PWD takes strategic steps forward to improve

Levi Allen, PWD

Levi Allen is responsible for Organizational Development the Public Works Department. He worked with Director, Max Jones and other Senior managers to complete a Strategic Assessment which tackles options for improving the services provided by the Public Works Department (Project: PSI24). The document also incorporates a review of the services provided by the Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Section of PWD (Project: PSI25). Now that the Strategic Assessment has been approved by Cabinet, the PWD team are working with key stakeholders on a more detailed analysis, which will be presented in an Outline Business Case.

Q1: Why does this project matter?

A:  We have a vision which sees PWD becoming the service provider of choice for Government agencies needing design, construction and maintenance Services of public buildings and facilities.  To fully achieve this vision we need to make significant changes in a number of areas.  This project is about identifying how we can make these changes.

Q2: In the Strategic Assessment, you discuss some of the specific outcomes you are hoping to achieve with this project. What are these?

A: In our document we set out five key ones. They are:

  1. To increase efficiency and productivity and reduce the cost to government of current PWD activities.
  2. To increase customer satisfaction with the services provided by PWD.
  3. To ensure effective procurement, contracting and contract management of any supplies, services or works carried out by the private sector and seek new opportunities for private sector involvement.
  4. To maintain and if possible enhance national resilience and emergency management capability.
  5. To enhance opportunities for technical and vocational training and to promote Caymanian employment

Q3: Given these objectives, what would a successful project mean for the Civil Service? What would it mean for the general public?

A: As PWD’s main clientele are actually other Civil Service entities, achieving the outcomes of this project would firstly mean improvements in the standards of design, construction and the quality of maintenance services in schools, government offices and public Facilities. There would also be a direct impact on the many men and women employed with the organization who would have received greater opportunities for professional and career growth through the training and development which is proposed. The public in general would, in addition to having access to improved facilities at sporting complexes, beaches and parks, also have the reassurance that public funds are being utilized in the most efficient and sustainable fashion possible.

Q4: This Strategic Assessment combines two separate projects? Why was that done?

A: Initially, a separate review was proposed for the Recreational Parks & Cemeteries Section (PSI25). However, a recent merger has resulted in a seamless integration of the unit in the department’s operational structure, so the former RPCU is now simply another section of the department with common support systems and a unified management structure. We therefore examined PSI 24 & 25 jointly, taking care to identify any unique challenges or opportunities facing each section. In so doing, all opportunities for economies of scale, synergy and efficiencies would be maximized.

Q5: In your strategic assessment, you explore what will happen if no changes are made to the way things currently are done in PWD  (the “Do Nothing” option). What were your most important findings?

A: The stakeholder consultations to date indicate reasonable satisfaction from a majority of Public Works Department’s clients and that they are pleased with the level of interest and commitment shown by most employees. However, it has been established that there is need for greater quality assurance and there is still a perception of inefficiency carried over from previous years.

In order for the Department to maintain relevance, meet the needs of its clientele and inform and guide its priorities, PWD must find ways to re-invent itself while maintaining those things that have worked well.

Q6: Tell us about the options you have recommended to be taken forward for further analysis.  What difference could they make?

A: Having conducted a high-level strategic review, there is clearly scope for improved efficiencies. The option for restructuring and creating opportunities for greater efficiency and private sector involvement appears to be the most viable course of action. Low hanging fruits clearly lie in the reengineering of our material supply chain and further enhancing the skillsets of our technical and professional staff.

There will also be need for the streamlining of the section’s management structure to ensure the department is flexible enough to respond to client demands. This would entail placing greater emphasis on Facilities Management, management of minor works projects, both as discrete units and ensuring even more robust  second tier management of the maintenance function exists. Government must retain capacity on several fronts and this project will facilitate several of them, namely:

  • The capacity for available skilled manpower to respond in emergencies such as natural disasters as well as provide a response to man-made hazards.
  • The capacity to facilitate training and development of youth interested in careers in construction enabled through the Departments Internship and apprenticeship programmes.
  • The ability to respond to project initiatives with short lead time. Enhanced capacity to provide technical advice and assistance to agencies on the Maintenance of governments building assets.
  • To develop a Customer Service policy/charter. This would include a mechanism for constant client feedback for creating opportunities to delight clients and exceed their basic expectations
  • To efficiently manage additional outsourced packages of work

Q7: In completing the Strategic Assessment, you used the business case methodology introduced to the Civil Service for Project Future projects.  What was your experience like, overall, in using this methodology?

A: The prescribed methodology was intuitive, and  as such was not difficult to follow. The SRIU team was very flexible and open to proposals on ways to tailor make the methodology to suit some of the nuances of particular projects.

Q8: How did it help you with your project?

A: It allowed for consistency in developing material under the project by several persons at one time, in that collaborative work  could be done without unnecessary overlap or need to realign work done by sub committees because each individual could work to  an unified set of  guidelines.

Q9: What were the main challenges? How did you overcome them?

A: The main challenge has been balancing the competing priorities of normal workloads with the deliverables of the PF Schedule. Though the targets are achievable, the significance and long-term impact of a project such as this necessitates robust research, broad consultation and careful thought.

The strategies we have employed are to allocate specific project time and schedule deliverables with as much lead time as possible while incorporating built-in redundancies.

Q10:  What is the most important thing you will take away from this experience?

A: A more finely developed  competence in complex project delivery, and a feeling of realistic hope having seen CIG’s ability to break away from “thinking in silos” and delivering initiatives with distinct “whole of government” benefits.