Development Services Review Wraps Up: Continuous Improvement in the Midst of Continuous Change
The development services review is wrapping up with a report to Committee on February 8th. In advance of this, I would like to share some highlights and next steps, and sincerely thank everyone who contributed input and feedback throughout the process!
Highlights from the development services review: June 2019 to December 2020
Two end-to-end Lean reviews were undertaken between June and October 2019 on public engagement processes related to development applications and site plan approvals processes. These reviews resulted in the creation of a customer-informed workplan that included 18 Kaizens (i.e. Lean improvement projects/events) that began in October 2019 and concluded in December 2020.
The site plan review touched every stage of the site plan approval process from the pre-submission consultation stage to the certification of onsite and offsite works and the release of securities, with the goal of reducing overall process lead time through a more streamlined process. Early data shows that, on average, there has been a decrease of 60% in the time it takes to obtain an approval in principle in the site plan process. Satisfaction ratings of 85% and 90% have also been achieved for the new pre-submission process and the new onsite certification process, respectively.
The focus of the public engagement review has been on increasing the quality of engagement so that barriers to engagement can be removed, resulting in an inclusive process. The public engagement review resulted in a variety of projects, including but not limited to: the development of a new community engagement framework for the Planning Division; a new DSD-wide post-engagement survey that includes demographic questions as well as questions on satisfaction, comfort, convenience, and areas for improvement; new ways to share complex information with the public; and, new opportunities to learn more about planning.
For more information on outcomes from the improvement projects, please read the staff report.
The review has helped create a framework, knowledge base, and build momentum for continuous improvement initiatives in development services. Increased stakeholder engagement in improvement projects is not only an empowering approach but a necessary one, as projects will have the highest chance of succeeding if they involve those directly impacted by the outcomes.
New volunteer group created!
Focus groups were used at various points throughout the review to test improvement concepts and ideas. As staff and citizens saw value in using focus groups as a way to test process improvement ideas, inform the creation of new processes, develop or amend policies, or provide feedback on city initiatives, a volunteer group, open to any City of Kitchener resident, was created through the City’s Better Impact volunteer platform. The group continues to grow in interest and registrants (80 and counting). Through this platform, staff can engage volunteers using a variety of methods including focus groups, small group discussions, one-on-one interviews, and surveys.
Processes that did not form part of the formal development services review will be considered as part of an on-going body of continuous improvement work, which will be considered and prioritized by the General Manager of Development Services two times per year as part of regular business planning.
It is important to note that, where appropriate, opportunities to replicate the process improvements identified as a result of these reviews will be identified and assessed.
Because the pandemic delayed the development services review by 3 months, there are two improvements projects that will carryover to the first half of 2021: the development of a public lecture series on topics related to planning and development, and a review of the feasibility of requiring a composite and functional utility plan early in the site plan review/approval process.
Sharing our success stories with others
There have/will be several exciting opportunities in 2021 to share our success stories from the development services review provincially, nationally and internationally:
- In January 2021, Justin Readman presented at a Public Sector Network Canada-wide symposium on the topic of improving customer experience and customer engagement in local government through process improvements for a more efficient and effective public service, using the development services review as his case study.
- Based on his presentation in January, Justin was invited to present at an international Public Sector Network conference – again, using the development services review as his case study.
- The City of Kitchener Planning Division is excited to host the Ontario Professional Planners Institute annual conference in 2021. Staff will present on the process and outcomes of the development services review.
- The development services review was recently selected by CLT for 2021 application submission for a Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) Willis Award for Innovation.
This project has ended. Thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation.
The City completed a multi-year review of its development services, implementing improvements developed in consultation with community organizations, developers, residents and businesses. Better information, new digital tools for developers and an improved public consultation process are already showing early signs of success. City staff played an important role in identifying solutions across 18 priority areas.
The review identified two immediate areas for improvement: the site plan process and public consultation. Improvements suggested by the review will continue to be implemented throughout 2021, and staff will be assessing the effectiveness of their improvements at regular intervals. The full report can be found here.