Melbourne Water

A track record of design, experimentation and innovation success for over 10 years.

Recreating Performance and Development at Melbourne Water

The Brief

As part of the organisations transformation Melbourne Water is focused on empowering people at all levels to take control of their career, their development, to embrace opportunity and be more conscious of their contribution to the business.

When Naked Ambition was engaged, Jo Farrugia, Melbourne Water’s GM of People and Culture had a vision of a new simplified approach to POD (Performance Opportunity Development) that will allow the organisation to move away from an onerous and complex process which occurred at the busiest time of year.

Alongside her team she was determined that the new approach needed to be less formal and more focused on real conversations. It should be simple, transparent and clearly demonstrate ROI.

The Creative Process

We guided a cross function team (led by the people team) through the Design Sprint process. This is an industry leading process that takes a collaborative approach to solving big challenges and developing new products and services. It condenses what could be months of work into just four days.

Before the sprint, our facilitators explored the context of the problem through user research and SME interviews. Through this, key opportunities and pain points were prioritised a sprint question was created. During the sprint, the agenda was packed! Some of the activities on each day included –

  • Day 1 – conducted expert interviews, mapped the problem areas and brainstormed potential solutions
  • Day 2 – decided on must have features and created a detailed storyboard of solution
  • Day 3 – identified assumptions made in process and created relevant artefacts to prototype solution
  • Day 4 – presented the prototype to five users from the organisation to get their feedback.

The team walked away with a fully tested and iterated performance management process, a core narrative to share the process internally and artefacts to support the milestone moments. This approach allowed the core team to rapidly align on priorities, test their riskiest assumptions and launch the result back in the business with speed!

“The result of this re-design has been incredible. We are still getting feedback one year on from the business about how much they prefer this process and the value it is delivering. From better conversations and interactions between leaders and their people – including driving retention of key people – to creating a trust culture, where we empower people to run this process in a way that works for their team and business unit need. Whilst still capturing the data our Exec and Board need to make good decisions for the future of Melbourne Water and our customers.” – Jo Farrugia, General Manager, People @ Melbourne Water

The Results + metrics one year after the sprints

Challenge: The process was too complicated and was seen as a dreaded activity at the busiest time of the year – resulting in performance data not always being completed correctly or submitted on time by many leaders, requiring multiple follow ups.

New design: Simplified ratings + data submission process with minimal oversight required and new timeline that suited the business.

Result: 96% completed on time – the highest EVER completion rate and without any prompting. This was driven by word of mouth narrative about how simple the process – meaning leaders were encouraging each other to complete it.

Challenge: Too Tech-led. The existing system was requesting data that had no use case and lack of understanding of how to use the platform (plus constant updates) ate into the time leaders could be spending having a meaningful conversation with their teams.

New design: People-led. Co-designed with the business a tool that puts conversations at the centre of the process.

Result: Overwhelmingly positive feedback from the conversation tool. “Incredible” according to Jo Farrugia P&C GM. The engagement survey returned last week was dominated with unsolicited comments about the change this driving from better performance in teams to encouraging ‘stay’ conversations (to help curb current attrition) and collecting meaningful data. Conversations becomes the key focus on the process – creating coaching moments in-situ is the leader.

Tool is also iterative – simple enough for the P&C team to update each year based on cultural priorities in the business – but also constrained enough – (its one page!) that it will limit any feature creep -i.e one in one out.

Challenge: There was some sentiment from the business that P&C create things with their own department needs + KPIs in mind.

New Design: Human-centred approach with over 40 people across Melb Water involved in the research, co-design and testing of the new POD design. A robust comms strategy post-the sprint also supported the roll-out.

Result: The business felt ‘heard’ and participants in the sprint process shared their experiences of being part of the design – meaning the new process had already created a buzz before it was released. The POD re-design as become a case study for how to use human centred design can save time, money and create better experiences at Melbourne Water.

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