring a time of change and uncertainty, the Ministry of Justice Customer Contact Services has transformed the way it works by empowering its frontline staff at all levels to make decisions and lead by example.

As an organisation for the past 8 months we have delivered a project to develop people driven strategies, structures, systems and cultures/climates to succeed in achieving organisational effectiveness and an advantage within the boundaries of ever growing demands. We have proven that by investing time, communication and training in our front line staff in order to build on knowledge and experience, our staff are energised and motivated resulting in more queries being resolved first time and an increase in our Customer Satisfaction scores.

Improvements can though only be realised by a capable and driven workforce, which is why I am greatly passionate about developing our staff, to give them confidence and to allow them to take ownership for key operational activities. Ministry of Justice Customer Contact Services is highly dependant on IT applications, platforms and systems; however, I am certainly of the opinion that the main competitive advantage for my department and for our organisation as a whole is our people.

In addition to excellent results, we’ve also managed to create a team who really care, take pride in their work and have a customer focus at their heart. We now have team members, who of their own free will go that extra mile, sometimes beyond their scheduled hours to ensure each customer receives a full resolution to their query. This type of attitude and commitment is priceless in a fast paced customer service role and our staff really care about the end results.

In the initial stages of the project, we knew that challenging an entrenched way of working was always going to be difficult. However, I am proud that I have a workforce who are now more capable and confident at carrying out their operational roles. Our staff are creative in devising solutions to problems and take greater ownership of key business activities, allowing my management team and I to have a greater leadership focus and to concentrate on the more strategic aspects of our roles.