The art of cooperation; Municipalities and the new ways of working

2013 – De kunst van het samenwerken  (The art of cooperation)  is a reader prepared and issued by the Labourmarket & Education  Fund for Municipalities. In addition to two general observations of respectively Marc Jetten and Frank Pot, this publication contains descriptions of social innovations in six municipalities: Velsen, Uden, Oss, Heemstede, Rotterdam and Buren.
In his introduction Willem van Duijn, director in Katwijk says that this publication is a continuation of ‘The Art of trusting’ , an publication from 2012 in which an overview was given of the way municipalities were working with the new ways of working. With this second publication, the Fund wants to share the experiences in practice. Van Duijn concludes that municipalities have entered a second phase. In the first phase, the emphasis was on time and location independent working and on working result-oriented and based on trust. Now a vision of municipal services, core values and working together with other organizations are at the heart.

Varen op moreel kompas  (Travelling on a moral compass’) is the title of the first chapter, which is based on an interview with Marc Jetten. Jetten says that you should continue to monitor and provide a moral framework so that people know what is expected of them, when working on the basis of trust.
He cites three factors for success: a clear vision, a board which shows  the personification of this vision and realizing the changes in the spirit of the vision. Essential is that the opinion of each employee matters. Higher employee- and customer satisfaction ultimately lead to  better operational results.

Sociale innovatie vergt visie  (Social innovation requires vision) says Frank Pot in his contribution. More efficient working or  working smarter requires a vision on  what you want to achieve with a company and how to organize the tasks and processes to realize the job that has to be done. That vision should be developed together with the employees and also concern their joint efforts and achievements for  the public. Then Pot advocates ‘old-fashioned’ work meetings where lessons about the work are shared, realistic standards are agreed upon and where is worked on continuous innovation.

Velsen swingt (Velsen swings), is the title of the chapter that is based on an interview with Dirk Emmer, town director. To change – Emmer says – firstly  there must be a basic culture in which you can cooperate, you can meet each other and you are allowed to take initiatives. Therefore they started with working on the improvement of communication and the promotion of  thinking from a larger scope. In a next step a vision on the organization is developed in which four success factors are identified: attentive, reliable, purposeful and dynamic. In the next steps Velsen want to achieve that all staff play together and sound like a swinging band.

Uden is toekomstproof (Uden is future proof); in Uden the changing role of the municipal was the starting point for organizational development. There has been a number of meetings in which various aspects of the new ways of working  were discussed with the staff. After that, the changes came about organically. Meanwhile  ‘working based on trust ‘ is the rule. The aim is to organize workers’ participation at the lowest level, while representative participation persists as it is. In 2012 as many citizens as possible were involved in the drafting of a vision for 2020. Both internally and externally rigid procedures have been given away to an open attitude. When citizens come up with an initiative, the municipal examines the possibilities to realize it. Finally there is much attention for knowledge sharing according to Velsens own method: ‘Learning on Location’ in which a municipal project team learns from internal and external experts and professionals.

Netwerken in Oss (Networking in Oss), in 2006 when making plans for a renovation of the town house there were already conscious thoughts about the changing role of the municipal and what it means for the relationship between the municipality and the citizens. That was the office concept, but more importantly, of course, is ‘how do you cooperate?’ Eventually, the ‘Osse Way of Working’ was established in 2011. Now a days Oss functions as a network in the regional community. In any partnership there are other parties, such as businesses, educational institutions, citizens or other authorities. This process has implications for the control system:  municipal employees should be able to make independent decisions in a partnership. Therefore they speak of horizontal management. Both the employees and the managers need new competences to realize this.

Heemstede slaat zijn vleugels uit (Heemstede is spreading its wings);  the reason for the renewal in Heemstede was the opposition of residents against plans to build a wing to the classical building of the town hall. Inspired by the way of working in Den Bosch that plan was amended; the extension was reduced with 2000m2 and another office concept was introduced. The new environment called for a new way of working. Largely the employees themselves have figured out how that looks like, for example by visiting other municipalities that show good practice: Den Bosch , Heusden and Stein. The organization was redesigned, this work began with developing a shared vision on  what  is good service to the citizen. Due to the changed office concept new partnerships developed. The people in Heemstede believe in bottum up organizing because they are convinced that everyone wants to do a good job. Meanwhile, all the employees think about the next step in the renewal of the government. The principle should be: do not regulate but facilitate that citizens live and work comfortably.

Volgers zijn leiders in Rotterdam  (Followers are leaders in Rotterdam); ‘HNW010’ (the name of the new way of working in Rotterdam) is not a program but a movement. It is a new view on the cooperation within the city. In the change process  a group of employees has been used deliberately as ‘accelerators’. The basic strategy is to provoke debate and let people think together of new ways of working. The new way of working suits everyone but not in the same way. It is customized.

Visie is bepalend in Buren (Vision is determining in Buren), since May 1, 2013 the new way of working in Buren is called: working location independently. You can work from various locations, and that’s good while increasingly work is being done in partnerships with, for example associations and social institutions. Managing on results was introduced previously and also were made great strides towards a better customer orientation: fewer rules, long opening hours and more services over the internet. Managers and supervisor have had a training and there has been made organization wide agreements that can be completed by the teams.

De kunst van samenwerken. Gemeenten aan de slag met Het Nieuwe Werken. (The art of working together. Municipalities and the new way of working). ( 2013 ) Hendrison, Quita (ed.) Edition: A + O Fund for Municipalities, projectleader: George Evers . (See pdf. In Dutch in the appendix.)

Theme: the new way of working

Sector: Public sector

Source: Book, cases